A NEW PROJECT BY THE COLOUR OF POVERTY CAMPAIGN WITH FUNDING SUPPORT FROM THE ONTARIO TRILLIUM FOUNDATION
In 2007, our Clinic received funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage to both address and work to redress the issue of the increasing racialization of poverty in Ontario. With the guidance of a coordinating group representative of a broad spectrum of ethnoracially diverse communities as a resource or steering committee, the Colour of Poverty Campaign (COPC) was launched.
In less than a year we developed, produced and distributed 10,000 sets of Fact Sheets as well as 400 copies of an educational video on issues relating to the racialization of poverty. With our encouragement many of the groups have in turn made copies of the Fact Sheets and the video to be further shared with their members, program participants, volunteers, staff and others.
With the support of the Atkinson Charitable Foundation, we have also translated the Fact Sheets into several languages including: Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Portuguese, Urdu, Tamil and Vietnamese.
After first having developed some basic educational tools & materials, representatives of the Campaign membership traveled to communities around the province to outreach and more fully engage and work with other local community partners. A Shared Framework for Action was then developed based upon the many and wide-ranging local community meetings and conversations that took place in both medium and larger urban centres across the province, as well as from an Ontario Provincial Forum dialogue which brought together close to 300 individuals from around the province on April 28 and 29, 2008.
What this New Project is About
The Ontario Provincial Forum dialogue urged us to continue our work by ensuring the most effective action on, and implementation of, the Shared Framework for Action. To honour the wishes of all those who had partici-pated in the consultations, the Colour of Poverty Campaign is working on the first two priorities identified in the Shared Framework for Action, namely:
The collection and tracking of disaggregated data across a number of institutions and sectors in order to better identify racialized and other structural and systemic disadvantage, and to develop clear definitions and indicators, in order to get full and consistent pictures as to who – and why – are the poor in this province; and
Re-introduce the policy imperatives of employment equity to Ontario in order to level the playing field for racialized communities & other historically disadvantaged groups.
The current project is designed to effectively engage members of various racialized communities in six local municipalities across Ontario as animators for community action so as to carry out these two top priorities of the Campaign.
Specifically, we will undertake the following activities:
1. Development of a set of relevant training tools
In building on earlier Campaign and Network activities – the first part of the project is to develop a set of training tools which would help in:
Developing background and locally relevant analysis with respect to barriers facing members of racialized communities in achieving equitable employment opportunities as well as broader social and economic integration;
Identifying and adapting existing tools/resources/policies and measures to address these barriers as drawn from various jurisdictions and institutional environments;
Developing public education materials about employment equity and why it will help facilitate equitable social and economic integration by racialized communities;
Creating training materials on how to develop relevant indicators in order to measure the degree of socio-economic exclusion/inclusion experienced by members of racialized communities, as well as to measure the success of any initiatives undertaken by communities and public institutions alike to overcome such exclusion.
Initiating action tools for building effective media relations; for organizing and conducting community meetings; for analysing and evaluating equity related policies, programs, practices and statistical information; and for learning how to work with governments, academics, mainstream institutions and other key stakeholders to help promote racial equity-racial justice and related structural change.
2. Community Coordinators and Animators
The second part is a train-the-trainer program for community members/anti-racism/ anti-poverty advocates – as local Community Animators will be trained in the content as well as in the effective use and application of the tools earlier developed. The Community Animators will engage with their respective communities to both raise awareness and understanding of the relevant issues as well as to help organize and animate the respective local communities to effectively advocate for the needed change, and in the process, form and help facilitate ongoing local Multi-Sectoral Work Groups.
3. Building Local Solutions
The final part of the project will help to ensure that there will be both a locally relevant as well as province-wide implementation plan and a sup-port infra-structure that will help address the issues, needs and concerns as faced by racialized communities at the local level. To that end, local Multi-Sectoral Work Group meetings will take place on an ongoing basis involving government officials, anti-poverty and other relevant organizations and institutions, academics, funders, media and so on to work out the details of how to move locally on specific measures and indicators of social exclusion, and on the issue of employment equity. A final local report will be prepared on the commitments made by the local governments as well as other key institutions and stake-holder groups with respect to the desired outcomes of the implementation plan.
