Tell the Ontario Government They’ve Got it Wrong on Payday Loans

Ontario has been feigning sincerity about regulating the payday loan industry for about eight years now.  This so-called “industry” certainly needs regulating. However, in 2006, an exemption from criminal prosecution was made for Payday Loaning, which means that even though their interest rates may seem criminal, they are legal in Ontario.

That exemption allowed payday loan interest to exceed 60% per year.  The industry has shamelessly taken advantage of this exemption to raise the rate to 600%. Recognizing the evolving crisis, the government introduced Bill 156, which created longer repayment options and tougher rules against unfair collection processes.

Now, finally, the government has turned its mind to the actual payday loan interest rates and last month announced lowering the rates from 546% to 390% per annum. This change won’t be overnight, though – it will take another year and a half to get to this still usurious level.

Payday loans don’t just hurt borrowers, they hurt communities. Ottawa Lawyer Peter Kucherepa has argued that enabling cash transactions (the basis of the payday loan industry) can contribute to the proliferation of the drug trade and other criminal activity in neighbourhoods. Even more alarming, he cites research from St. Michael’s Hospital that “clearly shows that the proliferation of cash based money lenders lowers community life expectancy and increases pre-mature deaths.”  You can read about Kucherepa’s at

So what can be done?

  1. Legislate a Fair Interest Rate

Few would call 390% fair, but what is a fair rate? Faced with similar challenges from usurious “salary lenders” in the early 20th century, Americans established a rate of 36%. That rate remained in place for years in many states until powerful payday loan industry became friendly with decision makers.

  1. Follow Quebec’s Lead

Quebec has effectively barred payday loans by lowering its interest-rate cap to 35% per year, making it unprofitable for the payday lenders to provide its conventional services in the province.

  1. Facilitate the Development of Alternative Financial Institutions

Post offices could provide banking services. Canadians had access to postal banks for over 100 years until the Post Office Savings Bank ceased operations in 1968, closing nearly 300,000 accounts with it. At its peak in 1908, the postal bank held 47.5million in deposits, equivalent to $1 billion in today’s money, and postal banking is still thriving in other parts of the world. Other options could include provincial banks and services from member-led credit unions,

  1. Tell the Ontario Government They’ve Got it Wrong

You have until September 29th. Click here to have your say.

Pack the Courthouse – Challenge to the Adequacy of ODSP Medical Travel Benefit

The Income Security Advocacy Centre and Aboriginal Legal Services are asking for your support by attending an important court hearing taking place in Toronto on September 19th.

What is the case about?

Many persons with disabilities face higher costs of living, including the cost of travel to medical treatment. Accessing medical treatment is vital to ensure the health and wellness of Ontario Disability Support Program recipients. In recognition of this need, ODSP reimburses recipients for their costs of medical travel.

But for those who must travel by car, whether because of where they live or because of the nature of their disabilities, ODSP only provides a mileage rate of 18 cents per kilometre. The mileage rate has stayed the same since 2000, even though the cost of gas has gone up by over 130 percent. In contrast, the federal government sets the medical travel rate at 55 cents per kilometre for tax purposes.

With a mileage rate set so low, ODSP recipients face the choice of foregoing medical treatment or using money they need for food and shelter to cover the cost of travel.

When and where

The Income Security Advocacy Centre and Aboriginal Legal Services are working together to represent a recipient who is challenging the mileage rate.

You can support the case by helping us to fill the courtroom. We want to show the court that many people in the community care about the issues.

Here are the details:

WHEN: Monday September 19

WHERE: Divisional Court, 130 Queen Street West (north-east corner of Queen and University), Courtroom 3

TIME: 9:30 am to 1 pm

RSVP: If you plan to attend, please contact Liz Walker from Income Security Advocacy Centre at


Where We’re At: 5 Lessons from the OPICCO Survey

Earlier this summer, OPICCO invited clinic staff to complete a survey about the structures that support and don’t support community organizing and community development (CO/CD) in the clinic system. We want to thank all who participated and share the results. Below are the top five things we learned:

1. People are Interested

We’re thrilled with the enthusiastic response to our survey – we heard the clear message that there is province-wide interest in OPICCO’s work. We heard from staff at over 34 different clinics across Ontario. Lawyers, caseworkers, and CLWs made up two-thirds of respondents, with a potpourri of directors, support staff, and various other positions making up the remaining third.

2. Value vs. Action

Nearly all of respondents (88%) indicated that CO/CD had at least some value in the hiring process, yet most of us spend 20% or less work time on CO/CD, and almost half spend less than 10%. When asked about barriers to CO/CD, 40% of respondents pointed to lack of resources (time, staff, money). To our chagrin, 1 in 6 respondents felt that CO/CD simply wasn’t valued at their clinic, and the same number of respondents indicated CO/CD isn’t measured or evaluated in any way at their clinic. Overall, we heard that people value CO/CD, but that there are challenges to making it happen.

3. Casework Rules

Predictably, the top reported barrier to CO/CD was casework. While almost all respondents said their clinic plans and budgets for CO/CD, about half of respondents (48%) reported that casework is a real barrier to participating in CO/CD. Caseworkers are finding it difficult to explore, plan, and execute stellar CO/CD initiatives.

4. New Blood

The justice warriors that founded the clinic system are slowly but surely trotting off to much-deserved retirement. This means the face of the clinic system is changing – 46% of respondents have been in the clinic system for five years or less, and 41% of respondents had no CO/CD experience at all prior to working in the system. Respondents expressed (and we agree) that training is crucial to help the next generation of clinic staff become CO/CD leaders in their communities.

5. The Great Divide

Two narratives emerged from our survey. We heard from many that CO/CD has all but disappeared from clinic work (especially for caseworkers), and yet others described an increase in CO/CD work, including project funding and dedicated positions. We hope to hear about these funding successes and those that are dedicated to ensuring CO/CD does not disappear from clinic work.

Welcome to our new website!

The Ontario Project for Inter-Clinic Community Organizing  (OPICCO) is comprised of staff from community legal clinics across the province. OPICCO provides training and support for community organizing within the clinic system. Please click here to learn more about us.

We recently revamped our website – please take a look around and make use of the resources we have shared!

If you are looking for our old website, you can find it archived here.