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List of issues to be taken up in connection with the consideration of the third periodic report of Canada :
4. Please provide details as to how the government responded in cases where plaintiffs invoked their rights under the Covenant to interpret Charter rights and provide any information about cases in which the government or the Court interpreted the Charter in light of the Covenant. Please include information about: Masse v. Attorney General of Ontario, Clarke v. Peterborough Utilities Commission, Falkiner v. Attorney General of Ontario and Gosselin v. Quebec.
When Plaintiffs invoked their rights under the Covenant to interpret Charter rights in Masse v. The Attorney General of Ontario, Clarke v. Peterborough Utilities Commission, and Falkiner v. Attorney General of Ontario, the position of the Ontario government was that the Province has complied with its international obligations with respect to the necessities of life and shelter, and that there has been no violation of any international conventions.
In any event, while international human rights conventions may assist in the interpretation of the content of Charter rights and freedoms where there is ambiguity, the fact that a right is protected under international law does not mean that it is protected under the Charter. Moreover, international obligations may be complied with on a statutory basis, but where they have not been specifically incorporated into domestic law, Canadian courts are not bound to enforce them.
5. Does the Government agree that repealing protective legislation without replacing it would be inconsistent with article 2 of the Covenant? Provide details as to how governments have dealt with this issue under the Charter, and explain what the government's position was in Ferrel v. Attorney General of Ontario and Dunmore v. Ontario.
The Government of Ontario does not believe that the repeal of legislation which reflects one government's view as to how best to address social problems is necessarily inconsistent with article 2 of the Covenant. The issue of which social policy response is most appropriate and effective in the circumstances is often highly complex and is inevitably informed by varying views and assumptions held about the nature and causes of the problem.
In both Ferrel v. The Attorney General of Ontario and Dunmore v. Ontario, the position of the Ontario Government was that the legislative schemes imposed by the previous government in the area of mandatory employment equity and agricultural labour relations, respectively, were neither appropriate nor effective.
Furthermore, the Ontario Government argued that the repeal of such legislation was not the proper subject of constitutional challenge because the Charter does not impose obligations upon governments to take positive action, but rather is directed at ensuring that governments comply with the Charter when they do act or make laws.
8. Will the Government of Canada be acting on the recommendations of the Canadian Human Rights Commission that the ambit of human rights protections in Canada be expanded to include social and economic rights? What are the views of provincial Commissions on this issue?
There are currently provisions of the Ontario Human Rights Code, R.S.O. 1990 c. H.17, that provide protection which relate to the broad concepts of social and economic rights. These provisions include:
Being able to file a complaint of discrimination in housing accommodation on the ground of receipt of public assistance;
Extending the protection of the ground of handicap to workers that have made a Workers' Compensation claim because of a work-related injury;
Requiring the accommodation up to the point of undue hardship of groups in relation to services, accommodation, contract, employment and membership in vocational associations of which an individual may be a member where a requirement, qualification or factor that exists results in their exclusion;
Requiring that people with disabilities be accommodated up to the point of undue hardship in relation to services, accommodation, contract, employment and membership in vocational associations; and
Allowing special programs designed to relieve hardship, economic disadvantage or to assist disadvantaged persons or groups to achieve equal opportunity.
9. Please provide the Committee with information from each Human Rights Commission in Canada about cases in which the Covenant has been used in interpreting or applying human rights legislation.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission advises that it has not used the Covenant in relation to any cases at this time.
10. Please provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints filed with each Human Rights Commission in Canada which are adjudicated and explain how this is consistent with the Committee's General Comment No. 3, para. 5. Can the Government of Quebec explain how its system is different and provide an estimate of the percentage of human rights complaints in Quebec that are not dismissed?
In Ontario, a Board of Inquiry that is independent from the Commission adjudicates complaints. When a formal complaint is made it could proceed through the following steps: mediation; investigation; conciliation; recommendation not to deal with the matter under section 34 of the Human Rights Code; recommendation not to refer the subject matter of the complaint to the Board of Inquiry; or recommendation to refer the subject matter of the complaint to the Board of Inquiry. A complaint could also be settled, withdrawn, or abandoned by the complainant. In 1997-98, there were 1,368 formal complaints made to the Commission. As of the end of our fiscal year (March 31, 1998), there were 44 ongoing Boards of Inquiry dealing with 69 complaints. On average, about 2% of the complaints that the Commission receives are referred to a Board of Inquiry.
Paragraph 5 of General Comment No. 3 refers to the fact that a person whose rights have been violated should have access to an effective remedy. Under the Code, every person who believes that a right under the Code has been infringed may file a complaint with Ontario's Human Rights Commission. The Commission's complaint process provides the person with an opportunity to resolve a complaint in a fair and timely manner through mediation, investigation, conciliation or, if appropriate, before an independent Board of Inquiry. For the most part, complaints that went to mediation in 1997-98 were resolved within 90 days of being filed. Of these cases, 80% were successfully settled.
11. Please provide information to the Committee about the outcome of the complaint of Elizabeth Wiebe for the Ontario Human Rights Commission (described in NGO submissions to the Committee in 1993) and state whether the Covenant was considered by the decision-maker.
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. F.31, prevents the Commission from releasing information about a complaint without the express permission of the complainant. Therefore, the Commission cannot make any comments regarding the question posed.
12. What is the Federal Government's and each provincial government's position with respect to whether "workfare" programs discriminate against welfare recipients and are contrary to article 2 of the Covenant? Please explain the Government of Quebec's position in the Lambert case.
The vast majority of welfare recipients want to work, provide for themselves and their families and contribute to their communities. Passive welfare programs do not address the reasons for need, and therefore act as a barrier to self-sufficiency. This limits horizons and opportunities and can lead to a cycle of dependency.
Ontario citizens have a right to assistance when they are in need, but this exercise of rights must be balanced by the meeting of obligations. One of these obligations is to take specific and active steps towards self-sufficiency by participating in the various activities offered through Ontario Works.
OntarioWorks is designed to increase self-esteem and independence, provide training and work skills, increase work experience and exposure to prospective employers and give something back to the community. The program is intended to restore and promote the dignity of work.
Finally, there is nothing new about placing obligations and expectations on welfare recipients. Recipients of General Welfare Assistance were previously required to actively look for work and were required to take a job if it was offered. The requirement for more active involvement by welfare recipients simply extends the obligation to take more steps towards self-sufficiency.
13. An earlier version of Canada's Report filed with the Committee contained information from Ontario's Chief Commissioner of Human Rights about proposed changes to Ontario Human Rights legislation. What were the Chief Commissioner's concerns and were they acted upon by the Government of Ontario?
