November 21, 2011
The McGuinty Government recently wrote a letter to a prominent Toronto human rights activist, to respond to complaints about the Government’s choice of whom to conduct the mandatory Independent Review of Bill 107. Its letter essentially ducks the complaint.
We coincidentally bring you this news on the anniversary of two troubling events in our campaign for a barrier-free Ontario. One occurred five years ago today. The other occurred ten years ago today. In both, successive Ontario Governments used a majority to cut short public legislative debates on an issue of great importance to us.
1. The Bill 107 Independent Review and the McGuinty Government’s Response to Community Concerns
The McGuinty Government passed Bill 107 in 2006 to privatize the enforcement of human rights. Under Bill 107, discrimination victims in Ontario must investigate their own discrimination complaints and privately prosecute them at the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. Before Bill 107 went into effect on June 30, 2008, a person complaining of discrimination could file a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Commission. The commission was required to publicly investigate any human rights complaint that wasn’t frivolous. It was required to publicly prosecute a case if the evidence warrants it, and the case isn’t voluntarily settled. Bill 107 terminated the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s role as the lead public investigator and public prosecutor of individual human rights complaints.
In 2006, we vigorously opposed Bill 107. We said it was a major setback for persons with disabilities who face too many discriminatory barriers in our society. The McGuinty Government ignored most of our concerns.
The only noteworthy improvement we won to Bill 107 back in 2006 was a strengthened requirement for an Independent Review of the bill after four years. We hoped that this Independent Review would provide an objective, fair appraisal of whether Bill 107 made things better or worse for persons with disabilities and others who can face discrimination in access to goods, services, facilities and jobs.
On August 18, 2011, prominent Toronto lawyer Avvy Go, director of the Metro Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic, wrote the McGuinty Government. In comments that we have endorsed, she objected to the McGuinty Government’s August 12, 2011 appointment of Toronto lawyer Andrew Pinto to conduct this Independent Review. Ms. Go accepted Mr. Pinto’s knowledge of human rights. However, she correctly pointed out that Mr. Pinto is not a neutral, independent and impartial person vis à vis Bill 107.
In 2006, Mr. Pinto was a vocal proponent of the bill, and a strong opponent to the AODA Alliance’s position on the bill. You can read more about this issue, and Ms. Go’s August 18, 2011 letter to the McGuinty Government by visiting http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/08292011.asp
Here is the latest development in this unfortunate chain of events. In its September 6, 2011 response to Ms. Go, set out below, the McGuinty Government palpably ducked the serious concerns that Ms. Go had raised. All its September 6, 2011 letter says in response to Ms. Go’s detailed concerns is that Mr. Pinto has a strong background in human rights and is independent of Government. This letter states: “I have every confidence that he will do so with the highest personal and professional integrity, independently of government.”
The McGuinty Government’s letter doesn’t explain how, for example, supporters of the AODA Alliance are to present their concerns about Bill 107 to a person who so passionately, tenaciously, aggressively, skilfully and successfully opposed us and our concerns in 2006. Back in 2006, for example, Mr. Pinto came uninvited to our Queen’s Park news conference, at which we made public our concerns about Bill 107. He used that opportunity to argue against our position to reporters in attendance.
2. Anniversary of a Dark Day in Recent Ontario Legislature History
We bring you this update on the anniversary of two especially troubling events in our campaign for a barrier-free Ontario for all persons with disabilities.
First, it was five years ago today that the McGuinty Liberal Government took the widely-criticized step of using its majority in the Legislature to shut down further public hearings on Bill 107 that the Government had earlier promised, advertised and scheduled. The AODA Alliance was one of the many community organizations that had lined up for public hearings, and had gotten a date set for a public presentation at the legislative hearings, only to have it cancelled by the McGuinty Government’s controversial closure motion.
The Government imposed this closure motion because public criticism of Bill 107 was steadily mounting at the public hearings. To read more about this closure motion, visit: http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/update-112206.asp
And more media reporting on it, set out at http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/update-112806.asp
Second, it was a cruel irony that ten years ago today, the previous Conservative Government under Premier Mike Harris also invoked closure against our community. On November 21, 2001, the Harris Government used closure to impose time limits on public hearings and legislative debates on the proposed Ontarians with Disabilities Act 2001. We had campaigned for years for a Disabilities Act, but were let down by the weak bill that the Harris Government brought forward.
The McGuinty Liberals, then in opposition, railed against the Harris Conservatives for using a closure motion to curtail legislative debates on a bill that was so important to our community. For more on this, visit http://www.aodaalliance.org/reform/update-112706.asp
3. We Forge Ahead Nevertheless
Despite our serious concerns about the Bill 107 Independent Review, we nevertheless tenaciously move forward.
* We have written to Mr. Pinto, to find out how he plans to conduct this Independent Review and to urge him to hold public hearings. He has had over three months to plan for this Independent Review. Our November 17, 2011 letter to him is available at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11172011.asp
* On November 14, 2011, we wrote to the Ontario Human Rights Commission, the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal and the Ontario Human Rights Legal Support Centre. We asked each to disclose detailed information on their caseload and activities since Bill 107 went into effect. You can see those requests at http://www.aodaalliance.org/strong-effective-aoda/11152011.asp
Please write to Andrew Pinto and the three human rights agencies. Endorse our requests of them. You can use their contact information provided in our two most recent updates, for which links are provided above. In our earlier updates, we did not have an email address you can use for the Ontario Human Rights Commission. We have since been told that you can email the Commission at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Send us your feedback. We welcome your thoughts. Write to us at email@example.com
720 Bay Street, 11th Floor
Toronto ON M7A 259
SEP 06 2011
Our Reference It: M11-05713
Avvy Yao-Yao Go
Metro Toronto Chinese & Southeast Asian Legal Clinic
180 Dundas Street West, Suite 1701
Toronto, ON M5G 1Z8
Dear Ms. Go:
Thank you for your letter regarding the recent appointment of Andrew Pinto.
Ontario is built upon principles of inclusion and diversity, and those values are reflected in our Human Rights system. While some have advocated for diminishing or abandoning protections under our human rights system, our government’s approach reflects a commitment to build and strengthen the human rights foundations of our province.
I am very pleased to have recently appointed Mr. Pinto to conduct the review of the implementation and effectiveness of the amendments that took effect in 2008. As you have noted, Mr. Pinto is a highly respected practising lawyer with recognized expertise in human rights and employment law. Mr. Pinto brings a wealth of experience to this role, including having represented both applicants and respondents in human rights matters before and after the amendments took effect. In short, Mr. Pinto’s credentials are outstanding, and he is exceptionally qualified to undertake this review. I have every confidence that he will do so with the highest personal and professional integrity, independently of government.
I encourage you to contact Mr. Pinto if you have questions or comments regarding the review. Information about the review can be found at the website: www.ontariohumanrightsreview.org.
Thank you again for writing.
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UNITED FOR A BARRIER-FREE ONTARIO