Ottawa EMC: Young mom calls for change

Jessica May is trying to raise her two children in a safe community.

But when she visits Michele Park with her three-year-old daughter and three-month-old son, she's tired of finding needles on the ground.

"Our children play in these parks and anything could be buried (in the sand)," said the 20-year-old May, who attended Ottawa ACORN's rally for safer parks on Dec. 6 at Michele Park. "When I first moved here, I didn't know it was going to be this bad."

May, who lives in an apartment building on Ramsey Crescent, said she got her first apartment in the community in September 2009. Since then, she's had issues at Michele Park when it comes to lighting and garbage and she worries about gang violence at night.


She said she was also disturbed when a stabbing took place near her building.

"There was blood on my steps and I saw broken glass," May said, adding that she's been coping with depression because of where she lives.

Toronto Star: TTC approves 10-cent fare hike

A 10-cent fare hike effective Jan. 1 and restoration of full bus service on some busy routes like Finch, Dufferin and Don Mills have been approved by the Toronto Transit Commission.

The commission on Wednesday okayed a compromise plan from the TTC chair, Councillor Karen Stintz, that uses about $5 million in expected 2012 diesel fuel savings to continue bus service.

“The TTC management will go back and give us a breakdown on which routes will be maintained,” Stintz said. “And they would likely be the busiest routes like Finch, like Don Mills, like Dufferin. But the exact details are still being worked out.”

TTC chief general manager Gary Webster said the money would restore half the rush-hour bus service that had been on the chopping block. Transit advocates vowed to keep pushing council — which meets in mid-January to pass the city’s budget — to come up with $14 million to keep current bus service operating.

“It’s up to councillors now to find the remaining money to avoid service cuts in the TTC,” said Jamie Kilpatrick, of the Toronto Environmental Alliance.

The 10-cent fare hike, the first since January, 2010, when fares went up 25 cents, will increase the adult token to $2.60. The cash fare remains at $3.

National Post: TTC to raise fares by 10¢ in new year


TTC fares will go up by 10¢ on New Year's Day, but it remains City Council's call as to whether the commission will move forward with controversial plans to dramatically cut back its service.

Cash fares will remain stable at $3 for adults and $2 for students and seniors, but tokens will increase from $2.50 to $2.60, and Metropasses will increase by $5 per month.

The commission also agreed in principle to usher in 10¢ increases in 2013, 2014 and 2015. "We need to bring in some predictability ... and get out of this annual cycle of how we are going to make ends meet," TTC chairwoman Karen Stintz said.

This year, the commission voted to reduce service on 56 bus and six streetcar routes in order to meet a budget target set by Mayor Rob Ford's administration; some of those cuts have been avoided by an 11th-hour discovery of $5-million in extra funding.

The $5-million was originally budgeted for diesel fuel, which staff now believe will not cost as much. More than $1-million of the money will be used to maintain service levels at full capacity in January. The remainder will be put toward relieving peak hours the rest of the year.

Of course, to keep 2012 service anywhere near where it was in 2011, the commission is counting an influx of cash from City Council.

"We need to find $45-million to buy new buses to keep the service levels as they currently are, and that will be a decision for council in January," said Ms. Stintz before Wednesday's meeting.


Toronto Sun: TTC approves fare hike

Get ready to spare a dime in the new year, TTC riders.

Transit commissioners voted Wednesday to hike fares 10 cents starting Jan. 1.

The vote was 7-1 for the 10-cent hike, Councillor Maria Augimeri was the lone vote against.

With the increase, TTC tokens will cost 10 cents more, rising to $2.60, while Metropasses will cost $5 more a month. The TTC’s cash fare will stay at $3.

A 10 cent fare hike for 2013, '14 and '15 was also approved in principle.

Commissioners also approved TTC chairman Karen Stintz’s plan to stop around half of the January cuts to TTC service on the busiest bus and streetcar routes and push off the remaining cuts until February. That move will cost the TTC an extra $3.3 million next year and force the transit authority to find around $45 million in capital funds to buy new buses.

Wednesday’s vote came after the TTC listened to several hours of deputations where dozens of speakers urged them not to hike fares and to avoid any cuts to service.

Edward Lantz, a member of the activist group [Toronto] ACORN, brought bags of coal to the meeting and delivered them to commissioners.

Press Release: Toronto ACORN members tired of being ‘scroogged’ by TTC Commission, to deliver coal to board members

Members of Toronto ACORN will rally at City Hall on Wednesday to speak out against the proposed service cuts to 62 bus and streetcar routes, and the loss of 282 buses and streetcars on the road each day.
“The loss and reduction of these services are not justifiable and the effect of these reductions will be felt on the backs of the low income and working people of the city.” -Edward Lantz, Toronto ACORN member and regular TTC user.
Coming on the heels of other proposals for broader major service reductions, and earlier TTC route reductions in May 2011, these new cuts are simply unacceptable.

Mayor Ford and the TTC Commission will be forcing low and moderate income families and those who depend on transit to get around, to pay more for increasingly diminished service.

WHAT: Toronto ACORN members will deliver a gift of 282 lumps of coal to the TTC Commission - one for each bus and streetcar that will be removed from Toronto streets under the commissions plan.

WHEN: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 1PM

WHERE: City Hall, Committee Room 3, 2nd Floor

Cell: 416-450-0341
Office: 416-461-9233

Ottawa Metro: Residents kick up some dirt on Michele Park

Complaints of poor lighting, crime, garbage, drugs, needles in park

Bay Ward Coun. Mark Taylor vowed to clean up Michele Park and make the area safer after a small group of angry residents held a protest there on Tuesday. 

