London

Advisory committee member resigns to protest city's 'disregard for us'

The vice-chair of London’s accessibility advisory committee, Jacqueline Madden, has resigned because, she says, the committee hasn’t been allowed to hold meetings since the start of the pandemic.

Jacqueline Madden alleges the city has violated Ontario’s accessibility law by not allowing meetings

The vice-chair of London's accessibility advisory committee, Jacqueline Madden, has resigned to protest the city's decision to discontinue committee meetings during the pandemic. (Supplied by Jacqueline Madden)

The vice-chair of London's accessibility advisory committee, Jacqueline Madden, has resigned because, she says, the committee hasn't been allowed to hold meetings since the start of the pandemic.

"I really feel that (the city is) just completely disregarding us and disregarding what they are mandated to do by the AODA," she said, citing the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act.

Madden has filed a complaint with the province alleging that the city has violated Ontario's accessibility law.

The AODA mandates that cities are to have accessibility advisory committees and that they are supposed to offer advice on anything related to accessibility in a city.

"We gave them alternatives for us to meet virtually, and we got no response whatsoever from the city," said Madden.

'City not listening': Madden

She said the vacuum has left city council without an accessibility lens.

"They haven't asked for our feedback on anything from sidewalks to COVID plans. And, you know, if you're not going to ask an accessibility advisory committee about things like sidewalks or like COVID, which greatly disproportionately affect the disabled community, then you're really not listening to that population."

Madden says she doesn't know why the city hasn't tapped the committee for advice since the start of the pandemic.

"It's like beating your head against the wall. If you have to work this hard, they're obviously not listening to you and obviously don't find value in what you're doing."

Corporations that violate the AODA can face penalties of up to $100,000 for every day the offence occurs.

Madden says although the penalties are spelled out in the act, no one in the Ontario government is "paid to go after these things."

"Although to me, it's clearly an AODA violation, it's kind of hard to get it enforced, but I'm working on it."

City's response

London's City Clerk, Cathy Saunders, says at the start of the pandemic council amended its policy to allow for remote meetings of advisory committees only when required "to meet (legislative) and regulatory obligations."

But, she added, that doesn't prevent the accessibility advisory committee from requesting that a meeting be held.

"If the chair of the committee felt that the committee needed to meet to deal with something that legislation requires them to meet, then we would certainly call a meeting together if it was required."

But to date, Saunders said, "we have not been requested to call the accessibility advisory committee together."

The chair of the accessibility advisory committee, Jay Menard, says he's not surprised by the city's response.

"It's frustrating to hear that they're pushing back on us because we have actually requested, I have sent letters saying 'when do we meet again?, how can we get together? We have some serious concerns."

Madden says she hopes her resignation gives "the city the nudge that they need to call the committee back to work and to start allowing them to give some meaningful advice."

But Menard doesn't think that will happen.

"We have heard that certain councillors value our input more than others … I honestly believe that if we were not a legally mandated committee ... I don't think we'd be in existence."

 

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gary Ennett

Morning News Editor

Gary Ennett is a veteran editor and reporter. He’s been with CBC since the opening of the London bureau in 1998. His email address is gary.ennett@cbc.ca

With files from Kerry McKee

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