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Income Security and the Ontario Election #5

May 8, 2018 Poverty Reduction

Community Legal Clinics are mandated to do Public Legal Education and Law Reform Work.

In that context, elections provide a unique opportunity to discuss issues important to our community and clients.

One such area is social assistance.

We’d like to see informed debate on social assistance in this year’s provincial election. 

To that end, we will be running a series of questions and backgrounders on our website.  Today is the fifth and final story. 

We’d like to understand where all the parties and candidates stand on these issues.

The materials have been prepared by the Income Security and Advocacy Centre. The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is a community legal clinic established in 2001. and funded by Legal Aid Ontario. ISAC has a provincial mandate to advance the systemic interests and rights of low-income Ontarians around income security programs and low-wage precarious employment.  Find out more about ISAC at


Improving the Social Assistance System for Indigenous People

Question 5: How will your party reconfigure OW and ODSP to better serve Indigenous peoples and recognize First Nations sovereignty to design and deliver their own income support programs?


  • The Income Security: Roadmap for Change report recommends several ways to improve social assistance programs for Indigenous peoples in Ontario. These recommendations provide a way forward to better and more meaningful supports and services for Indigenous peoples in Ontario, and to making the vision of reconciliation in Canada real.
  • Indigenous peoples in Ontario continue to live with the damaging effects of colonization and racism. Poverty rates are often much higher and health outcomes much lower than those of the rest of the Ontario population. Indigenous peoples continue to face unique and specific barriers to economic and social inclusion.
  • The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has outlined 94 Calls to Action to address the legacy of residential schools and advance reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Canadians. Among the Calls to Action is the call for all levels of government to fully adopt and implement the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) as the framework for reconciliation (Call 43).
  • The UNDRIP affirms that Indigenous peoples “have the right to be actively involved in developing and determining health, housing and other economic and social programmes affecting them and, as far as possible, to administer such programmes through their own institutions” (Article 23).
  • The Roadmap recommends that the government take steps to:
    • Ensure First Nations design and control the social programs that serve their people
    • Ensure the programs adopt an approach to service provision and supports and services that are rooted in Indigenous traditions and values
    • Overhaul the programs to support both social inclusion and economic development, and to provide holistic, wrap-around services that promote the physical, spiritual, mental and emotional well-being of the individual, family and community
    • Provide sufficient funding for the programs to adequately serve Indigenous peoples.
  • As the Roadmap says, “In order for social services to be meaningful and effective in First Nations communities, First Nations must be full participants in the design of programs and services… For First Nations to administer someone else’s initiatives is not only a waste of human capital, it is also the administration of their own continued poverty.”


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