News

Movement for Remittance Justice

Kay Bisnath, MPP Jagmeet Singh and Rohan Jagroo announce the introduction of Bill 98.Last Thursday, ACORN members joined MPP Jagmeet Singh at Queen’s Park to announce the next step in our important campaign to regulate the predatory remittance industry. He tabled a historic bill that afternoon that would regulate the industry – introducing transparent fee structures for the first time, a cap on the total fees at 5% of money sent, and strong enforcement mechanisms.

A lot of people paid attention. You can read some of what they wrote here, here and here.

The Toronto Star, the most read newspaper in the country, endorsed the campaign over the weekend. So did the Ottawa Citizen.

You can sign the petition here.

ACORN members are going to keep working hard to build this campaign. They’ll be speaking to their neighbors and getting them signed on, they’ll be doing turn out for meetings and actions, and they’ll be planning. One of the most important tasks right now for ACORN’s members and supporters across Ontario is letting MPPs know that they should vote for remittance justice. Call your MPP now - you can find their contact information here

To get involved, to let us know weather your MPP supports remittance justice, or to get more information, contact the closest ACORN office.

Cape Breton Post: Rallies planned to protest power rate increases

cape breton acorn rallySYDNEY — Nova Scotians are calling for actions against Nova Scotia Power’s proposed six per cent rate increases and for democratic, public ownership of the electrical utility.

Two rallies are scheduled in the province by community and labour organizations, including one in Sydney on Thursday, June 7, at noon outside the provincial building at 360 Prince St.

“They’re to raise attention to the gouging of Nova Scotians by Emera and to propose a constructive solution — the public and democratic ownership of Nova Scotia Power,” said Evan Coole, a member of Cape Breton ACORN, a group devoted to maintaining affordable and safe housing.

Coole said power increases are especially hard on low-to-moderate income families.
“It makes a huge dent in the household budget,” said Coole.

Ottawa Citizen Editorial: A costly money migration

Pascal On Thursday, NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh introduced a private member’s bill in the Ontario legislature that deserves careful consideration from all parties. It would ensure that people in Canada won’t pay prohibitive fees to send small amounts of money overseas.

In general, the NDP instinct to solve the world’s problems by telling private businesses what they can and can’t do should be discouraged. But in this case, there’s a compelling argument for regulation.

International money transfers — also called remittances — are a bulwark against poverty. The World Bank estimates that $483 billion in remittances flowed in 2011, of which $351 billion went to developing countries. This is money that goes directly to people, bypassing governments. It’s more money than flows through foreign aid, it’s voluntary rather than taxed, and it’s resilient to political and economic cycles.

Toronto Star Editorial: All Ontario parties should support cap on remittance payments

Jagmeet Singh, NDP MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton, has introduced a private member's bill in the Ontario legislature to cap the fees on remittance payments made by migrant workers and immigrantsMembers of Ontario’s legislature have a chance to take a small but important step toward preventing some of the most vulnerable workers in the province from being ripped off. They should seize the opportunity.

It comes in a private member’s bill introduced last week by Jagmeet Singh, the New Democrat MPP for Bramalea-Gore-Malton. Singh’s bill would limit the fees charged to migrant workers and immigrants who send money back to extended family in their home countries. All parties should get on-board with this measure.

Remittances, as they’re known, involve the transfer of hundreds of billions of dollars every year around the world. The World Bank says remittance payments amounted to $501 billion U.S. last year; $372 billion of that went to developing countries.

CBC: MPP calls for cap on money-transfer fees in Ontario

New Democrat MPP Jagmeet Singh has introduced a private member’s bill that seeks to put a cap on the fees that money-transfer agencies can charge Ontarians. (CBC)A New Democrat MPP has brought forward a private member’s bill that seeks to limit the fees that Ontarians pay to send money overseas.

Jagmeet Singh says that Canada has many citizens and residents sending money to relatives abroad, but there are only a limited number of money transfer companies to work with and no limits on the fees they can be asked to pay.

In some cases, people in Canada are paying fees of 15 or 20 per cent, which Singh says is unfair and above the global-average of 10 per cent for such services.

“The issue here is about fairness,” the Brampton-Gore-Malton MPP said during a news conference at Queen’s Park on Thursday morning.

“Individuals are sending money back to their loved ones, to those in need. And the issue is that there is no cap.”

Under his private member’s bill, money transfer companies would have to cap remittance fees at five per cent, while also requiring greater transparency about what consumers are being asked to pay.

“This is a step forward in terms of addressing the realities of Canada and Ontario and the GTA, that there is a significant immigrant and new Canadian population and this would provide some fairness to those who wish to send money back to their loved ones,” Singh said.

