ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

AODA ALLIANCE TO MAKE PRESENTATION TO PINTO REVIEW ON FRIDAY MARCH 2, 2012 – AND STILL MORE NEWS ON THE PINTO REVIEW

February 13, 2012

SUMMARY

Here is yet more news on the Pinto Review of Ontario's system for enforcing human rights. For more background on the Pinto Review and recent developments, visit here.

* At our request, the Pinto Review has granted the AODA Alliance a two-hour "stakeholder meeting." We expect that it will be on Friday, March 2, 2012 from 10 a.m. to noon. At that meeting, AODA Chair David Lepofsky will make a thorough two hour presentation in which he will review with Andrew Pinto the major issues and recommendations in our brief.

If you would like to come to observe this stakeholder meeting, please email us by noon on Thursday, February 16, 2012. Email us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

We need to let the Pinto Review know how many people want to come to watch this presentation by the AODA Alliance's chair, so that the Pinto Review can select a location that can accommodate our numbers.

The Pinto Review has been helpful by asking if anyone will have any accommodation needs. Please let us know as soon as possible, and in any event, no later than noon, February 16, 2012, at the same email address as above. We will pass on your accommodation needs to Mr. Pinto, and ask that the Review meet them.

Do you have any ideas that you want us to consider incorporating in our presentation at this stakeholder meeting, and in our final brief to the Pinto Review? If so, please let us know by email to that same email address, again, no later than Thursday, February 16, 2012. You can download in MS Word and read our draft brief to The Pinto Review, which is still in development, by clicking here.

If you want to address the Pinto Review with your own individual comments, you can still sign up for his public hearings. Those are taking place this week and next around Ontario. You can also send in written comments to the Pinto Review up to March 1, 2012.

Information on how to give your direct input to the Pinto review is available at here.

* We have also had a recent exchange of correspondence with the Pinto Review, which we set out below.

On the morning of Friday February 10, 2012 we still didn't know if the Pinto review would grant us a stakeholder meeting. We wrote Mr. Pinto on Friday, February 10, 2012 to ask him to let us know. That letter is set out below.

His office let us know shortly afterwards that he would grant us a stakeholder meeting.

At the end of the day on Friday, February 12, 2012, Mr. Andrew Pinto wrote us. In that letter he responded to concerns about his Review that we raised in our January 29 and January 23, 2012 letters to him. These letters are available by clicking on the following:

January 9, 2012 AODA Alliance letter  to the Pinto Review

January 23, 2012 AODA Alliance letter to the Pinto Review

We set out Mr. Pinto's February 12, 2012 letter to us below. In it he responds to some of our concerns, and voices some concerns of his own about the positions we have taken on the subject of his Review.

On Monday, February 13, 2012, the AODA Alliance responded to Mr. Pinto's recent letter. In our response, we raised concerns about his cancelling his Thunder Bay public hearings, and urged that they be rescheduled rather than cancelled. We addressed other issues that his recent letter raised with us. We set out our February 13, 2012 letter to Mr. Pinto below.

We invite you to read this exchange, to form your own assessment, and to let us know your views. We always welcome your feedback at aodafeedfback@gmail.com

* On Monday, February 13, 2012, we sent a further request to the Human Rights Legal Support Centre for needed information to help us finalize our brief to the Pinto Review. That correspondence is set out below.

*****

 

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 10, 2012

VIA EMAIL

Andrew Pinto, Chair

Ontario Human Rights Review

393 University Avenue, Suite 2000

Toronto, Ontario

M5G 1E6

E-mail: chair@ontariohumanrightsreview.org

Fax: (416) 593-4923                                                                          

Dear Mr. Pinto,

Re: Independent Review of Bill 107's Privatizing of Human Rights Enforcement in Ontario

We are writing to ask you to let us know whether you intend to grant us a stakeholder meeting with your Review.

Your December 23, 2011 Consultation Paper invited organizations to request a stakeholder meeting with your Review by January 23, 2012. We emailed you our request for a stakeholder meeting on January 9, 2012, fully two weeks before that deadline, a deadline which your review has recently extended.