The Chief Commissioner was concerned about a section in Bill 96, an Act to Consolidate and Revise the Law with respect to Residential Tenancies, that proposed an amendment to the Human Rights Code which he argued would have resulted in landlords being able to refuse to rent to persons who did not meet landlords' income requirements.
The government wanted to amend the Human Rights Code to eliminate the confusion among landlords and tenants regarding the use of income information, rental history, credit checks, credit references and guarantees in assessing prospective tenants.
The regulation developed under the Code does not establish a rent to income formula that landlords could use, since it would be arbitrary and would not recognize the different circumstances of renters. The regulation treats questions about income, credit references, credit checks and rental history together and allows landlords to use income information alone only if the other information is not available.
The regulation also stipulates that "Nothing in this regulation authorizes a landlord to refuse accommodation to any person because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, age, marital status, family status, handicap or the receipt of public assistance."
14. What is the position of each Human Rights Commission (with the exception of Quebec's) on whether Asocial condition" should be added as a prohibited ground of discrimination in the light of article 2 of the Covenant, and what is the position of the provincial and federal governments on this question?
Many of the existing prohibited grounds of discrimination under the Human Rights Code relate to the term "social condition". The government does not believe that it is necessary at this time to add "social condition" as a protected ground.
The Ontario Human Rights Code has a specific section that deals with discrimination in accommodation which covers most of the elements covered under the ground of "social condition". The grounds in the Code that might relate to social condition include ancestry, place of origin, ethnic origin, marital status, family status and receipt of public assistance.
15. Please state whether children of non-nationals of Canada seeking to stay in Canada are denied access to social services and benefits, education or medical care which children of Canadians have access to.
Children are eligible for medical care under the publicly-funded Ontario Health Insurance Plan (OHIP) if they are Canadian citizens, landed immigrants, and if they make their permanent and principal home in Ontario, and they are present in Ontario for at least 183 days in any 12-month period. Canadian-born children of non-permanent residents are also eligible for OHIP, provided the parent is legally allowed to be in Canada for 183 days. Tourists, transients and visitors are not eligible for OHIP coverage.
Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) do provide health coverage to refugee claimants who are eligible for Ontario Works and ODSP, although there is a federal program available to some claimants.
The other refugee claimants awaiting determination of their immigration status receive health care coverage under the Federal Interim Health Program.
Children of landed immigrants and refugee claimants are provided the same access to elementary and secondary education as children of Canadians.
Subsection 49(7) of the Education Act, R.S.O. 1990, c. E.2, provides that if a school board admits to one of its schools a person, or a child of a person, who claims to be or is found to be a refugee under the Immigration Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. I-2, or a person whose parent is awaiting determination of a Convention refugee claim, the school board cannot charge that person a fee for his or her education.
Furthermore, section 49.1 of the Education Act provides that a person who is otherwise entitled to be admitted to a school and who is less than eighteen years of age shall not be refused admission because the person or the person's parent or guardian is unlawfully in Canada.
The children of non-nationals seeking to stay in Canada ordinarily have access to social assistance as dependent children of the parent(s) who are receiving social assistance. This entitles children to the same financial and health benefits as the dependent children of any other social assistance recipients. Exceptions to social assistance entitlement (for the parents and the dependent children) exist if non-nationals in Canada are tourists, visitors or students on visas, sponsored by a private group or recipients of the Resettlement Assistance Program (RAP), or are subject to a removal or deportation order.
Assistance for Children with Severe Disabilities (ACSD), formerly the Handicapped Children's Benefit (HCB), is available to non-national parents if there are extraordinary costs related to a child's severe disability and the parents meet the income test.
17. Why were the standards and entitlements maintained in health care but not in social assistance?
The Canada Health and Social Transfer contains a requirement that residency cannot be a condition for receipt of benefits. This condition was also part of the Canada Assistance Plan.
18. Have provinces responded by cutting social assistance rates or entitlements? Please provide information from each province about changes which have occurred from April 1995 to the present day, and any effect on the extent or depth of poverty.
Ontario's current social assistance rates are more than ten percent above the national average. Rates for persons with disabilities have not been affected.
20. With respect to the negotiations by the Ministerial Council on Social Policy Reform and Renewal mentioned in paragraph 86 of the Report, are the federal and provincial governments committed to restoring legal enforceability of the right to adequate financial assistance?
Because the negotiations on the framework agreement are still underway, it would not be appropriate to respond.
The purpose of the framework agreement is to foster cooperation between governments, to enhance our capacity to maintain and establish national social programs, and to provide for flexibility in the delivery of national programs in a way that respects both the diversity of Canada and the values that bind Canadians together.
21. Describe any monitoring procedures established by governments as well as non-governmental agencies to measure the effect of the 40% ($6 Billion) cut in the amount of cash transferred by the Federal Government for social assistance, health and post-secondary education between April 1995 and the end of fiscal year 1999-2000. What common effects have become evident throughout Canada?
The Ontario government has put in place a number of performance measures at the ministry level, aimed at measuring the effectiveness of government policies and programs. For example, the quality and performance of health care services will be measured by surveying Ontarians' ratings of the quality and access to health care services they have received. However, these and other measurements reflect the efficiency and expenditure choices of the Ontario government, and do not show directly the impact of the cuts in the amount of cash transferred from the federal government.
22. Did the previous cost-sharing of all social assistance costs and specific social programs for vulnerable groups mean that in times of greater need or in regions of greater needs, the Federal Government contributed more? Please provide information on the types of services which are no longer 50:50 cost shared, report on any reductions in those services since 1995 and provide information about the effects of any changes on vulnerable groups.
Because the growth rate of Canada Assistance Plan payments was limited in Ontario, Alberta, and BC, federal contributions did not keep pace with Ontario's expenditures on cost-sharable social assistance programs. The federal government's share of these costs in Ontario declined from 50 per cent in 1989-90 to only 30 percent in 1994-95.
The current federal program that supports social programs, the Canada Health and Social Transfer, is a block transfer. This transfer is not tied to provincial expenditures on health, education and social programs.
23. Does the Government intend to implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples with respect to self-determination, self-governance, the control of lands and resources and the establishment of a lands and treaties tribunal?
Ontario is considering how this federal Commission's recommendations and findings relate to the principles set out in Ontario's March 1996 Aboriginal Policy Framework (APF) and to provincial programs and services as they pertain to Aboriginal Peoples. The goal of the APF is a future in which Aboriginal communities have stronger economies and greater capacity to become more self-reliant and exercise greater responsibility for their well-being. Consistent with this goal, Ontario launched its Building Aboriginal Economies strategy on July 17, 1998. The strategy is a coordinated framework of Ontario government programs and services designed to benefit all Aboriginal people in Ontario. The strategy identifies four key approaches: increasing Aboriginal partnerships with the corporate sector, removing barriers, improving access and creating opportunities.
