April 6, 2016
Hon. Liz Sandals
Minister of Education
900 Bay St
Toronto ON M7A1L2
I write in regard to your Ministry’s current consultation involving certain provincial and demonstration schools for students with disabilities.
Under Ontario’s Human Rights Code, students with disabilities have a right to be free from discrimination. This includes the duty to accommodate students’ disability related needs. That duty also covers the accommodation process and everyone involved.
As you may be aware, more than ten years ago the OHRC undertook a review of barriers that students with disabilities face in accessing education. The OHRC produced a report with recommendations and a guideline interpreting the Code on various issues including integrated and segregated accommodations.
The OHRC also intervened before the Supreme Court of Canada in Moore v. British Columbia (Education), a case involving a similar matter. The Court upheld a finding of discrimination after a school district failed to consider the consequences of closing a centre that provided services to students with severe learning disabilities, or to plan for alternate accommodations.
Today we are still hearing concerns about the lack of supports and specialized programming in community schools especially if provincial schools were to close. In the second independent legislative review of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act, Mayo Moran reported that students with disabilities continue to face barriers throughout the system and groups like the AODA Alliance are calling for new standards. Recognizing education as a vital priority area, Ms. Moran recommended that the Ministry of Education undertake a process, with oversight by the AODA’s Accessibility Standards Advisory Council, to identify barriers and solutions as quickly as possible.
The OHRC agrees that addressing barriers across the education system is a priority. As we found, the dispute resolution mechanisms that exist to deal with accommodation issues are often ineffective, causing students to lose time in school, and cases continue to end up at the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario. The ARCH Disability Law Centre has also reported on the limitations of the current legislative framework.
I understand that the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth is looking into some of the concerns raised under their power to "informally advocate" for the students at Ontario's provincial schools.
The OHRC would be pleased to offer assistance for interpreting obligations under the Code in regard to provincial and demonstration schools and other issues students with disabilities face in Ontario’s education system.
ORIGINAL SIGNED BY
Renu Mandhane, B.A., J.D., LL.M.
Copy: Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
Hon. Brad Duguid, Minister of Economic Development, Employment and Infrastructure (with responsibility for the AODA)
Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Attorney General of Ontario
David Lepofsky, Chair, AODA Alliance
Roberto Lattanzio, Executive Director, ARCH Disability Law Centre
 Moore v. British Columbia (Education), 2012 SCC 61