Ontario to lose out on $2 billion in new year’s celebrations, says survey


The agency that represents a number of the province’s businesses who rely on tourism says Ontarians will spend less than half of what they normally spend on new year’s celebrations as a direct result of the coronavirus pandemic.

A recent survey from the Tourism Industry Association of Ontario (TIAO) is predicting about $2 billion less in revenues for the holiday.

“In normal times many people travel within the province, attend community events or go to bars and restaurants to ring in the New Year – this year most of that revenue for tourism, hospitality and restaurant businesses will be lost,” said Beth Potter, president and CEO of the TIAO.

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The survey, conducted during the second week of December before the announcement of a provincial lockdown, suggests 70 per cent of Ontarians didn’t bother to make plans due to the potential spread of COVID-19.

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It’s expected that half of the province will remain at home and simply watch TV on New Year’s Eve.

The recent survey polled over 1,000 Ontario residents over the age of 18.

In recent years, the TIAO says about $350 is spent by the average Ontarian on New Year’s Eve. The survey says that should be about an average of $170 this year.

“As we come to the end of a long and difficult year for our industry, these latest numbers underscore the imperative of supporting local businesses,” said Potter.

Ontario’s tourism industry welcomed an estimated 141 million visitors in 2019 and generated over $36 billion in pre-COVID-19 revenue. Five billion of that was tax revenue, according to the TIAO.

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Potter says the agency represents close to 200,000 Ontario businesses and 400,000 employees. Twenty-three percent of that workforce are Ontario youth between the ages of 15 and 24-years-old.

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Coronavirus — More Hamilton businesses charged for violating COVID-19 regulations

“Tourism and hospitality is not only the number one employer in that age group but we also employ a large majority of women and new Canadians,” Potter said.

“We have an awful lot of displaced workers right now and we are doing our best to support them through something called the tourism-hospitality emergency response.”

Potter says the industry is likely to continue to struggle in 2021 as tourism from abroad will slowly resume over the next year due to continued fear of the virus.

She says locals will have to contribute to a recovery and suggests it can begin with a contribution on Thursday night.

“Order in a great meal from a local restaurant and pair it with some great Ontario beverage of your choice.”





© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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Woodstock woman charged under Reopening Ontario Act


Woodstock police report that a 48-year-old Woodstock woman has been charged under the Reopening Ontario Act for attending a church service downtown Woodstock on Sunday.

Police say the gathering exceeded the allowed limits for religious gatherings, which under the current lockdown restriction cannot exceed 10 people both indoors and outdoors.

All of Ontario moved into lockdown on Saturday to try and slow the spread of COVID-19.

Police say that well over 10 people were inside the place of worship on Sunday, with many not physically distancing or wearing masks.

Read more:
More than 100 unmasked people gather at Wheatley, Ont., church for 2nd day in a row

Other Ontarians are facing similar charges from over the weekend.

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Chatham-Kent police say they charged a 50-year-old Merlin, Ont., man following a church service in Wheatley, Ont., on Sunday.

Police also charged a 37-year-old man from Malahide, Ont., following a church service in Aylmer, Ont. He is also facing charges of obstructing a peace officer and intimidation of an officer.





© 2020 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.





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‘People are being shown no mercy’: Online evictions raise alarm in Ontario


Tenant after tenant addressed the virtual meeting, describing how COVID-19 has wreaked havoc on their lives and finances over the last year.

A Toronto mother said she struggled to keep up with bills after losing work in the restaurant industry. A Hamilton man behind on rent payments said he was staying in touch with his landlord about his financial situation after being laid off.

“It’s COVID, people struggle,” he appealed to Landlord and Tenant Board member John Mazzilli during the Dec. 18 block of hearings — all of which involved non-payment of rent.

Similar scenes playing out over the last several weeks have raised concern among Ontario advocates who say the pickup of evictions in the pandemic’s second wave coincides with a shift to online-only hearings that stack the deck against tenants.

Read more:
Ontario enters provincewide lockdown in effort to curb rising coronavirus case counts

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“These people are being shown no mercy,” Kenn Hale with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants Ontario said in a recent interview. “They’re expected to pay and pay now or get out.”

Hale, director of advocacy and legal services at ACTO, said it’s “absurd” to evict people during a health crisis that has left many unable to pay rent due to lost income.

“It’s bad enough in normal times for people to lose their homes and to be treated unfairly an administrative proceeding. But it can be life or death in the kind of situation we’re in now,” Hale said in a recent interview.

Evictions were suspended until late summer and the Landlord and Tenant Board is now working through a backlog of cases that observers say predated the pandemic, and has grown this year as more people lose income.


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Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses


Coronavirus: Federal government announces new rent subsidy support for small businesses – Nov 23, 2020

Tribunals Ontario doesn’t keep track of evictions, but according to ACTO, the board heard more than 7,000 cases in November. Ninety-six per cent of those were filed by a landlord against a tenant, the ACTO said. As of Dec. 14, 4,597 hearings were scheduled for the month.

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Hale said the shift to an online-only hearing model has made it harder for tenants to present their circumstances or access legal advice, including through ACTO’s duty counsel program.

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Lawyers must now introduce themselves to tenants in the virtual session, in front of all other participants, and both need to exit the meeting to speak privately.

Hale said such introductions don’t always run smoothly, with lawyers are entering “chaotic” hearing situations where they struggle to make themselves heard.

There’s also concern about changes under Bill 184, which became law in the summer. It allows landlords to offer repayment agreements without appearing before the Landlord and Tenant Board, so some tenants are signing on to potentially unreasonable repayment terms without fully understanding their rights, Hale said.


