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Apr 20, 2006

Proposed Reforms to the
Ontario Human Rights Code

Ontario Human Rights Commissioner, Barbara Hall, contradicts Attorney General's Claim that She Supports his Human Rights Reform Proposal

In a public statement posted on the Ontario Human rights Commission's website, Chief Human Rights Commissioner Barbara Hall has made it clear that she has not expressed support for the Ontario Government's proposal to provide "direct access" to the Human Rights Tribunal. She plans to await all details regarding any reform proposal before expressing a view on it. See her statement below, obtained from the OHRC website. This public statement directly contradicts Attorney General Michael Bryant's earlier claim that Chief Commissioner Hall supported his proposal

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Users, lawyers want input to planned human rights system changes

It's been just over a month since the provincial government announced its plans to reform Ontario's human rights system, but stakeholders say they want input on the "rushed" legislation before it's tabled this spring. Read More at this link

Calls for letters to the editor of Toronto Star to let them know what you think of the Government's proposals to Weaken the Human Rights Commission

The Saturday, April 8, 2006 the Toronto Star included a good article by columnist Helen Henderson on the continually-growing opposition to the Ontario Government's proposals to weaken the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Even from some among the small group, mainly lawyers, who support the Government's direction, there have come calls for the Government to heed the call for public consultations. From that group, there have also been calls for the Government to announce more specifics about its hitherto-vague plans.
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Discussion Paper on Strengthening Ontario's Human Rights Commission and Tribunal

The Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance's new Discussion Paper on Options for Reforming Ontario's Human Rights Commission. Please read this, send the AODA Alliance your feedback, and circulate this Discussion Paper widely.
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Call for Responses to Helen Henderson's article: Rights debate marred by Chicken Littles, Toronto Star April 1, 2006

Toronto Star’s disability columnist Helen Henderson’s column in the April 1, 2006 Toronto Star is quite insulting to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) Alliance. The AODA Alliance was among the first to lead off the growing tide of opposition to the Government’s plan to weaken the Human Rights Commission. Its position has received wide support from organizations in the disability community. Helen Henderson’s article is available online at this pinpoint URL: This column’s headline refers to the AODA Alliance speakers at its March 16, 2006 Queens Park news conference as “chicken littles”. The more letters that are sent in to the Toronto Star by different people, the more likely that some will get printed. Keep your letter to around 100 words.
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Update - March 31, 2006

In this update, we provide you with the following:

* A quick background summary of the current issue surrounding the Government's plans to privatize the enforcement of human rights in Ontario by weakening the Ontario Human Rights Commission, for those who want more or who haven't been following the issue.

* On April 5, 2006 in Toronto there will be an important public forum about the Government's plans to weaken the Human Rights Commission. See the invitation below. Come to it. Bring friends and family. ASL is provided.

* A letter to the editor in today's London Free Press from unstoppable disability rights advocate Cathy Vincent Linderoos, urging Premier McGuinty not to introduce his plans to weaken the Human Rights Commission. Please write letters to your local newspaper with this same message.

* Four more prominent organizations have joined the swelling list of those opposing the Government's plan to privatize enforcement of human rights on the backs of discrimination victims like persons with disabilities. See the letters below from
* the MS Society,
* the Canadian Association of Retired Persons,
* the Ontario Coalition of Accessibility Advisory Committees, and
* the Peterborough Council for Persons with Disabilities.

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A Community Forum on the Need to Rescue the Ontario Human Rights Commission

Update - March 29, 2006

Ontario’s Attorney General Publicly Refuses to Commit to Consulting With Public Before Introducing Legislation to Weaken the Ontario Human Rights Code - Claims He’s Consulted But Doesn’t Acknowledge the Major Disability Organizations He’s Ignored

On Wednesday, March 29, 2006, during Question Period in the Ontario Legislature, NDP Leader Howard Hampton called on the Ontario Government to undertake a public consultation on how to reform the Human Rights Commission, rather than going ahead with its plans to weaken the Human Rights Commission. (See full text) Responding for the Government, the Attorney General rejected the call for further consultations. He said: "On the contrary, we've been working with those very groups that the member just referred to for well over a year, and consulting with them.” Contrary to what the Attorney General said, prominent community organizations have not been consulted - organizations that wrote the Government to oppose the plan to weaken the Human Rights Commission and who call for a consultation.
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Update - March 28, 2006

Ontario Government finally writes AODA Alliance about Human Rights Reform issue but with little information - AODA Alliance Writes Back Quickly

Late in the day on March 28, 2006, the Attorney General of Ontario wrote us, responding to our letters regarding proposed changes to the Human Rights Commission. The AODA Alliance Chair Catherine Dunphy immediately responded. See the text of each of these letters below. There are rumors that the Government plans to introduce a bill to weaken the Human Rights commission soon. We will keep you posted of any developments. Stay tuned. Please call your nearest MPP to tell them not to support the weakening of the Human Rights Commission.

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Update - March 25, 2006

Major Tide of Opposition Rises in Opposition to McGuinty Government's Plans to Weaken the Ontario Human Rights Commission -- but McGuinty Government Has Not Answered Our Important Questions, and Signals it is Not Listening to Us.

In short the news is this: As a result of the AODA Alliance's successful news conference on March 16, 2006, we got good news coverage despite a flood of other big news stories. Our call for the Government to stop its plans to introduce legislation to weaken the Ontario Human rights Commission has now been echoed by many organizations.

