Disability Advocates to Present Today at Virtual Meeting of Toronto’s Infrastructure Committee to Oppose Allowing Electric Scooters


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

April 28, 2021 Toronto: Today starting at 9:30 am, the City of Toronto’s Infrastructure and Environment Committee will consider if the City should allow electric scooters (e-scooters) in Toronto. The AODA Alliance and other disability advocates are scheduled to make deputations to the Committee. The Committee meeting will be live-streamed at: http://www.youtube.com/torontocitycouncillive

City staff and Toronto’s Accessibility Advisory Committee have made strong recommendations to City Council against allowing e-scooters in Toronto, and against conducting a pilot project. In the same direction, disability advocates will tell the Committee that Mayor Tory and City Council must not unleash dangerous electric scooters in Toronto (now banned, unless Council legalizes them).

A City Staff Report amply shows e-scooters endanger public safety in places allowing them. Riders and innocent pedestrians get seriously injured or killed. They especially endanger seniors and people with disabilities. Blind people can’t know silent e-scooters rocket at them at over 20 KPH, driven by unlicensed, untrained, uninsured, unhelmetted fun-seeking riders. Left strewn on sidewalks, e-scooters are tripping hazards for blind people and accessibility nightmares for wheelchair users.

Toronto has been getting less accessible to people with disabilities. Allowing e-scooters would make that worse.

It accomplishes nothing to just ban e-scooters from sidewalks. The City Staff Report documents the silent menace of e-scooters continue to be ridden on sidewalks in cities that just ban them from sidewalks. We’d need cops on every block. Toronto law enforcement told City Councilors last July 9 that they have no capacity to enforce such new e-scooter rules.

E-scooters would cost taxpayers lots e.g., for new law enforcement, OHIP for treating those injured by e-scooters, and law suits by the injured. Toronto has more pressing budget priorities.

City Council should not conduct an e-scooter pilot. A pilot to study what? How many innocent people will be injured? We already know they will, from cities that allowed them. Torontonians should not be subjected to such a human experiment, especially without the consent of those at risk of being injured.

The AODA Alliance exposed the stunning well-funded behind-the-scenes feeding frenzy of back-room pressure that corporate lobbyists for e-scooter rental companies have inundated City Hall with for months. “The corporate lobbyists want to make money on e-scooter rentals, laughing all the way to the bank as injured pedestrians sob all the way to hospital,” said AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky. “We call on Mayor Tory and City Council to stand up for people with disabilities,, and to stand up to the e-scooter corporate lobbyists.”

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
For more background, check out the AODA Alliance’s March 30, 2021 brief to the City of Toronto on e-scooters, the AODA Alliance video on why e-scooters are so dangerous (which media can use in any reports), and the AODA Alliance e-scooters web page.




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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities


A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care

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

January 28, 2021 Toronto: Forty years ago today was the most important single event to protect the constitutional equality rights of millions of people with disabilities, in Canada’s first 114 years. Four decades ago today, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada (the Joint Committee) voted to add equality rights for people with disabilities to the proposed Charter of Rights, then being debated. (The disability amendment)

Weeks earlier, in October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament to add a new Charter of Rights to Canada’s Constitution. The proposed Charter of Rights included an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, courts could not interprete section 15 to protect disability equality.

Without the benefit of fax machines, email, the internet or social media (which were years away), people with disabilities campaigned for the disability amendment. Their blitz got little media coverage.

In fall 1980, three major disability organizations appeared before the Joint Committee to call for the disability amendment. In response, on January 12, 1981, Justice Minister Jean Chretien said no to the disability amendment.

Despite that, people with disabilities tenaciously kept up the pressure. Victory came on January 28, 1981, when the Trudeau Government withdrew its opposition to the disability amendment. That day, the Joint Committee voted to pass the disability amendment. Canada became the first western democracy to explicitly protect equality for people with disabilities in its constitution. (Hansard transcript below)

Over the forty years that followed, the disability amendment led to some important court victories for disability rights. It also helped drive the passage of several accessibility laws: Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, Manitoba’s Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act 2017, and the federal Accessible Canada Act2019.

Canada should be proud of what was achieved forty years ago today in the name of equality and full participation for people with disabilities, said David Lepofsky who was one of the disability advocates who appeared before Parliament to advocate for the disability amendment and who now chairs the non-partisan AODA Alliance that campaigns for disability accessibility. However, despite the disability amendment, over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face far too many unfair barriers in areas like employment, transportation, education, health care and access to buildings. Top of mind today is the serious danger that patients with disabilities will suffer unjustified disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, requiring the rationing or triage of critical care, dressed up as objective medical science. Those of us who fought for the disability amendment could not have imagined that forty years later, we’d need to use that victory to try to prevent disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care.

In months of public debate over the Charter of Rights four decades ago, the only new constitutional right that was added to the Charter, and which was not in the original draft, was equality for people with disabilities something the media has also rarely covered. Even lesser known was a second disability rights victory for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing at the Joint Committee four decades ago today. The Joint Committee also amended section 14 of the Charter, to guarantee the constitutional right to an interpreter for deaf persons when participating in legal proceedings. Previously, section 14’s wording did not guarantee the right to an interpreter to persons needing one due to hearing loss.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] For more background, check out:

1. Transcript of the three disability organizations’ presentations in the 1980 fall to the Joint Committee calling for the Charter disability amendment.

2. Captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation by David Lepofsky to the Joint Committee, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is now chair of the AODA Alliance.

3. Transcript of the initial refusal on January 12, 1981 by federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien to agree to the disability amendment, which he announced during his appearance before the Joint committee a decision the Federal Government reversed forty years ago today.

4. Online captioned lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the history of the campaign for the Charter disability amendment.

Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada on the Constitution of Canada Hansard Excerpts January 28, 1981

The following took place on Charter ss. 14 and 15 as it pertains to people with disabilities:

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would then move this amendment as follows, that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980 be amended by striking out lines 40 to 44 on page 5 and substituting the following:
14. Every person has the right to the assistance of an interpreter in any proceedings before a court, tribunal, commission, board or other authority in which the person is involved or is a party or a witness if the person does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted, or is subject to a hearing impairment. Et en français, it est proposé
Que l’article 14 du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, aux lignes 40 à 43, de ce qui suit:
«14. Les personnes qui ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue dans laquelle se déroulent des procédures devant une instance judiciaire, quasi-judiciaire, administrative ou autre, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète; les personnes atteintes de déficiences auditives ont également ce droit dans les mêmes circonstances.»
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Before I invite you to give an explanation, Mr. Robinson, the honourable James McGrath on a point of order.
Mr. McGrath: I am just wondering, Mr. Chairman, at first glance it would seem that our amendment, which is CP-7, Clause 14, page 5 should come first.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The only reason I have called the amendment proposed by the New Democratic Party, I refer to you the previous indication that the Chair would call in order the amendments, and so far as the New Democratic Party amendment deals with line 40 and your amendment deals with line 43, that is why I have to call according to the previous procedure, I have to call the New Democratic Party amendment first even though the Chair realizes that if the [Page 84]
New Democratic Party amendment is accepted by this Committee, the amendment identified CP-7 is already included in the previous amendment, but if the amendment by the New Democratic Party is not accepted that does not prevent you from moving the amendment identified as CP-7.
Mr. Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, for a matter of clarification, you gave the background of the discussion on Clause 14. We cannot accept the amendment of Mr. Robinson and I will explain why, but we can accept the amendment of the Conservative Parvty and so perhpas we should deal with the two and I can give the explanation to Mr. Robinson so that it will notthe intention is all the same but the way of drafting one is better than the drafting of the other, and the Robinson amendment, if I can use that term, the 150th amendment, it is too vague and could create all sorts of problems. I am informed, for example
Mr. Robinson: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the Minister, if I might have an opportunity to at least explain the amendment before it is shot down by the Minister. That is, I believe the normal procedure.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite Mr. Robinson to present his amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I know that the Minister still has an open mind on the subject and will be listening with great interest and will not be subject to any impairment involving hearing. it is one thing not to listen, Mr. Chairman, it is another thing to be subjected to a hearing impairment.
Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment is to expand the protection presently accorded in Clause 14 to an interpreter, and it is not something which is unusual or vague or difficult to apply, as the Minister suggested, because with respect, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, the wording is taken precisely from the terms of Bill C-60.
Now, once again, Mr. Minister, I would have assumed that the same people who advised you on Bill C-60 would be advising you today and I am sure that they would not have wished to advise you at that time to accept something which was vague or impossible to interpret.
Mr. Chairman, it is not a question of vagueness, it is a question of scope. In Clause 14, as the amendment would read, we would be going beyond proceedings in which a person was a party or witness, but we would be going to proceedings in which a person was involved, to use the words of the proposed amendment, and we would also be expanding the words to deal with other authorities.
As I say, this is the proposal in Bill C-60, it was accepted by the MacGuigan-Lamontagne Committee, it was not considered by the government two years ago to be vague or difficult to interpret. I suggest that the amendment was reasonable and that it should be accepted. I would hope that it would be accepted by the government.
I would also say that I am pleased to hear that the government is prepared to accept the amendment with respect to [Page 85]
deafness which is being proposed both by the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party but I would hope that the government would recognize the desirability of expanding this in terms which it was presented in Bill C-60. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Chrétien: I will ask my advisor to give the explanation but the fact that it was accepted in Bill C·60, the deputy minister is not the same, perhaps he is a judge now, so we have a different troop and to explain why we feel after reflection what is better.
Mr. Ewaschuk: Obviously in relation to the proceedings the administration of justice is conducted by a provincial authorities. The expression in which the person is involved means more than the party or the witness so you can have all kinds of interested parties come to court and this would in fact give them a constitutional right to have interpreters so they could understand the proceedings.
Now, oftentimes that is so. If it is a language problem, the interpreter is there, and there is translation that goes on and there is certain accommodation, but if you were to do that for everybody who came in, who is somehow involved, they may be in fact a relative or so who does not understand the language but they are not a witness, they are not the accused and such, it could have certain important ramifications for the adminis· tration of justice and I think that the position we take is that, yes, we are not opposed to that but we would let the provincial try to work that out rather than saying that they have to in fact do it.
We say the minimal, yes, it should be for the witness, it should be for the party, extended to the deaf, but that is as far as we are willing to go at this particular time. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much.
Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Just a question, Mr. Chairman, if I may, to the officials or to the Minister.
Is it my understanding that Clause 14 as the government is proposing now would not cover the right to an interpreter of a person who is, let us say, arrested or detained; if they are being questioned, that they would not be protected by this right to an interpreter, that is my reading at least of Clause 14. Whereas, under the proposed amendment, because of the insertion of the words or other authority in which the person is involved, they would be protected in those circumstances?
Mr. Ewaschuk: Well, I kind of doubt that. When you are talking about procedings before another authority, I doubt that you would get a court characterizing that as being police interrogating somebody.
You must keep in mind again, and we have gone over this before, that the Crown has to prove a statement as voluntary, so if you have two English policemen who were in fact interrogating somebody who did not understand English, it is very unlikely that the judge is going to find that that statement is voluntary. [Page 86]
So rather than say that the police have to have to bring in, anytime there is a question on whether or not somebody was being interrogated can understand English, they will do that as a matter of course if they want to get that statement in, but it would not be an absolute right in relation to proceedings because I just do not see that as being characterized as proceedings. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Just to conclude, I would remind the Minister through you, Mr. Chairman, of the recent case in Toronto in which this very point was canvassed and raised in connection with an East Indian who was questioned under circumstances in which it was alleged that he did not understand the language in which he was being questioned.
I would also suggest that the words other authority have been interpreted by our courts to include circumstances in which a person is being questioned by the police, that the person is an authority figure, when we are dealing, for example, with confessions, and that is the way Canadian jurisprudence has interpreted those words.
I think, Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the present deputy minister, that the advice which was given in 1978 was very sound advice and I would suggest that this Committee should accept that advice. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Amendment negatived.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like then to invite the motion identified as CP-7, Clause 14, page 5, the motion proposed by the Conservative Party to be moved and invite the Honourable James McGrath to so do.
Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, before I read the amendment there is a slight change. The amendment should read ed or who is deaf to make it conform technically with the page.
Mr. Chairman, the amendment is as follows, I move that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out line 43 on page 5 and substituting the following: ed or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an
I will ask my colleague, Senator Tremblay, if he will read it en français, s’il vous plait. [Translation]
Senator Tremblay: Just to please my colleague who could very well read it himself. [Text]
Il est proposé
Que le projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1981
j’imagine
[Page 87]
soit modifié par substitution
Il faut continuer à dire 1980, n’est-ce pas? Merci, monsieur le président, de cette indication. soit modifié par substitution, à l’article 14, de ce qui suit:
«14. La partie ou le témoin qui ne peuvent suivre les procédures, soit parce qu’ils ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue employée, soit parce qu’ils sont atteints de surdité, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète.» [Translation]
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Senator Tremblay. [Text]
Mr. McGrath, to propose the motion in the usual way?
Mr. McGrath: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I must be getting overtired or perhaps I must be developing a hearing impediment because I thought I hear the Minister say he was going to accept our amendment. Mr. Chrétien: Yes. Yes.
Mr. McGrath: Well, Mr. Chairman, now that that fact has been so dramatically verified I expect any minute to ask the Minister to give consent to have the amendment withdrawn to be moved on a subsequent amendment. It would be more in keeping with the experience we have had here.
However, Mr. Chairman, this is a serious amendment and I am very, very encouraged by the fact that the government has seen fit to accept it because there are a number of people in this country who have a serious hearing handicap. Indeed, I stand to be corrected on this, but there are over 200,000 Canadians who are deaf or have a hearing disability to the point where they are clinically or legally deaf, and it is a serious problem because their handicap is not apparent and it becomes compounded when they are party to legal proceedings. That is why this amendment is so important.
It is not without interest to note that we are moving in the direction of recognizing the rights of these people, for example in broadcasting they have mechanical devices now in the public broadcasting system in the United States for the hard of hearing or the deaf. I understand that we are moving in that direction in Canada as well.
Mr. Chairman, I am gratified that the government has accepted our amendment and, as a matter of fact, I am speechless. Mr. Crombie: Two good events on one motion. Two!
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will not speak on behalf of the government, of course, honourable James McGrath, but you might wonder why the government has changed its mind about that and I told you last week that some see the light because they found their hearts and some change their mind because they hear the voices, and that is probably what happened in the present case. An hon. Member: I am sure they heard footsteps.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I see that the honourable members are ready for the vote. Amendment agreed to.
[Page 88]
Clause 14 as amended agreed to.
On Clause 15Equality before the law and equal protection of the law.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite, then, honourable members to take the amendments in relation to Clause 15. There are a certain number of amendments dealing with Clause 15, especially taking into account that very clause of the proposed motion has two subclauses, Clause 15(1) and Clause 15(2), and in order to deal with the two subclauses in order I would like to invite honourable members to take the amendment identified G-20, Clause 15(1) page 6.
There are two subamendments, to that amendment. The first subamendment that the Chair will invite honourable members to take is the one identified N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6, revised, that is the one with the word revised on it, and the next subamendment in relation to the same main amendment is the one identified as CP8(1), Clause 15, page 6.
So it means that the first subamendment we will be dealing with is the last one that I have mentioned, CP-8(1), Clause 15, page 6, but before we deal with that second subamendment I would like to invite Mr. Irwin to move, or Monsieur Corbin, to move the one identified G-20, subclause 15(1), Page 6. Monsieur Corbin.
M. Corbin: Merci, monsieur le president.
Or, je propose
Que le paragraphe 15(1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, à la rubrique qui précède la ligne 1, et aux lignes 1 à 5, page 6, de ce qui suit: «Droits à l’égalité
15. (1) La Loi ne fait acception de person ne et s’applique également à tous et tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, indépendamment de toute discrimination, notamment des discriminations fondées sur la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion, le sexe ou l’âge.»
Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that the heading preceding Clause 15 and Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the heading immediately preceding line 1 and lines 1 to 5 on page 6 and substituting the following: Equality Rights
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age. [Translation]
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Le coprésident (M. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Corbin.
[Text]
I would like to invite Mr. Robinson on behalf of the New Democratic Party to introduce the subamendment revised N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Page 89]
I am very pleased to move the subamendment as follows
Mr. Epp: Just a point of order, Mr. Chairman.
I must have misunderstood you. I take it now that you are going to ask for the New Democratic subamendment first and then call for our subamendment to the subamendment?
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Yes. That is what I have already stated, Mr. Epp.
Mr. Epp: I did not understand it that way. I thought you asked for our subamendment to the amendment. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): No, that is not the way.
Go on, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The amendment is as follows, first of all in English, this is to the proposal of the government, I move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act 1980, be amended by (a) striking out everything immediately following the words Every individual is equal» and substituting the following:
in, before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, and to access to employment, accommodation and public services, without unreasonable distinction on grounds including sex, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or age.
And then, Mr. Chairman, there are six additional subsections. The first is: (b) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: physical or mental disability,; (c) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: marital status,; (d) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: sexual orientation,; (e) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: political belief,; (f) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: lack of means; and (g) moving the word or so that it appears immediately after the penultimate proscribed ground of discrimination.
Mr. Chairman, those are our proposed amendments to Clause 15(1) to recognize some very fundamental and important grounds of discrimination which are not recognized in the government’s proposal. In French, Mr. Chairman, if you would like me to read this in French. Il est proposé
Que le projet de modification du paragraphe 15 (1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par:
a) substitution, à ce qui suit le membre de phrase «La loi ne fait exception de personne», de ce qui suit:
«Tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, ainsi qu’à l’accès aux emplois, au logement et aux services publics, indépendamment de [Page 90]
toute distinction abusive fondee notamment sur le sexe, la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion ou l’âge.»
b) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les déficiences physiques ou mentales,» c) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «la situation familiale,» d) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’inclination sexuelle,» e) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les croyances politiques,» f) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’insuffisance de moyens.»
g) insertion de la conjonction «or» avant la dernière distinction discriminatoire énoncée au paragraphe 15 (1) tel que modifié. Monsieur le president, je crois que cela doit etre «ou» et non’ pas «or».
Mr. Chairman, again these are proposed additions and changes to Clause 15(1) and I am very pleased to note that the Conservative Party will also be proposing the addition of physical and mental disability, supporting our amendment on that particular subclause. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
I would like to invite the honourable James McCrath to move the amendment on behalf of the Conservative Party. Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, my colleague, Mr. Crombie will do so. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The honourable David Crombie. Mr. Crombie: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, dealing with Clause 15 and our amendment to it, which is numbered CP-8(1) on the sheet, I wish to move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the words or age in Clause 15(1) thereof and substituting therefor the following words: age or mental or physical disability.
En français, il est proposé
Que le projet de modification de I’article 15 du porjet de loi constitution ne! de 1980 soit modi fie par la substitution, a «ou l’âge», au paragraphe (1), de «l’âge ou les déficiences mentales ou physiques.»
Mr. Chairman, speaking to the motion, my understanding is that the government is willing to accept our amendment. Now, I am not sure we can continue to take this prosperity any longer!
However, on behalf of those groups, organizations and individuals who find themselves physically and mentally dis- [Page 91]
abled in this country, I would like, on their behalf, since I am the spokesman on their behalf at this point, to offer my thanks to the government for their acceptance of the amendment. Thank you very much.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, the honourable David Crombie.
Mr. Chrétien: But who told you that I have accepted the amendment. I have not yet spoken. I think it was a good put on. Mr. Crombie: I have already spoken to Bob Kaplan and he has said it is okay! Mr. Chrétien: If I can have five minutes I will call the Prime Minister.
It is with great pleasure that I accept the amendment on behalf of the Government.
I do not think we should debate it. There was a great deal of debate. I was very anxious that we should proceed tonight. They were preparing to have a big group tomorrow. You can have lots of beer on my health.
Thank you for your good representation.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): So the amendment is carried, I should say wholeheartedly with unanimous consent. Amendment agreed to.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like, then, to invite honourable members to come back to the first subamendment and to invite Mr. Robinson to introduce the amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister for listening to the concerns of both the physically and mentally disabled.
I know the Minister will recognize that this is in many ways unprecedented and a historic occasion, because it is a right which has not yet been recognized in many international covenants and charters; I think the Minister and the government deserves full credit for accepting the recommendations of the subcommittee and of many other Canadians.
Certainly, I want to join with my colleague and friend, Mr. Crombie, in thanking you, Mr. Minister, for accepting this very important amendment.
Mr. Chrétien: I forgot to mention, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, that I think we should thank all the members of the special committee, presided over by Mr. David Smith, who has worked very hard indeed.
I would like to thank Mr. Smith and all members of the Committee who have worked all summer very hard on the problem.
We are entering a new field, and quite properly breaking good ground. I think we should be careful that we should not take it to the extent of opening the door to a list that would be meaningless. It is on the list as an amendment which will be accepted. [Page 92]
Mr. Robinson: Once again, Mr. Chairman, I know that the Minister will listen carefully to the representations made on the amendment which we will be proposing, just as he has listened with care to the representations of the groups representing the physically and mentally disabled.
Mr. Chairman, I also cannot resist pointing out that this fundamental right to protection from discrimination on grounds of physical and mental disability is surely one which should be accorded to all Canadians right across Canada, in every province in Canada, and that no provincial government should be permitted to opt out of providing basic and fundamental rights and freedoms to the handicapped.
Mr. Chairman, perhaps my Conservative colleagues would pay particular attention to that point, that the effect of their proposed amending formula, would grant rights to the handicapped in some provinces and not to the handicapped in other provinces which chose to opt out.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson, I regret to interrupt, but as I have already expressed on other occasions, I think you should address yourself to the content of the proposed amendment.
The amending formula will come later on in our discussions; but at this point we are dealing on a clause which does not have any reference to the amending formula as such.
I would invite you to restrict your remarks to the contents of the proposed amendment.




