Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

TORONTO SUN RUNS GUEST COLUMN ON BILL 107 BY AODA ALLIANCE HUMAN RIGHTS REFORM REP DAVID LEPOFSKY - SEND IN LETTERS TO THE EDITOR IN SUPPORT!
November 26, 2006

SUMMARY

It is the sixth straight day of media coverage on the McGuinty Muzzle Motion which shut down the promised public hearings on McGuinty's widely-criticized bill to weaken the Human Rights Commission. Below please find the guest column by AODA Alliance Human Rights Reform representative David Lepofsky in the Sunday, November 26, 2006 Toronto Sun.

We encourage you to send letters to the editor of the Toronto Sun in support of this column. Tell the Sun what you think of the McGuinty Muzzle Motion. Let the public know that this will be an election issue next fall. Write the Sun at:

editor@tor.sunpub.com

We also encourage you to write guest columns for your local newspaper.

Circulate this email far and wide.


Toronto Sun Sunday, November 26, 2006

Comment Section page C6

McGuinty's rights bill betrays a trust

BY DAVID LEPOFSKY

I'm one of the many muzzled by the Dalton McGuinty government last week when it shut down promised public hearings on Bill 107.

The controversial bill would strip from the under-funded Human Rights Commission most of its power to investigate and prosecute discrimination cases.

For years in opposition, Premier McGuinty stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us, the 1.5 million Ontarians with a physical, mental or sensory disability, slamming Mike Harris for breaking promises, for offering token disability legislation with no enforcement teeth and for not consulting us. He pledged to right these wrongs. He promised a new Disability Act with effective enforcement, and to work with us to craft it.

We applauded McGuinty's 2005 Disability Act, though it didn't include everything we wanted. Months later and without first consulting Ontario's disability community, McGuinty springs Bill 107 on us. When he campaigned in 2003, McGuinty promised his new disability law would include the substance of Liberal proposed amendments to the Harris Government's 2001 weaker disability bill. Those amendments would expand the Human Rights Commission's disability investigation/enforcement mandate. Instead, McGuinty's Bill 107 shrinks the commission's mandate.

I led the disability community's tough negotiations over McGuinty's 2005 Disability Act's provisions. All our planning, discussions and compromises rested on the pivotal assumption that we'd retain access to the Human Rights Commission to investigate/prosecute our individual human rights violations. The Disability Act would be a supplement to the Human Rights Code and Commission.

The Liberals never consulted the disability community, with whom it had worked so closely on the Disability Act, before deciding to eviscerate the Human Rights Commission.

When I and others fought 25 years ago to win the right to have the Human Rights Commission investigate/prosecute disability discrimination, the Liberals were by our side. Now McGuinty plans to repeal the right we fought hard to win in 1982.

Mere months before an election, Bill 107 weds bad policy with foolish politics.

McGuinty promises a new legal clinic to help with the horrendous burden that Bill 107 dumps on discrimination victims, to investigate and prosecute their cases. Yet neither Bill 107 nor his recently-announced amendments to it keep the Liberals' extravagant pledge of a free independent legal counsel for every complainant at the Human Rights Tribunal. The bill just moves the long line-up from the Human Rights Commission to the new legal clinic and the tribunal.

We agree the underfunded, backlogged human rights system needs to be fixed. We've offered alternatives. The Liberals just slough them off and shut down legislative hearings, where we'd present and debate them. Instead, they heed the call of Bill 107 supporters -- a small vocal group of self-designated "human rights lawyers."

MAKES SYSTEM WORSE

We oppose Bill 107 because it makes a bad system worse. Our counter-proposals provide a formula for fixing the human rights system that no government has tried, that don't privatize our human rights system, and that let McGuinty not breach his government's commitment to Ontario's disabled community.

The Disability Act promised to be a key part of McGuinty's legacy. If he rams Bill 107 through after muzzling so many of its critics, it will instead be
an indelible stain on his legacy.

Premier, it's not too late to fix this. Let's talk while there's still time!

Illustration:
photo of DAVID LEPOFSKY
'Let's talk'
David Lepofsky CM. Human Rights Reform Representative, Disability Act Alliance