Fast Facts from the Public Service Alliance of Canada
What is happening to Canada’s Employment Insurance (E.I.) Program?
In a word “cuts.”
According to the Public Service Alliance of Canada (PSAC) these cuts make it harder “to help our most vulnerable, reduce inequality, protect seasonal workers and ensure a more fair and prosperous future for our country. “
Here are a few Fast Facts on E.I. cuts adapted from PSAC’s website. More details can be found at http://psacunion.ca/topics/employment-insurance
• The government does not contribute a penny to the Employment Insurance program. E.I. is fully financed by the contributions of employees and employers. Governments “appropriated” $57 billion of accumulated surpluses between 1996 and 2008.
• Employment Insurance fraud is minimal. It amounts to less than 1% of the EI benefits that are paid out each year. Compare that to tax evasion through the use of tax havens. This tax evasion represents between 3.2% and 4.7% of the federal government’s tax revenues.
• E.I. claimants receive only 55% of their insurable weekly earnings, to a maximum of $514 per week. This minimal revenue itself serves as an incentive to find a job quickly.
• Tens of thousands of people have seen delays in processing their employment insurance file as a result of staffing cuts imposed on Service Canada.
• There are six times as many unemployed as there are job vacancies in Canada, a clear sign of a lack of jobs.
PSAC has produced a video which shows how the EI program has deteriorated over the last 25 years. You can see it here http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hK3L5F4cAgk
Posted July 21, 2014
"Wonderful" News in WSIB Decision
There was a significant decision by the Ontario Workplace Safety & Insurance Appeals Tribunal (WSIAT) in April.
The WSIAT ruled that a section under the Ontario’s Workplace Safety & Insurance Act that limits entitlement for traumatic mental health stress cases is unconstitutional. That is because it is an unjustifiable infringement on equality rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The policy that is associated with the legislation is also unconstitutional.
“This is absolutely wonderful news,” according to the Clinic’s Workers Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) specialist Andrew C. Bomé.
Most of the clients who Bomé has represented in such cases are women who experienced some form of sexual violence in the workplace.
Until now, the way the provisions of the Traumatic Mental Stress Policy have been interpreted by the WSIB and its adjudicators have been problematic. It has not been enough that a women experienced sexual violence in the workplace. The Board and its adjudicators had this notion that certain forms of sexual violence “were not bad enough” to warrant compensation, asserts Bomé.
An excellent analysis of the decision and its implications can be found at http://m.gowlings.com/knowledgecentre/article.asp?pubID=3300s
Gowling Lafleur Henderson is one of Canada’s largest law firms. One of its partners David K. Law, executive editor of the Gowlings Employment and Labour Law Newsletter, analyzed the decision.
Law writes that it is likely that the lengthy and comprehensive assessment of the mental stress issue in this decision will constitute the Tribunal’s new standard.
Significantly, it is Law’s view that since the mental health exemption is now fourteen (14) years old “there may be a huge number of past litigants who will now look for a re-adjudication of their cases.” Further, he believes that “there is no obvious principled basis for the Board or Tribunal to refuse to re-visit those cases.”
Posted May 28, 2014
Report From UN Special Rapporteur
Last week James Anaya, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Indigenous Rights, issued his report on the situation in Canada. We have excerpted his conlusions and recommendations below. the full report can be found at http://unsr.jamesanaya.org/docs/countries/2014-report-canada-a-hrc-27-52-add-2-en-auversion.pdf
78. Canada was one of the first countries in the modern era to extend constitutional protection to indigenous peoples’ rights. This constitutional protection has provided a strong foundation for advancing indigenous peoples’ rights over the last 30 years, especially through the courts.
79. Federal and provincial governments have made notable efforts to address treaty and aboriginal claims, and to improve the social and economic well-being of indigenous peoples. Canada has also addressed some of the concerns that were raised by the Special Rapporteur’s predecessor following his visit in 2003. Moreover, Canada has adopted the goal of reconciliation to repair the legacy of past injustices and has taken steps toward that goal.
80. But despite positive steps, daunting challenges remain. Canada faces a continuing crisis when it comes to the situation of indigenous peoples of the country. The well-being gap between aboriginal and non-aboriginal people in Canada has not narrowed over the last several years, treaty and aboriginals claims remain persistently unresolved, indigenous women and girls remain vulnerable to abuse, and overall there appear to be high levels of distrust among indigenous peoples toward government at both the federal and provincial levels.
81. The numerous initiatives that have been taken at the federal and provincial/territorial levels to address the problems faced by indigenous peoples have been insufficient. Aboriginal peoples’ concerns and well-being merit higher priority at all levels and within all branches of Government, and across all departments. Concerted measures, based on mutual understanding and real partnership with aboriginal peoples, through their own representative institutions, are vital to establishing long-term solutions. To that end, it is necessary for Canada to arrive at a common understanding with aboriginal peoples of objectives and goals that are based on full respect for their constitutional, treaty, and its internationally-recognized rights.