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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities


A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care

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

January 28, 2021 Toronto: Forty years ago today was the most important single event to protect the constitutional equality rights of millions of people with disabilities, in Canada’s first 114 years. Four decades ago today, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada (the Joint Committee) voted to add equality rights for people with disabilities to the proposed Charter of Rights, then being debated. (The disability amendment)

Weeks earlier, in October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament to add a new Charter of Rights to Canada’s Constitution. The proposed Charter of Rights included an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, courts could not interprete section 15 to protect disability equality.

Without the benefit of fax machines, email, the internet or social media (which were years away), people with disabilities campaigned for the disability amendment. Their blitz got little media coverage.

In fall 1980, three major disability organizations appeared before the Joint Committee to call for the disability amendment. In response, on January 12, 1981, Justice Minister Jean Chretien said no to the disability amendment.

Despite that, people with disabilities tenaciously kept up the pressure. Victory came on January 28, 1981, when the Trudeau Government withdrew its opposition to the disability amendment. That day, the Joint Committee voted to pass the disability amendment. Canada became the first western democracy to explicitly protect equality for people with disabilities in its constitution. (Hansard transcript below)

Over the forty years that followed, the disability amendment led to some important court victories for disability rights. It also helped drive the passage of several accessibility laws: Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, Manitoba’s Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act 2017, and the federal Accessible Canada Act2019.

Canada should be proud of what was achieved forty years ago today in the name of equality and full participation for people with disabilities, said David Lepofsky who was one of the disability advocates who appeared before Parliament to advocate for the disability amendment and who now chairs the non-partisan AODA Alliance that campaigns for disability accessibility. However, despite the disability amendment, over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face far too many unfair barriers in areas like employment, transportation, education, health care and access to buildings. Top of mind today is the serious danger that patients with disabilities will suffer unjustified disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, requiring the rationing or triage of critical care, dressed up as objective medical science. Those of us who fought for the disability amendment could not have imagined that forty years later, we’d need to use that victory to try to prevent disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care.

In months of public debate over the Charter of Rights four decades ago, the only new constitutional right that was added to the Charter, and which was not in the original draft, was equality for people with disabilities something the media has also rarely covered. Even lesser known was a second disability rights victory for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing at the Joint Committee four decades ago today. The Joint Committee also amended section 14 of the Charter, to guarantee the constitutional right to an interpreter for deaf persons when participating in legal proceedings. Previously, section 14’s wording did not guarantee the right to an interpreter to persons needing one due to hearing loss.

Contact: AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, [email protected] For more background, check out:

1. Transcript of the three disability organizations’ presentations in the 1980 fall to the Joint Committee calling for the Charter disability amendment.

2. Captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation by David Lepofsky to the Joint Committee, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is now chair of the AODA Alliance.

3. Transcript of the initial refusal on January 12, 1981 by federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien to agree to the disability amendment, which he announced during his appearance before the Joint committee a decision the Federal Government reversed forty years ago today.

4. Online captioned lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the history of the campaign for the Charter disability amendment.

Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada on the Constitution of Canada Hansard Excerpts January 28, 1981

The following took place on Charter ss. 14 and 15 as it pertains to people with disabilities:

