November 26, 2006 – AODA Alliance’s November 26 2006 Toronto Sun Guest Column on Bill 107

November 26, 2006


It is the sixth straight day of media coverage on the McGuinty Muzzle Motion which shut down the promised public hearings on McGuinty’s widely-criticized bill to weaken the Human Rights Commission. Below please find the guest column by AODA Alliance Human Rights Reform representative David Lepofsky in the Sunday, November 26, 2006 Toronto Sun.

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Toronto Sun Sunday, November 26, 2006

Comment Section page C6

McGuinty’s rights bill betrays a trust


I’m one of the many muzzled by the Dalton McGuinty government last week when it shut down promised public hearings on Bill 107.

The controversial bill would strip from the under-funded Human Rights
Commission most of its power to investigate and prosecute discrimination cases.

For years in opposition, Premier McGuinty stood shoulder-to-shoulder with us,
the 1.5 million Ontarians with a physical, mental or sensory disability,
slamming Mike Harris for breaking promises, for offering token disability
legislation with no enforcement teeth and for not consulting us. He pledged to
right these wrongs. He promised a new Disability Act with effective enforcement,
and to work with us to craft it.

We applauded McGuinty’s 2005 Disability Act, though it didn’t include everything
we wanted. Months later and without first consulting Ontario’s disability
community, McGuinty springs Bill 107 on us. When he campaigned in 2003, McGuinty promised his new disability law would include the substance of Liberal proposed amendments to the Harris Government’s 2001 weaker disability bill. Those amendments would expand the Human Rights Commission’s disability investigation/enforcement mandate. Instead, McGuinty’s Bill 107 shrinks the commission’s mandate.

I led the disability community’s tough negotiations over McGuinty’s 2005
Disability Act’s provisions. All our planning, discussions and compromises
rested on the pivotal assumption that we’d retain access to the Human Rights
Commission to investigate/prosecute our individual human rights violations. The
Disability Act would be a supplement to the Human Rights Code and Commission.

The Liberals never consulted the disability community, with whom it had worked so closely on the Disability Act, before deciding to eviscerate the Human Rights Commission.

When I and others fought 25 years ago to win the right to have the Human Rights
Commission investigate/prosecute disability discrimination, the Liberals were by
our side. Now McGuinty plans to repeal the right we fought hard to win in 1982.

Mere months before an election, Bill 107 weds bad policy with foolish politics.

McGuinty promises a new legal clinic to help with the horrendous burden that
Bill 107 dumps on discrimination victims, to investigate and prosecute their
cases. Yet neither Bill 107 nor his recently-announced amendments to it keep the
Liberals’ extravagant pledge of a free independent legal counsel for every
complainant at the Human Rights Tribunal. The bill just moves the long line-up
from the Human Rights Commission to the new legal clinic and the tribunal.

We agree the underfunded, backlogged human rights system needs to be fixed.
We’ve offered alternatives. The Liberals just slough them off and shut down
legislative hearings, where we’d present and debate them. Instead, they heed the
call of Bill 107 supporters — a small vocal group of self-designated “human
rights lawyers.”


We oppose Bill 107 because it makes a bad system worse. Our counter-proposals
provide a formula for fixing the human rights system that no government has
tried, that don’t privatize our human rights system, and that let McGuinty not
breach his government’s commitment to Ontario’s disabled community.

The Disability Act promised to be a key part of McGuinty’s legacy. If he rams
Bill 107 through after muzzling so many of its critics, it will instead be
an indelible stain on his legacy.

Premier, it’s not too late to fix this. Let’s talk while there’s still time!

‘Let’s talk’
David Lepofsky CM. Human Rights Reform Representative, Disability Act Alliance