Click to play video 'Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases'







Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases


Calgary landlord offers tenants rent relief with new ‘COVID clause’ in leases – Dec 15, 2020

A group of Ontario legal clinics, including ACTO, wrote to Tribunals Ontario in October with proposed guidelines for adjudicators considering evictions cases during the pandemic — including the public health risk and pressures on people’s finances.

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Hale said the group had not received a response as of mid-December.

The Progressive Conservative government has not yet acted on an Opposition motion supporting a freeze on evictions that passed unanimously this month, days before the legislative assembly adjourned until February.

NDP MPP Suze Morrison, who introduced the motion, said the online hearing format isn’t accessible for people with visual impairments or those who don’t have stable internet access, among other challenges.

“I’m deeply concerned that there are human rights violations happening here,” Morrison said by phone.

Read more:
Tenants call on landlords and province to step up, offer rent relief programs

A statement from Ford’s office this month said the government “is continuing to explore ways to further support Ontarians during this difficult time.”

Tribunals Ontario, meanwhile, said it’s pursuing “a digital-first strategy to meet the diverse needs of Ontarians and enhance the quality of our dispute resolution services.”

It said requests for in-person hearings would be considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure people are accommodated under the Human Rights Code. As of mid-December, Tribunals Ontario had not confirmed if any in-person hearings had been approved.

Sam Nithiananthan, an organizer with People’s Defence Toronto, said the online hearings have been a “double-edged sword” in the evictions process, as allies can now tune in and support their neighbours.

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Nithiananthan said the crisis has exposed longstanding issues renters face in the city, and it’s motivated tenants to organize in larger numbers than he’d seen before.

“What has been shifting is tenants are now standing up,” he said.

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Tenant organizer Bryan Doherty with Keep Your Rent Toronto said his group and others have called for rent relief that goes beyond a moratorium on evictions, arguing that simply pausing evictions would leave cases to pile up.

“We knew that a moratorium at the beginning of the COVID crisis would actually just produce an eviction blitz midway through the crisis, which is what we’re seeing now,” he said by phone in a mid-December interview.

Rents have long been unaffordable in Ontario’s largest city and Doherty said “COVID kind of threw gasoline on that fire.”

He said pressure needs to be applied to landlords and governments to address the housing crisis affecting working-class tenants during the pandemic and beyond.

“I don’t think it’s going to be the same. The question is whether or not it will be worse or slightly better,” he said.





© 2020 The Canadian Press





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Looking Back at the Stressful 2020 and Forward to the Hopeful 2021


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 24, 2020

SUMMARY

This overwhelming year is almost over! Here are reflections on what we’ve done this year in our non-partisan campaign for accessibility and full inclusion for people with disabilities, and on what we will face in 2021. The battle for accessibility was more uphill this year, with previously-unimaginable barriers being created for people with disabilities. Yet we battled on, with the same determination, and honoured to be part of some successes amidst the many new challenges. And we are ready for whatever awaits us next year!

The AODA Alliance will today go off-line for the next while. We thank everyone who has supported our cause and who had time, amidst all this year’s ordeals, to help with our cause. We thank both the many individuals and organizations with whom we’ve had the privilege of sharing ideas, teaming up and working together.

For our cause’s many wonderful supporters, every time you retweet, every one of your social media posts, every one of your letters to the editor, every email you send to a politician, every bit of feedback you share with us, or every time you forward to others our AODA Alliance Updates, all really helps the cause. You put the indispensable wind in the sails of our shared volunteer efforts. Those efforts are the ripples that combine to create the tidal wave of our unstoppable movement!

And a special thanks to all the politicians and public servants out there who have tried to break the irrational log jams we keep facing, and who tried to make real progress on accessibility for people with disabilities. Your efforts are often not seen by the public, but are nevertheless important and very much appreciated. We need you to re-double your efforts next year, just as we will re-double ours.

If any of you, reading this, have time to do just one more little thing to help us over this holiday period, please share with parents of students with disabilities, teachers, and school board officials our successful new online video that gives practical tips to parents of students with disabilities on how to effectively advocate for their child’s needs at school. In the two months since we’ve posted it online, it has been viewed over 1,000 times! Very positive feedback from parents, teachers and school board officials make it clear that this video would benefit all parents of the one third of a million students with disabilities in Ontario schools. Here is the link for you to share: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtadvCvcGC0

As detailed below, next year there will be a great deal for us to do. There have been 693 days, or almost 22 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking and blistering final report of the Independent Review of the implementation of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act by former Ontario Lieutenant Governor David Onley. The Government has announced no comprehensive plan of new action to implement that report. That makes even worse the serious problems facing Ontarians with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis, that we have been trying to address over the past nine months.

We wish everyone a happy, accessible and safe holiday season, replete with mask-wearing and social distancing whenever these are needed. We hope everyone has a happy and healthy new year.

MORE DETAILS

1) A Look Back at 2020

What a year! For the past ten months, almost all our efforts have focused on battling against the unexpected serious new barriers and hardships imposed on people with disabilities by and during the COVID-19 pandemic. These many efforts are detailed on the AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page.

Our two top priorities during the pandemic have been exposing and confronting the new barriers facing students with disabilities during distance learning and while attending re-opened schools, and the barriers facing patients with disabilities in our health care system. Among other things, a great deal of our effort has gone into working with other disability advocates and experts on the uphill battle to protect patients with disabilities against the frightening risk of disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care, if rationing or “triage” of that care becomes necessary due to skyrocketing COVID-19 infection rates.

