The Tyee: Canadian immigrants getting fleeced by money transfer services

Canadian residents who use commercial money transfer services to send funds to family members back home are paying unreasonably high fees, says a non-profit that represents low-income families.

According to ACORN Canada spokesperson Pascal Apuwa, fees levied on international money transfers can be as high as 20 to 25 per cent.

"We are demanding that these agencies reduce their charges and we are asking the government to regulate them," says Apuwa.

According to a spokesperson for the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, there are currently no federal regulations on money transfer fees.

Remittance payments, the term used to describe money that foreign workers send back to their countries of origin, are not only vitally important for the individuals who receive them, says Apuwa, but also constitute a significant flow of funds to developing countries around the world.

Ottawa Citizen: Heron Gate tenants protest troubled living conditions

Jennifer Macwaters has had it with the bugs, mould, broken fridge and flood-prone basement in her Heron Gate townhouse.

“I’ve got two young children living here. I can’t have them living in that. That was supposed to be their play room down in that basement,” said Macwaters. “You ask them to do something, it will take them weeks, months to fix things.”

So when she got a flyer in her mailbox about a neighbourhood meeting organized by ACORN, an advocacy group for low- and middle-income tenants, the 27-year-old decided to put her free time from her maternity leave to work. Soon, she was handing out flyers of her own, inviting her neighbours in the sprawling Heron Gate Village complex of apartment buildings and townhouses to gather Tuesday morning and tell their landlord, TransGlobe Property Management, what they think about the poor state of repair.

Press Release: Western Union and Money Mart’s money transfer fees take 20% of money sent to drought-ravaged East Africa

For immediate release

New Canadians, temporary foreign workers, and others struggling to support loved ones abroad are fed up with the high cost of remittances and money transfers.

The ongoing famine in Somalia, and devastating drought in neighbouring Kenya has one person especially upset.  For Pascal Apuwa - a leader in the national campaign for Remittance Justice – these twin crises’s have made the call for reducing remittance rates ever more urgent.

“Like many new Canadians I send whatever I can afford to send back to my friends and family back in East Africa – and for every dollar I send Western Union gets 20 cents.  I send 100 dollars to help feed people I love, and a massive company keeps $20. That’s wrong, and they need to lower their charges immediately. At this point, because of the drought, that money they are taking from my pocket could save someone’s life!” Pascal Apuwa from Burnaby, BC explains.

CBC Ottawa: Heron Gate residents protest squalid conditions

Dozens living in squalour at one of Ottawa's most complained-about residential complexes protested what they called deplorable living conditions on Tuesday.

The tenants of several apartments at Heron Gate are calling for the property management firm, TransGlobe, to improve their living conditions. They've previously complained about infestations of vermin, mould, and a lack of proper building maintenance.

"It's just completely disgusting," said tenant Jennifer Macwaters. "It smells awful and it's unsafe for me, my kids. It affects all of us."

Erica Marx, who is with the local advocacy group ACORN, organized the action on Tuesday. She said a lamppost in the common area behind her home collapsed last year and one of her children, as well as another child, both received electric shocks from the post while playing outside.

TransGlobe, based in Mississauga, Ont., eventually cut the wires.

KW Record: Migrants’ money channels are a murky world

There is no paper trail. There is no oversight. There are no clear rules. But the cash flow is staggering: roughly $200 billion a year.

This amount, sent home by immigrants and migrant workers through back channels, dwarfs global foreign aid. Canada’s share — approximately $7.5 billion a year — is more than double the country’s official development assistance.

Although these hand-to-hand remittances do a tremendous amount of good in poor countries, they pose serious risks for both senders and governments.

Immigrants have no guarantee their earnings will actually reach their families. The money could be pocketed by greedy middlemen, stolen enroute or whittled down by bribes to corrupt local officials.

Financial authorities have no knowing whether this informal financial system is being used by drug dealers to launder dirty money or terrorist groups to finance international operations. It certainly has the potential to do both.