Your February 7, 2012 website posting suggests that your Review is already conducting some stakeholder meetings. Your website states: "For those groups or organizations that have already submitted a request for a stakeholder meeting, the Review is in the process of either scheduling or conducting stakeholder meetings." As such, you have already been able to make decisions in at least some cases on requests for stakeholder meetings.

We have not until now requested a slot to present at your public hearings, because we had asked for a stakeholder meeting. We didn't want to take time at your public hearings away from others who want to present there. However, we do not wish to end up being denied a stakeholder meeting and at the same time, to miss out on the chance to present to your Review in person at the public hearings. We are very eager to have a chance to present to you face-to-face about the enforcement of human rights in Ontario since Bill 107 went into effect.

We far prefer the option of a stakeholder meeting to a 15 minute slot at your Toronto February 15, 2012 public hearings, because of the very detailed submissions we propose to make. As you know, we have been in the lead in soliciting very detailed information from the Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Tribunal and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, to help us prepare for our presentation to you. We also prefer a stakeholder meeting since we are still working on our submissions to you. We have produced a draft for public comment, but are still working on additions to it.

Therefore we would very much appreciate it if you could let us know now if you intend to agree to our request for a stakeholder meeting. We trust that your schedule can accommodate a stakeholder meeting with us. The Human Rights Code gives you a year from your August 2011 appointment to submit your report. 

In our January 9, 2012 letter to you, we indicated that for us to be able to prepare properly, we would appreciate having the opportunity to have this meeting, no sooner than the first week of March. Since then, it has become evident that we still await some information we have requested from the human rights agencies whose work you are reviewing. As a most obvious example, we still only have one of the Human Rights Legal Support Centre's Annual Reports. The Metro Toronto Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic has, unfortunately, had to resort to a Freedom of Information application to get access to the rest of those Annual Reports. We do not know how quickly the Government will respond to that request. In any event, we are unable to meet with you during the week of February 20, 2012.

The purpose of this letter is simply to obtain a prompt decision from you on whether your Review will grant us a stakeholder meeting. The timing of that meeting can be discussed later.

 

We hope you will view our request for a stakeholder meeting with favour, in light of our coalition's recognized role in advocating on the enforcement of human rights and accessibility for persons with disabilities in Ontario, including in the specific area of Bill 107 – the very legislation you are assigned to review. Also, we played an important role in advocating in 2006 for an effective public review of Bill 107 after it had been in operation for three years.

We would appreciate your confirming with us that you received this letter.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.

Chair, AODA Alliance

cc:        Michael Gottheil, Executive Chair,

            Social Justice Tribunals Ontario

            michael.gottheil@ontario.ca

 

            Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner,

            Ontario Human Rights Commission

            barbara.hall@ohrc.on.ca

            Kathy Laird, Executive Director,

            Human Rights Legal Support Centre

            klaird@hrlsc.on.ca

            David Wright, Associate Chair,

            Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

            david.a.wright@ontario.ca

 

*****

 

ONTARIO HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW

www.ontariohumanrightsreview.org

 

Chair: Andrew Pinto                                                                                                           393 University Avenue

E-mail: chair@ontariohumanrightsreview.org                                                               Suite 2000

Fax: (416) 593-4923                                                                                                          Toronto, Ontario, Canada

M5G 1E6

__________________________________________________________

 

VIA EMAIL:

February 10, 2012

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.

Chair, AODA Alliance

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

Dear Mr. Lepofsky:

I am replying to your letters of January 9 and January 23, 2012.  I was out of the country when your letters were received but my assistant acknowledged receipt of your correspondence.

In your letters, you express concern with the scope of the Review, offer suggestions on how to conduct the Review, discuss my approach to the AODA Alliance and request a stakeholder meeting.

With respect to a stakeholder meeting with the AODA Alliance, you suggested meeting “no sooner than the first week of March.”  I would be prepared to meet with your organization on March 1 or 2, 2012 for up to a 2-hour meeting during the business day.  Please advise on who and how many representatives would be attending and what accommodations, if any, are required as that may determine whether my boardroom and premises are suitable.