82. The United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, which has been endorsed by Canada, provides a common framework within which the issues faced by indigenous peoples in the country can be addressed.
83. On the basis of these conclusions and the observations in this report, the Special Rapporteur recommends the following: Social and economic conditions
84. The Government should ensure sufficient funding for services for indigenous peoples both on and off reserve, including in areas of education, health, and child welfare, in light of the rights and significant needs of indigenous peoples and the geographic remoteness of many indigenous communities; and insure that the quality of these services is at least equal to that provided other Canadians.
85. Federal, provincial and aboriginal governments should improve upon their coordination in the delivery of services. Continued efforts should be made to support indigenous-run and culturally appropriate social and judicial services, and to strengthen and expand programs that have already demonstrated successes.
86. Canada must take urgent action to address the housing crisis in indigenous communities both on and off reserve, especially communities in the north, and dedicate increased funding towards this end. In particular, the Government as a matter of urgency should work with Inuit representatives to ensure affordable, sustainable and adequate housing in the Artic, and to design and construct housing to adapt to the region’s environment and culture.
87. The Government should work with indigenous peoples to enhance education opportunities for them, and in particular should consult with indigenous peoples, through their representative institutions, to address any outstanding concerns they may have related to the proposed First Nations Education Act, including with respect to adequate funding. Truth and reconciliation
88. The Government should ensure that the mandate of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission is extended for as long as may be necessary for it to complete its work, and should consider establishing means of reconciliation and redress for survivors of all types of residential schools. Missing women and girls
89. Bearing in mind the important steps already taken to inquire into the disturbing phenomenon of missing and murdered aboriginal women and girls and to develop measures to address this problem, the federal Government should undertake a comprehensive, nation-wide inquiry into the issue of missing and murdered aboriginal woman and girls, organized in consultation with indigenous peoples. Self-government, participation and partnership
90. Any existing legal barriers to the effective exercise of indigenous self-government, including those in the Indian Act, should be removed, and effective measures should be taken to build indigenous governance capacity. Canada should continue to engage in, and adequately fund, meaningful negotiations to transfer governance responsibilities to First Nations, Inuit and Métis governments and to financially support, at adequate levels, the development and operation of indigenous self-governance institutions.
91. In consultation with indigenous authorities, the Government should take measures to streamline reporting procedures under contribution agreements to alleviate unnecessary or overlapping reporting requirements.
92. New laws, policies and programmes that affect indigenous peoples should be developed in consultation and true partnership with them. The federal and provincial/territorial governments should not push forward with laws, policies or programmes where significant opposition by indigenous governments and leadership still exists.
93. With respect to legislation recently passed—including the Safe Drinking Water for First Nations Act, the Family Homes on Reserve and Matrimonial Interests or Rights Act, and the Jobs, Growth and Long Term Prosperity omnibus legislation—Canada should ensure that these laws are only implemented following meaningful consultation, with a view to obtaining the consent of the indigenous peoples to which they will apply, and with accommodation of their concerns.
94. Concerted efforts should be taken to address outstanding concerns related to gender discrimination in determining eligibility for registration under the Indian Act, and to adopt where possible a more flexible approach that takes into account indigenous peoples’ own criteria for membership.
95. The federal Government should work with indigenous peoples in international border areas, in particular the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne, to remove barriers to their free movement within their traditional territories. Treaty negotiation and claims processes
96. Concerted measures should be adopted to deal with the outstanding problems that have impeded progress with the treaty negotiation and claims processes. Moreover, within these processes the Government should take a less adversarial, position-based approach in which it typically seeks the most restrictive interpretation of aboriginal and treaty rights possible. In this regard, the Government should instead acknowledge that the public interest is not opposed to, but rather includes, aboriginal concerns.
97. Canada should take active measures to develop a procedure for addressing outstanding Métis land claims, to avoid having to litigate cases individually, and enter into negotiations with Métis representatives to reach agreements towards this end. Resource development
98. In accordance with the Canadian constitution and relevant international human rights standards, as a general rule resource extraction should not occur on lands subject to aboriginal claims without adequate consultations with and the free, prior and informed consent of the indigenous peoples concerned. Further, Canada should endeavor to put in place a policy framework for implementing the duty to consult that allows for indigenous peoples’ genuine input and involvement at the earliest stages of project development.
99. Resource development projects, where they occur, should be fully consistent with aboriginal and treaty rights, and should in no case be prejudicial to unsettled claims. The federal and provincial governments should strive to maximize the control of indigenous peoples themselves over extractive operations within their lands and the development of benefits derived therefrom.
Posted May 20, 2014
Good News for Low Income Households
Yesterday the Ontario government made a number of announcements related to the ongoing affordability of electricity bills for Ontario’s low income households.
The Low-Income Energy Network found good news in the announcements. It has been been advocating for such a program with both the Ministry of Energy and the Ontario Energy Board for some time.
