ODA Committee News Release
May 28, 2001
Will This Week Be The Last National Access
Awareness Week Before Mike Harris Finally
Keeps His Promise
To Enact New Disability Access Legislation?
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Monday, May 28, 2001 - This week, National Access Awareness Week,
comes mere days after the sixth anniversary of Mike Harris's unkept
promise to enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act (ODA), a law
needed to achieve a barrier-free province for its 1.5 million
residents with disabilities. On May 24, 1995, Premier Harris
promised in writing that if elected, his Government would enact the
ODA in his first term, and that he would work together with the ODA
Committee to develop it. To date the Committee still awaits a
meeting with Mr. Harris. The ODA Committee is a non-partisan
province-wide grass-roots coalition of individuals and over 100
community organizations, organized in 22 regions of Ontario.
Public opinion polls conducted by the government in 2000 and by the
ODA Committee in 1997 show strong public support for a mandatory,
effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Responding to local ODA
supporters, over 20 municipal councils have passed resolutions
calling for this legislation. The Ontario Legislature has
unanimously passed three resolutions calling for ODA to be passed.
The most recent provincial resolution fixed November 23, 2001 as
the deadline for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities
Act to be enacted.
In its recent Throne Speech, the Government committed to introduce
the ODA in this session. New Citizenship Minister Cam Jackson has
said that he wants this legislation enacted by the end of this
year. "We hope that this will be the last National Access
Awareness Week without a strong and effective Ontarians with
Disabilities Act", said David Lepofsky,ODA Committee chair.
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT - CHRONOLOGY
- May 24, 1995 - Mike Harris makes written election promise to
enact the ODA in his first term and to work personally with the
ODA Committee to develop it.
- May 16, 1996 - Ontario Legislature unanimously passes first of
three resolutions. Sponsored by NDP MPP Marion Boyd, resolution
calls on Harris Government to keep its ODA election promise.
- April 22, 1998 - ODA Committee delivers comprehensive brief to
the Legislature including a detailed blueprint for mandatory,
strong and effective legislation.
- July 13 to September 1998 - Ontario Government conducts closed,
invitation-only consultations in 8 cities on what to include in the ODA.
Read the letter from the Minister of Citizenship accompanying
the Ontario Government's Discussion Paper on the Ontarians With
Disabilities Act first released July 13, 1998
- October 22, 1998 - Citizenship Minister Bassett presents
results of her consultations, using overhead slide presentation,
to ODA Committee representatives, three of whom are blind or
vision-impaired. When ODA Committee was later forced to resort to
the Freedom of Information legislation to compel disclosure of
documents from consultation process, it discovers that the
Minister's presentation was inaccurate and misleading.
- October 29, 1998 - Ontario Legislature unanimously passes
second of three ODA resolutions. Sponsored by Liberal MPP Dwight
Duncan, resolution calls for ODA to be passed which embodies 11
principles to make it mandatory, strong and effective.
- November 23, 1998 - Citizenship Minister Bassett introduces
Bill 83, a 3-page bill which was completely voluntary, applicable
only to the Ontario government and did not require any barriers
ever to be removed.
- December 17, 1998 - Bill 83 dies on the order paper after first
reading, after being widely condemned across Ontario.
- April 22, 1999 - Pre-election Throne Speech announces Bill 83
will not be re-introduced due to criticisms of it. New
consultation promised before new bill to be introduced.
- May - June 3, 1999 - Ontario election Campaign - Harris
Government promises strengthened ODA after more consultations.
Liberals and NDP promise strong and effective ODA complying with
Legislature's October 29, 1998 resolution.
- September 10, 1999 - ODA Committee presents proposal, prepared
at request of Citizenship Minister Helen Johns, that new ODA
public consultation take the form of an all-party Select
Committee of the Legislature to hold public hearings before a
bill is drafted.
- September 11, 1999 - London Free Press quotes Citizenship
Minister Johns stating that a new strong disabilities act is a
"huge priority for me."
- September 20-21, 1999 - NDP and Liberal Parties accept proposal
for Select Committee on the ODA to hold province-wide public
hearings. Government never responds to this proposal.
- October 21, 1999 - Throne Speech says Government's "goal" is to
introduce a "new action plan" this session and that consultations
- November 23, 1999 - On first anniversary of Bill 83's
introduction, Legislature unanimously passes third of three
resolutions. Sponsored by Liberal Steve Peters, resolution calls
for a "strong and effective" ODA to be passed no later than
November 23, 2001.
- Late January, 2000 - Minister Johns reveals during meeting with
Liberal MPP Steve Peters that she is already conducting
consultations, claims to be meeting weekly with disability
groups. Her personal calender, later produced when compelled
under Freedom of Information Act, contradicts this.
- January 31, 2000 - Liberal Disability Critic Steve Peters
announces that because the Government will not hold open hearings
on what to include in the ODA, the Liberal Party will hold a
province-wide ODA public consultation tour. Liberals hold public,
accessible hearings in 15 cities in March 2000.
- March 25, 2000 - Minister Johns states on London TV that her
Government had agreed to bring forward ODA action plan by June.
No action plan is announced in June.
- September 8, 2000 - Minister Johns meets with ODA Committee
delegation. She states she is open to considering all options,
for inclusion in ODA and is still holding consultations on ODA.
- October 4, 2000 - Liberal leader McGuinty reveals in
Legislature a leaked draft Cabinet document detailing Government
plans to introduce weak, toothless ODA this fall, and Government
strategy to avoid adverse media coverage. Leaked document's
August 28, 2000 date suggests Government's intentions were
determined before Minister John's September 8, 2000 meeting with
- October 25, 2000 - Premier's office again refuses ODA
Committee's request to meet with the Premier. Premier Harris
refused all previous requests.
- December 31, 2000 - Year ends with no ODA bill introduced.
ODA Committee succeeded in getting Ontario Government to back off
its leaked timetable to introduce another weak, toothless bill by
- January 5, 2001 - Toronto Star reveals Ontario Government's
June 2000 public opinion poll, showing strong public support for
mandatory ODA covering public and private sectors.
- February 8, 2001 - Premier Harris shuffles Cabinet, removing
Helen Johns from Citizenship Minister post, and appointing Cam
Jackson as the fourth Citizenship Minister in 5.5 years.
- March 2, 2001 - Premier Harris Prorogues Ontario Legislature, bringing
legislative ssession to an end, without releasing his promised action plan
on the ODA. This breaks the Government's October 22, 1999 Throne Speech
commitment to release an action plan on the ODA in that session of the
- April 19, 2001 - Throne Speech commits to introducing disability legislation
in this session to address barriers facing persons with disabilities.
No date for its introduction is given. No commitment is given that this
legislation will be strong and effective, or that it will be passed into law
in this session, or ever.
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Last updated June 21, 2001 6:45 pm