With respect to self-determination and self-governance, it is Ontario's view that the federal government has primary responsibility for Aboriginal self-government matters. Ontario will continue to assess and protect provincial interests in this process and the government will continue to respect existing Aboriginal and treaty rights. Consistent with the principles stated in the APF, Ontario is developing a self-government policy which will assess Ontario's interests in this area.
With respect to the control of lands and resources and other land and treaty related issues, the government of Ontario is committed to meeting its constitutional and other legal obligations in respect of Aboriginal peoples. As stated in the APF, Ontario's approach to public lands and resources will:
meet legal requirements, including Aboriginal and treaty rights;
protect the provincial interest in conservation; and
protect Ontario's ongoing authority to manage public lands and natural resources in the most flexible manner possible.
At any given time Ontario is involved in a number of land claim negotiations with Canada and First Nations. Land claim settlements provide Aboriginal communities with opportunities for economic development, while removing barriers to investment, fostering a stable climate for local business and other interests. Settlements aim to promote the economic self-reliance of Aboriginal communities.
With respect to Aboriginal economic development, the Royal Commission's focus is primarily on economic self-reliance. Ontario's objectives are consistent with this focus, and Ontario views the successful resolution of land claims as a means to ensure Aboriginal economic self-reliance.
24. Please provide information on any provinces which require participation in "workfare" or similar programs and describe the appeal procedures in place with respect to any disentitlement from basic necessities on this ground. Are these programs applied to single parents, and if so, what exceptions apply? Is the Committee correct to assume that these programs would have been illegal under CAP?
Any decision to deny, suspend, cancel or reduce basic financial assistance can be appealed to an independent body called the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT). Before a formal appeal can be launched, an internal review of the decision must be requested.
The internal review must be requested within ten days of receiving the decision and must be completed by social assistance staff within ten days of receiving the request. If the person disagrees with the internal review decision, it can be appealed to the SBT within thirty days.
Under Ontario Works, all recipients who are able to work, including sole support parents whose youngest child is able to attend school either part-time or full-time, are required to participate in the program as a condition of eligibility. Sole support parents with at least one dependent child for whom publicly funded part-time or full-time education is not available will be temporarily deferred from participation. Ontario Disability Support Program recipients may participate in Ontario Works, if they wish to do so.
Under this program, single parents have the same opportunities as are available to others on social assistance. Ontario Works provides people on social assistance - including single parents - with the opportunities to develop skills, contribute to their community and make contacts with potential employers.
If child care and other employment supports are needed, they are provided.
Sole support parents with very young children who are deferred from participating, may volunteer to participate, and would be eligible for child care and other employment supports. Under the Canada Assistance Plan, the federal government would not cost share workfare-type programs.
25. For provinces applying a "work for welfare" scheme, such as Quebec and Ontario, please provide information concerning the application of labour standards including minimum wage and any discriminatory criteria that are applied such as age.
Ontario Works recipients participating in community placement activities have workplace protections comparable to employees in paid positions.
For example, a person participating in a community placement must not attend for more than 70 hours a month so that their actual monthly benefit, when divided by their hours of attendance, equals at least minimum wage plus four percent vacation pay.
Other program standards that protect Ontario Works participants include required health and safety coverage, workers' compensation or equivalent accident coverage, compliance with the terms of any collective agreement, a rule against displacing paid employees, privacy protection, a limit on hours of attendance to eight hours a day and 44 hours a week, and provision for public and religious holidays and pregnancy and parental leaves.
26. Will the Government implement the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples to address the unacceptable levels of unemployment both on and off reserves?
Ontario's strategy for Aboriginal economic development focuses on strengthening Aboriginal economies that will support long-term job creation for Aboriginal people. On July 17, 1998, Ontario launched its Building Aboriginal Economies strategy which is a coordinated framework of over 30 Ontario government programs and services designed to benefit all Aboriginal people in Ontario. The strategy identifies four key approaches: increasing Aboriginal partnerships with the corporate sector, removing barriers, improving access and creating opportunities. The centerpiece of the new strategy is the Working Partnerships program which is designed to promote Aboriginal job creation through Aboriginal partnerships with the corporate sector.
Ontario's Building Aboriginal Economies strategy and the Working Partnerships program are consistent with the recommended directions of the Royal Commission.
27. According to Statistics Canada, in 1991 over 40% of people with disabilities received no employment income compared to 18.5% for people without disabilities and the unemployment statistics for people with disabilities are among the highest of all minority groups. What are the steps taken by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to remedy this situation?
Persons with disabilities have been protected from discrimination in employment under the Human Rights Code in Ontario since 1981. The Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), in effect since June 1, 1998, is a legislated income and employment support program for people with disabilities. The Program moves people with disabilities off the welfare system and helps them prepare for, obtain or maintain employment through employment planning assistance, individualized supports, and other innovative employment strategies.
The development of a new Ontario Workplace Accessibility Tax Incentive program will encourage businesses to hire persons with disabilities by allowing them to deduct the cost of accommodating an employee with a disability.
The Ontario government's "Access Fund" funds retrofit projects to remove physical barriers to persons with disabilities in community-based facilities and provides opportunities for volunteering and bridging to employment.
The Ontario government launched an Equal Opportunity Plan in 1996 which included a disability component in its demonstration projects, best practices, training and education initiatives, and web site. The program develops partnership projects with employers, employer associations and disability organizations.
The government of Ontario is committed to promoting equal opportunity for people with disabilities through a variety of approaches including a new law to improve accessibility for persons with disabilities in Ontario. On July 13, 1998, the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation released a discussion paper, Preventing and Removing Barriers for Ontarians with Disabilities. Consultations with a broad range of stakeholders, including the disability community, business, municipalities, service providers and labour took place in the summer of 1998. The results of the consultation will be used to assist in the development of the legislation.
28. Please provide information as to the minimum wage rate in various provinces and territories and any change in its real value over the last few years. Please indicate how the income from a full time job at minimum wage compares with the poverty line. What do the federal and provincial governments intend to do to ensure that minimum wages are adequate?
Ontario's general minimum wage was raised to $6.85 per hour effective January 1, 1995. This rate is currently higher than any provincial rate in Canada except for that of British Columbia (Quebec's minimum wage will rise to $6.90 on October 1, 1998).
Provision is made for a student minimum wage of $6.40 per hour for students under 18 years of age working up to 28 hours per week in the school term or in school holidays. This special minimum wage is intended to facilitate the employment of younger persons, recognizing their competitive disadvantage in the job market relative to older students who have more work experience and are perhaps perceived by employers as more productive.
There is also a special minimum wage for liquor servers of $5.95 per hour. This is intended to recognize that servers receive additional income from tips.
29. Please provide information as to the transformation of women's work to more precarious forms (part-time, homework, etc.) and the economic consequences of these changes on the poverty of women, particularly young single women with dependent children.
