Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

LEGAL AID ONTARIO REFUSES TO RUN MCGUINTY'S PROPOSED HUMAN RIGHTS LEGAL SUPPORT CENTRE - EVEN MORE REASON TO RE-OPEN CANCELLED PUBLIC HEARINGS ON WIDELY-CRITICIZED BILL 107

-- AND OTHER NEWS

November 24, 2006

SUMMARY

* Legal Aid Ontario this week made the stunning announcement that it was not willing to submit a proposal to establish and operate the McGuinty Government's proposed Human Rights Legal Support Centre. This is a major set-back for McGuinty's Bill 107 plans.

Bill 107 would slash most of the Human Rights Commission's role as public investigator and prosecutor of human rights violations. The McGuinty Government has promised for more than half a year that in its place, it would establish a Human Rights Legal Support Centre to represent all human rights complainants before the Human Rights Tribunal.

With Legal Aid's announcement, the McGuinty Government has made public no plans on who is going to fill the gap. It appears to be no further ahead than it was last spring on this score, and continues dithering. This provides even more reason for the McGuinty Government to immediately restore the promised public hearings on Bill 107 which it cancelled this week by the now infamous McGuinty Muzzle Motion. The Standing Committee has not had extensive input on the question of who should deliver these promised legal services if Legal Aid doesn't want to take on the role.

Below we set out the text of a letter from Legal Aid Ontario announcing its unwillingness to touch this hot potato. That letter is addressed to a legal clinic lawyer with a strong interest in the Bill 107 issue. To see more on this issue involving Legal Aid, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/update-082906.asp

* We encourage everyone to come to Queen's Park to attend clause-by-clause debate on Bill 107 before the Standing Committee on Justice Policy. This is the point where MPPs present, debate and vote on amendments to the bill. The McGuinty Muzzle Motion requires this all to be started and completed on Wednesday, November 29, 2006. We are advised that the Standing Committee will meet from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 noon, and then will resume at 3:30 p.m. and continue until they are shut down by the McGuinty Muzzle Motion that day. This all occurs at Room 151 of the Legislature Building at Queen's Park. We need a good showing of persons who are concerned about the bill, and about our being muzzled by the McGuinty Government.

The Standing Committee staff advises us that there will be American Sign Language interpretation, captioning and attendant services available at the November 29 proceedings. We are also advised that although they are trying their best, the Standing Committee staff is having trouble finding a full complement of ASL interpreters on such short notice.

* We set out below letters to the editor appearing today in two Ontario newspapers which oppose McGuinty's Muzzle Motion. We urge you to write your paper to make this point.

* You can download and listen to AODA Alliance Human Rights Reform Representative David Lepofsky's November 22, 2006 interview on CBC Radio, heard across Ontario just after noon. Visit:

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

* Finally, we have been officially notified that the AODA Alliance's public hearing on Bill 107 is cancelled. We had been scheduled to appear on December 7, 2006 at 10:30 a.m. Se the email to us from the Standing Committee.


November 21 , 2006

Ms. Elisabeth Bruckmann
Staff Lawyer
Parkdale Community Legal Clinic
1266 Queen Street West
Toronto, ON M6K 1L3

Dear Ms. Bruckmann:

Re: Bill 107. An Act to Amend the Human Rights Code

Bill 107, An Act to Amend the Human Rights Code received second reading and is now being considered by the standing legislative committee on justice policy. The Ministry of the Attorney General invited Legal Aid Ontario to consider making a proposal to provide legal services to claimants as part of the proposed system. So that it could properly consider this issue, the Board of Legal Aid Ontario directed staff to consult with, among others, community clinics.

On behalf of the staff and the Board of Legal Aid Ontario I thank you for sharing your views on this issue. I am particularly grateful that so many were willing and able to meet with our team on such short notice over the summer period. We personally spoke with over 30 staff and board members from clinics all over the province. Legal Aid Ontario also received and considered several emails and letters.

Our consultations uncovered four consistent, albeit not universal, views. First, most clinics are concerned that the proposed new model will result in additional pressure being placed on them to support claimants. Secondly, there is support for Legal Aid Ontario making a proposal so long as any services are fully funded by government. Thirdly, there are several clinics that would be interested in providing services to low income human rights claimants as part of the proposed new system if they are provided with additional funding. Finally, many clinics expressed concern about the prospect of providing legal services to all human rights claimants, rather than only to those who are low-income.

