Campaigns & Actions
The art of activism is alive and well in Parkdale. It arises from unmet needs of the low-income communities we serve: psychiatric survivors, tenants, immigrants, workers and people on assistance. An individual's problem may be helped by legal representation at a court or tribunal but it is often more appropriate to address its underlying causes through collective action. Consciousness raising groups, community meetings, educational workshops, rallies, protests and media events are all useful approaches to develop and publicize issues, garner political and public support, and to keep supporters interested and committed. The following community work projects are organized according to division, as this is the easiest way to identify those people responsible for the organizing.
Drop The Fee
PCLS is asking that the Prime Minister of Canada eliminate the $550 processing fee for refugees. PCLS is also asking that they abolish the fee for humanitarian and compassionate applications for landing in situations of domestic violence. We have close to 10,000 signatures! However, more signatures are needed, so sign up at www.petitiononline.com/PCLS2005/petition.html. We would prefer paper copies of the petition to be signed - we have lots of them in the Immigration Division if you would like to sign and circulate them. We are updating and maintaining Drop the Fee! website in partnership with Drop the Fee Advocates. PCLS is developing a Drop the Fee stamp, which supporters can affix to their postage. We are also creating a new coalition of advocates to do away with the $550 processing fee.
FARE (Fee Assistance for Refugee Establishment)
Formed by refugee advocates and community members, FARE is a non-profit, charitable organization that is dedicated to respecting the dignity of refugees in Canada by helping them to secure permanent resident status as soon as possible. FARE aims to achieve the goal by raising funds and making interest-free loans to low income refugees requiring assistance with the $550 processing fees associated with permanent residence applications. FARE was formerly known as "FAIR" (Fee Assistance for Immigrants and Refugees) but has recently changed its mandate. FARE has decided to focus solely on fee assistance for refugees only, whereas it used to also provide loans for applications on Humanitarian and Compassionate grounds. To find out about how to apply for FARE loans, contact any of the students in the Immigration Division, or Carole Simone Dahan at the Refugee Law Office.
Children's Right to Education & Health
PCLS is part of a coalition developing recommendations for changes to immigration policies and practices including the right to health and education of children of undocumented immigrants. seeking reform of practices such as the detention of immigrants and refugees, denial of schooling to immigrant and refugee children and failure to consider children's best interests when deporting their parents.
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
PCLS is part of a coalition seeking to ensure that access to social and other services is available to all, irrespective of their immigration status. PCSL will:
- collaborate with the DADT campaign and other concerned groups to push for better access to essential services for all residents in Toronto, regardless of their status
- Coalition building: One immigration law student will attend all the Policy, Research and Lobbying Group meetings
- Education: One immigration law student will write articles for the DADT newsletter as requested by the DADT campaign
To find out what you can do to support the DADT campaign, visit http://www.dadttoronto.org/
Canada Child Tax Benefit ("CCTB")
PCLS is working to change the laws which deny access to the Canada Child Tax Benefit to persons who are being processed for landing but are not yet landed. A group in Quebec has started legal actions regarding the denial of CCTB to long term immigrants who are legally working in Canada but who do not yet have "permanent resident" status. PCLS will collaborate with this effort, providing examples of case from our client group and logistical support.
Portuguese Speaking People for Better Access to Legal Services ("PALS") Task Force
PCLS will collaborate with our Portuguese-speaking PCLS Friends and Alumni to build the PALS Task Force.
December 6th Coalition
PCLS participates in the National, Provincial and Civic Day of Remembrance and Action on Violence Against Women and Children. On December 6 each year we organize a Parkdale Legal Subway Team to sell buttons and distribute pamphlets during the morning and afternoon rush hours at the Dufferin subway station. PCLS will make a submission to the December 6th Fund to encourage them to expand their loan policy to allow non-status immigrant women to apply for funding to regularize their status in Canada.
Parkdale Tenants Association
Parkdale Tenants Association ("PTA") is an umbrella group of tenants in the Parkdale area. There are also individual tenant associations for specific building. We have a number of campaigns with the PTA including:
- organizing a campaign to force the City of Toronto to enact the licensing of apartment buildings and landlords
- organizing a campaign to create a stable and affordable social housing sector in Canada by means of an international lobbying and publicity campaign
- with the PTA and a coalition of housing activists to map the City of Toronto's wasted, abandoned and underutilized buildings, lots ands spaces and push for the adoption by Toronto City Council of a bylaw allowing them to be expropriated and turned into affordable housing
- organizing tenants in six Jameson Avenue apartment buildings managed by a company (METCAP) which is extorting more and unlawful rent payments, to resist those rent gouging tactics
- organizing drive to recruit more tenant activists to PTA membership
- organizing the tenants of 103-105 West Lodge Avenue against the deteriorating conditions in those buildings
- supporting the restoration of the former ‘Pope Squat' at 1510 King Street West, into affordable housing units
- publicizing and documenting slum conditions in Parkdale apartments surveyed by the PTA on the PTA's goldencockroach website and by means of media events:
- organizing public pressure (such as demonstrations and media events) to force the City of Toronto to crack down on slum landlords and enforce its own Property Standards as written in the City of Toronto's Municipal Code.
