These folks here have a written presentation. I'm a little confused about exactly who we have now. Sam Savona from Transportation Action Now? David Baker, legal counsel of the Ontarians with Disabilities?
Mr David Baker: That's right; yes.
The Chair: And Gary Malkowski, executive committee of the Ontarians with Disabilities.
Mr Sam Savona: We are all in one group.
The Chair: Okay. You're all in one presentation today. Basically, you have 20 minutes. You can use any part of that you want to allow for questions. When we do get to the question time, I would ask you to keep your answers brief so that the members of the committee can get a chance to ask more questions. The clock is running. Welcome to our committee.
Mr Savona: Thank you, Mr Chairman. You took away my job. My name is Sam Savona. I am wearing three hats today. I am a board member of Transportation Action Now. I am co-chair of the Ontarians with Disabilities Action Committee and I am, in my private life, a disability board member with a disability. I am an executive member of the ODA committee, and also am serving as director at the community hearing society in the broadcasters' union, NABET, and I handle all legal matters for Transportation Action Now, as well as for the ODA committee.
We are here to talk about the Ontarians for Disability Act. One comment I would like to make personally as a consultant with a disability. One of my American clients has pointed out to me that it is normal for them to come to Ontario and have their problems. They have to ensure that their ADA law, Americans with Disability Act, that it is adhered to as well. In a way I am losing business by not having a similar act in Canada and Ontario, and I am not the only, as you know, big business in Ontario. I will go to David.
Mr Baker: Alan Borovoy said
...act in Canada and Ontario and I am not the only-as you know, I'm not the only business in Ontario. I will go on to David.
Mr David Baker: Alan Borovoy said to you that he was concerned about throwing the baby out with the bath water. We're here today to tell you that the baby hasn't had a bath yet,-that disabled people in this province have not had an opportunity and that ODA committee adopts the position that they are opposed to the repeal of the Employment Equity Act because it represented a significant advance for disabled people, a significant opportunity for disabled people to have barriers removed and to get into the workforce.
The government is talking about equal opportunity, but it's talking about voluntary, non-legislated approaches to equal opportunity. Mr Malkowski will address this issue. The government has promised an Ontarians with disabilities act, but there is no policy work being done on an Ontarians with disabilities act and the government is not meeting with the Ontarians with Disabilities Action committee or other representatives of the disabled community to address this kind of issue.
There are problems with the Human Rights Commission, as Mr Borovoy has alluded, and Mr Borovoy has alluded to some of them. You will be hearing, through the course of your process, from the Human Rights Reform Group and we feel those kinds of changes are necessary. But our basic message is this: that in Helmut Kohl's Germany, in Margaret Thatcher's Britain, in Ronald Reagan's and George Bush's United States of America, there are stronger pieces of legislation ensuring access to employment for disabled people than there would have been had the Employment Equity Act not been repealed.
The unemployment rate for disabled people in this country is higher than it is in other industrialized countries. The cost to the public of not having disabled people in the workforce is very high. So we urge you to rethink the decision to repeal employment equity and urge also that you proceed with human rights reform and the introduction of an Ontarians with disabilities act I believe I turn it over to Mr Malkowski at this point.
Mr Gary Malkowski: Well, first of all, I'm strongly opposed to the proposition by the government to repeal employment equity. I would suggest that your intention should be actually to remove barriers. What you would be doing by repealing this is actually creating worse barriers for those who are disabled or deaf. I think you fail to convince us that you are really seriously committed to removing barriers.
For example, there is new technology out there-if you look at blind people who can access computers. Now, it's true, there are talking computers, but what about the new ones which are all graphics? It's called Windows. That's of no use to blind folks. It's the same with other kinds of computers that have voice instructions. Those are of no use to deaf people.
So technology is not always the best answer for us. There are other kinds of barrier-free design that need to be looked at-for example, how one gets a job. How do you advertise for a job? How does one apply for a job? If it's advertised in the newspaper, how on earth can a blind person read that? That kind of thing-how are we supposed to have access to the job market? If there's no TTY number listed, how can a deaf person call to get further information as to where to go to apply?
Bill 79 specifically has instructions within it to identify barrier-free removal to make sure that people at least get the interview. It's to remove the systemic barriers that are there in society now and I want to remind all of the government members, if you would remember that our hope as disabled people and as deaf people, you're taking away that hope. We are hoping for a better society where we will have full participation, especially parents who have young children. You are taking away that hope by removing Bill 79.
