The Clinic is interested in partnership with stakeholders, community groups and organizations in many issues that affect the citizens of Hamilton with low incomes.
We work to attract more public attention on these issues and to advance discussions on how to implement the solutions. Thiat is what we are doing here (on the Make Change page), on Facebook, Twitter and our blog on community development. We encourage you to visit our website regularly and work with us to make changes in our community. Here are some areas that we and others in the community are working on.
SOCIAL JUSTICE THIS WEEK
Recent news items from Hamilton, Ontario and around the country that caught our attention/drew our praise or ire.
Make the Transitional Funding Permanent
December 3, 2013
Over a year ago, the City of Hamilton and other municipalities were struggling to figure out how they would address a problem caused by the provincial government.
That problem was the cancellation of the Community Start-Up and Maintenance Benefit program (CSUMB). This benefit had been available to people on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) to cover costs like last month’s rent, rent and utility arrears and other housing related expenses.
In 2012, the province passed on only half of the funds to cities for a new program called the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative.
You may remember a public outcry followed. Then, at the 11th hour, the province provided transitional funding to cities to cover the gap. (We wrote about it at the time http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Transitional%20Funding%20from%20Province&id=210)
However, that transitional funding runs out on March 31, 2014.
What will fill the gap?
Recently a letter was sent to the government by a number of organizations urging that the $42 million be made a permanent part of the CHPI fund. A decision to do this needs to happen soon as municipalities are in the final stages of planning their budgets for next year.
While many municipalities like Hamilton created their own local programs to address the gap, some, unfortunately, did not. But all municipalities need more funds to meet the need in their communities.
We are writing to political leaders to ask them to reinstate the program. We hope you will too.
You can read the letter the community organizations sent on our Fast Facts page at http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/did-you-know.cfm
The letter and more background information is also available at http://www.incomesecurity.org/Make42millionpermanent.htm
November 25, 2013
Federal Court Ruling on Migrant Workers
An important statement was made by a federal court last week that should help migrant workers who worked in the Niagara area.
Even though migrant workers pay into Employment Insurance (EI), they are not eligible for regular benefits. They have been eligible for parental benefits however. Rulings lately had denied these parental benefits as applicants did not apply in a timely manner.
Lawyers from the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) and the North Niagara Clinic represented a claimant named Genaro Cruz de Jesus and 101 others. (Claimants participating in the case are from Mexico, Trinidad and Tobago, and Jamaica.)
The Clinic lawyers argued that the claimants had “good cause” for delay in applying. The Federal Court of Appeal agreed.
In the past it had been found that claimants were “severely hindered” in finding out their rights and obligations. Language barriers, fear of losing employment, time to access information because of work schedules etc…are some of the barriers.
But in these cases, it had been determined by an Umpire that none of the applicants “had taken any steps to inform themselves of their employment insurance rights and responsibilities before eventually completing their applications for benefits.”
That determination was an error in law according to J.A. Evans of the Federal Court of Appeal. Justice Evans said that the circumstances common to all applicants and the circumstances particular to individual applicants must be taken into account to determine whether there was “good cause” for delay.
Now each of these workers will get a new hearing.
The federal government, however, has changed the rules. Now migrant workers will only be able to access benefits during the period covered by their work permits. (The Toronto Star had a good story on this at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/11/21/migrant_workers_win_court_decision_on_benefits.html)
You can find out more about the history involved in this case by visiting the ISAC website at http://www.incomesecurity.org/challenges/index.html
November 17, 2013
New Regulations for Wireless Contracts
Eight out of ten Ontario families have a wireless services agreement, according to the provincial government.
Complaints about these agreements are increasing. In fact, they have tripled in the last four years.
So, it is a good thing that the Provincial Government has just passed new legislation to govern agreements between a consumer and a supplier of wireless services.
The bill applies to suppliers who deal with cellular phones, smart phones or other similar mobile devices.
The government promises “fewer surprises” for customers “when they enter into cell phone and wireless services contracts. The regulations will probably be in place by next Spring.
The legislation will:
• Require that contracts be written in plain language.
• Ensure contracts clearly outline which services come with the basic fee, and which would result in extra charges.
• Require providers to get customer consent before amending, renewing or extending a fixed-term contract.
• Enforce a cap on cancellation fees, making it less expensive for consumers to walk away from fixed-term contracts.
If you want to read the legislation, the link is below. A warning though: While contracts will now need to be written in plain language, the legislation is not.
Updated November 14, 2013
Changing E.I. Definitions - Bad News for Workers
We won’t mention the political scandals and shenanigans going on in Toronto and Ottawa these days. Let’s just say they are obscuring other issues important to Canadians.