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I would then move this amendment as follows, that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980 be amended by striking out lines 40 to 44 on page 5 and substituting the following:
14. Every person has the right to the assistance of an interpreter in any proceedings before a court, tribunal, commission, board or other authority in which the person is involved or is a party or a witness if the person does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted, or is subject to a hearing impairment. Et en français, it est proposé
Que l’article 14 du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, aux lignes 40 à 43, de ce qui suit:
«14. Les personnes qui ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue dans laquelle se déroulent des procédures devant une instance judiciaire, quasi-judiciaire, administrative ou autre, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète; les personnes atteintes de déficiences auditives ont également ce droit dans les mêmes circonstances.»
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Before I invite you to give an explanation, Mr. Robinson, the honourable James McGrath on a point of order.
Mr. McGrath: I am just wondering, Mr. Chairman, at first glance it would seem that our amendment, which is CP-7, Clause 14, page 5 should come first.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The only reason I have called the amendment proposed by the New Democratic Party, I refer to you the previous indication that the Chair would call in order the amendments, and so far as the New Democratic Party amendment deals with line 40 and your amendment deals with line 43, that is why I have to call according to the previous procedure, I have to call the New Democratic Party amendment first even though the Chair realizes that if the [Page 84]
New Democratic Party amendment is accepted by this Committee, the amendment identified CP-7 is already included in the previous amendment, but if the amendment by the New Democratic Party is not accepted that does not prevent you from moving the amendment identified as CP-7.
Mr. Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, for a matter of clarification, you gave the background of the discussion on Clause 14. We cannot accept the amendment of Mr. Robinson and I will explain why, but we can accept the amendment of the Conservative Parvty and so perhpas we should deal with the two and I can give the explanation to Mr. Robinson so that it will notthe intention is all the same but the way of drafting one is better than the drafting of the other, and the Robinson amendment, if I can use that term, the 150th amendment, it is too vague and could create all sorts of problems. I am informed, for example
Mr. Robinson: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the Minister, if I might have an opportunity to at least explain the amendment before it is shot down by the Minister. That is, I believe the normal procedure.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite Mr. Robinson to present his amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I know that the Minister still has an open mind on the subject and will be listening with great interest and will not be subject to any impairment involving hearing. it is one thing not to listen, Mr. Chairman, it is another thing to be subjected to a hearing impairment.
Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment is to expand the protection presently accorded in Clause 14 to an interpreter, and it is not something which is unusual or vague or difficult to apply, as the Minister suggested, because with respect, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, the wording is taken precisely from the terms of Bill C-60.
Now, once again, Mr. Minister, I would have assumed that the same people who advised you on Bill C-60 would be advising you today and I am sure that they would not have wished to advise you at that time to accept something which was vague or impossible to interpret.
Mr. Chairman, it is not a question of vagueness, it is a question of scope. In Clause 14, as the amendment would read, we would be going beyond proceedings in which a person was a party or witness, but we would be going to proceedings in which a person was involved, to use the words of the proposed amendment, and we would also be expanding the words to deal with other authorities.
As I say, this is the proposal in Bill C-60, it was accepted by the MacGuigan-Lamontagne Committee, it was not considered by the government two years ago to be vague or difficult to interpret. I suggest that the amendment was reasonable and that it should be accepted. I would hope that it would be accepted by the government.
I would also say that I am pleased to hear that the government is prepared to accept the amendment with respect to [Page 85]
deafness which is being proposed both by the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party but I would hope that the government would recognize the desirability of expanding this in terms which it was presented in Bill C-60. Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Chrétien: I will ask my advisor to give the explanation but the fact that it was accepted in Bill C·60, the deputy minister is not the same, perhaps he is a judge now, so we have a different troop and to explain why we feel after reflection what is better.
Mr. Ewaschuk: Obviously in relation to the proceedings the administration of justice is conducted by a provincial authorities. The expression in which the person is involved means more than the party or the witness so you can have all kinds of interested parties come to court and this would in fact give them a constitutional right to have interpreters so they could understand the proceedings.
Now, oftentimes that is so. If it is a language problem, the interpreter is there, and there is translation that goes on and there is certain accommodation, but if you were to do that for everybody who came in, who is somehow involved, they may be in fact a relative or so who does not understand the language but they are not a witness, they are not the accused and such, it could have certain important ramifications for the adminis· tration of justice and I think that the position we take is that, yes, we are not opposed to that but we would let the provincial try to work that out rather than saying that they have to in fact do it.
We say the minimal, yes, it should be for the witness, it should be for the party, extended to the deaf, but that is as far as we are willing to go at this particular time. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much.
Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Just a question, Mr. Chairman, if I may, to the officials or to the Minister.
Is it my understanding that Clause 14 as the government is proposing now would not cover the right to an interpreter of a person who is, let us say, arrested or detained; if they are being questioned, that they would not be protected by this right to an interpreter, that is my reading at least of Clause 14. Whereas, under the proposed amendment, because of the insertion of the words or other authority in which the person is involved, they would be protected in those circumstances?
Mr. Ewaschuk: Well, I kind of doubt that. When you are talking about procedings before another authority, I doubt that you would get a court characterizing that as being police interrogating somebody.
You must keep in mind again, and we have gone over this before, that the Crown has to prove a statement as voluntary, so if you have two English policemen who were in fact interrogating somebody who did not understand English, it is very unlikely that the judge is going to find that that statement is voluntary. [Page 86]
So rather than say that the police have to have to bring in, anytime there is a question on whether or not somebody was being interrogated can understand English, they will do that as a matter of course if they want to get that statement in, but it would not be an absolute right in relation to proceedings because I just do not see that as being characterized as proceedings. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson to conclude.
Mr. Robinson: Yes, Mr. Chairman.
Just to conclude, I would remind the Minister through you, Mr. Chairman, of the recent case in Toronto in which this very point was canvassed and raised in connection with an East Indian who was questioned under circumstances in which it was alleged that he did not understand the language in which he was being questioned.
I would also suggest that the words other authority have been interpreted by our courts to include circumstances in which a person is being questioned by the police, that the person is an authority figure, when we are dealing, for example, with confessions, and that is the way Canadian jurisprudence has interpreted those words.
I think, Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the present deputy minister, that the advice which was given in 1978 was very sound advice and I would suggest that this Committee should accept that advice. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
Amendment negatived.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like then to invite the motion identified as CP-7, Clause 14, page 5, the motion proposed by the Conservative Party to be moved and invite the Honourable James McGrath to so do.
Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, before I read the amendment there is a slight change. The amendment should read ed or who is deaf to make it conform technically with the page.
Mr. Chairman, the amendment is as follows, I move that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out line 43 on page 5 and substituting the following: ed or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an
I will ask my colleague, Senator Tremblay, if he will read it en français, s’il vous plait. [Translation]
Senator Tremblay: Just to please my colleague who could very well read it himself. [Text]
Il est proposé
Que le projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1981
j’imagine
[Page 87]
soit modifié par substitution
Il faut continuer à dire 1980, n’est-ce pas? Merci, monsieur le président, de cette indication. soit modifié par substitution, à l’article 14, de ce qui suit:
«14. La partie ou le témoin qui ne peuvent suivre les procédures, soit parce qu’ils ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue employée, soit parce qu’ils sont atteints de surdité, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète.» [Translation]
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Senator Tremblay. [Text]
Mr. McGrath, to propose the motion in the usual way?
Mr. McGrath: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.
I must be getting overtired or perhaps I must be developing a hearing impediment because I thought I hear the Minister say he was going to accept our amendment. Mr. Chrétien: Yes. Yes.
Mr. McGrath: Well, Mr. Chairman, now that that fact has been so dramatically verified I expect any minute to ask the Minister to give consent to have the amendment withdrawn to be moved on a subsequent amendment. It would be more in keeping with the experience we have had here.
However, Mr. Chairman, this is a serious amendment and I am very, very encouraged by the fact that the government has seen fit to accept it because there are a number of people in this country who have a serious hearing handicap. Indeed, I stand to be corrected on this, but there are over 200,000 Canadians who are deaf or have a hearing disability to the point where they are clinically or legally deaf, and it is a serious problem because their handicap is not apparent and it becomes compounded when they are party to legal proceedings. That is why this amendment is so important.
It is not without interest to note that we are moving in the direction of recognizing the rights of these people, for example in broadcasting they have mechanical devices now in the public broadcasting system in the United States for the hard of hearing or the deaf. I understand that we are moving in that direction in Canada as well.
Mr. Chairman, I am gratified that the government has accepted our amendment and, as a matter of fact, I am speechless. Mr. Crombie: Two good events on one motion. Two!
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will not speak on behalf of the government, of course, honourable James McGrath, but you might wonder why the government has changed its mind about that and I told you last week that some see the light because they found their hearts and some change their mind because they hear the voices, and that is probably what happened in the present case. An hon. Member: I am sure they heard footsteps.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I see that the honourable members are ready for the vote. Amendment agreed to.
[Page 88]
Clause 14 as amended agreed to.
On Clause 15Equality before the law and equal protection of the law.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite, then, honourable members to take the amendments in relation to Clause 15. There are a certain number of amendments dealing with Clause 15, especially taking into account that very clause of the proposed motion has two subclauses, Clause 15(1) and Clause 15(2), and in order to deal with the two subclauses in order I would like to invite honourable members to take the amendment identified G-20, Clause 15(1) page 6.
There are two subamendments, to that amendment. The first subamendment that the Chair will invite honourable members to take is the one identified N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6, revised, that is the one with the word revised on it, and the next subamendment in relation to the same main amendment is the one identified as CP8(1), Clause 15, page 6.
So it means that the first subamendment we will be dealing with is the last one that I have mentioned, CP-8(1), Clause 15, page 6, but before we deal with that second subamendment I would like to invite Mr. Irwin to move, or Monsieur Corbin, to move the one identified G-20, subclause 15(1), Page 6. Monsieur Corbin.
M. Corbin: Merci, monsieur le president.
Or, je propose
Que le paragraphe 15(1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, à la rubrique qui précède la ligne 1, et aux lignes 1 à 5, page 6, de ce qui suit: «Droits à l’égalité
15. (1) La Loi ne fait acception de person ne et s’applique également à tous et tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, indépendamment de toute discrimination, notamment des discriminations fondées sur la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion, le sexe ou l’âge.»
Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that the heading preceding Clause 15 and Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the heading immediately preceding line 1 and lines 1 to 5 on page 6 and substituting the following: Equality Rights
15. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age. [Translation]
Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Le coprésident (M. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Corbin.
[Text]
I would like to invite Mr. Robinson on behalf of the New Democratic Party to introduce the subamendment revised N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
[Page 89]
I am very pleased to move the subamendment as follows
Mr. Epp: Just a point of order, Mr. Chairman.
I must have misunderstood you. I take it now that you are going to ask for the New Democratic subamendment first and then call for our subamendment to the subamendment?
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Yes. That is what I have already stated, Mr. Epp.
Mr. Epp: I did not understand it that way. I thought you asked for our subamendment to the amendment. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): No, that is not the way.
Go on, Mr. Robinson.
Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
The amendment is as follows, first of all in English, this is to the proposal of the government, I move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act 1980, be amended by (a) striking out everything immediately following the words Every individual is equal» and substituting the following:
in, before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, and to access to employment, accommodation and public services, without unreasonable distinction on grounds including sex, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or age.
And then, Mr. Chairman, there are six additional subsections. The first is: (b) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: physical or mental disability,; (c) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: marital status,; (d) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: sexual orientation,; (e) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: political belief,; (f) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: lack of means; and (g) moving the word or so that it appears immediately after the penultimate proscribed ground of discrimination.
Mr. Chairman, those are our proposed amendments to Clause 15(1) to recognize some very fundamental and important grounds of discrimination which are not recognized in the government’s proposal. In French, Mr. Chairman, if you would like me to read this in French. Il est proposé
Que le projet de modification du paragraphe 15 (1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par:
a) substitution, à ce qui suit le membre de phrase «La loi ne fait exception de personne», de ce qui suit:
«Tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, ainsi qu’à l’accès aux emplois, au logement et aux services publics, indépendamment de [Page 90]
toute distinction abusive fondee notamment sur le sexe, la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion ou l’âge.»
b) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les déficiences physiques ou mentales,» c) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «la situation familiale,» d) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’inclination sexuelle,» e) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les croyances politiques,» f) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’insuffisance de moyens.»
g) insertion de la conjonction «or» avant la dernière distinction discriminatoire énoncée au paragraphe 15 (1) tel que modifié. Monsieur le president, je crois que cela doit etre «ou» et non’ pas «or».
Mr. Chairman, again these are proposed additions and changes to Clause 15(1) and I am very pleased to note that the Conservative Party will also be proposing the addition of physical and mental disability, supporting our amendment on that particular subclause. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.
I would like to invite the honourable James McCrath to move the amendment on behalf of the Conservative Party. Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, my colleague, Mr. Crombie will do so. The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The honourable David Crombie. Mr. Crombie: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Mr. Chairman, dealing with Clause 15 and our amendment to it, which is numbered CP-8(1) on the sheet, I wish to move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the words or age in Clause 15(1) thereof and substituting therefor the following words: age or mental or physical disability.
En français, il est proposé
Que le projet de modification de I’article 15 du porjet de loi constitution ne! de 1980 soit modi fie par la substitution, a «ou l’âge», au paragraphe (1), de «l’âge ou les déficiences mentales ou physiques.»
Mr. Chairman, speaking to the motion, my understanding is that the government is willing to accept our amendment. Now, I am not sure we can continue to take this prosperity any longer!
However, on behalf of those groups, organizations and individuals who find themselves physically and mentally dis- [Page 91]
abled in this country, I would like, on their behalf, since I am the spokesman on their behalf at this point, to offer my thanks to the government for their acceptance of the amendment. Thank you very much.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, the honourable David Crombie.
Mr. Chrétien: But who told you that I have accepted the amendment. I have not yet spoken. I think it was a good put on. Mr. Crombie: I have already spoken to Bob Kaplan and he has said it is okay! Mr. Chrétien: If I can have five minutes I will call the Prime Minister.
It is with great pleasure that I accept the amendment on behalf of the Government.
I do not think we should debate it. There was a great deal of debate. I was very anxious that we should proceed tonight. They were preparing to have a big group tomorrow. You can have lots of beer on my health.
Thank you for your good representation.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): So the amendment is carried, I should say wholeheartedly with unanimous consent. Amendment agreed to.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like, then, to invite honourable members to come back to the first subamendment and to invite Mr. Robinson to introduce the amendment in the usual way. Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
I certainly would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister for listening to the concerns of both the physically and mentally disabled.
I know the Minister will recognize that this is in many ways unprecedented and a historic occasion, because it is a right which has not yet been recognized in many international covenants and charters; I think the Minister and the government deserves full credit for accepting the recommendations of the subcommittee and of many other Canadians.
Certainly, I want to join with my colleague and friend, Mr. Crombie, in thanking you, Mr. Minister, for accepting this very important amendment.
Mr. Chrétien: I forgot to mention, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, that I think we should thank all the members of the special committee, presided over by Mr. David Smith, who has worked very hard indeed.
I would like to thank Mr. Smith and all members of the Committee who have worked all summer very hard on the problem.
We are entering a new field, and quite properly breaking good ground. I think we should be careful that we should not take it to the extent of opening the door to a list that would be meaningless. It is on the list as an amendment which will be accepted. [Page 92]
Mr. Robinson: Once again, Mr. Chairman, I know that the Minister will listen carefully to the representations made on the amendment which we will be proposing, just as he has listened with care to the representations of the groups representing the physically and mentally disabled.
Mr. Chairman, I also cannot resist pointing out that this fundamental right to protection from discrimination on grounds of physical and mental disability is surely one which should be accorded to all Canadians right across Canada, in every province in Canada, and that no provincial government should be permitted to opt out of providing basic and fundamental rights and freedoms to the handicapped.
Mr. Chairman, perhaps my Conservative colleagues would pay particular attention to that point, that the effect of their proposed amending formula, would grant rights to the handicapped in some provinces and not to the handicapped in other provinces which chose to opt out.
The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson, I regret to interrupt, but as I have already expressed on other occasions, I think you should address yourself to the content of the proposed amendment.
The amending formula will come later on in our discussions; but at this point we are dealing on a clause which does not have any reference to the amending formula as such.
I would invite you to restrict your remarks to the contents of the proposed amendment.




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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities – A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care


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Today is the 40th Anniversary of Parliament Agreeing to Guarantee A Constitutional Right to Equality to People with Disabilities – A Victory Disability Advocates Now Invoke to Prevent Disability Discrimination in Access to Life-Saving Critical Care if Hospitals Start to Triage Critical Care

January 28, 2021 Toronto: Forty years ago today was the most important single event to protect the constitutional equality rights of millions of people with disabilities, in Canada’s first 114 years. Four decades ago today, the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada (“the Joint Committee”) voted to add equality rights for people with disabilities to the proposed Charter of Rights, then being debated. (“The disability amendment”)

Weeks earlier, in October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament to add a new Charter of Rights to Canada’s Constitution. The proposed Charter of Rights included an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, courts could not interprete section 15 to protect disability equality.

