Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

AODA Alliance Writes Ontario Government Requesting Four Steps To Make Public Hearings Meaningful
June 29, 2006

SUMMARY

On June 28, 2006, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontarioís Attorney General Michael Bryant. It asked that the Government take specific steps to make the upcoming public hearings on bill 107 as meaningful as possible. (See the letter below) Bill 107ís is the McGuinty Governmentís proposed new law which will take away most of the Human rights Commissionís power to enforce the Ontario Human rights Code.

The chair of the Legislatureís Standing Committee on Justice Policy issued a news release on June 27, 2006, announcing some of the details of the public hearings. (See the news release, below) Among other things, the news release sets a deadline of 5 pm on Friday, July 21, 2006 for you to ask to make an oral presentation before the Standing Committee at the hearings in thunder Bay, London or Ottawa. A deadline hasnít yet been set for filing requests to make an oral presentation at the fall hearings in Toronto. Anyone can send in a written submission about Bill 107 at any time up until the public hearings are completed. We donít know when the final date of the Toronhto hearings will be.

For more specifics on how to send in a request to make an oral presentation to the Standing Committee, visit:

http://dawn.thot.net/bill_107_june24-06.html


c/o The Canadian Hearing Society
271 Spadina Road
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2V3
www.aodaallaince.org


June 28, 2006

To: The Hon. Michael Bryant, Attorney General of Ontario
11th Floor
720 Bay Street
Toronto Ontario M5G 2K1

Dear Sir,

Re: Bill 107, the Proposed Human Rights Code Amendment Act.

Now that Bill 107 is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy for public hearings, we ask the Government to take four important steps to make these public hearings as meaningful as possible.

First, we are pleased that the Toronto hearings will not take place until after September 25, 2006. However, we are concerned that the Thunder Bay, London and Ottawa hearings are scheduled in the middle of prime summer holiday season, i.e. August 8 to 10, 2006.

We ask that the August hearings be moved to September. This would give individuals and community organizations, who donít hold board meetings over the summer, a far better opportunity to take part in the hearings. In 1998, your party was properly, critical of the previous Conservative Government when it held public consultations on the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act in August, when many were away on holidays.

It would not delay the billís progress through the Legislature to move the August hearings to September, as the Legislature doesnít resume sitting until September 25. Thus there are fully three weeks in September within which the London, Thunder Bay and Ottawa hearings could occur before the Legislature resumes sitting.

Second, we ask your Government to now make public the specific changes it contemplates proposing for Bill 107. On June 8, 2006, you stated in the Legislature that you intend to table amendments to the bill, to address such topics as the provision of legal services for discrimination victims. Your Government has now had more than four months to develop its plans for such important issues as legal representation for discrimination victims, since you first announced your plans for the Human rights Code last February.

The public needs this information now in detail, so that it can develop and give effective input and feedback on your plans at the Standing Committee hearings. If the Government withholds this information from the public until after the Standing Committeeís public hearings are completed, this would deny the public a fair chance to be properly consulted on your current plans. We commend to you the Toronto Starís June 12, 2006 editorial, which called on your government to make your plans, including your budget plans, public as soon as possible.

As part of this, we ask you to now clarify what your Government specifically means by its commitments to ensure that all human rights complainants are provided publicly-funded legal representation and support. For example, we want specifically to confirm that this legal representation and support will be delivered by lawyers, and not by non-lawyers. Particularly at Human Rights Tribunals, it would be grossly insufficient for a discrimination victim to be advised and represented by a non-lawyer such as a paralegal, when the respondent is so often represented by a skilled, well-financed private law firm. We also want to know such important things as how many lawyers will be provided to advise and represent discrimination victims.

Third, we seek your Governmentís assurance that the public hearings will be long enough to ensure that everyone who wants to make a presentation to the Standing Committee will be given time to do so. To date, the Standing Committee has announced three hearing dates outside Toronto. It has set no dates for Toronto. We especially anticipate that many will want to make presentations in Toronto, which will require several hearing days. We seek your commitment that the Government will not cut off the hearings before all can be fairly heard.

Finally, we seek your Governmentís assurance that those invited to present to the Standing Committee will be given adequate prior notice of the date and time for their presentation. Persons with disabilities will need that notice to arrange accessible transportation. We regret that your Government didnít give such notice for the First and Second Reading proceedings on Bill 107. That created a serious barrier for persons with disabilities who were interested in attending those legislative debates.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.

Sincerely,



Catherine Dunphy, Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: Via facsimile The Hon. Premier Dalton McGuinty (416) 325-3745
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister Responsible for the AODA (416) 325-1498
Dwight Duncan, (416) 325-7755
James Bradley, (416) 326-9338
Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission (416) 314-7752
John Tory, Leader of the Official Opposition (416) 325-0491
Christine Elliott (416) 325-1423
Howard Hampton, Leader of the New Democratic Party (416) 325-8222
Peter Kormos (905) 732-9782


Public hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy on Bill 107, Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006
TORONTO, June 27 /CNW/
- The Standing Committee on Justice Policy will meet to consider Bill 107, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code. The Committee intends to hold public hearings in London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay on August 8, 9 and 10, 2006. The Committee also intends to hold public hearings in Toronto in the fall on dates to be determined at a later time.

Interested people who wish to be considered to make an oral presentation on Bill 107 in London, Ottawa or Thunder Bay must contact the Committee Clerk by 5:00 p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2006. Interested people who wish to be considered to make an oral presentation on Bill 107 in Toronto must contact the Committee Clerk. A deadline for Toronto requests will be determined at a later date.

Those who do not wish to make an oral presentation but wish to comment on the Bill may send written submissions to the Committee Clerk at the address below by the end of public hearings on the Bill.

Copies of the Bill may be purchased through Publications Ontario at 1-800-668-9938, or at (416) 326-5300 in Toronto. An electronic version of the Bill is also available on the Legislative Assembly website at: www.ontla.on.ca.

Videoconferencing or teleconferencing arrangements may be made for those unable to appear in person.

Vic Dhillon, MPP
Chair of the Committee

Ces renseignements sont disponibles en franÁais sur demande.

For further information: Anne Stokes, Clerk, Room 1405, Whitney Block,
Queen's Park, Toronto, ON, M7A 1A2, Telephone: (416) 325-3515, Facsimile:
(416) 325-3505, TTY/ATS: (416) 325-3538; Collect calls will be accepted.