Here is their media release. http://1drv.ms/1jG5s1I
The Low-Income Energy Network was formed in early 2004 to raise awareness of the implications for low-income households of increases in energy prices and to suggest solutions that will reduce the energy burden of these vulnerable consumers.
LIEN has over 80 members including a number of Community Legal Clincs
Posted April 24, 2014
New Health Resources for Area Migrant Agricultural Workers
A media release from the Hamilton Niagara Haldimand Brant Local Health Integration Network (HNHB LHIN) brings good news for area migrant workers.
New funding will expand and implement Migrant Agricultural Worker Health services in North Niagara and Haldimand Norfolk.
THE HNHB LHIN recognizes that while Migrant Agricultural Workers are entitled to health care they “face several systemic and practical barriers in accessing care including a lack of understanding of entitlements to heath care, lack of time and transportation and a fear and mistrust of being returned home due to health issues.”
This funding will provide community outreach, worker education, health promotion and accessibility and thus reduce these barriers to care.
Quest Community Health Centre currently provides services in Virgil and will be able to expand those services.
The Grand River Community Health Centre will begin new programs similar to the Quest model in Delhi and Simcoe from May to October.
The HNHB LHIN notes that of 38,000 legal temporary contract positions available in Canada for Migrant Agricultural Workers (MAWs) their catchment area has the greatest number of MAWs with up to 8,000 annually.
There are many more details on this new funding that can be found in the media release at
Posted April 3, 2014
Ontario Government Documents “Federal Actions Negatively Impacting Ontarians"
Recently the Ontario Government published a list of federal cuts. The list documented 114 areas where federal government cuts are affecting people in Ontario.
Here are some cuts that Ontario says are impacting Vulnerable People.
• A Housing Trust that helped address the affordable housing needs of Aboriginal Canadians living off-reserve has expired. That expiration means $80.24 million has been lost for Ontario to address housing needs.
• Travel expenses for First Nations children and youth living in remote communities are no longer covered by the federal government. These dollars were designed so young people could access specialized services like occupational, physio speech and language therapies.
• Immigration and settlement funding has been cut. The Ontario government was forced to create a stabilization fund to help agencies who suffered from those cuts.
• In 2012, the federal government changed the Interim Federal Health program. That change limits coverage for some refugee claimants. Ontario has covered the cut impacting the provincial budget by $17 to $28 Million over the next two years.
• Federal Funding for the Social Housing Agreement is declining. The funding was $525 million in 2000. It will be zero in 2033. This cut could lead to a reduction in the number of social housing units.
• The federal government is changing the retirement age for Old Age Security and Guaranteed Income Supplement. It is estimated that 44,000 more persons in the province over 65 years of age will be in poverty because of this decision.
Here is one of six cuts that Ontario says Ottawa is making that impacts negatively in the Justice sphere.
• Federal funding to Legal Aid Ontario (LAO) is declining in real terms. In 1990, a 50/50 cost sharing agreement was put in place. Now Canada is contributing only 25% of LAO’s criminal expenditures and just 28% of immigration and refugee expenditures.
A full list of all 114 cuts can be found at http://files.news.ontario.ca.s3-website-us-east-1.amazonaws.com/opo/en/learnmore/more_than_110_federal_cuts_-_ontarians_give_ottawa_a_failing_grade/02%2012%2014%20%20Federal%20Response%20Backgrounder%2004.pdf
Posted March 19, 2014
BLACK HISTORY MONTH
In February 2014 we featured profiles and quotes to commemorate Black History Month. We've taken them down from our website but you can still access them by going to this link. http://1drv.ms/1jW95mM
February 15, 2014 for Immediate Release
Hamilton Declared a Sanctuary City
The City of Hamilton has become the second Canadian municipality to declare itself a Sanctuary City.
Hamiltonians cheered last night as City Council voted unanimously to ensure that municipal and municipally-funded services are accessible to Hamiltonians without full immigration status documents.
The move to make Hamilton a Sanctuary City was spearheaded by the Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition (HSCC) formed in June 2013 with support from Toronto’s Solidarity City Network. (Toronto became Canada’s first Sanctuary City last February.)
HSCC’s research and consultation found that:
- access to health care and police services remain the primary concern of those with precarious status.
- fear of detection, detention and deportation is a major obstacle preventing many from obtaining services to which they would otherwise have access.
- precarious status disproportionately affects women. Women are vulnerable because they often come to Canada using temporary visas and family sponsorships.
- women with precarious status are often vulnerable to domestic violence and exploitation.
- children are the most severely impacted by precarious status. This status restricts their access to the nutritious food, recreational programs, and daycare activities that are necessary for a healthy development.
In the future people accessing city services will not require any immigration status documentation. If that documentation is necessary for providing the service it would not be disclosed to federal immigration agencies.
Council’s decision means that the City of Hamilton will revise its antiracism training. Soon all staff will be aware of and support the City’s commitment to serve Hamiltonians living with precarious or undocumented immigration status.
