Bring Back Reasonably Priced, Accessible Financial Services
Good communities are ones that provide residents and businesses with easy access to reasonably priced financial services.
What has happened?
- The big five chartered banks have been leaving downtown cores of major Canadian cities for years.
- Many small communities, especially Aboriginal communities, don’t have any banks or credit unions.
- According to a recent report from the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA), three to fifteen percent of Canadians do not have a bank account. That means at least 910,000 Canadians are “unbanked.”
- When banks do exist, fees are an issue. Only thirty years ago, banks did not charge fees but now these charges are amongst the highest in the world.
- “Fringe” financial institutions like Money Mart have stepped in to fill the void. They make big bucks while charging exorbitant fees.
- There is some regulation of these fringe institutions. In 2008, for example, the Ontario government, concerned about excessive charges, brought in regulations. These controls were inadequate so the government is in the process of setting new rules.
What to do?
More regulation of fringe institutions is needed. Reintroducing postal banking could help address the problem. It is a simple idea - the post office offers financial services alongside their regular business.
- Canadians had access to postal banking for more than one hundred years. When the Post Office Savings Bank ceased operations in 1968, nearly 300,000 accounts closed down.
- Postal banking is thriving in other parts of the world. Japan Post Bank, for example, has $2 trillion in assets. New Zealand, Switzerland, France, Great Britain and Italy are five other countries with postal banking.
- These institutions can achieve stated social goals that other financial institutions aren’t interested in.
- By initiating postal banking, Canada Post could make money and increase their ability to invest in public postal service and jobs and leave the corporation less dependent on mail.
- In February, Blacklock’s Reporter published a story that indicated that Canada Post executives think postal banking is a good idea. In fact, after looking at postal banks in other jurisdictions the conclusion was that a move back into postal banking would be a “win-win. `` (Here is that story. http://www.blacklocks.ca/canada-postal-banks-win-win-secret-records-show/)
- A poll done in April found that “64% of Canadians supported Canada Post expanding revenue-generating services, including bill payments, insurance and banking.``
Find out more about postal banking from the Canadian Union of Postal Workers at http://www.cupw.ca/index.cfm/ci_id/12820/la_id/1.htm
You can also read our story from earlier this year at
Posted December 10, 2014
Family Law Announcement
The Clinic is excited about a new Family Law Service Partnership developed with Legal Aid Ontario (LAO).
This Partnership means that some family law advice and referrals may be accessed through the Clinic at 100 Main Street East.
These services are available Thursday mornings. Community members interested in the services must call to set up an appointment.
Specific areas of family that are covered are:
- Custody and access
- Support – child & spousal
- Child protection matters
- Separation and Divorce
- Default Proceedings (FRO matters)
Please note that Review of Separation Agreements and Property Law are Areas that are NOT covered by this service.
Ruling on Overpayments
Recently the Supreme Court of Canada made an announcement of significance for Ontarians with low-incomes. The ruling is known as the Surdivall Case.
This is a complicated case with a long history. We have written about it on our website (http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Court+Rulings+of+Significance+for+Ontarians+with+Low-Incomes&id=269)
Briefly, Mr. Surdivall is a disabled senior who received Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) income support until he turned 65.
He made an innocent reporting error that resulted in him being over paid. As a result, he was ordered to pay half the outstanding balance, at a rate of $10/month. While the law in Ontario says that overpayments can be recovered, this seemed unfair in Mr. Surdivall’s situation.
Divisional Court ruled that social assistance recipients could not challenge rulings for collection of overpayments, no matter how unfair the circumstances.
The matter went to the Court of Appeal before finally being referred to the Supreme Court of Canada.
The end result of this litigation is summarized in Legal Aid Ontario’s blog. It is now recognized “that people on welfare often receive overpayments for reasons entirely beyond their control and, potentially, because people with power over them have abused the system.” http://blog.legalaid.on.ca/2014/04/17/victory-at-ontario-court-of-appeal-protects-rights-of-people-receiving-social-assistance/
Mr. Surdivall was represented by lawyers from two Specialty Legal Clinics (Income Security Advocacy Centre and ARCH Disability Law Centre and Parkdale Community Legal Services.
Mentor Action Group
There is a new website in Hamilton that addresses the issue of gender-based violence.
www.mentoraction.org is designed for men and organizations that are dealing with gender violence issues. The website includes community resource information, information about men's health and well-being and more.
MentorAction, a volunteer committee of male leaders in Hamilton working in partnership with Interval House of Hamilton, is commended for the initiative.
Posted December 8, 2014
Homelessness Remains a National Crisis
235,000 Canadians still have no place to call home
By Jino Distasio Expert Advisor EvidenceNetwork.ca WINNIPEG, MB/ Troy Media/
Troy Media Marketplace
Homelessness in Canada remains a national crisis despite the best efforts of social groups, housing advocates and all levels of government. In the 2014 State of Homelessness in Canada Report Card released recently, the most startling number remains that on any given night 35,000 Canadians have no place to call home.