Legal Aid Ontario's mandate, and expertise, is limited to providing legal aid services to low-income Ontarians. The Board was concerned that the provision of legal support
services to human rights claimants, regardless of their financial means, would alter the organisation's focus in a way with which it was not comfortable. Legal Aid Ontario is currently developing a strategy to deal with a shortfall in funding for access to justice for low-income Ontarians. In this context, it would be imprudent to contemplate expansion.

Therefore, the Board decided that although Legal Aid Ontario remains interested in this area of law and would like to continue to discuss the implications of Bill 107 with the
Ministry, it is not prepared to make a proposal at this time. In particular, Legal Aid Ontario is interested in discussing with the Ministry of the Attorney General the possibility that the proposed new system will result in additional pressures on clinics to provide human rights related services.

If you have any questions or concerns, I would be happy to discuss this matter further
with clinic staff or board members.

Yours truly,

George Biggar, Vice President
Policy, Planning & External Relations

cc: The Honourable Michael Bryant, Attorney General of Ontario
Kevin Smith, Executive Director of Parkdale Community Legal Clinic


Woodstock Sentinel-Review
Fri 24 Nov 2006
Page: 6
Section: Editorial/Opinion
Grits renege on another promise
On Wednesday the Liberal government used its majority in the Legislature to pass its anti-democratic "closure" motion. This shut down the promised public hearings on Bill 107 after this week. This the bill which the McGuinty government brought forward to weaken the Human Rights Commission and privatize human rights enforcement.

We applaud the Conservatives and NDP for opposing this motion and for fighting to keep the public hearings open.
We need everyone to keep up the pressure. You can do two things to help.

Join our "Dial Dalton" campaign. Phone the premier's office at 1-416-325-1941. Urge his office to retract its closure motion and tell them to let the public hearings continue. Tell him to let people present their views on Bill 107. There are over 200 presenters waiting to so.

Tell the premier's office there is a compromise to the clash between the two sides to the debate over Bill 107. Let discrimination victims have the choice
of either taking their discrimination case to a better-funded, rejuvenated Human Rights Commission for a public investigation and public prosecution of it or take their own case directly to the Human Rights Tribunal if they prefer.

Bette Jones
Woodstock


The Toronto Star
Fri 24 Nov 2006
Page: A23
Section: Letter
Grounds for rights complaint?

Wrong way on rights
Editorial, Nov. 23.
By ending the public hearings prematurely on the new Ontario human rights bill, the government has not just been "unfair," it has also discriminated against those who are members of the stipulated classes in the current Human Rights Code - those who have a right to equal treatment without discrimination. Representatives of these groups were not given their opportunity to make their presentations against the proposed legislation. Is this not in itself grounds for a human rights complaint?

Karen Mergler, Toronto


EMAIL FROM STANDING COMMITTEE CANCELLING PUBLIC HEARING FOR AODA ALLIANCE


From: <kevin_dwyer@ontla.ola.org>
Date: November 23, 2006 3:48:56 PM EST
Subject: Bill 107 cancel scheduled witnesses - December 7 2006

Dear Ms. Dunphy and Mr. Lepofsky,

By Order of the House dated November 21, 2006, the Standing Committee on Justice Policy has been directed to complete its consideration of Bill 107, An
Act to amend the Human Rights Code, and to report back to the House no later than November 30, 2006.

I therefore regret to advise you that all public hearings scheduled or planned by the Committee after November 23, 2006 are being cancelled.

Your appearance scheduled on:

Date: December 7, 2006

Time: 10:30 a.m.

is cancelled.

The Committee will conduct its clause by clause review of Bill 107 on Wednesday, November 29, 2006.

A written submission of your comments may still be received. Any written submissions received before November 29, 2006 will be distributed to all Committee members for their consideration and information regarding Bill 107.

Thank you for your interest in Bill 107 and I sincerely regret that you will not have the opportunity to appear before the Committee at this time.

Please feel free to contact me for further information.

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

Kevin Dwyer
Assistant to Anne Stokes, Clerk of the
Standing Committee on Justice Policy