Updated: October 10, 2018
The City of Sarnia is embroiled in a Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario case after a resident filed a complaint over an alleged lack of accessibility at city hall.
“I wrote a letter to the mayor and council last February complaining about the washroom on the main floor of city hall. It wasn’t accessible,” said Sandi Compagnion, who uses a wheelchair.
She was questioning one of the local candidates for mayor at a municipal election debate Tuesday.
“I couldn’t get in and I couldn’t open the door,” she said. “I had to have someone come and open the door for me, hold the door so I could get in. Then they had to wait outside while I went to the bathroom to let me out.
“That was pretty demeaning and humiliating.”
Compagnion said she was told by city CAO Marg Misek-Evans and Brian White, council representative on the accessibility committee, they’d look into whether funding was available for accessibility upgrades,
“Well, eight months later, after I filed a complaint with the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario, guess what? They’re having power doors in that washroom as of Oct. 11,” Compagnion said.
A report this month from accessibility co-ordinator Dale Mosley said $20,000 to upgrade the washroom door and several entrances to the building was made available after plans for accessibility improvements at the Sarnia Library were postponed, amid no bids from contractors.
Compagnion declined to specify when she filed her complaint, as the case is still before the tribunal, but Jim Crawford, Sarnia’s manager of human resources, said the complaint was registered in May.
The door upgrades should be done this week or next, he said, and a summary hearing at the tribunal is scheduled for February.
“I’d love to resolve it beforehand, but that unfortunately is not in our purview,” he said. “It has to do with whatever the complainant wants to do.”
Compagnion’s accessibility complaint extends to other aspects of city hall, he said, but wouldn’t specify because of the ongoing case.
But the human rights complaint didn’t influence the city’s decision to add power doors at city hall, he said.
“There was no direct relation.”
Money had already been slotted for improvements at the library and the accessibility committee’s original decision was to stick with that approach, he said.
The lack of bids for the library work changed things, he said, adding city hall is “fully compliant with the Ontario Building Code and any other legislation dealing with accessibility issues,” including the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act (AODA).
White said he presented Compagnion’s concerns to the committee immediately and invited her to speak to the committee twice. She declined, he said.