Even more damning is that throughout the year an estimated 235,000 different individuals will experience the harshness of having no housing. Among industrialized nations, Forbes ranks Canada among the top 20 richest nations, yet we have failed to tackle homelessness in Canada despite years of sustained effort.
The mid-1990s were less than kind to Canadian cities. The economy was stagnant and the federal government shifted its policies on social housing, transferring responsibility from the federal government to the provinces. This period was marked by a significant shortfall in building affordable housing across the country and a lack of supports within a healthcare system that was already maxed out. A flashpoint was in 1999, when images of Tent City, an encampment of homeless persons in Toronto, thrust Canada into the limelight for the entire world to see that we could not house people in one of our most prosperous cities. In reactionary fashion, the Federal government stepped in amidst an international shaming and growing pubic fervour that something had to be done. The outcome was the establishment of a large-scale intervention big enough to have an immediate impact. Seeded with $750 million, a national program was launched in Canada’s largest cities. While the funding was not enough, the wheels were set in motion to help address the needs of our most vulnerable citizens.
Over the next 15 years the emphasis shifted from building homeless shelters to include a much broader focus in areas such as labour reintegration, supportive housing and acknowledging that our mental healthcare system has failed to address the complex needs of a large number of persons.
Today, the Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS) is Canada’s main source of federal policy with funds directed toward ending homelessness. HPS funds are deployed to cities via local community entities that are responsible for the implementation and distribution of dollars. This has created an important delivery mechanism by which federal monies are able to flow to local jurisdictions without much complexity. In its most current iteration, the HPS has taken the lead by promoting “Housing First” which is an intervention aimed at ending homelessness by providing specialized supports along with housing. Housing First has been proven to be highly effective in ending homelessness for persons with mental health issues.
The 2014 Report Card notes the impact of homelessness to the Canadian economy is upwards of $7 billion annually, with a substantive portion attributed to the over consumption of services and supports related to mental health and social services. This includes the overuse of hospital and primary care centres, the deployment of police, as well as other areas of our social safety net that could be better used if more people had decent housing and the supports necessary to succeed.
What is needed now is the momentum to deal with homelessness in a more comprehensive manner.
Solutions must come from the community, such as the Task Force to End Homelessness in Winnipeg which has penned a plan, to the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness’s bold announcement of launching the “20,000 Homes Campaign” with the objective to house 20,000 of Canada's most vulnerable by 2018. All levels of government and the private sector must begin to see the tremendous social and economic benefits of doing the right thing. Canada can end homelessness and our elected officials have a duty to work together on funding community based solutions.
Jino Distasio is an expert advisor with EvidenceNetwork.ca Associate Professor of Geography and Director of the Institute of Urban Studies at the University of Winnipeg. He is also the co-principal investigator for the Winnipeg site of the At Home Chez Soi Project.
Posted November 14, 2014
IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR FORMER RESIDENTS OF HURONIA, RIDEAU AND SOUTHWESTERN REGIONAL CENTRES
We received an-email from the ARCH Disability Law Centre recently.
The e-mail was a reminder for former residents of Huronia, Rideau or Southwestern Regional Centres.
As a result of lawsuits, there is money for some people who lived at Huronia, Rideau or Southwestern Regional Centres, or a place where Huronia, Rideau or Southwestern put them.
You can ask for money if:
• you lived at Huronia or a place Huronia put you between 1945 and 2009.
• you lived at Rideau or a place Rideau put you between 1963 and 2009.
• you lived at Southwestern or a place Southwestern put you between 1963 and 2008.
Deadline is this Month
The deadline for submitting a claim is November 30th, 2014.
You MUST send in the Claim Form by November 30. If you send in the form after November 30, you will not get any money for your claim.
You can find out more about this at http://goo.gl/tyYVXU
Contact ARCH If you need help to fill out a claim form.
They can be reached at
Posted November 6, 2014
Christmas Registry 2014
The City of Hamilton co-ordinates a Christmas Registry.
The purpose of the Registry is to record all families and individuals who need help during the Christmas season. The Registry acts as liaison between agency and families to ensure as many people as possible will be able to enjoy Christmas.
The following agencies participate in the Registry
- Ancaster Community Services
- Good Shepherd
- Mission Services
- Neigbour to Neighbour
- Salvation Army
- St Matthew’s House
- Stoney Creek Community Food Bank
- Wesley Urban Ministries.
You can find out more on registration procedures at
Posted October 23, 2014
Ontario’s Second Poverty Reduction Strategy – Indicators
A new Poverty Reduction Strategy was presented by the Ontario government in September.