The media has focused far too little attention on this frightening triage issue. The media has not yet reported on the fact that culminating on October 29, 2020, we and our disability community allies successfully pressured the Ford Government to eventually withdraw its discriminatory March 28, 2020 critical care triage protocol that the Government had earlier sent to all Ontario hospitals. The media has not yet reported on the fact that we and our allies successfully pressured the Ford Government to finally make public the secret September 11, 2020 recommendations on critical care triage which the Government received from its external Bioethics Table. Likewise, the media has so far told no one that we and our allies successfully convinced that Bioethics Table this past summer to make important improvements that we sought to its recommendations on this triage, though not all the improvements we sought.

Even more disturbing, the media has not yet reported on the fact that we made public that the triage recommendations that the Ford Government is now considering still threaten disability discrimination, aren’t shown to have a proper legal mandate, and could lead some patients to have life-saving critical care removed from them over their objection, if rationing becomes necessary. As one illustration of the kinds of triage we fear, avery disturbing report was published on National Public Radio in the US on December 21, 2020 about disability discrimination in hospital triage during COVID-19. The public has not been told the fact that the Ford Government has refused to even answer any of our six successive letters to the Minister of Health on this life-and-death issue.

Amidst our many strategies on the COVID-19 front, the AODA Alliance teamed up with the Ontario Autism Coalition this year to hold three successful online virtual town hall meetings on the Government measures needed to meet the urgent needs of people with disabilities during this pandemic. Taken together, the online video recordings of these town halls have been viewed several thousand times.

Before and apart from the pandemic, we had our volunteer plates already full, if not overflowing, with important work on multiple fronts. We have been battling to protect against the introduction of electric scooters (e-scooters) into Ontario cities. E-scooters endanger people with disabilities, seniors and others. We have been campaigning to rein in the arbitrary power of school principals to refuse to admit a student to school a power that has been used in ways that discriminate against students with disabilities.

On behalf of the AODA Alliance, Chair David Lepofsky has been an active member of the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee. It has been developing detailed recommendations on what the promised K-12 Education Accessibility Standard should include. In July, that Standards Development Committee submitted to the Ford Government detailed recommendations on what it should do now to address the serious new barriers facing students with disabilities during COVID-19. These incorporate recommendations that the AODA Alliance made public earlier in the summer.

Both before and during the COVID-19 pandemic, we have managed to consult on, prepare and submit briefs and submissions on a wide range of subjects, including briefs on what the promised Health Care Accessibility Standard should include, what the promised Post-Secondary Education Accessibility Standard should include, the dangers posed by electric scooters, the dangers to people with disabilities threatened by possible triage or rationing of critical medical care, the measures needed to protect students with disabilities during COVID-19, a brief on the unfair power of school principals to refuse to admit a student to school, and a brief to the Canadian Accessibility Standards Development Organization on the federal accessibility standards that we need it to create. All the AODA Alliance’s briefs and submissions can be perused by visiting our website’s briefs page.

We worked especially hard to get media coverage of our issues. It has been harder to succeed in this effort during COVID-19 than before the pandemic. Nevertheless, we managed to secure some coverage and will continue to try.

With all this, there are still issues that we have not been able to address. This is because these are all volunteer efforts.

2) A Look Forward to 2021

As we gaze into our accessibility crystal ball, we know the following to be certain for next year:

1. As of the start of 2021, there will only be four years left for the Ontario Government to fulfil its duty under the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act to lead Ontario to full accessibility for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities. In its two and a half years in power, the Ford Government has announced no comprehensive plan to achieve this goal. As of January 31, 2021, it will have been two years since the Government received the final report of the AODA conducted by David Onley.

Over that two and a half years in power, the Ford Government has not made any significant progress in speeding up our trip down the road to full accessibility. As was the case this year once again, on the few occasions when it announced anything on accessibility, little if anything was announced that was new.

That means the onus will be on the Ford Government in 2021 to speed things up even more. This needs to start with the Government unveiling a comprehensive plan for the next four years to get us to full accessibility by 2025. This plan must be much more than efforts at educating the public on the importance of accessibility for people with disabilities.

The Government has ample basis for devising such a plan. It has the Onley Report. It has recommendations from various Standards Development Committees. It has the comprehensive AODA Alliance brief to the Onley AODA Independent Review we submitted and made public on January 15, 2019, almost two years ago. That brief offers perhaps the most comprehensive roadmap for the Government to lead us to full accessibility by 2025.

2. Our campaign against the disproportionate barriers and burdens that COVID-19 imposes on people with disabilities will, sadly, have to continue in the new year. This will include the priority areas we have addressed to date, as well as possible new areas we have not yet anticipated.

3. We will all be called on some time early in the new year to give feedback on forthcoming reports and draft recommendations from several Standards Development Committees. Three Standards Development Committees have been working for the past few years on draft recommendations in the areas of barrier-free health care for patients with disabilities, barrier-free education for Kindergarten to Grade 12 students with disabilities and barrier-free education for college and university students with disabilities.

We understand that the Health Care Standards Development Committee has already submitted its draft recommendations to the Ford Government. The K-12 Education Standards Development Committee and the Post-Secondary Education Standards Development Committee are very close to finishing up their draft recommendations and submitting them to the Government. When a Standards Development Committee submits draft recommendations to the Government, the Government is required to publicly post them for at least 45 days, so that the public can submit feedback.

Public feedback is then given to the Standards Development Committee. The Standards Development Committee will then meet again to go over that public feedback and take it into account as it finalizes its final report to the Government. When the Government makes any draft recommendations from a Standards Development Committee public next year, these draft recommendations will take a good chunk of time for individuals and community organizations to review and to provide feedback to the Standards Development Committee. For example, the K-12 Education Standards Development Committee report is expected to be around 120 pages long, according to AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, a member of that Standards Development Committee.

