ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO

AODA ALLIANCE MAKES TWO-HOUR PRESENTATION AT ANDREW PINTO HUMAN RIGHTS REVIEW STAKEHOLDER MEETING—AND MORE MEDIA COVERAGE OF THE PINTO REVIEW

March 02, 2012

SUMMARY

On Friday, March 2, 2012, from 10 a.m. to noon, the AODA Alliance made a two-hour oral presentation to the Andrew Pinto Human Rights Code Review. AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made the presentation. A delegation of about a dozen AODA Alliance supporters attended in solidarity and support. We thank them for taking the time to do so.

We feel that the presentation was positive and constructive. Mr. Pinto indicated that he had read our brief (which is over 100 pages long, and which he only received yesterday). He listened carefully and asked good, probing and fair questions during the presentation.

Based on our March 1, 2012 brief to the Pinto Review, our oral presentation's theme was that Ontario's system for enforcing human rights has not lived up to the McGuinty Government's promises. It needs significant reforms. We offered several constructive recommendations for doing this.

Perhaps of greatest help to the Pinto Review, we showed that our concerns about how the system is now working, and our recommendations on how to fix it, should appeal both to those who originally supported Bill 107 in 206, and to those (like the AODA Alliance) who opposed that legislation. Our approach can bridge that divide.

Our presentation to Mr. Pinto focused solely on the actual problems with Ontario's human rights system. We did not use the limited time to address our concerns about how the Pinto Review is conducting its public consultations. We have been, and remain, very critical of the Pinto Review's insufficient efforts to reach out to the broader public and to get full public input into his review. We have communicated these concerns to Mr. Pinto, as our website shows.

For example, we have criticized the Pinto Review for cancelling its February 23, 2012 Thunder Bay public hearings. Mr. Pinto said he cancelled these due to little interest being shown from Thunder Bay. We have responded that that limited showing of interest is most likely due to the fact that the Pinto Review did a very inadequate job of informing the public about its consultations. Learn about our concerns with how the Pinto Review is reaching out to the public by visiting here:

We set out below the text of a February 20, 2012 CBC Radio Thunder Bay story on this issue. In that story, Mr. Pinto is reported as being open to come to Thunder Bay. We commend him for re-opening that option. We encourage him to schedule a hearing date and widely publicize it. We would be pleased to help spread the word.

At the same time as we are critical of the Pinto Review for its inadequate outreach to the public, we want to be entirely fair to the Pinto Review by noting that Mr. Pinto was very attentive and receptive to our presentation at this stakeholder meeting. At our request, the Pinto Review arranged for a larger meeting room to accommodate all those who wanted to attend as part of our delegation. The Pinto Review also arranged for accommodations such as American Sign Language. We appreciate all of these efforts.

We regret that Mr. Pinto refused to allow any media to attend the stakeholder meeting. We felt that this meeting should have been open to the media to attend.

We also set out below an article that appeared in the March 2, 2012 on-line edition of the Toronto Star about our brief to the Pinto Review. That article appeared on line around the same time as we were conducting our stakeholder meeting with Mr. Pinto. We only saw it after the stakeholder meeting was finished.

It is important to clarify that in that article, where it reports that we have called the Pinto Review a "sham," this was a comment that AODA Alliance chair David Lepofsky made some two weeks ago. It was made in a discussion of our serious concerns about the way the Pinto Review has been publicizing its consultations and reaching out for public input. We want to be clear that it was not a comment on the actual March 2, 2012 stakeholder meeting that we have just held with Mr. Pinto. Indeed, we would only wish that all who might be interested in human rights in Ontario could have an opportunity for a good discussion like we had at our March 2, 2012 Stakeholder Meeting. We have offered to Meet again with Mr. Pinto, if he wishes,  to cover the items that we couldn't cram into this jam-packed two hour meeting.