Between 1987 and 1997, women accounted for 58% of the growth in Ontario's labour force. In 1987, women accounted for 44 percent (2.3 million) of the labour force. In 1997, women made up 46 percent (2.7 million) of the labour force.
In 1995, the average income of Ontario men and women was $33,746 and $21,493, respectively. Since 1985, this represents a 1 percent decrease in men's income and a 17 percent increase in women's income after accounting for inflation.
Over the last ten years, the proportion of Ontario women working in full-time jobs has decreased from 74 percent to 71 percent while the proportion in part-time jobs has increased from 26 percent to 29 percent. According to 1996 Census data, the number of women who worked in Ontario (full and part-time) increased 32 percent between 1980 and 1995 (from 2,004,445 to 2,655,205); those who worked mostly part-time also increased 38 percent during the same period (from 626,535 to 865,765 in 1995).
In 1997, the labour force participation rate in Ontario for single women with preschoolers was 55 percent, down from 57 percent in 1987, but up from a low of 44 percent in 1992. In 1996, lone-parent families comprised 13 percent of all families in Ontario. Eighty-three percent of lone-parent families are headed by women. Statistics Canada reported there were 355,035 female lone-parent families in Ontario in 1995, an increase of 24.7 percent from 1990. Between 1990 and 1995, average family income for female lone-parent families in Ontario declined 8.2 percent to $30,182.
31. Please provide information regarding the rights of farm workers and domestic workers to organize and bargain collectively and identify any changes in provincial labour legislation which has affected these rights. Is there any justification for denying these workers collective bargaining rights accorded to other workers?
The Labour Relations and Employment Statute Law Amendment Act, S.O. 1995, c.1, (Bill 7), which came into force on November 10, 1995, repealed the Agricultural Labour Relations Act, 1994, S.O. 1994, c.6, (ALRA) and amended the Labour Relations Act, S.O. 1995, c.1, Sched. A, (LRA) to restore the exclusion of agricultural, horticultural and domestic workers from collective bargaining legislation in Ontario. These employees continue to be free to form voluntary associations or unions outside of the statutory collective bargaining regime.
The ALRA came into force on June 23, 1994. Prior to the passage of the ALRA, workers in agriculture and horticulture were prohibited from joining unions. The ALRA extended the right to organize to these workers but set out a number of special provisions including a ban on strikes and provisions for binding interest arbitration through final offer selection.
The repeal of the ALRA reflects concerns expressed by farmers that the ALRA scheme was unworkable. In particular, the government concluded that the dispute resolution mechanisms upon which collective bargaining depends, namely the right to strike and lock out and compulsory arbitration, are incompatible with the unique characteristics of, and the nature of employment in, the agricultural sector in Ontario.
Agriculture in Ontario is overwhelmingly dominated by family farms, and the agricultural sector is characterized by extremely low profit margins and unstructured, highly personal working relationships. Moreover, employers in this sector are dependent on climatic conditions and seasonal variations and produce highly perishable products. For these reasons, the ALRA was repealed.
In November 1995, the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) launched a constitutional challenge to the repeal of the ALRA before the Ontario Court (General Division), arguing that Bill 7 violates the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, Part I of the Constitution Act, 1982, being Schedule B to the Canadian Act, 1982, (U.K.), 1982, c.11. On December 9, 1997, a decision was rendered which clearly states that the exclusion of agricultural workers from Ontario's statutory labour relations scheme does not violate their freedom of association guaranteed under subsection 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms or their right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law guaranteed by section 15 of the Charter. The UFCW has appealed this decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal.
With respect to domestic workers, historically they were excluded from the LRA. In 1993, the LRA was amended to remove this exclusion, but the LRA contained a provision requiring that a bargaining unit be comprised of two or more employees. The exclusion was reintroduced in 1995 because it is this government's view that labour laws originally enacted with industrial settings in mind are not always suitable for non-industrial workplaces, such as private homes, where occupational duties may not be compatible with the highly formalized terms and conditions of employment and the somewhat adversarial nature of relationships typical of a unionized environment.
The Ontario Government reiterates its strong commitment to free collective bargaining. Bill 7 has established the appropriate balance of power between unions and employers and has facilitated productive collective bargaining, which the Government views as an important component of its strategy to strengthen the economy and create jobs.
35. Are there any provinces in Canada in which a person in need of financial assistance may have such assistance discontinued without a hearing or be denied interim assistance for basic necessities pending a hearing before an impartial adjudicator? Please provide information as to any cases in which this issue has been considered by the court and the positions taken by responding governments in those cases.
In Ontario, those applying for or receiving social assistance have the right to appeal decisions related to basic financial assistance to the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT). The SBT is an arms-length adjudicative body. The SBT also has the authority to order a social assistance delivery agent to pay interim assistance pending an appeal where it is satisfied that there are grounds for the appeal and that the appellant is experiencing financial hardship.
36. Please estimate what it costs on average to meet the special needs arising from pregnancy and caring and providing for a newborn, including special dietary needs, etc. Are these special needs provided for in social assistance rates for pregnant women? Please provide information about any changes in those benefits.
Pregnant women and parents are eligible for items covered by the Ontario Drug Benefit Program. In addition, pregnant women or persons with newborns may also be eligible for Discretionary Benefits which cover costs for baby supplies or layettes where a municipality makes these available.
Special dietary needs directly associated with a pregnancy and prescribed by a doctor can be paid under social assistance.
37. The Committee has received information that food bank use has continued to increase in Canada and has approximately doubled over the last ten years. Can the Government explain why the number and use of food banks has continued to increase? Does the Government consider the need for food banks in so affluent a country as Canada consistent with article 11 of the Covenant?
The government of Ontario does not fund food banks and does not collect statistics on food bank usage.
38. Please provide information as to the number of people paying more than their shelter allowance for housing and indicate whether paying for housing out of money needed for food may lead to hunger in these households.
Ontario's social assistance rates are more than 10 percent above the national average. People in receipt of social assistance are not provided with any specific direction as to how they must spend their allowance.
In addition to the standard of social assistance rates, Ontario's social assistance programs provide several benefits and services. Drug and dental cards, special diet funds, a Winter Clothing allowance and a Back to School allowance are some examples of additional assistance provided to ensure recipients and their families maintain a healthy quality of life.
The Social Assistance Reform Act gives the ministry the ability to make payments directly to landlords or utility companies.
This new capacity will only be used in Ontario Works and ODSP cases where recipients have a demonstrable record of non-payment or where recipients are at risk of losing their accommodation or utilities.