The Chrétien government made significant changes to eligibility requirements for the Employment Insurance (E.I) (formerly Unemployment Insurance (U.I) program) back in the nineties.
Now, so-called “reforms” by the Harper government have resulted in only about 35% of unemployed Canadians being eligible for benefits.
Some may remember when Unemployment Insurance was set up in 1971. At that time the previous program was re-orientated to “to ensure that mainstream economic society was open to all individuals, with a combination of financial aid and active services to assist workers in dealing with labour market adjustments.” http://mapleleafweb.com/features/employment-insurance-canada-history-structure-and-issues#history
But new directions for eligibility have changed all that.
First, there are now three classes of workers. Long tenured workers are not treated too badly as a result of the changes. Seasonal workers are treated badly though. That change has enormous implications for workers and communities in the Atlantic Provinces. That third class is of worker referred to as “occasional workers.” They don’t fare well either. In Ontario 58% of the claimants (excluding those receiving special benefits) fall into this category."
The second change – the definition of suitable employment - is problematic as well.
Unemployed Occasional workers must:
• Take any job available after 18 weeks of unemployment.
• Most will be required to take a 20-30% pay cut in a job outside their current profession after 6 weeks of collecting benefits.
• Commute as much as an hour one-way per day. (See http://goodjobsforall.ca/wpcontent/uploads/2013/07/CostFallingEI.pdf for more details on what faces Occasional Workers.)
The Canadian Labour Congress looked back to 1990. That year was a good benchmark before significant cuts to eligibility took place. They found that:
“If 53% of unemployed workers in Toronto had access to EI benefits in 2012, there would have been an average of 91,000 additional workers covered each month. This would have resulted in an estimated $33.8 million per week, or $1.76 billion per year, in the hands of local Toronto residents.”
These so–called reforms are taking the program in the wrong direction.
Look at http://goodjobsforall.ca/scrap-the-recent-ei-changes/ to see how you can Make Change and tell our government that EI changes make no sense.
November 4, 2013
Privacy Rights Protected by Court
A court has awarded a Nova Scotia man $21,000 because Bell TV violated his privacy rights.
Rabi Chitrakar had ordered satellite television service. As a new customer for Bell, he had no credit history with them.
When the service was installed, Chitraker was required to provide his signature. He thought he was merely confirming delivery of the satellite system.
Bell then took this signature and embedded it on the rental agreement. Clause 5 in that agreement allowed Bell to perform credit checks. In fact, Bell had commenced the credit check a full month before Mr. Chitrakar had signed the document.
When a number of such inquiries (called hard pulls) occurs within a certain time frame it can negatively affect the individual’s credit score according to the Honourable Mr. Justice Phelan.
Mr. Chitrakar pursued his complaint with Bell where he was given the “royal runaround.”
Judge Phelan found Bell’s conduct reprehensible. By “conducting a credit check without his prior consent,” Bell violated their former customer’s privacy rights.
Mr. Justice Phelan noted that privacy rights are important “in an era where information is so readily available even without consent.” Case law suggests that the court should consider factors such as “meaningful compensation, deterrence and vindication.”
Taking all this into account the judge awarded Chitrakar $21,000. The award was made up of $10,000 in damages, $10,000 in exemplary damages and $1,000 in costs.
Why is this judgement significant?
The damages awarded were relatively modest. However, according to David T.S Fraser, who authors the Blog Canadian Privacy Law (http://blog.privacylawyer.ca), “One could easily see how this could multiply in connection with a class action lawsuit.”
“If a company adopted a procedure under which hard credit inquiries are routinely carried out before the customer signs any contract, each of these customers may be essentially entitled to $10,000 in compensation,” writes Fraser.
The ruling can be found at (https://docs.google.com/file/d/0B_bUaJvZ9k_BcjhnMDdubWFBdXM/edit?usp=sharing&pli=1)
October 28, 2013
The Proud to Protect Refugees Campaign
The Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) is asking that we “change the conversation” about refugees.
The week of November 10-17 has been declared a week of action. The week affords “an opportunity to turn the volume up of voices talking about refugee protection and refugee contributions in cities across Canada,” according to CCR.
There are a number of suggestions for these activities.
• Talk to your Member of Parliament about ways to protect and welcome refugees in your community
• Reach out to faith groups, healthcare providers and educators near you
• Share Proud to Protect Refugees buttons, stickers and posters to start conversations
• Share the facts about refugees in Canada and around the world
• Bust myths and misconceptions about refugees
• Add your voice on social media to support refugees
The Council notes that recent changes in Canada have increased negative talk and is making it tougher for refugees to find protection and to feel welcome.
