Ontario Human rights Reform - A call to Action

Three more developments on the eve of resumption of public hearings on Bill 107
November 14 2006


On the eve of resumption of the public hearings on the controversial Bill 107, here are three developments:

* Attorney General Michael Bryant has just been scheduled to make a 15 minute statement to the Legislature's Standing Committee on Justice Policy from 9:15 to 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday, November 15, 2006, when the public hearings on Bill 107 resume. We just learned of this. We anticipate that he may then announce his intended amendments to Bill 107. The Attorney General told the media last week that he would announce dozens of amendments to Bill 107 before the hearings resume.

Over five months ago, back on June 8, 2006, the Attorney General announced in the Legislature during Question Period that he would introduce amendments to Bill 107. We have been asking the Government since them to make these amendments public, so that presenters at the public hearings could comment on them. The Attorney General's statement is scheduled to take place moments before the first presenters make their presentations at the public hearings.

* During Question Period in the Legislature today, Conservative MPP Christine Elliott asked Attorney General Michael about two important issues. First she asked why the McGuinty Government has already hired a team to work at the Human Rights Tribunal on implementing Bill 107 when the Legislature hasn't even passed the bill yet. Second, she asked the Attorney General whether the Government would commit to ensuring that everyone gets a time slot to present at the public hearings who wants to. See the text of the questions and answers below.

* The University of Toronto Faculty of Law is holding an open public forum on Bill 107 this Friday, November 17, 2006 from 2 to 4 p.m. See the U of T announcement below. Everyone is invited. Although this is being held at a law school, the forum is important to attend whether or not you have any legal training.


Mrs. Christine Elliott (Whitby-Ajax): My question is for the Premier. Premier, during the last election campaign you talked about cynicism among the electorate with respect to Ontario politics. You explicitly promised, and I quote, "Your MPP should be free to represent your views, not just parrot the views of
his or her party. We will make sure all non-cabinet MPPs are free to criticize and vote against government legislation." Premier, Bill 107, your proposed destruction of Ontario's human rights public complaints and investigation system, is not yet law. According to the website of the Ontario Human Rights
Tribunal, a transition team has already been hired and is working to design a new tribunal. What happened to your campaign promise? You're presuming that Bill 107 is going to pass, thereby making a sham of the committee process. How can you possibly expect your MPPs on this committee to vote without even considering the views of their constituents? And what do you have to say to the many racial-

The Speaker (Hon. Michael A. Brown): Thank you. Premier.

Hon. Dalton McGuinty (Premier, Minister of Research and Innovation): I'll refer to the Attorney General.

Hon. Michael Bryant (Attorney General): I'm not quite sure what language is used on the Human Rights Tribunal's website. As you know, the tribunal is at arm's length from the Ministry of the Attorney General. Certainly nobody in this House-and neither the tribunal nor the commission in any way, shape or
form presumes to know what this Legislature will do in any matter. If you're suggesting that the tribunal is engaging in that activity, that's not my experience at all. In fact, I think what the tribunal is trying to do is look at the various options that may be ahead for the system in the event that Bill 107 moves
forward. Certainly nobody presumes to, in any way, shape or form, question the wisdom of this Legislature as it continues to look at Bill 107 very closely.

The Speaker: Supplementary.

Mrs. Elliott: My question again is for the Premier. Premier, your campaign promise was, and I quote, "We will make our institutions more democratic by freeing your MPP to represent you" and "We will give more independence and power to legislative committees."

Premier, as you know, the justice policy committee is going to be voting tomorrow on a proposal to extend the hearings on Bill 107 until the hundreds of concerned organizations and groups have had the opportunity to make their presentations before the committee.

Given the precedent that was established during the summer committee hearings, that everyone who wishes to make a presentation before the committee can do so, are you going to allow your Liberal MPPs on this committee to vote freely on open and democratic hearings and to follow the established precedent, or are they going to have to act like trained seals and shut off the hearings?

The Speaker: Attorney General.

Hon. Mr. Bryant: Well, obviously the committee will have a number of matters that it's going to be considering this week. It's in the hands of a very good committee. I note that the reason why there is significant interest in this bill is that we have not, in fact, had the opportunity to provide and update
the human rights system in more than 40 years.

When the Conservative Party was in government, there was absolutely zero interest in reforming the human rights system. They cut funding to the human rights system, they showed nothing but disdain towards the issues faced by the human rights system and they made no effort to reform the human rights system. So it is good to see the Conservative Party's new-found interest in human rights reform.

I look forward to the matter being debated in the committee, not only tomorrow and the next day-however long it takes. As the member knows, that's in the hands of House leaders and that's in the hands of the committee-where it should be.

The following is an announcement of a public forum on bill 107 to be hosted at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law on Friday, November 17, 2006 from 2 to 4 p.m. The room listed below may change depending on turnout. This is open to the public.

You are invited to a Community Forum to discuss Bill 107, and Human Rights Reform in Ontario
Time: Friday, November 17, 2006, 2:00-4:00 pm
Location: Rowell Room, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, 78 Queen's Park Cr.
Panel: David Lepofsky, Michael Gottheil, and Kathy Laird
We look forward to seeing you there!