39. What proportion of children who use food banks go hungry and how often do parents go hungry?
The government of Ontario does not fund food banks and does not collect statistics on food bank usage. Ontario provides $2.5 million annually to set up, enhance and run breakfast, lunch or snack programs, primarily for elementary school aged children. The funds also support community partnerships that establish new child nutrition programs and provide resource and educational materials. The funding is administered by the Canadian Living Foundation. Since September 1996, the program has helped 714 child nutrition programs, serving over 56,000 children.
40. Explain how school food programs fit into federal and provincial strategies to address hunger and how the government intends to ensure that the dignity of children and their parents is respected in those programs?
Legislation authorizes school boards to purchase milk for free distribution to its pupils, as long as the distribution is made under the supervision and direction of the principal and the milk is consumed on school premises.
Ontario provides $2.5 million annually to set up, enhance and run breakfast, lunch or snack programs, primarily for elementary school aged children. The funds also support community partnerships that establish new child nutrition programs and provide resource and educational materials. The funding is administered by the Canadian Living Foundation. Since September 1996, the program has helped 714 child nutrition programs, serving over 56,000 children.
The programs ensure respect for children and their parents by being available to all children in a non-stigmatizing manner and by the participation and contribution of parents, business people, volunteers, local agencies, and schools.
41. Please provide any available data on the extent of homelessness in various cities in Canada. At what point would the government consider homelessness in Canada to constitute a national emergency?
The Provincial government does not collect data that would reflect the extent of homelessness in Ontario cities.
44. According to information provided to the Committee from Statistics Canada, the percentage of government expenditure on housing has declined since 1993. There has been extensive media coverage of a growing crisis of homelessness in Toronto, Vancouver and elsewhere, emphasizing primarily charity-based efforts to address the problems. Is the Government applying the maximum of available resources to homelessness and does it agree that guaranteeing the right to housing is a core responsibility of governments?
Within the federal division of powers in Canada, responsibility for housing rests at the provincial level. Ensuring that Ontarians have access to adequate housing remains a fundamental concern of the Province. As noted elsewhere, the Province is in the process of devolving responsibility for the funding and administration of its social housing program to the municipal level. This is in recognition that many housing issues are based on local conditions and that municipalities are the level of government with the best understanding of local needs. The Province has not, cannot and indeed, would not, relinquish its constitutional jurisdiction over housing matters. The Province retains its ability to ensure that provincial standards are maintained in matters of rent calculations, access and eligibility, and benefit levels.
Housing standards in Ontario remain among the highest in a country which has some of the best living conditions throughout the world. The U.N. itself has noted on several occasions that Canada is the number one country in terms of enviable standards of living. This achievement was accomplished without formal designation of a Aright to housing" and Ontario compares quite favourably to other jurisdictions where the right to housing is embraced as a formal or legislative responsibility.
Despite this record, homelessness remains a serious concern, particularly in the province's largest urban centre, the City of Toronto. The province currently spends approximately $100 million on services for the homeless, which includes $70 million on hostels, cost-shared 80:20 with municipalities.
On January 29, 1998, the Government of Ontario announced the appointment of a provincial task force to make recommendations that will assist municipalities develop strategies to help the homeless. The province also provided $4 million in additional funding, to be allocated based on the recommendations of the Task Force. As a result of a preliminary recommendation of this Task Force, the province reinstituted annual funding of $14 million for domiciliary hostels which house many people vulnerable to homelessness.
While the Province addresses a number of factors underlying homelessness through provincial policies for social assistance, community supports, and supportive housing, the City of Toronto will be coming forward with a complementary strategy to deal with the local conditions under its influence. The Province will work closely with Toronto to ensure that effective responses are in place.
45. Could the Government of Ontario provide information as to how many households have been forced to move out or been evicted for non-payment of rent because of the cuts to social assistance?
Until proclamation of the Tenant Protection Act, S.O. 1997, c.24, on June 17, 1998, evictions were handled by the Provincial Courts (General Division). The number of evictions resulting from non-payment of rent has not been tracked by the courts and therefore no data exist.
46. The Committee understands that new legislation in Ontario will remove rent control on any apartment which is rented to a new tenant. Does the Government of Ontario expect any additional increase in evictions because of this measure? Please provide the Committee with any information that becomes available prior to the review of Canada's Report in November.
The TPA ensures that rent control is retained for tenants who lived in their apartments prior to June 17, 1998 - the date that the legislation was proclaimed. When a tenant moves out of a rental unit the landlord can negotiate a new rent with the new tenant. After the new tenant has moved in, rent control applies once again.
The government does not expect substantial increases in rents as a result of these measures nor does the government expect an increase in evictions. Research shows that many rents around the province are already at or near market value, and landlords are unlikely to demand rents so high that their buildings lie vacant.
The TPA also contains strong anti-harassment rules. It is an offence to use harassment to force tenants to vacate their rental units, or to interfere with a tenant securing his or her own rights under the Act. Maximum fines have been increased for individual landlords to $10,000, and $50,000 for corporations.
As a result of this vacancy decontrol measure, there will be more incentive for landlords to provide new supply of rental housing
48. According to the 1996 Report of the National Council of Welfare (Poverty Profile 1996), 91.3% of families led by single-parent mothers under 25 live below the level of poverty. Child poverty is at a 17 year high of 20.9% meaning that nearly 1.5 million children live in poverty in Canada. Although the last recession ended in 1991, poverty rates have risen steadily since then. Please provide to the Committee the most up to date information on single parents, children, people with disabilities and Aboriginal people and explain how this unacceptable situation has been allowed to occur?
The National Council of Welfare report typically uses Statistics Canada Low-Income Cutoff data for their reports on poverty. In addition, there are other poverty lines in Canada that are updated and reviewed periodically in the literature. Presently, there is no standard measure of poverty.
Ontario has implemented a number of new measures to ensure the best outcomes for children in Ontario. These include: providing $2.5 million annually for child nutrition programs; $20 million annually for preschool speech and language programs; increasing up to $50 million per year, by 2000-01, the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program that supports early identification and home visiting to high risk children; directing $5 million annually to Better Beginnings, Better Futures program for high-risk communities; making $10 million grant to Invest in Kids Foundation for prevention and early identification initiatives; investing $18 million for services to support families with developmentally disabled children; providing $170 million in new funding for child protection, phased in over three years and annualizing at $90 million per year in 2000-01, on top of an additional $15 million to children's aid societies allocated in 1998-99.
50. What measures did the federal and provincial governments take to follow up on the recommendations of the Committee in 1993 to reduce the gap between welfare rates and the poverty line? Has this gap been reduced? If not, what is the explanation for the government's failure to address this pressing need during a time of relative economic prosperity?
The government of Ontario is committed to restoring the welfare system to its original purpose as a transitional program of last resort.
Through our work-for-welfare program, Ontario Works, we are helping people on welfare develop skills, make contacts with potential employers and give something back to their communities.