Racialization of poverty is real. It is causing immeasurable hardship to hundreds of thousands of Ontarians, and it is endangering the very foundation of our democracy, by creating a growing racial divide amongst us.
Thanks to the Steering Committee members and other supporters – both individuals and organizations – of COPC who have contributed countless volunteer hours and immeasurable amount of in-kind support to the Campaign, COPC has significantly increased public awareness around this critical issue.
With the funding support from the Ontario Trillium Foundation, we will be able to undertake this new project that will be led by, and undertaken for the benefits of, racialized communities. We believe that by allowing racialized communities to take the lead to address issues that affect them the most, we will have the best hope of ensuring these communities – who are very clearly ever more disproportionately represented among the poor – will escape poverty.
Who can apply for citizenship?
Any permanent resident of Canada who is 18 years of age or over and who has accumulated 3 years or 1095 days of residency in Canada in the last 4 years prior to the citizenship application qualifies to apply. Children
(those under 18 years of age) do not need to meet this requirement. Any time spent in Canada before becoming a permanent residence during the 4 years prior to applying can be included in this 3 year calculation as ½ day for each day in Canada up to a maximum of 1 year.
For example, if Mr. X has been on a work permit in Canada for 2 years before becoming a permanent resident, he needs only accumulate 2 more years of residence in Canada as a permanent resident in order to qualify to apply for citizenship because his 2 prior years on a work permit can be counted as 1 year of residence for his application.
Children can apply to be citizens if their parents are applying or one of their parents, whether birth or adoptive parent, was already a Canadian citizen at the time of the child’s birth. In this case, the parent needs to
submit an application for a citizenship certificate for the child. With the application, the parent needs to submit proof that he or she was a citizen when their child was born. The best form of proof is the parent’s Citizenship Certificate because it has the date the person became a citizen. The wallet-sized citizenship card does not contain this date.
You cannot become a citizen if you:
1. have been convicted of an indictable offence or a an offence under the Citizenship Act in the 3 years before you apply
2. are currently charged with an indictable offence or an offence under the Citizenship Act
3. are in prison, on parole or on probation
4. are under a removal order (have been order by Canada Immigration to leave Canada)
5. are under investigation for, are charged with or have been convicted of a war crime or a crime against humanity or
6. have had your Canadian citizenship taken away in the past 5 years
The Citizenship Test
Every adult applicant between the ages of 18 and 55 is required to take a citizenship test which tests your knowledge of Canada’s history, geography and political system. The Citizenship Act does state that certain persons who for medical reasons (e.g.) mental illness, cannot take the test or swear the oath of citizenship, can apply to have these requirements waived. Assistance with such requests can be obtained from immigration lawyers or legal clinics.
What Happens After the Application is submitted?
All of the citizenship application forms can be downloaded from Citizenship and Immigration Canada’s website at www.cic.gc.ca. or obtained by calling 1-888-242-2100. After the completed application is mailed to the Case Processing Centre in Sydney, Nova Scotia, that office will check to make sure the application is complete. If it is, you will be mailed a confirmation letter and a “Look at Canada” guide upon which the citizenship test is based. Then CPC Sydney will request criminal clearances from Canada Immigration, RCMP and the Canadian Security and Intelligence Service (CSIS) to make sure there are no criminal prohibitions.
Once all clearances are received, a letter with the time and date of the citizenship test will be sent
out. In some cases, an interview will be scheduled with a citizenship judge where there may be a prohibition or residency issue or where the applicant has failed the test or an applicant has low literacy or language skills. If after the interview, the judge approves the application, the applicant is invited to a citizenship ceremony to take the oath of citizenship. At the ceremony, the applicant will be given a citizenship certificate and a wallet-sized citizenship card. These documents are proof of citizenship and should be kept in a safe place.