With respect to your concerns that the scope of the Review is too narrow, it appears that your expectation was that the Consultation Paper would identify each and every question that should be asked of the public, the human rights agencies and the government concerning the major changes made to the human rights system.  In my view, that approach would have resulted in a very lengthy document, that may have been equally criticized for being too technical or for prejudging the issues.  My approach in the Consultation Paper was to provide a very readable document of reasonable length that was accessible to and primarily geared to the public to generate feedback about experiences, both positive and negative, with the revised human rights system.  I appreciate your concern that certain specific questions that you would have liked to see asked were not explicitly raised in the document, however, I disagree that the Review will not be inquiring into those aspects.  Specifically, in response to your concerns:

I do consider the Commission’s power to initiate its own applications to be within the scope of the Review and I have and will continue to investigate that aspect with the Commission.  My view is that this aspect clearly arises from the Consultation Paper’s reference to “whether the OHRC, in its revised role, is proactively addressing systemic human rights issues,” although I understand that the four questions mentioned do not explicitly ask that specific question.

I also consider the question of systemic discrimination extremely important and I am asking all the human rights agencies, the public and organizations about steps that can be taken to reduce or eliminate human rights complaints (applications) in the first place; or, where applications proceed, whether systemic discrimination concerns are being adequately addressed.

I understand that the issue of costs and relatedly filing fees is a controversial one, but that does not mean that it is outside of the Review’s mandate, or that it should not be raised.  As you are aware, with the passage of Bill 107 one form of costs award, namely where costs could be awarded against the Commission if it frivolously pursued a case against a respondent, was eliminated.  Certain applicants and respondents have argued that costs should be awarded since many parties do retain or wish to retain legal representatives and the failure to take those costs into account raises different access to justice concerns and skews decision-making regarding settlement or proceeding to a hearing.  You have already expressed your strong concerns with any kind of costs or filing fee and I am sure I will hear many submissions on this issue, however, it is not beyond the Review’s mandate to explore this issue.

I disagree that the Consultation Paper does not mention the plight of those in the backlog of the system when Bill 107 came into effect.  I would direct your attention to question “g” under the HRTO section which asks “if you were involved in a complaint that started out at the Commission and ended up being dealt with by the Tribunal after June 30, 2008, did the Tribunal deal with your matter fairly?”

Contrary to your suggestion, I am not only concerned with the plight of individuals who are using the new human rights system, and neglecting systemic or lack of access concerns.  I would direct your attention to my broad Terms of Reference which require me to examine how the entire system is working, albeit with a focus on the “implementation and effectiveness” of the changes resulting from the enactment of Bill 107. 

You have offered a number of suggestions on how to conduct the Review.  I do not disagree that more publicity will attract more attention and feedback on the Review.  However, this must be balanced with timeliness and fiscal responsibility.  The Review has and continues to make outreach efforts to Ontarians, including by issuing hundreds of emails to individuals and organizations across Ontario who themselves have distributed information to thousands of others about the Review.  On December 23, 2011 we provided the dates and cities that the Review planned on visiting and in early February 2012, we indicated the specific venue and timing information for public meetings in Windsor, London, Toronto, Ottawa and Sudbury.  While the Thunder Bay meeting was cancelled due to low demand, I am making ongoing efforts to understand the concerns from those communities.  The dates for signing up for public meetings was extended up to the date of the meetings themselves and the date for requesting stakeholder meetings was extended from January 23 to February 27, 2012.  The deadline for written submissions continues to be March 1.

At this point, we have not turned away any person who has asked to make a presentation at a public meeting or requested a stakeholder meeting.  The Review continues to believe that persons or groups who wish to participate in the Review should have to identify themselves, as anonymous submissions could lead to questions of fairness for parties or groups potentially maligned in anonymous submissions.  As for your request that I disclose the information that has been requested and/or received from the human rights agencies, I will not be doing so on the basis that I am still in the process of that task.  I am, however, giving greater consideration to your and others’ suggestion that the Review make available statistical information from the human rights agencies.  I note, however, that you have made an extensive request for information from the agencies themselves, and that the agencies provide a subset of this information on their own websites.