We therefore call on the Government to immediately make each report and its draft recommendations public as quickly as possible. As soon as it is translated to French, it should be posted online and publicized, and not held back. The Government should also extend the 45 days minimum for the public to give feedback, because these reports will require some time to review.

The Government should now make public the draft recommendations from the Health Care Standards Development Committee. Finally, the Government should give the public forewarning that it will soon be releasing a Standards Development Committee report, rather than simply posting it one day with no forewarning. That would allow individuals and organizations to be ready to review it when it is made public.

Once a Standards Development Committee’s draft recommendations are made public, the Government should convene accessible public virtual town halls or forums for the public to give feedback on those draft recommendations. It should not just invite written feedback from the public.

4. We expect that the Employment Standards Development Committee will soon deliver its final report to the Government on needed revisions to the Employment Accessibility Standard, if that report has not already been submitted. The Government will be required to make it public. The Government should do so as quickly as possible, without months of delay (as was the case for the final report of the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee).

5. We will need to press the Government to strengthen the existing AODA accessibility standards in the areas of transportation, employment, and information and communication. It has authority to do so having received final reports from the Information and Communication Standards Development Committee and the Transportation Standards Development Committee, and based on the final report from the Employment Standards Development Committee (that the Government has either already received, or will soon be forthcoming). In 2021, the Government should immediately consult the public on those recommendations and on anything else needed to strengthen existing accessibility standards in these areas.

6. We will need to continue to press the Ford Government to appoint an AODA Standards Development Committee to review the 2012 Public Spaces Accessibility Standard (already three years overdue) and to recommend a comprehensive and long overdue Built Environment Accessibility Standard. So far, from what we have seen, the Government’s only announced effort in the area of accessibility of the built environment, its diversion of $1.3 million to the Rick Hansen Foundation’s ‘private accessibility certification program,’ has been a waste of public money. We have seen no proof that it has led to a single barrier being removed.

7. Our battle will have to continue in 2021 to protect people with disabilities from the serious dangers posed by e-scooters, as Toronto and other municipalities unjustifiably continue to consider the possibility of allowing them, despite their proven serious dangers. The corporate lobbyists for the e-scooter rental companies will no doubt keep pouring more money into their feeding frenzy of backroom lobbying at Toronto City Hall and elsewhere.

8. We will need to redouble efforts to get the mainstream media to cover disability accessibility issues. As noted above, despite some successes, during COVID-19, we have found this harder and harder to achieve, for reasons that remain elusive to us.

9. 2021 is the year before the next provincial general election. We will need to get to work well in advance of 2022, planning our non-partisan accessibility campaign for the election. That means that in 2021, we will need to work on coming up with the list of election commitments that we will ask the major political parties and their candidates to make in 2022.

Happy Holidays to all. This is the AODA Alliance, signing off for now.




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Downtown Building’s Facelift Wins Award for Accessibility


By Justyne Edgell, Local Journalism Initiative ReporterThe Uxbridge Cosmos Thu., Dec. 17, 2020

Recent renovations to a busy downtown Uxbridge building have earned a regional Champion of Accessibility Award.

Durham Region’s Accessibility Advisory Committee recently presented the honour to 29 Toronto St., home to Pharmasave, the Toronto Street Medical Centre, Uxbridge Physiotherapy and several other businesses. The building has had a major facelift of late, adding many features that not only update the building, but make it more accessible, hence the award.

Brandon Bird, CEO of Bernard Cole Corporation, bought the building last year. Bird, who was born and raised in Uxbridge, says he was excited when the opportunity to own property in his home town came up.

“29 Toronto St. fit all the criteria I had, but needed a lot of tender, love and care to restore it to its original glory,” explains Bird. “We are currently undergoing a significant revitalization of the property, both inside and out which gave us several opportunities to improve access around the property.”

Bird was given the Champion of Accessibility award after renovating his building beyond legislation set out by the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, including replacing pathways, improving signage and widening doorways.

According to the official announcement from the Region, award recipients are businesses or services that have made an effort to identify, remove and prevent barriers for individuals living with a disability.

Bird says he’s pleased with the award, but is looking forward to further improvements on the building.

“We still have many more projects to go to get the property up to our standards. Over the next four months tenants and residents will continue to see improvements inside and out!”

Original at https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2020/12/17/downtown-buildings-facelift-wins-award-for-accessibility.html




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Improving Building Accessibility


Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years. As a result, businesses regularly assess their compliance with the five AODA standards:

The Ontario government has extended the upcoming deadline for businesses to assess and report on AODA compliance. However, the government also recommends that businesses use this time to improve the accessibility of spaces and services. When businesses provide a higher level of accessibility than the AODA requires, they can welcome and work with a wider clientele.

In addition, businesses should also assess how well they follow the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code (the Code). Businesses are not required to assess their compliance with the Code. Nonetheless, businesses can benefit from finding out how accessible their buildings are. Moreover, they can use this knowledge to plan improvements that would allow more people to access their spaces and services.

