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David Lepofsky


by Rhonda Spivak May 20, 2017


Lazer Grant invites members of the community to to join it on Thursday June 8, 2017 at the Manitoba Club at 5:00 p.m. for an evening of refreshments and hors d’oeuvres with guest David Lepofsky, one of Canada’s most influential and notable lawyers, who is a tireless advocate for people with disabilities.(He will speak at approx 5:30). Members of the community are also invited to a  breakfast meeting on  June 8 at Shaarey Zedek from 7:30-9 where Lepofsky will be speaking at 8 a.m.

Lepofsky who was born partially blind and was totally blind by his early twenties will be sharing his vision on removing and preventing barriers  for people with physical, mental and sensory disabilities in finding and sustaining competitive employment. 

In 1979, Lepofsky graduated with honours From Osgoode Hall Law School with a Bachelor of Laws, and  obtained a Masters of Law from the Harvard Law School in 1982
Lepofsky told the Winnipeg Jewish Review  that he recalls that when he interviewed for positions at law offices, his blindness was definitely  an issue which worked against him.
From 1982 to the end of 2015, Lepofsky practised law in Toronto with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General, in the areas of constitutional, civil, administrative and most recently, criminal law.

 "The capacity for people with disabilities to pursue competitive employment has increased because of technology over the years," Lepofsky notes. (He explained ,for example,  how computer programs can  read out loud to blind people in a manner which enables them to access emails, surf the internet and access i-phone messages etc.)

Sadly however, people with disabilities still face enormous barriers in obtaining employment, according to Lepofsky, who in 2004, was appointed to the position of General Counsel, which is the highest promotion in the Ontario Public Service (outside management). Reserved for only a handful of the 2,000 lawyers in the Ontario Public Service, it is reserved for the most senior counsel, to recognize career achievement in handling the most complex work, demonstrated diversity of expertise, creativity, professional leadership, judgement, and mentoring/role modelling.

"The capacity for people with disabilities to pursue competitive employment has increased but their actual opportunities to pursue competitive employment have not," said Lepofsky, who is is a visiting professor (part-time) at the Osgoode Hall Law School and an adjunct member of the University of Toronto Faculty of Law. 

Lepofsky , who is also the chair of the Accessibility for Ontarians with Disabilities Act Alliance and the chair of the Toronto District School Board’s Special Education Advisory Committee, believes changes are needed in legislation to enable the greater inclusion of people with disabilities in the workforce.
Ontario's legislation regarding the rights of a parent of a disabled child regarding to the school system "lags behind the United States", Lepofsky explained.
"In the United states a parent has a  right to attend a meeting with the school to develop an individual education plan for their child. If not then the parents have a due process right to go to a court hearing...School Boards can be taken to court in the U.S. This is not the case in Canada."
Lepofsky emphasized that in Canada there are weaker protections for parents of a child with a disability. "We are way behind, decades behind...", Lepofsky pointed out.
When asked to explain why that is the case, Lepofsky responded that "The civil rights tradition in the U.S. is longer than in Canada and the result is that legislation on disability inclusion is stronger in the the US." 
To address this situation, Lepofsky proposes "changes in both legislation and policy." He indicated  that he was involved in lobbying the Trudeau Liberals last election to promise to develop a national accessibility law. Trudeau promised this and the federal national accessibility law is currently being developed. "I see promise in it, "Lepofsky noted.
"Manitoba has an accessibility law that wa
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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

Opinions expressed in letters to the editor or articles by contributing writers are not necessarily endorsed by Winnipeg Jewish Review.