ODA Committee Update
dated Sept. 14, 2004
posted Oct. 11, 2004
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT COMMITTEE UPDATE
Ontario Citizenship Minister Re-Affirms Commitment To Introduce New ODA Bill This Fall
September 14, 2004
At the highly successful Saturday, September 11, 2004 public forum convened
by the ODA Committee's London Region in memory of passionate ODA supporter
Michael Lewis, history was made. For the first time since the ODA Committee
was founded almost 10 years ago, a provincial Citizenship Minister attended
an ODA Committee forum, and spoke out in support of a strong and effective
Ontarians with Disabilities Act. As keynote speaker at the Michael Lewis
memorial forum, Liberal Citizenship Minister Dr. Marie Bountrogianni made a
compelling presentation, in which she re-affirmed her Government's
commitment to introduce a new ODA bill into the Legislature this fall. The
text of her speech is set out below.
The London forum was wonderful. In attendance were persons with
disabilities, provincial and municipal elected politicians, provincial and
municipal public servants, members of municipal accessibility advisory
committees, academics and others interested in the ODA issue. This timely
conference canvassed a wide range of different options for what a strong and
effective ODA could include.
In addition to the citizenship Minister, the provincial Labour Minister
Chris Bentley attended, to formally introduce the Minister. He also gave a
strong endorsement of the need for the ODA to be strengthened. Also in
attendance at this conference was an official from Premier McGuinty's
Those who have been active in the ODA cause for several years saw this
positive message as a striking contrast from the ODA Committee's experience
from 1995 to 2003 under the previous Government. That Government's five
successive citizenship Ministers each refused every invitation from the ODA
Committee to attend and address the many public forums held around the
province over those years.
Send us your feedback. Write to us at:
Hon. Dr. Marie Bountrogianni, MPP
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
ODA Committee, London Region
Michael Lewis Memorial Symposium
September 11, 2004
Thank you Chris and good morning everyone.
It is a pleasure to be here with my friend, the Minister of Labour.
Chris Bentley has spent his career actively working to advance opportunities
for all citizens.
He is an invaluable ally for all of us who want a strong Ontarians with
And it is a special honour to be here for this symposium named after Michael
Michael Lewis was a champion of joy, of fun, of passion - a champion for all
And Michael wouldn't give up.
That's something Michael's wife Kathy knows well.
Michael met Kathy one evening when he was performing in my hometown of
Hamilton. He talked with her until three in the morning - and they were
together ever after.
Michael is rightly celebrated for his music.
I am sure he would have been delighted to know that this year he was given
the Lifetime Achievement Award at the London Music Awards.
Michael is equally celebrated for his lifelong devotion to social justice.
That devotion was the inspiration for his three rousing disability issue
songs: "Still Waiting", "There Oughta Be A Law" and "We Do Too".
One year ago this weekend, as Michael lay gravely ill, he was pursuing that
love of justice and it was during this time that he prepared a column for
the London Free Press.
Michael wrote: "For me, and others with disabilities, accessibility is
defined by the power to make one's own choices. Anything that disallows
anyone choice over how or where they live, where they can go, or who gives
them care, is a barrier that must be removed."
That belief of Michael is a belief of everyone in this room.
We must make it a belief - and a belief turned into action - of everyone in
It was ten years ago this November when 20 disability advocates formed the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.
While progress has been slower than any of us would want, there has been
Your work has put disability issues squarely on the political agenda of
Your work is moving our province ahead.
Your work is offering very real hope to all Ontarians with disabilities,
their families, friends, and caregivers.
We must always remember the inspiration of Michael Lewis and - in his
words - "be amazed that hope and courage is alive".
Ontario Liberals were by your side when we were in Opposition. And we are
by your side now.
Steve Peters, now our province's Minister of Agriculture and Food, held
public meetings all over Ontario to bring about support for strong
Geraldine Copps, a City Councillor from Hamilton, was the first municipal
politician to support the ODA Committee a decade ago.
And later this morning we are holding a tribute in Hamilton for Dominic
Agostino, who was the Liberal Party's first critic for disability issues.
And of course, Dalton McGuinty, now Premier McGuinty has supported the goals
of your Committee throughout his years at Queen's Park.
Last year, the Premier wrote to David Lepofsky and the Ontarians with
Disabilities Act Committee, stating: "We believe that the Harris-Eves
government's Ontarians with Disabilities Act does not even begin to
adequately address the needs and rights of countless Ontarians. We will
introduce ... a strong and effective ... Act."
As soon as we took office, the Premier asked me to ensure that we have that
legislation ready to go as soon as possible.
To reach that objective, we have had welcome consultations with a wide range
of Ontarians, including - and this is very important to me - a webcast with
more than 2,000 students with disabilities.
