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New Westminster News Leader: ACORN Canada holds New Westminster protest of money sending fees

A small group took to the windy, cold streets of Downtown New Westminster during the noon hour Tuesday to protest fees charged by Western Union and financial institutions for sending money overseas.

ACORN Canada spokeswoman Nancy Anemba led about eight people in a rally in front of the Scotiabank at Columbia and Begbie streets. They want the bank to put pressure on Western Union to reduce remittance fees charged to those wiring money back home to five per cent. Acorn says most of its clients have low-income jobs and send on average only $150 at a time. That often means the fees accumulate to 18 per cent or more for the sender.

Like many other immigrants and refugees in New Westminster, Anemba said she has been sending money to family in Nairobi, Kenya ever since arriving in Canada a little over five years ago. Most of the money she wired went to her daughter until she joined Anemba here five months ago. Now it goes to her parents. Western Union provides the money-sending service through banks, payday loan outlets and convenience stores. 

New Leadership in Surrey

Canada Drouin, one of ACORN Canada’s first leaders in Whalley, announced last month that she is stepping down as Chapter Chair to make way for new leadership in an expanded Surrey Centre ACORN Chapter. By no means will Canada stop being a leader in ACORN Canada; quite to the contrary - she has committed to being the treasurer of the new chapter and will use her fundraising skills to help show other members how to raise money for the chapter.

Canada's door was knocked on by an organizer in 2005 shortly after ACORN Canada was founded. She helped lead successful campaigns for payday lending regulations, numerous community safety issues like better lighting at Skytrain stations and at her apartment complex, as well as affordable and livable housing campaigns what have become a staple for the organization in Metro Vancouver. Further, Canada has fundraised more than any other ACORN Canada member in the history of the organization.

As Canada steps aside to her new role in the organization, our Healthy Homes campaign that she helped pioneer in Surrey has been blazing a trail for other chapters. Our newest chapter in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia will be launching a Healthy Homes Campaign this month,modelled on the campaign Canada helped found in Surrey. With a proven fundraiser enshrined as Treasurer, members can be assured that the fight for Healthy Homes in Surrey will continue.

Living Wage Advocates Cruise to Victory in New West Municipal Elections

ACORN Canada members were thrilled with the results of the November 19th municipal elections in New Westminster, with key backers of the Living Wage Policy cruising to victory.

The results showed once again that living wage policies - as well as being key poverty reduction tools - are winning positions for elected officials.  Living wage champion Jaimie McEvoy won easily, increasing his vote total by 30%, proving that having the courage to enact progressive policies that support working families is rewarded on election night.

ACORN Canada's membership in New Westminster launched their campaign for a Living Wage Policy in 2009 as a contribution to the broader Living Wage for Families Campaign.  After engaging Coucillor McEvoy, gathering over 1500 signatures, signing up 400 new members, and pushing the campaign forward in City Council, Canada's first living wage policy was eventually passed.

Local detractors attempted to use Councillor McEvoy’s support for the living wage against him in the election - charges that were shown to be baseless by election night.
David Tate, ACORN's Canada National Board Representative from New Westminster said that these results prove that when you do the organizing work to engage people on issues like the living wage they and they understand the issue deeply they’ll reward you for it.  ACORN Canada and Jaimie McEvoy did just that over the last 2 years and will hope to do so for years to come.

Disability Rights Group is kicking it into gear in BC

ACORN Canada's Disability Rights Group (DRG) in British Columbia has begun creating a platform for their campaign. Led by long time leader Tom Page, this platform will include raising disability rates to a livable standard, simplifying the application process, and increasing the support to families with dependants - among other changes.

The DRG was founded to spearhead a campaign to reinstate the Community Volunteer Supplement (CVS), a $100 per month payment to individuals on provincial disability who volunteer with community groups.

After over a year of campaigning, the government recently announced an additional $5 million would be added to the program to address the backlog, while also announcing that they would no longer allow new enrollment in the program as of Oct 1st, 2011. This was a bittersweet victory for the DRG, but one that has galvanized the group around its new platform and they'll be fighting hard to make it a reality.


Vancouver Sun: Living wage policy: Why municipalities should start to lead the way

A living wage by definition allows a family to cover basic living expenses - in Metro Vancouver it is calculated at $18.81/hour (including benefits). A municipal living wage policy, like the one adopted in New Westminster, means all city staff are guaranteed a living wage as well as anyone who provides contracted services to the city.

Read the full story here



Vancouver Courier: Occupiers vow to stay on Vancouver Art Gallery lawn

An estimated 2,000 people packed the lawn in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday for the beginning of the Occupy Vancouver protest, one of dozens of similar protests being held in cities across the world to support the nearly month-long Occupy Wall Street protest in New York City. While lacking cohesive demands or a specific message, protesters from all walks of life are seemingly united by a desire to change what they see as the current climate of financial inequality and corporate greed, as well as to express disgust with governments—Canadian and American alike—they say don't defend the interests of "the 99 per cent" of citizens.

Time will tell how many will stay on after Saturday, but over a dozen tents were set up by the time crowds began gathering in the morning.

Mayor Gregor Robertson offered his support for the protest the day before the Oct. 15 protest began. “In these turbulent economic times, I recognize and appreciate the concerns and angst that people, especially young people, feel about the economy, rising inequality, the environment, and state of the world right now,” Robertson said in a prepared statement. “I fully support the right of people to demonstrate those concerns publicly and peacefully.”

Burnaby puts Western Union on notice

Last month Burnaby ACORN continued to take the leadership role in the campaign to win regulation of remittance providers like Western Union.  Lead by dynamic leaders from Burnaby, we’ve put Western Union and regulators on notice that working families are demanding remittance justice.

BC ACORN rallied at a prominent Burnaby Western Union location that was covered by The Tyee, Burnaby Now, Epoch Times, the CBC and BC Local News where members called on Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek to meet with ACORN Canada.


Vancouver Sun: High fees cut into remittances sent to homelands

In Pascal Apuwa's global village, parts of the neighbourhood aren't too friendly.

The Burnaby resident immigrated to Canada in 2006 and regularly transfers money back to his relatives in drought-ravaged western Kenya. But the 20-per-cent-plus fees he pays to transfer agents are cutting into Apuwa's ability to support his family.

Read the full story here.



Burnaby Now: Fees hit families in Africa

As a community social services student at Douglas College, Burnaby resident Pascal Apuwa doesn't have a lot of extra money to throw around.

The little extra he does have, he sends home to his family in Korogocho, Kenya.

But the fees on remittances - money transferred from someone in one country to another - are cutting into the amount his family receives, he said.

"When I send money back home, I want it to go to helping the people," Apuwa said in a phone interview.

Apuwa headed a demonstration by Acorn Canada on July 27 outside the Money Mart at 7088 Kingsway, to protest the fees that Western Union charges on sending remittances overseas.

Money Mart acts as an agent for Western Union. The group presented a letter for Western Union's CEO to the agent there, Apuwa said.