Inside Toronto: Education rally set for Sunday in Scarborough

Teachers and members of the advocacy group ACORN Canada say they will rally in Scarborough this Sunday to "preserve and enhance the learning environment of children in Toronto's public schools."

The event - including a free barbecue to which the public is welcome - happens at 2 p.m. on July 24 in Albert Campbell Square, following a meeting of elementary teachers at Scarborough Civic Centre.

There will be speakers from ACORN and other groups.

The province's funding formula for elementary schools has forced some to close their libraries and parents are forced to raise money to fill the gap, Natalie Hundt of ACORN said in a statement this week.

"Rich communities are obviously more equipped to do this than low-income communities, creating a growing gap in achievement," she said.

Martin Long, president of the elementary teachers of Toronto, said to reach a higher standard schools will need smaller classes, more specialist teachers and more resources for special needs students.

The square is located between the Scarborough Civic Centre, at 150 Borough Dr., and Scarborough Town Centre.

Original article availale at:

The Grid: Jane & Finch residents rally for better housing conditions

Mold, roaches and bedbugs among the many grievances protested by community residents yesterday.
Yesterday afternoon, members of the non-profit organization ACORN [Canada] (The Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, Canada) and tenants from the Jane and Finch community came together to raise awareness for “the right to liveable housing,” pushing for increased landlord accountability. “You need a licence to open a bar, but not to rent out housing,” an ACORN speaker explained. “That often leaves the question of accountability unanswered. We want to see more inspections and better maintenance of the buildings.”

Toronto Star: Crack down on ‘slum landlords,’ critics urge

It costs $1,100 a month to rent a three-bedroom apartment in the tower at 10 San Romanoway — but Glenice Edwards could do without the cockroaches.

Her city councillor agrees that bugs are a common problem in the Jane and Finch corridor — and that the city should act faster to force landlords to clean up their act.

Edwards is also worried the mould that grows out of the fan above her stove will harm the health of her young sons. She was once trapped in a broken elevator for 20 minutes on the way down from her 14th floor apartment.

But despite four years worth of complaints, the landlord of her 34-storey building “hasn’t done a thing,” she said.

“The roaches come and go,” she said. “It’s a mess. It’s a disaster.”

Edwards is part of the Association of Community Organization for Reform Now, a group of 20,000 Torontonians, calling on the city to crack down on “slum landlords.”

While cockroaches, mould and broken elevators are common complaints in Edwards’ building, they are dealt with in a timely manner, said Eric Khan of RPMS property management services.

New Report on Remittances: Voting in a Rigged Election

Today we’re releasing a new report as part of a global effort to achieve transparency and regulation of remittance fees.

This issue is a vital one for Canadian families, especially immigrants, migrant workers and new Canadians, who pay huge fees on the money they send to their families back home.

"Voting with Their Money in a Rigged Election," is the third report in a series from ACORN Canada and ACORN International looking at this unregulated and often unaccountable industry. Click to Download the .PDF of Voting in a Rigged Election

Toronto ACORN honoured with Vital Ideas award at Vital Toronto 2011

On June 22nd, 2011, Toronto ACORN was honoured for its receipt of a Vital Ideas grant awarded by the Toronto Community Foundation.  Vital Ideas recognizes Toronto's most high-impact organizations and supports their work to stabilize, expand, or replicate programs with successful track records.

The awards were distributed at the Toronto Community Foundation’s annual Vital Toronto event, recognizing the achievements of a remarkable group of people and organizations who are working to make Toronto an even better city. Vital Toronto was hosted by Matt Galloway at CBC’s Glenn Gould Studio.

Tenants Take Action in North Toronto

30 Toronto ACORN members from rallied last week at 100 York Gate Blvd. to protest the state of disrepair in the high-rise and to build public support for the ongoing campaign for improved apartment inspections in the city.

