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:

Our Canada

March 25th - Earlier today the opposition in Parliament defeated the governing Conservative Government, forcing a spring election.  Over the next 6 to 8 weeks Canadian are going to have hard choices to make about the kind of Canada we want.

I remember when the Government of Canada still thought affordable housing, poverty and consumer protections were priorities that mattered. Sadly, the last 5 years have not delivered that kind of leadership.

This election is going to give Canadians a chance to vote for the issues that matter to folks like us.  Can you help spread the word about ‘Our Canada’?

Just click here to share with your friends on Facebook

We know this election won’t solve every problem the country faces, but if we don’t demand better from all the parties in Ottawa we’ve solved nothing.

Thanks for everything you do,
Marva Burnett, Chair of the Board

Ottawa EMC: ACORN gets help from OPSEU

EMC News - For the third year in a row, Ottawa's branch of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada (ACORN Canada) was given a helping hand from the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU).

OPSEU gave a donation of $5,000 for ACORN, a collection of community-based organizations that fights for the rights of the impoverished in cities across Canada.

Most recently, ACORN [Canada] provided free tax-return services and has been fighting for living wages and special diet allowances in government-based assistance programs.

" OPSEU's members provide a lot of services that ACORNs members rely on," said David Lundy, regional vice president for OPSEU. "We look at ACORN and see a group of like-minded community people who believe, as we do, people should come before profits and communities should come before corporations.

"We definitely put our support 100 per cent behind ACORN's drive to have a living wage in the City of Ottawa."
ACORN, on their behalf, was very appreciative of the donation.

"The donation was presented to us by OPSEU, which was deeply appreciated," said Wayne Mahoney, a volunteer with Ottawa ACORN.

Now Magazine: The True TCHC Scandal

It’s a windy Tuesday (March 15) afternoon at the corner of Eglinton Ave. and Markham Rd. in Scarborough. It feels much colder than the forecasted six degrees – but you’d never know by the energetic group that has gathered here.

People chant and wave handmade signs: “Cockroaches don’t pay rent!”, “Revitalize don’t privatize,” and “TCHC: Show us the money!” while others urge passersby to “Honk for better housing.”

As the media frenzy surrounding the TCHC spending scandal continues, tenants at 3171 and 3181 Eglinton Ave. E. want to turn attention away from chocolates and spa dates. What’s happening here gets to the guts of TCHC’s problems — poor service to the tenant’s it’s serving.

This collection of tenants, some of whom are members of ACORN Canada, a community organization dedicated to justice for low and moderate-income families, have invited mayor Rob Ford and city councillor Gary Crawford today to see their living conditions – and to ask when real improvements will be made under new management. Neither show

Toronto Sun: Boy shivers because of broken window at TCHC building

Ryan Elsherif has to wear three layers of clothing and triple up on the blankets to get to sleep because the bedroom window at his Toronto Community Housing Corp. apartment has been broken for two months.

“It is just so cold at night. Sometimes I come out and sleep on the couch but I hate that because it is so hard,” said Ryan, 11, who lives at 3171 Eglinton Ave. E.

“I think they are lazy. They aren’t doing anything else even though they have a whole lot to do around here,” he said Wednesday.

Ryan’s mother, Leslie Schofield, said she has been to the TCHC offices numerous times to get the window repaired. It broke while there was a flood in the building.

“The property manager has seen it and just keeps saying we will get back to you and they don’t. It makes me feel terrible that my son has had to put up with this,” said Schofield, who works six hours a week as a lunchroom supervisor at her son’s school. “I wish I could stop paying my rent, but it gets paid directly through Ontario Works.”

Jeffrey Ferrier, a spokesman for TCHC said they dispatched staff to meet with Schofield Wednesday afternoon and discovered the inside pane is intact and the outside pane is broken but will be fixed “shortly” buy the property management company Fengate.

“We have also met with representatives of the private company that manages the building on our behalf to make sure that they understand the need to act quickly to fix problems like this,” Ferrier said in an e-mail.

But it is outrageous that these kinds of conditions exist in Toronto, said Natalie Hundt with the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now [Canada].

“The level of neglect for livable, affordable housing in this city is unacceptable and shameful,” Hundt said. “Mayor Ford has been talking a lot about restoring public confidence in TCHC and ACORN [Canada] is using this opportunity to draw attention to the deplorable conditions in the buildings with the hope that something might now change.”

Ferrier said the window was one of several issues raised by the buildings tenants and TCHC staff will be at the building next Wednesday from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. to hear those concerns.

You can read the original article at:

Inside Toronto: TCH residents share stories of poor living conditions, safety problems

For about two months now, Ryan Elsherif, 11, has had to look at the world outside his Scarborough bedroom through a shattered window.

"We had to go out and buy a heater and it's still pretty cold at night," the boy said Tuesday as tenants of two public housing highrises invited reporters to see conditions there.

In Ryan's case, his bedroom carpet was a casualty of a flood that drove him out of the ground floor unit at 3171 Eglinton Ave. E. he shares with his mother, Lesley Schofield, for a week.

When the boy returned, he saw the window was broken.

Schofield said she's made five trips to the management office for the building but the window is still broken, parquet tiles near the apartment's kitchen are loose or missing, and radiator covers Schofield said must be replaced lie on the floor.

