Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

Legislature gives the controversial bill 107 approval on second reading and refers the bill to standing committee for public hearings

PUT IN YOUR REQUEST NOW TO MAKE A PRESENTATION TO THE STANDING COMMITTEE HEARINGS
June 24, 2006


SUMMARY

WHAT’S NEW?


On D-Day, June 6, 2006, the Ontario Legislature voted on “Second Reading” of the controversial Bill 107, the proposed law to weaken the Ontario Human rights Commission. Despite substantial and increasing public concern and controversy about the bill, Liberal MPPs voted in favour of the bill. Conservative and NDP MPPs voted against it. The bill passed Second Reading on a vote of 57 to 22.

Second Reading is when the Legislature decides whether to approve the bill “in principle”. Before holding this vote, the Legislature held the required minimum of three days of debates on the bill, on May 8, May 30 and June 5, 2006.

WHAT’S NEXT?

What happens next with the bill? The Legislature has referred the bill to its Standing Committee on Justice Policy. That Committee will hold public hearings on the bill. After the public hearings are finished, the three political parties can file proposals for amendments to the bill. After these are filed, the Standing Committee will then debate these proposed amendments to the bill clause-by-clause at public sessions. This is called clause-by-clause debate. The Committee votes on each proposed amendment.

After that, if the Government still wants to proceed with the bill, then the bill, as modified by any amendments that the Committee passed, comes back before the entire Legislature for one more round of debates and final vote. This is called Third Reading debate and vote.

AN IMPORTANT PARTIAL VICTORY

We and others concerned about Bill 107 have just achieved an important partial procedural victory in this complicated legislative process. We had been very concerned that the Government had intended to rush the Standing Committee’s public hearings as quickly as possible, perhaps in June or July.

At our Queen’s Park news conference last month, we urged the Government to not start the public hearings until the fall. Others joined in this call. We had wanted to ensure that all of you, both individuals and community organizations, got enough time to review the bill, to figure out what you wanted to say about it, and to prepare to take part in the public hearings. Rushed public hearings in the summer would make this very difficult for many.

What is our partial victory? We have just confirmed with the Standing Committee’s Clerk that the Standing Committee’s public hearings on Bill 107 won’t start until August 8, 2006. We have been told that there will be hearings on August 8 to 10, 2006 in London, thunder bay and Ottawa. We don’t know which day has been chosen for which city.

We have also been told that hearings in Toronto won’t be held until after the Legislature resumes sitting. The Legislature is now in recess until Monday, September 25, 2006. Thus, the Toronto hearings won’t take place before September 25, 2006. We don’t know how many days of hearings will take place in Toronto.

While it would have been best it if all the hearings were deferred until September, this hearings schedules shows that our efforts and those of others who have echoed similar concerns have paid off.

WHAT SHOULD YOU DO?

It is VERY, VERY IMPORTANT that you now contact the Standing Committee’s Clerk to ask that your name be put on the list to make a presentation on Bill 107 at the public hearings. Send your request by email, fax, regular mail or by phone to the Clerk. To assist, the Standing Committee’s Clerk has forwarded the following contact information to us:

Anne Stokes
Clerk of the Committee
Standing Committee on Justice Policy
Room 1405, Whitney Block
99 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2
Phone: 416-325-3515
Fax: 416-325-3505
email: anne_stokes@ontla.ola.org

Ms. Stokes has also sent us this helpful information:

“Also, the Committee has asked that public hearings for Bill 107 be made accessible. The Committee will be providing sign language interpreters, closed captioning and attendants for the disabled at each meeting all day.

I hope this is helpful. We expect to have ads available next week. As you did before, your advice was very helpful to ask people to indicate clearly what bill they are interested in, provide their full names and contact information and what city they are interested in.”

You can ask to make a presentation whether you wish to appear on behalf of an organization, or just as an individual. Individual presentations can be just as important and just as effective as presentations by organizations.

It is extremely important that you send in your request as fast as you can. You DO NOT have to file a written brief. You can prepare one if you wish. We will send out more information later on preparing written briefs, and on making oral presentations.

You don’t have to have decided exactly what you are going to say in your presentation before you make your request. See below a sample request form that you can send in. If you think you might want to make a presentation, but are not sure, you may wish to send in your request now. You can always withdraw later.

We don’t know what the deadline will be for making a request to present at the hearings, so act now.

In coming days, we will send out more information on such topics as:


SAMPLE REQUEST TO MAKE A PRESENTATION AT THE STANDING COMMITTEE

TO: Anne Stokes
Clerk of the Committee
Standing Committee on Justice Policy
Room 1405, Whitney Block
99 Wellesley Street West
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A2
Phone: 416-325-3515
Fax: 416-325-3505
email: anne_stokes@ontla.ola.org

I request an opportunity to make an oral presentation to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, on the topic of Bill 107, the proposed law to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code. This request is made on behalf of _____(insert either the name of the organization that is making the request, or say that you are asking to present as an individual)
This is a request to make the presentation during the hearings in _____ (insert whether you want to present at Toronto, London, Ottawa or Thunder Bay).

(Note: If you have a need for an accommodation for your disability, you should mention it in your request if possible.)

I can be reached by mail, phone or email at the following address: