March 28, 2006
Late in the day on March 28, 2006, the Attorney General of Ontario wrote us,
responding to our letters regarding proposed changes to the Human Rights
Commission. The AODA Alliance Chair Catherine Dunphy immediately responded. See the text of each of these letters below. There are rumors that the Government plans to introduce a bill to weaken the Human Rights commission soon. We will keep you posted of any developments. Stay tuned. Please call your nearest MPP to tell them not to support the weakening of the Human Rights Commission.
Text of Letter from the Attorney General to the Chair of the AODA Alliance
Dear Ms. Dunphy;
Thank you for your letter of February 27, 2006, regarding proposed
changes to Ontario’s human rights system. I have been asked to respond
on behalf of the government. I share your interest in ensuring a strong and effective system for the enforcement of human rights. The government is committed to advancing human rights in this province and to providing access to justice for those who face discrimination. Reviews. reports and consultations over the last several years have urged reform, and I believe that we now
have an opportunity to make a significant, positive change to the human
rights system and to deal with issues that have gone unaddressed for
decades. Since taking over responsibility for human rights in 2003, I have
reached out to affect groups and organizations to solicit their views, and I have approached these issues with goodwill and a commitment to justice. I welcome input on these proposals and would be please to meet with you, Mr. Malkowski and Mr. Lepofsky. Please contact Laura Boyd at 416-236-4443, should you wish to schedule a meeting to discuss these issues. Thank you once again for writing.
c/o The Canadian Hearing Society
271 Spadina Road
Toronto, Ontario M5R 2V3
March 28, 2006
To: The Hon. Michael Bryant, Attorney General of Ontario
720 Bay Street
Toronto Ontario M5G 2K1
Via facsimile (416) 326-4016
Re: Effective Human Rights Enforcement Through a Strong, Effective Human rights Commission
Thank you for your March 28, 2006 letter, replying to our February 27 2006
letter to Premier McGuinty. We appreciate your offering to meet with us, and
would welcome the opportunity to meet with you. We urgently request that you not introduce any bill into the Legislature concerning the Human Rights Code until you have had meetings with us, as well as with the many others who have asked to meet and to give their input on the effective enforcement of the Human Rights commission.
In your letter to me, you said: “I have reached out to affected groups and
organizations to solicit their views, and I have approached these issues with
good will and a commitment to justice.” With respect, many important
organizations in the disability community, like the AODA Alliance, as well as
others concerned with human rights have written your Government to express their serious concern that you have not consulted with us or them, prior to announcing your plans to weaken the Human Rights Commission. It is critical that you hold such consultations before, and not merely after, you introduce a bill into the Legislature.
When we wrote Premier McGuinty a month ago, we asked a series of important
questions about your Government’s plans regarding the Human Rights Commission on February 20, 2006. We have received no answer to any of those questions in the intervening month. We regret that your letter to me today also provides no further information beyond the Government’s vague February 20, 2006 news release and backgrounder. Before our coalition and others interested in this important topic can meaningfully participate in a consultation process, we need to know the answers to those questions, and need time to afford our membership an opportunity to give us their feedback.
We also wish to repeat and reinforce our request that we get sufficient notice
of any proceedings in the Legislature on any bill so that persons with
disabilities and others interested can arrange accessible transportation to
attend. We also ask that when a bill is introduced into the Legislature for
First Reading, it be immediately made available in Braille and other accessible
alternative formats to enable those who cannot read print to promptly read it.
We also ask that American Sign Language interpretation be provided during First, Second and third Reading proceedings on any bill concerning the Human Rights code, and throughout public hearings on the bill. We hope and trust that such accommodations will be readily available. We appreciated that these basic
accommodations under the Human Rights Code were provided in connection with Bill 118, the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act. They also follow from Premier McGuinty’s 2003 election commitment to achieve a barrier-free society.
We look forward to arranging for a delegation to meet with you.
Catherine Dunphy, Chair, AODA Alliance
cc: Via facsimile The Hon. Premier Dalton McGuinty (416) 325-3745
Sandra Pupatello, Minister Responsible for the AODA (416) 325-1498
Dwight Duncan, House Leader (416) 325-7755
Barbara Hall, Chief Commissioner, Ontario Human Rights Commission (416) 314-7752
John Tory, Leader of the Official Opposition (416) 325-0491
Howard Hampton, Leader of the New Democratic Party (416) 325-8222