News

Press Release: Stop the Rip-offs! Toronto ACORN Demands 5 Percent Cap on Remittance Fees

Members of Toronto ACORN will be rallying at 241 Yonge Street in front of the Money Mart, to protest the high cost of remittance fees charged through Western Union.

"We often have no other choice," says Toronto ACORN member Ahmed Makhlouf. "Western Union is more convenient and faster than banks, especially when it is an urgent situation." Makhlouf believes the transfer fees charged are too high. "It's big money, a big fight."

These fees, running between 10%-20% in some cases, prey on the already vulnerable populations of low income families, new Canadians and those simply supporting loved ones living abroad.

Toronto ACORN is calling on Western Union to lower the fees - and for the Provincial Government to step in and regulate this industry. We see charges and fees on top of the World Bank's 5% fee recommendation as predatory, and as a result, are holding the provincial government accountable for this gouging of Ontario families and families in the developing world.

Quick Facts on Remittances

-The difference between what is paid in fees currently in Canada, and the amount that would be paid under the World Banks suggested fee structure is nearly $500 million per year.

-The World Bank estimates that more than $400 Billion (USD) is remitted annually, with 75% of this amount going from developed to developing countries.

-The World Bank estimates that the fees associated with this are $44.4 billion globally.

WHAT: Media event calling on Provincial Governments to regulate remittances fees at or below the the World Bank's recommended amount of 5% of money transferred.

WHEN: Thursday November 10th, 1:00PM

WHERE: Money Mart (Western Union) at 241 Yonge St, north of Queen St.

Press Contact: Tatiana Jaunzems, Community Organizer

Cell: 416-450-0341

Office: 416-416-9233

Email: onacornto4@acorncanada.org

Toronto ACORN Voted Runner Up in Now's Best of Toronto

In the latest issue of Now Magazine Toronto ACORN has been voted runner up for “Best Activist Organization” in the city.

This is an honour that we appreciate, and it caps off a busy year where Toronto ACORN members have taken leadership on a wide range of issues from good jobs to regulating remittances and re-doubling our efforts to protect tenants and improving the city’s apartment inspection system.

On issue after issue our members have stood on the side of working families and those fighting to make Toronto a livable city. In the last year alone we’ve:

-Worked closely with Municipal Licensing and Standards to secure improvements to the city’s apartment inspection regime including improvement to tenant notification & targetting poorly maintained buildings first.

Statement of Solidarity with the #Occupy Movement

ACORN Canada supports the thousands of Canadians who have taken to the streets in recent weeks to protest income inequality, corporate greed and a broken economic system. Inspired by #OccupyWallStreet, the movement that began less than two months ago in downtown Manhattan, and has now spread to over 1000 cities in 100+ countries.

This movement is exposing the underlying unfairness of an economic system that has left a tiny elite with a disproportionate amount of wealth while hardworking Canadians struggle to make ends meet.

The 35,000+ members of ACORN Canada have a message for these brave citizens camped out in parks and public spaces across Canada today: we've got your back, we support your calls for a fairer Canada and we'll always be a friend to the #occupy movement.

Reasons to support the #occupy movement in Canada (Source: CCPA):

-Canada's richest 1% have doubled their income share between 1970 and 2007.

-$6.6 million a year is the average compensation for Canada's 100 best paid CEOs.

-1 in 10 Canadians live in poverty including 1 in 4 aboriginal children.

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.”

Toronto tenants make livable housing an election issue

Tenant members of Toronto ACORN rallied outside of 1901 Weston Rd. with the hopes of making tenant issues a priority in the upcoming provincial election.

1901 Weston Rd., a building owned and maintained by Toronto Community Housing, is an example of the need to enforce both municipal and provincial apartment standards laws on all landlords - both private and public.  Many of the tenants of 1901 are seniors or have mobility issues and are forced to endure bedbug and cockroach infestations, unanswered work orders, bad elevators, high crime, and a recent flood that left dozens of tenants stranded without furniture or compensation.

Toronto ACORN has been fighting for a system of Landlord Licensing for 7 years that would include regular, pro-active inspections of apartment buildings, a Pass/Fail notification system, and a city administered escrow account.

Ottawa ACORN keeps the pressure on for fair remittances

Joined by member of the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW), Ottawa ACORN members rallied at a local Western Union location last month calling for lower fees on remittances.  Lead by leader Adrian Profitos, members ensured Western Union’s CEO received our message when staff at the location agreed to fax a draft letter by local leaders.