Hamilton joins a growing movement of municipalities rallying to put the interests of their community ahead of those of federal immigration policymakers and enforcers.
In June 2013, in response to requests by members of the community, Hamilton City Council directed staff to engage with local agencies. The goal was to investigate how undocumented individuals are treated in Hamilton. A report was forwarded to the Emergency and Community Services Committee.
The City of Hamilton subsequently partnered with the HSCC to document the experiences of those living with precarious status in Hamilton.
The City of Hamilton subsequently partnered with Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition to document the experiences of those living with precarious status in Hamilton; their research is compiled in their report on “Access to Services for Undocumented Individuals” (CES14003).
The Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition (HSSC)
The Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition is a made up of individuals and community organizations. Agencies supporting the initiative include the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic (HCLC), Sexual Assault Centre Hamilton and Area (SACHA), Hamilton Centre for Civic Inclusion (HCCI), Immigrant Women’s Centre (IWC), Hamilton Safe Communities Coalition (HSCC), Good Shepherd, Micah House, Neighbour 2 Neighbour Centre (N2N), The Well, LGBTQ Wellness Centre of Hamilton, the Ecumenical Support Committee for Refugees, Community Information Hamilton, the Canadian African Multicultural Association, Refuge Hamilton Centre for Newcomer Health, the Neighbor to Neighbor Centre, and Anti Racists and Allies of Hamilton.
Caitlin Craven, Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition: “We are utterly delighted! Today Hamilton has begun the process of becoming a Sanctuary City. Access without Fear means that all residents of the City would be able to access city services without fear of deportation or detention. More specifically it means that city services would not require any immigration status documentation from people seeking their services unless necessary for providing the service, and if necessary would not disclose this information to federal immigration agencies.”
Maria Antelo, Community Development Coordinator with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic: "This is the beginning of treating people equally, no matter what their immigration status is. Today is a first step on a long journey. It’s a commitment not just by City Hall but by service providers and Hamiltonians at large to work together to ensure justice for our undocumented neighbours.”
For more information, visit http://hamiltonsanctuarycity.wordpress.com
Contact Hamilton Sanctuary City Coalition communication team
Maria Antelo, HSCC organizer and Community Development Coordinator
with the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic
Phone: (905) 527-4572 x 23
Caitlin Craven, HSCC organizer
Cell: (289) 683-0082
Posted Feb 15, 2014
Help Keep Ontarians Housed
Here is a copy of a letter sent by 27 organizations to Premier Wynne, and Ministers Jeffrey, Piruzza, and McMeekin last week.
Dear Premier Wynne, Minister Jeffrey, Minister Piruzza, and Minister McMeekin,
We are writing as a coalition of concerned organizations to urge you to respond without delay to the growing crisis in housing and homelessness across Ontario.
While there are many housing needs across the province, we need your government to commit – as quickly as possible and before the new year – to make permanent $42 million in “transition funding” for critically important housing and homelessness funds administered by municipalities under the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI).
Municipalities across Ontario are in the midst of planning their budgets for the coming year. Decisions about housing and homelessness funding will be made very soon.
Municipalities – and the low income Ontarians who live in them – need your guarantee that you are on their side.
Municipalities have been given the responsibility and flexibility to respond to their communities’ housing and homelessness issues through CHPI. But they can’t adequately respond to the need in their communities if the funds are not there to do the job.
When the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB) was eliminated from social assistance beginning in January 2013, only half of previously designated funds ($67 million in 2013-14) were transferred to CMSMs and DSSABs, using a formula that didn’t respond to real time housing needs.
Some municipalities responded to the loss of CSUMB by creating their own, similar funds to provide direct funding for first and last month’s rent, rental and utilities arrears, and other costs that ensure people are able to become housed or stay in their homes.
Eligibility criteria and funded costs vary across the province, as do amounts of funding provided. Some municipalities did not create their own locally administered funds, so low income Ontarians in those communities have no source of direct support.
In December 2012, government responded to community concern by instituting a onetime $42 million “transition fund” to help municipalities deal with the loss of CSUMB and the move to community-based homelessness prevention. Those funds run out in March 2014.
In some areas of the province, designated funds for this purpose may have been underspent. This does not indicate a lack of need in communities, but rather the reality that the roll-out of the transition to CHPI funding was plagued with difficulties, resulting in many low income people either not attempting to access or being denied direct funding for their housing and homelessness-related needs. The transition to CHPI funding was also complicated by the new cap put on discretionary benefits. More
funding is required for municipalities to find the right balance to provide for the need in their communities, and for low income Ontarians to become aware of funds that might be available.
While the $42 million will not replace CSUMB, it will go some way to ensuring that low income people in communities across Ontario will have the funds they need to secure housing and to prevent losing their housing, due directly to lack of income.
The ripple effects of the devastating loss of CSUMB continue to be felt across the province. Low income Ontarians need your government’s guarantee that funds they need to get housing or stay housed will be there when they need them. The least they deserve is to have the additional $42 million in transition funding made permanently available to municipalities.
