Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

MORE MEDIA AND MORE EXCHANGES IN THE LEGISLATURE ON THE MCGUINTY MUZZLE MOTION THAT CANCELLED PROMISED BILL 107 PUBLIC HEARINGS
November 28, 2006

SUMMARY

The McGuinty Muzzel Motion has now been blasted in eight straight days in the media, and four straight days in the Legislature. See an extract from Question Period on Monday, November 27, 2006. See also articles in the November 25, 2006 Windsor Star, the November 27 2006 North Bay Nugget and the November 28, 2006 Toronto Star. (below) Thanks to all who wrote letters to the mediaand who called their MPPs, and to all MPPs who have raised this issue in the Legislature.

Keep writing letters to the editor. Keep calling Liberal MPPs. We have 24 hours left to get the promised public hearings on the widely-criticized Bill 107 restored.

And plan to attend the Legislature's Standing Committee on Justice Policy on Wednesday, November 29, 2006 from 9:30 a.m. to 12:30 noon and then again from 3:30 p.m. onward.

To see the text of the first day of the Toronto Bill 107 public hearings on November 15, 2006, where the Standing Committee approved scheduling and advertising hearings through December, visit:

http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/update-112706b.asp


ONTARIO HANSARD Monday November 27, 2006

QUESTION PERIOD

human rights
Mrs. Christine Elliott (Whitby–Ajax): My question is for the Attorney General. Minister, in the Toronto Star this weekend, Helen Henderson wrote a column with respect to your government’s sudden decision to cut off the hearings on Bill 107. Among her concerns is your repeated refusal to explain how you will possibly keep your promise to fund a lawyer for every complainant to the Human Rights Tribunal. She states that you have “failed to allay concerns about funding for the new system” and that your “approach has been flawed from the start.”

In the Toronto Sun, David Lepofsky also expressed his profound dismay at your government’s handling of the file. He wrote: “McGuinty promises a new legal clinic to help with the horrendous burden that Bill 107 dumps on discrimination victims ... 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.”

Minister, these are two known champions of vulnerable people. You’ve continually failed to answer my question about how you’re going to keep this promise.

Will you at least listen to them and finally provide a clear answer?

Hon. Michael Bryant (Attorney General): We’re listening to them. We’re listening to everybody who has been contributing to this debate for some 20 years.

If the member looks back in Hansard, one of her predecessors, in that he was an Attorney General critic for the third party in 1991, called on the then-government of the day to hurry up and move forward with human rights reform. So there has been an enormous amount of debate, and there’s clearly more than one position on this, but the consensus that developed is that, in fact, it is time to move forward and not delay reform any further. Why? Because we can’t continue
to allow the delays that face complainants who go before the human rights system to continue. That’s why we have this bill before the Legislature, that’s why we’ve had this debate for more than 200 days, that’s why we had the committee hearings and that’s why it’s going to come back to the Legislature for third reading vote.

Mrs. Elliott: In side-stepping my question last week, Minister, with respect to funding your legal support centre, you stated that recent technical briefings held by your ministry staff allowed you to draw on the expertise of different individuals to presumably draft a funding plan.

I received a copy of a letter to you dated November 23, 2006, from Elisabeth Bruckmann, the staff lawyer from Parkdale Community Legal Services who’s presentation to the justice policy committee I referred to in asking you that question. In that letter she expressed her dismay at your response to these technical briefings presented, that they presented any opportunity for consultation and continued to say, and I quote: “I would ask that you refrain from further allegations that you have held broad consultations on this bill when you have not. I would specifically ask that you not suggest that I was included in a consultation with your staff when you ought to know that was not the case.”

Minister, you clearly have no plan for this legal support centre, so there’s no big hurry. Why, then, do you refuse to accept our leader John Tory’s compromise vote on this bill to vote first thing in the spring in exchange for full and meaningful consultations now?

Hon. Mr. Bryant: Again, there was a full and meaningful consultation and task force that have taken place here in Ontario and in Canada and by the United Nations Human Rights Committee. There has been full consultation around this bill before, during and after its introduction. At some point we have to say this system wherein we have process gridlock, we have to reform it. There seems to be agreement that we need to reform it. So we have debate as to how those reforms will take place.

