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“When the movement was just starting, the consumer and advocacy groups were filled with unfocussed energy. But more than energy was required in the pursuit of equality. Concrete action is what was needed. ARCH has strongly positioned itself as a catalyst and leader in the movement.”

Catherine Frazee, past Chief Commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission. Excerpt from ARCH*Type (October-November 1990) “Celebrating 10 Years”

The creation of ARCH was part of the larger disability rights movement happening in Ontario and across Canada in the 1970’s. The need for a legal clinic to provide legal services to support and advance the rights movements of our communities was identified by disability rights advocates. Numerous local, provincial and national disability rights groups assisted in establishing ARCH.  

“ARCH deserves to be strengthened and encouraged in its work. It has provided exceptional leadership in a new and difficult area of the law, and will undoubtedly constitute a cornerstone for the future development of the delivery of legal services of the handicapped in Ontario.”

J Rosalie S. Abella, Access to Legal Services by the Disabled, (Toronto: Ministry of the Attorney General, 1983)

ARCH was incorporated in 1979 as the Advocacy Resource Centre for the Handicapped and opened its doors as a specialty legal aid clinic in 1980, with a staff of 3 including 1 lawyer. ARCH’s founding Executive Director, David Baker, describes the early days of ARCH in “ARCH’s Beginnings” ARCH Celebrating 25 Years.

front cover of "ARCH Celebrating 25 Years" booklet

“The work of ARCH has been critically important to the national disability rights community and in many instances the expertise and skill embodied in ARCH has made it possible for Canadians with disabilities to achieve greater equality.”

Mary White, National Chairperson and Laurie Beachell, National Coordinator, Council of Canadians with Disabilities, excerpt from letter commemorating ARCH’s 25th anniversary (September 21, 2005)

ARCH has worked with disability organizations and disability communities to achieve greater equality and improve laws and policies that impact on the daily lives of people with disabilities. As one of ARCH’s first major law reform efforts, ARCH was instrumental in leading the Human Rights Coalition, successfully advocating for the inclusion of “handicap” as a protected ground in the Human Rights Code in 1981 thereby making human rights real for persons with disabilities across Ontario.

A record of legal casework

Over the years, ARCH has been involved in many leading disability related cases, including cases at the Supreme Court of Canada. ARCH has represented persons with disabilities in significant and seminal test cases including Clark v Clark (1983), 40 O.R. (2d) 383, Roberts v Ontario (1994), 117 D.L.R. (4th) 297, and Eaton v Brant County Board of Education  [1997] 1 S.C.R. 241.

ARCH  has represented interveners, and acted as an Intervener, in many test cases at all levels of court and tribunals, including the  following test cases before the Supreme Court of Canada:

  • S.A. v. Metro Vancouver Housing Corp., 2019 SCC 4.
  • Canada (Canadian Human Rights Commission) v. Canada (Attorney General), 2018 SCC 31.
  • Stewart v. Elk Valley Coal Corp., [2017] 1 SCR 591, 2017 SCC 30.
  • Cuthbertson v. Rasouli, [2013] 3 SCR 341, 2013 SCC 53.
  • Moore v. British Columbia (Education), 2012 SCC 61, [2012] 3 S.C.R. 360.
  • Canada (Attorney General) v. Downtown Eastside Sex Workers United Against Violence Society, 2012 SCC 45, [2012] 2 S.C.R. 524.
  • Alberta (Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development) v. Cunningham, [2011] 2 SCR 670, 2011 SCC 37.
  • Honda Canada Inc. v. Keays, [2008] 2 SCR 362, 2008 SCC 39.
  • McGill University Health Centre (Montreal General Hospital) v. Syndicat des employés de l’Hôpital général de Montréal, [2007] 1 SCR 161, 2007 SCC 4.
  •  Council of Canadians with Disabilities v. VIA Rail Canada Inc., [2007] 1 SCR 650, 2007 SCC 15.
  • Hilewitz v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and Immigration), [2005] 2 SCR 706, 2005 SCC 57.
  • Nova Scotia (Minister of Health) v. J.J., [2005] 1 S.C.R. 177.
  • Auton (Guardian ad litem of) v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [2004] 3 S.C.R. 657. 
  • Newfoundland (Treasury Board) v. N.A.P.E., [2004] 3 S.C.R. 381.
  • Nova Scotia (Workers’ Compensation Board) v. Martin; Nova Scotia (Workers’ Compensation Board) v. Laseur, [2003] 2 S.C.R. 504.
  • Lovelace v. Ontario, [2000] 1 S.C.R. 950.
  • British Columbia (Super. of Motor Vehicles) v. British Columbia (Council of Human Rights),[1999] 3 S.C.R. 868.
  • Winko v. British Columbia (Forensic Psychiatric Institute), [1999] 2 S.C.R. 625.
  • Eaton v. Brant County Board of Education, [1997] 1 S.C.R. 241.
  • Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1997] 3 S.C.R. 624.
  • Battlefords and District Co-operative Ltd. v. Gibbs, [1996] 3 S.C.R. 566.
  • Rodriguez v. British Columbia (Attorney General), [1993] 3 S.C.R. 519. 
  • Weatherall v. Canada (Attorney General), [1993] 2 S.C.R. 872. 
  • Central Okanagan School District No. 23 v. Renaud, [1992] 2 S.C.R. 970.
  • Canadian Council of Churches v. Canada (Minister of Employment and Immigration), [1992] 1 S.C.R. 236. 
  • Andrews v. Law Society of British Columbia, [1989]1 S.C.R. 143.
  • Bhinder v. Canadian National Railway Co., [1985] 2 S.C.R. 561.
  • Ontario Human Rights Commission v. Simpsons-Sears, [1985] 2 S.C.R. 536.

Communicating with our community

“ARCH has always kept people with disabilities, their families, caregivers, and the legal community in Ontario informed on issues of concern.  ARCH publications – ARCH*Type (no longer published) and ARCH Alert provide timely, thoughtful, and informative news and analysis of legal and social problems related to disability.  Nowhere else can you find information on such matters as income tax, family law, and immigration. ARCH publications are written in plain language, not legalese. They are accessible in many formats. Other media, including the daily press, rely on them to learn about key developments. “

– John Feld, past Editor of ARCH*Type, ARCH Celebrating 25 Years

Although no longer in print, ARCH*Type (published 1981 to 2000) had as many as 3000 subscribers in a given year, including government, media, MPPs, community organizations, ARCH member groups, individuals, and private bar lawyers.

ARCH*Type is available for reading in the ARCH Library.

For look back at our history celebrating ARCH’s 25 years visit this link: ARCH Celebrating 25 Years

Last Modified: July 29, 2021