Members held signs, chanted, and collected petitions from supportive onlookers in front of the building.  They were later joined by local City Councillor Anthony Perruzza who vowed to help Toronto ACORN and tenants across Toronto fight for more apartment inspections and serious crack-downs on landlords like that at 100 York Gate Blvd.

Joined by Councillor Perruzza members gave CityTV a tour of the building, showing ongoing poor maintenance and code violations in public areas as well as individual units.


Message to the Department of Finance: Regulate Remittances & Money Transfers Now!

As a closing of the National Community Change Summit, 60 ACORN Canada members came together at an action in front of the Ministry of Finance in Ottawa to draw the Deputy Minister of Finance’s attention to the fees and interest being taken by big banks and money transfer organizations (MTOs) like Western Union when processing remittances.

In fact, hard-working Canadians trying to support families and loved ones abroad paid more in fees and interest than the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) spends in foreign aid each year.  ACORN Canada is calling on the Federal Government to bring in new regulations consistent with the World Bank’s suggested 5% cap on fees.

The action was covered by the Ottawa Citizen, CBC Ottawa, Metro Ottawa and others, and led to securing a commitment from the Deputy Minister to investigate the issue and agree to a follow up meeting with ACORN Canada leaders.

Burnaby NewsLeader: ACORN decries lack of public washrooms at Residential Tenancy Branch in Burnaby

Tenants wanting to file a dispute with their landlord are under stress as it is without having to worry about where the nearest public toilet is when visiting the Residential Tenancy Branch (RTB).

That's the concern raised by ACORN Canada, an advocacy group for low and moderate income families.

The RTB at 5021 Kingsway in Burnaby is the sole full-service RTB office serving the entire Lower Mainland, said ACORN Canada member Veronica Coreas. Last fall she noticed there were no longer public washrooms available.

People now have to "go from door to door looking for a washroom" outside the building, Coreas said. Many nearby businesses are now restricting washroom access to paying customers, making the nearest public toilets about four blocks away at Metrotown mall.

It's simply unacceptable for a government office that requires significant waits to not have toilet facilities available, she said.

The issue prompted ACORN to hold a protest inside the RTB office Wednesday morning, complete with a mock up of a port-a-potty.

Ottawa Citizen: Group seeks cap on money-transfer fees

From the Ottawa Citizen:

Pascal Apuwa, 38, moved to Canada six years ago from a small village in Kenya. Like many foreign-born Canadians he sends money back to his family in Africa every month. But Apuwa says he's tired of paying the fees money transfer organizations, such as Western Union, place on remittance payments.

He and members of the organization ACORN [Canada], the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, [Canada] are asking federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty to cap the fees money transfer organizations can place on remittance payments at five per cent. The group is holding a protest outside the Bank of Canada at 10: 30 a.m. today.

"There is no transparent explanation why it costs me $25 to send $100 to my family in Kenya," Apuwa said. "The only reason I've found is that they think it's all right to pull profits from my family living in a slum in Africa."

According to Statistics Canada, 41 per cent of foreign-born residents living in Canada send money back to their families abroad. Apuwa says he is sometimes charged as much as 16 per cent to send money back home and says there are often additional unexplained charges his family must pay in order to collect the money in Africa. "I feel so bad about it," he said. "This is not the way to help people, I want justice to be done here."

You can find the original article at:

Pancake breakfast helps Ottawa prepare to host Community Change Summit

On Sunday May 29th Ottawa members held a Pancake Breakfast Fundraiser at St. Joseph's Church.

Members served food, engaged the community on campaigns and issues and received almost $1000 of support for the National Community Change Summit. All food and supplies were donated to the organization from local businesses and stores.

Member Audrey Kakogee says, "I had a good time helping out and working with other members from across the city!" Board member Kathleen Fortin adds, "We had a good turnout of members and appreciate all the donations from the community. I'm looking forward to the next one."