Even though the Pinto Review has not extended its March 1, 2012 deadline for sending in written comments to the Pinto Review, we urge you to take a moment and email the Pinto Review to say if you support our March 1, 2012 brief. A one-line email is all it takes. You can write the Pinto Review at chair@ontariohumanrightsreview.org

To see our   March 1, 2012 brief, and to read a summary of its conclusions and recommendations, visit here:

We always welcome your feedback. Write us at aodafeedback@gmail.com

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TORONTO STAR ON-LINE EDITION MARCH 2, 2012

Queen’s Park accused of complicating human rights complaints

March 02, 2012

Richard J. Brennan

Lawyer David Lepofsky told a one-man review of Ontario’s system for enforcing human rights Friday the provincial Liberal government has broken its promise to protect Ontarians.

“The government has broken several important promises it made on what things would be like under the new system for enforcing human rights in Ontario after Bill 107 went into effect,” Lepofsky, a spokesperson for the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, said before presenting his brief to human rights lawyer Andrew Pinto in a closed-door meeting.

In 2008, the Liberals changed how the Ontario Human Rights Commission handles complaints. At the time, it agreed to review changes to Ontario Human Rights Code, which were designed to speed up the process.

“It has not ensured free publicly-funded lawyers for all human rights applicants throughout the Human Rights Tribunal process,” Lepofsky told the Star. “Many are unrepresented at the tribunal. The reformed human rights system has not assured to applicants a hearing on the merits within one year of filing their human rights application with the Human Rights Tribunal.”

The OADA Alliance’s brief argues that the changes did the opposite of streamlining the complaints system and also put the burden on the applicant.

“Under Bill 107, if a person has been discriminated against, they must themselves file a human rights application with the Human Rights Tribunal, not the Human Rights Commission. The discrimination victim must investigate and prosecute his or her own case at the Tribunal, without the Human Rights Commission publicly investigating their case, or publicly prosecuting it.

The Human Rights Commission lost its investigation duties in individual human rights cases,” says the brief.

“Under Bill 107, discrimination victims can ask for legal help from a new Human Rights Legal Support Centre. That centre has sweeping discretion to turn a case away or to give as much or as little legal advice and representation to a discrimination victim as it wishes. A human rights

applicant can choose to hire their own lawyer to represent them at the Human Rights Tribunal. Many cannot afford to do this.”

Lepofsky said this new system has resulted in fewer discrimination cases based on disabilities filed because applicants simply find it too onerous.

He also noted that 885 human rights complainants in the old system have not even been referred to the Human Rights Tribunal.

“We calculate that fully 885 complainants … chose to let their case die rather than proceed unaided on their own to investigate and prosecute their case at the Human Rights Tribunal, without further involvement of the Human Rights Commission. The Human Rights Legal Support Centre also refused to help this group of complainants,” he said.

The one-man review has come under sharp criticism from Lepofsky, who called it a sham. He says it was designed to have a low profile and thus not attract the input necessary to make changes to the act.

Under the revamped system introduced by the Liberals, there are three human rights agencies: the Human Rights Commission, the Human Rights Tribunal and the Human Rights Legal Support Centre, where complainants go to get legal representation. The centre has been plagued with delays.

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February 20 2012 cbc.ca

URL:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/thunder-bay/story/2012/02/20/tbay-human-rights.html

Human rights review bypasses Thunder Bay

Organizers cite lack of interest

CBC News

PHOTO: An advocacy group is upset Andrew Pinto, the head of an Ontario Human Rights review, is bypassing Thunder Bay. (Pinto Wray James LLP)

An advocacy group is upset that an Ontario Human Rights review is bypassing Thunder Bay.

A lawyer has been appointed by the Attorney-General to consult the public and visit cities across the province for feedback about the way human rights are enforced.

He decided not to travel to Thunder Bay due to a lack of interest.

David Lepofsky is the chair of the lobby group, Accessibility for Ontarians With Disabilities Act Alliance. He blamed poor marketing and poor communication for lack of interest.

"This review has done an extremely paltry job of publicizing the availability of public forum. The only way this has been publicized is by sending an email to a group of people," he said.

Andrew Pinto is conducting the review. He said he emailed hundreds of organizations with thousands of members. Pinto said enough interest was shown in six other Ontario cities.

"We actually received only one inquiry to come out to Thunder Bay and we have to be responsible for me to fly to Thunder Bay for one meeting," Pinto said. Pinto said if interest picked up in Thunder Bay, he would set up a consultation in the city.