Among the incredibly valuable advice I received was the major new discussion
paper from the ODA Committee. In that paper, you proposed options for
compliance and enforcement in a reformed Act.
As you wrote in your thoughtful document: "This should not be enforcement in
the compulsory sense. It should be a combined compliance/enforcement
process. This means that the Government should cooperatively work with
organizations towards achieving compliance where possible. It should resort
to compulsory enforcement only when this has not succeeded."
The simple bottom line is that we should all be able to ride transit, shop
in stores, receive an education, obtain health care and get a job without
That means ending physical and non-physical barriers.
That means ending barriers that are technological, contractual,
bureaucratic, informational and attitudinal, as well as physical.
That means ending barriers for Ontarians with visible and invisible
The ODA Committee coined a very simple phrase to explain the ultimate goal:
a "barrier-free society".
To me, this is an issue of human rights.
We cannot imagine a job refused to someone because he or she comes from
London. But that is what happens in reality when someone from London with
dyslexia is forced to fill out a written job application on the spot.
We should not tolerate harassment of women and yet people with learning
disabilities or mental health issues face countless comparable issues - real
barriers to success - often unintentional barriers - but very real,
I am very grateful to the ODA Committee for pushing for the broadest
possible definition of disability. This is an issue that has yet to
permeate the general public or the media's consciousness.
And we have much work to do together on this matter.
In fact, we have much work to do together on a range of issues.
Throughout this summer I have been working with my caucus colleagues one by
one, including Chris Bentley and Steve Peters, to ask for their strong
backing of a truly effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act.
With the full support of the Premier, I fully intend to introduce this
legislation this fall.
Within one year of our election, our government will, therefore, be bringing
forward legislation to deliver on Premier McGuinty's commitment to the ODA
Let me be crystal clear. This issue matters deeply to Chris Bentley and
Steve Peters. It matters deeply to me. It matters deeply to the Premier.
Creating a barrier-free Ontario is fundamental to making our province the
most civilized place in the world in which to live.
It is fundamental to tapping the full potential of every Ontarian.
It is fundamental to reaching the full economic, social, cultural and human
potential of our province.
It is fundamental to embracing and celebrating our common humanity.
What I have heard through the past months will be reflected in what I
And I have heard about a great deal.
The role of the private sector.
Enforcement and compliance - including monitoring, procurement and
Public awareness and education.
Transportation service and building codes.
The range of disabilities - including invisible disabilities.
Integrating government services and programs.
As I have paid attention, I have been impressed by both the patience and the
pragmatism of Ontarians with disabilities.
I have also been impressed by the good will expressed by the overwhelming
number of people in the private sector.
I fully understand that we need everybody's help to make change.
And I have fully understood that it would be a mistake for me as one
Minister to deal with the issues on my own.
We need to spread out responsibility. It cannot be the focus of just one
Ministry or even one government. It must be the focus of us all.
We need short range action - like the new measures we'll be proposing.
We need medium range action - like ongoing work among the disabled
community, the private sector, government and the general public to knock
down existing barriers, and help prevent the creation of new barriers.
And we need long range action.
We need to change our society's mindset about disability. That is the
message that most passionately came through to me from young Ontarians, from
students with disabilities.
We need to raise a generation of Ontarians who are acutely aware of
accessibility, who are determined to create that truly barrier-free society.
That is the message we learn from the history of the ODA Committee. Ten
years ago, an unheard of grassroots movement helped bring about the passage
of disability rights legislation in Ontario.
And you have brought that purpose to life. A flame lit by 20 people has
become a centerpiece of the agenda of the Ontario government.
That flame is growing brighter every week, every month, every year.
This London region of the ODA Committee has always been creative in making
our shared dream come closer to reality.
You produced an excellent document, "Life in a City Full of Barriers", to
highlight the need for a strong ODA.
You brought media coverage to the establishment of new market areas that
were inaccessible for persons with certain disabilities.
You organized the first all candidates' meeting on disability issues.
I am very pleased that today, you are continuing that work, continuing that
We have much work to do as individuals and together in the months and years
We all need to be moved by the power, the passion and the love of humanity
of Michael Lewis.
Michael taught us that hope and courage must always be alive.
He taught us to remain "amazed at the whole human spirit".
Thank you for inviting me this morning.
Thank you for what you have already accomplished.
Thank you for your determination to accomplish what still lies ahead.
And let me assure you that when I come forward with proposals for a
strengthened Ontarians with Disabilities Act, I very much look forward to
carry on working with you in partnership and in friendship.
With you and with other people of determination and good will, we can help
give all Ontarian the opportunities to make the most of their lives.
Together, we can make that happen.
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