May 24, 2001
Today Marks the
Sixth Anniversary of Premier Harris's
Unkept Promise to Enact the
Ontarians With Disabilities Act
Six long years ago today, on May 24, 1995, in the heat of a
hotly-contested provincial election campaign, Mike Harris
promised in writing that he would enact the ODA in his first
term, and that he would personally work together with the
Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop that law.
Six years later, Ontarians with disabilities still face far too
many barriers, created before 1995, and many more barriers,
created since 1995. We still have no ODA, and Premier Harris
keeps on refusing to even meet with us.
In the face of this, the past six years have witnessed an
extraordinary new development for Ontarians with disabilities,
never before seen in this province. We have seen the growth of
the biggest, broadest, most united and most effective grass-roots
disability rights movement in this province's history, rallying
around our shared goal of achieving a barrier-free province for
all 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities through the enactment
of a strong and effective ODA. We have blossomed from 20 people
meeting in a room in November of 1994 to start this movement, to
a tenacious province-wide ODA Committee organized in 22 regions
of this province. We have all brought together people with
disabilities, people without disabilities, and disability
organizations, working together.
We have brought our message to the public like never before. We
have won the unanimous passage of three resolutions supporting
the ODA in the Ontario Legislature, and over 20 resolutions
supporting the ODA by local municipal councils in communities
across Ontario. We have secured amazing, relentless, positive
Public opinion polls conducted for the Government of Ontario and
conducted for the ODA Committee each show strong public support
for the kind of legislation we seek. Both the opposition Liberal
and New Democratic Parties have been convinced to fight for a
strong, effective ODA. Many opposition MPPs have raised the ODA
again and again, day after day in the Ontario Legislature,
whether or not we are present in the Legislature building to
bring attention to this issue. When the Ontario Government
offered us a three-page, toothless bill in November of 1998, we
rallied across Ontario, and got that bill killed within a mere 17
days. When a leaked Cabinet document revealed in fall 2000 that
the Government planned to sneak through another weak bill that
fall, we swung into action and drove the Government off its plan
and its timetable. We have criticized when necessary, but also
have brought forward a powerful, positive message of what a
strong and effective ODA would do to benefit all Ontarians, as
well as Ontario business.
How have we done it? All of this is the result of the hard work
of dedicated ODA supporters in their local communities working on
their own or together. They have blitzed away using their phone,
their TTY, their fax machine, their computer, their Braille
printer, their Email, or whatever they can muster They have
talked up this issue to politicians, to reporters, to local
business- people, or to friends and family. they have convinced
others to join the effort. They have brought their nearest
disability organization on board. They have identified the
barriers in their own lives and shared with one and all why they
need a strong ODA to get rid of those barriers. And of great
importance, they have worked together on the shared needs of
people with all kinds of different disabilities, while bringing
to public light the needs specific to their own disability. No
matter what the odds, and no matter how the Ontario Government
has reacted, they have remained optimistic and have stayed
dedicated to the goal of an ODA which is strong, effective and
Let's take today, and the upcoming period through National Access
Awareness Week up until June 2, 2001, to celebrate our progress.
We still have much to do, but we have so much progress on which
to build. Let's each phone, visit or fax your nearest
Conservative MPP today or over the next week to let them know how
important a strong and effective ODA is to you. Let them know
what six years of inaction on the ODA promise has meant to you
and your family and friends.
To show just a fraction of the amazing efforts that are going on
in support of the ODA across Ontario now and around the time of
this Sixth Anniversary of Inaction, here is a sampling. No doubt
this list inadvertently leaves lots out. For example, it does not
list the numbers of calls and visits to MPPs that have been going
on throughout this period. It does not show the efforts going on
right now to distribute our ODA by-election pamphlet in the
Vaughan King Aurora riding even before an upcoming provincial by-
election is called there.
Just look at what has been happening and what is about to happen:
* May 11, 2001: Windsor - ODA Committee Windsor-Essex Region
hosts a public birthday party to mark the Harris ODA pledge's
* May 15, 2001: Niagara Falls - ODA Committee Niagara Falls - St.
Catharines Region holds a public forum on the ODA, with the help
of the local chapter of the MS Society.
* May 24, 2001: - London 1290 CJBK Radio has interview on ODA
just after 10 a.m.
* May 25 and 26, 2001: Sault Ste. Marie - ODA supporters will be
building a "barrier wall" at the Station Mall. ODA supporters
will explain to shoppers about the need for the ODA and to get
them to contribute their own ideas to the barrier wall.
* May 26, 2001: Parry Sound - ODA presentation with local MPP
invited during RISE annual general meeting.
* May 31, 2001: London - During London Access Awareness Committee
Empowerment Day for National Access Awareness Week at Carling
Heights Community Centre, presentations on ODA planned.
* June 1, 2001: Ottawa - Open news conference on ODA hosted by
Ontario Association for Community Living including presentation
by a Congressional sponsor of the Americans with Disabilities
Act, Tony Coelho
* June 2, 2001: Toronto - Ontario Association of Social Workers
major conference includes presentation on ODA.
* June 2, 2001: London - ODA Committee London Region has been
invited to have an information booth at the Gathering On The
Green in Old South London. More than 2000 people are expected to
attended this event.
Premier Harris - why not make this the last anniversary of
inaction on your May 24, 1995 promise!
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Last updated May 24, 2001