I wish to reply to your repeated criticisms on my alleged lack of independence and impartiality in conducting the Review.  It is clear that you strongly opposed the introduction and passage of Bill 107 and continue to believe that it was misguided legislation.  In 2006, now some 5 years ago, as a practicing lawyer who had both complainant and respondent clients dealing with human rights issues, I participated to some extent in the extensive public policy debates surrounding what reforms would be advisable.  Both in your correspondence and on your website, you appear to have now greatly elevated my importance in those debates and suggest that because I had a more favourable view of the proposed reforms than you, I should be disqualified from reviewing the effect of the changes.  By your reasoning, it would appear that anyone who took a position in 2006 would be disqualified from conducting the Review.  I believe it would be difficult and perhaps even inadvisable to appoint a person who was not engaged in important human rights issues at the time.  I also wish to reiterate that the mandate of the Review is not to debate Bill 107 all over again, but rather to determine the implementation and effectiveness of the changes effective June 30, 2008.

In closing, I observe that it appears that the purpose of your correspondence is less directed at me, than it is to repeatedly underscore the point that you opposed Bill 107.  There are many editorial comments and imputations about the Review in your correspondence and on your website that, quite frankly, do not reasonably arise from the mandate I have been given or how I have sought to conduct the Review.  I will conclude by again requesting that the AODA Alliance play a constructive role in the Review process by providing evidence of its own members’ or others’ experiences with accessing or not being able to access the revised human rights system.  I also look forward to meeting with you at the proposed stakeholder meeting.

Yours very truly,

Andrew Pinto

AP:ar

cc:  Michael Gottheil

David Wright

Barbara Hall

Kathy Laird

*****

ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

1929 Bayview Avenue

Toronto, Ontario M4G 3E8

New Email Address: aodafeedback@gmail.com

Visit: www.aodalliance.org

February 13, 2012

VIA EMAIL

Andrew Pinto, Chair

Ontario Human Rights Review

393 University Avenue, Suite 2000

Toronto, Ontario

M5G 1E6

E-mail: chair@ontariohumanrightsreview.org

Fax: (416) 593-4923                                                                          

Dear Mr. Pinto,

Re: Human Rights Code Independent Review of Bill 107

Thank you very much for your February 10, 2012 letter.

1. Stakeholder Meeting with the AODA Alliance

Thank you for granting us a stakeholder meeting. We have confirmed by email with your office that we would like to hold this in the time slot that you have kindly held at our request, namely March 2, 2012 from 10 a.m. to noon. By the end of this week, we aim to let you know how many people are expected to attend, and any accommodation needs, once we hear back from our supporters. Based on our numbers, you can then set the location.

We are also asking our supporters to advise what accommodation needs they may have. We will pass these requests on to you.  

2. Thunder Bay Public Hearings Should Be Rescheduled, Not Cancelled

We are troubled that you have cancelled your Thunder Bay public hearings. You originally scheduled those hearings for February 23, 2012. We understand from you that you cancelled these because not enough people contact you to take part in those public hearings in Thunder Bay.

It is important for your Human Rights Code Review to reach out to as many parts of the province as possible. Based on many years of taking part in various public consultations, we do not believe that there is a lack of interest in the effectiveness of Ontario's human rights enforcement system in Thunder Bay and northwest Ontario. When Bill 107 was before the Legislature in 2006, a day of public hearings on Bill 107 was held on August 10, 2006 in Thunder Bay. Visit  http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/default.asp 

We ask you to instead extend the deadline to sign up for the Thunder Bay public hearing, re-schedule it for a date in late March or April, and publicize it far more effectively. To do so will not delay your final report. Under section 57 of the Human Rights Code, you have up to this August to submit your final report. 

It is not surprising that there has been such a low response to your Review's limited publicity of these public forums. Your Review announced the public forums' dates and cities by an email and web posting just after noon, on Friday, December 23, 2011, right on the eve of the December holidays. In our experience, when Governments make an announcement at a time like that, it is widely perceived as aimed at getting minimal public attention.

