OPICCO Newsflash – July 2017





  1. SBT Medical Review Early Resolution Pilot – Update and Survey
  • Supporting Organizations: Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT), ISAC
  • Date: Deadline is August 14th
  • Event Summary: The SBT has gradually been expanding its “Medical Review Early Resolution Pilot Project”. The SBT is asking participating clinics to complete a survey by August 14.

Your completion of the survey would be greatly appreciated, to ensure that we identify all the benefits and problems with the program.


  1. SST Appeal Process Review – Submission Deadline
  • Supporting Organizations: Social Security Tribunal, CRO, ISAC
  • Date: Deadline is August 8th
  • Event Summary: The federal government has hired KPMG to review the SST appeals process. We have been talking for years about all the problems with this tribunal; now is our opportunity to voice those concerns! But the deadline is coming up soon. We invite you to make submissions to the review before the (recently-extended) deadline of August 8. The survey does not address all the issues that we have flagged. Make sure you use the comment boxes to explain all the problems you have experienced and to clearly explain how you think the process needs to be changed

You can participate by written, audio, video feedback, or by completing the online survey.

Mail: Review of SST


150 Elgin Street, Suite 1800

Ottawa, Ontario K2P 2P8

Email: tribunal@kpmg.ca



  1. Immigration Funding Action Campaign
  • Supporting Organizations: Willowdale Community Legal Services, ICIWG, private bar
  • Date: Ongoing
  • Event Summary: Willowdale Community Legal Services issued a written statement to all of our MP’s and MPP’s, the Minister of IRCC, and the Attorney Generals for ON and Canada about the immigration and refugee Legal Aid funding issue. We followed up with specific MP’s that we thought would assist further, and one of them wrote a letter of support to the Minister of IRCC, on our behalf.

We contacted community partners and asked them to endorse our written statement and write to the MP’s/ MPP’s. We were in contact with ICIWG and private bar (through Maureen Silcoff) to coordinate action.

So far we have received responses from the Minister of IRCC and one MP – both acknowledging the issues. There was some indication that additional funding may be available to address the deficits creating this crisis

Contact Info: Willowdale Community Legal Services


  1. Housing Stabilization Fund Action Meeting
  • Supporting Organizations: ISAC, GTA Clinics
  • Date/Time/Location: August 3rd, 10:00 am, 55 University room H1 on the 14th floor
  • Event Summary: Changes to the HSF have been made without consultation with community partners and legal clinics. A meeting to talk about our next steps in pushing for better reform to the HSF. Agenda includes:
    • Changes to the HSF: Questions and Clarification
    • Updates since the submissions and letter
    • Next Steps (Clinic Actions- some of the proposed ideas from our SAAC group)
    • Meeting with City Councillors
    • JR
  • Contact Info: ISAC




  1. OESP Awareness Sessions
  • Supporting Organizations: Geraldton branch office of the Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic
  • Date: May 24th, July 19th
  • Event Summary: The Geraldton branch office of the Kinna-aweya has been working with First Nation communities in the Greenstone area to ensure that all First Nation Members take full advantage of the Ontario Energy Support Program and benefits the program has to offer. Many of the FN in Northern Communities strictly heat with Hydro as gas is not available. This is resulting in extremely high energy cost for northern FN communities therefore it is extremely important that all FN communities take advantage of the program.

A first successful PLE session was held at the Longlake #58 First Nation on May 24th. A second session was held on the Aroland First Nation on July 19th.

Contact Info: Kinna-Aweya Legal Clinic



  1. I AM COMMITTED Campaign
  • Supporting Organizations: Hamilton Community Legal Clinic
  • Date: Ongoing
  • Event Summary In the words of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada (TRC), our collective journey must be led by our conviction, courage, love and COMMITMENT. The I AM COMMITTED campaign is a way to publicly state your COMMITMENT to Reconciliation.

You are invited to state your name and join the growing list of people COMMITTED to Reconciliation. Start by reading the TRC’s 94 Calls to Action.