Despite all this, the Ontario Gov't still hasn't answered any of the questions in our Feb. 27, 2006 letter [] to Premier McGuinty. To the contrary, the Ontario Gov't issued a news release on Mar. 21, 2006 saying that it plans to go ahead with its intended legislation. That news release [] doesn't respond to the sweeping call for public consultations that so many have demanded be held before any new legislation is introduced.

As a result, the AODA Alliance has written to the Premier again []. We ask him to answer our previous letter. We also ask the Government to commit that any proceedings in the Legislature on any bill to change the Human Rights Code be fully open, accessible and barrier-free. This means, among other things, that persons with disabilities and the entire public be given ample prior notice of any proceedings in the Legislature so they can arrange accessible transportation. We also ask that there be province-wide public hearings on any bill.

We need your help now more than ever to press this issue. This is especially important since the Government clearly has not listened to the incredible mounting tide in opposition to the Government's plans that has emerged in a mere three weeks. We fear the Government plans to try to slip a bill into the Legislature and quickly ram it through when the public is distracted by other big news items.

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Call for Letters/Emails to Premier McGuinty - Re: Proposed Reforms to Ontario Human Rights Code

Read the most recent letter to Premier McGuinty from the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODO) Alliance. Please pass this on to others.

Write the Premier to support this letter's call for prior notice of all proceedings in the Legislature on any bill to amend the Human Rights Code, and generally to ensure that all proceedings on a bill are fully open, accessible and barrier-free. In your letter or email you might say:

"I urge you to fulfill the request of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance's request that all proceedings on any bill to amend the Ontario Human Rights Code be fully open, accessible and barrier-free. For example, your Government should give sufficient prior notice of all proceedings in the Legislature on any bill to amend the Code. There should be province-wide public hearings on any bill." The Premier's email address:">

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DAWN Ontario's Open Letter to Premier McGuinty
re: Proposed Reforms to the Ontario Human Rights Code


"Women with disabilities are often doubly-disadvantaged. They need a strong, effective and properly funded Ontario Human Rights Commission, not a weakened one, to investigate and prosecute organizations that discriminate against them. Women with disabilities will rarely be able to afford to hire their own lawyer, conduct their own investigation, and prosecute their own human rights cases. They shouldn't have to depend on over-worked, understaffed Legal Aid clinics. Nor should they have to hope for lawyers to take their cases pro bono. Pro bono, in the end, is charity. We heartily commend lawyers for doing pro bono work. However, charity is no substitute for a public investigation and prosecution of human rights complaints."

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Human rights body needs fixing, not dismantling

by Avvy Yao-Yao Go, Margaret Parsons & Uzma Shakir
Toronto Star Op/Ed dd Mar. 13, 2006

Last month, Attorney General Michael Bryant announced his plan to revamp the Ontario Human Rights Commission. One central feature of the reform is that it will get rid of the commission's "gatekeeper" function, that is, the power of the commission to dismiss cases. Those who favour the new model say the reform is a step in the right direction because it will allow complainants to take their cases straight to the Human Rights Tribunal.

In exchange for the "direct access," however, the commission will no longer help individuals with the investigation and prosecution of their complaints. Instead, the commission will dedicate its resources to public education, research and monitoring systemic discrimination.

Is this the kind of reform our communities really need? We think not.

Read the Full Op-Ed at:

Changes to Human Rights complaints system threaten the rights of those who need it most: OPSEU

OPSEU Press Release dated Feb. 20, 2006 - Ontario Human Rights Commission - Protecting the right of all Ontarians

Report: "Making Ontario's Human Rights Commission Work"
* Download Report as a PDF file (88 kb)
* Download Report as a Word doc

Sample Letter To A Member Of The Ontario Legislature

Human Rights Reform Action Kit

Help Prevent the Gov't from Weakening Enforcement of the Ontario Human Rights Code
On Feb. 20, 2006, the Ontario Gov't said it will introduce a law (likely late March or April) to change enforcement of the Ontario Human Rights Code. That system needs reform. It's too slow, frustrating, and hard for many to use. Yet, the Government's proposal will make things worse, not better. It will create new barriers that make it harder for people to get their human rights respected.

We ask everyone to support our call for the Ontario Government to stop its announced changes. We want the Government to properly consult the public before introducing any new law and to make the human rights system better, not worse. We don't say the current system is acceptable. However it needs a fix that doesn't set victims of discrimination back.

The Government must get your message right now, before it soon introduces its planned law. The Government is testing the waters to see if there will be opposition to its announcement. Don't worry if you don't know much about the Human Rights Code. This Action Kit gives you all you need to know to help stop the Ontario Government from taking away important enforcement rights from victims of discrimination. In this Action Kit, we:

* Describe the Ontario Government's proposals
* Explain why the Government proposals will be worse for victims of discrimination
* Give you practical suggestions on how you can have your voice heard
* Provide a sample letter to send to Members of Provincial Parliament (MPPs)
* Include a copy of the AODA Alliance's February 27, 2006 letter to the Ontario Government

Help us preserve the gains we made when the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) was passed. Add your voice to ours. Endorse our position.

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Posted: Thursday April 20, 2006, 7:01 am
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Barbara Anello
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