With respect, we do not agree with your February 10, 2012's justification for not more effectively publicizing your Review. Your letter states:

"You have offered a number of suggestions on how to conduct the Review.  I do not disagree that more publicity will attract more attention and feedback on the Review.  However, this must be balanced with timeliness and fiscal responsibility.  The Review has and continues to make outreach efforts to Ontarians, including by issuing hundreds of emails to individuals and organizations across Ontario who themselves have distributed information to thousands of others about the Review.  On December 23, 2011 we provided the dates and cities that the Review planned on visiting and in early February 2012, we indicated the specific venue and timing information for public meetings in Windsor, London, Toronto, Ottawa and Sudbury.  While the Thunder Bay meeting was cancelled due to low demand, I am making ongoing efforts to understand the concerns from those communities.  The dates for signing up for public meetings was extended up to the date of the meetings themselves and the date for requesting stakeholder meetings was extended from January 23 to February 27, 2012.  The deadline for written submissions continues to be March 1."

 

In our view, "timeliness" could not justify your Review's inadequate publicity of these public hearings. You were appointed to conduct this Review last August. You had fully six months to provide better publicity.

Similarly, "fiscal responsibility" provides no justification. It would not have cost your Review more to have sent your email notification out earlier than December 23, 2012. As well, a few newspaper ads could have been purchased at minimal cost. The Legislature has done that in the past for legislative public hearings.

It costs very little to issue a News Release. In fact, we believe that the Government did so last August, when it announced your appointment to conduct this Review.

It also costs little for you to contact a few key media outlets to secure publicity. For example, your Review could easily have asked CBC and other local media outlets to make free public service announcements to alert the broader public about this Review.

For our part, we have done our best to publicize your Review and to encourage participation in it. However, it should not be left to voluntary community organizations to carry a major burden of this effort.

3. Your Clarifying What Your Review Will Investigate

We commend you for clarifying that your Review will indeed be investigating how effectively the Human Rights Commission uses its power to launch its own human rights applications. We encourage you to raise this issue with individuals and organizations that attend your public hearings and stakeholder meetings.

We also welcome your clarifying that you consider it to be part of your terms of reference to investigate how the pre-Bill 107 backlog at the Human Rights Commission fared, as Bill 107 went into effect. We regret that the Human Rights Commission appears to disagree with you and has taken the position that this topic is not relevant to your mandate.

On January 23, 2012, we asked the Commission to give us details on how it changed its procedures to handle the transition backlog. That letter is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/0123022012.asp 

In her February 3, 2012 answer to us, Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall declined to answer that question, stating:

"Q4.  We understand that as Bill 107 went into effect, the Commission launched a strategy to try to resolve as much of its pre-Bill 107 backlog as it could, as quickly as possible before the Commission's pre-Bill 107 mandate expired. Could you please let us know:

a) What procedures and strategies the Commission used to try to address all those cases.

b) What additional funding the Commission obtained, if any, to address that transitional task and

c) The Commission's assessment of how effective this Commission initiative was at fairly and expeditiously attempting to resolve those cases.

Response: The OHRC created a strategy and assembled a team to address cases remaining at the time of transition. It was designed to be effective and we believe it was. However, the details of that project do not appear to be relevant to a review of the effectiveness of the current human rights system in Ontario." 

We would appreciate any help you can give in communicating to the Human Rights Commission that this is part of your mandate. That would help us obtain from the Commission the important information it has declined to give us on that topic.

4. Extending Deadlines for Participation in Your Review

We appreciate your extending the deadlines for people to ask to take part in your public hearings and stakeholder meetings, as we had urged you to do. We are concerned that you inadequately publicized these deadline extensions. You did not notify the public via your website that the deadlines were being extended until around two weeks after the January 23, 2012 deadlines had in fact expired.

