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The Knowledge Hub for the Settlement Sector in Ontario
Updated: 2 years 22 weeks ago

Backgrounder on #WelcomeRefugees: Canada Continues to Resettle Syrian Refugees

Wed, 2016-05-18 15:29

The government’s commitment to resettling Syrian refugees to Canada is continuing in 2016. Processing of both government-supported and privately sponsored Syrian refugees has not stopped and refugees have continued to arrive during the past few weeks with more scheduled to arrive in the weeks and months ahead.

Privately sponsored refugees

For all privately sponsored Syrian applications submitted up to March 31, 2016, every effort will be made to finalize their processing by the end of 2016 or early 2017.

Here is how that will be accomplished.

Processing abroad

Starting the week of May 9, 2016, more than 40 additional dedicated staff are joining employees and partner organizations already working in visa offices in the Middle East to process these applications in May and June. Employees are located in different countries, with the bulk of the processing occurring in Beirut. These efforts will complement the ongoing work that staff have been doing throughout this process.

These efforts will also be supported by dozens of staff in Canada.

All immigration processing will be completed overseas. This will include full health and security screening in addition to an interview with a professional, experienced visa officer who will collect information to make a decision on applications and to facilitate visa issuance when the decision is positive.

Immigration medical examinations will include screening for communicable diseases such as tuberculosis. Security screening will include collecting biographical information and biometrics, such as fingerprints and digital photos, which will be checked against immigration, law enforcement and security databases.

Individuals who are accepted for resettlement to Canada will be issued a permanent resident visa and preparations will be made for their transportation to Canada via commercial flights, organized by the International Organization for Migration.

Syrian refugees who are accepted for resettlement are expected to arrive in Canada within three to six months of their interview. Cases with complications arising from a need for additional security or medical screening will take additional time for the visa officer to be satisfied that there are no security or medical concerns.

Private sponsors can check the status of their sponsorship application online and are generally advised 10 days in advance of the arrival their sponsored refugees.

Impacts on other refugee groups

2016 is expected to be the most ambitious resettlement year in Canadian history. In addition to Syrian refugees, Canada is planning to welcome thousands of refugees from other parts of the world.

In addition to Syrian refugees, Canada has several multi-year commitments under way to assist those in conflict zones. Applications already received for privately sponsored Iraqi refugees will continue to be processed.

Ontario Introduces Legislation to Encourage More Affordable Housing

Wed, 2016-05-18 14:43

The changes would amend four provincial acts to help increase the supply of affordable housing across the province and modernize existing social housing by:

  • Allowing municipalities to implement inclusionary zoning, which mandates that affordable units be included in new residential projects in willing municipalities.
  • Making secondary suites in new homes less costly to build by exempting them from development charges. Secondary suites are a potential source of affordable rental housing and allow homeowners to earn some extra income from their property.
  • Giving local Service Managers more flexibility to administer and deliver social housing in their communities, which will help to reduce wait lists and make it easier for Ontarians to access a range of housing options.
  • Encouraging more inclusive communities and strengthening tenant rights through reforms that prevent unnecessary evictions from social housing and modernize how rental property standards are enforced.
  • Supporting better program design and decision-making by requiring Service Managers to conduct local enumeration to count people who are homeless in their communities.

Ontario announced its update to the Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy in March 2016. The update focuses on making housing programs more people-centred and co-ordinated, and provides municipalities with flexibility to meet local needs through tools like inclusionary zoning.

Quick Facts

  • Inclusionary zoning has been used extensively by communities around the world, including in the United Kingdom and in over 500 municipalities in the United States.
  • In the coming weeks, the province will consult with municipalities, developers and other interested parties to help develop a framework for inclusionary zoning in Ontario.
  • The proposed framework for inclusionary zoning would allow municipalities to implement measures like height and density, and to offer incentives such as reduced parking, waived or reduced fees and faster approval processes. This would help to address potential issues related to the economic profitability of development proposals.
  • The updated Long-Term Affordable Housing Strategy reflects input the government received at 38 stakeholder meetings during summer 2015, and from 113 formal written submissions that reflect the housing needs of Ontarians across the province.
  • The revised strategy also reflects the recommendations made by the Expert Panel on Homelessness’ 2015 report and the recent report by the Mayor’s Task Force on Toronto Community Housing Corporation.
  • The 2016 Ontario Budget announced an investment of $178 million over three years to support the updated strategy.
Background Information

Additional Resources

Safe At Work Ontario Annual Report

Wed, 2016-05-18 13:41

The ministry has released its first Safe At Work Ontario Annual report to summarize the proactive activities conducted by its inspectors in 2014-2015.