Your Support is Important
You can support this effort by sending an email echoing the call to make the $42 million a permanent part of CHPI. Send your emails to:
Premier Kathleen Wynne - Kwynne.email@example.com
The Hon Linda Jeffreys, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hon Teresa Piruzza, Minister of Children and Youth Services - email@example.com
The Hon Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services - firstname.lastname@example.org
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition - email@example.com
Posted December 3, 2013
Immigration Law Update
Changes to Definition of “Dependent Children”
In May 2013, the government announced changes to Canada’s immigration regulations. These changes will affect people who want to bring their children to Canada.
In most cases, the law allows a person to include any “dependent children” in his or her application for permanent residence. The law also allows Canadian citizens and permanent residents to sponsor their dependent children to come to Canada.
The new regulations will make two major changes to the definition of “dependent children”
- the maximum age would be reduced to 18 years of age from the current 21 years.
- full-time students over age 18 would no longer be eligible as dependent children.
The proposal is expected to become law on January 1, 2014.
Applications submitted before January 1, 2014 (or already submitted), will be considered based on the current law.
You can read why this change is being made at
Posted with Updates on October 21, 2013
Poverty Reduction Strategy Submission
Who we are
Hamilton Community Legal Clinic is a community based not for profit agency whose diverse team of caring professionals and volunteers provides legal services to low income individuals and communities to promote access to justice and to improve quality of life.
We do this through summary advice and referral, representation, community development, law reform and public legal education.
Our clinic provides a variety of services including legal advice and referrals, legal representation, public legal education, community development and law reform. We provide service to individuals, groups and communities. Our intent with all advocacy efforts is to bring about change that will affect the entire community.
During our most recent service year, we opened 6,426 files while serving a total of 12,591 individuals.
By passing the 2009 Poverty Reduction Act, the government committed to set targets and make plans to reduce poverty. Although some progress has been made through the implementation of the Ontario Child Benefit, the government has not met its promise to reduce child and family poverty by 25 percent by 2013.
The New Poverty Reduction Strategy must:
1. Make firm commitments to make investments to reduce poverty. The strategy must identify sources of revenue for investment and plan to increase them. One investment that we support would be the creation of a universal housing benefit.
Recent research from the Ontario Non-Profit Housing Association and the Cooperative Housing Federation estimate that those in the most pressing housing need require an extra $290 per month just to afford housing that is the right size and good repair. (Cited by the Income Security and Advocacy Centre (ISAC))
In our 2009 submission to the Long Term Affordable Housing Strategy we made twenty-two recommendations pertaining to affordability, changes to legislation and human rights issues. One of those recommendations i.e., the creation of a universal housing benefit to all low income Ontarians continues to stand as a strategy that should be a valuable part of the provincial poverty reduction plan. Such a benefit would pay 75% of the difference between the actual rent paid and the recipient’s income.
The clinic also calls for the immediate restoration of the Community Start Up and Maintenance Benefit (CSUMB). In the alternative, the strategy must commit to providing permanent annual funding to municipalities for their replacement housing support programs at levels similar to the CSUMB.
Last year the province “transferred” CSUMB to the municipalities for use in the Consolidated Housing and Homelessness program. It is misleading to call it a transfer because the government is only passing on half of its share of the CSUMB funding.
The consequences for individuals and families in receipt of provincial social assistance will be dire. We have worked regularly with clients for whom the CSUMB is crucial in obtaining or retaining their housing, and who would be left homeless if unable to access it.
We are also particularly worried about the cap on discretionary funding to $10 per case (including funding for items such as hearing aids, layettes and baby supplies, air conditioning for people suffering from severe asthma, etc.).
It is imperative that the government rescind the decision to remove the CSUMB from social assistance and limit the total funding for this crucial benefit, along with capping the funding for discretionary benefits.Without this reversal, we fear that these changes will have severe adverse effects for the depth of poverty and incidence of homelessness in our community.
2. Make investments and implement specific actions in social assistance. To be meaningful the strategy must put in place reforms that can be measured by the extent to which they reduce poverty.
A most pressing issue is the extreme depth of poverty suffered by recipients of provincial social assistance benefits. The Commissioners, in the final report of the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario, pointed out that current social assistance rates are arbitrary numbers. These rates are not set through any evidence-based methodology. They are politically-determined amounts bearing no relation to the actual costs of rent, food and basic necessities. Currently, largely as a result of drastic cuts to rates made by the provincial government in 1995 and the failure of subsequent governments to even ensure that those inadequate rates kept pace with inflation, provincial social assistance rates actually fall far below even subsistence levels of assistance for many selected family sizes (particularly for individuals and families in receipt of Ontario Works benefits).
It must not be forgotten how much the social assistance system has eroded over the past twenty years. The Income Security and Advocacy Centre (ISAC) calculated this erosion in a recent report.Their conclusion was that in order to give recipients the same purchasing power as they had in 1993Ontario Works benefits for a single person should have increased by 56%. The Ontario Disability and Support Program should have gone up 22%.