One measure that has been taken to address child poverty and promote attachment to the workforce is an integrated child benefit called, the National Child Benefit (NCB).
The objectives for the National Child Benefit are:
- to help prevent and reduce the depth of child poverty;
- to promote attachment to the workforce; and
- to reduce overlap and duplication.
The NCB is based on a joint approach and both the federal and provincial governments have committed to specific roles:
Ontario will use its portion of the NCB reinvestment to create a new Ontario Child Care Supplement for Working Families. This is a new program that will support up to 350,000 young children in working families by providing a maximum annual benefit of $1,020 for each child under seven. Families will be eligible for the Supplement if they have work earnings exceeding $5,000 or are attending education or training programs and have child care expenses. For families with incomes above $20,000, the Supplement will be reduced.
Ontario will reinvest $100 million from the NCB reinvestment in 1998-99 in the Ontario Child Care Supplement for Working Families. This amount will grow to $145 million as an annual amount. When this is combined with the $40 million previously announced by the province (originally for the former Ontario Child Care Tax Credit), it will bring the total value of Ontario's Supplement to $185 million annually.
Ontario is also undertaking a number of new initiatives to help children and their families in addition to its NCB reinvestment. These include: the new Learning, Earning and Parenting (LEAP) Program which will provide child care subsidies and other supports to help single parents on welfare finish school; additional child care assistance for participants in Ontario Works to give greater flexibility and choices for parents; increased funding for the Healthy Babies, Healthy Children program which screens all newborns, and identifies those at high risk and ensures they receive community services, including lay home visiting; and increased funding for Children's Aid Societies to increase the number of child protection staff, provide better training for front-line workers and revitalize foster care.
51. It has been reported that in Canada, close to one in four persons with disabilities lives below the poverty line. What are the steps taken by the federal, provincial and territorial governments to remedy this situation?
On June 1, 1998, Ontario implemented the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), a new income and employment support program for people with disabilities who are in financial need. Highlights of the new program include:
ODSP provides the highest benefits for persons with disabilities across the provinces
Upon being admitted to the program, recipients are allowed to immediately keep earnings of $160 per month for singles and $235 per month for families;
C The ODSP Act contains a provision for rapid reinstatement. This provision protects the income support benefits of persons if a job attempt fails and they want to return to the program.
C The ODSP has more generous rules regarding limits on assets, compensation awards, gifts and inheritances and cash surrender values of life insurance policies.
C The employment support program will be implemented in the fall of 1998 and will provide supports to people with disabilities to voluntarily prepare for, obtain or maintain competitive employment.
Federal, Provincial and Territorial governments have addressed the issue of poverty for disabled persons in two significant areas.
In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues
Ministers responsible for Social Services are developing a shared vision and policy framework for persons with disabilities, entitled, In Unison: A Canadian Approach to Disability Issues. This document sets out a blueprint for promoting the integration of persons with disabilities in Canada and from removing the barriers and disincentives that prevent them from fully participating in society.
Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities (EAPD)
The Employability Assistance for People with Disabilities (EAPD) initiative is designed to assist people with disabilities to prepare for, obtain and maintain employment. The EAPD will support a broad range of programs and services, ranging from employment counselling and assessment to wage subsidies and assisting aids and devices. Provinces have the flexibility to tailor programs to reflect local priorities and circumstances.
54. Does the Canadian government have any evidence of restrictions in access to health care for the poor? If so, what is the government doing to remedy the situation?
In Ontario, there are no restrictions in health care for the poor. Health care is delivered in accordance with the principles of the Canada Health Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. C-6, enacted in 1984, which include universality (i.e., all Canadians must be provided equal health care coverage) and accessibility (i.e., all Canadians must have equal access to the same quality of health care).
People in Ontario in receipt of social assistance through the government's work-for-welfare program, Ontario Works, receive prescription drug benefits without charge. The dependant children of Ontario Works participants also receive dental benefits without charge, and adult Ontario Works participants may receive dental benefits at the discretion of municipalities.
Recipients of the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP), a separate social assistance program for people with disabilities, also receive prescription drug benefits without charge. ODSP recipients, their spouses and dependants, under the age of 18, also receive dental benefits without charge.
55. The Committee understands that a high percentage of discharged psychiatric patients are ending up homeless. Please provide as accurate evidence as is available in relation to this problem and explain what is being done to address it.
Accurate statistical data regarding the percentage of discharged psychiatric patients who are homeless are not available.
It is recognized that homelessness among those with serious mental illnesses is a problem. In response, new funding for community-based mental health outreach services for homeless people, totalling $2.5 million annually, was announced on January 29, 1998. Ministry of Health staff worked closely with agencies and services providers in Toronto, Ottawa, London and Hamilton to ensure that new services were initiated in the 1997-98 fiscal year. These initiatives address the mental health needs of people with serious mental illnesses who are socially isolated and hard to serve.
In addition, also on January 29, 1998, the Government of Ontario announced the appointment of a provincial task force to make recommendations that will assist in helping the homeless. The province currently spends approximately $100 million on services for the homeless, which includes $70 million on hostels, cost-shared 80:20 with municipalities.
The province also provided $4 million in additional funding, to be allocated based on the recommendations of the Task Force.
56. Please provide any information available on the particular health problems of the homeless, including tuberculosis rates, and identify any barriers faced by the homeless in getting access to appropriate health care.
Tuberculosis rates among the homeless are not available as there are no reliable data about the size of this group, i.e., the homeless. We do know, however, that the homeless represent a very small percentage of total tuberculosis cases in the province. The provincial rate for tuberculosis is seven cases per 100,000 population, and Canada reports around 2000 cases per year.
The prevalence of tuberculosis infection among the homeless is higher than that in the general population. This has been shown in a number of studies in North America. The City of Toronto health department tested 43% of the residents of shelters for the homeless and found that 45% of these had a positive tuberculin skin test. However, very few of these people actually develop active tuberculosis.
Each board of health in the province must have a Tuberculosis Control Program under the Mandatory Health Programs and Services Guidelines under the Health Protection and Promotion Act, and must follow the guidelines set out in the ministry's guidelines set out in the ministry's Tuberculosis Control Protocol. These guidelines have specific recommendations for the screening of high risk persons such as the homeless, as well as for additional measures such as direct observed therapy to ensure that such persons with active pulmonary tuberculosis complete a course of treatment. The ministry assesses the delivery of this program by Ontario's boards of health on a regular basis. Drugs for the prevention and treatment of tuberculosis are provided by the ministry at no charge to residents of Ontario.
57. To what extent is increased reliance on expensive drug therapy for HIV/AIDS and other illnesses eroding universal access to health care? Will programs such as pharmacare be introduced to cover drug costs?
