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


“Raise the Rates” Minister Told

Provincial consultations on the proposed Basic Income Pilot Project are running during January across Ontario. Here is a report on the Thunder Bay consultation from Mike Balkwill of Put Food in the Budget.



“I remember MP’s staying in the house 14 hours to pass their own raise – so they can get things done when they want to”  

This is how Eugene introduced the emergency resolution to raise the rates in Thunder Bay on Thursday night.   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VIEa6JVlF6c&feature=youtu.be

Eugene called for an immediate billion dollar investment to raise the rates. http://isarc.ca/home-eh/billion-or-bust-campaign/ Eugene’s point is if politicians can ‘raise the rates’ for themselves, then surely they can raise them for people living in poverty so deep they can’t put food in their budget.

People from labour unions, Indigenous people’s organizations, anti-poverty groups, injured workers groups and others demonstrated outside the Victoria Inn in Thunder Bay before the Basic Income consultation and then brought their demands into the meeting.


Three Ministers – Chris Ballard, Michael Gravelle and Bill Mauro – heard repeated calls to raise the rates now!

Steve Mantis of Thunder Bay Injured Workers told Minister Ballard

“People right now don’t have enough money to pay rent and food. Let’s raise those rates for social assistance now to the level they’re proposing in their consultation and then we’ll see right away benefit for all the communityhttp://www.chroniclejournal.com/news/basic-income-idea-supported-guaranteed-pay-could-be-around-per/article_4094bcde-df27-11e6-93b5-8ba83007319e.html

The public demands in Sault Ste. Marie and Thunder Bay, on consecutive nights, clearly put Minister Chris Ballard on the defensive – and he finally admitted that more needed to be done to raise the rates.

In the last two months participants at ten community consultations have overwhelmingly endorsed the demand to raise the rates now!

There are only three consultations left – Ottawa, Windsor and London – and we expect the support to continue and to grow.

thunder-bayEndorse the resolution here


Please share this link to the resolution in your networks.

Put Food in the Budget http://www.putfoodinthebudget.ca/

Getting Rid of “Stupid Rules”

For years, advocates have been calling on the Ontario government to take real action on social assistance reform.

The Ontario budget is currently in the pre-consultation phase. This will be the last fully implementable budget before the 2018 election.queens-park

That is why, according to the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), “now is the time to take action on inadequate social assistance incomes and counter-productive program rules.”

 ISAC has produced a typically excellent, detailed report that echoes the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition’s recent call for government to invest $1 billion in social assistance rates and rule changes.

You can read the report at http://incomesecurity.org/publications/provincial-budgets/Ontario-Budget-2017-ISAC-pre-budget-submission.pdf

Those Stupid Rules

 Many readers will remember Deb Matthews 2004 report on social assistance. Twelve years ago Ms. Matthews said that the system was relying “far too much on sanctions and prohibitions as its guiding principles.” The term “stupid rules” was applied to the 800 plus regulations and rules that were part of the social assistance system in Ontario.


A lot of those stupid rules are still in place. The ISAC report suggests some changes.  We’ve done a short summary below.

Please make community members aware of ISAC’s report. It is in the form of a submission to the pre-budget consultations.  Consider contacting any of Minister Jaczek, Finance Minister Sousa, the Standing Committee on Finance and/or your own MPP to support improvements for those of us who rely on OW and ODSP.

ISAC has more information and a template letter at http://incomesecurity.org/policy-advocacy/1-billion-for-ow-odsp-isacs-2017-pre-budget-submission-1-milliard-de-dollars-pour-ot-le-posph-soumission-prebudgetaire-2017-du-casr/

Some Recommended Changes to “Stupid” Social Assistance Rules*

Stupid Rule Current Situation Change Called for
Spouse in the House People on OW/ODSP treated differently from others. Change the definition of “spouse” in OW and ODSP to align with family law.
Double Disabled Cap Penalizes 2 disabled people who would like to become partners. Eliminate the ODSP “double-disabled cap.
Earnings are treated as a disincentive to work.