Improving Building Accessibility

Currently, the Code does not have guidelines for several aspects of structures. For instance, the Code does not offer guidance on how to make signage accessible. Businesses can ensure that their messages for the public are most informative by creating signage that:

  • Includes detailed information for people with hearing disabilities
  • Uses clear language or pictures for people with intellectual disabilities
  • Is at eye level for people at wheelchair and standing heights
  • Has large print and good colour contrast for people with visual impairments
  • Includes Braille for people who are blind

Furthermore, many cities, such as Toronto, Brantford, and London, have developed municipal guidelines for accessible building features including:

  • Offices
  • Places of worship
  • Swimming pools
  • Balconies, porches, and terraces
  • Windows

Toronto and Brantford outline more accessibility guidelines for places like:

  • Libraries
  • Cafeterias
  • Residential kitchens

Toronto’s guidelines include additional provisions for accessible:

  • Restaurants
  • Snow removal
  • Mail boxes

Businesses could follow many of these guidelines to ensure that more people can enter and move through their premises.

More Accessible Public Spaces Needed

In addition, the Code only mandates accessibility in buildings that are new or redeveloped. These legal limitations mean that older buildings and spaces are closed or unwelcoming to people with certain disabilities, including people who:

Business owners or managers may feel that they do not need to worry about making older spaces accessible because the standards do not require them to do so. They may also fear that installing accessible features will be costly, time-consuming, or inconvenient. However, grants for structural accessibility may offset costs. In addition, some changes are less costly and easier to put in place. While renovating for accessibility may take time and construction is inconvenient, inaccessibility is just as time-consuming and inconvenient for people with disabilities.

Finally, there are important reasons for improving building accessibility.

Fifteen percent (15%) of people in Ontario have disabilities. This number will rise as people age. More and more people will soon want to live and do business in accessible locations. If building owners make those spaces as accessible as they can, their actions may later help someone they know. Moreover, accessibility also affects non-disabled family, friends, and colleagues. Groups travelling on family trips, friendly outings, or company social events will include people with disabilities. These potential clients will choose to go to accessible places.

Small Steps toward Accessibility

If building owners cannot make large changes, they can still make small ones. Even if a building cannot immediately follow every best practice, they can still choose to implement some. For instance, ramps and elevators are both important items that help people with mobility disabilities access buildings. If a building owner cannot install an elevator but can install a ramp, this effort will make part of the building accessible.

Access Helps Everyone

Businesses that make as many accessibility improvements as they can will show that they welcome tenants, customers, and workers who have disabilities. Moreover, accessible buildings are also helpful for other groups of people. Ramps and elevators are useful for families with babies in strollers. Wide hallways benefit families with small children who can hold hands while they travel. Automatic doors are useful for people with their hands full of groceries or supplies.

Not all accessibility is mandatory under the Ontario Building Code. Some of it can be costly or need careful planning. However, some accessible features are easier to put in place than others. Building owners can make one change at a time. Many of these changes will make the world more welcoming to people of all abilities and at every stage of their lives.




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Just-Revealed Previously Secret Recommendations for Rationing Critical Medical Care in Ontario that the Ford Government is Considering Are Frightening for People with Disabilities


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
NEWS RELEASE FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

December 21, 2020 Toronto: Could it soon be that if COVID-19 overwhelms Ontario hospitals, doctors could be told to decide to select some critical care patients to be taken off life-saving critical care that the patients are receiving, still need and want, on the ground that these services must be rationed and given to some other patients? Could a patient who objects to critical care being withdrawn from them be denied a right of appeal to an independent court or tribunal, even though their life is endangered? Could the health professionals making such decisions be insulated from any liability for their actions?

Despite excitement over new vaccines, frightening unreported new details have emerged that would allow all of this to happen, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases requires hospitals to ration or “triage” life-saving critical care services and beds. The Ford Government is considering a recommendation, made public on the AODA Alliance website, to direct doctors to remove life-saving critical care from some patients already in intensive care who don’t consent to this, if triage becomes necessary. This is even worse than rationing scarce unfilled critical care beds when more patients need them than there are available services.

“Ford’s Government hasn’t shown it has legislative authority to take the drastic, highly-objectionable actions that it is considering,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that allies with other disability advocates to protect patients with disabilities against discrimination if triage becomes necessary. “Triage recommendations that Ford’s Government is considering just came to light in the past days, and only because disability advocates campaigned for three months to get the Government to reveal those secret recommendations.”

In those newly revealed September 11, 2020 recommendations, the Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table commendably called on the Government to rescind the Government’s controversial earlier March 28, 2020 critical triage protocol that it had sent Ontario hospitals last spring, because that protocol discriminated against patients based on their disabilities a concern disability advocates have pressed since April. But last Thursday, at a rushed roundtable that the Ontario Human Rights Commission held with disability, racialized and Indigenous communities’ representatives, those community representatives said the newly revealed triage recommendations, while an improvement, also have numerous human rights problems, even though the recommendations say that human rights should be respected.

These new triage recommendations would give patients, whose lives are in jeopardy, no appeal beyond the health care system (e.g., to an independent tribunal or court). They would insulate health care professionals against liability for refusing or withdrawing life-saving critical care.

On October 29, 2020, the Government, under pressure from people with disabilities and seniors, belatedly rescinded its discriminatory March 28, 2020 triage protocol, but put nothing in place to fill the vacuum. The time when critical care triage may be needed is rapidly getting closer. Health Minister Christine Elliott hasn’t answered any of the six successive AODA Alliance letters to her extensively detailing our concerns.

At last Thursday’s roundtable, a Government representative spoke up for the first time, revealing more disturbing news. A member of the Ford Government’s internal “Critical Care Command Table” responded to feedback at the roundtable, saying that a new approach to triage, addressing human rights concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find merit), would have to wait until after this pandemic is over.

