ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Ford Government Capitulates at the Court House Door – Belatedly Agrees in the Face of a Disability Discrimination Court Application to Extend to September 30 the Time to Renew an Expired Health Card and to Enable Online Health Card Renewal Using Ontario Photo ID Card In Lieu of Driver’s License
February 9, 2022, Toronto. On the eve of a court battle that it was destined to lose, the Ford Government just extended the deadline for Ontarians to renew an expired Ontario Health Card from February 28 to September 30, 2022. It also publicly committed to put in place a process that lets people renew their expired Health Card online using an Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license. (Ford Government’s February 9, 2022, news release set out below)
Blind lawyer, law professor, and disability rights advocate David Lepofsky filed a court application against the Ford Government two weeks ago. It demonstrates that the Ford Government unlawfully discriminated against people like him because of their disability by requiring online Health Card renewal only with a driver’s license. Because blind people and some other people with disabilities cannot get a driver’s license, they’d be forced to go in person to ServiceOntario to renew their Health Card, risking exposure to the Omicron variant.
“This is a big victory for people with disabilities, after a battle we should never have had to fight” said David Lepofsky, chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance which campaigns for accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. The Ford Government finally relented and issued this news release just moments before its lawyers were scheduled to appear in Superior Court to respond to Lepofsky’s request to get his case urgently scheduled for a hearing within the next few days. It was also moments before Ontario’s Health Minister, named in this court case, was to face the media at a news conference on COVID.
It is inexcusable that the Ford Government made it necessary to resort to a court application, and only announced needed corrective action after Lepofsky and his legal team had to spend hours and hours assembling the case. The Canadian National Institute for the Blind put the Ontario Government on notice about this disability discrimination over two years ago, echoed since then by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, opposition MPPs, and the AODA Alliance.
“The Government is now finally announcing measures that it would not agree to just two weeks ago at a January 25, 2022 virtual meeting with me,” said Lepofsky. “They should have made this announcement back then, rather than leaving me no option but to file this court application.”
It is unfair to many Ontarians who have no driver’s license that the Ford Government subjected them to the health risk of going to ServiceOntario to renew their expired Health Card before the artificial Government-made deadline of February 28, 2022. We cannot know how many people unnecessarily got sick because of the Ford Government’s improper foot-dragging on this issue.
“The Ford Government owes the public a complete and candid explanation of why it so seriously mishandled this issue. Why did it not agree much sooner to accept the Ontario Photo ID Card in lieu of a driver’s license, when The Government itself created the Photo ID Card to be equivalent to a driver’s license,” questioned Lepofsky. “It’s just one of the many disability barriers that have been created or perpetuated against people with disabilities during the pandemic, at a time when people need access to health care more than ever.
Lepofsky is studying the Government’s news release and has adjourned his request to schedule his case for a hearing, pending further discussions with the Ontario Government’s lawyers.
Ontario Government February 9, 2022, NEWS RELEASE
Ontario Extending Health Card Renewal Requirement
Individuals Have Until September 30, 2022 to Renew
February 09, 2022
TORONTO — The Ontario government is extending the requirement to renew health cards until September 30, 2022.
“In response to the pandemic our government extended the renewal requirements for Ontario health cards,” said Christine Elliott, Deputy Premier and Minister of Health. “While the majority of Ontarians have continued to renew their documents throughout the pandemic, we are committed to ensuring all Ontarians have the opportunity to renew while continuing to access the care they need, when they need it.”
Ontarians will continue to be able to use their expired health card, including a red and white health card, to access insured health care services. Health care providers can continue to accept expired health cards following the previous February 28, 2022 deadline.
To make it easier and more convenient for Ontarians to renew health cards online, ServiceOntario is taking steps to enable online health card renewal using Ontario Photo Cards in the coming months.
An individual who faces difficulties renewing their health card, for whatever reason, should contact ServiceOntario at 1-866-532-3161 (TTY: 1-800-387-5559) to inquire about options for their specific situation.
Health card renewal
For public inquiries call ServiceOntario, INFOline at 1-866-532-3161 (Toll-free in Ontario only)
Minister Elliott’s Office