Town Launches Campaign on Service Animals for Local Businesses


A recent incident at a Bradford restaurant regarding refusal of a service animal has stirred much debate amongst community members about the laws in place behind service animals and their training Oct. 6, 2021
By: Jackie Kozak

Members of the Accessibility Committee paid a visit to Golden Taste of Asia’s Ganesh Ponniah to help promote the new service dog stickers for business windows

The Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury recently launched a service animal sticker campaign, after an incident that occurred in August that resulted in a service animal being denied entry into a local restaurant.

The story stirred up much debate among community members on the laws behind service animals and their training.

In an ongoing effort to create more awareness about service animals, and in compliance with AODA (Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act) standards, the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury recently approved the purchase of over 200 stickers that will be placed in storefront windows of local businesses, stating: “Service Animals Welcome”.

The town will also be preparing and handing out information pamphlets on service animals and accessibility for those with disabilities, in compliance with AODA standards. The funds for the stickers and pamphlets will come from the Accessibility Advisory Committee (AAC) budget.

“We are looking to have compliance by the end of 2021,” shares Bradford’s Deputy Mayor James Leduc, Chair of the AAC. “(Local businesses) need to understand ‘any disability ‘ they need to accommodate because it’s becoming a large market, with more growth potentially coming.”

The owner of local restaurant Golden Taste of Asia, Ganesh Ponniah, refused entry to a local pastor and his service dog -Lily’ in August after claiming to be unfamiliar with the rules about service animals.

Since the incident, Ponniah has taken several initiatives to educate himself and his staff about the laws surrounding service animals and is working with the town to take extra measures to ensure the restaurant receives the proper training required to serve people with disabilities.

He admitted although English is not his first language and he is very limited with vocabulary, once he understood the gravity of the situation and the laws in place regarding service animals and people with disabilities, he immediately regretted all that had transpired and shared a formal apology with the community.

“I would like to humbly extend my earnest apologies to all those who have been affected by this incident,” he expressed through translation from his daughter, Trussha Ganeshalingam. “After being educated on the AODA, the significance of service animals and the challenges individuals of the disability community face everyday, we are committed to fostering and implementing positive, meaningful change within our business and the community.

“One of our numerous initiatives includes dedicating the entire month of October for free delicious meals to those who identify as members of the disability community and even dedicate a day for family members to enjoy a meal on us! We look forward to continue learning and growing with this community as a proud ally.

“We as a business and ally, acknowledge and appreciate differences and individualities of all members of society. We want to raise awareness to the lack of education and awareness regarding the AODA among businesses and are honoured to be an integral part of educating the community and setting a positive example going forward!”

The program is being administered by the town’s Accessibility Advisory Committee.

Stickers and handouts are available for businesses to pick up at the Library and the Town’s Administration Office at 100 Dissette Street, Unit7/8.

For more information, visit the Town of Bradford West Gwillimbury’s accessibility page at https://www.townofbwg.com/accessibility?utm_source=bradfordtoday.ca&utm_campaign=bradfordtoday.ca%3A%20outbound&utm_medium=referral.

About the Author: Jackie Kozak

Jackie Kozak is a reporter/writer whose work appears on both BradfordToday and InnisfilToday

Original at https://www.bradfordtoday.ca/local-news/town-launches-campaign-on-service-animals-for-local-businesses-4216325




Source link

Service Dog Refused Entry Into Bradford Restaurant; Incident Leads to Education Around Legislation


‘We tried to explain to him, but he just wouldn’t listen,’ says pastor whose canine helper was turned away; Business owner apologizes By: Jackie Kozak
Posted August 8, 2021

“Any dog is not allowed,” repeated Ganesh Ponniah, owner of the Golden Taste of Asia restaurant in Bradford, while refusing a local pastor and his service dog entrance into his establishment last week.

Lily, the two-year-old purebred golden doodle, is owned by Cory Kostyra, interim pastor at Bradford Community Church.

Lily completed training with the Citadel Canine Society as a medical service dog in June 2020, pursuant to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA) and in accordance with the standards of the Canadian Association of Service Dog Trainers.

Upon entering the restaurant last Wednesday with Lily and friend Martin Lim, Kostyra was shocked when the owner told him his service dog would not be allowed inside the establishment.