As explained in answer to Question 54, Ontario is committed to full compliance with the Canada Health Act. Medically necessary health services are accessible to all on an equal basis.
Through the Ontario Drug Benefit (ODB) Program, the Ministry of Health covers most of the cost of most prescription drug products for people with a valid OHIP card who also belong to one of the following groups: people 65 years of age and older, residents of long-term care facilities, residents of Homes for Special Care, people receiving professional services under the Home Care Program, and Trillium Drug Program recipients. In addition, people receiving social assistance (General Welfare or Family Benefits Assistance) are also eligible for ODB coverage.
The Trillium Drug Plan (TDP), introduced in 1995, assists Ontario residents with unmanageable prescription drug expenses in relation to their income.
Trillium is designed to provide yearly benefits when prescription drug costs exceed a certain portion of a subscriber family's income. The program does not replace private insurance plans, but benefits those who do not have private insurance or who have exhausted their private insurance benefits. Once a person is eligible for Trillium, he or she receives the same benefits as provided through the ODB program.
In the three years since its inception, Trillium has assisted thousands of needy Ontario residents who have unmanageable prescription drug costs. In the first year of the program, 22,000 people benefited, in the second year it was 40,000 individuals, and over 52,000 people in 1997-98. Currently, about 380,000 Ontarians are estimated to be eligible to apply for the program.
58. What steps are being taken in Canada to ensure that changes in health service delivery do not adversely affect the most vulnerable groups in society?
Ontario has 56 Community Health Centres (CHCs) that provide free health care to anyone seeking it. CHCs are non-profit, community-based organizations that provide primary health care and health promotion services, using multidisciplinary teams of health providers (which often include physicians, nurses, dietitians and others) that are paid by salary rather than through a fee-for-service system. Services are designed to meet the specific needs of a defined community. In addition, CHCs provide a variety of health promotion and illness prevention services which focus on raising awareness of the broader determinants of health such as employment, education, environment, isolation and poverty.
The "Healthy Babies, Healthy Children Program" is a joint Ministry of Health and Ministry of Community, Family and Children's Services program designed to ensure that all Ontario families with children, (prenatal to age six) who are at risk of physical, cognitive, communicative or psychosocial problems have access to effective, consistent early intervention services in order to improve their well-being and long-term prospects.
Using a community-wide planning process that involves all organizations and agencies that serve families and children, the program places emphasis on prevention and early identification, builds on the strengths of families and community members, and improves outcomes for children. Through this program, all newborns in hospitals are screened to identify at risk children. Families identified with high risk children receive home visiting services and are linked to other supports and services in the community.
The May 1998 Budget announced that the $10 million annual commitment for Health Babies, Health Children will be enriched by $10 million in 1998-99 and will grow to a $50 million annual program by 2000-01.
The "Better Beginnings, Better Futures" program, now in place in eight high-risk Ontario communities, is a 25-year longitudinal prevention demonstration project. Its three goals are to prevent emotional, behavioural, social, physical and cognitive problems in young children, promote healthy child development, and enhance capacities in socially and economically disadvantaged communities.
The focus of the project is children 0-8 years who are at risk for emotional, behavioural, social, physical and cognitive problems, and children and families living in economically disadvantaged neighbourhoods with multiple high risks for poor child development.
The project receives $4.6 million in operating funds per year from the Ministries of Health, Community, Family and Children's Services, and Education and Training. As well, the government provides $1.1 million for research which follows 1000 families with young children to assess both the effectiveness and costs of this model.
The Seniors Secretariat was established in October 1996 to facilitate better planning and responses to the changing demands of society that have been brought about by fundamental demographic shifts, specifically the escalating growth of the over-65 population.
The Seniors' Secretariat works to dispel "ageism" as well as incorrect information about the needs, concerns and contributions of senior citizens.
On July 27, 1998, a Minister of Long-Term Care was appointed in order to provide dedicated attention to long-term care issues such as nursing homes, homes for the aged and community home care, all of which are priorities of the government.
Seniors and people with disabilities in Ontario now have simple one-phone-call access to long-term care services with the launch of Community Access Centres across the Province. Forty-three Community Care Access Centres (CCACs), which are run by volunteer boards, have been established to handle both Home Care and Long-Term Care Placement Co-ordination Services. Community Care Access Centres will: provide information on available services and programs, conduct individual assessments, determine clients' eligibility for services, plan a program of care, and arrange for the services to be delivered.
CCACs will also provide up-to-date information on other services including volunteer-based community services (e.g. Meals on Wheels and friendly visiting), supportive housing, attendant services, children's treatment centres and other related community services.
59. The Committee has received information that between 1990 and 1995, the average tuition fees for post-secondary education rose by 62% in real terms. The average student debt at graduation seems to have almost tripled since 1990. What are the steps taken to ensure that post-secondary education remains equally accessible to all, regardless of income?
Ontario will spend $535 million in 1998-99 to provide grants and subsidized loans to post-secondary students with financial need. This figure is 33% higher than 1995-96. In addition, universities or colleges that raise tuition fee levels are required to set aside 30% of increased revenues for student aid. This aid is estimated at $86 million in 1998-99.
In the 1998 Provincial Budget, the Minister of Finance announced $600 million in increased support for post-secondary education. Funding targeted to protect student accessibility includes:
C $150 million over three years to double the number of spaces in university computer science and high demand engineering programs and related college programs;
C $29 million annually, phased in over three years, to support universities that have in the past increased access for students;
C $50 million over 10 years for a graduate scholarship program in science and technology with the private sector contributing an additional $25 million, and
C $50 million over 10 years for Research Excellence awards for graduate students and post-doctoral researchers, with the private sector contributing an additional $25 million.
This government is taking further steps to protect student accessibility by pursuing the following student assistance policies.
C Ontario's share of the Millennium Fund will be combined with other federal and provincial money to create a new student loan plan valued at $9 billion over 10 years.
C Educational institutions which increase fees in graduate and specific undergraduate professional programs, as well as undergraduate engineering and computer science programs, are required to make available financial aid to students in financial need, to cover tuition and ancillary fees above $4,500.
C Through an innovative matching program, the Ontario Government is creating more than $600 million in permanent trust funds for student aid at Ontario colleges and universities which will assist an estimated 185,000 students over the next ten years.
61. What steps have been taken in Canada to extend knowledge of, and respect for, the culture of Aboriginal people?
Ontario's approach to Aboriginal affairs focuses on achieving stronger Aboriginal economies and jobs for Aboriginal peoples, which includes providing support for projects which are appropriate to Aboriginal cultures or that extend knowledge of, and respect for, Aboriginal cultures. For example:
C The Northern Ontario Heritage Fund Corporation of the Ministry of Northern Development and Mines, provides funds to support the development and marketing of regional tourism enhancement projects which include cultural components, infrastructure improvements in telecommunications and transportation, and other economic development initiatives for northern communities.