That means, for example, that people in Thunder Bay did not know they could still sign up for the February 23, 2012 Thunder Bay public hearings, until your website announced that deadline extension on February 7, 2012. Yet that was the very same February 7, 2012 posting on your website that announced that the Thunder Bay public hearings were cancelled. For the people of northwest Ontario, your deadline extension for public hearings unfortunately did not help.

We only learned about your deadline extensions because we happened to check your website on February 7, 2012, after we got an email from someone unconnected with your Review, that told us that your hearings were in fact going ahead. We had checked your website a good number of times in January and earlier in February, including earlier on February 7, 2012, only to have seen no updates.

We will aim to get our final brief to you by your March 1, 2012 deadline. However, we encourage you to consider extending that deadline as well, given the delays we have experienced in getting all the information from the three human rights agencies. If we do not have all the information we need by March 1, we would propose to later submit a supplemental brief to you, if necessary.

We encourage you to be open to submissions by members of the public after the March 1, 2012 deadline, and to widely communicate to the public that you will do so.

5. The Issues Your Letter Raises about Your Review's Impartiality

Your letter incorrectly suggests that we have taken issue with your impartiality on the ground that we disagreed with your position in 2006, when you actively advocated for Bill 107. You wrote:

"I wish to reply to your repeated criticisms on my alleged lack of independence and impartiality in conducting the Review.  It is clear that you strongly opposed the introduction and passage of Bill 107 and continue to believe that it was misguided legislation.  In 2006, now some 5 years ago, as a practicing lawyer who had both complainant and respondent clients dealing with human rights issues, I participated to some extent in the extensive public policy debates surrounding what reforms would be advisable.  Both in your correspondence and on your website, you appear to have now greatly elevated my importance in those debates and suggest that because I had a more favourable view of the proposed reforms than you, I should be disqualified from reviewing the effect of the changes.  By your reasoning, it would appear that anyone who took a position in 2006 would be disqualified from conducting the Review.  I believe it would be difficult and perhaps even inadvisable to appoint a person who was not engaged in important human rights issues at the time.  I also wish to reiterate that the mandate of the Review is not to debate Bill 107 all over again, but rather to determine the implementation and effectiveness of the changes effective June 30, 2008."

With respect, our impartiality concerns are twofold: First, we have supported the view that this Review should be conducted by a person who did not take active part in the 2006 Bill 107 debates, whether in support of the bill (like you) or in opposition to the bill (like me). There are a good number of people in Ontario who are amply qualified to conduct this review, with respected expertise in human rights, but who were not active participants in the 2006 Bill 107 public debates, on either side.

Second, from our coalition's perspective, the concern over impartiality arises from the fact that in 2006 you actively took time out of your law practice to oppose our coalition. You have not disputed that on March 16, 2006, you chose to attend our Queen's Park news conference uninvited, with a small group of your colleagues who were advocating for Bill 107, with the aim of voicing your views to the media in opposition to us. Of course, you were free to have done so. However, you can, I trust, understand that that can lead to concerns about your impartiality in relation to our issues. This is especially so since, in our forthcoming submissions to you, we will argue that concerns that we voiced back then (with which you disagreed) have turned out to be well-founded.

Your thinking on this issue which is a cause of our concern is echoed when you wrote: "I also wish to reiterate that the mandate of the Review is not to debate Bill 107 all over again, but rather to determine the implementation and effectiveness of the changes effective June 30, 2008."

We of course recognize that the Legislature did pass Bill 107 six years ago. We also recognize that the question that your Review is charged with exploring is how well the new system for enforcing human rights in Ontario is operating, and whether it needs to be revised.  

The issues and principles at the center of the 2006 Bill 107 debate continue to be the issues and principles that should animate and inform your review. These include, for example, concerns about access to justice, access to effective legal assistance, redressing the inherent power imbalance between applicants, who almost invariably cannot afford legal representation or the cost of an investigation, and respondents, who more often can. 