“We tried to explain to him, but he just wouldn’t listen,” said Kostyra, adding that other customers within earshot of the disagreement also stepped in to help explain to the owner why the dog was allowed inside.

Kostyra, Lim and Lily left the premises, as instructed by Ponniah, and ended up dining down the street.

The incident at Golden Taste of Asia was immediately brought to the attention of the town’s accessibility advisory committee. BradfordToday called the restaurant for a statement and briefly spoke to staff before the calls were abruptly terminated. It took three tries before BradfordToday was able to speak with the owner directly.

“This is the first time this happened. I didn’t know about that, but I kindly ask so sorry for that,” said Ponniah. “In my five years here, nobody ever come here with a dog, that’s why I kindly ask, so sorry.”

Lily’s certificate, which Kostyra carries with him at all times, requests that “individuals, business owners, facility managers and others, afford Lily and her handler, Mr. Cory Kostyra, appropriate privileges and a reasonable degree of physical public access.”

“They have to provide training for their employees and allow someone with a service dog into their premises,” said Kostyra. “If the dog is wearing a service vest, that’s more than suitable proof, but we have the paperwork, too.”

The AODA spells it out: “If a person with a disability is accompanied by a guide dog or other service animal, the provider (owner) shall ensure that the person is permitted to enter the premises with the animal and to keep the animal with him or her, unless the animal is otherwise excluded by law from the premises.”

Under the “training for staff” section, it states that “every provider shall ensure that the following persons receive training about the provisions of the provider’s goods, services or facilities, as the case may be, to persons with disabilities” (including) every person who is an employee of, or a volunteer with the provider,” making owners responsible for reviewing with their staff the purpose of the Act and the requirements to ensure accessibility for people with disabilities.

There are penalties for failure to follow the Act. According to the AODA, if the incident is deemed “major” or there is a repeat offence, a daily penalty of up to a maximum of $100,000 in the case of a corporation, and $50,000 in the case of an individual or unincorporated organization can be levied.

“It’s mandatory he trains his staff (and himself) to understand accessibility standards,” Kostyra said of the restaurant owner.

The Ontario government website notes that “one in seven people in Ontario has a disability,” which is approximately two million Ontarians. Over the next 20 years, as province’s population ages, people with disabilities are expected to represent about 40 per cent of total income in Ontario, or $536 billion.

“People with disabilities are a growing market that businesses can’t afford to overlook,” the website states.

“Ontario has laws to ensure all Ontarians can access your organization’s goods, services or facilities. The law requires your organization to identify those barriers, and remove them, in order to provide customer service that is more accessible to people who have disabilities,” the government site notes.

“This is an opportunity to educate businesses in our community in regards to the AODA Act,” said Bradford West Gwillimbury Deputy Mayor James Leduc, chair of the local accessibility advisory committee. “As you can see under Section 80, it is something that businesses should be aware of, that service dogs are an important part of people’s needs with disabilities and that they should be allowed into any business to support the owner.”

Leduc added: “I believe this is where we as a municipality can do better in educating business owners of their obligations to residents with disabilities. We are working toward a strategy on how to get business owners educated on the Act and the roles and responsibilities of those owners. We need to be better.”

According to the Act, there are various types of service animals, aside from guide dogs, that support people with different types of disabilities. The four most common disabilities that utilize a service animal are vision impairment or loss, epilepsy, autism, and anxiety disorders.

There are no restrictions on what type of animal can be used as a service animal, as long as the animal is wearing a certified harness or vest to indicate as such, or the person with a disability provides appropriate documentation from a regulated health professional.

According to Caleigh Clubine, community relations officer with the municipality, “the town was interested to learn that there may be a lack of awareness of the laws surrounding service dogs.”

“While this is a provincial area of jurisdiction, the chair of the town’s accessibility advisory committee has stated that he will be encouraging the committee to look into whether there may be an opportunity to help educate and inform business owners and the public,” she added.

The Citadel Canine Society, where Lily was trained, carries the highest standard in basic obedience and training for service animals. They are a CRA-registered charity organization that specifically trains post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and Operational Stress Injury (OSI) medical service dogs for military veterans and first-responders.

“The moment you put the vest on, (Lily) knows she’s working,” said Kostyra.

Lily’s training with Citadel is described as “intense” and includes bringing service-dogs-in-training through rooms filled with toys and treats where the animals are trained not to touch anything.