Take it one step further. Add your photo to this campaign. Then share it on social media. Spread the word with your family, friends, neighbours, classmates, colleagues and acquaintances. Encourage them to become COMMITTED! In this way, we make a concrete contribution to Reconciliation.

Contact Info:  Hamilton Community Legal Clinic



  1. Indigenous Outreach Project
  • Supporting Organizations: Peterborough Community Legal Centre
  • Date: Ongoing
  • Event Summary We have established ongoing relationships with six local Indigenous service providers in Nogojiwanong. This has led to some very meaningful collaborations such as: organizing a Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls, and Trans event in partnership with Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre on April 10, 2017 and writing a support letter to the City of Peterborough to create a by-law to exempt Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre from adhering to the Ontario Fire Prevention Act when it comes to open-air burning for traditional ceremonies and cultural workshops and events.

We also implemented a land acknowledgement in our waiting room and are putting posters from the “I Am Affected” series in our waiting room and intake room. We are continuing to build on these relationships in order to increase access to justice among the Indigenous peoples of Nogojiwanong.

  • Link for more info: Find our project report Find our support letter for Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre here. Find the “I Am Affected” posters we chose here and here.


  1. Fundraising for Impact Recovery
  • Supporting Organizations: Peterborough Community Legal Centre and Impact Recovery
  • Date: TBD
  • Event Summary We are planning on doing some outreach with Impact Recovery in Peterborough. This service provider helps people who hoard prepare for bed bug spraying. We will be helping them with some fundraising in return for some volunteer hours to help preserve the tenancies of our clients who are hoarding and facing eviction to their inability to adequately prepare for bed bug spraying because of this. This service would usually costs someone up to $7,000 depending on the level of hoarding that is present, which our clients cannot afford.
  • Link for more info: N/A


Is your clinic working on a campaign or initiative you’d like featured? Contact Meghan MacDonald for more info about the monthly OPICCO Newsflash.


Interested in Community Development/Community Organizing? Check out our Website: https://opicco.org/, or contact our co-chairs Regini David or Meghan MacDonald



OPICCO Newsflash – March 2017


Community Organizing and Community Development Across Ontario



  1. Northern Region Hydro Project
  • Supporting Organizations: All northern region clinics
  • Summary: Our clients already struggle to maintain shelter and eat. Skyrocketing hydro costs are making that struggle more difficult. This is a hot political issue and one where further pressure could yield good results before the next provincial election. We think that the north has compelling things to say about hydro costs due to things like rural delivery charges, longer cold seasons etc.  It is a story that needs to be told. We will research and prepare a report about what was spent in 2016 in the north by charities and CHPI to keep hydro on. The second step is to collect stories from January 1st, 2017 from people continuing to struggle with hydro costs. We picked this date because the rate decreases that the province enacted to “resolve” the problem came into effect Jan 1/17. We are still planning how best to use this information to put on pressure for better hydro rates.
  • Date/Deadline: Not determined
  • Contact Info: Lake Country Community Legal Clinic



  1. Precarious Employment Outreach & Legal Worker Initiative
  • Lead Organization: Northumberland Community Legal Centre (NCLC)
  • Supporting Organizations: Durham CLC, CLC – Simcoe, Haliburton and Kawartha Lakes, Community Advocacy and Legal Centre and Kingston CLC
  • Date: Ongoing
  • Summary: The Northumberland Community Legal Centre, in coordination with Eastern and Central Region Transformation Project partners, has utilized FEG funding to hire an Outreach Worker (OW) to raise the profile of community legal clinic services within populations of precariously employed workers. The OW is responsible for coordinating the implementation of various outreach strategies designed in consultation with each of five community legal clinics to target specific populations of precariously employed workers (ie migrant workers, temp agency workers, etc.). The initiative is intended to expand to include Peterborough CLC, The Legal Clinic (Perth) and Cornwall Legal Services
  • Contact Info: Northumberland Community Legal Centre