The call to cap fees is being met with support from the anti-poverty group ACORN Canada, whose president Kay Bisnath says that the people landing in Canada are sending money back home where it is dearly needed.

Toronto Star: Ontario MPP pushes for 5 per cent fee cap on overseas money transfers

Amadeo Flores, left, regularly sends money to his elderly parents in Spain, while Rohan Jagroo has been wiring money to friends and family in Trinidad for 17 years.Since arriving in Canada in 1995, Rohan Jagroo has religiously wired money to support his disabled sister and needy friends in Trinidad.

For each $100 he sends monthly at his local Money Mart through Western Union, 10 per cent goes to administrative fees — amounting to more than $2,000 in the last 17 years.

The Toronto cabinetmaker hopes a new private member’s bill to be introduced Thursday will put a stop to what critics call corporate “gouging” on migrant workers and immigrants, who count on remittance services to wire money to their loved ones overseas.

The bill, drafted by NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh (Bramalea-Gore-Malton) would cap the rates in Ontario to no more than 5 per cent of the money transferred.

The proposal would also require financial institutions such as MoneyGram and Western Union to disclose any hidden fees in transactions.

“This is a really important issue for a large number of people in Ontario, who are not being charged a fair rate. It makes it difficult for them to send money to their loved ones,” said Singh.

Five per cent is a rate recommended by the World Bank in the global remittance industry that has a $325-billion yearly cash flow — $7.5 billion estimated in Canada alone — from 215 million migrants sending money to family members in developing countries.

A recent study by ACORN, an advocacy group for low-income families, showed the average cost of a $100 remittance ranged from $3.70 to $13.26 at MoneyGram and from $40.18 to $50.84 at HSBC, depending on the speed and level of service. Western Union’s average rate internationally ranged from $13.47 to $21.07.

Momentum Building for Remittance Justice

4780348702 c2ef1e62af bThis Thursday, May 31st, ACORN members will join ally Jagmeet Singh, MPP, at Queen's Park to announce the introduction of a private member's bill that could bring badly needed regulation to Money Transfer Organizations in Ontario. 

Sign the petition to support remittance justice here

People across the province are signing on, calling their MPPs to ask for their support for this important bill, and working with ACORN members in their cities to raise the profile of the issue. The press is paying attention - from Thursday's Ottawa Metro

NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh will introduce legislation capping the fees companies such as Western Union and Moneygram can charge for sending money overseas, according to ACORN Canada.

The legislation would cap the fees at five per cent of the money transferred, the group said.

ACORN has held protests on the issue, including one an Ottawa Western Union last year.

At that protest, Ottawan Tahir Nazari said in order to send $106 to his brother and sister in Afghanistan he had to pay a $13 fee—about 12 per cent.

While there are many other options for transferring money internationally, ACORN says those companies are the most accessible for people who are not familiar with the banking system and in some parts of the world they are the only local option available.

Defend Social Housing

rallyThere’s an affordable and livable housing crisis in Canada.

For years now, ACORN members from coast to coast have fought for housing that is clean and safe.

Part of the solution must be public housing - supported by federal, provincial, and municipal governments. Right now there are 982,000 families facing core housing need. The private sector can not provide what they need.

In the midst of this crisis, the Harper government is not only failing to make badly needed investments in public housing; they’re also on the verge of letting tens of thousands more units become unaffordable. In the last six years, subsidies for 16,500 units of housing have disappeared.

Between now and 2015, 72,000 more could become unaffordable.

ACORN members are joining individuals and organizations across the country, including the Red Tent campaign, to demand continued support for the public housing we have, as well as investment in the housing we need.

In Toronto? Come to a rally at Conservative MP Roxanne James' office in Scarborough Center, 1450 Midland Ave (at Lawrence). This Saturday, May 26 at 2 PM 

Get more information from a local ACORN office.

Remittance legislation to be introduced in Ontario

Next week members of ACORN Canada will join NDP MPP Jagmeet Singh at Queen’s Park’s to announce the introduction of legislation to cap the rates on overseas remittances in Ontario.

The legislation will cap the fees of companies like Western Union and Moneygram at 5% of money transferred - a key demand outlined by ACORN Canada’s members and set out by the World Bank.

This is an important step forward in an important campaign, and one we could not have done without the support of all of you.

For this legislation to pass, at least one other party is going to have to have to support it - so it’s critical that we continue to build momentum for the bill, and continue to expose the remittance industry’s blatant attempts to gouge working families. 

Tenants in New Westminster Stand up to Slum Landlords

ACORN Canada members in BC were at it again, going after problem landlords and holding them accountable as part of our larger Healthy Homes Campaign.  This time in New Westminster, ACORN members had city inspectors out to inspect their building and at the same time held an action to demand their landlord, the Sahota family, clean up their act.  

