ODA Press Release
March 22, 2001
Ontarians With Disabilities Act Committee
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
NEW HUMAN RIGHTS COMMISSION DISABILITY POLICY
SIGNALS NEED FOR HARRIS TO ENACT PROMISED
ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT
THURSDAY, MARCH 22, 2001 - Today, the Ontario Human Rights Commission released new policy guidelines on accommodating persons with disabilities, which demonstrate the need for the Harris Government to at last enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act which it promised almost six years ago. Designed to deal with the enforcement of human rights disability complaints, the Commission's new policy guidelines show the pressing need for the public and private sectors to systematically take pro-active steps, spread over reasonable time lines, to remove existing barriers which block 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities, and to prevent new barriers.
"When you read this document as a whole, it shows why Ontario needs a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to be enacted now," said David Lepofsky, chair of the ODA Committee, a province-wide non-partisan coalition organized in 21 regions of Ontario. "The Human Rights Commission shows that systematically removing and preventing barriers facing 1.5 million Ontarians with disabilities is good for people with disabilities, for business and for the public. If a strong ODA were passed now, it would reduce our need to bring individual human rights complaints to tackle one barrier at a time."
Today's event complements the Ontario Human Rights Commission's new Discussion Paper on Accessible Transit Services for People with Disabilities, unveiled last month. It showed how much Ontario needs a strong, effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act to remove serious barriers facing people with disabilities who want to use public transit. The Harris record of broken promises in this area includes:
* May 24, 1995: Premier Harris promised that in his first term, he would enact the Ontarians with Disabilities Act -needed to achieve a barrier-free Ontario for people with disabilities. No legislation has been enacted.
* May 24, 1995: Premier Harris promised he would work together with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee to develop the ODA. Since then, he has repeatedly refused even to meet the ODA Committee.
* October 22, 1999: Throne Speech promises "action plan" on the ODA in that session of the Legislature. No action plan was ever introduced. Legislative session prorogued March 2, 2001.
* May 5, 1995: Premier Harris promised to increase funding to Ontario Human Rights Commission. Instead, he cut its funding, including cuts reported by Canadian Press on April 12, 1996 and November 18, 1999. This reduced the Commission's ability to enforce existing human rights.
Only 246 days remain until the November 23, 2001 deadline for enacting the ODA, which the Legislature unanimously set by resolution 16 months ago in the face of protracted Harris Government delays.
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