The current social assistance system is not adequately supporting our most vulnerable individuals and families. This will have dire consequences for the future of our communities. The severe underfunding of these vital cash transfers to the poorest members of our society negatively affects public health and education levels, as well as other areas of society. At our clinic we regularly witness individuals and families who are unable to purchase healthy food and are evicted multiple times in a calendar year due to the inadequate levels of benefit rates. For children in these families, this means that they are changing schools repeatedly throughout their education. Anecdotally, we are told that some schools in 'poorer' neighbourhoods in Hamilton have greater than 80% turnover rates each year. In underfunding this most vital of benefits, we are mortgaging the future of our children and our communities.
The Clinic urges the Provincial Government to immediately effect institutional change to the way social assistance rates are currently determined. This can be achieved through the creation of an independent arms-length body. Each year that body would recommend evidence-based social assistance rates.
For some time we have advocated for the creation of such a panel. This panelwould set rates that would have some relation to the actual cost of rent, food and other basic necessities. To that end, in 2011, we met with the Commission for the Review of Social Assistance in Ontario and subsequently made this recommendation to them:
“That the Government of Ontario establish an arm’s length body to recommend evidence-based social assistance rates on an annual basis. Those rates should be based on an analysis of the actual costs of rent, a healthy food basket, and other basic necessities in communities across Ontario, and should provide a level of assistance that will allow individuals and families to live with dignity....”
Recommendation #27 of the Brighter Prospects report called for the province to adopt a “rational methodology” to set social assistance rates.
We would submit, however, that a framework for that methodology was already established in 2007. The former Bill 235, championed by MPP Ted McMeekin, was introduced in the legislature in June of 2007 but “died” when the legislature was adjourned.
The Social Assistance Rates Board that was proposed in that Bill would meet at least six times a year and give an annual report to the Minister of Community and Social Services. It would recommend appropriate social assistance rates. Regional variations in rates could be proposed. The legislation laid out a process and timeline that would require the Minister to respond to the recommendations.
Reforming the Social Assistance system as part of its Poverty Reduction Strategy was a major initiative of the McGuinty government. While there is much that needs to be changed with the current system, the creation of a rates board, as described above, should be a priority.
In order to create a legacy of evidence-based social assistance policy development in Ontario, it is necessary that this work be institutionalized and arms-length so that this crucial, yet perennially unpopular, policy issue is not left to the whim of party politics and public opinion polls.
3. The strategy must make investments and implement specific actions that will improve the quality of jobs in the labour market.
Clinic staff has been involved in the Hamilton Living Wage Committee. To come up with a living wage economists and others determined the hourly wage needed for a family of four to afford basic everyday expenses, such as housing, food, clothing, utility bills, and child care in the City of Hamilton in 2011. The rate for this family (with both parents working full-time for 37.5 hours a week) was calculated to be $14.95. It is worth noting that the Living Wage rate doesn’t cover things like owning a home, saving for retirement, paying down debt or saving for your children’s education. Clearly, this recommended living wage is far in excess of the current minimum wage.
About one in ten workers in Ontario earn the minimum wage. It is indeed concerning that this minimum wage lags so far behind the income necessary for a family to afford basic everyday expenses.
That minimum wage ($10.25), frozen for three years now, must be raised and indexed to inflation.
4. The strategy must have an equity approach. It should recognize that some groups living in poverty have special challenges and needs that should be addressed. Examples include people living with disabilities, single parents, aboriginal people, newcomers, refugee claimants, migrant workers and injured workers.
It is a principle stated in the Poverty Reduction Act “that not all groups of people share the same level of risk of poverty.” The strategy acknowledges that the heightened risk” among various identified groups must be recognized.
The Colour of Poverty has gathered research that demonstrates that poverty is racialized (disproportionate to people of colour who are Canadian born and newcomers.) (See http://www.slideshare.net/settlementatwork/deepening-racialized-inequality-in-ontario-selected-quotes-and-references-january-26-2009-2887774)
It is a shocking fact that in Hamilton 20% of residents are living in poverty. However,poverty rates for Aboriginal people (37%) and recent immigrants(50%) are much higher.
It is the Clinic’s experience that persons with disabilities face particular barriers restricting their ability to participate fully in society. This requires that “positive steps must be taken to ensure that policies, standards, programs and services are fully accessible and inclusive.”*
Government is obligated to initiate these positive steps.
In this regard, participation in the labour market is of particular concern to us as, in this sphere, disabilities are not always properly accommodated.
We are mindful that progress is being made.Under the Employment Standard laid out in for Ontarians with DisabilitiesAct(AODA) there is a requirement “to integrate accessibility into regular workplace process and to ensure that employers provide for accessibility across all stages of the employment life cycle.”
Progress is slow so, however. People still need income security program and a program that will support it.