If the judge does not approve the application, a letter with the reasons will be sent out and the applicant can re-apply or appeal the decision to the Federal Court. If there is no appeal made, the applicant’s $100.00 Right of Citizenship fee will be refunded. However, the $100.00 processing fee will not be refunded.
Recent Changes to the rules of Acquired citizenship
As if April 17, 2009, acquired citizenship was limited to one generation meaning that Canadian citizenship can only be acquired by the first generation of children born outside of Canada to Canadian citizens. This means
that a child born outside of Canada in the second or subsequent generation will not be able to become Canadian citizens automatically at birth and a person born in the second or subsequent generation outside of Canada before the new law comes into effect and who is not already a citizen will not become a citizen under the new law.
For example, Miss Y is born in China after April 17, 2009. Her father who was also born in China is a Canadian citizen because his father, who was also born in China was a Canadian citizen at the time of his birth. Under the new law, Miss Y will not be able to acquire Canadian citizenship from her father anymore. However, those who acquired second generation citizenship as of April 17, 2009 will not lose their citizenship.
Why Becoming a Canadian Citizen is Important?
Becoming a Canadian citizen is important because it enables you to vote and have a say on who runs our country. You are entitled to apply for a Canadian passport once you are a citizen which for travel purposes has many advantages because Canadian passport holders do not need a visitor visa to travel to many countries. Also, once you are a Canadian citizen, you are no longer restricted in the length of time you have to stay in Canada each year in order to keep your immigration status as with permanent residents. As a Canadian citizen, your children when they are born, will also be citizens unless you were born outside of Canada and also acquired your citizenship from your parents as we mentioned earlier in this article.
You should apply for citizenship once you fulfill the residency requirements. Many people delay applying because they do not read or understand much English and are afraid they will not pass the citizenship test. However, the larger community agencies which serve the Chinese community such as Toronto Chinese Community Services Association (416-977-4026) and Center for Information and Community Services of Ontario (416-292-7510) and the Vietnamese community, Vietnamese Association Toronto (416-536-3611) hold classes on a regular basis to help people prepare for the test.
Proposed Changes to Employment Insurance
Our Clinic often hears stories from our clients that they have difficulty getting EI benefits for various reasons. While some may have difficulty because their employers claim they quit their jobs or were terminated for
cause on their Record of Employment, many of our clients cannot get EI because they have not worked enough insurable hours. Problems with getting EI especially during these recessionary times are being voiced by community groups as well as those in opposition government because Canadians are not getting EI when they need it the most.
In the community, there have been loud protests that the EI system is broken because it fails to provide help to workers when it is needed most. Judy Rebick, a community activist cited that during the recession in the
1980s, an estimated 85% of unemployed men and 81% of unemployed women qualified for EI. Today, only 45% of men and 39% of women qualify for EI. This has happened due to a series of cuts that have happened without any real debate in this country.
Community groups are asking our federal government to fix our EI system now. They are asking that the qualifying threshold be lowered to 360 hours worked for everyone across the country; restoring benefits to at
least 60% of a worker’s normal earning (the rate is presently 55%); and to eliminate the two week waiting period to begin receiving EI payments.
The Harper (Conservative) government though has put forward their EI proposal which only proposes to give long tenured workers additional EI benefits from 5 weeks to a maximum of 20 weeks. How many weeks each
applicant receives depends on the number of years they have worked and paid EI premiums. To be eligible, the worker has to 1) have contributed to the EI program (paid at least 30% of the annual maximum EI premi-ums) for at least seven out of ten calendar years and 2) have received regular EI for no more than 35 weeks in the last five years. The start date of this new proposal is linked to the coming into force of the Bill to
change the EI law and this new proposal would remain in place until September 11, 2010. Payments of extended benefits would continue until the fall of 2011. More information about this proposal can be obtained from www.hrsdc.gc.ca/eng/employment/ei/fact_sheet.shtml