Advocates Say Change In Commission's Role Would Weaken Their
By Dave Reynolds, Inclusion Daily Express
March 17, 2006
TORONTO, ONTARIO--Twenty-four years ago, Ontarians with disabilities won the right to be free from discrimination based on physical or mental disability in employment, housing and the delivery of goods and services. They also won the right to bring their discrimination complaints before the province's Human Rights Commission, a public law enforcement agency with the power to investigate such complaints.
Now, some disability rights advocates are accusing Premier Dalton McGuinty of trying to take power away from individuals with disabilities by forcing those with discrimination concerns to bypass the overworked commission and go directly to the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. The change, announced three weeks ago, would change the commission's role of handling individual cases to one of dealing with broader, more system-wide issues.
"The government's plan is wrong," Catherine Dunphy, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance, told the Toronto Star on Thursday. "It would force discrimination victims like persons with disabilities to investigate their own complaints,"
"How many organizations will voluntarily co-operate with such investigations? Not many."
Dunphy told the Globe and Mail that the change, which would include some legal assistance for complainants, simply "creates the illusion of swifter justice" and would "actually make things worse, not better."
Former MP Gary Malkowski, the first elected deaf lawmaker in North America, said through a sign-language interpreter: "The government shouldn't force vulnerable discrimination victims to shoulder the steep cost of hiring a lawyer to fight their case. Under-funded legal aid can't pick up the pieces, especially for the many who don't qualify for it."
"Disabilities group criticizes rights plan" (Globe and Mail)
"Activists for disabled decry move by province" (The Star)