AODA Alliance Writes Ontario Government, and Standing Committee Issues News Release

AODA Alliance Writes Ontario Government Requesting Four Steps To Make Public
Hearings Meaningful
June 29, 2006


On June 28, 2006, the AODA Alliance wrote Ontario’s Attorney General Michael
Bryant. It asked that the Government take specific steps to make the upcoming
public hearings on bill 107 as meaningful as possible. (See the letter below)
Bill 107’s is the McGuinty Government’s proposed new law which will take away
most of the Human rights Commission’s power to enforce the Ontario Human rights Code.

The chair of the Legislature’s Standing Committee on Justice Policy issued a
news release on June 27, 2006, announcing some of the details of the public
hearings. (See the news release, below) Among other things, the news release
sets a deadline of 5 pm on Friday, July 21, 2006 for you to ask to make an oral
presentation before the Standing Committee at the hearings in thunder Bay,
London or Ottawa. A deadline hasn’t yet been set for filing requests to make an
oral presentation at the fall hearings in Toronto. Anyone can send in a written
submission about Bill 107 at any time up until the public hearings are
completed. We don’t know when the final date of the Toronhto hearings will be.

For more specifics on how to send in a request to make an oral presentation to
the Standing Committee, visit:

c/o The Canadian Hearing Society
271 Spadina Road
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2V3

June 28, 2006

To: The Hon. Michael Bryant, Attorney General of Ontario
11th Floor
720 Bay Street
Toronto Ontario M5G 2K1

Dear Sir,

Re: Bill 107, the Proposed Human Rights Code Amendment Act.

Now that Bill 107 is referred to the Standing Committee on Justice Policy for
public hearings, we ask the Government to take four important steps to make
these public hearings as meaningful as possible.

First, we are pleased that the Toronto hearings will not take place until after
September 25, 2006. However, we are concerned that the Thunder Bay, London and Ottawa hearings are scheduled in the middle of prime summer holiday season, i.e. August 8 to 10, 2006.

We ask that the August hearings be moved to September. This would give
individuals and community organizations, who don’t hold board meetings over the summer, a far better opportunity to take part in the hearings. In 1998, your
party was properly, critical of the previous Conservative Government when it
held public consultations on the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act in
August, when many were away on holidays.

It would not delay the bill’s progress through the Legislature to move the
August hearings to September, as the Legislature doesn’t resume sitting until
September 25. Thus there are fully three weeks in September within which the
London, Thunder Bay and Ottawa hearings could occur before the Legislature
resumes sitting.

Second, we ask your Government to now make public the specific changes it
contemplates proposing for Bill 107. On June 8, 2006, you stated in the
Legislature that you intend to table amendments to the bill, to address such
topics as the provision of legal services for discrimination victims. Your
Government has now had more than four months to develop its plans for such
important issues as legal representation for discrimination victims, since you
first announced your plans for the Human rights Code last February.

The public needs this information now in detail, so that it can develop and give
effective input and feedback on your plans at the Standing Committee hearings.
If the Government withholds this information from the public until after the
Standing Committee’s public hearings are completed, this would deny the public a fair chance to be properly consulted on your current plans. We commend to you the Toronto Star’s June 12, 2006 editorial, which called on your government to make your plans, including your budget plans, public as soon as possible.

As part of this, we ask you to now clarify what your Government specifically
means by its commitments to ensure that all human rights complainants are
provided publicly-funded legal representation and support. For example, we want specifically to confirm that this legal representation and support will be
delivered by lawyers, and not by non-lawyers. Particularly at Human Rights
Tribunals, it would be grossly insufficient for a discrimination victim to be
advised and represented by a non-lawyer such as a paralegal, when the respondent is so often represented by a skilled, well-financed private law firm. We also want to know such important things as how many lawyers will be provided to advise and represent discrimination victims.

Third, we seek your Government’s assurance that the public hearings will be long enough to ensure that everyone who wants to make a presentation to the Standing Committee will be given time to do so. To date, the Standing Committee has announced three hearing dates outside Toronto. It has set no dates for Toronto. We especially anticipate that many will want to make presentations in Toronto, which will require several hearing days. We seek your commitment that the Government will not cut off the hearings before all can be fairly heard.

Finally, we seek your Government’s assurance that those invited to present to
the Standing Committee will be given adequate prior notice of the date and time
for their presentation. Persons with disabilities will need that notice to
arrange accessible transportation. We regret that your Government didn’t give
such notice for the First and Second Reading proceedings on Bill 107. That
created a serious barrier for persons with disabilities who were interested in
attending those legislative debates.

We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.


Catherine Dunphy, Chair, AODA Alliance

cc: Via facsimile The Hon. Premier Dalton McGuinty (416) 325-3745
Madeleine Meilleur, Minister Responsible for the AODA (416) 325-1498
Dwight Duncan, (416) 325-7755
James Bradley, (416) 326-9338
Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission (416) 314-7752
John Tory, Leader of the Official Opposition (416) 325-0491
Christine Elliott (416) 325-1423
Howard Hampton, Leader of the New Democratic Party (416) 325-8222
Peter Kormos (905) 732-9782

Public hearings of the Standing Committee on Justice Policy on Bill 107,
Human Rights Code Amendment Act, 2006
TORONTO, June 27 /CNW/
– The Standing Committee on Justice Policy will meet
to consider Bill 107, An Act to amend the Human Rights Code. The Committee
intends to hold public hearings in London, Ottawa and Thunder Bay on August 8, 9 and 10, 2006. The Committee also intends to hold public hearings in Toronto in
the fall on dates to be determined at a later time.

Interested people who wish to be considered to make an oral presentation on Bill
107 in London, Ottawa or Thunder Bay must contact the Committee Clerk by 5:00
p.m. on Friday, July 21, 2006. Interested people who wish to be considered to
make an oral presentation on Bill 107 in Toronto must contact the Committee
Clerk. A deadline for Toronto requests will be determined at a later date.

Those who do not wish to make an oral presentation but wish to comment on the
Bill may send written submissions to the Committee Clerk at the address below by the end of public hearings on the Bill.

Copies of the Bill may be purchased through Publications Ontario at
1-800-668-9938, or at (416) 326-5300 in Toronto. An electronic version of the
Bill is also available on the Legislative Assembly website at:

Videoconferencing or teleconferencing arrangements may be made for those unable
to appear in person.

Vic Dhillon, MPP
Chair of the Committee

Ces renseignements sont disponibles en français sur demande.

For further information: Anne Stokes, Clerk, Room 1405, Whitney Block,
Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON, M7A 1A2, Telephone: (416) 325-3515, Facsimile:
(416) 325-3505, TTY/ATS: (416) 325-3538; Collect calls will be accepted.