*The concept of substantive equality is elaborated on council of Canadians with disabilities Disability, Poverty and Citizenship: A short Note by Yvonne Peters and Michael J. Prince –February 2009.)
Expanding Taser Use in Ontario
Yesterday (August 27) the Province announced that all front line police officers in Ontario will be permitted to carry and use Tasers. (See the news release at http://news.ontario.ca/mcscs/en/2013/08/improving-public-and-police-officer-safety.html)
Aron Firman’s father was “deeply disappointed” by this government decision.
Last month a Coroner’s Inquest reported last month into the death of Firman’s son. The Jury concluded that a Taser was was a “contributing factor” in the twenty–seven-year olds’ 2010 death.
“The jury in my son’s inquest heard all the evidence about the TASER, and how it contributed to my son’s death. The jury worked very hard on this case, and my family is grateful for their work. Just one month ago, they decided that there was no basis to expand the use of TASERS to all frontline police officers. I can’t understand how the Minister could ignore this,” said Marcus Firman on his lawyer’s website.
The Jury came up with 21 recommendations. We’ve listed those made to the Ontario Provincial Police below.
Recommendations to the Ontario Provincial Police from the Inquest into the Death of Aron Firman
13. Provide additional and meaningful awareness training for officers dealing with persons affected by mental illness, with particular attention to the concept and features of Excited Delirium Syndrome (ExDS), as part of annual Block Training. Providing mandatory e-learning opportunities, webinars and podcasts would assure consistency of messaging and mitigate the need for time away from front line duties as electronic availability does not require multiple officers to be in the same place at the same time.
14. Any suspicion by officers that a subject may be experiencing ExDS should be treated as a medical emergency and Emergency Medical Services (EMS) requested immediately.
15. Develop a standardized mental health screening form that includes the features ofExDS to assist officers in accurately reporting their observations, and give consideration to when that form should be completed.
16. Encourage liaison between OPP Detachments and local area mental health professionals, to inform and educate both police and mental health workers about available resources in their area, including mental health facilities and homes/hostels housing clients with mental health issues, to ensure that optimum mental health services are provided to meet the needs of those clients.
17. Develop a central data base for collecting data for CEW and other police use-of-force options with the intention of gathering statistics such as injuries/fatalities.
18. In circumstances where a subject becomes unresponsive after CEW deployment, officers need to contact EMS for assistance immediately.
19. Language in "Policing Standards Manual", specifically Section 17 ( o) be changed to read: "probes embedded in the chest area should be removed immediately by the member in order to begin Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)." Members need to receive training in removal of probes, with the understanding that it is a relatively minor procedure, without significant risk of further injury to the subject.
20. Procedures should be updated, in keeping with current guidelines, to instruct officers to begin CPR immediately on an unresponsive subject, without attempting to check for a pulse.
21. Analyze the Crisis Outreach Assessment and Support Team (COAST) program and other pilot projects currently underway, with a view to expanding those programs to communities where they would enhance response and support to individuals with mental health challenges.
(You can read the full verdict and recommendations at http://www.falconers.ca/documents/VerdictofCoronersJury.July232013.pdf)
Posted August 28, 2013
Insights into Aboriginal History
Here is a list is made up of ten easy to access scholarly publications that provide insights into aboriginal history in the country.
The list was compiled by Sean Kheraj, an assistant professor in the Department of History at York University. Kheraj blogs at http://seankheraj.com
1. In the 1950s, the federal government relocated Inuit people to experimental colonies
in the Arctic archipelago.
Alan R. Marcus. Out in the Cold: The Legacy of Canada’s Inuit Relocation Experiment in the High
Arctic. Copenhagen: IWGIA, 1992. http://www.iwgia.org/publications/search-pubs?publication_id=155
2. In 1933, the National Research Council subjected Aboriginal children of the Qu’Appelle
reserve in southern Saskatchewan to experimental trials of BCG vaccines for
Maureen Lux. “Perfect Subjects: Race, Tuberculosis,and the Qu’Appelle BCG Vaccine Trial” Canadian
Bulletin of Medical History 15.2 (1998): 277-295. http://www.cbmh.ca/index.php/cbmh/article/view/407/406
3. Aboriginal people have fought for Canada in every overseas conflict in the twentieth
P. Whitney Lackenbauer with John Moses, R. Scott Sheffield, and Maxime Gohier. A Commemorative
History of Aboriginal People in the Canadian Military Ottawa: National
4. Throughout the entire twentieth century, Aboriginal people in British Columbia have
organized politically for recognition of traditional land rights.
Paul Tennant. “Native Indian Political Organization in British Columbia, 1900-1969: A Response to
Internal Colonialism” BC Studies 55 (1982): 3-49. http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/view/1132/1176
5. From 1969 to 1971, the federal government conducted “Project Surname” a program to assign
second names to Inuit people in the Northwest Territories who traditionally did not have surnames. Prior to this project, the government designated so-called disc numbers to Inuit people for identification and tracking purposes.