“It’s really neat. I would drop food right on her head and she won’t touch it,” Kostyra said of the training.

Citadel also trains the service animals in different environments, including hospitals and airplanes, where there are different sounds.

“The hardest part is making them “bomb proof’ to noises and outside distractions,” Kostyra added.

When he experienced a panic attack in a store, he says Lily proved her worth.

“One time, Lily dragged me out of a Walmart,” Kostyra said. “I couldn’t move. I was in the middle of the aisle with my cart.”

Although the owner of Golden Taste of Asia eventually offered Kostyra and his service dog a free meal for the oversight, Kostyra declined the offer, but he will not be pressing charges.

“Service animals have a job to do, they are not pets,” he said, adding there’s a difference between a highly trained service dog and a therapy dog. “If I had went into that restaurant and had an attack, someone would have had to come get me.”

To learn more about the laws and regulations surrounding Accessibility for Ontarians visit https://www.aoda.ca. Business owners who would like to make their services more accessible can visit https://www.ontario.ca/page/how-make-customer-service-accessible?utm_source=barrietoday.com&utm_campaign=barrietoday.com&utm_medium=referral. Original at https://www.barrietoday.com/local-news/service-dog-refused-entry-into-bradford-restaurant-leads-to-education-in-legislation-4201445




Source link

Involving People with Disabilities in Healthcare Service Planning


Currently, there are still no AODA healthcare standards. However, an AODA standards development committee drafted recommendations of guidelines that AODA healthcare standards should include. These guidelines include involving people with disabilities in healthcare service planning.

The committee’s mandate from the Ontario government requires recommendations focused on the hospital setting. However, patients and healthcare workers with disabilities also face barriers in other parts of the healthcare system, including:

  • Doctors’ offices
  • Walk-in clinics
  • Wellness centres
  • Pharmacies
  • Labs
  • Nursing homes
  • Outpatient rehabilitation centres
  • Health regulatory colleges

Therefore, all these settings should involve people with disabilities in healthcare service planning.

Involving People with Disabilities in Healthcare Service Planning

When senior management in hospitals make changes to services, the new services they provide must be accessible for patients with disabilities. Therefore, the committee recommends that all hospitals create and implement a process to consult with members of the community who have disabilities about the development of:

  • Health service plans
  • Quality assurance plans
  • Capital plans

Policies and plans developed during this consulting process should result in services that better meet patients’ accessibility needs. When hospital administrators know what these needs are at the planning stage, accessibility can be proactive, instead of reactive.

In addition, senior management should also create five-year accessibility plans for their hospitals. Furthermore, when hospital quality committees develop strategic plans or quality improvement plans, these plans should address the needs of people with disabilities.

Consulting about Procurement and Facilities

Similarly, administrators should also consult people with disabilities when their hospitals:

People in these consultations may be community members who have disabilities, or professionals who specialize in technical or clinical accessibility. These consultants can guide hospital administrators in using a universal design approach when they buy equipment, contract services, and renovate or lease buildings. Universal design means thinking in advance about how people with a variety of abilities and circumstances can use a space, product, or service. Therefore, consultants can help administrators ensure that more of their patients can use their new equipment, spaces, or services.

Access to Existing Equipment

In addition, all patients must have access to the current equipment and services a hospital provides. However, patients may experience many barriers to this access, including:

Therefore, administrators should also consult people with disabilities to create processes that will prevent or remove these access barriers. For instance, hospitals should create resources to remind staff about accessible medical equipment their hospital has, and where this equipment is stored. Likewise, frequent refresher training would help staff feel confident in accommodating patients who need to use this equipment. Furthermore, administrators should have plans in place to buy, repair, or replace specialized equipment used to accommodate patients with disabilities, when needed.

Funding for Accommodations

Finally, the committee recommends that the Ministry of Health should create a fund for hospitals to buy assistive devices or accessible equipment. This funding should also be used to pay for other accommodations patients may need when they access healthcare services. Each hospital should consult with its accessibility committee, and with community members who have disabilities, when choosing this equipment. Hospitals should then include the purchase of this equipment in their yearly accessibility plans.

All these consultations will help hospitals find out what their patients with disabilities need to access high-quality healthcare. This knowledge will allow healthcare staff to meet these needs.

dedicated to set aside funding for patient accommodations.