I would ask you to reconsider that. I'm asking you to think about barrier-free removal in society for both disabled and non- disabled people. I can give you an example of that. Think about ramps when you look at a building. It's not only people in wheelchairs who use those ramps. Let's say there are parents who have strollers. They may use the ramps to go up there, or people when they're moving furniture. I'm sure you've seen heavy furniture being moved and used on those ramps. It benefits not just disabled folks.
I'm sure you've seen heavy furniture being moved and used on those ramps; it benefits not just disabled folks. So when you talk about access, it helps everyone.
Captioning: It doesn't just help those who can't hear. It also helps people who are learning English as a second language, because they can read along; or children who are at home, the television is on and there's captioning there, they can also read along. It's helpful, it's instructive, and it's industry that will produce these products, and that means more jobs.
So I'm asking you to have a more holistic approach to barrier-free design and be a little more creative and not repeal Bill 79. We need policies and we need implementation by the government that is proactive, something that will reduce cost to society and remove barriers, not create further Problems.
I want to remind you to seriously think about the population, the citizens of Ontario. One of the biggest growing populations are older folks who will become disabled, and more and more children who are being helped with advances of technology in medicine are living longer and some of those children have disabilities. What about them? What about their place? Where's there place in society?
We need a holistic approach that is going to encompass all the citizens of this province, not just some. So I'm asking you think about not repealing Bill 79 and thinking about enacting an Ontario with disabilities act, one that would encompass all the citizens of this province.
The Chair: Thank you gentlemen. Each party now has about three minutes so we'll start with Mr Marchese and the third party.
The Chair: Part of what Bill 79 was intended to do was to be proactive and not reactive; that's the point. Human rights is there to react to someone who has a complaint against them for a number of reasons. The point of Bill 79 was to recognize that we had systemic problems that we have to deal with.
This government says, well, we want to restore merit, because Bill 79 kills merit." We said: No, that's not the case. Merit is part of Bill 79. We want to hire people based on merit, not because they're black or because they're disabled or because they're women, but because they have merit and qualification."
What is your sense of this plan that the Conservative government has that says, What we want to do is bring about equal opportunity for everybody, bring fairness to everybody?" What do you think about that plan?
Mr Baker: I mentioned that Conservative governments in Germany and in Britain and Republican governments in the United States saw the importance of legislating access for disabled people. The reason is that if merit means market, an individual person in the marketplace is not going to build a ramp because it's not economic to have that one customer in a wheelchair go next door to someone else or go somewhere else or not even be in the marketplace.
But overall, the cost to society of not granting access is that everybody loses. Disabled people become dependent rather than in jobs and independent. That is what is being lost with the repeal of this bill, and that is what is going to be lost if this government talks about voluntary, market-driven action to grant access to disabled people. It won't work, and disabled people do not believe it will work. This has to be addressed. Mr Marchese: More time, Mr Chair?
The Chair: You have another minute.
Mr purchase: Can one of you or all of you, if you have time, talk about the title of this document which says, Job Quotas Repeal Act. What do you think about that?
Mr Savona: By the sound of it, it scares me, because I want to get back to where we were talking before because a person with a disability just as myself-I use myself as a perfect example. I apply for jobs. I go for interviews. The moment I open my mouth, I know that I will be looked upon as having a disability rather than cerebral palsy. The moment I phone someone, and they ask who you are...
the moment I phone someone and they ask who you are, they will hang up because they think I'm drunk
The Chair: Sam, I'm going to have to cut you off there;
Mr Marchese: I appreciate the answer because he's speaking of systemic barriers really, and that's understandable.
The Chair: Yes, I understand that, so I did give him some extra time.
Mr Tascona: I take it by the solution that you've put in your document with respect to an Ontarians with Disabilities Act that Bill 79, even in its present form, doesn't adequately address all the barriers to employment and to disabled people in this province?
Mr Baker: The proposal for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act involves providing clearer guidance or standards, which is following on the American model. Sam mentioned that American conventions are not coming to Toronto any more because they don't meet the American access standards. There are standards that are set for hotels in the United States under the Americans with Disabilities Act, and it provides clear guidance and it provides a rational period within which change is to take place.