Management employees who visit, the part-time lunchroom supervisor charged, "just jot things in a book, and forget about it."

Ottawa ACORN thanks OPSEU for continued support

March 14th, 2011 - Today, members of Ottawa ACORN are extending their warmest gratitude to the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU) for their continued support.

Dave Lundy, a regional Vice-President at OPSEU joined members Wayne Mahoney and Anthony Dipoce at the Ottawa ACORN office and presented a cheque for $5000.00 to support continue organizing in the city.

Ottawa ACORN members are looking forward to working with OPSEU throughout 2011 as their Living Wage Campaign comes before City Council and other initiatives continue to progress.  Labour-Community alliances like the one between OPSEU and Ottawa ACORN allow working families in and out of unions to collaborate on issues and campaigns of mutual concern.

Actions nationwide to regulate remittance transfers

March 3, 2011 - Yesterday ACORN Canada members from 20 chapters nationwide called on the Provincial Governments and the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada (FCAC) to take immediate steps to regulate the remittance industry in Canada.  Remittance providers have been shown to charge as much as $50 in fees for a simple $100 remittance from Canada to a country in the developing world.

In Metro Vancouver ACORN Canada members marched to the headquarters of the Financial Institutions Commission (FICOM) in Surrey and held a rally.  Leader Pascal Apuwa delivered a letter and a copy of of the report Past Time for Remittance Justice to the CEO Carolyn Rogers and secured a future meeting to discuss steps that FICOM could take to rein in this rogue industry.

In Ottawa 25 members were joined by member of SEIU Canada local 2 and the Canadian Union of Postal Workers for a rally at the FCAC.  Leader Michelle Walrond delivered a letter to the FCAC calling on them to bring in regulations that meet the World Bank’s recommended rate cap of 5% on all remittance fee’s.

In Toronto members held a press conference on the steps of the Ontario Ministry of Finance after being refused entry to deliver a letter to the Minister of Finance’s office.  Global TV and  other press outlets covered the event.


Fast Forward Weekly: Bank fees 'killing' migrant workers

An international community-based, low-income advocacy organization is calling on the Canadian government to regulate the “predatory” remittance industry.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada (ACORN Canada) says the unregulated practise of charging up to 50 per cent for money transfers — a $400-billion industry according to the World Bank — is punishing migrant workers and immigrants, many of whom send money to their families back home.

“The remittance fee is killing us,” says Kay Bisnath, president of ACORN International. “Migrant workers’ and immigrants’ families depend on the money that their loved ones in Canada and around the world send to their homeland.”

Bisnath says banks and money transfer businesses can charge as much as 50 per cent in remittance fees. A migrant worker sending $100 to their family can be charged between $32 and $35 through the TD Bank, says Bisnath. “When you have to pay all these remittance fees, what are the loved ones left with?”

ACORN is calling for the Canadian government to limit the amount banks and financial institutions can charge to five per cent.
“We’re trying to end this predatory practise by the banks and financial agencies,” says Bisnath.

The original article is available at:

Toronto Sun: Ontario toughens welfare diet rules

Extra cash for chronically ill welfare recipients to eat healthy will be harder to get starting April 1 under new rules designed to combat fraud and comply with an Ontario Human Rights Tribunal ruling -- changes that are making some sick people nervous.

"We really do not want to disadvantage people who need the special diet allowance, people who are ill and who need that extra money to live with their illness or condition," Rebecca MacKenzie, a spokesman for Community and Social Services Minister Madeleine Meilleur said.

"At the same time, fraud is unacceptable," she said. "Fraud that happens hurts everyone else who is in the program for the correct reasons."

As of April, recipients of the special diet allowance will all have to reapply for the program, consent to have their relevant medical records checked and have their applications signed by a doctor or registered nurse practitioner, nutritionist or midwife.

As well, there are changes to the rates people with different conditions would be paid, with some afflictions getting less money or delisted altogether.

Those changes were the result of the human rights case in which patients with conditions such as diabetes or obesity that did not qualify for the program sued.

The tribunal ruled in their favour so the province set up a panel of medical experts to recommend which conditions would qualify.

MacKenzie said while people with some conditions may qualify for less money, many will qualify for more.

But Edward Lantz is nervous.

Georgia Straight: Surrey council should do the right thing and endorse living wage

The time has come for Surrey to follow the lead of New Westminster and endorse a living wage policy.

A “living wage” is meant to reflect the actual income required for a two-earner, two-child household to live above the poverty line. Adopted at the civic level, it would apply to anyone working for the city. As most city staff are all already above this level, the policy is aimed at independent contractors working for the city.

The living wage policy passed unanimously by New Westminster council last year will see workers paid at least $16.74 per hour. Last month, Esquimalt passed a similar policy, and the municipalities of Cowichan, Williams Lake, and Cranbrook are considering it.

Living wage policies are currently being advocated for by ACORN Canada, the B.C. Federation of Labour, and the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the latter having recently calculated that a living wage for families is $18.17 an hour in Vancouver and $17.30 in Victoria.

If Surrey were to do the right thing and endorse such a policy, it would not be the first time.

In 1993, Surrey Civic Electors councillor Gary Robinson and then-mayor Bob Bose were successful in implementing a living wage for the city. At the time, Robinson explained that contractors providing flag services for the city were paying substandard wages to their employees, the majority of whom were women.