These also include issues surrounding the effective enforcement of Tribunal orders and human rights settlements, the ability to obtain and enforce public interest remedies, and the extent to which the three main agencies in the new human rights system have lived up to the promises of Bill 107.  Has the Human Rights Commission pursued systemic discrimination in an effective and robust manner?  Has the Human Rights Legal Support Centre provided the degree of legal representation promised at the time of Bill 107's introduction?  Have the Tribunal's procedures, forms, rules and requirements created an unwarranted barrier?  Is the absence of investigations helping or hindering applicants? It would undermine your review were you to respond to legitimate concerns about the new system's effectiveness and fairness by first pigeon holing, and then dismissing them, by claiming that these concerns revive the six year old debate over Bill 107.

In any event, the choice of whom to conduct this Review is the Government's. From our perspective, the Government appears to have decided that it cannot run the risk of having Bill 107's implementation publicly assessed by someone who wasn't active in trying to get that legislation passed in 2006.  Having said that, we hope and trust that you will make every effort to keep an open mind, to be aware of the concern that we and others have raised regarding your impartiality, and to fairly consider and address the submissions that will be presented by the AODA Alliance.

6. The AODA Alliance's Constructive Contribution to this Review of the Human Rights Code

We regret that your February 10, 2012 letter suggests or implies that we have been writing you with an ulterior purpose, not with making proposals and raising concerns about the conduct of your Review. You stated:

"In closing, I observe that it appears that the purpose of your correspondence is less directed at me, than it is to repeatedly underscore the point that you opposed Bill 107.  There are many editorial comments and imputations about the Review in your correspondence and on your website that, quite frankly, do not reasonably arise from the mandate I have been given or how I have sought to conduct the Review.  I will conclude by again requesting that the AODA Alliance play a constructive role in the Review process by providing evidence of its own members’ or others’ experiences with accessing or not being able to access the revised human rights system."

We disagree with your description of our efforts and our motivations. We aim to make a constructive contribution to this Human Rights Code Review by publicizing it through our network, encouraging people to sign up to take part, letting people know about the events that led to the enactment of Bill 107 back in 2006, offering resources to help people understand the issues, striving to get needed information from the Human Rights Tribunal, Human Rights Commission  and Human Rights Legal Support Centre, offering you constructive ideas on how to conduct your Review, raising with you any concerns we have about the conduct of the Review, and preparing at great length to make detailed submissions on the effectiveness of Bill 107.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O.Ont.

Chair, AODA Alliance

cc:        Michael Gottheil, Executive Chair,

            Social Justice Tribunals Ontario

            michael.gottheil@ontario.ca

 

            Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner,

            Ontario Human Rights Commission

            barbara.hall@ohrc.on.ca

            Kathy Laird, Executive Director,

            Human Rights Legal Support Centre

            klaird@hrlsc.on.ca

            David Wright, Associate Chair,

            Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario

            david.a.wright@ontario.ca

 

*****

 

Via Email        klaird@hrlsc.on.ca

 

To:  Kathy Laird, Executive Director, Human Rights Legal Support Centre of Ontario

From:  David Lepofsky, Chair Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Date:  February 13, 2012

Re:  Independent Review of Ontario Human Rights Enforcement Process

We are writing to follow up on our earlier requests for information to help us prepare for our participation in the Pinto Human Rights Code Review. We very much appreciate the efforts that the Human Rights Legal Support Centre has made to date, to answer our inquiries.

However, there remains at least one very important general area of great importance on which the information you have given us is either incomplete, unclear, or hard to sort out. I will describe it here.

At bottom, our aim is to figure out not only how many people the Centre has served each year, but at each stage of the Human Rights Tribunal process, how many people asked the Centre for help but were declined any help, or who were declined the specific level of help that they sought. We are interested in actual raw numbers, and not only in percentages. We are also interested this data on a year by year basis, wherever possible.

Upon carefully reviewing the materials you provided so far, our problem stems from two causes. First, it seems that some of our earlier questions have not been answered. Second, your materials provided to date do not in all cases attempt to list our earlier questions and then answer each, one by one. In contrast, both the Human Rights Commission and the Human Rights Tribunal helpfully structured their responses to our inquiries on a question by question basis. Their approach let us easily tell whether each and every question was answered.