Source link

Accessibility Compliance Service, AAAtraq, Has Teamed up With AbleDocs, Enabling Subscribers to Publish Accessible Documents More Easily on Their Websites.


April 01, 2021

TORONTO, Ontario & LONDON–(BUSINESS WIRE)–AbleDocs Inc. (https://www.abledocs.com) is the worldwide leader in document accessibility products and services, making document accessibility fast, easy, secure, and cost-effective.

By integrating AbleDocs’ class-leading technologies, subscribers will be able to manage all types of documents, including PDFs, directly from within the AAAtraq (https://www.aaatraq.com) platform.

“AAAtraq is creating an accessibility ecosystem by linking complementary technologies via intelligent automation to improve understanding and reduce the time and cost of compliance for organizations,” said Lawrence Shaw, CEO of AAAtraq. “AbleDocs is a highly respected document accessibility service provider, and we are delighted that their technology will be integrated into our platform.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has thrown content compliance firmly into the spotlight as the importance of accessing goods, services and information online has grown.

“AbleDocs’ leadership has been helping organizations improve their accessibility for over a combined 150 years. This partnership will expand our current reach and mean that thousands of people with disabilities from around the world will be able to take advantage of an accessible digital environment that has become so important to all our lives,” said Adam Spencer, President (GLOBAL) of AbleDocs Inc.

In only a few months of operation AAAtraq has already started to bring about change. Accessibility and the impact of content failure is now moving from an issue dealt with by a digital or IT team, to those managing risk.

“ADA compliance isn’t about uploading a plugin and then thinking you are compliant. It’s something that needs to be adopted throughout all levels of the organization and treated in the same way as any other regulatory requirement. AAAtraq is about making the compliance easier to achieve, and services like AbleDocs are central to that objective,” concluded Shaw.

“AbleDocs is excited to help existing and future AAAtraq customers achieve their accessibility, usability and compliance goals, by ensuring all content is accessible for all users, and supporting that in nearly 50 languages,” added Spencer.

To celebrate the partnership, AAAtraq are offering a 15% lifetime subscription discount for those signing up at https://AAAtraq.com/AbleDocs before the end of April 2021.

About AAAtraq

AAAtraq (www.aaatraq.com) is an InsurTech solution to shield organizations from unnecessary legal aggression and then remove unnecessary cost, reducing the time it takes to understand, achieve and maintain ADA website compliance.

Our intelligence-driven automation provides a strategic, principle-driven pathway with clear timescales and milestones to compliance along with $10,000 (rising to $50,000 as clients progress) of litigation cost coverage within just one month, all for a $99/month subscription.

Ongoing staff support, digital supply chain oversight and monthly reporting replace complexity with confidence. AAAtraq, for those managing risk, not digital.

For more information, visit https://www.AAAtraq.com

About AbleDocs Inc.

AbleDocs was founded in 2019 as a conglomerate of PDF accessibility remediation service providers and has grown to have operations in Canada, Denmark, Germany, Switzerland, and the United States. Its founders have been making documents accessible for over 150 years combined experience and has since expanded its offerings to include a completely new approach to document accessibility strategies to include products for high volume document accessibility, document accessibility testing.

AbleDocs is the only company in the world to guarantee the compliance of every file they produce and back it with a $10,000,000 liability guarantee. Current offerings include ADService, ADGateway, ADScan, ADStream, ADLegacy, ADForms, axesWord and axesPDF.

For more information, visit https://www.abledocs.com

Original at https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20210401005090/en/Accessibility-Compliance-Service-AAAtraq-Has-Teamed-up-With-AbleDocs-Enabling-Subscribers-to-Publish-Accessible-Documents-More-Easily-on-Their-Websites.




Source link

Accessible Customer Service in Ontario and Manitoba


Many separate accessibility standards development processes exist in Canada. Ontario, Manitoba, and Nova Scotia all have laws that mandate creation of provincial accessibility standards. In addition, the Accessible Canada Act mandates accessibility standards that apply to organizations under federal jurisdiction. However, the government of Canada intends to coordinate federal and provincial accessibility laws. Moreover, the third review of the AODA recommends that the Ontario government should support this aim by aligning its accessibility law, the AODA, with the laws of other provinces and the country. If the governments work together to make these laws more similar, the AODA standards development process may change to align with laws in other places across the country. In this article, we will explore accessible customer service in Ontario and Manitoba.

