Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

URGENT NEWS - LIBERALS FILE LAST-MINUTE MOTION TO CUT OFF PUBLIC HEARINGS ON BILL 107 AND FORCE SHORT DEBATES ON AMENDMENTS AND THIRD READING

November 20, 2006

Without any prior warning, the McGuinty Government has just served a motion that tomorrow night, Tuesday, November 21, 2006 it will ask the Legislature to invoke "closure" or "time allocation" on Bill 107. This motion will be debated Tuesday night, and likely voted on Tuesday night or Wednesday. The Liberals can be expected to use their majority to force through this motion.

Hard as it may be to believe, the motion calls for the public hearings on Bill 107 to be shut down after this week. Anyone on the long waiting list of presenters who did not get a chance to present this week or last week will not get a chance to present at all. This denies a hearing to the vast majority of presenters who signed up months ago to present. It denies a hearing to the many individuals and organizations that the McGuinty Government didn't consult before deciding on its widely-criticized reforms to the under-funded human rights system. It is a cruel irony that in the name of supposedly giving "direct access" to a hearing in the human rights system, the McGuinty Liberals are denying a hearing to so many who want a voice in what Bill 107 does for the protection of their human rights.

The Government appears to have made sure that most of the key lawyers who support this law got heard during the hearings' first days. It is a cruel irony that the Government is denying the right to a hearing before the Standing Committee, when it says this bill is needed to ensure everyone a right to a hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal.

The motion also appears to call for the entire clause-by-clause debate on Bill 107 to be crammed into a single day, November 29, 2006 at the Standing Committee. Normally MPPs at the Standing Committee are given whatever time they need to debate amendments to the bill.

Finally the motion directs that Third Reading debate in the Legislature would be restricted to a single "day" in the Legislature. Normally MPPs are given the time they need to debate a bill on Third Reading.

This is a brutally draconian motion. It muzzles all the many presenters who scheduled to appear at the hearings after these two weeks. It violates the all-party vote in the Standing Committee on November 15, 2006 to allow each person who wants to present to have a slot to present. The many who have spent time preparing to present are being muzzled purportedly in the name of human rights reform.

When the previous Harris Government used such closure motions, the McGuinty Liberals blasted them. They called closure motions undemocratic. The McGuinty Liberals ran in 2003 on a platform of democratic reform.

By giving such short notice of the Legislature's debate on its closure motion, the McGuinty Government has yet again created an obvious barrier against persons with mobility disabilities. The Government is well aware that such persons require more than one day to arrange accessible transit to the Legislature. Last spring, Attorney General Michael Bryant committed to give the disability community at least 2 days' notice of the date for introduction of his human rights reform bill. He broke that commitment by giving less than one days notice. In the present situation, we only received word of this closure motion from the NDP, not from the McGuinty Liberals.

We urgently call on the McGuinty Government to withdraw this closure motion. As many people as possible need to plan to be present at the Legislature Tuesday night. It likely starts around 6:45 pm and will continue until at least 9 p.m. It can also be seen on the Ontario Legislature cable channel. More details to follow.

We must organize quickly and loudly to oppose this undemocratic and high-handed action. We urge everyone to call their nearest Liberal MPPs and urge them to oppose this closure motion. Also, call your local media. Tell them about this development. Tell them what you think of this closure motion.


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TEXT OF LIBERAL CLOSURE MOTION ON BILL 107

Mr. Bradley moves:

That, pursuant to Standing Order 46 and notwithstanding any other Standing Order or Special Order of the House relating to Bill 107, an Act to amend the Human Rights Code, that the Standing Committee on Justice Policy be authorized to meet from 9:30 am to 12:30 pm and after routine proceedings on Wednesday November 29, 2006 to consider and complete clause-by-clause consideration of the Bill.

That, the deadline for filing amendments to the bill with the Clerk of the Committee shall be noon on Wednesday November 29, 2006. On November 29, 2006, at no later than 5 pm, those amendments which have not yet been shall interrupt the proceedings and shall, without further debate or amendment, put every question necessary to dispose of all remaining sections of the bill and any amendments thereto. The committee shall be authorized to meet beyond the normal hour of adjournment until completion of clause-by-clause consideration. Any division required shall be deferred until all remaining questions have been put and taken in succession with one 20 minutes waiting period allowed pursuant to Standing Order 127(a); and

That, the Committee shall report the bill to the House not later than Thursday November 30, 2006. In the event that the Committee fails to report the bill on that day, the bill shall be deemed to be passed by the Committee and shall be deemed to be reported to and received by the House; and

That upon receiving the report of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy, the Speaker shall put the question for adoption of the report forthwith, and at such time the bill shall be ordered for third reading which order may be called on that same day; and

That on the day the order for third reading for the bill is called, the time available for debate up to 5:50pm or 9:20pm as the case may be, shall be apportioned equally among the recognized Parties; and

That when the time allotted for debate has expired, the Speaker shall interrupt the proceedings and put every question necessary to dispose of the Third Reading stage of the bill without further debate or amendment; and

That the vote on third reading may be deferred pursuant to Standing Order 28(h); and

That, in the case of any division relating to any proceedings on the bill, the division bell shall be limited to 10 minutes.