Our hope is that you can provide clarification. If anything that we seek here is already somewhere in the disclosures you have sent us to date, then we apologize in advance. We have spent quite some time ploughing through that material. Also, if any of our earlier questions were not clear enough, or didn't cover all the terrain, we again apologize.

The AODA Alliance's questions 2, 3, 4, 5c and 6 in our November 14, 2011 letter to you were designed to determine both the total number of individuals that the Human Rights Legal Support Centre assisted at the application, mediation and hearing stages, as well as a comparison of the number of individuals that the HRLSC declined to provide the assistance they sought at those stages. In the event that our questions were unclear, we would like to know on a year by year basis, how many people asked the Centre for legal representation at each stage of the Tribunal process, or legal advice but not representation at each stage, and how many people at each stage got what they asked for or something less, or nothing at all. If you cannot provide all of this, we would appreciate knowing as much as you can provide.

For example, you have told us what percentage of callers cannot even get through on the phone. That is helpful information. We would also like to know for each year the total number of people who tried to call, and the total number of calls that the Centre actually answered and provided the caller with advice or representation.

It would be helpful for the Centre to go through each major stage of the Tribunal process after that first contact with the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, to give us data on a year by year basis regarding those who get through on the phone. For them, we want to know what numbers got turned away by the Centre because the Centre thought they have no case, what number asked for full legal representation but got something less, etc.

Let me offer some illustrations of where we are unclear from the information you have provided so far.

First, in Section 4.3.1 of the document that you sent us in response, entitled HRLSC Final Publication for Three Year Review January 9, 2012, under "Application Stage Legal Services", the Centre writes:

"In the first six months of this fiscal year (April 1 to September 30, 2011), the Centre's lawyers provided legal services to 753 individuals. . . "

However, we are not told how many individuals approached the Centre with requests for assistance to help complete and/or file their Applications and were not provided with such assistance.

Second, in Section 4.3.2 of the same document, dealing with the "Mediation Stage Legal Services" the Centre writes: "In the 6-month period to September 30, 2011, our Human Rights Advisors provided advice in response to 452 inquiries from 271 individuals about mediation at the Tribunal."

However, what is unclear is whether there were a total of 452 inquiries for assistance with mediation, or whether the Centre's non-lawyer Advisors provided advice in response to 452 of the unstated total number of mediation-related inquiries that were made. If the latter is correct, it would be helpful to know on a year by year basis, the total number of persons that made requests for assistance with the Tribunal's mediation stage , the total number of persons to whom assistance was provided and the number who were not provided with advice. It would also be helpful to know, again on a year by year basis if possible, the total number in which it was the Centre's lawyers that gave advice, and the total number of persons to whom the Centre actually provided lawyer representation at the Tribunal's mediation.

Third, in Section 4.3.3 of the same document, dealing with the "Hearing Stage Legal Services" the Centre writes: "In the six (6) month period from April 1, 2011 to September 30, 2011, our Human Rights Advisors provided assistance in response to 270 inquiries from 170 individuals seeking advice with respect to pre-hearing disclosure, pre-hearing motions and hearing preparation."

However, what is unclear is whether there were a total of 270 inquiries for assistance with hearings, or whether the Centre's non-lawyer Advisors provided advice in response to 270 of a total but unstated larger number of hearing inquiries that were made. If the latter is correct,

it would be helpful to know the total number of persons that made requests for assistance with the Tribunal's hearing stage, the total number of persons to whom assistance was provided and the number who were not provided with the requested advice, representation or assistance. It would be helpful to know the total number in which it was the Centre's lawyers that gave advice, and the total number of persons to whom the Centre actually provided lawyer representation at the Tribunal's hearing.

For each of these major stages in the Tribunal process, application preparation, pre-hearing motions and proceedings, mediation and hearing, if the Centre can break down its information to capture on a year by year basis if possible, the degree of assistance provided, that, too, as compared to the amount of assistance or presentation requested would be most helpful.

Please let me know as soon as possible if you can provide this assistance and clarification. If you need any of the foregoing clarified, just let me know.

cc: Andrew Pinto chair@ontariohumanrightsreview.org