The table of contents include:

Young and Temporary Foreign Workers Blitzes

Wed, 2016-05-18 13:29

From May 2 to June 30, 2016, Ministry of Labour employment standards officers will conduct two simultaneous inspection blitzes focusing on:

  • workplaces in sectors known to employ young workers (employees under the age of 25)
  • workplaces that employ temporary foreign workers

Young workers and temporary foreign workers may be at greater risk of having their employment standards rights violated as they work more often in precarious employment.

Precarious employment refers to work that is seasonal, part-time or temporary. Such work is unlike a traditional employment relationship that involves a full-time, permanent arrangement with one employer.

These employees may also lack the ability, language skills or resources to understand their rights.

Blitz Focus

In both blitzes, ministry employment standards officers will visit workplaces in sectors such as construction, food services and retail trade.

The officers will check that employers are complying with requirements under the Employment Standards Act, 2000 (ESA). Officers will focus on employment standards such as:

  • record-keeping
  • hours of work
  • overtime pay
  • vacation with pay
  • minimum wage
  • public holidays

Employment standards officers will take enforcement action, as appropriate, in response to any violations of the ESA.

The Ministry of Labour is committed to educating employers and employees, and ensuring those employees are treated fairly on the job. The goal is promote compliance so those engaged in precarious work receive their entitlements.

Additional Resources

Changes to Interim Federal Health Program Coverage in Dental Care

Wed, 2016-05-18 13:07

This bulletin is to confirm dental services covered by the Interim Federal Health Program (IFHP). Full details can be found in the benefit grid provided.

IFHP dental coverage provides coverage for emergency care for dental conditions involving pain, infection or trauma. It is not intended to provide on-going regular or routine dental care.

Services, post emergency exams and radiographs, are limited to emergency relief of pain or infection only. Routine care is not eligible. If the treating dentist considers additional treatment necessary, such as restorations and complicated extractions, a prior approval request must be submitted to Medavie Blue Cross before treatment begins. Please note that certain services such as root canals, prophylaxis, orthodontic treatment etc., including any procedures that are the initial steps towards these services, are not covered under IFHP dental coverage.

Access the benefit grid.


Ontario Re-introduces Legislation to Protect Students

Tue, 2016-05-17 15:39

Ontario is re-introducing legislation to protect children and students by making the disciplinary process for the province’s educators more clear and transparent.

If passed, the Protecting Students Act and subsequent regulations would improve the Ontario College of Teachers’ investigation and disciplinary processes, reduce the potential of conflict of interest and help protect children, students and teachers by:

  • Ensuring a teacher’s certificate is automatically revoked if he or she has been found guilty of sexual abuse or acts relating to child pornography
  • Requiring employers, including school boards, to inform the college when they have restricted a teacher’s duties or dismissed him or her for misconduct
  • Allowing the college to share information with the school board or employer if the subject of a complaint poses an immediate risk to a student or child
  • Requiring the college to publish all decisions from its discipline committee
  • Improving timelines for the investigation and consideration of complaints.

Quick Facts

  • The Ontario College of Teachers is an independent, regulatory body that is responsible for regulating the teaching profession in the province.
  • In June 2012, The Honourable Patrick J. LeSage released a report that contained 49 recommendations to modernize the Ontario College of Teachers’ investigation and discipline practices.
  • These recommendations were also relevant to the College of Early Childhood Educators, an independent, regulatory body that governs early childhood educators in the public interest.
  • In August 2015, amendments to the Early Childhood Educators Act came into force to address recommendations coming out of the LeSage Report.

Background Information

Additional Resources

Ontario Proposing To Ban Fees for Child Care Wait Lists

Tue, 2016-05-17 14:01

The proposed regulation is now available on the Ontario Regulatory website for public feedback. This consultation period will close on July 4, 2016.

Other key aspects of the proposed regulatory amendment are:

  • Requiring licensees to develop a public wait list policy that provides a clear explanation of how the licensee determines the order in which children on a wait list are offered admission.
  • Requiring the wait list status to be made available and in a manner that ensures confidentiality.
  • A proposed in-effect date of September 1, 2016.


Quick Facts

  • On May 16, 2016, Arthur Potts, MPP for Beaches – East York introduced a Private Member’s Bill in the Ontario legislature that would restrict licensees to charge non-refundable fees for child care wait lists.
  • In August 2015, the Child Care and Early Years Act, 2014, was proclaimed to strengthen oversight of the province’s unlicensed child care sector and increase access to licensed child care options.
  • On May 9, 2016 new regulations under the Child Care and Early Years Act were filed with the Ontario registrar and will take effect on a range of dates beginning on July 1, 2016.
  • Since 2003–04, the government has doubled child care funding to more than $1 billion annually.
  • Ontario is investing $269 million over three years to support a wage increase for early childhood educators and other child care professionals in licensed child care settings.
  • Since 2003, the number of licensed child care spaces in Ontario has grown to nearly 351,000 – an increase of 87 per cent.
  • In April 2015, the province announced $120 million over three years in new funding dedicated to building safe, high-quality, licensed child care spaces in schools across the province.
  • So far, $90 million has been allocated, resulting in almost 3,200 new licensed child care spaces coming soon to communities across Ontario.
Additional Resources

Backgrounder: Gender Identity and Gender Expression

Tue, 2016-05-17 13:47

Gender identity is each person’s internal and individual experience of gender. It is their sense of being a woman, a man, both, neither, or anywhere along the gender spectrum. A person’s gender identity may be the same as or different from the gender typically associated with their sex assigned at birth. For some persons, their gender identity is different from the gender typically associated with their sex assigned at birth; this is often described as transgender or simply trans. Gender identity is fundamentally different from a person’s sexual orientation.

Gender expression is how a person publicly presents their gender. This can include behaviour and outward appearance such as dress, hair, make-up, body language and voice. A person’s chosen name and pronoun are also common ways of expressing gender.

There are a variety of individual experiences of gender and of gender expression. The terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” include a wide range of gender diversity.

Transgender people routinely experience discrimination, harassment and even violence because their gender identity or expression is different from those typically associated with their sex assigned at birth.  A survey conducted by Trans Pulse Project in 2010 showed that, out of the 500 transgender respondents in Ontario, 13% had been fired and 18% were refused employment based on their transgender status. Twenty percent of respondents had been physically or sexually assaulted, but not all of these assaults were reported to police.

Updates to the Canadian Human Rights Act

The Canadian Human Rights Act (CHRA) prohibits discrimination in federally-regulated employment and the provision of goods, services, facilities and accommodation on the grounds of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered. Adding “gender identity or expression” to the list of grounds would make it very clear that transgender and other gender diverse persons have protection in the law.

Updates to the Criminal Code

The Criminal Code prohibits hate propaganda against an “identifiable group,” which is currently defined to be a section of the public distinguished by colour, race, religion, national or ethnic origin, age, sex, sexual orientation, or mental or physical disability. Adding “gender identity or expression” would extend protection against hate propaganda to transgender and other gender diverse persons.

The Criminal Code also provides that a judge, when sentencing someone for having committed an offence, must consider any relevant aggravating circumstances, including if the offence was motivated by bias, prejudice or hate based on race, national or ethnic origin, language, colour, religion, sex, age, mental or physical disability, sexual orientation or “any other similar factor”. While this phrase is broad enough to include gender identity or expression, an amendment would confirm the protection for transgender and other gender diverse persons.

New Educational Video Called ‘Know Your Rights’ from Ministry of Labour

Tue, 2016-05-17 09:18

The video provides viewers with an overview of core employment standards and is designed to help employees and employers understand their rights and obligations under the Employment Standards Act, 2000.

Know Your Rights is available on the Ministry of Labour website as well as the Ontario Government YouTube channel.

Promote awareness of this exciting new resource by sharing it with your clients and colleagues.

If you have a question about employment standards and would like to speak to one of the Ministry of Labour’s experts, call the Employment Standards Information Centre at:
416-326-7160 (Greater Toronto Area)
1-800-531-5551 (Toll-free)
1-866-567-8893 (TTY for the hearing impaired).
Information is available in multiple languages.

Ontario Introduces Reloadable Payment Card for Social Assistance

Mon, 2016-05-16 14:39

The card, provided by the Royal Bank of Canada, works in the same way as a debit card but does not require a bank account. Each month that a client is eligible for ODSP benefits, funds are loaded onto the card and clients can then use their card to make ATM cash withdrawals, as well as in-store or online purchases or payments. To ensure client privacy and safety, the cards are not monitored and they do not identify the cardholder as a social assistance client or a recipient of government services.

For individuals without bank accounts, reloadable payment cards offer many benefits, including:

  • Not having to use expensive cheque-cashing services and avoiding the risk of carrying large amounts of cash
  • Four no-fee ATM withdrawals per month and unlimited in-store or online payments and purchases
  • Enhanced security with PIN and chip technology.