You may remember from previous BC updates that this isn’t the first time a building owned by the Sahota family has been in the news.  Less than two months ago, a member in Surrey won a precedent setting fina against the family for failing to maintain a building in Surrey.   Moving forward ACORN will be laying out reforms to the Residential Tenancy Act, and reforms to how the act is enforced, as well as turning up the heat on the Sahota family and other slum landlords who think having families live in hellacious conditions is acceptable. Stay tuned for this as our members have no plans of stopping until everyone has a healthy home!

Cape Breton ACORN Continues Impressive Growth

Cape Breton ACORN is growing fast! Dozens of people came together to rally (link) for affordable and livable housing, and hundreds are now involved. Members are planning the next steps of their Healthy Homes campaign, and deciding what other issues to build campaigns in response to.

There’s an important municipal election on the horizon in Cape Breton, and ACORN Canada members will be working hard to make sure tenants’ voices are heard. Member-organizers will work door-to-door to boost voter turnout and make their issues into election issues.

To get involved, contact Cape Breton ACORN (http://www.acorncanada.org/contact)!

Ottawa ACORN Rally for Improved Social Assistance

Ottawa ACORN members and our allies from the Put Food in the Budget campaign will take Dalton McGuinty shopping to show how social assistance is failing recipients who are trying to buy healthy food for their families. There will be a press event and outreach in front of 1465 Merivale Rd (Food Basics) on Thurs, May 24 at 12 noon.

Ottawa ACORN & Put Food in the Budget are calling for an increase in Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program.

Inside Toronto: Toronto tenants, politicians to talk rent control

Toronto politicians and tenants will talk this Saturday, May 12, afternoon about whether Ontario's government should reinstate permanent rent controls and allow the city to license its landlords.

ACORN Canada (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, Canada) has fought for a system of landlord licensing in Toronto which would force landlords to pay for repairs, but it cannot happen without changes in provincial law.

The advocacy group, which says the city's rents "continue to skyrocket" as buildings deteriorate, also wants to see the province return to rent controls which limit permitted rent increases on apartments whether or not those apartments are vacant.

Liberal and New Democrat MPPs and city councillors have been invited to a provincial housing forum on these issues at 1:30 p.m. at the Ontario Federation of Labour building on Gervais Drive, near the corner of Don Mills Road and Eglinton Avenue East.

Original article available at: http://www.insidetoronto.com/news/local/article/1353953--toronto-tenants-politicians-to-talk-rent-control

Ottawa Citizen: Tenants group presses for better housing standards

ACORN members show their support during a rally at Sandalwood Park on Wednesday to press the City of Ottawa for better housing standards.  OTTAWA — Members of Ottawa ACORN rallied Wednesday in Sandalwood Park to press the City of Ottawa for better housing standards in their battle to get quicker action from landlords on repair and maintenance issues.

About 20 members were at the park near Herongate Mall, holding signs that read “We Want Healthy Homes” and “Make Landlords Accountable” and reiterating their concerns about the need to live in safe and clean housing.

ACORN Ottawa has about 9,700 members and is one of the largest tenant organizations in the city.

1310 News: Herongate residents denounce 'appalling' living conditions

Their bathrooms are leaking, their ceilings are caving.

Some homes have birds nesting in the walls, other mould growing on the window sills. Many have been waiting months on end for their landlord to make repairs.

Now they are calling for the city to step in.

Members of ACORN Ottawa, a low to moderate income rights group, is pushing for better housing and more rights for tenants as part of its campaign for healthy homes in the city. 

A group of about 20 residents and ACORN members rallied at Sandalwood Park Wednesday afternoon.

CFRA: ACORN Calls for Healthy Homes

Ottawa ACORN wants to make sure tenants live in safe and clean housing.

The group will launch a campaign today for Healthy Homes in Ottawa.

ACORN wants the City of Ottawa to create an action plan on how to bring problem properties to a "Healthy Home" standard, including a minimum timeframe for landlords to respond to repairs and maintenance requests and improving the fine system.

The City is also being urged to improve the minimum standards for residential properties

http://www.cfra.com/?cat=1&nid=86126

CTV: New claims of neglect made against infamous landlords

BC ACORN rallies for Healthy Homes in New Westminister.A notorious B.C. family of landlords is facing new allegations of neglect from tenants in New Westminster who say they went without running water for two weeks.

Residents of the building at 1210 Cameron Street say they've also dealt with mouldy floors, leaky ceilings and rodents, but owners Pal and Gurdyal Sahota aren't doing enough to fix it.

"There's mice in just about every unit. They're in the walls; you can hear them. In the basement, there's rats, there's various bugs, silverfish, cockroaches, bedbugs," renter John Dykema told reporters at a tenant rally Thursday.

