AODA Alliance

AODA Alliance

July 02, 2008 11:00 ET

AODA Alliance: Human Rights Advocates Urge McGuinty to Keep Commitments on new Human Rights Process-But Revealed Internal Government Documents Show this Dubious

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(Marketwire - July 2, 2008) - At today's Queens Park news conference, human rights advocates listed Government pledges on Bill 107, launched this week. They questioned if these promises CAN be kept, based on internal government documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act, revealed today.

Bill 107 privatizes human rights enforcement. It strips from discrimination victims the right to have the Human Rights Commission investigate discrimination cases, and to publicly prosecute IF there's enough proof. It makes discrimination victims investigate and prosecute their case.

"We're promised that every discrimination claimant will get a hearing at the Human Rights Tribunal within a year of filing a complaint, and free independent counsel to take their case through the Human Rights Tribunal," said Avvy Go, Director of the Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic. "With staffing levels revealed in internal government documents, it's difficult to see how they'll do that for the 3,000 cases the Human Rights Tribunal expects each year, plus advising the 60,000 inquiries the Human Rights Commission used to get annually."

"We've been told McGuinty's new Human Rights Legal Support Centre will investigate their clients' cases, pay for expert witnesses they need, and meet with everyone who asks for legal representation," said David Lepofsky, of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance. "But that Centre recently couldn't tell us how many hearings they can annually handle. They conceded they will turn away cases if they think they 'lack merit.' That's what Bill 107's proponents criticized the Human Rights Commission for doing."

"The Government promised a stronger, more effective Human Rights Commission, taking public interest cases to the Human Rights Tribunal. They promised to fortify the Commission with new Anti-Racism and Disability Rights Secretariats," said Prof. Lorne Foster of York University's School of Public Policy. "Yet we're releasing internal documents showing the Human Rights Commission plans to lay off up to half its lawyers, and will only have a paltry three investigators to hunt down systemic discrimination across Ontario. We can't find the promised Secretariats."

Lepofsky, Go and Foster want the new system to work despite these ominous signs. They urge discrimination victims to actively use the new system, to call the Human Rights Legal Support Centre to ask for the promised free lawyer. Toll Free: 1-866-625-5179. They ask discrimination victims to email to say if they got the McGuinty Government's promised free human rights lawyer to represent them at the Tribunal: didyougetahumanrightslawyer@rogers.com They urge the media and public to monitor to see if the Government keeps its commitments.

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