  1. Peterborough Community Legal Centre AGM / Bryan Palmer, co-author of Toronto’s Poor, speaking event
  • Lead Organization: Peterborough Community Legal Centre
  • Date: Wednesday, March 15, 2017
  • Time: AGM Business – 7:00 pm, Speaking Event – 7:30pm
  • Summary: The Peterborough Community Legal Centre will hold its 28th Annual General Meeting. Following, local historian of the working-class Bryan Palmer will present on his new book, co-authored with anti-poverty activist Gaétan Héroux. “Toronto’s Poor reveals the long and too often forgotten history of poor people’s resistance. It details how the homeless, the unemployed, and the destitute have struggled to survive and secure food and shelter in the wake of the many panics, downturns, recessions, and depressions that punctuate the years from the 1830s to the present.” Bryan Palmer will also relate the subject of the book with Peterborough.
  • Contact Info:Peterborough Community Legal Centre
  • Link for more info: https://btlbooks.com/book/torontos-poor



  1. City Review of Multilingual Services Policy
  • Supporting Organizations: City of Toronto
  • Date: Survey Available until March 10
  • Event Summary: The City of Toronto is requesting input from residents and other members of the public through an online survey that will help determine how and when the City makes information available in languages other than English. The survey will be available until March 10 and is offered in several languages including English, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Tamil, Tagalog, Italian, Portuguese, Farsi, Russian, Urdu, Korean and French.
  • Contact Info: Strategic Communications, 416-392-6890
  • Link for more info:  ca/languagesurvey, http://bit.ly/2mbaPCM



  1. We Are One – Supporting our Muslim Community
  • Supporting Organizations: Rexdale Community Legal Clinic, Delta Family Resource Centre, Rexdale Community Hub, Albion Neighbourhood Services, Rexdale Women’s Centre, Rexdale Community Health Centre, United Way
  • Date: April 12th, 2017
  • Time & Location: 5:30pm, Rexdale Community Hub, 21 Panorama Court, Toronto
  • Event Summary: Come together in the wake of increasing Islamophobia and intolerance to support the Muslim and other affected communities. Share experiences and strategies for strengthening our inclusive communities.
  • Contact Info: Rexdale Community Legal Clinic
  • Link for more info:  ca/languagesurvey, http://bit.ly/2mbaPCM



  1. Discussion: Toronto Star’s application to make Tribunal records open
  • Supporting Organizations: ACTO
  • Date: March 29, 2017 from 10:00 am – 2:00
  • Location: 1500 – 55 University Avenue, Toronto, Rooms C1 and C2
  • Event Summary: ACTO has scheduled a meeting for legal clinics to discuss the Toronto Star application in Superior Court against the Attorney General for Ontario. The application seeks greater access to provincial tribunal records based on a Charter argument. We will also be inviting other members of the Association of Human Rights Lawyers.
  • Contact Info: ACTO
  • Link for more info: https://www.thestar.com/news/canada/2017/02/07/star-launches-legal-challenge-to-end-secrecy-in-ontario-tribunals.html


  1. Paper Anniversary Surprise Party for WSIB CEO
  • Supporting Organizations: IAVGO, IWC
  • Date: Past, Part of ongoing Health Care Campaign
  • Location: WSIB Head Office
  • Event Summary: February 2017 was Tom Teahen’s 1 year anniversary as the President and CEO of the WSIB. In his year on the job, he has done nothing to fix the crisis that injured workers are facing. Instead, he’s lowered premiums for employers and taken up an “endless meetings” approach to deflect the urgent changes that are needed.  Injured workers, the Ontario Network of Injured Workers Groups, and several legal clinics including IAVGO and IWC organized a delegation to the WSIB to tell Teahen that his inaction is unacceptable. The group of injured workers marked Teahen’s “Paper Anniversary” by giving him gifts of newspaper headlines within the last year and a package of papers including injured workers’ statements about their experience under his leadership and what they want to see changed. A spokesperson from the WSIB told us she would take our concerns to Teahen.  The group left chanting “No more exploitation, we will fight for compensation”.
  • Contact Info: IAVGO


