25 Years of Advocacy!

The Chinese and Southeast Asian Legal Clinic (CSALC) is turning 25 and there is much to celebrate!

To start, we launched our new website at our Annual General Meeting on September 19, 2012. This new trilingual website (English, Chinese – simplified as well as traditional and Vietnamese) aims at educating our client communities about their legal rights.

The new MTCSALC website contains a number of new and updated public legal education brochures on various areas of law affecting low income Chinese and Southeast Asian immigrants, including: police power, social assistance, immigration, and employment laws.

As this year is also the 30th anniversary of the Charter, we believe it presents a great opportunity for the clinic to celebrate the progress we have made in Canada with respect to the advancement of equality, while at the same time renewing our collective commitment to social justice and human rights.

Yet we know too well that discrimination and inequality persist. Indeed, there are troubling signs that our country is moving backward due to some of the policy choices made by our political leaders. At the same time, voices of dissent are often being silenced. All of which pose a direct threat to our democracy and ultimately to the Rule of Law.

Thus, as we celebrate CSALC’s 25th anniversary and look back on our achievements over the last two decades, we believe it is important to also take a critical look at the current state of (in)equality in Canada, and engage in an open and honest dialogue about the future of our democracy.

To do so, we are hosting a conference on October 15, 2012 at the Law Society of Upper Canada. Titled “Championing Equality – Progress or Perils”, the Conference will examine the past, present, and future of the Charter, a cornerstoneof our country’s Constitution. Among other speakers is the Hon. Roy McMurtry, a key drafter of the Charter, who will share with the audience a “behind the scenes” look at the crafting of the Charter and the debate, if any, at the time with respect to the enactment of the equality rights section.

In addition, we will hear from a panel of human rights lawyers, academic and community activists who will examine the current state of (in)equality in various areas such as disability rights, socio-economic inequalities facing racialized communities, women and immigrants, and the issue of systemic discrimination in certain areas of law. The conference will end with a reflection by Susan Eng, a long-time community advocate who will explore the community’s continuous journey towards our goal for equality and justice.

A reception will be held after the conference where we have invited the current Attorney General of Ontario, the Hon. John Gerretsen to deliver a brief remark. He will be joined by the Treasurer of the Law Society as well as by Gary Yee, the first Clinic Director of MTCSALC and newly appointed Chair of the Licence Appeal Tribunal.

Finally, MTCSALC is also having a special raffle draw with great prizes.

For more information about these activities and to find out more about the raffle, visit our website at:

Major Changes to the EI program

As part of the Federal budget announced in March 2012, major changes have been made to the Employment Insurance (EI) program. Some of the most noteworthy changes include the introduction of a definition for “suitable work” and specification on what constitutes “reasonable search” for employment. This means more stringent requirements will be imposed on EI applicants and recipients to look for jobs and to accept available work. It should be noted that the changes only apply to individuals receiving regular EI benefits, and does not apply to recipients of EI special benefits (i.e. maternity, parental, compassionate and sick leave).

Under the existing Employment Insurance Act, EI benefits recipients are required to search for work. However, the legislation did not define what constitute suitable work and a reasonable job search.

With the recently announced changes, several factors will be used to determine what constitutes suitable employment, including personal circumstances, working conditions, hours of work, commuting time, type of work and wages.

By applying these criteria, EI claimants will be placed into one of three categories: long tenured workers, frequent claimants and occasional claimants.

  • Long tenured workers include claimants who have paid EI premiums for the past 7 to 10 years, and over the last 5 years have received 35 or fewer weeks of EI regular/fishing benefits. Claimants in this category have up to 18 weeks to search for a position within their usual occupation and salary, starting at 90% of previous hourly wage. After 18 weeks, claimants in this category are required to expand their job search to include similar work at 80% of their previous hourly wage.
  • Frequent claimants include claimants who had three or more EI and/or fishing claims and received over 60 weeks of regular EI and/or fishing benefits within the past 5 years. Claimants in this category have up to 6 weeks to search for and accept jobs similar to those they normally perform at 80% of their previous hourly wage. After 7 weeks of accepting benefits, they would be required to accept any work they are qualified (able to perform, with on the job training if required) any required training and to accept wages starting at 70% of their previous hourly wage.
  • Occassional claimants are any claimants not captured in the two groups mentioned above. These claimants would be allowed to limit their job search to their usual occupation and wage (at least 90% of their previous hourly wage) for the first 6 weeks of their claim. After the 7th week, they would be required to search for and accept jobs that are similar to the job that they normally perform with wages at 80% of previous earnings. After 18 weeks,they would be required to further expand their job search to include any work that they are qualified(able) to perform(with on-the-job if required (with necessary trainings), at wages starting at 70% of their previous earnings, but not lower than the prevailing minimum wage.

Under the proposed changes, EI benefits recipients will be required to look for a job every day they receive benefits. The required job search activities include researching job prospects and searching for job vacancies, preparing job applications, applying for positions, attending interviews and other efforts to improve employability (e.g. workshops, job fairs, networking events etc.) EI benefits recipients are also required to keep a record of their job search activities and submit such evidence upon request.

Effective April 2013, the current 3 person Board of Referees ( the body responsible for handling appeals on the decision of Canada Employment Insurance Commission) will be replaced by a 1 person “panel” staffed by government appointee. This New Social Security Tribunal will replace 4 current Tribunals namely Employment Insurance Board of Referees, EI Umpire, CPP and OAS Review Tribunal and Pension Appeal Board. For more information on the EI program, please visit

Bill C-31 and Humanitarian and Compassionate Applications

The Federal Government has proposed substantial changes to Canada’s immigration and refugee determination system. Some of these changes were introduced under Bill C-31 that came into Royal Assent on June 29, 2012. Some these changes under Bill C-31 affect the process for seeking humanitarian and compassionate (H&C) relief for people without legal immigration status in Canada.

Under the current law, individuals could initiate an application for permanent resident status on H&C grounds at any time and could base their application on a wide range of factors.

As a result of changes proposed by the Government, the following changes to the H&C process will become effective very soon:

  • No H&C application may be made if less than 12 months have passed since the individual’s last claim for refugee protection was rejected, abandoned, or withdrawn;
  • An H&C application may not be considered if the person concerned has made a claim for refugee protection and it is pending;
  • Individuals can no longer have two H&C applications pending at the same time;
  • H&C decision-makers no longer consider risks that are assessed within the refugee protection process, i.e., risk of persecution based on grounds set out in the Refugee Convention or risk of torture, or of cruel and unusual treatment or punishment;
  • H&C applications may not be considered until the appropriate fees have been paid.

There will be two exceptions to the 12 month bar on making H&C applications. First, the bar does not apply where there is a risk to life in the country of origin due to inadequate health or medical care. Second, an exception to the bar applies where “removal would have an adverse effect on the best interests of a child directly affected.”

In addition, people who are found to be “designated foreign nationals” (DFN) may also find themselves barred from submitting an H&C application for other reasons. Designated foreign nationals are those found to have arrived in Canada as part of an “irregular arrival.” There are other restrictions which will apply to designated foreign nationals.

H&C applications submitted prior to royal assent of Bill C-31 will be assessed under the old Act and would therefore not be subject to the limitations contained in the Bill.

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