During the action members held a street petition and spoke to passing citizens about the impact high-cost remittances have on working families in Canada and those in the developing world.

Ottawa Metro: Tenants’ cries heard via Ottawa ACORN

Landlord has agreed to increase trash collection to twice per week. Regular meetings begin next month.
Anti-poverty activist group Ottawa ACORN is optimistic there will be progress on alleged maintenance and garbage-collection problems at the  Heron Gate rental complex.

The property manager of the complex, TransGlobe Property Management Services, has vowed to meet with Ottawa ACORN and a representative from the city on a monthly basis to report tenants’ concerns.

The planned meetings, which start on October 19, follow a private meeting on Sept. 12 between Mayor Jim Watson, Coun. Peter Hume, Ottawa ACORN, a TransGlobe representative, representatives from Dalton McGuinty’s office and bylaw enforcement.

The meeting was called after Ottawa ACORN made a public plea to the mayor to enforce bylaws they said TransGlobe was violating.

“The only reason I’m optimistic is because it was clear that the mayor and the councillor were so behind us,” Marx said.

TransGlobe regional manager Murray Osterer said the meeting was “very productive” and that they will happen. “We’re going to work closely with resident representatives and strengthen the lines of communication here,” he said.

 

 

Ottawa tenants celebrate Herongate progress

Last week Herongate tenants - lead by Chapter Co-Chair Erica Marx - met with Mayor Jim Watson, City Councillor Peter Humea, the CEO of Transglobe REIT and Starlight Properties (both formally Trangslobe Properties), representatives from Premier McGuinty’s office and municipal bylaw enforcement as part of an ongoing campaign to see pressure managment to perform repairs to the dilapidated complex.

With support from the Mayor and the City, Ottawa ACORN won a commitment from Transglobe to improve staffing, including sensitivity training, improved multi-lingual communication, and major new investments in maintenance.

The city answered our call for improved garbage collection in the community by increasing garbage pick up to twice a week (Tuesdays and Fridays). The city has also asked Transglobe & Starlight to increase dumpster bin size and fix garbage chutes in buildings.

Bylaw enforcement and Ottawa ACORN will meet with the Management once a month to follow up on progress and to report tenant concerns.

 
 

New book on ACORN Canada and global organizing

The last 6 years have been and exciting ride for all of us who've been lucky enough to be a part of ACORN Canada’s rapid growth. Our story over this time has been one of ordinary people trying to make extraordinary change in the face of daunting odds.

This is a story that’s not always captured well in the mainstream media, it’s a story that often requires a longer look to put into it’s proper perspective.

Global Grassroots is a compilation of essays from around the world that puts the work of ACORN Canada - including pivotal campaigns around living wages & affordable housing - into a global context on how community organizing is changing the world.

As you know, this story can sometimes be lost in the coverage of this rally or that protest - or in the daily grind of people’s busy lives - but it’s an important story and one we want to share with you.

Click to order a copy of global grassroots today >>

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.

 

Toronto ACORN mobilizes to stop the cuts

Last month Toronto ACORN members stood up for affordable housing, childcare & environmental stewardship against proposed cuts from the Mayor’s office.  The proposed cuts stem from the core service review performed by KPMG at the request of the Mayor’s office. That review identified a number of city services that Toronto ACORN members depend for possibly sweeping cuts.
With these cuts as a backdrop, members responded with deputations to four different committees over two weeks - speaking passionately to the issues and the effects the cuts would have on working family communities.  Toronto ACORN will continue to be active in the fight to protect services needed by the city's most vulnerable as we struggle through this battle at city hall.

 

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.

 

 

Op-Ed: Canadian government allowing migrant worker ripoffs on remittances

*Below is an op-ed that has been submitted to a number of Canadian newspapers from ACORN Canada & ACORN International*

The Canadian government can no longer afford to be apathetic towards the plight of migrant workers' remittances when they are behind a guest-worker program that accepts candidates based on low levels of education and strong family ties. With such criteria it is unimaginable that the government would be unaware of the role of remittances in the lives of these workers’ families.