  1. Fight for Fair Banking – Email writing campaign
  • Supporting Organizations: Acorn Canada
  • Date: Ongoing
  • Event Summary: In 2015, the six largest banks in Canada – TD, BMO, RBC, Scotia, CIBC and National Bank – generated $35 billion in profits. As bank profits continue to grow, many Canadians find themselves devastated by NSF fees of $45 and high interest rates on overdrafts and credit. In addition, millions of Canadians experience financial exclusion and are forced to rely on the services of predatory lenders, where interest rates can reach an exorbitant 600%. Canadians shouldn’t continue to pay while the banks profit. Our demands:
    • Lower NSF fees from $45 to $10.
    • We need the banks to create low interest credit for emergencies for low income people.
  • Contact Info: Acorn Canada, 416-461-5322, canadaacorn@acorncanada.org
  • Link for more info: https://www.acorncanada.org/take-action/toronto-needs-rent-control


Is your clinic working on a campaign or initiative you’d like featured? Contact Meghan Morrison for more info about the monthly OPICCO Newsflash.

Interested in Community Development/Community Organizing? Check out our Website: https://opicco.org/, or contact our co-chairs Liz Walker or Meghan Morrison

February Newsflash



New Directions Speakers’ School – New Session February 2017

  • Supporting Organizations: Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic, the City of Thunder Bay, Bay Credit Union, Canadian Union of Postal Workers, Ontario Public Service Employees Union, Public Service Alliance of Canada, the United Way, and the Ontario Trillium Foundation
  • Date: New session starting February 2017
  • Event Summary: This free 14-week course runs twice per year teaching public speaking and leadership skills in an environment of peer support and within the context of education in social justice issues. Guest speakers present on issues relating to discrimination, disability, poverty and unemployment. Participants are those who have faced a variety of challenges, such as unemployment, workplace injuries, disability, poverty, mental health and/or addictions issues, discrimination, racism, and other economic or social challenges. Speakers’ School also offers workshops on various topics such as group facilitation, working with the media, and financial management for alumni who wish to continue developing their skills and broadening their knowledge once they have graduated.
  • Contact Info: Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic
  • Link for more info: http://www.speakersschool.ca/


Billion or Bust Campaign

  • Supporting Organizations: Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), Waterloo Region Community Services, Social Planning Council of Cambridge and North Dumfries, House of Friendship, and the Mennonite Central Committee Ontario
  • Date: Ongoing
  • Event Summary: The campaign actions included meeting with local Liberal M.P.P’s and asking them to champion the campaign asks in caucus. Asks include allocating $1 billion to increase Ontario Works and ODSP rates and change punitive and counterproductive rules, increase the commitment to affordable housing, and increase the minimum wage to $15. Two meetings with local M.P.P.`s both resulted an agreement to champion the campaign asks.
  • Contact Info:Waterloo Region Community Legal Services
  • Link for more info: http://isarc.ca/home-eh/billion-or-bust-campaign/


  • Supporting Organizations: Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Professional Aboriginal Advocacy and Networking Group (PAANG)
  • Date: Ongoing (September 2016 – January 2018)
  • Event Summary: I AM COMMITTED challenges settler allies and celebrates Canada’s 150 PLUS by having their pictures taken for posters and on social media platforms to publicly commit to the Truth & Reconciliation Commission’s Calls to Action. We seek to promote reconciliation and build a vibrant, healthy and inclusive community. This is the second phase of powerful poster campaign about intergenerational trauma (I AM AFFECTED). Posters will be in Mohawk, French and English and will feature prominent people and ordinary citizens and will be distributed broadly for posting.
  • Contact Info: Hamilton Community Legal Clinic
  • Link for more info: https://150alliance.ca/projects/project_listings/i_am_committed

The [DIS]PLACEMENT Project: Tools for Tenant Rights

  • Supporting Organizations: Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton
  • Date: Ongoing (Monthly from March – July)
  • Event Summary: Free, community-based, legal training on housing! Displacement (involuntary loss of housing) due to gentrification is happening in Hamilton. To challenge this, the [Dis]placement Project provides training on housing law to community leaders, emerging community leaders, and service providers who support new Canadians in the Riverdale and Beasley neighbourhoods.
  • Contact Info: Social Planning & Research Council of Hamilton
  • Link for more info: http://www.sprc.hamilton.on.ca/2017/02/the-displacement-project-tools-for-tenant-rights/