“That’s like saying we can be given an umbrella only after the rain has stopped. After months of the Government delaying, refusing to talk to us, and hiding behind its external advisory Bioethics Table for months, we cannot accept that it is now too late to ensure that critical care triage, if necessary, cannot be done without disability discrimination,” said Lepofsky. “We need the Ford Government to speak directly to us, and to obey the Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] For more background on this issue, check out:
1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed days ago.
2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter and its December 17, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
7. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.




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Just-Revealed Previously Secret Recommendations for Rationing Critical Medical Care in Ontario that the Ford Government is Considering Are Frightening for People with Disabilities


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

NEWS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Just-Revealed Previously Secret Recommendations for Rationing Critical Medical Care in Ontario that the Ford Government is Considering Are Frightening for People with Disabilities

December 21, 2020 Toronto: Could it soon be that if COVID-19 overwhelms Ontario hospitals, doctors could be told to decide to select some critical care patients to be taken off life-saving critical care that the patients are receiving, still need and want, on the ground that these services must be rationed and given to some other patients? Could a patient who objects to critical care being withdrawn from them be denied a right of appeal to an independent court or tribunal, even though their life is endangered? Could the health professionals making such decisions be insulated from any liability for their actions?

Despite excitement over new vaccines, frightening unreported new details have emerged that would allow all of this to happen, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases requires hospitals to ration or “triage” life-saving critical care services and beds. The Ford Government is considering a recommendation, made public on the AODA Alliance website, to direct doctors to remove life-saving critical care from some patients already in intensive care who don’t consent to this, if triage becomes necessary. This is even worse than rationing scarce unfilled critical care beds when more patients need them than there are available services.

“Ford’s Government hasn’t shown it has legislative authority to take the drastic, highly-objectionable actions that it is considering,” said David Lepofsky, Chair of the non-partisan AODA Alliance that allies with other disability advocates to protect patients with disabilities against discrimination if triage becomes necessary. “Triage recommendations that Ford’s Government is considering just came to light in the past days, and only because disability advocates campaigned for three months to get the Government to reveal those secret recommendations.”

In those newly revealed September 11, 2020 recommendations, the Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table commendably called on the Government to rescind the Government’s controversial earlier March 28, 2020 critical triage protocol that it had sent Ontario hospitals last spring, because that protocol discriminated against patients based on their disabilities – a concern disability advocates have pressed since April. But last Thursday, at a rushed roundtable that the Ontario Human Rights Commission held with disability, racialized and Indigenous communities’ representatives, those community representatives said the newly revealed triage recommendations, while an improvement, also have numerous human rights problems, even though the recommendations say that human rights should be respected.

These new triage recommendations would give patients, whose lives are in jeopardy, no appeal beyond the health care system (e.g., to an independent tribunal or court). They would insulate health care professionals against liability for refusing or withdrawing life-saving critical care.

On October 29, 2020, the Government, under pressure from people with disabilities and seniors, belatedly rescinded its discriminatory March 28, 2020 triage protocol, but put nothing in place to fill the vacuum. The time when critical care triage may be needed is rapidly getting closer. Health Minister Christine Elliott hasn’t answered any of the six successive AODA Alliance letters to her extensively detailing our concerns.

At last Thursday’s roundtable, a Government representative spoke up for the first time, revealing more disturbing news. A member of the Ford Government’s internal “Critical Care Command Table” responded to feedback at the roundtable, saying that a new approach to triage, addressing human rights concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find merit), would have to wait until after this pandemic is over.

“That’s like saying we can be given an umbrella only after the rain has stopped. After months of the Government delaying, refusing to talk to us, and hiding behind its external advisory Bioethics Table for months, we cannot accept that it is now too late to ensure that critical care triage, if necessary, cannot be done without disability discrimination,” said Lepofsky. “We need the Ford Government to speak directly to us, and to obey the Ontario Human Rights Code and Charter of Rights.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected]

For more background on this issue, check out:

  1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, finally revealed days ago.
  2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
  3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, its December 15, 2020 letter and its December 17, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
  4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
  5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
  6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
  7. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.



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Assessing Building Accessibility


Under the AODA, private or non-profit businesses with twenty to forty-nine (20-49) workers, or fifty (50) or more workers, must complete accessibility reports every three years. As a result, businesses regularly assess their compliance with the five AODA standards:

In addition, businesses should also assess how well they follow the accessibility requirements in the Ontario Building Code (the Code). Businesses are not required to assess their compliance with the Code. Nonetheless, businesses can benefit from finding out how accessible their buildings are. Moreover, they can use this knowledge to plan improvements that would allow more people to access their spaces and services.

Assessing Building Accessibility

Under the Ontario Building Code, all new and redeveloped buildings open to the public must follow accessibility standards. These standards include:

  • Ramps, lifts or elevators whenever there are stairs
  • Automatic doors and wide doorways at entrances to buildings and common areas
  • Lighting
  • Accessible public washrooms
  • Barrier-free paths of travel into and through buildings
  • Accessible seating and auditoriums
  • Visual fire alarms in auditoriums and hallways

How to Assess Building Accessibility

Businesses can start to assess building accessibility by requesting anonymous feedback from customers, workers, or other visitors who have needed accessible features. For instance, visitors can explain whether:

  • They could reach building entrances and open doors
  • There were barrier-free paths to parts of the building they needed to visit
  • Ramps were easy to navigate while using assistive devices

Similarly, customers, workers, and visitors could explain whether they could:

  • Travel within aisles or paths that:
  • Use a washroom on site
  • Read signs or elevator buttons
  • Enjoy events in auditoriums, through:
    • Accessible seating
    • Assistive listening devices

