News

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.

 

Ottawa Metro: Clean this place up, Heron Gate residents demand

About 50 angry Heron Gate tenants and members of Ottawa ACORN rallied outside their homes yesterday to say they are fed up with garbage not being picked up, mould growing on their walls and rats running wild. But it was unclear what action might be taken or what the property manager intends to do about it.

TransGlobe Property Management Services, which owns the Heron Gate rental complex, took over direct control of managing the property just four weeks ago, after contracting it out for years, a spokesman said. “I don’t know what happened over the last several months or years in that building and the work of the last management firm that was in there,” spokesman Danny Roth said.

 

BC Local News: ACORN Canada calls for cuts in money transfer fees

Since coming to Canada as a refugee in 2006, Pascal Apuwa has been sending money back home to his mother and sister in Kenya.

He sends what he can every month or two, as much as $300 when he was working, to $100 or $60 now that he's a student, all the while knowing the money helped put food on the table for his family.

Each time the Burnaby resident pays what he is told to by Western Union, which operates out of a Money Mart on Kingsway near Edmonds Street.

But after learning at an Acorn Canada meeting that the company takes a significant share of the money through service charges and unfavourable exchange rates, he's fighting back.

Apuwa, 30, led a protest at the Western Union office Wednesday to raise awareness of the issue.

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: http://www.insidetoronto.com/community/education/article/1047022--education-rally-set-for-sunday-in-scarborough

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: http://www.ottawacitizen.com/business/Group+seeks+money+transfer+fees/4973037/story.html

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: https://www.acorncanada.org/donate-now

 

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.

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