Without the benefit of fax machines, email, the internet or social media (which were years away), people with disabilities campaigned for the disability amendment. Their blitz got little media coverage.

In fall 1980, three major disability organizations appeared before the Joint Committee to call for the disability amendment. In response, on January 12, 1981, Justice Minister Jean Chretien said no to the disability amendment.

Despite that, people with disabilities tenaciously kept up the pressure. Victory came on January 28, 1981, when the Trudeau Government withdrew its opposition to the disability amendment. That day, the Joint Committee voted to pass the disability amendment. Canada became the first western democracy to explicitly protect equality for people with disabilities in its constitution. (Hansard transcript below)

Over the forty years that followed, the disability amendment led to some important court victories for disability rights. It also helped drive the passage of several accessibility laws: Ontario’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, Manitoba’s Accessibility for Manitobans Act 2013, Nova Scotia’s Accessibility Act 2017, and the federal Accessible Canada Act2019.

“Canada should be proud of what was achieved forty years ago today in the name of equality and full participation for people with disabilities,” said David Lepofsky who was one of the disability advocates who appeared before Parliament to advocate for the disability amendment and who now chairs the non-partisan AODA Alliance that campaigns for disability accessibility. “However, despite the disability amendment, over six million people with disabilities in Canada still face far too many unfair barriers in areas like employment, transportation, education, health care and access to buildings. Top of mind today is the serious danger that patients with disabilities will suffer unjustified disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care if the COVID-19 pandemic overloads Ontario hospitals, requiring the rationing or “triage” of critical care, dressed up as objective medical science. Those of us who fought for the disability amendment could not have imagined that forty years later, we’d need to use that victory to try to prevent disability discrimination in access to life-saving critical medical care.”

In months of public debate over the Charter of Rights four decades ago, the only new constitutional right that was added to the Charter, and which was not in the original draft, was equality for people with disabilities – something the media has also rarely covered. Even lesser known was a second disability rights victory for people who are deaf, deafened or hard of hearing at the Joint Committee four decades ago today. The Joint Committee also amended section 14 of the Charter, to guarantee the constitutional right to an interpreter for deaf persons when participating in legal proceedings. Previously, section 14’s wording did not guarantee the right to an interpreter to persons needing one due to hearing loss.

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

For more background, check out:

  1. Transcript of the three disability organizations’ presentations in the 1980 fall to the Joint Committee calling for the Charter disability amendment.
  1. Captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation by David Lepofsky to the Joint Committee, on behalf of the Canadian National Institute for the Blind. He is now chair of the AODA Alliance.
  1. Transcript of the initial refusal on January 12, 1981 by federal Justice Minister Jean Chretien to agree to the disability amendment, which he announced during his appearance before the Joint committee – a decision the Federal Government reversed forty years ago today.
  1. Online captioned lecture at the Osgoode Hall Law School by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky on the history of the campaign for the Charter disability amendment.

Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons of Canada on the Constitution of Canada Hansard Excerpts January 28, 1981

The following took place on Charter ss. 14 and 15 as it pertains to people with disabilities:

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I would then move this amendment as follows, that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980 be amended by striking out lines 40 to 44 on page 5 and substituting the following:

  1. Every person has the right to the assistance of an interpreter in any proceedings before a court, tribunal, commission, board or other authority in which the person is involved or is a party or a witness if the person does not understand or speak the language in which the proceedings are conducted, or is subject to a hearing impairment.

Et en français, it est proposé

Que l’article 14 du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, aux lignes 40 à 43, de ce qui suit:

«14. Les personnes qui ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue dans laquelle se déroulent des procédures devant une instance judiciaire, quasi-judiciaire, administrative ou autre, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète; les personnes atteintes de déficiences auditives ont également ce droit dans les mêmes circonstances.»

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Before I invite you to give an explanation, Mr. Robinson, the honourable James McGrath on a point of order.

Mr. McGrath: I am just wondering, Mr. Chairman, at first glance it would seem that our amendment, which is CP-7, Clause 14, page 5 should come first.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The only reason I have called the amendment proposed by the New Democratic Party, I refer to you the previous indication that the Chair would call in order the amendments, and so far as the New Democratic Party amendment deals with line 40 and your amendment deals with line 43, that is why I have to call according to the previous procedure, I have to call the New Democratic Party amendment first even though the Chair realizes that if the

[Page 84]

New Democratic Party amendment is accepted by this Committee, the amendment identified CP-7 is already included in the previous amendment, but if the amendment by the New Democratic Party is not accepted that does not prevent you from moving the amendment identified as CP-7.

Mr. Chrétien: Mr. Chairman, for a matter of clarification, you gave the background of the discussion on Clause 14. We cannot accept the amendment of Mr. Robinson and I will explain why, but we can accept the amendment of the Conservative Parvty and so perhpas we should deal with the two and I can give the explanation to Mr. Robinson so that it will not—the intention is all the same but the way of drafting one is better than the drafting of the other, and the Robinson amendment, if I can use that term, the 150th amendment, it is too vague and could create all sorts of problems.

I am informed, for example …

Mr. Robinson: Mr. Chairman, on a point of order. Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the Minister, if I might have an opportunity to at least explain the amendment before it is shot down by the Minister. That is, I believe the normal procedure.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite Mr. Robinson to present his amendment in the usual way.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I know that the Minister still has an open mind on the subject and will be listening with great interest and will not be subject to any impairment involving hearing. it is one thing not to listen, Mr. Chairman, it is another thing to be subjected to a hearing impairment.

Mr. Chairman, the purpose of this amendment is to expand the protection presently accorded in Clause 14 to an interpreter, and it is not something which is unusual or vague or difficult to apply, as the Minister suggested, because with respect, Mr. Minister, through you, Mr. Chairman, the wording is taken precisely from the terms of Bill C-60.

Now, once again, Mr. Minister, I would have assumed that the same people who advised you on Bill C-60 would be advising you today and I am sure that they would not have wished to advise you at that time to accept something which was vague or impossible to interpret.

Mr. Chairman, it is not a question of vagueness, it is a question of scope. In Clause 14, as the amendment would read, we would be going beyond proceedings in which a person was a party or witness, but we would be going to proceedings in which a person was involved, to use the words of the proposed amendment, and we would also be expanding the words to deal with other authorities.

As I say, this is the proposal in Bill C-60, it was accepted by the MacGuigan-Lamontagne Committee, it was not considered by the government two years ago to be vague or difficult to interpret. I suggest that the amendment was reasonable and that it should be accepted. I would hope that it would be accepted by the government.

I would also say that I am pleased to hear that the government is prepared to accept the amendment with respect to

[Page 85]

deafness which is being proposed both by the Conservative Party and the New Democratic Party but I would hope that the government would recognize the desirability of expanding this in terms which it was presented in Bill C-60.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much, Mr. Robinson.

Mr. Chrétien: I will ask my advisor to give the explanation but the fact that it was accepted in Bill C·60, the deputy minister is not the same, perhaps he is a judge now, so we have a different troop and to explain why we feel after reflection what is better.

Mr. Ewaschuk: Obviously in relation to the proceedings the administration of justice is conducted by a provincial authorities. The expression in which the person is involved means more than the party or the witness so you can have all kinds of interested parties come to court and this would in fact give them a constitutional right to have interpreters so they could understand the proceedings.

Now, oftentimes that is so. If it is a language problem, the interpreter is there, and there is translation that goes on and there is certain accommodation, but if you were to do that for everybody who came in, who is somehow involved, they may be in fact a relative or so who does not understand the language but they are not a witness, they are not the accused and such, it could have certain important ramifications for the adminis· tration of justice and I think that the position we take is that, yes, we are not opposed to that but we would let the provincial try to work that out rather than saying that they have to in fact do it.

We say the minimal, yes, it should be for the witness, it should be for the party, extended to the deaf, but that is as far as we are willing to go at this particular time.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you very much.

Mr. Robinson to conclude.

Mr. Robinson: Just a question, Mr. Chairman, if I may, to the officials or to the Minister.

Is it my understanding that Clause 14 as the government is proposing now would not cover the right to an interpreter of a person who is, let us say, arrested or detained; if they are being questioned, that they would not be protected by this right to an interpreter, that is my reading at least of Clause 14. Whereas, under the proposed amendment, because of the insertion of the words “or other authority” in which the person is involved, they would be protected in those circumstances?

Mr. Ewaschuk: Well, I kind of doubt that. When you are talking about procedings before another authority, I doubt that you would get a court characterizing that as being police interrogating somebody.

You must keep in mind again, and we have gone over this before, that the Crown has to prove a statement as voluntary, so if you have two English policemen who were in fact interrogating somebody who did not understand English, it is very unlikely that the judge is going to find that that statement is voluntary.

[Page 86]

So rather than say that the police have to have to bring in, anytime there is a question on whether or not somebody was being interrogated can understand English, they will do that as a matter of course if they want to get that statement in, but it would not be an absolute right in relation to proceedings because I just do not see that as being characterized as proceedings.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson to conclude.

Mr. Robinson: Yes, Mr. Chairman.

Just to conclude, I would remind the Minister through you, Mr. Chairman, of the recent case in Toronto in which this very point was canvassed and raised in connection with an East Indian who was questioned under circumstances in which it was alleged that he did not understand the language in which he was being questioned.

I would also suggest that the words “other authority” have been interpreted by our courts to include circumstances in which a person is being questioned by the police, that the person is an authority figure, when we are dealing, for example, with confessions, and that is the way Canadian jurisprudence has interpreted those words.

I think, Mr. Chairman, with great respect to the present deputy minister, that the advice which was given in 1978 was very sound advice and I would suggest that this Committee should accept that advice.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

Amendment negatived.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like then to invite the motion identified as CP-7, Clause 14, page 5, the motion proposed by the Conservative Party to be moved and invite the Honourable James McGrath to so do.

Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, before I read the amendment there is a slight change. The amendment should read “ed or who is deaf” to make it conform technically with the page.

Mr. Chairman, the amendment is as follows, I move that Clause 14 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out line 43 on page 5 and substituting the following:

ed or who is deaf has the right to the assistance of an”

I will ask my colleague, Senator Tremblay, if he will read it en français, s’il vous plait.

[Translation]

Senator Tremblay: Just to please my colleague who could very well read it himself.

[Text]

Il est proposé

Que le projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1981 …

j’imagine

[Page 87]

soit modifié par substitution …

Il faut continuer à dire 1980, n’est-ce pas? Merci, monsieur le président, de cette indication.

… soit modifié par substitution, à l’article 14, de ce qui suit:

«14. La partie ou le témoin qui ne peuvent suivre les procédures, soit parce qu’ils ne comprennent pas ou ne parlent pas la langue employée, soit parce qu’ils sont atteints de surdité, ont droit à l’assistance d’un interprète.»

[Translation]

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Senator Tremblay.

[Text]

Mr. McGrath, to propose the motion in the usual way?

Mr. McGrath: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman.

I must be getting overtired or perhaps I must be developing a hearing impediment because I thought I hear the Minister say he was going to accept our amendment.

Mr. Chrétien: Yes. Yes.

Mr. McGrath: Well, Mr. Chairman, now that that fact has been so dramatically verified I expect any minute to ask the Minister to give consent to have the amendment withdrawn to be moved on a subsequent amendment. It would be more in keeping with the experience we have had here.

However, Mr. Chairman, this is a serious amendment and I am very, very encouraged by the fact that the government has seen fit to accept it because there are a number of people in this country who have a serious hearing handicap. Indeed, I stand to be corrected on this, but there are over 200,000 Canadians who are deaf or have a hearing disability to the point where they are clinically or legally deaf, and it is a serious problem because their handicap is not apparent and it becomes compounded when they are party to legal proceedings. That is why this amendment is so important.

It is not without interest to note that we are moving in the direction of recognizing the rights of these people, for example in broadcasting they have mechanical devices now in the public broadcasting system in the United States for the hard of hearing or the deaf. I understand that we are moving in that direction in Canada as well.

Mr. Chairman, I am gratified that the government has accepted our amendment and, as a matter of fact, I am speechless.

Mr. Crombie: Two good events on one motion. Two!

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will not speak on behalf of the government, of course, honourable James McGrath, but you might wonder why the government has changed its mind about that and I told you last week that some see the light because they found their hearts and some change their mind because they hear the voices, and that is probably what happened in the present case.

An hon. Member: I am sure they heard footsteps.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I see that the honourable members are ready for the vote.

Amendment agreed to.

[Page 88]

Clause 14 as amended agreed to.

On Clause 15—Equality before the law and equal protection of the law.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I will invite, then, honourable members to take the amendments in relation to Clause 15. There are a certain number of amendments dealing with Clause 15, especially taking into account that very clause of the proposed motion has two subclauses, Clause 15(1) and Clause 15(2), and in order to deal with the two subclauses in order I would like to invite honourable members to take the amendment identified G-20, Clause 15(1) page 6.

There are two subamendments, to that amendment. The first subamendment that the Chair will invite honourable members to take is the one identified N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6, revised, that is the one with the word “revised” on it, and the next subamendment in relation to the same main amendment is the one identified as CP—8(1), Clause 15, page 6.

So it means that the first subamendment we will be dealing with is the last one that I have mentioned, CP-8(1), Clause 15, page 6, but before we deal with that second subamendment I would like to invite Mr. Irwin to move, or Monsieur Corbin, to move the one identified G-20, subclause 15(1), Page 6.

Monsieur Corbin.

  1. Corbin: Merci, monsieur le president.

Or, je propose

Que le paragraphe 15(1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par substitution, à la rubrique qui précède la ligne 1, et aux lignes 1 à 5, page 6, de ce qui suit:

«Droits à l’égalité

  1. (1) La Loi ne fait acception de person ne et s’applique également à tous et tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, indépendamment de toute discrimination, notamment des discriminations fondées sur la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion, le sexe ou l’âge.»

Mr. Chairman, I would like to move that the heading preceding Clause 15 and Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the heading immediately preceding line 1 and lines 1 to 5 on page 6 and substituting the following:

“Equality Rights

  1. (1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age.”

