Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action
PLEASE CIRCULATE WIDELY THE AODA ALLIANCE'S LATEST NEWS RELEASE
ON THE CONTROVERSIAL BILL 107
September 1, 2006
The AODA Alliance has just issued its latest news release on the controversial McGuinty Government's bill to weaken the Human Rights Commission. See below.
Please circulate this news release widely. Send it to your local media. Encourage them to cover the story as the summer season winds down.
ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW EVIDENCE REVEALS MCGUINTY GOVERNMENT HASN’T FIGURED OUT HOW TO KEEP PLEDGE OF FREE LAWYERS TO ALL HUMAN RIGHTS COMPLAINANTS
September 1, 2006, Toronto: Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) documents
disclose six months after the McGuinty government announced its Bill 107 would
strip the Human Rights Commission of key powers to enforce the Human Rights
Code, it still doesn’t know how it will deliver legal representation for all
discrimination victims. An LAO internal consultation paper recently made public
on the internet reveals Attorney General Michael Bryant has just recently asked
LAO to make a proposal on this controversial role. LAO won’t decide for weeks
whether it wants to make a proposal. The McGuinty government extravagantly
pledged its human rights reforms will ensure publicly-funded free independent
legal counsel for all human rights complainants, regardless of income.
“This is no way to reform our important human rights protections. Six months after releasing their plans, the McGuinty government is still scrambling to figure out how it’ll replace Human Rights Commission enforcement. It shouldn’t be dithering on such critical details,” said Catherine Dunphy, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance.
“We’ve pressed for months to get details about the government’s plans,” said David Lepofsky, AODA Alliance Human Rights Reform Representative. “Then we discover from LAO documents the Government's asking LAO whether it even wants to take on this hot potato if the Human Rights Commission is de-fanged? LAO is chronically under-funded. It can’t handle its current burden of meeting the poor’s many legal needs. Yet the Government wants them to take on this huge job. It hasn’t announced how it’ll pay for this.”
Now the Human Rights Commission must publicly investigate all non-frivolous discrimination complaints. When evidence warrants, it’s supposed to publicly prosecute cases it can’t settle. Bill 107 strips most of the Commission’s enforcement powers. It makes discrimination victims investigate and present their own cases.
The McGuinty government pledged free independent legal counsel throughout Human Rights Tribunal hearings to all human rights complainants (annually some 2,500). It promised to establish a Human Rights Legal Centre. The bill’s supporters and critics agree it doesn’t guarantee this. Relenting to mounting criticism, the Attorney General committed, on June 8, 2006, to amend the bill to address this. However, he wont' agree to reveal his amendments before groups present at the public hearings.
The coalition calls for public hearings to halt until LAO decides if it will pick up the pieces, and the government reveals such things as how it will ensure free lawyers for all. At the hearings the public should be able to comment on all the Government’s plans. At the first hearings (August 8 to 10) presenters opposing the unpopular bill numbered more than double the supporters. They slammed many flaws, not just unfulfilled legal representation pledges.
LAO’s consultation paper: www.aclc.net/full-lao-letter.html
AODA Alliance’s Responses: www.aodaalliance.org/reform/update-082906.asp