City commits to improved tenant communication in Toronto

The city division responsible for inspecting and auditing Toronto's nearly 6,000 multi-unit apartment buildings has produced a new report suggesting significant recommendations to improve communication between city inspectors and tenants.

The recommendations come after 2 years of consultations with Toronto ACORN members concerned with a lack of accessible information available to tenants once their building had been inspected.  The recommendations put forth by Licensing and Standards staff signify a big step forward in ACORN members' ability to influence and work in conjunction with a major city department and its senior staff, and we are excited to continue to fight for apartment standards improvements.


Burnaby gets organized

Our leaders in Burnaby have launched an organizing drive in their neighbourhood, we launched our Healthy Homes Campaign for a standards of maintenance bylaw.   In other words not much is new: We Organize!

First off, Veronica Coreas of Burnaby, BC has been diligently gathering 100's of names and numbers from people in Burnaby frustrated with the poor service and high fares that people get from Translink, BC's public transit system.   She plans to turn this issue into a fight over transit safety, access, and affordability and in the process build a local ACORN chapter in her neighbourhood, near Edmonds St. in Burnaby.  So far the Burnaby group has had two meetings at the Tommy Douglas Public Library in Burnaby and have planned for big actions on the transit issue later in the Summer.

Also in May, ‘Healthy Homes’ was the rallying cry on the corner of 108 Ave and King George Blvd in Surrey. ACORN Canada members in Surrey have been getting organized around tenant issues for years and have decided to take on the lack of enforceable standards for apartments in Canada's 12th largest city.

Many of you may be familiar with Toronto ACORN’s ongoing campaign to win landlord licensing and improved apartment inspections bylaws.  Well, those laws don't even exist in Surrey, but ACORN Canada members have set out to change that.   At the successful launch of the campaign our members showed that healthy homes are a right, not a privilege, and have since won commitments from a City Councilor in Surrey to begin the process of creating a ‘healthy homes bylaw’.

It all can't happen fast enough for ACORN Canada members.


Toronto stands up for public services

RallyNearly 100 Toronto ACORN members joined with community and labour groups in an impressive rally of over 10,000 Torontonians who marched from Yonge and Dundas Square to City Hall to protest proposed service cuts.

Toronto ACORN leader Kay Bisnath was the first of several speakers who fired up the crowd in opposition to the impending transit cuts, user fees, and privatized public housing:

"No matter who you voted for, you didn't vote to cut services in Toronto.  We must protect our housing, jobs, and transit so that we have a city that works for everyone."

The massive crowd surrounded City Hall and delivered thousands of postcards to city councillors urging them to vote against the proposed cuts and give respect back to the taxpayers.  In response to the rally, Rob Ford committed to holding public consultations in neighborhoods around the city before following through with the decision.


Ottawa ACORN is dialing for dollars

VoluneersOttawa ACORN members are "dialing for dollars" this spring to help raise funds for the National Community Change Summit June 18-20.  Adrian Profitos and Michelle Walrond have raised $300 collectively and are still going strong to help Ottawa members attend.

Michelle, a proud grandmother is active in many campaigns including the living wage, tenant's rights, and the campaign to increase ODSP/OW. She lives in our South Ottawa Chapter and recently moved to Quarry Co-Op Housing where she is working to help involve her neighbors in Ottawa ACORN.

Adrian is a student at the University of Ottawa living in our Vanier Chapter and is active in any campaign he can help with and strongly believes in all the work members want to achieve.

If you’d like to chip in to support the Community Change Summit, you can do it here:


Petition: Healthy and Liveable Homes Now!

We, the undersigned provisional members of ACORN Canada, recommend that the Surrey municipal government pass a standards of maintenance bylaw and defend the rights of Surrey tenants. Standards of maintenance bylaw will finally protect tenants from landlords who do little to treat unhealthy homes – homes with leaky ceilings, mold, and pest infestation.

Come out to the campaign launch!

