County of Brant “Celebrates” International Human Rights Day with Resignation of Two More Members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee
On December 10, 2013, the United Nations International Human Rights Day, two more members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee for the County of Brant resigned due to the systemic discrimination and lack of dignity and respect toward people with disabilities. This brings the total number to three members who have resigned in the last month including the Chair of the committee for the same reason.
At the December 10 Accessibility Advisory Committee meeting, the members of the dissolved then resurrected ad hoc specialized transportation service committee were present including elected officials and staff.
When my letter of resignation was read aloud, elected officials asked if they could comment. Of all the issues raised in the letter of resignation that could be raised, here are the only items commented on:
“If you want to develop a plan for an accessible affordable and sustainable specialized transportation service to bring to Council, we’ll consider it.”
“The approved scheme is fiscally responsible because we stop service once the budget is reached.”
“I have some advice. You can’t always get what you want and when things don’t go your way, you don’t just walk away.”
“The members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee need to be more proactive.”
“The approved transportation scheme isn’t written in stone.”
Am I the only one shaking my head at this point?
Wasn’t the mandate of the ad hoc specialized transportation service committee to develop a plan for accessible affordable and sustainable transportation? Hasn’t it been documented in articles both here and in the Paris star that the ad hoc committee wasn’t allowed to do this?
What is fiscally responsible about providing a public transportation service/para transit that will stop once funding runs out? This scheme is based on the “fact” that the service will go over budget and it will be stopped. Shouldn’t that have been taken into consideration when developing the budget and future plans for Para transit? What other services will stop once the respective budgets are reached…garbage pickup, snow removal, ambulance service?
Another issue with the “fiscally responsible” part of the scheme is that the total budget for specialized transportation service is $100,000 which has been the same for the past five or six years (near as we can tell as this hasn’t been managed by the County). The current year total expenditure on specialized transportation/para transit is $175,000. Wouldn’t a fiscally responsible budget for providing specialized transportation service have taken into account the growth in participants of approximately 100 people per year for the past five or six years AND the fact that for $175,000 those of us with disabilities have been able to just use the service with no trip restrictions and it is only $175,000 per year?
Yet another issue around fiscal responsibility is that when asked how much it was going to cost the County for staff to administer the new scheme, the response from staff was “we can handle it but will report to the Community services committee every two months to let you know.” This is one of the questions the community members asked a few variants of the scheme ago when it was first proposed that staff administer the scheme. We got the same answer: staff can handle it. Then the County was going to take $75,000 out of the budget for the service to manage the service (yes, spend $75,000 to manage $25,000). How is any of this remotely fiscally responsible?
Things not going our way?
I’m going to include the “The members of the Accessibility Advisory Committee need to be more proactive” With this comment.
Again I’m going to add an astonished shake of my head! We have been actively advocating against the systemic discrimination we’ve encountered and experienced throughout this process. I’ve blogged about it, written letters to the editor of the Paris Star, contacted other media, contacted every political level that is supposed to assist us and our municipality and provided staff and elected officials with numerous resources on basic and protected human rights, the Integrated Accessibility Standards, the PALS (Participation and Activities Limitation Survey from Statistics Canada), supportive statistics from the European Union and Australia, research on social isolation and isolation of people with disabilities in general where there is no affordable transportation and have thought I was being “proactive.” The AAC committee itself provided a report to Community services condemning the systemic discrimination and the proposed transportation schemes.
How much more “proactive” are we supposed to be? It is difficult to be “proactive” when you are facing systemic discrimination.
The approved transportation scheme isn’t written in stone?
What? Community Services has approved it. A letter has gone out to the current contractor for the specialized transportation service stating that the service will stop January 31, 2013 and the new scheme will start February 1, 2013!
“Not written in stone?” Either a decision has been made or it hasn’t? Is the ad hoc specialized transportation service committee going to be resurrected yet again? Toward what end? We weren’t listened to at any previous meetings.
There was one more comment made and this has been the “battle cry” to create a punitive specialized transportation service: it was stated yet again that there is a “problem with people with disabilities going to the casino using the specialized transportation service.” The reason for the “concern” has changed, however. Now, instead of saying that “if they can afford to go to the casino, they can afford to pay full fare” the accusation is that “they are spending their money at the casino and we get nothing for it.” “They are spending their money in Brantford instead of their own municipality.” So now we are also apparently responsible for the failure of the County to be progressive, being inviting to retail developers and the lack of foresight of municipal planners!
What Wasn’t Said
Perhaps the most interesting thing about my letter of resignation is what wasn’t said. The elected officials and staff did not deny the systemic discrimination, the intentional violation of the Integrated Accessibility Standards, the violation of our basic and protected human rights, the punitive nature of the approved transportation scheme, or that we have been warned not to file a human rights complaint or the County will stop the service altogether.
Also worthy of note is that staff were asked directly if the County had the County Solicitor’s report on this issue. Staff did not directly answer the question at first but eventually said they were hoping to get something in the next few weeks. So the approved transportation scheme hasn’t been legally vetted to ensure that it is, in fact, legal.