Accessible Customer Service in Ontario and Manitoba

The customer service standards under the AODA and the accessible customer service standard under the Accessibility for Manitobans Act both require service providers to make their goods and services accessible for customers with disabilities. Moreover, both standards require many of the same processes and practices to ensure accessibility. For instance, both standards require service providers in the public and private sectors to:

Differences Between Standards

However, Ontario’s standard requires providers to notify customers about disruptions to any accessible service. In contrast, Manitoba’s standard only requires providers to notify customers about disruptions involving the built environment. In other words, customers in Manitoba may not find out about disruptions to services they need, such as:

Moreover, while both standards apply to providers that offer goods and services, Ontario’s standard also applies to providers that operate facilities.

On the other hand, Manitoba’s standard requires providers to comply with the rules in their customer service policies. In contrast, Ontario’s standard requires providers to create policies, but does not directly state that providers must perform the tasks their policies describe.

In addition, Manitoba’s standard also requires providers to ensure the accessibility of public events, such as:

  • Public meetings
  • Public hearings
  • Consultation processes that the law requires

Under the standard, providers planning or hosting these events must:

  • Hold them in physically accessible locations
  • Ensure that notice of the events appears in accessible formats
  • Meet people’s needs for physical and communication accessibility, upon request
  • Notify the public that people can request accessibility support

In contrast, Ontario’s standard does not designate additional accessibility guidelines for public events. However, a higher degree of accessibility for these events could benefit Ontarians, because these events may have a large impact on the lives of the people who attend.

The customer service standards of the AODA and the Accessibility for Manitobans Act may change over time to improve accessibility. To do so, the standards can exchange best practices, or learn them from standards that develop in other Canadian regions or jurisdictions.




Source link

Improving AODA Compliance in Customer Service


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. The next accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses were due on December 31st, 2020. However, the Ontario government has extended this deadline. This extended deadline for accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses is June 30th, 2021. Nonetheless, businesses should use this extra time to assess how compliant they are with AODA standards. Moreover, businesses should also improve their compliance by changing the services they offer so that their businesses are more accessible. In this article, we will outline ways to improve AODA compliance in customer service.

Improving AODA Compliance in Customer Service

Even if businesses are fully compliant with the customer service standards, they can still make changes to their policies and services to enhance accessibility. For instance, some services that businesses could offer include:

In addition, service providers can alert all customers about all accessible features and services they have. For example, businesses can inform customers about the availability and location of physical features, such as:

Likewise, businesses can also tell customers about other accessible services, such as:

Finally, businesses that do not yet offer these features and services can explain how they will meet customers’ needs in other ways, such as:

  • Meeting customers in accessible locations
  • Serving customers by phone or email
  • Alerting customers to information on inaccessible signage

When service providers make customers aware of the accessible services they have, they can start doing business with many more clients.

Enhanced Customer Service Training

Furthermore, businesses can also improve the quality of the customer service training their staff receive. Under the customer service standards, training can take many formats, from basic handouts to more in-depth instruction. When staff receive higher-quality training, they can learn:

High-quality training can also be geared specifically to a business’s services. For instance, restaurant staff could have training that helps them practice:

This practice will allow staff to gain experience serving customers with a variety of disabilities. As a result, businesses can confidently welcome and serve all their customers.




Source link

Assessing AODA Compliance in Customer Service


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. The next accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses were due on December 31st, 2020. However, the Ontario government has extended this deadline. This extended deadline for accessibility reports for private or non-profit businesses is June 30th, 2021. Nonetheless, businesses should use this extra time to assess how compliant they are with AODA standards. Moreover, businesses should also improve their compliance by changing the services they offer so that their businesses are more accessible. In this article, we will outline ways to assess AODA compliance in customer service.

Assessing AODA Compliance in Customer Service

Businesses that have twenty (20) or more workers and provide customer service need to comply with AODA customer service requirements, including:

In addition, businesses with fifty (50) or more workers need to:

  • Document their customer service policies
  • Have accessibility plans
  • Update policies and plans every five years
  • Keep records of workers’ AODA training

The extended deadline for AODA compliance reports gives staff of businesses more time to assess how well their companies are fulfilling all these requirements.