In both OW and ODSP, income from all sources is usually deducted from the amount of benefits a person or family would otherwise receive. Benefits from Employment Insurance (Regular and Sickness) and CPP-Disability are currently deducted dollar-for-dollar.

-Income exemptions should help reduce poverty. Treat EI and CPP-D benefits like earned income in OW and ODSP.


-Increase the flat-rate earned income exemption in ODSP from $200 to $500.

People with disabilities have additional costs to travel to medical appointments/ treatments that are not covered. A Divisional Court recently ruled that ODSP recipients are entitled to the cost of both owning and operating a car. Increase the ODSP medical transportation mileage rate to cover real costs from the current 18 cents

to at least 40¢ per kilometre.

People with disabilities on ODSP living in board and lodging situations are treated differently than others. Boarders and lodgers currently get up to $260 per month less than those who are “renters” or who live in homes that they own. The “board and lodging” category should be eliminated so that everyone with a disability on ODSP is given access to the same benefit amounts.


Adults on OW are only eligible for emergency dental care or care that supports getting to work, with no provisions for regular, basic dental services. Care is provided on a discretionary basis. While limited exam and x-rays, filling and extractions are the best treatments available, a very typical response to dental pain for people on OW is dental extractions. Create an extended medical benefit for all low-income Ontarians. Immediately, give people on OW at least the same dental coverage provided to adults on ODSP.


People are punished for borrowing small amounts to help make ends meet. OW/ODSP recipients borrowing small amounts see the loan treated as income and deducted 100% from benefits. Such borrowing should not be treated as income and deducted from benefits.



People can’t save. In 2013, the government increased the amount of “liquid assets” allowed saying the asset limit increase was “an initial step” towards aligning asset limits in OW and ODSP. Increase the liquid asset limits as promised in 2013.


*Adapted from ISAC Report Pre-Budget Submission on Social Assistance in Ontario to the Ontario Legislature’s Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs and the Ontario Minister of Finance, December 2016

Basic Income – Good Idea or Bad?

(The following is a slightly edited version of a story originally published at http://www.hamiltonjustice.ca)

The province is running consultations on a proposed Basic Income pilot project.  One was held in Hamilton in November and a total of 14 stops are planned before the end of January.

Kevin Werner reported on the Hamilton event.  See http://www.hamiltonnews.com/news-story/7005704-hamilton-activists-demand-action-rather-than-talk-to-reduce-poverty/

Werner’s story cited Hamilton resident Ursula Samuel’s comments:

“We need action.  We know what we really need.  We face it every day,” said Ms. Samuels.

Her comments are bang on, of course.  Unfortunately the province has decided to go ahead with a basic income pilot project that will impact a few citizens in the short term and, maybe, others some years down the line.

Experts disagree on whether basic income is a good thing. To look at the issue the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (CCPA) had Trish Hennessy and Alex Himelfarb put a paper of opinions together. You can read Basic Income: Rethinking Social Policy in full at https://www.policyalternatives.ca/sites/default/files/uploads/publications/National%20Office%2C%20Ontario%20Office/2016/10/CCPA%20ON%20Basic%20Income_FINAL.pdf

Some Comments

We have gathered a few comments from the report.  (Please note: The term “guaranteed income” is often used in place of “basic income.”)

