BILL 83 ACTION KIT
November 25, 1998
Where Do We Go From Here | What Are The Next Steps
The Message | Activities in Support of Our Message
"Fraud", "Hoax", "Sham". Those were some of the words that our members used in describing Bill 83 that the Conservative Government inappropriately calls the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It was introduced in the legislature on Monday, Nov. 23, 1998. Reaction from our regions and members was swift - this is not an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. On Tuesday, Nov. 24, 1998 we sent a letter to the Premier asking him to meet with us immediately to work on developing a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act. We also had a press conference on November 24 at Queen's Park to make it clear that people with disabilities will certainly not be giving up. Rather, we will be fighting harder than ever.
The reason for our swift and strong reaction was that Bill 83, a 2-1/2 page Bill, does not even try to address most of the barriers facing people with disabilities. It will not require any barriers to be removed and prevented in the limited areas where it does apply. It does not even cover the barriers the Government itself identified in its Discussion paper this summer, let alone the ones that the ODA Committee and its members pointed out in our Brief and submissions made during the consultation process.
In the bill's one page preamble the Government says that it must follow the Ontario Human Rights Code and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. That is nothing new. That is already the law right now.
The bill's preamble also says that everyone should be involved in barrier removal and that this benefits society. However, the Bill itself includes nothing at all putting this into action.
The bill says merely that each Ontario Government Ministry shall annually prepare an internal plan on the barriers that it plans to address. This includes no timetables for getting rid of barriers. The previous Ontario Government had a system in place for identifying employment barriers in each Ministry. This Government killed that program, and did not implement those plans that had already been developed.
The ODA Committee's quick analysis of the bill is available at the following link.
WHERE DO WE GO FROM HERE?
The Premier and his political advisors would like nothing more than to see us all just totally give up now and go away disappointed, thinking that there is no point in fighting any more. If we do that then Bill 83, the one they call an Ontarians with Disabilities Act, will pass and the Premier will say, unchallenged, that he has lived up to his promise. They even acknowledged, in the Legislature, that we have been effective in getting our message across. They are going to do whatever they can to try to undermine us or discourage us.
Our immediate and important task is to show the Premier, his political advisors and the rest of the Government that they are wrong, and that they continue to seriously underestimate the talent, the will and determination of people with disabilities. We must make it clear that we won't be fooled by the smoke and mirrors of this Bill. The Premier must keep his promise. We cannot and will not let him off the hook.
We will build on our strengths - of you the membership, who have been so active in writing and visiting MPPs, talking to media, holding public meetings and generally getting people in your communities to understand the importance of these issues.
WHAT ARE THE NEXT STEPS?
We need to build on our success and strengths. We are suggesting the following immediate action plan. As always, we encourage you to be creative, come up with your own ideas and share them with your peers. Many of the ideas in this action plan came from members in our regions.
We simply do not accept that Bill 83 is an Ontarians with Disabilities Act at all. Therefore, the Premier has not kept his promise and we are calling on him to meet with the ODA Committee immediately to work on drafting a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act, and to withdraw this non-bill. We are not prepared to accept Bill 83 that should really be called a "Do nothing for Ontarians Act." If this does not work then we are making it clear that this will be an election issue and that the 1-1/2 million Ontarians with Disabilities will make sure that a Government is elected that will enact a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
ACTIVITIES IN SUPPORT OF OUR MESSAGE
We recognize that everyone participates in different ways. Therefore we have given a number of suggestions. The more you can do the better, but even if you can do only one of the suggested activities you are making a big contribution.
1. Write, fax, phone, or email the Premier's Office and tell him that you will not accept this Bill. Tell him that you are insulted and hurt that he would think that you could be fooled into thinking he has kept his promise. A sample letter is available at this link. Please feel free to write your own letter, in your own words, if you have the time.
2. Write, fax, e-mail, phone or visit as many as possible of the offices of the 25 Tory MPPs who voted for the Oct. 29 resolution. Tell them that Bill 83 does not comply with any of those principles and that you expect them to stand behind their vote. You are encouraged to tell them to tell the Premier that the Bill is not acceptable and that he must meet immediately with the ODA Committee to draft a new, real Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Let them know that you expect them to stand behind their public action and that if they don't, this will become an election issue. We provide a sample letter for you to use or change as you wish at the following link. The names and addresses of the Conservative MPPs who voted for the October 29, 1998 ODA Resolution are available at the following link.
3. Write, fax, e-mail, phone or visit the other Tory MPPs. Tell them that the Premier has not kept his election promise in introducing this Bill and that you want them to represent you and tell the Premier to work with the ODA Committee as he promised to introduce a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A sample letter for them is available at the following link. The names and addresses of the Conservative MPPs who did not attend the vote on the October 29, 1998 ODA resolution are available at this link.
4. Ask local associations or groups that you are members of to organize letter-writing blitz sessions. They can turn into social gatherings. For example, have a buffet and invite people to write letters. There are a lot of office parties and festivities where people get together around this time of year. When people ask you what you want for Christmas, tell them it is a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act and ask them to write letters to help get one.
5. Bring our message to your local media. All media is important. Local, community papers reach a lot of people and can help us explain to the public what we want and why. Perhaps you could persuade your paper to do a "barrier of the week" story. Every week they could write a very short article about a different barrier that would be removed if we had a real Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Write letters to the editor or offer to write a longer commentary for the paper. We need to educate the media and the public.
6. Organize public meetings to discuss the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Successful sessions have been held around the province. You do not need to attract a lot of people for a meeting to be successful. If just two or three people become excited and start working with us that makes it a good meeting.
7. Get to groups outside the disability community to bring your message. Groups that have shown an interest in our message include churches, synagogues, and other religious organizations, labour organizations and other community groups. See if they will have a meeting to discuss this topic, or allow you to make a presentation to them. Get their endorsement and help. You can also try to solicit the support of members of your local or municipal government.
8. Finally, start thinking about possible strategies for action during the next election. While we want this Government to keep its promise, they need to understand that people with disabilities can and will vote in large numbers. We can influence friends, families and our neighbours. We are making it clear to this Government that if they refuse to work with us and refuse to live up to their promise that we have no choice but to work to elect a government that will. They tend to treat us as though we are some special interest group asking for a favour. We need to send the message that we are citizens and voters and that we want only an opportunity to participate in the society that we are part of.
Please do not hesitate to talk to your regional contacts if you need help or want some ideas. Let us know what you are doing so we can spread the word. Sharing ideas has been very helpful - we learn a lot from each other. To contact us, send E mail to Marg Thomas at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a battle that is far from over. It has just begun. We people with disabilities are used to overcoming the barriers that others place in our path. Bill 83 is just another such barrier. We shall succeed!
Quick Analysis of Bill 83
Sample Letter to Premier Harris
Email Premier Harris directly
Sample Letter to Conservative MPPs who voted YES to the Oct. 29th Resolution
Addresses of the 25 Conservative MPPs who Voted YES to the Oct. 29th Resolution
Sample Letter to Conservative MPPs who did not vote on the Oct. 29th Resolution
Addresses of the Conservative MPPs who did not vote on the Oct. 29th Resolution
ODA Committee's Letter to Premier Harris
Regional Contacts of the ODA Committee
New Year's Action Kit
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Last updated Saturday, January 9, 1999