How to Assess AODA Customer Service Compliance

Companies can start to assess their AODA compliance by requesting anonymous feedback from customers who have needed accessible service. For instance, they can ask customers whether staff interacted with them courteously, in ways that:

  • Respected their dignity and independence
  • Integrated service for customers with and without disabilities, whenever possible
  • Offered equal opportunities to customers with and without disabilities
  • Took their accessibility needs into account

Companies could also ask whether staff:

  • Interacted comfortably and appropriately with their service animal or support person
  • Knew how to find and operate any assistive devices available at the premises
  • Publicized service disruptions and other communications in ways they could access, such as:
  • Responded well to any feedback they offered

If customers 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 providing accessible service. For example, a customer could describe an incident when staff spoke to their support person instead of directly to them. However, this customer could also explain how staff learned to speak directly to them, instead of about them. Alternatively, another customer could state that staff were not willing to allow their service animal on the premises, and so discriminated against them.

If much of the feedback is negative, it is likely that the business is not compliant with the AODA. As a result, the business will need to make changes, which could include:

  • Improving AODA customer service training
  • Updating policies, plans, or processes

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
  • Comment on the content and accessibility of documents, such as:
    • Customer service policies and plans
    • Feedback processes
    • Notifications of service disruptions

If any of these 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.




Source link

Ontario investing $1B over 6 years to improve internet, cellphone service


The Ontario government is committing nearly $1 billion over six years to improve and expand broadband internet and cellular access across the province.

In the village of Minden on Wednesday afternoon, Premier Doug Ford announced an additional investment of $680 million on top of $315 million announced in 2019 to support the province’s “Up to Speed: Ontario’s Broadband and Cellular Action Plan.”

“Reliable, high-speed internet is no longer a luxury, it is necessary for everyday life,” said Ford. “It allows people to bank, shop, learn to get their news or watch their favourite movies and we take that for granted.”

Read more:
EORN to propose billion dollar rural broadband internet expansion

Ford says providing high-speed internet to communities like Minden, about 100 kilometres north of Peterborough, will create “good jobs” and unlock “new opportunities” for businesses and people.

Story continues below advertisement

“With the world online these days, if we are going to attract more investment to Ontario and compete in this highly competitive global marketplace, we need every part of our province connected with high-speed Internet,” said Ford, noting how more people have turned to internet since the coronavirus pandemic.

The province says more than 1.4 million people in Ontario do not have broadband or cellular access and up to 12 per cent of households (mostly rural, remote or Northern areas) are “underserved or unserved,” according to Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission data.

Minister of Infrastructure Laurie Scott called Wednesday’s announcement a “watershed moment” for broadband. The MPP for Haliburton-Kawartha Lakes-Brock says in an increasingly digital world, Ontarians need to be connected.

Story continues below advertisement

“This investment will connect even more residents in communities across Ontario to faster, more reliable internet and cell service,” said Scott. “Today’s commitment to connect more people to reliable broadband and cellular service ― along with many others we’ve made ― will make it easier for more people to work and learn from home, run their businesses and connect with others.”

The action plan aims to improve connections for up to 220,000 households and businesses, Scott said, and includes a $150-million infrastructure program beginning in 2020-21 with “shovel-ready projects.”

Read more:
EORN to propose billion dollar rural broadband internet expansion

Scott did not outline any specific projects on Wednesday, stating funding is the “start of conversations” with municipalities and telecommunications partners along with expected support from Ottawa.

“We’re hopeful the federal government will release its Universal Broadband Fund — Ontario has stepped up and is putting $1 billion on the table,” she said.

“Ontario isn’t waiting any longer. That is why we are taking action today.”

Peter Bethlenfalvy, president of the Treasury Board, says the investment is a “signature project” of the Ontario Onwards Action Plan to make vital programs and services more convenient, reliable and accessible.

“We cannot afford to be an offline government in an online world,” said Bethlenfalvy.

Story continues below advertisement

The investment announced Wednesday also doubles funding for the Improving Connectivity in Ontario (ICON) program announced in June, bringing the new total to $300 million, said Scott. She said the program now has the potential to leverage more than $900 million in total partner funding to improve connectivity across Ontario.

Ontario has also partnered with the Eastern Ontario Regional Network (EORN) to invest $71 million in a $213-million project to improve access to cellular service and mobile broadband in Eastern Ontario.