Residents said there isn’t enough lighting on streets at night and are worried about gang violence and garbage in and around the playground. 

ACORN Ottawa, a non-profit organization that advocates for low-income families, organized the protest. 

“As you can see, the garbage laying around —that’s a big issue,” said Jessica May, a mother of two who lives near the park. 

“We don’t know what’s in the sand. I’ve discovered needles, I’ve discovered joints.”

“It’s just not safe.”

Taylor reassured residents that he will address issues such as lighting, garbage and recycling receptacles, and maintenance of the park. 

But he also requested that the community take an active role in improving the conditions of the park.

Taylor encouraged the community co-ordinator for the area to attend his upcoming bi-monthly meeting in January to address residents’ biggest concerns.

Original article available at:

Ottawa Citizen: Ottawa ACORN targets Michele Park in call for safer parks

Concerned west-end residents held a rally Tuesday in Michele Park, one of the parks in the area they say is no longer safe for children and families.

About 15 people attended the rally organized by Ottawa ACORN, which represents low-income families.

“We’re here today to get more lighting in our parks and to make it cleaner and safer for our children. As you can see, there are no garbage receptacles anywhere. There’s a lot of garbage on the ground and in the sand,” said Jessica May, a resident and ACORN member.

May says she no longer brings her newborn baby and three-year-old daughter to Michele Park or the park near her apartment in the Britannia area. “I’m worried about our children’s safety. I know we’re low income but we have a right to light in our parks just like everyone else. It’s not safe to walk in the dark.”

Ottawa Sun: Britannia families demand safer neighbourhood

Britannia area families are demanding neighbourhood security to keep their children safe.

Local residents and ACORN members gathered at Michele Park Tuesday afternoon to ask the city to stop violence, theft and drug trafficking that regularly takes place in their parks.

Community volunteer Bill Robinson helps out Michelle Heights children in homework clubs and has heard about their fears first hand.

“The kids do find it unsafe, I know a couple of them have told me that they’ve been very fearful,” he said. “They’ve told me about fights they’ve witnessed and things going on in the park.”

Jessica May is a young mother and has lived in the community since 2009.

“It’s terrifying at night — it’s not safe with all the gang members around, it’s too dark,” she said.

“And now that it’s winter it’s getting darker.”

But she said parks aren’t the only problem — it’s the entire community.

“I’ve had a lot of disturbances in my hallways, I always hear yelling in the parking lots, I’ve also been confronted by other males that are in the building or in the neighbourhood making rude comments to me,” she said.

According to May, another problem is litter: Throughout the entire park only one trash bin is visible and garbage is littered throughout the grounds.

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.

Ford and TTC Plan Fare Hike, Cuts to 282 Buses and Streetcars

Toronto ACORN members are gearing up to fight the plan to remove 282 buses and streetcars from 62 routes across the city and hike fares by .10 cents.

The TTC is meeting December 14th to debate the plan and Toronto ACORN and allies are aiming to fill Council Chambers to make sure that the voices of Toronto families are heard.

It's time to stop the cuts.

Can we count on you to come out in support?
Where: Front Doors to City Hall (100 Queen St. W)
When: December 14th, 1pm

Questions: Get in touch! 416-461-9233 or

City Councillor Commits to Park Cleanup

15 Ottawa ACORN members from the Britannia chapter held a press conference and gave local City Councillors a tour of a derelict park this week as part of a community clean up effort. Mark Taylor, the neighbourhood’s City Councillor, signed a commitment to have city staff replace and improve broken lighting and garbage and recycling bins, as well as the overall upkeep for the park.

The event was held in Michele Park and leader member Cheryl Smith had this to say:

"we've met with the councillor and we asked for these things so we're hoping that with the media's help we'll see faster results."

The action was led by new member Jessica May, who showed the councillor around the park. The press conference was covered by the Ottawa Citizen, Ottawa Metro, Ottawa Sun, and the CFRA.

Ottawa Leadership School a Success

Members from Ottawa's Mechanicsville Chapter hosted the second leadership school in our Ottawa Community Change Project with a focus on understanding the municipal process and ensuring poverty reduction measures play a vital role in City Hall's mandate. This was the largest turnout of any day-long leadership school we've ever held, with 36 members participating. Organizations such as the City for All Women Initiative (CAWI) worked to build an agenda and collaborated on workshops for the school and we would like to thank them for their help and support.

Ottawa ACORN Member Jawahir Ismail who attended has this to say:" I learned how to speak up and that you must say your point about what your community needs are. You need a good plan to work through and set a goal that is realistic for the community."

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.


Inside Toronto: Protesters remain in St. James Park

With speculation rising that the City of Toronto may try to pull the plug on the Occupy Toronto movement's stay in St. James Park, those in the camp remain steadfast in their determination to draw attention to financial inequalities between society's haves and have-nots.

Despite rain and cold, the downtown park remains packed with dozens of tents, and spirits remain high among those staking out the space as the protest nears the one-month mark.

Even rumblings that Mayor Rob Ford has intimated that the occupiers should move on have not dampened the protesters' resolve.

"They've had a peaceful protests but I think it's time we ask them to leave," Ford said during a news conference held to discuss the Eglinton LRT Wednesday morning, "Again I have to confirm this with the chief and I'm not here to speak on the chief's behalf ... I think everyone can appreciate it's been a peaceful protest but I think it's time that we ask them to move on."

Ford's statements were backed by non-specific comments by city manager Joe Pennechetti that the City was looking into "appropriate steps" to deal with the site.

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


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.