**Basic income and social assistance are opposites and based on a different value system.  We have forms of basic income, the Canada child Benefit is one example that have been working well. “The issue for Canada is not whether a good basic income is possible but who is left out.  And how can we fix that?” – Sheila Regehr

**The basic income trial in Dauphin Manitoba (where an earlier pilot was tried the 70’s) showed a reduction in hospitalizations of 8.5%.  Such a reduction Canada wide could result in savings of $5.4 billion annually. – Ryan Meili and Danielle Martindauphin

**A substantial number of all Canadian jobs are seasonal.  Seafood processing and agricultural work are examples.    “Seasonal fluctuations in employment are not a problem of individual motivation. A Basic income promises to come to terms with our economy and job market as they actually exist…Without a gigantic structure full of people whose job it is to make sure other people are being honest about their job searches.” – Karen Foster

**“While guaranteed income cannot and should not be seen as a replacement of investment in social housing and health care…….A guaranteed annual income however, has the potential to prevent or end homelessness of thousand of Canadians.” – Tim Richter

**“What many other criticisms of guaranteed income have in common is concern about the intentions of government”……..government may use the existence of the basic income program  “as a reason to diminish other social benefits….” – Dan Wilson

**We should use this moment to experiment with designs that can tell us if we’re better off when we have more income, or needless of it.” Armin Yalnizyan

*Spending more to eliminate poverty and provide services rather than providing a basic income has proponents.   “We should use this moment to experiment with the designs that can tell us if we’re better off when we have more  income, or need less of it.….We should not neglect other labour policies, that focus on things like employment  standards.”–  Margot Young

**Some argue that basic income is not really an “income” at all.”“By calling it an income, we are obscuring the nature of the program which is to deliver social assistance to those in need.  So – make existing programs more efficient and generous.” – Louis -Philippe Rochon

**”A basic income should not act as a subsidy for employers who pay low wages, nor should it be an excuse for reducing employment.” Anita Khanna

**“Basic income as a concept sounds great.  But as always, the devil is in the details.” – Jennefer Laidley

Find out More

The above is a quick sampling, really only a snapshot, of opinion.  We encourage you to talk look at the full report from the CCPA.

Also, the Income Security and Advocacy Centre (ISAC) has resource material on its website at http://yourlegalrights.on.ca/resource/basic-income-what-it-and-what-could-it-mean-social-assistance?tid_ref=16isac

And, finally, the province is reporting on comments from the consultation meetings at https://www.ontario.ca/page/basic-income-pilot-consultation


The Election of Donald Trump – Implications for our Social Justice Work

­­What will the election of Donald Trump mean to those involved in social justice work in Canada? Here is a random sampling of six insights recently found in print and social media.donald-tump-1

1.  On Social Justice 

“Time for deep breaths and thoughtful reaction. Important to reach out to American friends and allies in our common struggle for justice.” – Maude Barlow Chairperson of the Council of Canadians

2. On Discrimination and Racism

“We’re very close to the U.S. and I can see it coming to Canada. “We’re not immune. We stand with them and we’re not going to take this lying down if it does happen here.” – Miral El-Hussein. El-Hussein was prompted to organize a large Toronto protest after a man at a bar on election night asked her where she was from. When she responded that she was from Lebanon, he told her that she would be ‘going home soon.’ As reported by CTV Toronto. )

3.  On the Economy

The Trump Plan to stimulate the U.S. economy is going to raise debt, raise inflation and it is going to raise interest rates……He is going to be creating a recession (according to most economists) with what he is doing.”  – Armine Yalnizyan (pictured to the left)arminehttp://www.cbc.ca/listen/shows/metro-morning/segment/10807090  


4.  On Climate Change and our Environment

I think this is a real warning to us that we need something deeper that can protect us against the fluctuations that come with political change. That’s why we’re saying we need a change in our charter of rights and freedoms.” – David Suzuki to the Canadian Press as reported by the Globe and Mail.     

5.  On Peace and Economic Justice.

 “…we must urgently confront and battle racism and misogyny in our culture, in our movements, and in ourselves. This cannot be an afterthought, it cannot be an add-on. It is central to how someone like Trump can rise to power.

