Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

McGuinty government to announce plans for amendments to controversial Bill 107 on eve of resumption of public hearings - but sloughs off call for new funding for under-funded human rights system

November 10, 2006

SUMMARY


News coverage from the November 9, 2006 Queen's Park news conference reveals important developments in our campaign against the McGuinty Government's plans to weaken the Human Rights Commission.

A Canadian Press article about the news conference was picked up and reported in various forms in the Hamilton Spectator, the Orillia Packet and times, the Sudbury Star, and the on-line edition of the Toronto Star. See below the Hamilton Spectator and Toronto Star on-line versions.

An interview with the AODA Alliance's David Lepofsky on this topic was aired yesterday on Windsor's CKLW radio station. An interview was also conducted by OMNI Television with Avvy Go, clinic director of the Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic.

This coverage reports that the McGuinty Government plans to announce its amendments to Bill 107 before the legislature's Standing Committee public hearings on the bill resume next week. Last June Attorney General Michael Bryant announced his intention to bring forward amendments to the bill. We have been urging the McGuinty Government for months to announce their amendment plans as soon as possible. We wanted people to have sufficient time to analyze and address any announced amendments in their presentations to the Standing Committee. People and organizations have been preparing their submissions for these hearings for months.

This media coverage also includes the Ontario Government's initial response to our Blueprint for Effective Human Rights Reform, including our call for new public funding for the human rights system. The CP article as posted on-line by the Toronto Star quotes Attorney General Michael Bryant on point as follows:

"Attorney General Michael Bryant said those recommendations (i.e. our Blueprint for Effective Human Rights Reform) would likely bog the system down further. The government is changing its legislation and will outline the amendments next week, he said.

But he said the province is determined to substantially reform the system and make it more effective.

People wait up to five years to have a complaint heard, Bryant said, and that's not going to change just by throwing money at the commission.

"If you've got a broken engine, you don't fix it by putting more gasoline in it," he said.

"First you need to fix the engine and then you need to make sure it has enough gas.""

It is very clear from our Blueprint that we don't propose simply throwing money at the human rights system. We propose fully 24 changes to the system, only one of which is adding new funding. Without substantial new funding, any reforms to the human rights system will not succeed.

Moreover, our Blueprint would speed up the system, not bog it down. To see our Blueprint, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/update-110606.asp
We encourage you to focus on this when you make your presentations to the Standing Committee, or when you speak to MPPs. Stay tuned for new developments.


Hamilton Spectator
Fri 10 Nov 2006
Province won't pour money into human rights
Page: A3
Section: Canada/World
Byline:
Dateline: TORONTO
Source: The Canadian Press

Attorney General Michael Bryant says the province is willing to make changes to its proposals for overhauling Ontario's human rights system, but it won't pour in more money.

A coalition of disability and community activists said yesterday that huge backlogs in the system are the result of insufficient funding for the Ontario
Human Rights Commission.

The government introduced legislation in April that would shift responsibility for discrimination complaints from the commission to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario.

Bryant insisted that the new system will mean people's complaints are heard within a year. And the changes will free up the commission to work on broader, systemic complaints, he added. Public hearings on the proposals continue next week in Toronto.


Toronto Star On-Line November 9, 2006

Groups blast human rights reform plan
Nov. 9, 2006.
CHINTA PUXLEY
CANADIAN PRESS

Ontario's proposed changes to the human rights system are akin to "killing an ant with an atom bomb," a coalition of disability and community activists
said Thursday.

The group of disability activists and legal advocates from Asian and African communities urged the province to put millions into strengthening the Ontario Human Rights Commission.

The advocates say the province must focus on removing the backlog of cases, not taking away its power to investigate discrimination complaints.

While disability activist David Lepofsky said the human rights commission isn't effective right now, he said the Ontario government is undermining people's basic rights by forcing them to fight their case alone and by limiting the commission to public education.

"We don't think you prevent discrimination or achieve equality just by giving speeches and handing out leaflets," said Lepofsky, with the Accessibility
for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. ``There is going to be less effective enforcement of human rights."

The government introduced legislation in April that would shift responsibility for discrimination complaints from the commission to the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, which the Liberals say will reduce the backlog of human rights cases.

The province has held hearings around Ontario on the legislation and on the eve of another round of hearings in Toronto, the coalition is launching a television ad campaign in six languages to pressure the Liberals to kill the bill.

The commission has suffered from years of cutbacks, Lepofsky said. What the government should do immediately is boost its budget by at least $6 million, which would go a long way to clearing the backlog, he said.

"This system has been starved by government after government for years," he said. "We are now suffering the consequences of that. Any reform that doesn't include substantial funding is mere window-dressing."

The group put forward 24 recommendations to address the backlog at the human rights commission.

They include fast-tracking time-sensitive complaints, allowing the commission to set tighter deadlines and conducting an outside forensic audit of the commission.

Attorney General Michael Bryant said those recommendations would likely bog the system down further. The government is changing its legislation and will outline the amendments next week, he said.

But he said the province is determined to substantially reform the system and make it more effective.

People wait up to five years to have a complaint heard, Bryant said, and that's not going to change just by throwing money at the commission.

"If you've got a broken engine, you don't fix it by putting more gasoline in it," he said.

"First you need to fix the engine and then you need to make sure it has enough gas."

The new system will mean people's complaints are heard within a year, Bryant said. And it frees up the commission to work on broader, systemic complaints, he added.

But Avvy Go, director at the Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, said the government must alter its legislation in the face of public criticism.

Presenters at the three public hearings that have been held so far in Ottawa, Thunder Bay and London were overwhelmingly critical, she said.

Another 200 people are signed up to make submissions at public hearings next week in Toronto.

Margaret Parsons, executive director of the African Canadian Legal Clinic, said the Liberals should heed criticism of this bill or pay the price when Ontario goes to the polls next October.

"We are all voters whatever our race, our sex, our religion, our language, our sexual orientation or our disabilities," she said. "Every vote counts. We are ready to raise this issue."