The Proud to Protect Refugees campaign aims “to help change the conversation and promote a positive vision of what we want for refugees and other vulnerable migrants, and of the important contributions they make to our communities.”
You can find out more at
October 21, 2013
An Ontario Court made an important ruling in September dealing with wrongful dismissal.
Patricia Wilson had been dismissed by Solis Mexican Foods after having been off work with an ongoing back problem. The Ontario Superior Court awarded her damages. The court found that the employer violated her human rights. Her dismissal was “in whole or significant part because of her disability.”
There are two important lessons to be learned from this case according to the online publication of Canadian Lawyer.
First, temporary illness or injuries are considered disabilities under the Human Rights Code. Second, employers typically can’t insist on a full recovery before an employee returns to work.
In fact, disability should play “no role whatsoever” in the decisions to terminate.
In 2008 new amendments to the Human Rights Code were put in place. These amendments mean that people can bring human rights claims before civil courts “on the condition that they have also have (a) separate issue that is normally within the jurisdiction of the civil courts.” (see http://www.pintowrayjames.com/civil-remedies-for-human-rights-claims-part-1/)
Canadian Lawyer says this is the first time since 2008 that a wrongful dismissal case has been piggybacked on a discrimination claim in Superior Court.
You can read more on this case in a story by Jennifer Brown at http://www.canadianlawyermag.com/legalfeeds/1703/ontario-court-awards-first-human-rights-damages.html
October 15, 2013
Forced Marriages in Ontario
A new study documents extent of forced marriages and offers recommendations for policy change.
A recent study found 219 reported cases of forced marriages in Ontario from 2010 to 2012.
The study was carried out by the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario (SALCO).
SALCO defines a forced marriage as one that “takes place without the free consent of the individuals getting married, where pressure or abuse is used to ‘force’ one or both people to marry against their will.”
This Clinic has been involved with the issue of Forced Marriages (FM) since 2005. They organized the first ever North American Conference on in 2008. In 2010, SALCO put together a toolkit for agencies dealing with FM cases in 2010. This current research project was based on surveys filled out by service providers from January 1, 2010 onwards.
The data gathered dispels certain myths about forced marriage. Specifically, forced marriage is not just an immigrant issue, not a thing of the past or something that occurs only in certain cultures.
In fact, nearly half of the survey respondents had resided in Canada for more than seven years. Eighty-five percent were Canadian citizens or permanent residents.
The SALCO report contains nine detailed recommendations. Among those recommendations is one that asks that victims of FM be included in the definition of family violence used for the purpose of applying for priority subsidized housing. Another recommendation calls on Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Canada Border Services Agency to “create a policy to exempt victims of FM from further investigation ...for fraud marriage and/or misrepresentation.”
A spokesperson from the federal government said the issue of Forced Marriages is taken seriously and the report’s recommendations will be reviewed.
More information on Forced Marriages including where victims can go for help can be found at http://www.forcedmarriages.ca/
October 8, 2013
Progress for Youth
We’re happy to report on legislation that will help youth in this province.
A bill that incorporates the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child into Ontario’s child welfare legislation has received second reading in the Ontario Legislature.
The bill was initiated by MPP Rod Jackson. Bill 88 would give 16 and 17 year olds better access to child welfare services. It will need to pass third reading before it is law.
You can find out more about this bill in a Justice for Children and Youth JFCY) media release. (See http://www.jfcy.org/PDFs/media_release_JFCY_supports_Bill_88.pdf)
JFCY is a speciality legal clinic based in Toronto that serves youth and families around the province. According to the Clinic, Ontario “remains the only jurisdiction in Canada that limits access to child welfare services for 16 and 17 year olds in this way.”
In a nutshell at the present time, 16 and 17 year olds can’t access child welfare services if they are without the support of a family.
The bill amends the Child and Family Services Act. That Act’s new purpose will be “to recognize that services provided under the Act should be provided in accordance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Temporary care agreements will now be allowed for children who are 16 years and older.
Bill 88 is headed to Committee where it will receive greater scrutiny and perhaps have some amendments made to it prior to third reading.
You can read the bill at http://www.ontla.on.ca/web/bills/bills_detail.do?locale=en&Intranet=&BillID=2815
September 30, 2013
Tenants Benefit from Quickest Ever Class Action Resolution
A class action lawsuit launched against Toronto Community Housing and Greenwin Property has been settled.
“Class actions are lawsuits in which the claims and rights of many people, defined as having common but no identical interests, are decided in a single court proceeding brought by representative plaintiffs, or representatives of the class.” (See http://www.classaction.ca/about-siskinds.aspx for more about class action lawsuits.)
The action came about following a fire that took place on September 24th 2010 at 200 Wellesley East in Toronto.