When: Saturday, May 7th at 11AM

Where: 108 Ave and King George BLVD, Surrey

Simply fill out the form below to sign the petition

Don't forget to click 'submit'!

Once you've clicked the button, your name will be added to the petition and you'll be redirected to the homepage.

Ottawa Metro: Poverty group urges action on ‘living wage’

City council is dragging its feet on implementing a proposal to restrict municipal contracts only to those employers who agree to pay their workers a “living wage,” say members of an anti-poverty lobby group.

Ottawa members of ACORN [Canada] met at city hall yesterday to continue to pressure councillors to support the proposal that would set a minimum “living wage” of $13.50 an hour.

“The city has some contractors who pay minimum wage or less than the low-income cutoff,” said [Ottawa] ACORN  member Michelle Walrond, comparing the practice to child labour or sweatshops.

Walrond said the $13.50 figure is based on cost of living statistics from Statistics Canada and reflects the amount a person needs to make ends meet in Ottawa. She said people who work for less often have to supplement their incomes by relying on food banks and other social services.

Walrond said about 14 councillors have voiced their support for the idea, but added the group had a setback with the proposal during the last municipal election, when some supportive councillors failed in their re-election bids.

You can read the original article at:

Toronto ACORN wins commitment for new housing bylaw

April 1st - Toronto ACORN board members held a private meeting with the new Chair of the city’s Licensing and Standards Committee, Councillor Cesar Palacio.  Licensing and Standards is the Committee that oversees apartment inspection and Toronto ACORN members spoke to the need for new municipal bylaws that would more rigidly define landlords’ responsibility for maintaining Toronto’s aged and deteriorating housing stock.

Councillor Palacio promised to work closely with our members in the coming months to write, amend, and introduce new apartment standards bylaws aimed at improving standards for tenants.

Carmen Respondek, a board member from East York had this to say following the meeting: “We need to change the law.  In a city with half its population renting, there needs to be more legal protection for tenants so landlords are held accountable.”

Free Income Tax Site Grows Once Again

Our New 2nd floor office in Metro Vancouver has been busy ever since we moved in in early February of this year. That is because, for the 5th year straight, ACORN Canada’s Free Income Tax Site has been busy doing hundreds of tax returns for members and people in our communities. So far, this year we have done more than 800 tax returns which is an increase of over 30% over our 2010 tax site.

In the 5 years ACORN Canada has done Free Income Taxes in Metro Vancouver we have returned over 6 Million Dollars in tax returns, rebates, and benefits! Add to this that we have saved people $400,000 in tax preparation costs and it is clear that ACORN Canada is a major stimulus to the neighbourhoods where we work!

But that is just the beginning. Our free income tax site gives our members a great opportunity to share their campaigns with people who come to get their taxes done. Our new campaign for Remittance Justice is becoming a very popular topic of serious discussion in the office. Many new people coming in to get their taxes done feel the pain of the exorbitant costs of sending money transfers back to their families and friends. And better still, they are getting involved with ACORN Canada’s campaign for regulatory changes to the Money Transfer Industry.

Regulations that will hold banks and companies like Western Union to account for the predatory business practices here in BC.

We like doing your taxes and if you know anyone who has a simple tax return in need of filing just call 604 5221

CFRA: Ottawa ACORN calls for living wage

Councillors are being asked once again to support a Living Wage in the City of Ottawa.

Ottawa ACORN will hold a media event next week to urge the City to support its Living Wage Campaign, which is part of the city's Poverty Reduction Strategy.

[Ottawa] ACORN says its campaign is focused on a wage increase of $13.50 an hour for full-time City of Ottawa workers.

The group says the campaign is based on the Low Income Cut Off to ensure municipal public dollars when given to contractors, economic development assistance firms and direct contract employees receive a "base level pay."

The City of Ottawa's Poverty Reduction Strategy estimated a Living Wage for contracted City workers would cost taxpayers an extra $1.4 million a year.

You can read the original article at: