Category Archives: canada

Lower Remittance Fees Now!

IMG_0529Ottawa In the final event of the first ACORN Canada Convention members gathered in front of the National Bank of Canada, assembling to raise the demand to lower bank and money transfer fees for remittances.  With Parliament looming over them car after car honked in support of lower bank fees.   Hardly a struggling immigrant driving a cab along the street didn’t lean on their horn, understanding the issue precisely.

A popular radio broadcast on politics on CBC had interviewed Kay Bisnath of ACORN Canada and ACORN International shortly after 8 AM in a national broadcast.  A piece had run in the daily paper, Ottawa Citizen, made the campaign clear.

The nearly 100 protests left the Bank of Canada, responsible for regulations, to make the same demand at the offices of the Finance Minister Michael Horgan.  We didn’t get far.  Police blocked the doors and locked them quickly, as the members chanted below and beat the plastic trash receptacles to a drum beat, calling on the Minister to “come down, meet the people!”

FIMG_0526inally using police as embassaries, Marva Burnett, outgoing president of ACORN Canada and other leaders were able to get their message up and get the answer down.  The deputy finance minister agreed to study the issue and issue a response.  The finance ministry communication director came down and parsed a few words indicating they had read the Citizen and heard the news, and would “study the matter.”

A mild response, but a step forward because truly this is an issue where there is every indication that the government is totally clueless of the issue despite the huge impact.  Back-of-the-envelope figuring had put the cost of excess fees, defined as fees above the G-8 and World Bank target of 5%, sent by immigrant and new Canadians back to families and communities in their home countries as being over $500,000,000 per year!

IMG_0532Members had prepared a “giant invoice” as chant leader, Pascal Apuwa, called it and after the Finance representative slinked away, a chant rose for the giant invoice to be left and collected.  Marva Burnett placed it pointing inside the locked doors of the ministry.  I am categorically clear that a small piece of history was made here, since I am confident that in the history of social movements over thousands of years, these members may have been the first to chant “GIANT INVOICE!”

Nonetheless, the chant makes the point.  This is a huge bill, now past due, that needs to be repaid to the poor and migrant works and immigrant families around the world, being exploited by money transfer organizations and banks on a daily basis at the price of billions.

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“Living Wage…What Could Be Better than That?”

Ottawa The members listened intently and applauded frequently as they were addressed by friends from the Canadian labor movement.  Unfortunately what they were hearing was less a Canadian problem than part of an orchestrated international attack by governments and corporations on basic employment standards and unions.

Sean McKenny, President of the Ottawa District Labour Council, and Chris Robert, Senior Researcher for the Canadian Labour Congress, were both vivid in describing the real issues behind the settlement of the Air Canada strike with the Canadian Auto Workers over the weekend.  For the government to move within 16 hours of the strike was little more than a signal that the new Harper majority administration was fired up for a power play with a slap shot at labor.  Clearly the economy was not endangered.  Furthermore, a lot of the issue was about pensions, particularly defined benefit pensions which are essentially deferred compensation, and the company’s effort to run from that responsibility and put retirements at risk without paying for the risks.  The same thing is happening throughout North America and many other parts of the globe.

LIMG_0462ynn Beu, a vice-president with the Canadian Union of Postal Workers (CUPW) showed up and let people know that essentially the lockout imposed by the Postal Service was the same kind of thing.  The excuse for the lockout was a 23 person called strike!  Lynn had the crowd going as well when she talked about the partnership already being forged between CUPW, ACORN Canada, and ACORN International in the Remittance Justice Campaign and the fact that they had circulated the original ACORN International report to unions all over the world.  Why shouldn’t the postal service be offering a cheaper alternative, she asked?  Absolutely, the members agreed!  In talking about her enthusiasm for the New West and Ottawa living wage campaigns, she mentioned that when she had first heard about it, she had thought, “Living wages…what could be better than that?”  It sounded like a new slogan for the campaign to me.

Later in the evening, the executive vice-president for the Ontario Labour Federation repeated the same themes.  Her best line was:  “When labor and ACORN Canada stick together, we can’t be stopped!”

Hard times but good friends.

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