At some point we have to say that the positions are before the government, the positions are before this Legislature and people will have an opportunity to support it, vote for it or vote against it. The idea that we would continue to delay making that decision and thereby delay the desperately needed reforms of the human rights system is not one that I can accept.


The Windsor Star Sat 25 Nov 2006
Ontario Liberals betray social justice ideals
Page: A7
Section: Editorial/Opinion
Byline: Richard Phillips
Source: Windsor Star

Are the Liberals the party of the future? This is an important question for Ontario. With the fast-tracking of Bill 107, people are being left to fend for themselves with issues of social justice and human rights.

If the answer is that the Liberals are the party for the future, then the future is one where people will continue to be de-emphasized in favour of private interest and immediate gratification.

If the answer is no, then which party will uphold the dignity of humans over all else? I cannot answer that question. However, Dalton McGuinty and his Liberals are not living up to Liberal ideals that I ascribed to in my life.

The Conservatives are Liberals with tunnel vision, so they are not an option. This leaves the NDP as the party to lead us into the future. Are they equipped to take the lead to safeguard the interest of the public? Are they able to bring our province back to recognizing social justice and human values in public affairs? We will see come 2007.

RICHARD PHILLIPS
President
The Windsor and District Black Coalition


North Bay Nugget Mon 27 Nov 2006
Upset MPP voted to shut down hearings

Page: A6
Section: Opinion
While I welcome the efforts of the Dalton McGuinty government to improve the operations of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, I am deeply concerned with sections of Bill 107, an Act to Reform the Ontario Human Rights Act.
I was scheduled to make a submission to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy on Bill 107. To my great dismay, these hearings have been cancelled.

Monique Smith, our local MPP, voted in favour of the motion to shut down the public hearings.

The issue here is not whether Bill 107 is a good or bad bill. The question is whether the 200 voices waiting for months to make our submissions all deserve a chance to present at the public hearings, as many of the bill's lead proponents did last week.

During the Nov. 21 debate, Conservative Leader John Tory offered a procedural compromise . . . if the government agreed to let the public hearings continue over the winter, the Conservatives would agree that third reading on Bill 107 could be the first item of business when the legislature resumes in the spring.

This would have allowed all to be heard at the standing committee, while ensuring a final vote on the bill.
For the government to oppose this proposal would be to show that its sole motive in shutting down the promised public hearings is to muzzle those who have concerns with the bill and who want input.

Neither the premier nor the attorney general directly answered the Tory compromise.

These tactics from the Liberals are manipulative and undemocratic.

No one is fooled. We won't forget this in the next provincial election.

BARBARA ANELLO
North Bay


The Toronto Star November 28, 2006
Letter
Many questions to be answered about rights law
Wrong to quash public debate on Bill 107
Column, Nov. 23.

Less than one short week after the all-party Justice Committee voted unanimously to hear more witnesses, and the government spent $106,000 publicizing this by running newspaper ads provincewide, the Dalton McGuinty government did a sudden about-face and cut off debate on its controversial new approach for human rights in Ontario.
While the government claims extensive debate has taken place, many fundamental questions remain unanswered, and they require answers.

The new system proposes a three-pronged approach to dealing with discrimination in Ontario. But any new system requires a business case so both parliamentarians and the public alike can understand how this new system might operate, and assess its possibility for success.

How many staff will remain with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, to carry out its work in public education and dealing with more in- depth systemic cases? How many staff will be hired by the revamped Human Rights Tribunal, which will have to contend with in excess of 2,000 cases that are filed annually in Ontario, to ensure the current backlog isn't simply transferred from the commission to the tribunal?

And what will the proposed Legal Support Centre look like? Will it be located only in the Toronto area or will it be regionalized? What criteria will it use in determining who receives support; how much support will be available and will supports be available to all complainants or simply to those who meet some kind of means test?

Until these fundamental questions receive substantive answers, Bill 107 should be put on hold, in favour of an open consultative process, so Ontario will emerge with a new system of human rights protection that will be the envy of our entire country.

John Rae, President, Alliance for Equality of Blind Canadians, Toronto