[Translation]

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Le coprésident (M. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Corbin.

[Text]

I would like to invite Mr. Robinson on behalf of the New Democratic Party to introduce the subamendment revised N-21, Clause 15(1), page 6.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

[Page 89]

I am very pleased to move the subamendment as follows …

Mr. Epp: Just a point of order, Mr. Chairman.

I must have misunderstood you. I take it now that you are going to ask for the New Democratic subamendment first and then call for our subamendment to the subamendment?

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Yes. That is what I have already stated, Mr. Epp.

Mr. Epp: I did not understand it that way. I thought you asked for our subamendment to the amendment.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): No, that is not the way.

Go on, Mr. Robinson.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

The amendment is as follows, first of all in English, this is to the proposal of the government, I move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15(1) of the proposed constitution act 1980, be amended by (a) striking out everything immediately following the words “Every individual is equal» and substituting the following:

in, before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law, and to access to employment, accommodation and public services, without unreasonable distinction on grounds including sex, race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion or age.

And then, Mr. Chairman, there are six additional subsections. The first is: (b) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “physical or mental disability,”; (c) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “marital status,”; (d) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “sexual orientation,”; (e) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “political belief,”; (f) adding to Clause 15(1) the following: “lack of means”; and (g) moving the word “or” so that it appears immediately after the penultimate proscribed ground of discrimination.

Mr. Chairman, those are our proposed amendments to Clause 15(1) to recognize some very fundamental and important grounds of discrimination which are not recognized in the government’s proposal.

In French, Mr. Chairman, if you would like me to read this in French.

Il est proposé

Que le projet de modification du paragraphe 15 (1) du projet de Loi constitutionnelle de 1980 soit modifié par:

  1. a) substitution, à ce qui suit le membre de phrase «La loi ne fait exception de personne», de ce qui suit:

«Tous ont droit à la même protection et au même bénéfice de la loi, ainsi qu’à l’accès aux emplois, au logement et aux services publics, indépendamment de

[Page 90]

toute distinction abusive fondee notamment sur le sexe, la race, l’origine nationale ou ethnique, la couleur, la religion ou l’âge.»

  1. b) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les déficiences physiques ou mentales,»
  2. c) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «la situation familiale,»
  3. d) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’inclination sexuelle,»
  4. e) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «les croyances politiques,»
  5. f) adjonction, au paragraphe 15 (1), de ce qui suit: «l’insuffisance de moyens.»
  6. g) insertion de la conjonction «or» avant la dernière distinction discriminatoire énoncée au paragraphe 15 (1) tel que modifié.

Monsieur le president, je crois que cela doit etre «ou» et non’ pas «or».

Mr. Chairman, again these are proposed additions and changes to Clause 15(1) and I am very pleased to note that the Conservative Party will also be proposing the addition of physical and mental disability, supporting our amendment on that particular subclause.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, Mr. Robinson.

I would like to invite the honourable James McCrath to move the amendment on behalf of the Conservative Party.

Mr. McGrath: Mr. Chairman, my colleague, Mr. Crombie will do so.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): The honourable David Crombie.

Mr. Crombie: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

Mr. Chairman, dealing with Clause 15 and our amendment to it, which is numbered CP-8(1) on the sheet, I wish to move that the proposed amendment to Clause 15 of the proposed constitution act, 1980, be amended by striking out the words “or age” in Clause 15(1) thereof and substituting therefor the following words:

age or mental or physical disability.

En français, il est proposé

Que le projet de modification de I’article 15 du porjet de loi constitution ne! de 1980 soit modi fie par la substitution, a «ou l’âge», au paragraphe (1), de «l’âge ou les déficiences mentales ou physiques.»

Mr. Chairman, speaking to the motion, my understanding is that the government is willing to accept our amendment.

Now, I am not sure we can continue to take this prosperity any longer!

However, on behalf of those groups, organizations and individuals who find themselves physically and mentally dis-

[Page 91]

abled in this country, I would like, on their behalf, since I am the spokesman on their behalf at this point, to offer my thanks to the government for their acceptance of the amendment.

Thank you very much.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Thank you, the honourable David Crombie.

Mr. Chrétien: But who told you that I have accepted the amendment. I have not yet spoken. I think it was a good put on.

Mr. Crombie: I have already spoken to Bob Kaplan and he has said it is okay!

Mr. Chrétien: If I can have five minutes I will call the Prime Minister.

It is with great pleasure that I accept the amendment on behalf of the Government.

I do not think we should debate it. There was a great deal of debate. I was very anxious that we should proceed tonight. They were preparing to have a big group tomorrow.

You can have lots of beer on my health.

Thank you for your good representation.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): So the amendment is carried, I should say wholeheartedly with unanimous consent.

Amendment agreed to.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): I would like, then, to invite honourable members to come back to the first subamendment and to invite Mr. Robinson to introduce the amendment in the usual way.

Mr. Robinson: Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

I certainly would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Minister for listening to the concerns of both the physically and mentally disabled.

I know the Minister will recognize that this is in many ways unprecedented and a historic occasion, because it is a right which has not yet been recognized in many international covenants and charters; I think the Minister and the government deserves full credit for accepting the recommendations of the subcommittee and of many other Canadians.

Certainly, I want to join with my colleague and friend, Mr. Crombie, in thanking you, Mr. Minister, for accepting this very important amendment.

Mr. Chrétien: I forgot to mention, with your permission, Mr. Chairman, that I think we should thank all the members of the special committee, presided over by Mr. David Smith, who has worked very hard indeed.

I would like to thank Mr. Smith and all members of the Committee who have worked all summer very hard on the problem.

We are entering a new field, and quite properly breaking good ground. I think we should be careful that we should not take it to the extent of opening the door to a list that would be meaningless. It is on the list as an amendment which will be accepted.

[Page 92]

Mr. Robinson: Once again, Mr. Chairman, I know that the Minister will listen carefully to the representations made on the amendment which we will be proposing, just as he has listened with care to the representations of the groups representing the physically and mentally disabled.

Mr. Chairman, I also cannot resist pointing out that this fundamental right to protection from discrimination on grounds of physical and mental disability is surely one which should be accorded to all Canadians right across Canada, in every province in Canada, and that no provincial government should be permitted to opt out of providing basic and fundamental rights and freedoms to the handicapped.

Mr. Chairman, perhaps my Conservative colleagues would pay particular attention to that point, that the effect of their proposed amending formula, would grant rights to the handicapped in some provinces and not to the handicapped in other provinces which chose to opt out.

The Joint Chairman (Mr. Joyal): Mr. Robinson, I regret to interrupt, but as I have already expressed on other occasions, I think you should address yourself to the content of the proposed amendment.

The amending formula will come later on in our discussions; but at this point we are dealing on a clause which does not have any reference to the amending formula as such.

I would invite you to restrict your remarks to the contents of the proposed amendment.



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Remembering a Major Setback on the Road to Equality for People with Disabilities Forty Years Ago Today- But One that Was Thankfully Reversed a Mere 16 Days Later!


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/

January 13, 2021

SUMMARY

Forty years ago today, people with disabilities in Canada suffered a major defeat in the campaign for full inclusion and full participation in Canadian society. However, it turned out to only be a very temporary defeat, one which only lasted 16 days. Yet forty years ago today, we did not know that this defeat would be so short-lived.

Four decades ago, people with disabilities were waging a battle to get equality rights for people with disabilities entrenched in the new Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms that Parliament was then considering for inclusion in Canada’s Constitution. In October 1980, Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau introduced a bill into Parliament that would bring Canada’s Constitution home from England, and add a new Charter of Rights to it. The proposed Charter of Rights was to include an equality rights provision, section 15. However, section 15 did not include equality rights for people with disabilities. Unless amended, it would have been impossible for courts to add disability protection to section 15 by judicial interpretation.

Several organizations and individuals came forward in the 1980 fall to call for the Charter of Rights to be amended, before Parliament passed it, to add equality for people with disabilities to section 15. During public hearings in Parliament on Canada’s Constitution in the 1980 fall three disability organizations got the chance to make presentations. You can read their presentations in the December 7, 2020 AODA Alliance Update. Those organizations were the Canadian Association for the Mentally Retarded (later re-named the Canadian Association for Community Living), the Coalition of Provincial Organizations of the Handicapped (COPOH, later renamed the Council of Canadians with Disabilities (CCD)), and the Canadian National Institute for the Blind (CNIB). CNIB’s lead presenter was David Lepofsky, then a law student, and now chair of the AODA Alliance.

Despite those presentations, forty years ago today, the Federal Government announced that it would not add disability equality to the Charter. At the January 12, 1981 meeting of the Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada, Canada’s Justice Minister, Jean Chretien gave the Government’s reasons for refusing to do so. He was then grilled on this issue at that meeting by an Opposition MP. Below we set out those exchanges, which are amazing to re-read 40 years later.

Justice Minister Chretien, who later went on to be Canada’s Prime Minister, announced at that meeting that under amended wording of section 15 that the Government was proposing, a court could later decide to add equality for people with disabilities to the Charter. However, the Government was not prepared to include wording that ensured that section 15 guaranteed equality to people with disabilities.

This was a huge setback for people with disabilities. However, advocacy from the disability community continued! For example, in the next day’s Globe and Mail newspaper was an article in which David Lepofsky, then speaking for CNIB as a volunteer, showed why Justice Minister Chretien’s refusal to include disability in section 15 was wrong. That article from the January 29, 1981 Globe and Mail is also set out below.

As a result of advocacy efforts from the disability community over the next days, the Federal Government changed its mind. On January 28, 1981, the Joint Committee voted to amend section 15 of the proposed Charter of Rights to include equality without discrimination because of mental or physical disability. The 40 year anniversary of that historic vote is coming up in 16 days.

Our eventual victory in that campaign was the product of efforts by many people. To learn more about this history, which underpins all our disability accessibility advocacy to this day, check out a captioned video of a talk by David Lepofsky, where he recounts the history of the successful campaign in 1980-81 by diverse disability organizations to get the disability amendment added to the Charter of Rights. A captioned video of the December 12, 1980 presentation to the Joint Committee of the Senate and House of Commons by a much younger David Lepofsky, then a law student, on behalf of the CNIB is also available online.

MORE DETAILS

Hansard of the Parliament of Canada Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on the Constitution of Canada

January 12, 1981

Excerpt from the opening remarks by The Honourable Jean Chretien, Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada.

(Note: The Minister of Justice gave the Committee a speech in which he listed various changes that the Federal Government was prepared to accept to the proposed Charter of Rights.)

Equality rights:

There has been much discussion of the non-discrimination provisions of the Charter as found in Section 15. I want to deal with this in some detail. First, I want to state that I agree with the proposal made by the Advisory Council on the Status of Women and the National Association of Women and the Law that the section be entitled equality rights so as to stress the positive nature of this important part of the Charter of Rights.

I want to take this opportunity to congratulate all of the witnesses who testified on this section. I want specifically to compliment the Advisory Council on the Status of Women for a particularly fine brief as well as for an impressive presentation before you. The work of the Council has greatly influenced the government as have the presentations of the many witnesses who have spoken on this subject on behalf of women’s groups, the handicapped, and others.

A provision on “equality rights” must demonstrate that there is a positive principle of equality in the general sense and, in addition, a right to laws which assure equal protection and equal benefits without discrimination. To ensure the foregoing and that equality relates to the substance as well as the administration of the law, I would be prepared to accept an amendment to Section 15(1) so that it would read:

Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination and in particular without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age.

I know that many witnesses have recommended either that the grounds for non-discrimination be widened to include handicapped persons or others or that there be no specific enumeration and that more discretion be left in the hands of the courts. The government has studied these representations with great care.

The position of the government is that certain grounds of discrimination have long been recognized as prohibited. Race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion and sex are all found in the Canadian Bill of Rights and are capable of more ready definition than others.

I want to make clear that the listing of specific grounds where discrimination is most prohibited does not mean that there are not other grounds where discrimination is prohibited. Indeed as society evolves, values change and new grounds of discrimination become apparent. These should be left to be protected by ordinary human rights legislation where they can be defined, the qualifications spelled out and the measures for protective action specified by legislatures.

For example, it was only four years ago that federal human rights legislation specifically provided protection for the handicapped in the area of employment.

Recently the Special Parliamentary Task Force on the Handicapped chaired by David Smith has recommended changes and improvements in the Human Rights Act with respect to the handicapped. The government will be acting on some of the recommendations of the Task Force. The government is also proposing to act on some of the recommendations made by the Canadian Human Rights Commission in this area and will propose amendments to the Human Rights Act.

But if legislatures do not act, there should be room for the courts to move in. Therefore, the amendment which I mentioned does not list certain grounds of discrimination to the exclusion of all others. Rather, it is open-ended and meets the recommendations made by many witnesses before your Committee. Because of the difficulty of identifying legitimate new grounds of discrimination in a rapidly evolving area of the law I prefer to be open-ended rather adding some new categories with the risk of excluding others.

Section 15(2) of the draft Resolution permits affirmative action programs to improve the conditions of disadvantaged persons or groups. I am proposing an amendment to read:

Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantaged individuals or groups including those that are disadvantaged because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex or age.

This section permits programs designed to achieve equality which might otherwise be precluded by the rules against discrimination in subsection 15(1).

The amendment will not preclude other programs to assist the disadvantagedbe it on grounds such as handicap, marital status or other bases of discrimination identified by the courts. It is simply an assurance that an affirmative action program based on a recognized ground of non-discrimination will not be struck down only because it authorizes reverse discrimination for the purpose of achieving equality.

Note: Later in this Committee meeting was this exchange from an opposition NDP member and the Minister of Justice:

Mr. Nystrom: I would like to refer now to a couple of things in the Charter of Rights itself.

You have said on page 7, for example, of your comments to the Committee tonight, and I quote:

The work of the Council

and this is of course the Advisory Council on the Status of Women,

The work of the council has greatly influenced the government as have the presentations of the many witnesses who have spoken on this subject on behalf of women’s groups, the handicapped, and others.