Six hundred tenants will share 4.85 million dollars to compensate for property damages and injuries.
The fire was caused after a discarded cigarette landed on the balcony of a 24th floor unit. That unit had an excessive amount of combustible material on it. The unit’s occupant, who was identified by investigators as a hoarder, had previously complained to property management that someone was tossing cigarette butts on his balcony.
It is reported that the case is the fastest to be resolved in Ontario history.
The Ontario Class Proceedings Act came into effect twenty years ago. According to Brian Shell, lawyer for the tenants:
“It was designed to bring access to justice to people who otherwise would not be able to get any,” Shell said. “It was not designed for lawyers to make huge amounts of money and for many thousands of people to recover $40,” Shell told the Star.
Read the Toronto Star story at http://www.thestar.com/news/crime/2013/09/30/200_wellesley_st_fire_600_tenants_to_share_in_485m_compensation.html
What they Tweeted This Week
September 22, 2013
If you are on Twitter you may, like us, find it difficult to keep up with all that comes into you inbox.
Today we thought we’d take a bit of a pause and look a little more closely at what’s on the mind of some of the people we follow. That‘s a big task when you follow 656 people. So let’s just look at a few who are well known in the social policy and social justice field.
- Human Rights lawyer, researcher and advocate Bruce Porter (@jbruceporter) is concerned about Canada’s “shameful” response to a UN report on Homelessness, Food Security and Poverty. Our government will not adopt a national strategy to combat poverty and does not accept a specific proposal to develop a national plan on food security. Bruce refers you to http://socialrightscura.ca/eng/international-initiatives-upr-2013.html for more about our country’s poor record.
- Armine Yalnizyan (@ArmineYalnizyan) is talking about income inequality. The economist tweets that wealthiest 1% of the population has realized 28% of all income gains in the last few years. You can read her story at http://www.theglobeandmail.com/report-on-business/economy/economy-lab/five-years-of-economic-recovery-have-been-far-from-equal/article14403689/
- Long time housing advocate Michael Shapcott (@michaelshapcott) always seems to have useful data at the ready. This isn’t pretty. Shapcott reports “Toronto’s affordable housing wait list has grown to a staggering 90,060 households as of the end of August…an increase of 4% in the past year.” Putting that in context Shapcott notes that if the Toronto affordable housing wait list was a separate community, it would be the 24th largest city in Canada (just behind Abbotsford, and ahead of Sudbury and Kingston).Read more at http://www.wellesleyinstitute.com/housing/toronto-housing-wait-list-passes-90000-households-165723-people/
- Locally, Tom Cooper (@hamiltonpoverty) was following the city hall debate on setting up a rental housing licensing program. Committee of Council did not support the staff recommendation. Tom, though, notes that it is:
- “Unfortunate we're having debate in vacuum of senior gov't interest to build new affordable units.”
We hope to take another one of these quick looks at "What they Tweeted This Week" again.
September 16, 2013
Provincial Government Moves to Enhance Consumer Protection
A Bill called the Stronger Protection for Ontario Consumers Act passed second reading in the Ontario Legislature last week.
The Bill covers a lot of ground.
It promises to:
• Protect vulnerable, indebted consumers against the abusive practices of some companies offering debt settlement services
• Help protect home buyers and sellers in real estate bidding
• Give home sellers and buyers more power to negotiate both fees and commissions when working with a real estate professional.
The parts of the bill dealing with debt settlement services are of particular interest to us.
Minister of Consumer Affairs Tracy MacCharles introduced the bill in April.
In her comments at the time she indicated concerns about the fact that that some debt settlement companies “offer to dramatically reduce a person’s debt by negotiating with their creditors, provided that the consumer pays a hefty upfront fee.”
However, for some consumers this can actually force them into more debt as some of these companies charge high administrative fees and may not follow through on their services they promised.
”Simply put, you think you’re getting something by signing one of these contracts, but you are not getting what you expected or what you were promised, “noted Minister MacCharles.
• proposes to prohibit payment of upfront fees before services are provided
• limits the amount of fees charged overall.
• allows debtors to cancel their agreement without a reason within 10 days after receiving a copy of the agreement,
• prohibits misleading sales practices and advertising.
If debt settlement companies fail to follow these rules, they could have their licences revoked.
Having now passed second reading the bill goes to Committee where we can expect to see amendments proposed.
You can find out more on the Ministry website at http://news.ontario.ca/mcs/en/2013/9/stronger-rights-and-more-protection-for-consumers.html
September 7, 2013
Court Won't Hear Right to Housing Challenge
Ontario Superior Court Judge Thomas R. Lederer ruled on Friday that the courtroom is not the proper place to resolve the issue of homelessness and inadequate housing in Canada.