Every year, 20,000 workers from Mexico and the Caribbean, mostly men, make the journey to work in Canada’s agricultural sector, largely in southern Ontario and British Columbia. These migrant workers are brought to Canada through the government sponsored Seasonal Agricultural Worker Program (SAWP) for up to eight months. The program describes its function as matching “workers from Mexico and the Caribbean countries with Canadian farmers who need temporary support during planting and harvesting seasons, when qualified Canadians or permanent residents are not available.”

Toronto Star: ACORN Canada urges cap on remittance fees

Rassel Mohammad pays a hefty price to help out his two widowed aunts and six school-age cousins in Bangladesh.

Once every three months, the Toronto man strolls into the Western Union outlet in his neighbourhood Money Mart to wire money to relatives — on top of supporting his mother, wife and four-month-old daughter here in Canada.

He sends $100 each time, but also ends up paying an $11 fee. Western Union’s fee rises to $17 if he sends the same amount using his cellphone.

“It’d be nice if they can keep the fee lower,” said Mohammad, 32, a warehouse shipping clerk.

By far the best-known remittance service for its reach around the world, Western Union is the target of a campaign launched recently by ACORN Canada, an advocacy group for low-income families.

“Many of our members are directly affected by the exorbitant fees banks and other financial institutions are charging for money transfers,” said ACORN [Canada] president Kay Bisnath. The group is petitioning Western Union to cap its remittance rate at 5 per cent.

Bisnath said the rate is recommended by the World Bank in light of a $325 billion yearly cash flow — $7.5 billion in Canada alone — from 215 million migrants sending money to family members in developing countries.

580 CFRA: Bylaw Enforcing Laws at Heron Gate Residence: Mayor

Mayor Jim Watson says Bylaw Services is now "proactively" monitoring and enforcing property standards at Heron Gate residence.

Members of the [Ottawa] ACORN Heron Gate tenant group called on the Mayor to get involved to ensure property standard bylaws are enforced at the Alta Vista property.

The group cites rotting wood, mould and pest infestation as among the issues that are ignored by Transglobe Property management.

In a statement to CFRA News, Watson says Bylaw will take a "zero tolerance approach" and will conduct monthly meetings with all stakeholders to ensure units are repaired as required.

Watson has contacted the Mississauga company and indicated he expects them to maintain the building to property standards.

Original article available at: http://www.cfra.com/?cat=1&nid=81052

Ottawa Metro: Mayor pledges to aid Heron Gate

Mayor Jim Watson is frustrated that the city is spending time and effort on maintenance problems in the Heron Gate housing complex and says he will personally intervene to resolve the situation.

Tenants have been complaining for months about outstanding work orders to fix problems such as mouldy basement walls, vermin and garbage not being picked up.

“I have sympathies for the residents who have had some real challenges with the maintenance and cleanliness,” Watson said.

Watson is arranging a meeting in early September with property owner Transglobe Property Management Services, Ottawa ACORN and the Heron Gate community association.

Ottawa ACORN held a press conference yesterday with about 25 tenants to make a public plea to the mayor to enforce city bylaws, which they claim are being violated by Transglobe.

“Things have deteriorated over the years, but especially in the last four years since Transglobe took it on,” said Philip Rosen, a Heron Gate resident of 31 years.

Ottawa Citizen: Watson wants Heron Gate Property Properly Managed

OTTAWA — Mayor Jim Watson is putting pressure on landlord TransGlobe to address the shoddy state of its Heron Gate Village properties, scheduling a meeting with tenants and management for early September.

“We’ll get everything ironed out with property standards in one room at one time and try and resolve this. Because it’s frustrating when I see pictures of the condition of some of the units,” Watson said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “Hopefully that will be a catalyst for the landlord to act more responsibly.”

Tenants who live in the Heron Gate Village complex of townhouses and apartments continued their campaign to improve the condition of their units Monday morning, calling on Watson and the City of Ottawa to enforce bylaws and require TransGlobe, the company that owns the buildings, to live up to its obligations as landlord. On July 26, about 100 tenants marched through the complex, carrying posters with pictures of mould, garbage and flood damage and demanding TransGlobe complete outstanding repairs.

At a press conference at the Heron Road Community Centre organized by the tenants’ rights organization ACORN [Canada], residents said little has changed since the demonstration. Abdullahi Ali, who said he went without heat or hot water for a week this winter, said the city needs to step up penalties for property standards violations if TransGlobe won’t comply on its own.

580 CFRA: Group calls for bylaw enforcement

 

Mayor Jim Watson is being urged to enforce City bylaws around maintenance and standards of apartment buildings.

