Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

WILL ONTARIO'S MARCH 22, 2007 PRE-ELECTION BUDGET INCLUDE SUFFICIENT INCREASED FUNDING FOR IMPLEMENTATION OF THE AODA AND OF BILL 107?

March 21, 2007

SUMMARY

On Thursday, March 22, 2007, the McGuinty Government will hand down its last provincial budget before this October's provincial general election. It will be important to see what new funding commitments this budget will include for the over 1.5 million Ontarians who have a disability.

As but two examples, it will be important to see what new commitments the budget includes for funding the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, which the McGuinty Government passed into law almost two years ago. What new funding will it include for the Ontario Government to itself identify and remove barriers within the provincial government? What new funding will it include to help others act to implement the AODA? What funding will it include to help accelerate the process of developing strong and effective provincial accessibility standards across all sectors of society, which the AODA was said to deliver?

As well, it is important to see whether this budget includes sufficient new funding to keep the Ontario Government's commitments regarding the implementation of bill 107. bill 107 is the McGuinty Government's controversial law that privatized human rights enforcement in Ontario. For background on this bill, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/default.asp

For example, will the budget include sufficient new funding to keep the Government's commitment that under bill 107, every human rights complainant will be able to get a hearing on the merits of their discrimination case before the Human rights Tribunal within one year of filing their complaint? The Tribunal now handles a tiny percentage of the cases which it will be responsible for when Bill 107 is proclaimed in force.

As well, will the budget enable the Government to keep its commitment that every human rights complainant will be entitled to a free, independent, publicly-funded legal counsel to represent them at the Human Rights Tribunal. Will the Government also provide enhanced funding (not reduced funding) for the chronically-under-funded Ontario Human rights Commission so that it can bring a substantial number of public interest discrimination cases before the Human Rights Tribunal, and intervene in a substantial number of cases at the Tribunal that private individuals bring forward? Ontario's human rights enforcement system has been under-funded for years. The AODA Alliance, and its predecessor the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, were leading voices for years in calling for increased funding for Ontario's human rights enforcement system.

Of course, there are also other pressing funding needs from a disability perspective that many will wish to watch for in the upcoming budget, such as needed increases to the Ontario Disability Support Plan.

It is not enough for us all to just watch what the McGuinty Government says on these issues. It will also be critical to watch for the position of the opposition NDP and Conservatives, as the next provincial election rapidly approaches.

We will welcome your feedback on the budget. Email us at:

aodafeedback@rogers.com

Let the media and the parties in the Legislature know what you think of the forthcoming budget's commitments on these issues.

On another note, we will shortly be sending you the AODA Alliance's new Discussion Paper On Options for the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal's Implementation of Bill 107. Please read it and circulate it widely.