Neither can we tell ourselves that when we fight for peace and economic justice, it will benefit black people and Indigenous people the most because they are the most victimized in our current system of economic inequality, state repression, and climate change. There is too long and too painful a track record of left and liberal movements leaving workers of color and Indigenous people and women and their labor out in the cold. To build a truly inclusive movement, there needs to be a truly inclusive vision that starts with, and is led by, the most brutalized and excluded.” –Naomi Klein http://www.commondreams.org/news/2016/11/11/naomi-klein-delivers-sydney-peace-prize-lecture-against-backdrop-trump-win  

6.  On Organizing between Elections

“Civic engagement is one way to engage democracy, and our lives don’t revolve around election cycles. We are obliged to earn the trust of future generations — to defend economic, social and political power for all people. We are confident that we have the commitment, the people power and the vision to organize our country into a safe place for black people — one that leads with inclusivity and a commitment to justice, not intimidation and fear.”Black Lives Matter https://mic.com/articles/159496/exclusive-black-lives-matter-issues-a-statement-on-trump-s-election#.6YhDBM4dU

National Housing Day of Action

Food, water and shelter are some of the most fundamental human rights, yet Canada is facing an affordable housing and homelessness crisis.

Everything begins with housing – without it, no one can truly live life with dignity.

Take the people’s pledge and join our National Housing Day of Action – take to the streets and march for the right to housing!

Fri, 18 November 2016

12:00 PM – 2:00 PM EST

Queen’s Park (outside front steps)

111 Wellesley St W, Toronto


Our message to the government is simple:

“This is Canada’s moment to make history. The federal and provincial governments have made the commitment to provide adequate housing to all. We, the people, are here to make a pledge that we will hold the government accountable to their promise.

  • No one shall ever feel a loss of their dignity because they don’t have a home.
  • No one shall ever have to choose between adequate food and housing.
  • No one shall ever have to live on our streets and sidewalks, or worry they may end up there.
  • No one shall ever have to pass on life’s opportunities because they don’t have a place to call home.

This is our pledge to everyone in Canada. Join our movement. Make your voice heard. Together let’s make a commitment that we will hold the government accountable.”

We encourage you to bring noise makers – pots, pants, cans, shakers, drums, etc. and join the drummers as we march!

If you have any questions, please contact Bahar Shadpour at shadpob@lao.on.ca

Help Make Meaningful Changes to Ensure Justice and Dignity for Migrant Workers

 The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) is working with Migrants Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) to ensure that new employment laws are put in place to address barriers to workplace safety and fairness. You can get involved by visiting your Member of Provincial Parliament. Here is how.


Visiting MPPs:migrant-workers-for-change

Migrants Workers Alliance for Change (MWAC) is organizing Member of Provincial Parliament (MPP) visits for constituency week Nov 4th– 10th 2016.

The issues:

There is an opportunity right now to push the Ontario governments to make meaningful changes that are needed to ensure justice and dignity for migrant workers.

The Changing Workplace Review is making recommendations to ensure that laws about employment and unionization meet the needs of all workers, especially those in the most precarious jobs. We need to make sure that the laws that are introduced address the particular barriers to workplace safety and fairness faced by migrant workers, including regulating recruiters and ending the exclusions from minimum work standards and collective bargaining.

Our ask of you:

Visit your local Member of Provincial Parliament!

Register to visit your local MPP below.

We want to make sure that a delegation meets with MPPs across Ontario during the next constituency week: November 4 – 10.

Once you have registered, please contact your MPP and request an appointment on November 4th, or November 7th to the 10th.

We have lots of supports to offer you:

  • MPP Lobby kits: http://www.migrantworkersalliance.org/meet-your-mpp/
  • An in-depth training 2pm – 4pm, Monday, October 24th to help you with how to organize the meeting, who should attend and what to say. We will come right to your computer! Register below.
  • Social media tips and tools
  • Telephone and email support

Sign up to meet your MPP here: http://www.migrantworkersalliance.org/mppvisitsnovember/

(You can contact Jackie Esmonde and Liz Walker at the Income Security Advocacy Centre with any questions).


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

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 http://ottawacitizen.com/news/local-news/activists-fight-against-high-concentration-of-payday-loan-outlets-in-vanier.

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.