Valerie Alia, “Inuit Women and the Politics of Naming in Nunavut” Canadian Woman Studies 14.4
(1994): 11-14. https://pi.library.yorku.ca/ojs/index.php/cws/article/viewFile/9524/8641
6. From 1913 to 1931, all levels of government participated in the removal and erasure of
nearly every Coast Salish village and Indian reserve in the City of Vancouver.
Jean Barman. “Erasing Indigenous Indigeneity in Vancouver” BC Studies 155 (2007): 3-30. http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/view/626/669
7. In 1962, the British Columbia government agreed to end enforcing ethnic controls on
alcohol sales in the Indian Act, which prohibited the sale of alcohol to Aboriginal people.
Robert A. Campbell. “A “Fantastic Rigmarole”: Deregulating Aboriginal Drinking in British Columbia,
1945-62″ BC Studies 141 (2004): 81-104. http://ojs.library.ubc.ca/index.php/bcstudies/article/view/1705/1751
8. During the 1946-48 public inquiry on federal administration of Indian Affairs, the Indian Association of Alberta first argued that treaty rights should be the foundation for Aboriginal citizenship in Canada.
Laurie Meijer Drees. “Citizenship and Treaty Rights: The Indian Association of Alberta and the
Canadian Indian Act” Great Plains Quarterly 20.2 (2000): 141-158. http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/greatplainsquarterly/20/
9. In Ontario in the 1950s and 1960s, Noranda Mines operated a sulphuric acid plant on Serpent River First Nation territory that processed uranium from the nearby Elliot Lake mines. The detrimental environmental effects of sulphuric waste from the plant devastated the Aboriginal community in the years since the closure of the plant.
Lianne Leddy. “Interviewing Nookomis and Other Reflections: The Promise of Community
Collaboration” Oral History Forum 30 (2010): 1-18. http://www.oralhistoryforum.ca/index.php/ohf/article/view/386/457
10. In 1922, Dr. Peter Bryce, Canada’s first chief medical health officer, published The Story of a National Crime, a book that outlined statistical evidence that Canada’s Aboriginal population was being destroyed by tuberculosis and the federal government had the means to stop it. The
government ignored Bryce’s warnings and fired him for publishing reports on the tuberculosis crisis.
Adam J. Green. “Telling 1922′s Story of a National Crime: Canada’s First Chief Medical Health Officer
and the Aborted Fight for Aboriginal Health Care” Journal of Native Studies 26.2 (2006):
Posted July 29, 2013
Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives Publications
The following Fast Facts are taken from two recent publications of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives.
The Gap in the Gender Gap: Violence Against Women in Canada was released July 11th. (See http://www.policyalternatives.ca/newsroom/news-releases/canada-lacks-coherent-response-end-violence-against-women-study)
The authors argue that “progress on ending violence against women in Canada is stalled by the absence of a coherent national policy and consistent information about the levels of that violence.”
Kate McInturff‘s In Closing Canada’s Gender Gap Year 2240 Here We Come! came out in April. The author looks at data from the World Economic Forum. That data measures the progress of the world’s nations in closing the gap between the participation of men and women in four areas: education, health, the economy, and politics. We do well in education and health; not so economic participation and opportunity.
The author argues that “the biggest drag on Canada’s score in this arena is its poor performance in increasing the percentage of women who make up our country’s legislators, senior officials,
and managers.” (http://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office/2013/04/Closing_Canadas_Gender_Gap.pdf)
On average each year the number of Canadians reported experiencing spousal violence to the police. (a)
% of incidents of spousal violence never reported. (b)
% of victims of spousal violence who are female. ©
Combined cost in dollars per person per year of adult sexual assault and intimate partner violence is in Canada. (d)
Estimated cost in dollars of the use of illegal drugs per person per year. (d)
Estimated cost of smoking per person per year. (d)
Dollars per person in federal public spending to address violence against women for the 2011-2012 fiscal year. (d)
At the current rate of progress years that will be required to close Canada’s
gender gap i.e., inequality between men and women. (e)
% of federal Parliament constituencies represented by women. (f)
% of government caucus who are women. (f)
% of seats on corporate boards occupied by women in Canada. (g)
% of Canada’s top 100 CEOs who is a woman. (h)
(a) Sinha, Maire (2013). Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends. Statistics Canada.
(b) Sinha, Maire (2012). Family Violence in Canada: A Statistical Profile, 2010. Ottawa: Statistics Canada.
(c) Sinha, Maire ed. (2013). Measuring Violence Against Women: Statistical Trends. Statistics Canada.
(d) The Gap in the Gender Gap: Violence Against
Women in Canada
(e) Kate McInturff ‘s In Closing Canada’s Gender Gap Year 2240 Here We Come
(f) In McInturf from Members of Parliament (Current).” Parliament of Canada. http://www.parl.gc.ca/MembersOfParliament/MainMPsCompleteList.aspx?TimePeriod=Current&Language=E