The government has been, as you say, greatly influenced by the groups that have appeared and you have moved some considerable distance in terms of women’s rights, and I think the suggested amendment is very interesting, one we will take a very serious look at. You have moved some distance in some other areas.

We have also had handicapped groups before the Committee and you said that the groups that have appeared have greatly influenced the government, and I would like to ask you why you do not include in the Charter of Rights any reference to the handicapped, to the physically disabled, to the mentally disabled in our country.

We have had some groups before us who came and made some pretty good arguments, and you said you have been greatly influenced. I would like to know where the influence is.

Mr. Chretien: The position is that the list enumerated there is not exclusive and any other rights on discrimination the court could intervene.

The problem is we say that these rights have to mature in the Canadian society. For example, we will still have a Human Rights Commission and we will still pass legislation on different groups to make sure that their rights are protected, but they have to mature and this list that I have enumerated, excluding the others, we have opened up that clause so that other types of discrimination can be taken care of by the courts, if Parliament and legislative assemblies do not intervene.

But to start to enumerate more in that category where their rights are starting to be protected by legislation and so on, and if there is discrimination against handicapped and so on, we say that the court can intervene even if we do not want to enumerate them at this time because many of those rights are difficult to define. It is in the process of maturing, that is why it is not there.

But before, the clause was limiting the element of discrimination. Now it is not limiting them; other types of discrimination can be covered by the courts too.

Mr. Nystrom: I remind you, Mr. Minister, that this year is the International Year of the Handicapped, the year 1981, or the International Year of the Disabled, rather, and I would like to know more of what you mean by rights have to mature. Why are the handicapped singled out? Why are the disabled singled out?

It seems to me that we should be enshrining some rights for them in our constitution. If you are not sure what kind of rights they are, perhaps the wording does not have to be as tight as in some other cases, but surely to goodness there can be some reference that we cannot discriminate against the handicapped.

Mr. Chretien: I referred in my speech that we have enacted some legislation in relation to the handicapped in the last four years. There will be some more. We still have the Human Rights Commission working on that and we have to prepare some amendments.

But we have opened up the clause so that the clause is not limiting the type of discrimination to the enumeration of discrimination as mentioned.

Just to give you an example. In the Charter of Rights as presented by Mr. Diefenbaker, the word “age” was not there at that time, but over the years this has gained maturity and it is finding its place there, and the first enumeration we had was limiting the type of discrimination. We have opened up to other types of discrimination that can be covered by the courts if the Parliament or assemblies do not take care of the problem.

So I do think that it is a very important amendment but we do not want to have the problem of definition at this time because it was creating too many difficulties.

Mr. Nystrom: In your personal opinion, Mr. Minister, has the right to enshrine the rights of the handicapped matured by this time?

Mr. Chretien: If there is positive discrimination against handicapped and nobody is acting, in my reading of that section, the courts could intervene.

Mr. Nystrom: Why not enshrine it then if it has matured?

Mr. Chretien: They are, because the clause is open

The Globe and Mail January 13, 1981

Disabled out in the cold, spokesman at CNIB says

Tuesday, January 13, 1981

The Liberal Government’s refusal to expand equality rights to include the handicapped makes a mockery of Canada’s participation in the international year of the disabled, a spokesman for the Canadian National Institute for the Blind says.

Rather than moving to protect the handicapped, Ottawa has decided to let discriminatory laws remain on the books, said David Lepofsky, a CNIB director who appeared before the parliamentary committee on the constitution last month.

Mr. Lepofsky said Justice Minister Jean Chretien’s remarks in making the announcement “have absolutely no relation to reality. “He’s saying that the term ‘handicapped’ is too vague and that no one will know what it means. That’s absolutely ridiculous – it’s very clear what we’re talking about.” Mr. Lepofsky also criticized Mr. Chretien for suggesting that entrenched protection for the physically and mentally disabled would only duplicate existing human rights legislation. On the contrary, he said, much of the current legislation is concerned only with discrimination in the workplace or in rental agreements.

“Those provincial statutes don’t address themselves to all the other provincial and federal laws which discriminate against the handicapped,” Mr. Lepofsky said.

He cited laws which prohibit blind people from sitting on juries in some provinces, deny minimum wage protection to some handicapped people and forbid some mentally handicapped couples from marrying.




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New captioned Video is Unveiled Today on Hardships People with Disabilities Face During the COVID-19 Pandemic, To Mark This Sunday, the 26th Anniversary of the Birth of Ontario’s Grassroots Movement for Disability Accessibility


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/

November 27, 2020

SUMMARY

Happy birthday to us! This Sunday, November 29, 2020, is the 26th anniversary of the birth of Ontario’s unstoppable grassroots non-partisan movement that successfully campaigned for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act passed, and that has tenaciously campaigned since then to get the AODA effectively implemented. To mark this anniversary, we today unveil another captioned video. It is the newest addition to our large and growing collection of captioned online videos on the important subject of accessibility for people with disabilities.

This newest captioned video is entitled: “Advocating to Address the Added Hardships that COVID-19 Imposes on People with Disabilities.” For the past 8 months, the AODA Alliance has focused our advocacy efforts on the many barriers that people with disabilities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the areas of education for students with disabilities and health care for patients with disabilities. In this one-hour talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, you can learn all about the barriers we’ve faced, the corrective actions we’ve sought, the results we’ve achieved, and the lessons to be learned from the experience of people with disabilities during this pandemic.

This new video is available online at: https://youtu.be/yB5i7cCiw68

You can read all about the issues addressed in this newest video by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.

While we’re at it, why don’t we also remind you of the three other important new captioned videos that the AODA Alliance made public over the past few weeks:

1. Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities on How to Advocate for Your Child’s Needs in the School system, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtadvCvcGC0

2. The Threat to Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must Be Rationed or Triaged During the COVID-19 Pandemic, available at https://youtu.be/MxpHXUYNP4A

3. The AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 Presentation to the Ford Government’s “Bioethics Table” on the Need to Protect Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must be Triaged or Rationed, available at https://youtu.be/MAigGhN5zB4

4. AODA 101 An Introduction to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, available at https://youtu.be/zrPLb3N1DBQ

We have already gotten great feedback on these videos so far. We’d welcome your feedback too! Write us at [email protected]

Please share these videos with others and encourage them to watch them. Please post links to our videos on your social media.

If you are a school teacher or a professor in a college or university, please feel free to use all or part of any of our videos in your courses. They can be helpful in courses or programs on a diverse spectrum of topics, such as law, education, health, medicine, public policy, political science, human rights, disability studies, civics, bioethics, and history.

We also invite you to learn more about the historic events of November 29, 1994 that led to the birth of the grassroots AODA movement that is as tenacious and relentless as ever 26 years later. Read a description of those historic events, set out below.!

We still have so much more to do! There have now been 666 days, or almost 22 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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, addressed in the new video we unveil today.

MORE DETAILS

EXCERPT FROM “THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – THE FIRST CHAPTER” BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.

a) The Birth of the Organized ODA Movement

The realization within Ontario’s disability community that a new law was needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth of Ontario’s organized ODA movement.

How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government’s introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.

In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the U.S. of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, sporadic voices in Ontario began discussing the idea of seeking the enactment of something called an “Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” There was little if any focused attention on what this new law would contain. It was understood from the outset that an ODA would not be a carbon copy of the ADA. For example, some parts of the ADA were already incorporated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. There was no need to replicate them again.

In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic’s all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae’s letter didn’t spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.

Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no grassroots groundswell in Ontario supporting an ODA. There was also no major grassroots political force building to push for one. This was quite similar to the fact that there was no organized grassroots disability rights movement pushing for the inclusion of disability equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1979, before the Ontario Government proposed its new disability discrimination legislation in that year. In the early 1990s, Ontario disability organizations involved in disability advocacy were primarily focused on other things, such as the NDP Ontario Government’s proposed Employment Equity Act, expected to be the first provincial legislation of its kind in Canada. That legislation, aimed at increasing the employment of persons with disabilities as well as women, racial minorities and Aboriginal persons, was on the agenda of the provincial New Democratic Party that was then in power in Ontario.

What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots ODA movement in Ontario was the decision of an NDP back-bench member of the Ontario Legislature, Gary Malkowski, to introduce into the Legislature a private member’s ODA bill in the Spring of 1994, over three years into the NDP Government’s term in office. By that time, the NDP Government had not brought forward a Government ODA bill. Malkowski decided to bring forward Bill 168, the first proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to focus public and political interest in this new issue. Malkowski was well-known as Ontario’s, and indeed North America’s, first elected parliamentarian who was deaf. Ontario’s New Democratic Party Government, then entering the final year of its term in office, allowed Malkowski’s bill to proceed to a Second Reading vote in the Ontario Legislature in June, 1994, and then to public hearings before a committee of the Ontario Legislature in November and December 1994.

In 1994, word got around various quarters in Ontario’s disability community that Malkowski had introduced this bill. Interest in it started to percolate. Malkowski met with groups in the disability community, urging them to come together to support his bill. He called for the disability community to unite in a new coalition to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A significant number of persons with disabilities turned up at the Ontario Legislature when this bill came forward for Second Reading debate in the Spring of 1994.

Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.

This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet Ministers and later with Ontario’s Premier, Bob Rae, to discuss the idea of an ODA. It successfully pressed the Government to hold public hearings on Malkowski’s ODA bill.

As 1994 progressed, Malkowski’s bill served its important purpose. It sparked the attention and interest of several players in Ontario’s disability community in the idea of an ODA. No one was then too preoccupied with the details of the contents of Malkowski’s ODA bill.

Malkowski’s bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature’s Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government’s views on Malkowski’s bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.

Much to the audience’s dismay, the Minister’s lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government’s record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience’s frustration mounted.

When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among the audience that all were invited to go to another room in Ontario’s legislative building. An informal, impromptu gathering came together to talk about taking action in support of Malkowski’s bill. Malkowski passionately urged those present to come together and to get active on this cause.

I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.

Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature’s Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski’s bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature’s Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.




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New captioned Video is Unveiled Today on Hardships People with Disabilities Face During the COVID-19 Pandemic, To Mark This Sunday, the 26th Anniversary of the Birth of Ontario’s Grassroots Movement for Disability Accessibility


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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/

New captioned Video is Unveiled Today on Hardships People with Disabilities Face During the COVID-19 Pandemic, To Mark This Sunday, the 26th Anniversary of the Birth of Ontario’s Grassroots Movement for Disability Accessibility

November 27, 2020

            SUMMARY

Happy birthday to us! This Sunday, November 29, 2020, is the 26th anniversary of the birth of Ontario’s unstoppable grassroots non-partisan movement that successfully campaigned for a decade from 1994 to 2005 to get the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act passed, and that has tenaciously campaigned since then to get the AODA effectively implemented. To mark this anniversary, we today unveil another captioned video. It is the newest addition to our large and growing collection of captioned online videos on the important subject of accessibility for people with disabilities.

This newest captioned video is entitled: “Advocating to Address the Added Hardships that COVID-19 Imposes on People with Disabilities.” For the past 8 months, the AODA Alliance has focused our advocacy efforts on the many barriers that people with disabilities are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, especially in the areas of education for students with disabilities and health care for patients with disabilities. In this one-hour talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, you can learn all about the barriers we’ve faced, the corrective actions we’ve sought, the results we’ve achieved, and the lessons to be learned from the experience of people with disabilities during this pandemic.

This new video is available online at: https://youtu.be/yB5i7cCiw68

You can read all about the issues addressed in this newest video by visiting the AODA Alliance website’s COVID-19 page.

While we’re at it, why don’t we also remind you of the three other important new captioned videos that the AODA Alliance made public over the past few weeks:

  1. Tips for Parents of Students with Disabilities on How to Advocate for Your Child’s Needs in the School system, available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TtadvCvcGC0
  1. The Threat to Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must Be Rationed or Triaged During the COVID-19 Pandemic, available at https://youtu.be/MxpHXUYNP4A
  1. The AODA Alliance’s August 31, 2020 Presentation to the Ford Government’s “Bioethics Table” on the Need to Protect Disability Rights If Critical Medical Care Must be Triaged or Rationed, available at https://youtu.be/MAigGhN5zB4
  1. AODA 101 – An Introduction to the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, available at https://youtu.be/zrPLb3N1DBQ

We have already gotten great feedback on these videos so far. We’d welcome your feedback too! Write us at [email protected]

Please share these videos with others and encourage them to watch them. Please post links to our videos on your social media.

If you are a school teacher or a professor in a college or university, please feel free to use all or part of any of our videos in your courses. They can be helpful in courses or programs on a diverse spectrum of topics, such as law, education, health, medicine, public policy, political science, human rights, disability studies, civics, bioethics, and history.

We also invite you to learn more about the historic events of November 29, 1994 that led to the birth of the grassroots AODA movement that is as tenacious and relentless as ever 26 years later. Read a description of those historic events, set out below.!

We still have so much more to do! There have now been 666 days, or almost 22 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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, addressed in the new video we unveil today.

            MORE DETAILS

EXCERPT FROM “THE LONG ARDUOUS ROAD TO A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO FOR PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES: THE HISTORY OF THE ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT – THE FIRST CHAPTER” BY DAVID LEPOFSKY, PUBLISHED IN THE NATIONAL JOURNAL OF CONSTITUTIONAL LAW, VOLUME 15.

  1. a) The Birth of the Organized ODA Movement

The realization within Ontario’s disability community that a new law was needed to tear down the barriers facing persons with disabilities did not take place all at once as the result of a single catastrophic event. Rather, it resulted slowly from a simmering, gradual process. That process led to the birth of Ontario’s organized ODA movement.

How then did the organized ODA movement get started? Most would naturally think that it is the birth of a civil rights movement that later spawns the introduction into a legislature of a new piece of civil rights legislation. Ironically in the case of the organized ODA movement, the opposite was the case. The same ironic twist had occurred 15 years before when the Ontario Coalition for Human Rights for the Handicapped formed in reaction to the Government’s introduction of a stand-alone piece of disability rights legislation.

