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Reveal Human Rights Review Findings: Mother

Dec 08, 2010 – 4:27 PM

The City of Cambridge has a public duty to reveal findings of a consultant’s report ordered by a human rights tribunal, says a Cambridge mother whose son was denied access to a city summer camp.

Recently, the city was ordered by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario to pay the Cambridge family $12,000 in damages after the 12-year-old boy was denied partial access to a nine-week camp at John Dolson Centre pool in 2008.

The boy, who has Asperger’s  Syndrome, a form of autism, was told he could only attend with an inclusion worker but one would only be provided for two weeks of the camp.

The mother, who can’t be named to protect the identity of the boy, took the case to the human rights tribunal.

Last May, a tribunal adjudicator ruled the city discriminated against the boy and awarded the monetary settlement to be placed in trust for the boy.

The adjudicator also ordered the city to hire an independent consultant to review its accessibility policies relating to city-run camps to ensure legal
requirements are being met and to provide recommendations to the city.

The Cambridge mother argues the public has a right to know results of the report. The city should be transparent about what was learned in the review, she maintains, and whether changes will be implemented to improve accessibility.

“I am very concerned that the recommendations of the tribunal will not be taken seriously and the inclusion policies and procedures will not/have not been addressed adequately or efficiently, if at all,” she said in an interview.

The Cambridge Times submitted a freedom of information request with the city to seek release of the consultant’s report, however, the Times was denied access.

The city hired local law firm Pavey, Law, Witteveen LLP and cited lawyer-client privilege.

An appeal was also launched with the Ontario freedom of information commissioner’s office, however, it was turned down in support of the city’s right to
client-lawyer privilege.

It’s in the city and the community’s best interest to release any recommendations stemming from the report, insists the Cambridge mother.

“One would think that if the City of Cambridge were addressing the recommendations of the tribunal, making appropriate changes to the policies and procedures, that the city would be proud to share the information with the public,” she said. “Not doing so speaks volumes to the fact that the City of Cambridge have serious issues with transparency.”

City lawyer Steve Matheson said the city hired the law firm because its staff was familiar with the facts and the situation.

“In my opinion, this was the right group to choose,” he said.

Matheson stated the report won’t be released but said any information gleaned from findings will be considered as the city continuously modifies its camp program policies.

The Times also asked how much the city spent on legal fees to handle the human rights case. The freedom of information request revealed that the city spent nearly $12,000 on legal fees and the report.

The Cambridge mother stated that it didn’t have to cost the city to provide an inclusion worker for her son, as she works with autistic children and offered
to train staff. Not confident the city is taking the tribunal’s order to heart, the Cambridge mother intends to follow up with the tribunal’s legal team.

Still, she maintains it was worth the effort.

“Precedence was set.  The City of Cambridge now has a history of violating the human rights of a city of Cambridge citizen.”

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