The Province: Sahota landlords fix up New Westminster apartments prior to media tour

John Dykema takes part in a rally in New Westminster on April 26, 2012. Residents are upset with the condition of their building, which owned and run by Sahota-family-owned Waterfront Developments. Problems were fixed in the building the night before a scheduled media tour   Repairs come hours before media tour of probems

In a surprising move, renters at a New Westminster apartment block owned by the Sahota clan got quick and timely repairs.

The ink was barely dry on a press release announcing a Thursday rally and tour of the run-down Waterfront Developments property on Cameron Street when workers descended and fixed the most obvious of the building’s shortcomings.

“They were working here until midnight patching holes in the walls, dabbing paint around, and returning our water,” said renter John Dykema, who joined other ACORN members with a rousing call and response — “Who are we? ACORN! What do we want? Healthy homes! When do we want them? Now!”

The Record: New Westminster tenants protest living conditions

Tenants of a rental building in New Westminster are rallying against appalling living conditions.

ACORN Canada organized a rally at 1210 Cameron St. on Thursday to highlight tenants' living conditions, which include mold, mice and a foul stench caused by a sewage leak.

"My cat has caught some mice - about three or four," said tenant Mary Cappell. "It's very stressful."

According to ACORN Canada, the apartment's owner was recently fined $115,000 under the Residential Tenancy Act for failing to fix leaks at a Surrey building.

B.C.’s worst landlord leaves New Westminster tenants without running water

Tenants at 1210 Cameron st. in New Westminster held a rally today to protest poor building maintenance by a notorious slum landlord who was fined only last month for poor maintenance of another building.

For over a week tenants have been without running water, had to deal with rampant mold, mice, and have suffered through a foul sewage leak.  

Despite the historic reprimand and $115,000 fine levied by the Residential Tenancy Office a month ago, the Sahota family remains unwilling to bring their properties up to the legal code.  

“These guys (the Sahotas) are a joke; the guy they hired to fix the water is a carpenter!” – Tenant Dan Watson

Local Grassroots Action for Remittance Justice

Below is an email from ACORN Canada President Kay Bisnath that went out to many of our supporters last night about our campaign to regulate the remittance industry.  


From: Kay Bisnath, ACORN Canada <kay@acorncanada.org>
Subject: Local grassroots action

I know you’re busy - between work or school, taking out the trash, watching the kids - you probably don’t get to think about ACORN Canada or our campaigns all that much.

That’s why I wanted to reach out today, because we have big plans for this spring & summer and I don’t want you to miss it.

We want to take our campaign for remittance justice local - with grassroots actions across the country.

Our 20+ chapters are planning local actions to win legislation that would cap the maximum rates that can be charged on overseas remittances.

But we can only run as many grassroots actions as we can fund on our limited budget. To ramp up for local actions across Canada we need to raise $5,000 by the end of the month. Can you chip in?

Chip in $5 to help hold big banks and remittance providers accountable. 

Cape Breton Post: People protest slum housing in CBRM

About 30 people gathered outside the Cape Breton Regional Municipality Civic Centre on Wednesday, with several people protesting what they called slum housing.

The rally was organized by Cape Breton Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Organizing member Evan Coole said he was happy with the turnout, which he described as a good group of committed people.

Priscilla Lotherington, president of the Investment Property Owners Association of Cape Breton, observed the protest, saying it was curiosity that brought her out. The vacancy rate in the area is about three per cent, she said, which she believes is lower than in the Halifax area.

CBC: Residents protest slum housing in Cape Breton

Dozens of people rallied in Sydney on Wednesday to call for a crackdown on slum landlords.

The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now [Canada], known as ACORN Canada, wants the Cape Breton Regional Municipality to do more inspections of rental properties to make sure they're fit to live in.

Lucy Gouthro and her elderly mother were among the 40 people who joined the rally at the Civic Centre, clutching photos of her last apartment in North Sydney.

"The ceilings were falling down and the doors were falling off," Gouthro said of her mother's one-bedroom apartment, where she paid $500 a month. 

"There was mice in there and rats, and I had to plug them up."

CTV: Renters rally to raise awareness of slumlords in Sydney

The organizers of a "renter's rage" rally are urging tenants who live in substandard housing to take to the streets of Sydney to express their rage over what they say is a growing number of slum landlords.

It is a landlord's market in the Sydney area, where the demand for rentals far outstrips the supply. Vacancy rates have dipped to two per cent and many low-income tenants who don't qualify for public housing simply have to take what they can get.

"If you are a renter in a place that is owned by a slumlord, and your place is not fit for habitation, you are probably not going to complain about that," says rally organizer Rhonda MacDougall. 

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