Accessing Older Buildings

Alternatively, if a business does not have accessible features, visitors with disabilities must still be able to access their services. Therefore, visitors could also give feedback about how well staff supported their access needs. For example, visitors can explain whether staff:

  • Knew what accessible features their premises had, or did not have
  • Invited them to receive service in an accessible place
  • Retrieved items, when aisles or shelves were not accessible
  • Helped them navigate, if signs or elevator buttons were not accessible
  • Served them remotely if entrances or hallways were not accessible
  • Pointed out nearby locations with accessible washrooms

If customers or other visitors have the option to describe their positive or negative encounters with staff, these stories can help staff recognize what they should or should not do when supporting visitors’ access to their spaces. If much of the feedback a business receives is negative, it is likely that the business is not compliant with the Code. As a result, the business will need to make changes, which could include:

  • Making sure that any plans for new or renovated spaces include accessible features
  • Improving their AODA training, to ensure that staff know how to meet visitors’ needs

Accessibility Consulting

In addition, businesses could enter short-term or on-going contracts to consult with people who have disabilities. Alternatively, companies could request the services of professional organizations that specialize in assessing accessibility. In either case, an accessibility assessor with lived experience of disability could:

  • Observe and give feedback on the quality of AODA training
  • Assess any plans for new or renovated spaces, to ensure that accessible features are included

Finally, if any of these plans or processes do not comply with AODA requirements, consultants could offer suggestions or assistance. Moreover, consultants could also help companies find resources to support them in strengthening their policies and services.




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Yesterday’s Roundtable on Critical Care Triage during the COVID-19 Pandemic, Hosted by the Ontario Human Rights Commission, Leads the AODA Alliance to Again Write Health Minister Christine Elliott to Raise Important New Issues


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: http://www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 18, 2020
SUMMARY

Yesterday, the AODA Alliance joined the ARCH Disability Law Centre and a number of other advocates from Ontario’s disability, racialized and Indigenous communities, all invited by the Ontario Human Rights Commission to a virtual roundtable discussion. It focused on the September 11, 2020 draft critical medical care triage protocol that was finally made public a week earlier. We have campaigned for three months to get that document made public.

Given the number of participants, we could only scratch the surface on this life-and-death issue during this two-hour roundtable. The painful fact that that day, Ontario had another record-breaking number of new COVID-19 infections made this discussion especially urgent and long-overdue.

A number of new important issues were identified at this roundtable by a spectrum of participants. All were in strong agreement on a range of concerns. The AODA Alliance’s concerns were echoed or endorsed by a number of participants.

Some of the key points which the AODA Alliance raised are spelled out in the newest letter to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliot from the AODA Alliance, dated December 17, 2020 and set out below. We hope that the Minister will this time respond to our letter. The Ford Government has not answered any of our earlier letters to her on this topic.

Present to receive feedback at the roundtable were representatives from the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Ontario-Government’s external Bioethics Table. As well, there were some representatives from the Ford Government, including from the Health Minister’s office, from Ontario Health, and from the Government’s internal Critical Care Command Centre. We asked to be sent the names and contact information for these provincial officials and are waiting to hear back. We also asked to be sent all the information on the Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol that the Government has sent to hospitals. No one spoke up to agree to send this to us.

This entire triage issue remains in flux. We will keep you posted. With COVID-19 infections rising and hospitals getting filled to capacity, we fear that triage may be taking place right now.

Send your feedback to us at [email protected]

For more background on this issue, check out:
1. The Government’s external advisory Bioethics Table’s September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol.
2. The December 3, 2020 open letter to the Ford Government from 64 community organizations, calling for the Government to make public the secret report on critical care triage from the Government-appointed Bioethics Table.
3. The AODA Alliance’s unanswered September 25, 2020 letter, its November 2, 2020 letter, its November 9, 2020 letter, its December 7, 2020 letter, and its December 15, 2020 letter to Health Minister Christine Elliott.
4. The August 30, 2020 AODA Alliance submission to the Ford Government’s Bioethics Table, and a captioned online video of the AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 oral presentation to the Bioethics Table on disability discrimination concerns in critical care triage.
5. The September 1, 2020 submission and July 20, 2020 submission by the ARCH Disability Law Centre to the Bioethics Table.
6. The November 5, 2020 captioned online speech by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the disability rights concerns with Ontario’s critical care triage protocol.
7. The AODA Alliance website’s health care page, detailing its efforts to tear down barriers in the health care system facing patients with disabilities, and our COVID-19 page, detailing our efforts to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

MORE DETAILS

December 17, 2020 Letter from the AODA Alliance to Ontario Health Minister Christine Elliott Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance
United for a Barrier-Free Society for All People with Disabilities
Web: www.aodaalliance.org Email: [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance Facebook: www.facebook.com/aodaalliance/

December 17, 2020

To: The Hon. Christine Elliott, Minister of Health
Via email: [email protected]
Ministry of Health
5th Floor
777 Bay St.
Toronto, ON M7A 2J3

Dear Minister,

Re: Ontario Government’s Protocol for Medical Triage of Life-Saving Critical Care in the Event Hospitals Cannot Handle All COVID-19 Cases

We urgently write to follow up on our five unanswered letters to you dated September 25, November 2, November 9, December 7 and December 15, 2020. These ask about the Ford Government’s plans for deciding which patients would be refused life-saving critical medical care that they need, if the record-breaking surge in COVID-19 cases overloads Ontario hospitals and requires rationing or “triage” of critical care beds and services.

This morning, we took part in a two-hour virtual roundtable, convened by the Ontario Human Rights Commission and the Government-appointed COVID-19 Bioethics Table. It was convened on very short notice to gather feedback on the Bioethics Table’s recently-released September 11, 2020 proposed critical care triage protocol.