The Judge’s comments came in a decision in, what has been called, the Right to Housing Challenge. Individuals and housing advocates were trying to make the case for a court order. That court order would require that the Federal and Provincial governments implement a national housing strategy.
Lawyers from the Centre for Equality Rights in Accommodation (CERA) and filed a case three years ago. Their argument is that Canada and Ontario have violated individuals’ rights under section 7 and section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms by creating and maintaining conditions that lead to and sustain homelessness.
Put simply, Canadians have the right to adequate, affordable housing.
Lawyers for the governments of Ontario and Canada argued that the case shouldn’t even be
Judge Lederer agreed with the government lawyers.
Peter Rosenthal, one of the lawyers for the applicants, offered this comment:
“The decision reflects a narrow view of the Charter that seems to be applied when the poor seek judicial relief.”
The judgment will be appealed.
You can read more about the Right to Housing Challenge on the website of the Advocacy Centre for Tenants of Ontario (ACTO) at http://righttohousing.wordpress.com/
September 3, 2013
Report Cards on Migrant Workers
Earlier this year the Canadian Council for Refugees (CCR) put out a series of report cards. These report cards look at how the federal and provincial governments are addressing the vulnerability of migrant workers.
In 2008 the number of Temporary Foreign Workers (TFWs) in this country exceeded the total number of permanent residents admitted. That is the first time that has happened. These workers are vulnerable to exploitation because of their precarious status. For example, migrant workers have been fired and deported for complaining about their work conditions.
The report cards, then shine a light on the extent to which the various jurisdictions offer legislative protection to workers, provide access to healthcare, enforce employment standards and more.
There is great variation among the provinces. For example, Alberta which has more than 68,000 workers has developed a “trailblazing” TFW Helpline and Advisory office. It is encouraging that Saskatchewan views TFWs as potential immigrants. Ontario doesn’t and with nearly 120,000 workers scores poorly (below a C grade in six of the seven categories.)
Together with the report cards CCR puts forward several recommendations to address the huge expansion in the number of TFW’s. They are calling for:
• Proactive enforcement of laws protecting against abuse of migrant workers by (employers and recruiters).
• Work permits that are not tied to a single employer.
• Avenues to permanent residence.
• Access to information and services.
Find out more at http://ccrweb.ca/en/migrant-workers-report-cards
August 26, 2013
Update on Poverty Consultations
Recently we wrote about the Hamilton Poverty Reduction consultation meeting. (http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Hamilton%20Poverty%20Consultation%20to%20be%20Rescheduled&id=232)
The Hamilton meeting is now set for Friday September 13th at 1:00 p.m. If you would like to attend, you have to contact the consultant responsible for the consultation.
Chris Ramsaroop, from our sister clinic the Income Security Action Centre (ISAC), has noted reports that e-mails to the consulting agency Veritas are not being responded to.
Chris suggests that, in addition to contacting Veritas email@example.com, you should also send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. Tell them you are interested in participating in this process.
Two Poverty Reduction Strategy Consultations run this week – today (August 26th) in Ottawa and Tuesday (August 27th) in Toronto.
The government toolkit on Poverty Reduction Strategy is at the following link.
Digital Divide being Addressed by Rogers
Earlier this summer we wrote of concerns about the growing digital divide. That term is being used to describe the exclusion of low-income individuals and families from new digital technologies. (Scroll down on this page to our July 8th story Digital Divide Growing).
We’re happy to see, then, that a program to address this digital divide is being set up for Toronto Community Housing (TCH) residents.
Rogers, in partnership with Microsoft and Compugen, is making affordable broadband Internet, plus subsidized computers and software available to TCH residents. The first community involved will be the Cooper Mills community at Dundas St. W. & Scarlett Road in West Toronto.
The goal for Toronto is to reach all 150,000 low-income residents who would otherwise not be able to obtain access and equipment.
More information about Connected for Success is available at www.rogersyouthfund.com.
We hope that more low-income residents across Canada can gain access to such a program. In that regard, ACORN Canada continues its campaign demanding that the “Big 3” - Bell, Rogers and Telus - create a rate of $10/month for high-speed internet and provide subsidized computers for low-income families.
Join this campaign and make change by going to https://www.acorncanada.org/tell-us-about-your-internetcell-service
August 19, 2013
Canadian Medical Association says Poverty Must be Addressed
The Canadian Medical Association (CMA) believes that poverty is the main issue that
must be addressed to improve the health of Canadians and eliminate health
After a nationwide consultation about the social determinants of health a clear
message has been delivered, says CMA President Anna Reid during an event where
the report was released.