The Employment Equity Act doesn't address the issue of access to hotels, but it's important it relates to employment. So our position has been that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act addresses issues beyond employment such as accessible transportation, such as provision of sign interpreters to people appearing before legislative committees. Those kinds of issues are not addressed in the Employment Equity Act, that's right, and we saw the need for an Ontarians with Disabilities Act to complement the Employment Equity Act.
Mr Tascona: Do you believe that an amendment or revision of the Human Rights Code would be a useful step, if Bill 79 was to be repealed, to address individuals with disabilities on the employment side?
Mr Baker: The short answer on behalf of the committee is no, but I think Mr Malkowski may have something to add.
Mr Tascona: Do you not believe that the Human Rights Code has a role to play in this Process?
Mr Baker: I think if you talk to disabled people you will learn that disabled people have no faith in the human rights process in this province at the present time. If you thought of it in terms of how many cases have actually been addressed since disabled people were added to the Human Rights Code in 1981, I believe you could count on the fingers of one hand the number of employment cases that have been resolved through boards of inquiry. That will give you some idea of the total breakdown in the system. People are not eager to see that system perpetuated. They see a need for major changes.
The principal distinction we're making is that the Human Rights Code deals in a very expensive adversarial process which goes on over a period of-I have cases that are 12 years old. This is not an acceptable way to address, or a rational way to address barrier removal.
The Americans have got a non-litigious system of providing standards which are clear to everyone, which take into account the financial realities faced by businesses there, and which also assure disabled people that over a reasonable period of time-the brief, you'll note, talks about barrier-free by the year 2000. The idea is this has to be phased in over time, that that is the preferred course and that is why the committee is recommending an Ontarians with Disabilities Act as opposed to going the adversarial, confrontational, after-the-fact route which is set up under the Human Rights Code.
Mr Sergio: Mr Borovoy, the previous speaker, said to amend, not to abolish. Would you have any specific suggestions with respect to amending and not abolishing the bill as it is now?
Mr Baker: Mr Borovoy also used the Ontario College of Art as what he was opposed to. I would suggest to you that the federal government has just passed legislation which is based on the Ontario legislation. It has a clause which says there shall not be quotas, and effectively does the same thing.
Bill 79 is not quota legislation. It is legislation which says to employers, Set goals and timetables." The only employers who are practising employment equity for disabled people, of which we are aware, are federal employers, specifically the banks who have been subjected to litigation and have introduced
...Ontario legislation. It has a clause which says there shall no be quotas, and effectively does the same thing. Bill 79 is not quota legislation. It is legislation which says to employers, Set goals and timetables." The only employers who are practising employment equity for disabled people, of which we are aware, are federal employers, specifically the banks which have been subjected to litigation and have introduced hiring goals.
Mr Borovoy said the goal must be set based on-he used the example of women, 50-50. In the case of disabled people, if there were hiring goals set for disabled people based on representation, that would not take into account that disabled people face 50% unemployment rates. The pool of available disabled people, eager to get into the workforce is much higher than their representation within the population as a whole. So for example, the Royal Bank has hiring goals of 12. 5% in job categories where representation is 6%. Under Mr Borovoy's formula, the Royal Bank would not be permitted to hire disabled people at twice representation. That doesn't work any unfairness because the number of disabled people who are available to work as bank tellers is far higher than in non-disabled categories because of the high rates of unemployment among disabled people. So I think Mr Borovoy has overstated his case, frankly.
Mrs Pupatello: I'd like to ask if you have any way of collecting employment data for persons with disabilities and do you notice any change in that over the last few years?
Mr Baker: Statistics Canada has data generated on disability. The snapshots were taken in 1986 and 1991. Basically, the employment rates for people for whom employment equity is intended-that is, more severely disabled people-we all have some degree of disability. I wear eyeglasses. Everybody has some degree of disability. But the Employment Equity Act was intended to address those of people with more severe disabilities, particularly those who require the kinds of accommodation, such as a ramp or a sign interpreter. For that group of people, the employment picture has not improved over the five years of the census.
The Chair: Thank you very much, Mr Savona, Mr Baker and Mr Malkowski.
Mr Malkowski: Mr Chair, if I may ask your indulgence. May I ask, where would one send an invoice? I had to bring my own interpreter. Where would I send the invoice to have the cost covered this morning?
The Chair: That decision is going to be made by the subcommittee, so send it to the clerk's office. We'll make a decision on it.
Mr Malkowski: Thank you.
The Chair: Okay, thank you very much, gentlemen.