The Ottawa ACORN Herongate Tenants will hold a media conference on Monday to continue to fight for improved conditions at their apartment complexes.

The group claims Herongate had the most bylaw calls in 2009 for housing complaints.

ACORN Herongate Tenants say a meeting with management of the apartment building to discuss the situation was cancelled earlier this summer.

Original article available at: http://www.cfra.com/?cat=1&nid=80970

Standard Freeholder: Finding allies for ODSP fight

OTTAWA — A lone wolf who has been fighting the Ontario government on his own over claims of discrimination now has an ally.

'Crazy' Dave Thomasson believes his rights — and those of thousands more — are being violated by the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP).

But his efforts to have ODSP regulations changed in court were foiled by the provincial government.

Now Thomasson has plunked down $10 to join ACORN Ottawa, which organized a lobbying effort this week to influence the province's social assistance review commission.

"ACORN strongly supports and agrees with my position with the ODSP, and they are willing to bring it to the public in Ottawa (at the commission's hearings)," Thomasson said.

ACORN converted the gist of Thomasson's claims onto a flyer, which is being distributed to participants at the hearings.

In the flyer, ACORN has adopted Thomasson's challenge to the provincial government: "Prove Me Wrong, McGuinty Can't" which is accompanied by a $1,000 prize for anyone who proves the ODSP complies with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

It's been 1,640 days since Thomasson issued his challenge.

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.

 

Petition: Western Union, Cut Your Rates

Many of you may remember ACORN Canada’s first national campaign: Predatory Payday Lending - the loan sharks that charged exorbitant rates and used deceptive pricing to rip off working families.

When we first started looking into Western Union and other Remittance providers we were struck by the similarities to payday lenders; shady storefront operations, predatory fee structures, and a lack of consumer protection - and we were right, they're just as bad.

Don’t just take it from me, Pascal Apuwa, a leading member from Metro Vancouver who uses Western Union to send money to his family in Nairobi, Kenya, has this to say:

“I send whatever I can afford to my friends and family back home – and for every dollar I send Western Union gets 20 cents.  I send $100 dollars to help feed people I love, and this massive company keeps $20. That’s wrong, and they need to lower their charges immediately.”

That’s why we’re calling on Western Union to cap their charges at 5% - the amount recommended by the World Bank.  We’re collecting signatures from folks across Canada who support this campaign and if we reach 5,000 we’ll ship them to Western Union CEO Hikmet Ersek’s office in suburban Colorado.

Click to Sign the Petition >>

 

Epoch Times: Money Transfer Companies Soaking Immigrants

New Canadians and temporary foreign workers who send money to family members back in their home countries are being charged exorbitant transfer service fees, says a national non-profit that representslow- and moderate-income families.

Pascal Apuwa, a spokesperson for ACORN Canada, says fees levied on remittance payments—the moneyimmigrants send to family members in their country of origin—by moneytransfer organizations such as Western Union are as high as 20–25 percent.

“For every dollar I send, Western Union gets 20 cents,” Apuwa says, regarding his own experience in sending money to family in a rural village in Kenya.

“Western Union is in the small towns and rural areas, but banks are only found in the big cities. My mom is not in the city, she is in a rural area, so that’s why I have to use Western Union.”

In addition, transfer service companies sometimes charge hidden fees and fail to pay full value for exchange rates to poverty-stricken relatives collecting the funds, says Apuwa, a Canadian citizen.

 

Your Ottawa Region: Vermin, mould is just the tip of the iceberg: Heron Gate tenants

Waving posters featuring dead mice and mould found in their apartments, Heron Gate-area residents shouted slogans like “don’t move, make your landlord improve” as they marched down Baycrest Drive to protest what they say is landlord negligence.

“My cat brought me a mouse from the basement yesterday. We’ve got bugs. We can only do so much. We don’t want to live like that. We pay a lot,” said Heron Gate-area resident Jennifer Macwaters, who lives in a three-bedroom apartment with her husband and two young children. “We want things fixed. Our parks are disgusting, (the landlords) don’t take care of the property and there’s garbage everywhere.”

Macwaters was one of roughly 50 people, including mothers and their children, who showed up for a rally hosted by Ottawa ACORN Heron Gate Tenants

Ottawa ACORN is a branch of ACORN Canada, an independent national organization of low and moderate income families.

 

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