C Ontario provides funding to Aboriginal communities to develop community-based business opportunities, which include culture-related initiatives, through the Ontario Aboriginal Economic Development Program of the Ministry of Citizenship, Culture and Recreation.
C The Ministry of Education and Training has an Aboriginal Education and Training Strategy in place to provide funding to colleges, universities and Aboriginal institutions aimed at improving the participation and completion rates of Aboriginal students in post secondary education. This funding provides for the development and delivery of Aboriginal-specific programs, and support services for Aboriginal students, including Aboriginal counsellors.
C Ontario established Casino Rama to benefit all First Nations in the province. The casino's net revenues, through the First Nations Fund, will be an important source of capital for economic and community development which include cultural initiatives. It is envisaged that the Fund will provide approximately $1 billion over a 10-year period.
C The Ontario Arts Council has specific Aboriginal grants programs to improve access to the arts for Aboriginal communities, while encouraging opportunities for Aboriginal artists across the province. The programs for organizations include grants to Aboriginal cultural centres. Grants available to individuals are for Aboriginal artists involved in education.
C The Archives of Ontario, which are dedicated to preserving and making accessible Ontario's documentary heritage, contains a large collection of documents pertaining to the history and cultural heritage of the Aboriginal peoples of Ontario.
C TVOntario is financially supported by the government of Ontario, TVO members, corporate sponsorships and partnerships with the private sector. TVO broadcasts in English and French and its programming includes Aboriginal subjects. TVOntario was created in 1970 to initiate, acquire, produce, distribute, exhibit and deal in programs and materials in the field of educational broadcasting and communications.
C The Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat meets regularly with First Nation leaders and representatives of major Ontario Aboriginal organizations such as the Chiefs of Ontario, the Metis Nation of Ontario, the Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, the Ontario Metis Aboriginal Association and the Ontario Native Women's Association, to discuss issues of common concern, including Aboriginal cultural matters.
C The Ontario Women's Directorate, working in partnership with Aboriginal women's organizations and the Ontario Native Affairs Secretariat, is in the process of developing partnership projects to support women's economic independence, which also includes cultural components.
Ontario recognizes that models of program and service delivery to Aboriginal people and families may require modification in response to their unique realities, histories, cultures and traditions. The government has responded to this by supporting Aboriginal components of mainstream programming. For example, there are currently ten Aboriginal-operated children's agencies providing services to Aboriginal families across the province. Five of these are designated to provide child protection.
In the spring of 1997, the Ontario Government hosted a series of policy forums on Aboriginal issues for area and corporate ministry staff and senior management. The forums involved Aboriginal people from various organizations across the province, and were intended to provide an opportunity for discussion and learning related to cross-cultural awareness, and the history and perspectives of Aboriginal people.
66. Why did Ontario repeal its employment equity legislation and what steps are being taken to protect the rights of disadvantaged groups to work?
The Ontario government repealed the Employment Equity Act, 1993, because it believes that equal opportunity in employment is best achieved through merit-based voluntary measures, rather than job quota laws.
Discrimination is against the law in Ontario. The Ontario Human Rights Code provides protection against discrimination in employment.
The government is supporting the Ontario Human Rights Commission's efforts to ensure an efficient system for managing complaints under the Code. There is now a centralized, one- window service for inquiry and intake. Specially trained staff provide intake, mediation and investigation services.
The Equal Opportunity Plan, announced by the government in 1995, supports employer and employee equal opportunity efforts and is comprised of a number of initiatives:
C An interactive Equal Opportunity website, www.equalopportunity.on.ca, provides information on resources and services and a forum for users to share expertise and experiences.
C The website "Resource Centre" contains bibliographic references and links to other relevant sites.
C The "Ability Work" section provides information for employers and job-seekers with disabilities, including a service directory of employment-related resources across the province.
C Partnership projects with employers, associations and other stakeholders provide tools and resources for employers and employees.
67. Describe the impact of the Labour Relations and Employment Statute Law Amendment Act, or Bill 7, on the collective bargaining rights of agricultural and other workers.
Bill 7 affects all unionized workers in Ontario by restoring balance to labour relations in the province by repealing the previous government's labour law and introducing workplace democracy measures. These workplace democracy measures include the requirements that:
C a secret ballot representation vote be held when a union applies to the Ontario Labour Relations Board to represent a group of employees; the applicant union must demonstrate that 40% of affected workers support the union before the Board will conduct a vote;
C representation votes will generally be held within five business days of the union's application being filed, thereby postponing any litigation to after the vote; and
C unions hold mandatory contract ratification and strike votes.
With respect to the specific impact of Bill 7 on agricultural workers, please see the answer to Question 31 above.
68. Describe any changes in Ontario's budgetary allocation toward social housing and any reduction or elimination of programs in housing, including funding for organizations assisting tenants or disadvantaged groups in housing.
The single largest change in the budgetary allocation toward social housing results from the provincial government's restructuring of provincial and municipal services. First announced in January 1997, the restructuring transfers many provincial programs, including social housing, to the municipal level in exchange for a greater provincial role in education. As of January 1, 1998, municipalities are required to pay for the former provincial portion of social housing. Once agreement with the federal government has been secured, and the necessary legislative provisions are put in place, administrative responsibilities for the social housing program will be passed on to municipalities.
Supportive housing (ie. housing for persons needing supports to live in the community) is not part of this transfer and municipalities will not be required to pay for this type of social housing. Supportive housing responsibilities are being transferred to the Ministries of Health, Community, Family and Children's Services, and Long-Term Care, where the services needed are best provided.
The Community Partners program of the Ministry of Municipal Affairs and Housing has focussed its resources on a number of community groups throughout the province who provide assistance to low income and disadvantaged households in finding inexpensive accommodation. Homeless persons, those leaving institutions such as mental health facilities, corrections, etc., often face difficulty in locating accommodation suitable to their circumstances. The groups funded by this program help those who are among the most disadvantaged in finding housing in the marketplace.
69. Which programs has the Ontario Government devolved to municipalities and what will be the effect on the province's ability to ensure compliance with the Covenant in these areas?
With federal agreement and a new legislative framework, the province has transferred funding and is proposing to transfer administrative responsibilities for social housing to the municipal level (see response to Q. 68). Nothing in this transfer impedes the province in its constitutional responsibilities for housing. The province will retain its roles in policy and standards setting, monitoring, and compliance. Through a new legislative framework, municipalities will be expected to maintain service levels throughout the lifetime of agreements with the federal government. Conditions for eligibility, access, and benefit levels will be enshrined in provincial legislation and will have the full force of the law behind them. Municipalities and providers will be held accountable should they fail to meet federal or provincial requirements
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