SBT Public Consultation on Consent Order Process

  • Supporting Organizations: Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), Steering committee on Social Assistance – SBT Sub-Committee
  • Date: Contributions due February 15 by 5pm
  • Event Summary: on January 20th  the Social Benefit Tribunal made an announcement about a proposal to incorporate a “Consent Order” process into disability appeals. Consent orders will be available in situations where the parties to a disability appeal reach a settlement on the day of the hearing. Right now, settlements on hearing day are not possible because Case Presenting Officers do not have the authority to agree to grant an appellant disability benefits. The Disability Adjudication Unit has agreed to have an adjudicator on-call to give instructions to Case Presenting Officers. The Steering Committee on Social Assistance is gathering feedback from clinics.
  • Contact Info: Kinna-aweya Legal Clinic
  • Link for more info: http://www.sjto.gov.on.ca/sbt-october-01-2016-sbt-has-a-new-address/

Pre-budget Submissions to the Ministry of Finance



Is your clinic working on a campaign or initiative you’d like featured? Contact Meghan Morrison for more info about the monthly OPICCO Newsflash.

Interested in Community Development/Community Organizing? Check out our Website: https://opicco.org/, or contact our co-chairs Liz Walker or Meghan Morrison


Rally for Decent Work and the Changing Workplace Review

Tomorrow, thousands of workers across Ontario will rally at Queen’s Park to tell the government what Ontario workers need, from paid sick days for all workers to ending contract flipping and making it easier to join a union.


WHEN: October 1, 1:00 p.m.
WHERE: Queen’s Park, Toronto, ON

MORE: makeitfair.ca

In the spirit of this rally, we’d like to share a piece written by Bob Wood of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. This piece discusses part of the Changing Workplace Review that is particularly relevant to the Rally for Decent Work – and that is the new and changing definition of ‘Employee’. Read Bob’s piece below:

“The changing nature of work and the workforce in the 19th century motivated workers to advocate for a shorter work week.  Their efforts eventually resulted in a shorter work week and the creation of a national holiday – Labour Day.

Change is upon us again.   Appropriately, then, the Ontario government appointed C. Michael Mitchell and John C. Murray to look at the 21st century work world and how legislation should be brought up to date.  In July, they released an interim report called the Changing Workplaces Review. This report lays out 50 issues with 225 Options for public input that have been identified during public consultation.

It is a massive and thorough report and we won’t claim to have read it all.  We have taken a deeper look at the 5th Chapter which deals with the Employment Services Act (ESA) and would encourage readers to as well. 

As the authors point out the “old definitions (of employees) are not well suited to the modern workplace.” Currently 12% of Ontario’s workers are, by their own account, self-employed.  An unknown portion of these workers are thought to be misclassified.  That is, they are actually employees as set out in the ESA.  Their misclassification is a serious problem for them, their employers and the economy.   

In Ontario, misclassified employees miss out on 4% vacation pay, approximately 3.7% of wages for public holiday pay, overtime, termination and severance pay.  Many of these employees work in sub standard working conditions.

The report puts forward options including maintaining the status quo, increased education of workers and proactive enforcements.

We like this option: In disputes about whether a person is an employee, the employer has the burden of proving that the person is not an employee as covered by the ESA.

Going hand in hand with the misclassification issue is the fact that many companies have moved away from direct employment.  Sub contracting, outsourcing, franchising and other methods are now quite common.

Compliance with employment standards becomes more of an issue as a result of this shift.  Other jurisdictions are ahead of Ontario in addressing the problem.

It seems obvious to us that those who profit from worker’s labour must have some level of liability for employment standards compliance. Making franchisors liable for employment standards violations of their franchisees is one idea that has merit.

The Changing Workplaces Review is an important initiative.  Input on most issues is open until October 14th.”

– Bob Wood, Community Worker, Hamilton Community Legal Clinic

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 walkere@lao.on.ca


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.