In the early 1990s, after the enactment in the U.S. of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, sporadic voices in Ontario began discussing the idea of seeking the enactment of something called an “Ontarians with Disabilities Act.” There was little if any focused attention on what this new law would contain. It was understood from the outset that an ODA would not be a carbon copy of the ADA. For example, some parts of the ADA were already incorporated in the Ontario Human Rights Code. There was no need to replicate them again.

In the 1990 Ontario provincial election campaign (which happened to take place just days after the U.S. had enacted the Americans with Disabilities Act) NDP leader Bob Rae responded to a disability rights legal clinic’s all-party election platform questionnaire in August 1990 with a letter which, among other things, supported appropriate legislation along the lines of an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. Rae’s letter didn’t spell out what this law would include. This letter did not get serious airplay in that election campaign. It was not well-known when the NDP came from behind in the polls to win that provincial election. Because the NDP had not been expected to win, it was widely seen as campaigning on a range of election commitments that it never anticipated having the opportunity to implement.

Despite sporadic discussions among some in the early 1990s, there was no grassroots groundswell in Ontario supporting an ODA. There was also no major grassroots political force building to push for one. This was quite similar to the fact that there was no organized grassroots disability rights movement pushing for the inclusion of disability equality in the Ontario Human Rights Code in 1979, before the Ontario Government proposed its new disability discrimination legislation in that year. In the early 1990s, Ontario disability organizations involved in disability advocacy were primarily focused on other things, such as the NDP Ontario Government’s proposed Employment Equity Act, expected to be the first provincial legislation of its kind in Canada. That legislation, aimed at increasing the employment of persons with disabilities as well as women, racial minorities and Aboriginal persons, was on the agenda of the provincial New Democratic Party that was then in power in Ontario.

What ultimately led to the birth of a province-wide, organized grassroots ODA movement in Ontario was the decision of an NDP back-bench member of the Ontario Legislature, Gary Malkowski, to introduce into the Legislature a private member’s ODA bill in the Spring of 1994, over three years into the NDP Government’s term in office. By that time, the NDP Government had not brought forward a Government ODA bill. Malkowski decided to bring forward Bill 168, the first proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act, to focus public and political interest in this new issue. Malkowski was well-known as Ontario’s, and indeed North America’s, first elected parliamentarian who was deaf. Ontario’s New Democratic Party Government, then entering the final year of its term in office, allowed Malkowski’s bill to proceed to a Second Reading vote in the Ontario Legislature in June, 1994, and then to public hearings before a committee of the Ontario Legislature in November and December 1994.

In 1994, word got around various quarters in Ontario’s disability community that Malkowski had introduced this bill. Interest in it started to percolate. Malkowski met with groups in the disability community, urging them to come together to support his bill. He called for the disability community to unite in a new coalition to support an Ontarians with Disabilities Act. A significant number of persons with disabilities turned up at the Ontario Legislature when this bill came forward for Second Reading debate in the Spring of 1994.

Over the spring, summer and fall months of 1994, around the same time as Malkowski was coming forward with his ODA bill, some of the beginnings of the organized ODA movement were also simmering within an organization of Ontario Government employees with disabilities. Under the governing NDP, the Ontario Government had set up an “Advisory Group” of provincial public servants with disabilities to advise it on measures to achieve equality for persons with disabilities in the Ontario Public Service. In the Spring of 1994, this Advisory Group set as one of its priorities working within the machinery of the Ontario Government to promote the idea of an ODA.

This public service Advisory Group met with several provincial Cabinet Ministers and later with Ontario’s Premier, Bob Rae, to discuss the idea of an ODA. It successfully pressed the Government to hold public hearings on Malkowski’s ODA bill.

As 1994 progressed, Malkowski’s bill served its important purpose. It sparked the attention and interest of several players in Ontario’s disability community in the idea of an ODA. No one was then too preoccupied with the details of the contents of Malkowski’s ODA bill.

Malkowski’s bill had an even more decisive effect on November 29, 1994, when it first came before the Legislature’s Standing Committee for debate and public hearings. On that date, NDP Citizenship Minister Elaine Ziemba was asked to make a presentation to the Committee on the Government’s views on Malkowski’s bill. She was called upon to do this before community groups would be called on to start making presentations to the legislative committee. The hearing room was packed with persons with disabilities, eager to hear what the Minister would have to say.

Much to the audience’s dismay, the Minister’s lengthy speech said little if anything about the bill. She focused instead on the Government’s record on other disability issues. The temperature in the room elevated as the audience’s frustration mounted.

When the committee session ended for the day, word quickly spread among the audience that all were invited to go to another room in Ontario’s legislative building. An informal, impromptu gathering came together to talk about taking action in support of Malkowski’s bill. Malkowski passionately urged those present to come together and to get active on this cause.

I was one of the 20 or so people who made their way into that room. In an informal meeting that lasted about an hour, it was unanimously decided to form a new coalition to fight for a strong and effective Ontarians with Disabilities Act. There was no debate over the content of such legislation at that meeting. However, there was a strong and united realization that new legislation was desperately needed, and that a new coalition needed to be formed to fight for it. This coalition did not spawn the first ODA bill. Rather, the first ODA bill had spawned this coalition.

Days later, in December 1994, the Legislature’s Standing Committee held two full days of hearings into Malkowski’s bill. A significant number of organizations, including disability community organizations, appeared before the Legislature’s Standing Committee to submit briefs and make presentations on the need for new legislation in this area. Among the groups that made presentations was the Ontario Public Service Disability Advisory Group which had pressed for these hearings to be held. Its brief later served as a core basis for briefs and positions that would be presented by the brand-new Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee.



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Taking a Few Moments to Reflect Back Today on Some Important Milestones in the Campaign for Accessibility for People with Disabilities


Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance Update

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/

Taking a Few Moments to Reflect Back Today on Some Important Milestones in the Campaign for Accessibility for People with Disabilities

October 29, 2020

          SUMMARY

While the COVID-19 pandemic is still swirling around us, it would be nice to take a moment to reflect back on important events in the decades-long campaign for accessibility and inclusion for people with disabilities in our society.

 1. Today is the 22nd Anniversary of the Ontario Legislature’s Unanimous Resolution, Calling for Strong Disability Accessibility Legislation

Twenty-two years ago today, our relentless grass roots disability advocacy paid off, with long term consequences for 2.6 million Ontarians with disabilities!

On October 29, 1998, when the Conservative Government of Premier Mike Harris was in power, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee (the predecessor to the AODA Alliance) got the Ontario Legislature to unanimously pass an historic resolution. We set it out below. It called for the enactment of a provincial disability accessibility law that puts into effect the 11 principles that grass roots disability advocates had formulated.

The events of that dramatic day are summarized in a three-page excerpt, set out below, from AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky’s detailed article that summarizes the Disabilities Act movement’s history from 1994 to 2003. To read the debates in the Ontario Legislature on October 29, 1998, leading to the passage of this resolution, visit http://www.odacommittee.net/hansard18.html

Over two decades later, we still measure the legislation we’ve won, the McGuinty Government’s Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2005, against the 11 principles the Ontario Legislature adopted on October 29, 1998. We also continue to measure any accessibility standards and other actions taken under the AODA 2005 against the 11 bedrock principles which the Ontario Legislature adopted on that historic day.

Learn more about the ODA Committee’s campaign that led to the enactment of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act in 2005.

Learn more about the AODA Alliance’s campaign since 2005 to get the AODA effectively implemented and enforced.

 2. 40 years Ago, A Fight to Get Equality for People with Disabilities Included in the Forthcoming Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

Forty years ago this month, during the fall of 1980, Canada’s Parliament was debating whether to add the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms to Canada’s Constitution, and to bring our Constitution home from the UK. The proposed Charter of Rights that was before Parliament included a guarantee of equality rights in its section 15. However that provision did not include equality for people with disabilities.

Over the 1980 fall and early 1981 winter, advocacy from the disability community led Parliament to amend the Charter of Rights before it was adopted, to include equality for people with disabilities. That was the only right that was added to the Charter of Rights during that debate in Parliament.

We will have more to say about those historic events later this fall. In the meantime, if you would like to learn more about the battle to get disability equality included in the Charter of Rights, check out a captioned online talk by AODA Alliance Chair David Lepofsky, telling the story. That video is available at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XrYzAAKXOrc

There have now been 637 days, or 21 months, since the Ford Government received the ground-breaking 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.

          MORE DETAILS

RESOLUTION UNANIMOUSLY PASSED BY THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE OCTOBER 29, 1998

In the opinion of this House, since persons with disabilities in Ontario face systemic barriers in access to employment, services, goods, facilities and accommodation;

and since all Ontarians will benefit from the removal of these barriers, thereby enabling these persons to enjoy equal opportunity and full participation in the life of the province;

And since Premier Harris promised in writing during the last election in the letter from Michael D. Harris to the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee dated May 24, 1995 to:

  1. a) enact an Ontarians with Disabilities Act within its current term of office; and
  1. b) work together with members of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act Committee, amongst others, in the development of such legislation.

and since this House unanimously passed a resolution on May 16, 1996 calling on the Ontario Government to keep this promise,

Therefore this House resolves that the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should embody the following principles:

  1. The purpose of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should be to effectively ensure to persons with disabilities in Ontario the equal opportunity to fully and meaningfully participate in all aspects of life in Ontario based on their individual merit, by removing existing barriers confronting them and by preventing the creation of new barriers. It should seek to achieve a barrier- free Ontario for persons with disabilities within as short a time as is reasonably possible, with implementation to begin immediately upon proclamation.
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act’s requirements should supersede all other legislation, regulations or policies which either conflict with it, or which provide lesser protections and entitlements to persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require government entities, public premises, companies and organizations to be made fully accessible to all persons with disabilities through the removal of existing barriers and the prevention of the creation of new barriers, within strict time frames to be prescribed in the legislation or regulations;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the providers of goods, services and facilities to the public to ensure that their goods, services and facilities are fully usable by persons with disabilities, and that they are designed to reasonably accommodate the needs of persons with disabilities. Included among services, goods and facilities, among other things, are all aspects of education including primary, secondary and post-secondary education, as well as providers of transportation and communication facilities (to the extent that Ontario can regulate these) and public sector providers of information to the public e.g. governments. Providers of these goods, services and facilities should be required to devise and implement detailed plans to remove existing barriers within legislated timetables;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require public and private sector employers to take proactive steps to achieve barrier-free workplaces within prescribed time limits. Among other things, employers should be required to identify existing barriers which impede persons with disabilities, and then to devise and implement plans for the removal of these barriers, and for the prevention of new barriers in the workplace;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a prompt and effective process for enforcement. It should not simply incorporate the existing procedures for filing discrimination complaints with the Ontario Human Rights Commission, as these are too slow and cumbersome, and yield inadequate remedies;
  1. As part of its enforcement process, the Ontarians with Disabilities Act should provide for a process of regulation- making to define with clarity the steps required for compliance with the Ontarians with Disabilities Act. It should be open for such regulations to be made on an industry-by-industry basis, or sector-by-sector basis. This should include a requirement that input be obtained from affected groups such as persons with disabilities before such regulations are enacted. It should also provide persons with disabilities with the opportunity to apply to have regulations made in specific sectors of the economy;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also mandate the Government of Ontario to provide education and other information resources to companies, individuals and groups who seek to comply with the requirements of the Ontarians with Disabilities Act;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should also require the Government of Ontario to take affirmative steps to promote the development and distribution in Ontario of new adaptive technologies and services for persons with disabilities;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act should require the provincial and municipal governments to make it a strict condition of funding any program, or of purchasing any services, goods or facilities, that they be designed to be fully accessible to and usable by persons with disabilities. Any grant or contract which does not so provide is void and unenforceable by the grant- recipient or contractor with the government in question;
  1. The Ontarians with Disabilities Act must be more than mere window dressing. It should contribute meaningfully to the improvement of the position of persons with disabilities in Ontario. It must have real force and effect.

 Excerpt from The Long, Arduous Road To A Barrier-Free Ontario For People With Disabilities: The History Of The Ontarians with Disabilities Act — The First Chapter

(2004, 15 National Journal of Constitutional Law)

By David Lepofsky

8)         FALL 1998: THE ONTARIO LEGISLATURE DECLARES WHAT THE ODA MUST INCLUDE AND THE GOVERNMENT BRINGS FORWARD ITS FIRST ODA BILL

  1. a) Enshrining The ODA Yardstick – The Legislature’s Second ODA Resolution Adopts Our Eleven Principles

Perhaps the most significant milestone in the first chapter of our campaign came in October 1998. In the Fall of 1998, after the Government’s 1998 ODA closed consultations ended, we turned our attention to a next big challenge. A Government ODA bill could come at any time. We had no reason to expect that the Government would forewarn us of the date when it would introduce an ODA bill into the Legislature. The Government hadn’t forewarned us of the July 1998 release of its ODA discussion paper.

We wanted to publicly set a clear benchmark or yardstick against which any Government’s ODA bill could be measured. We had no reason to expect that a Government ODA bill would be any better than its weak policy framework in its ODA discussion paper.

Early in the Fall of 1998, we were approached by Liberal Windsor MPP Dwight Duncan. Until then, Hamilton Liberal MPP Dominic Agostino had been the lead Liberal MPP championing the ODA in the Legislature. Agostino had announced at one of our news conferences that his father had been an injured worker. From this, he well understood the barriers persons with disabilities faced. He had brought a personal passion to the ODA issue.

Mr. Duncan told us he wanted to introduce a private member’s ODA bill in the Legislature for us. We welcomed his support. However, we were still very reluctant to put massive work into researching and drafting a private member’s bill, for the reasons discussed earlier. We also feared that the Government could skilfully focus a barrage of criticism on some minor, distracting target in a bill that we would crank out, such as some obscure inconsequential wording problem. It could thereby transform a red herring into the central public issue. This could drag us off our message.

Accordingly we asked Duncan to instead introduce another private member’s ODA resolution into the Legislature. This tactic had worked so well for us in May 1996, when NDP MPP Marion Boyd had successfully brought forward the first ODA resolution to the Legislature. If Duncan were to bring forward another ODA resolution, this could help increase the Liberal Party’s support for the ODA. It was very important for our coalition to be, and to be seen as non-partisan. Rotating our activities among both opposition parties helped us achieve this.

