ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE UPDATE

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CANADIAN CIVIL LIBERTIES ASSOCIATION CALLS ON ELECTIONS ONTARIO TO ACT PROMPTLY TO ENSURE FULLY ACCESSIBLE ELECTIONS FOR VOTERS WITH DISABILITIES

May 5, 2010

SUMMARY

On May 4, 2010, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association wrote Ontario’s Chief Electoral Officer, Greg Essensa. (Letter set out below.) In their letter, the CCLA echoed our call for prompt action by Elections Ontario to ensure fully accessible elections in Ontario for voters with disabilities.

Among other things, CCLA urged that Elections Ontario promptly undertake its study of alternative voting technology and recommend its adoption as soon as permissible under Bill 231.

We commend CCLA for adding its voice to our campaign for fully accessible elections for voters with disabilities. This further shows that the spotlight is on Elections Ontario, now that Bill 231 has passed.

We are delighted when more and more community organizations take action to monitor progress on this issue and help hold Elections Ontario accountable. We also hope that governments across Canada move now to remove the recurring barriers that have threatened to disenfranchise so many voters with disabilities across this country.


CANADIAN
CIVIL LIBERTIES
ASSOCIATION

360 Bloor Street West, Suite 506
Toronto, ON
M5S 1X1
Telephone (416) 363-0321
Fax (416) 861-1291
E-mail: mail@ccla.org

May 4, 2010

Mr. Greg Essensa
Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Ontario
51 Rolark Drive
Scarborough, ON
M1R 3B1

Dear Mr. Essensa,

I am writing on behalf of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association (CCLA) with respect to Bill 231 which, as you know, passed Third Reading in the legislature on May 3, 2010. The CCLA is pleased that this legislation contains some provisions aimed at making Ontario elections more accessible to voters with disabilities. At the same time, the CCLA is concerned about the potential for delay in facilitating accessible voting. Voting in an election is a fundamental civil right accorded to all Canadians under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Similarly, the Charter guarantees that everyone is entitled to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, without discrimination on the basis of mental or physical disability. Ensuring accessible voting for Canadians with disabilities is therefore not simply good public policy, it s a constitutional imperative. The Canadian Human Rights Tribunal has found recently that “voting is one of the most sacred rights of citizenship and that includes the right to do so in an accessible context” and that Elections Canada violated the Canadian Human Rights Act by failing to provide Mr. Hughes with an accessible voting location. In this context we urge you to begin considering the implementation of alternative voting technologies to avoid any further delay in achieving full accessibility for voters in Ontario. We suggest that Elections Ontario should act promptly to recommend that the ban on access technologies be lifted as soon as permissible under Bill 231, as many alternative voting technologies are readily available from other jurisdictions that have experimented with and used these technologies, even some of Ontario’s municipalities.

While Bill 231 requires that proposed voting locations be posted on the internet six months before an election, input from the community should be solicited in order to ensure that accessibility requirements are met. A physically inaccessible voting station constitutes a denial of the right to vote.

The CCLA is concerned about the difficulties that many Ontarians with disabilities have experienced in attempting to exercise their right to vote and we would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these issues further.

Yours very truly,

Nathalie Des Rosiers
General Counsel