These are among the many urgent points that arose at or from the discussion at that roundtable:

1. None of us invited to that roundtable from the disability, racialized or Indigenous communities had had anywhere near the time we needed to properly review the detailed 36-page September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol. Such virtual face-to-face consultations are vital but must be preceded by enough time to prepare. Sending in written submissions is no substitute. Don’t now consider that the consultation check box can be ticked.

2. No one has shown us that anything in the proposed triage protocol is authorized by law. We have raised this concern time and again. The most interesting and thorough discussion with the Bioethics Table on how triage should be carried out is utterly irrelevant if the protocol, whatever it says, is not properly mandated by law a law that passes constitutional muster.

For example, it will be shocking and deeply disturbing to many if not most to learn the draft triage protocol would have doctors under certain triage circumstances actually withdraw critical care services from a critical care patient who needs those services and who is in the middle of receiving those insured medical services. How can a mere memo from some bureaucrat in the Ministry of Health or from Ontario Health purport to authorize that, if there is no legislative authority for it? Couldn’t that give rise to possible criminal responsibility, for those taking such action? We don’t believe that a provincial memo overrides the Criminal Code of Canada.

3. It appeared that none of us, from whom input was being sought, could understand from this 36-page document exactly how a doctor is to specifically decide who will be refused critical care under the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol. We cannot give the kind of detailed input that is needed without that being clarified. We wrote the Bioethics Table co-chairs about this in advance of this meeting. No such clarification was provided.

4. An extremely worrisome revelation was made in the only statement we have heard from anyone within the Government’s internal critical care triage infrastructure. Dr. Andrew Baker identified himself as a member of the Ministry of Health’s Critical Care Command Centre. Right near the end of the roundtable, responding to feedback at the roundtable, Dr. Baker stated that doctors value life inherently, and that at present, doctors “default to life years, when we have finite resources. One principle, life years.”

What we take from this is that at present, such triage decisions would be made based on “life years saved.” He went on to say that a new approach to triage, embodying the concerns raised at the roundtable (with which he seemed to find real merit), would in effect have to wait for a future time. That would have to be after this pandemic is over.

That statement in effect summarily and categorically dismissed all the serious human rights and constitutional concerns we had raised for two hours as not ready to be implemented during this pandemic, even if critical care triage becomes necessary.

We strongly disagree. The Government cannot give up on this now. The thought that we might not have time to put these principles into action now is especially cruel, since our community has been pleading with your Government since early April to directly consult us on this issue.

Dr. Baker’s endorsement of using “life years saved” points to an approach riddled with discrimination because of age, disability, or both. Minister, Dr. Baker’s single statement crystalizes so many of our concerns. It reveals that whatever is written in this or other triage protocols won’t matter at the front lines, and that vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities, among others, now have a great deal to worry about.

This requires you to immediately take over personal leadership on this issue, and to let our vulnerable communities speak directly to you and your senior officials.

5. From what we can determine, the September 11, 2020 draft triage protocol would have a doctor or doctors assess, based on an individual clinical assessment, if a patient, needing critical care, has less than 12 months to live. As I pointed out at the roundtable, Dr. James Downar, of the Bioethics Table, has previously told us that when doctors assess whether a patient has less than 3 months to live in order to decide if that patient should be allowed to go into palliative care, doctors “lie”. By this, we understand him to mean that they try to make a result-oriented assessment to get palliative resources for their patient.

If doctors routinely lie for assessing a patient’s likely mortality within three months, we have every reason to fear that they could do the same when the figure is changed from three months to twelve months, in connection with critical care triage decisions. We realize that there is a difference between admission to palliative care on the one hand, and admission to critical care on the other. However, for current purposes, that difference does not make a difference.

6. The September 11, 2020 draft critical care triage protocol, like the two earlier versions that the Bioethics Table produced this year, give these life-and-death decisions over to doctors. As addressed in our next point, we think this needs reconsideration. It provides no appeal from those doctors to an outside independent body, such as a court or the Consent and Capacity Board. Such an appeal is needed. Moreover, it proposes to immunize doctors and other health care professionals making these life-and-death decisions from any accountability. It states that the protocol should:

“4. Ensure liability protection for all those who would be involved in implementing the Proposed Framework (e.g., physicians, clinical teams, Triage Team members, Appeals Committee members, implementation planners, etc.), including an Emergency Order related to any aspect requiring a deviation from the Health Care Consent Act.”

It is certainly questionable whether that can be done. We believe it is beyond question that it should not be done.

7. As we also emphasized at the roundtable, it is not clear to us that these purely medical triage criteria are the way for Ontario to go. Other non-medical triage criteria outside the preserve of doctors are worth considering.

Minister, please talk to us. Have your Ministry officials talk to us. Don’t wait until it is too late.

Stay safe.

Sincerely,

David Lepofsky, CM, O. Ont
Chair, Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance

Enclosure: December 11, 2020 email from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky to Jennifer Gibson, Bioethics Table co-chair

cc:
Premier Doug Ford [email protected]
Helen Angus, Deputy Minister of Health [email protected] Raymond Cho, Minister of Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Denise Cole, Deputy Minister for Seniors and Accessibility [email protected]
Mary Bartolomucci, Assistant Deputy Minister for the Accessibility Directorate, [email protected]
Todd Smith, Minister of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Janet Menard, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services [email protected]
Ena Chadha, Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission [email protected] Jennifer Gibson, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected] Dianne Godkin, Co-Chair, Bioethics Table [email protected]




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