Andy Letham, Mayor of the City of Kawartha Lakes and Brent Devolin, mayor of Minden Hills Township, both expressed their gratitude for Wednesday’s announcement.

“It will help connect more homes and businesses in Ontario communities and increase their economic competitiveness,” said Letham. “And improve the quality of life for residents and businesses.”

The action plan says coverage for internet connections should be at speeds of at least 50 megabits per second (Mbps) download and 10 Mbps upload.

Rocco Rossi, president & CEO of the Ontario Chamber of Commerce, said the chamber welcomes the additional investments to help underserved communities.

“Canada’s telecommunications network is one of the most advanced networks in the world,” he said. “The vast majority of heavy lifting has been done by the private sector which has invested heavily in digital infrastructure. However, there remains unserved and underserved communities that require the government to step in.

Story continues below advertisement

“For business, health care and education, particularly those workers practicing physical distancing, connectivity is necessary to ensure they can remain productive by using digital tools such as video conferencing. Without adequate access, those in rural and remote regions will be vulnerable to additional layoffs and business closures. We hope to see the federal government consider how to both expedite and increase the federal investment for broadband connectivity to help further support Ontarians in unserved and underserved communities.”


Click to play video 'Broadband expansion critical to recovery: Northumberland recovery task force'







Broadband expansion critical to recovery: Northumberland recovery task force


Broadband expansion critical to recovery: Northumberland recovery task force – Jun 8, 2020




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





Source link

City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service accessed coronavirus database more than 1,000 times – Peterborough


The City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service is being asked to explain why it accessed Ontario’s coronavirus patient database more than 1,000 times, according to a group of human rights organizations.

Earlier this month, the province of Ontario ended police access to data about Ontarians who had tested positive for COVID-19 — a provision that was permitted in April when the government passed an emergency order under the Emergency Management and Civil Protection Act (EMCPA).

However a group of human rights organizations — the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, Aboriginal Legal Services, the Black Legal Action Centre, and HIV & AIDS Legal Clinic Ontario — launched a lawsuit challenging the decision to release personal health information and that it “violated individuals’ statutory privacy and constitutional Charter rights.”

Read more:
Ontario ends police access to coronavirus database after legal challenge

Story continues below advertisement

The lawsuit was dropped after the province restricted access to the database.

However, on Monday, the groups announced they are targeting police services that accessed the database and have sent letters to the five police services in Ontario that had the highest per capita use rate of the database.

“While we welcome the province’s decision to stop sharing this information with police services, we remain deeply concerned about the continued local storage and use of personal health information that has already been accessed by police services across the province,” the groups stated.

Among them is the City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service in Lindsay. The groups say the police service accessed the database 1,015 times while it was active which the groups say is “unusually high.”

In their letter to police services board chairman Don Thomas and police chief Mark Mitchell, the groups say they want all personal health information that was collected to be deleted.

They also want information on where the COVID-19 data was stored, who had access and for what purposes, as well as details regarding the process of how the data will be deleted.

“We are also concerned about the extremely high number of access requests made by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service,” the letter reads. “Taking into account the population served by the Kawartha Lakes Police Service, KLPS has one of the top five per capita data access rates in the province. The abnormally high number of times the data was accessed raises concerns about whether the database was being used appropriately and whether this large amount of personal information is still being used locally.”

Story continues below advertisement

Global News Peterborough has reached out to Thomas and Mitchell for comment.

Read more:
Over 500 coronavirus cases connected to public places in Canada since July 4, data shows

In an email to Global News Peterborough, Mitchell said the service received the letter on Tuesday and will be discussing the information requests with the police services board.

“I can say that we recognize that the use of the COVID database was a difficult balance between the privacy of individual medical information and the safety of front-line personnel who continued to provide emergency services during the pandemic,” Mitchell told Global News.

“The City of Kawartha Lakes Police Service implemented measures to ensure that the database was used only for the prescribed purpose and that confidential information was handled in adherence to the EMCPA and its Regulations.”

The groups want an audit of the use of the database and make the results of the audit available to the board and the public.

“Transparency and accountability require that the public be informed of the reasons for the Kawartha Lakes Police Service’s unusually high number of searches against the database,” the letter concludes.






Coronavirus outbreak: Federal ministers address COVID-19 patient information database


Coronavirus outbreak: Federal ministers address COVID-19 patient information database




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





Source link