"In a nutshell, we heard that the biggest barrier to good health is poverty."
The report is called What Makes Us Sick?
It contains 12 recommendations. These recommendations reflect the views of participants expressed in a series of town hall meetings as well as from on-line consultation.
A town hall meeting held in Hamilton received the most discussion on the gap between
rich and poor, according to the report. You can read What Makes Us Sick
Read about how one physician has built poverty reduction into his practice on our Blog. http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/blog/?post=Physician%20Believes%20Poverty%20Reduction%20is%20Essential%20for%20Good%20Health%20&id=234
Beware of Hidden Fees in Pre-Paid Credit Cards
We found a recent story on pre-paid credit cards revealing.
These cards are presented as an alternative to bank accounts and credit cards.
Robb Engen’s article talks about how these cards are “marketed toward students and low-income earners with a history of poor credit.”
This story is certainly worth a look. It was in the Personal Finance section of theAugust 12th edition of the Toronto Star or online here:
August 12, 2013
Quebec Human Rights Ruling
Quebec social assistance rates are no better than Ontario’s. In fact, they are worse. So it is no surprise that Francine Beaumont, a 63-year-old woman with degenerative bone disease receiving assistance, would find it necessary to beg twice a week outside a liquor store to make ends meet.
What is surprising is that a customer going to that store would be so offended by the sight that he would send a four-page e-mail of complaint to the Liquor Store. (Read the Toronto Star story at http://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2013/08/07/panhandler_awarded_8000_from_author_of_gruesome)_letter.html
Robert Delisle’s e-mail also offered offensive “solutions” to the problem of homelessness.
Store management thought, correctly, that the e-mail contained threats and shared it with Ms. Beaumont and police. Beaumont filed a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission.
The Tribunal of the Human Rights Commission ruled that that the store’s manager did the right thing when he shared Delisle’s “diatribe” with Beaumont. He also alerted police to the threats.
The Tribunal ruled that Delisle had violated Beaumont’s rights. Specifically, according to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms “Everyone has the right to the safeguard of his dignity, honour and reputation."
Also, Section 10 of the Charter says that:
"Everyone has the right to the recognition and exercise, in full equality of rights and freedoms, without distinction, exclusion or preference based on race, color, sex, pregnancy, orientation sex, marital status, age except as provided by law, religion, political convictions, language, ethnic or national origin, social condition, a handicap or the use of any means to palliate a handicap."
Delisle violated Ms. Beaumont’s rights under this section of the Charter as well.
Tribunal Officer Jean- Paul Braun ordered Delisle to pay $7,500 in moral damages and $500 in punitive damages, plus interest. http://www.canlii.org/fr/qc/qctdp/doc/2013/2013qctdp17/2013qctdp17.html
August 5, 2013
Significant Human Rights Ruling for Migrant Workers
The Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario (HRTO) recently made a decision in favour of a migrant farm worker.
This is apparently the first time this has happened. (See Jasminee Sahoye’s story at Caribbean Camera - http://thecaribbeancamera.com/?p=1581)
David Muir, an HRTO adjudicator, ruled that Adrian Monrose, a farm worker, had been discriminated against. The discrimination was based on race, colour, ancestry, ethnic origin and place of origin.
Muir accepted St. Lucian Monrose’s submission that in June 2009 he and his co-workers were referred to as “monkeys” by their employers.
When Monrose complained about the comments, Double Diamond Acres Limited fired him. The employer did not investigate the complaint.
The employee was awarded $5,500 for lost wages and $3,000 for damages to his feelings, dignity and self-respect.
Significantly, a further $15,000 was awarded. That additional award related to the fact that Monrose had the right to have his complaint investigated without fear of reprisal.
In making this ruling, the Adjudicator accepted evidence from University of Windsor’s Tanya Basok. Basok is a Professor Department of Sociology and Anthropology and Director of the Centre for Studies in Social Justice. Her research focuses principally on migration and migrant rights.
According to Adjudicator Muir, Basok’s evidence demonstrated “the unique vulnerability of migrant workers and their understandable reluctance to stand up for their rights.”
Monrose stood up for his rights and “paid a significant price for his having done so.”
In his 19 page ruling Muir continued: “(B)y definition a reprisal is a deliberate act – in my view deliberate acts of discrimination, in contrast to inadvertent conduct found to be discriminatory, will often inflict greater damages..” http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onhrt/doc/2013/2013hrto1273/2013hrto1273.html
Adrian Monrose’s case is not an isolated one. The Canadian Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program affords workers few rights. Find out more about advocacy work related to migrant workers at http://www.justicia4migrantworkers.org/justicia_new.htm
July 29, 2013
More Troubling News about E.I.