- lobbying the City of Toronto to enact a pro-active system of enforcing property standards for apartment buildings, by means of mandatory and regular inspections, mandatory licensing of apartment buildings and the documenting of disrepair on its websites
Golden Cockroach and Golden Weasel Awards
Parkdale landlords are some of the worst in the city and their buildings often do not comply with housing standards. Even after inspections are done and tenants have complained about the conditions, many Parkdale landlords do not properly maintain their buildings. Many of our clients are unsuccessful in getting repairs done to their unit and building. The Parkdale Tenants Association (PTA) award the Golden Cockroach to one landlord annually (usually in the fall). By empowering tenants (e.g. through tenants associations), we bring awareness and education to Parkdale tenants, by informing them about their rights and getting them involved in the process. For the first time in 2004, the PTA also awarded the Golden Weasel. This year, it went to MetCap Living Management Inc., for poor maintenance of buildings, shoddy management, intimidation and extraction of above guideline rents. For more information on the awards and the PTA, visit http://www.goldencockroach.org/.
The Lord of the Slums / Slums Unlimited' Campaign
The PTA has now progressed to a new stage of this campaign: getting the City as well as the Provincial Government to install a pro-active inspection and enforcement system, with regular, mandatory inspections of all apartment buildings, heavier fines for violations, licensing of buildings and full public disclosure of outstanding disrepair. We are talking here about stopping the increasing ghetto-ization of rental housing in Toronto.
To that end the PTA has started the 'Lord of the Slums / Slums Unlimited' Campaign. The premise here is that there is now a campaign underway to bring vast numbers of tourists to Toronto by means of the launching of the World premiere of the musical of Lord of the Rings and new mottos such as 'Toronto Unlimited'. Therefore the tourists should be given the opportunity to visit some of the apartment slums in different parts of the City. See the PTA website number 2: www.torontoslumtourism.com.
Toronto Community Housing Corp. ("TCHC") Tenants Campaign
PCLS is organizing meetings of TCHC tenants in TCHC buildings in order to address concerns about inadequate management, bad maintenance and evictions by organizing tenant associations. We willl also be working with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and TCHC tenants in organizing a novel way to make repairs in the worst maintained TCHC buildings
Community Legal Workers: Peggy-Gail Dehal-Ramson
PCLS is participating in a province-wide coalition for the revocation of the clawback of the National Child Benefit Supplement from families receiving social assistance.
MAD Pride Committee
PCLS works with psychiatric and consumer survivors in the effort to raise awareness and educate the larger community. PCLS, Sound Times, Friendly Spike, students and community members and allies make up the committee. SA students play an active role in supporting and working with the group. Students are welcome to participate in the organizing meetings and will be approached to volunteer at the actual event. The following is a blurb forwarded to the Mayor's office:
Mad Pride Day, July 14th , an international day recognizing Mad People's Movement, World Mad pride day takes place on July 14th, and by holding events on that date Toronto's psychiatric survivors get to join in solidarity and celebration, as festivities will link to others across North America, Europe and Africa. Mad pride has been a vital event in Toronto since 2002, and we hope to build on that success this year! And.....
Psychiatric Survivor Pride Day on Sept 22nd is a local arts and education event. Always with a consciousness raising and political edge, since 1993 psychiatric survivor pride day has featured workshops on community organizations, housing, tenant rights, workers rights, community treatment orders, ODSP, and dealing with police.
PAVE (Parkdale Anti Violence Education Working Group)
PCLS brought together service providers working with women to form this coalition that focuses on planning three events: International Women's Day on March 8, Take Back the Night in Parkdale in September, and the National Memorial Day for Violence Against Women on December 6th.
The rise of violence against women in Parkdale and the silence and isolation many women experience prompted this group to form with the purpose of providing events that would bring awareness of diverse Parkdale services in a community environment. Our events have been successful and students who have volunteered or attended found it a great way to experience and meet the community and inform them of our work. The intention is that by raising women's awareness of our services and providing them an opportunity to meet us, we can increase the likeliness of a woman in an unsafe situation knowing where to go for information or assistance or to know that our services have made a commitment to being accessible to women experiencing violence.
PCLS is working to build a movement of workers, especially women, low wage, immigrant, workers of colour and young workers, to improve wages and working conditions. We are involved in building the Workers Action Centre, an organization involving and led by workers, to support the workers movement
Workers Action Centre (WAC)
PCLS works with WAC, an organization committed to improving the working conditions and wages of workers in low-wage and precarious work. The organization is a membership run workers centre that that develops and undertakes campaigns to improve wages and working conditions for low wage and precarious workers.
- We work with individuals on workplace problems within an organizing / collaborative problem solving model. Workers are involved in solving their problems and through this, we link individual problems to the broader systemic problems and strategies.
- We do extensive education about workplace problems, rights, limitations of legal system and strategies to address rights
- We do leadership development through individual cases, workshops and campaigns
- We develop campaigns based on the issues workers raise
- Workers become involved in committees to carry out campaigns (Action Committee, Temporary Agency Workers Committee, Tamil Workers Committee, Youth Committee and Membership Committee)
Campaigns are developed out of issues workers raise.
Bad Boss Campaign - Campaign against employers who break the law. A current focus is Amato Pizza that owes 7 workers over $82,000 in unpaid wages.
Employment Standards Enforcement - Campaign to improve the enforcement of Employment Standards through highlighting Ministry of Labour failure to protect workers in the workplace, detect employers in violation and prosecute employers in violation of the ESA.
Expanding the Employment Standards Act - To cover new ways that employers are organizing work e.g., through temporary employment agencies, misclassification of independent contractors, own-account self employed, sub-contracting etc.
Employment Standards Working Group (ESWG)
The ESWG is a coalition of legal clinics, unions and community groups that is working to improve the Employment Standards Act, policies and practices.
These are just some of the examples of campaigns and actions PCLS has been working on in the recent past. We can't imagine what changes the future will bring to Parkdale streets and people, but this much is clear: the issues that arise will continue to be related to the poverty experienced by many in the community and the perceived failure of all governments to address it adequately.