All three main-line parties supported the first Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2009. A new five year strategy was due for release last December, then in May, but was delayed because of the election.
The first Poverty Reduction Strategy is credited with bringing about investments that lifted 40,000 Ontario children out of poverty. It is estimated that these efforts also kept 60,000 additional kids from becoming poor.
Strategies can be effective if there is a way to measures whether they are working. In that regard, the provincial government developed eight indicators for the first strategy. Progress was made on all eight indicators. Seven of those indicators remain.
- birth weights
- school readiness
- educational progress (combined grade 3 & grade 6)
- high school graduation rates
- Low Income Measure
- Depth of Poverty Ontario Housing Measure
One indicator was dropped. The Standard of Living indicator was based on data that came from Statistics Canada. This organization no longer collects that information.
Three new indicators have been added. A closer look will be taken at youth education, employment and training, at long-term unemployment, and at the poverty rates of vulnerable populations.
1. Not in education, employment or training
The percentage of youth and young adults who are not in education, employment or training will be tracked. These individuals “are at higher risk of persistent poverty and social exclusion.” Last year 11.6 per cent of all youth and young adults aged 15 to 29 were in this category. This figure is higher than the national average.
2. Long-term Unemployment
The percentage of working-age Ontarians (aged 25 to 64) who are out of work longer than 6 months will be measured. Last year about 2.0 percent (107,000) of all working-age Ontarians were experiencing long-term unemployment.
3. Poverty Rates of Vulnerable Populations
Over the next five years, the strategy will track the poverty rates of several vulnerable populations. These vulnerable populations will include:
- Aboriginal people living off-reserve
- newcomers, persons with disabilities,
- unattached individuals aged 45 to 64,
- and female lone parents.
Interestingly, of those people 16 years and older who live in poverty, 66 per cent (823,000 people) belong to one or more of these vulnerable groups. In 2011, these groups had a collective poverty rate of 19.4 per cent. The rate of poverty for unattached individuals 45-64 years of age was a shocking 37%.
Realizing Our Potential, as the Strategy is called, can be found at https://dr6j45jk9xcmk.cloudfront.net/documents/3384/en-prs-bklt-aug-28th-approved-final-s.pdf
This story originally appeared in North End Breezes, the community newsletter of Hamilton's North End . You can find North End Breezes at http://www.northendbreezes.com/ Posted October 1, 2014
The War Measures Act came into force 100 years ago today.
Many readers will be aware of the War Measures Act as it was used during the so-called October Crisis in Quebec in 1970. Then, a state of “apprehended insurrection” was declared and more than 450 people were detained under powers of the Act. In the end, only 18 people were convicted of a crime arising from the crisis. Not counting members of the FLQ involved in the kidnapping, only two individuals were convicted under the Public Order Regulations. http://www.historyofrights.com/flq4.html
However, August 22 1914 is the anniversary of the adoption of that Act. It gave the federal government broad powers to use in the First World War Canadian citizens of German, Ukrainian and Slavic descent were imprisoned. Nearly 9,000 were interned. About 75% of that number were citizens i.e. not captured soldiers.
In 1940 during World War II, an Order in Council was passed that defined enemy aliens as “all persons of German or Italian origin who have become naturalized British subjects since September 1922.” Thirty thousand (30,000) individuals were impacted by these Orders. That is, they were forced to register with the RCMP and to report to them on a monthly basis.
Later about 23,000 Japanese Canadians in British Columbia were moved and had their property confiscated.
Closer to home at Ipperwash on Lake Huron, the War Measures Act was used to take land from the Stoney Point First Nation.
The Act was repealed in 1988 and replaced by the Emergencies Act.
Could These Human Rights Abuses Happen Today?
According to Diana Breti from the Centre for Education, Law and Society (CELS) at Simon Fraser University in Vancouver, the new Act differs from the War Measures Act “in two important ways:
1. A declaration of an emergency by the Cabinet must be reviewed by Parliament 2. Any temporary laws made under the Act are subject to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.”
So, if the government was to try to suspend civil rights of Canadians, even in an emergency, it will have to satisfy a test under the Charter.
Ms. Breti says that under the War Measures Act “the government was influenced more by racial discrimination and anti-immigrant sentiments than by any real threat to national security”.
One hundred years after the adoption of the War Measures Act, we must not forget how vulnerable our human rights can be in times of crisis.
Posted August 22, 2014.
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.firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hon Linda Jeffreys, Minister of Municipal Affairs and Housing - email@example.com
The Hon Teresa Piruzza, Minister of Children and Youth Services - firstname.lastname@example.org
The Hon Ted McMeekin, Minister of Community and Social Services - email@example.com
Tim Hudak, Leader of the Official Opposition - firstname.lastname@example.org
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 r