In May we wrote about concerns with the new Employment Insurance (E.I.) appeal identified by Toronto Star columnist Thomas Walkom. (See our May 31st story below.)
Now a story by economist Erin Weir of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives reveals another reason to be concerned about E.I.
In April, Statistics Canada reported 12,290 fewer Canadians received EI benefits in May compared to April.
The data indicates that between April and May, the number of unemployed Canadians decreased by only 1% while the number of EI beneficiaries decreased by 2.4%. EI benefits are shrinking far faster than unemployment.
“The downward trend in EI is troubling given that more workers will likely need benefits,” notes Weir on the CCPA Blog (http://behindthenumbers.ca/2013/07/18/ei-benefits-falling-faster-than-unemployment/).
In another widely reported story Sylvie Therrien, a federal fraud investigator, was suspended without pay after she revealed that she and her colleagues had to cut people off E.I. to meet quotas. Here is a CBC story on the whistleblower. http://www.cbc.ca/news/politics/story/2013/07/20/bc-ei-whistleblower-suspended.html
Aboriginal History – More Revelations
Honour the Apology rallies took place across Canada last week. Here is a report on the Sudbury gathering. (http://www.northernlife.ca/news/localNews/2013/07/26-honour-the-apology-sudbury.aspx)
These rallies followed reports on research by University of Guelph food historian Ian Mosby. Mosby detailed the shocking fact that nutritional experiments were performed on Aboriginal people during the 40’s and 50’s.
Now people attending the rallies and others want the federal government to release all documents related to residential schools. Here is a report from Saskatoon. http://www.thestarphoenix.com/news/Rallies+call+government+release+residential+school/8707144/story.html
Ten Things you Might Not Know about Aboriginal History
Christa Big Canoe from the Aboriginal Legal Services of Toronto has circulated a list that she received from Dan Smoke. (Smoke hosts the radio show Smoke Signals that you can hear on London’s 94.9 FM CHRW radio on Sundays from 6:30 - 8:00 p.m.)
This 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 describes the list as “ten things you might not have known about the history of Aboriginal people in Canada in the twentieth century.” It is posted on our Fast Facts page that you can find at http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca/did-you-know.cfm
Kheraj blogs at http://seankheraj.com
July 22, 2013
Removing the “Canadian Experience” Barrier
Last week the Ontario Human Rights Commission’s (OHRC) launched a new policy. This new policy is aimed at removing the “Canadian experience” barrier.
Chief Commissioner Barbara Hall noted that Ontario attracts highly-skilled immigrants from all over the world.
“But if they have to meet a requirement for Canadian experience, they are in a very difficult position – they can’t get a job without Canadian experience and they can’t get experience without a job. In most cases, that is discrimination under Ontario’s Human Rights Code,” said Hall in a media release. You can read that media release at http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/news_centre/remove-%E2%80%9Ccanadian-experience%E2%80%9D-employment-barrier-ohrc
Last year the OHRC did a survey on requirements for Canadian experience.
This work showed that newcomers face “Canadian experience” requirements from employers when they are looking for a job. Newcomers also have problems when they try to get professional accreditation. That is because many regulatory bodies will not admit new members without prior work experience in Canada.
The new policy will look at employers’ requirement for “Canadian experience” as a practice that raises human rights concerns. The need for “Canadian experience” should only be used in very limited circumstances, according to the OHRC. It will now be up to employers and regulatory bodies to show that a requirement for prior work experience in Canada is a bona fide requirement, based on the legal test this policy sets out.
This is good news. However, the federal government is going in a different direction. They’re institutionalizing “Canadian experience.” Social Work professor Izumi Sakamoto points out how that government is “attacking immigrants before they even arrive in Canada.”
Find out more by reading her interesting commentary piece in the Toronto Star. http://www.thestar.com/opinion/commentary/2013/07/16/tearing_down_the_canadian_experience_roadblock.html
The OHRC’s new policy is here: http://www.ohrc.on.ca/en/policy-removing-“canadian-experience”-barrier
Studying the Minimum Wage
Last week the provincial government announced the creation of an advisory panel. The panel was promised in the 2013 budget. It will study a possible minimum wage increase for 2014. Recommendations will follow within 6 months.
(See the announcement at http://news.ontario.ca/mol/en/2013/07/new-advisory-panel-to-examine-ontarios-minimum-wage-system.html)
Many groups have been pushing for an increase to the minimum wage but some question the need for a panel.