Duncan was open to our idea. We then had to decide what this second ODA resolution should say. It needn’t replicate the first ODA resolution. That had called on the Ontario Government to keep its 1995 ODA election promise. We again didn’t want the resolution to be a partisan attack on the Conservative Government. As in 1996, we didn’t want to give the Government an easy excuse to use its majority in the Legislature to defeat this resolution.

We came up with an idea which would move the ODA cause forward, and which would put all of the political parties to the test. We proposed to Duncan that his resolution call on the Ontario Legislature to pass an ODA which complies with our 11 principles. A legislative debate over those principles took the ODA discussion far beyond the realm of just discussing in the abstract whether a law called the ODA should be passed. Such a resolution would make the parties either vote for or against our core principles on what that legislation should contain.

Dwight Duncan agreed to introduce the resolution we proposed. He also secured the Liberal Party’s support for the resolution. The NDP also notified us that it would support the resolution. We did not know whether the Conservatives, who commanded a majority of votes in the Legislature, would support it. We had no reason in advance for any optimism.

The resolution was scheduled for a debate and vote in the Legislature on October 29, 1998. This was one week after our meeting with Citizenship Minister Bassett, where we had been treated to the overhead slide show. The date for the resolution’s debate and vote also came a mere two days before Hallowe’en. Carole Riback, an inspired and inspiring ODA activist, dreamt up a clever Hallowe’en slogan around which we rallied. This resolution vote raised the question: “Would the ODA be a trick or treat?”

In Fall 1998, the ODA movement made its main focus getting this resolution passed. We urged ODA supporters to lobby MPPs from all three parties to vote for it. We also urged them to go to their local media to publicize this issue. We were learning more and more that the ODA movement was increasingly effective when it channelled its energies over a period of weeks on one concrete short-term goal.

The ODA Committee again quickly pulled together a major event at the legislative building at Queen’s Park for the morning of the resolution’s debate and vote. ODA supporters came to the legislative building and met in committee rooms. We planned to break into small teams to each go to MPPs’ offices, door to door, to “trick or treat,” canvassing them for their support on the resolution.

All hurried planning for this event went well, until we were contacted the night before by the office of the Speaker of the Legislature. It confronted us with a huge problem. The Speaker would not let us go to any MPP’s office unless we had a prior appointment. We were told that there is a blanket rule that provides that no one can get near the MPPs’ offices without an invitation. We were threatened with all being refused admittance to the legislative building. Since the Conservatives had taken power in 1995, Queen’s Park building security had increased extraordinarily.

This threatened to eviscerate our plans. We explained to the Speaker’s office that we planned an informal door-to-door canvass. It was impossible for us at that late hour to call then, the very night before our event, to try to book meetings with each MPP. We feared that if asked, Conservative MPPs would not agree to meet with us. They had refused to come to most of our prior events, and had so often resisted meeting our supporters in their local communities. If we could even get through to their offices at that late hour (which was unlikely), we would likely be told that appointments cannot be booked on such short notice.

We hurriedly negotiated a solution with the Speaker’s office. Small groups of our supporters could go to MPPs’ offices without a prior appointment, if each group was escorted by one Queen’s Park security officer, one MPP staffer, and one ODA committee representative. We had to agree to immediately recall all groups if any complaints about their conduct were received.

Having removed this last-minute roadblock, October 29, 1998 was a dramatic day. We had no idea in advance whether the resolution would pass. The Conservative majority held the power to decide this. Our teams carried out their door-to-door trick or treat canvass without any complaint.

One group was larger than authorized. We persuaded the Queen’s Park security staff not to complain. That group was composed entirely of deaf people. They made no noise, and needed our sign language interpreters. Queen’s Park security officials who travelled with our teams seemed to be enjoying the process.

An ODA supporter on one of our “trick or treat” teams reported that a Conservative MPP happened to be quickly leaving his office as the ODA team approached. The MPP called out that he had no time to meet, but he would vote for us, whatever it was we wanted him to vote for. While behind a glass door, another Conservative MPP turned to a staff member and mouthed that he did not know what the Ontarians with Disabilities Act was all about. That MPP hadn’t foreseen that among those on the other side of the glass door was a hard-of-hearing ODA supporter who can read lips.

The trick or treat teams finished their tours of MPPs’ offices. They then converged in Queen’s Park legislative committee rooms to watch the MPPs debate Dwight Duncan’s resolution in the Legislature, again on video monitors. We again brought our own sign language interpretation. As in the past, the Legislature’s public galleries remained almost totally inaccessible to persons with mobility disabilities.

During the debate in the Legislature, Liberal and NDP MPPs predictably spoke in favour of the resolution. The governing Conservative MPPs boasted of their Government’s record, and sounded as if they would vote against the resolution. However, when the vote came, our second ODA resolution in the Ontario Legislature passed unanimously.

Immediately afterward, we held a triumphant news conference at the Queen’s Park media studio. Both opposition parties had MPPs in attendance. The Government again declined our invitation to participate.

As another important step forward for us, the new Liberal leader, Dalton McGuinty attended our news conference. He announced on the record that if his party were elected, they would commit to passing an ODA which complies with Dwight Duncan’s resolution.44

Later that day Citizenship Minister Bassett was asked in Question Period whether her Government would honour the resolution that the Legislature had unanimously passed that morning. Minister Bassett had not attended the debate in the Legislature that morning when the resolution was under consideration, even though it directly related to legislation for which she had lead responsibility for the Government. In her evasive answer to the opposition’s question put to her in Question Period that afternoon, Minister Bassett condemned the resolution as calling for job hiring quotas.

It was self-evident from the resolution’s text that it did not call for job hiring quotas or even hint at them. When we realized that the Government was going to use the hot-button “job quotas” accusation to try to whip up public opposition against us, we immediately launched a province-wide letter-writing campaign addressed directly to Minister Bassett and Premier Harris. We proclaimed that we sought no job hiring quotas. We called on the Government to desist in their inaccurate claims. Within a short time, Minister Bassett candidly conceded on a CBC radio interview that we were not seeking quotas. The Government thereafter dropped that tactic.

The Legislature’s passage of Dwight Duncan’s October 29, 1998 resolution was likely the most critical victory for the ODA movement in its history to that date. From then on, we no longer referred to the 11 principles as simply “the ODA Committee’s 11 principles for the ODA.” From then on we could, and did point to them as “the 11 principles for the ODA which the Ontario Legislature unanimously approved by a resolution on October 29, 1998.” We were indebted to Duncan for spearheading this resolution in a non-partisan way. His resolution served to become the yardstick by which any future legislation would be tested. It was also the catalyst that brought the Liberal and New Democratic Parties officially on the record in support of our 11 principles for the ODA. Both parties would go on to campaign for these 11 principles in the 1999 and 2003 provincial elections, and would actively press the Conservative Government to live up to them.

In the end, October 29, 1998 was a decisive, indeed towering milestone on the road to a barrier-free Ontario. Ironically, we got no media coverage that day, despite our best efforts. This cannot be explained on the basis that this story wasn’t newsworthy. The story had all the hallmarks of newsworthiness. We have learned that this is an unfortunate fact of community advocacy life. It did not deter our tenacity.

44 This was Mr. McGuinty’s first public commitment to this effect. Of great importance to the as-yet unwritten second chapter of the ODA saga, five years later, Mr. McGuinty would be elected Premier of Ontario in the October 2, 2003 provincial election. His 2003 election platform included a pledge to fulfil the commitment he first gave at our news conference on October 29, 1998.



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11am Eastern Today, Grassroots Virtual Town Hall Will Give Anxious Parents of One Third of a Million Ontario Students with Disabilities Practical Tips to Prepare for School Re-Openings


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE
ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

News Release For Immediate Release

August 21, 2020 Toronto: Today at 11am Eastern, a grassroots Virtual Town Hall will be held online to give deeply worried parents of one third of a million students with disabilities practical tips on what to do to prepare for and cope with the impending re-opening of Ontario schools, in the absence of a much-needed comprehensive provincial plan to ensure that students with disabilities are fully and safely included in re-opened schools. This event will have simultaneous captioning and American Sign Language interpretation.

COVID-19 hardships disproportionately fell on students with disabilities and their families while schools were closed last spring. What can parents of students with disabilities do now to prepare for the fast-approaching school re-opening? What should they be asking their school boards? What should they be telling their school boards? What can they do if their child is not being fully and safely included in school programming, whether in-person in the classroom or distance learning?

We’ll tackle these questions today from 11 am to noon. Log in to https://www.youtube.com/c/OntarioAutismCoalition and wait for the event’s live link to appear. The media is free to broadcast any clips from this town hall.

Speaking will be three experts with extensive experience advocating for students with disabilities :

1. Laura Kirby-McIntosh, high school teacher and president of the Ontario Autism Coalition. Among her many advocacy activities, last year she sat on the Ontario Government’s panel giving advice on reforming the Ontario Autism Program.

2. David Lepofsky, retired lawyer, part-time visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, and chair of the AODA Alliance. He is also a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board. He is a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and a member of its COVID-19 subcommittee.

3. Robert Lattanzio, lawyer and executive director of the ARCH Disability Law Centre. He and ARCH have done extensive work providing legal advice and representation to students with disabilities and their families.

“All parents are worried about school re-opening, but parents of students with disabilities are especially anxious about whether their children’s needs will get lost in the chaos that we’re expecting,” Said Laura Kirby-McIntosh.

“The Ford Government has announced no comprehensive plan for ensuring that one third of a million students with disabilities one out of every six students, will be fully and safely included in school this fall, even though we’ve been asking the Government for months to come up with a plan and have been offering constructive suggestions. The Ford Government can’t once again just leave it to each school board to try to figure this out, while scrambling in the midst of a global pandemic,” said David Lepofsky.

This is the third OAC/ AODA Alliance virtual town hall to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Taken together, the first two virtual town halls have been viewed thousands of times.

For further information, please contact:
David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance
Laura Kirby-McIntosh President Ontario Autism Coalition [email protected] 416-315-7939 www.ontarioautismcoalition.com Twitter @OntAutism

For more background check out:
The first OAC/ AODA Alliance virtual town hall, held on April 7, 2020 surveying the major issues facing people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

The second OAC/AODA Alliance virtual town hall, held on May 4, 2020, exploring strategies for teaching students with disabilities during distance learning.

The Ontario Autism Coalition web page, setting out its advocacy efforts for people with autism.

The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, describing its advocacy efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ARCH Disability Law Centre’s website.




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11am Eastern Today, Grassroots Virtual Town Hall Will Give Anxious Parents of One Third of a Million Ontario Students with Disabilities Practical Tips to Prepare for School Re-Openings


ACCESSIBILITY FOR ONTARIANS WITH DISABILITIES ACT ALLIANCE

ONTARIO AUTISM COALITION

 

News Release  For Immediate Release

11am Eastern Today, Grassroots Virtual Town Hall Will Give Anxious Parents of One Third of a Million Ontario Students with Disabilities Practical Tips to Prepare for School Re-Openings

August 21, 2020 Toronto: Today at 11am Eastern, a grassroots Virtual Town Hall will be held online to give deeply worried parents of one third of a million students with disabilities practical tips on what to do to prepare for and cope with the impending re-opening of Ontario schools, in the absence of a much-needed comprehensive provincial plan to ensure that students with disabilities are fully and safely included in re-opened schools. This event will have simultaneous captioning and American Sign Language interpretation.

COVID-19 hardships disproportionately fell on students with disabilities and their families while schools were closed last spring. What can parents of students with disabilities do now to prepare for the fast-approaching school re-opening? What should they be asking their school boards? What should they be telling their school boards? What can they do if their child is not being fully and safely included in school programming, whether in-person in the classroom or distance learning?

We’ll tackle these questions today from 11 am to noon. Log in to https://www.youtube.com/c/OntarioAutismCoalition and wait for the event’s live link to appear. The media is free to broadcast any clips from this town hall.

Speaking will be three experts with extensive experience advocating for students with disabilities :

  1. Laura Kirby-McIntosh, high school teacher and president of the Ontario Autism Coalition. Among her many advocacy activities, last year she sat on the Ontario Government’s panel giving advice on reforming the Ontario Autism Program.
  1. David Lepofsky, retired lawyer, part-time visiting professor at the Osgoode Hall Law School, and chair of the AODA Alliance. He is also a member and past chair of the Special Education Advisory Committee of the Toronto District School Board. He is a member of the Government-appointed K-12 Education Standards Development Committee, and a member of its COVID-19 subcommittee.
  1. Robert Lattanzio, lawyer and executive director of the ARCH Disability Law Centre. He and ARCH have done extensive work providing legal advice and representation to students with disabilities and their families.

“All parents are worried about school re-opening, but parents of students with disabilities are especially anxious about whether their children’s needs will get lost in the chaos that we’re expecting,” Said Laura Kirby-McIntosh.

“The Ford Government has announced no comprehensive plan for ensuring that one third of a million students with disabilities one out of every six students, will be fully and safely included in school this fall, even though we’ve been asking the Government for months to come up with a plan and have been offering constructive suggestions. The Ford Government can’t once again just leave it to each school board to try to figure this out, while scrambling in the midst of a global pandemic,” said David Lepofsky.

This is the third OAC/ AODA Alliance virtual town hall to address the needs of people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis. Taken together, the first two virtual town halls have been viewed thousands of times.

For further information, please contact:

David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance, [email protected] Twitter: @aodaalliance

Laura Kirby-McIntosh President Ontario Autism Coalition [email protected]

416-315-7939 www.ontarioautismcoalition.com Twitter @OntAutism

For more background check out:

The first OAC/ AODA Alliance virtual town hall, held on April 7, 2020 surveying the major issues facing people with disabilities during the COVID-19 crisis.

The second OAC/AODA Alliance virtual town hall, held on May 4, 2020, exploring strategies for teaching students with disabilities during distance learning.

The Ontario Autism Coalition web page, setting out its advocacy efforts for people with autism.

The AODA Alliance’s COVID-19 web page, describing its advocacy efforts during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The ARCH Disability Law Centre’s website.



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