"The panel will tell us what we already know - people are struggling to make ends meet," says Marcelle Daniels, of the Workers' Action Centre member (See http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/07/17/idUSnCCN645sB8+1c2+MKW20130717)
According to the Hamilton Roundtable for Poverty Reduction 30,000 of those living below the low income cut-off in Hamilton have jobs. But they don’t earn enough to pull themselves and their families out of poverty. Like others the Roundtable has called for a Living Wage. http://livingwagehamilton.ca/wp/
July 15, 2013
Suspending Police Officers
We learned this week that Ontario is the only province in which suspended police officers must be paid.
A story from the Hamilton CBC News brought this to our attention. http://www.cbc.ca/hamilton/news/story/2013/07/07/toronto-ontario-police-suspensions.html
In other provinces police chiefs have the ability to suspend officers with or without pay.
Const. Jason Nevill was convicted last month of assault causing bodily harm, obstruction of justice and fabricating evidence. The Barrie Constable has been suspended with pay since March 2011. He’ll continue to get paid until his sentencing in October or until he is fired following a police disciplinary hearing.
The CBC Hamilton story notes that since 2007 Ontario Police Chiefs are asking to have the same power as Chiefs in other provinces. It doesn’t’ look like this will happen.
A Man Walked into a Bar
No, we aren’t gearing up to tell one of those “man walked into a bar” jokes.
We do want to tell you about a human rights issue that we hope you will find interesting.
A recent case heard by the Human Rights Tribunal of Ontario was called Maclean v. The Barking Frog. We read about it on the blog of Rubin Thomlinson, a Toronto law firm that works in the area of employment law. (http://www.rubinthomlinson.com/blog/ladies-night-at-the-barking-frog-the-human-rights-tribunal-of-ontario-weighs-in/)
Mr. MacLean, the man who went to the bar, claimed that the Barking Frog had discriminated against him by charging him a higher entrance fee than women on ladies’ night.
Specifically, MacLean claimed that by charging men more than women, the bar was perpetuating a belief in society that men are less worthy than women.
Maclean also argued that the higher cover charge excluded men or made men feel unwelcome.
Not surprisingly, the Tribunal didn’t buy these arguments.
In fact, Adjudicator Mark Hart totally disagreed with Maclean.
“There are many things that could be said about societal beliefs in Ontario, but the notion that men are less worthy than women is not among them,” said Hart.
Marie-Helene Mayer is the author of the blog piece. She notes:
“The decision confirms the principle that the Human Rights Code is aimed at achieving “substantive equality” and as a result, not all differential treatment is discriminatory.”
You can read the ruling at http://www.canlii.org/en/on/onhrt/doc/2013/2013hrto630/2013hrto630.html
July 8, 2013
Stephen Lewis to Head New Advocacy Group
Last month (June 7), Social Justice This Week posted news about a National Day of Action. The event held on June 17th was organized to draw attention to the federal government's cuts to health insurance for refugees.
Shortly after the Day of Action, we learned that Stephen Lewis, former Canadian Ambassador to the U.N will lead a new national network. That network will fight federal refugee law changes to the refugee determination system and health care coverage that put refugees at risk.
The goal of this new organization is to restore Canada's humanitarian tradition and democratic principles to refugees. The organization welcomes multi-faith and multicultural support.
In a media release Mr. Lewis said:
"I am proud to be a part of this vital movement with so many concerned and caring people. ``
Lewis added: ``The Harper government's legislation puts the most vulnerable at risk, particularly by denying them access to health care and by violating international human rights. This tarnishes Canada's international reputation as a compassionate nation."
A website www.jran.ca will be up and running soon. In the meantime you can read the media release at http://www.newswire.ca/en/story/1188443/stephen-lewis-joins-new-national-advocacy-network-says-canada-must-change-refugee-policies
Digital Divide Growing
At another June event, ACORN Canada members rallied at Bell’s Bay Street headquarters. ACORN wants a meeting with George Cope, Bell`s President and CEO, to talk about their Digital Access to Opportunities campaign.
ACORN is demanding that Bell create a rate of $10/month for high-speed internet for low-income families, as well as providing subsidized computers. ACORN reports that Rogers has already introduced a pilot $10/month rate for residents of Toronto Community Housing.
The “digital divide” is growing. That is the term used to describe the exclusion of low-income individuals and families from new digital technologies. The United Nations now considers access to this technology to be a human right, comparable with freedom of speech.
``The issue is not just internet access but digital literacy, the skills and know-how that come with exposure to the web, which are increasingly crucial for gainful employment as well as academic success,`` notes ACORN.
As the Canadian school system in particular becomes more and more web-centric, inclusion of all children becomes a public policy obligation. ``
Find out more about ACORN`s campaign at https://www.acorncanada.org/
There you`ll see how you can TAKE ACTION! and demand that Bell CEO George Cope meet with ACORN leaders.