The province will phase the new cards into use. In the first phase that is already underway, clients can volunteer to test the reloadable payment card and will provide feedback on the kinds of supports, information and processes needed to benefit fully from the card. This summer in a second phase, the card will be issued to all ODSP clients who are unable to open or maintain a bank account – with some exceptions, such as those who have limited access to a bank machine.

The reloadable payment card is part of the government’s plan to enhance social assistance, improve customer service, and make programs work better for clients.

Quick Facts

  • There are approximately 465,000 individuals on ODSP in Ontario.
  • 14 per cent, or 46,000, of ODSP clients still receive paper cheques, while 86 per cent use the preferred option of direct bank deposit.
  • The cost to implement the card is approximately $3.1 million. Replacing cheques with the card will save the government up to $1.7 million annually.
Additional Resources

Consultation with Canadians on Flexible Work Arrangements

Mon, 2016-05-16 14:35

Improving work-life balance for Canadians, while adding value to businesses, is the goal of a new consultation launched today by the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, MaryAnn Mihychuk. She is asking Canadians to have their say starting today as she launches a new consultation to bring the right to request Flexible Work Arrangements (Flex Work) to Canada.

Flex Work can take many forms but usually involves giving someone the right to change where or when they work to help balance other responsibilities. Reasons could include allowing someone to pick up or drop off their child at day care or school, to take care of a loved one, enrol in training or education program or participate in traditional Indigenous practices such as hunting or fishing. There are many reasons why someone might need a little more flexibility in their schedule, and under our plan they would have the formal right to request it.

Flex Work has a track record of benefitting businesses around the world. In the United Kingdom, research shows companies that embrace Flex Work found it easier to attract and keep top talent, giving them a competitive advantage. It also helps boost sales, employee job satisfaction, company innovation and productivity. Offering Flex Work supports workers and improves business results.

Canadians will have a chance to give their say to the Government through online and in-person consultations. Anyone can submit their views through an online survey open today until June 30, 2016. The Government will also hold roundtables across Canada in the coming weeks to hear from employers, workers, academics and others.

Quick Facts

  • Amending the Canada Labour Code to provide every federally regulated worker the right to formally request a flexible work arrangement fulfills a commitment in Minister Mihychuk’s mandate letter from the Prime Minister.
  • The Government will also work with interested provinces and territories to give their workers the right to request flexible work arrangements.
  • According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 58 percent of Canadians report “overload” due to the pressures associated with the many different roles they now play at home and at work.
  • Other countries, including the United Kingdom, have systems in place to allow workers to formally request flexible working conditions, and require employers to formally respond.

Associated Link

Consulting Canadians on flexible work arrangements

Chief Mountain Port of Entry is Re‑opening, and the Wild Horse Port of Entry Will be Extending its Hours for the Season

Thu, 2016-05-12 15:32

The Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) has announced that the Chief Mountain port of entry is re‑opening for the season, beginning Sunday, May 15, 2016. Additionally, the Wild Horse port of entry will be extending its hours for the season on May 15, 2016.

Chief Mountain is located along Highway 6 in Alberta. Last season, more than 119,000 travellers entered Canada at Chief Mountain and Waterton Lakes National Park, and CBSA officers are preparing for another busy summer.

The port of Wild Horse is located 68 km (42 miles) north of Havre, Montana on US Highway 232, and 145 km (90 miles) south of Medicine Hat, Alberta on Highway 41.


Quick Facts

Chief Mountain hours of operation (Mountain Daylight Time)

May 15, 2016 – May 31, 2016:                           9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.
June 1, 2016 – September 5, 2016:                   7:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
September 6, 2016 – September 30, 2016:        9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m.

Wild Horse hours of operation (Mountain Daylight Time)

May 15, 2016 – September 30, 2016:                 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
October 1, 2016 – May 14, 2017:                        8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
Associated Links

CBSA website
U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Launch of Consultation to Improve Employment Insurance Services

Thu, 2016-05-12 15:23

Millions of Canadians rely on the Government of Canada to provide them with easy access to the services and benefits to which they are entitled. They expect quality and fast service from their government—whether the service is provided online, over the phone or in person. According to Service Canada data, too many Canadians are not receiving the level of service they expect. When someone loses a job through no fault of their own or experiences a major life event, they should not have to wait weeks, even months, to receive support and benefits from a program that they paid premiums for as workers. The Government must make it easier for them to access these services and programs.

Through Budget 2016, the Government of Canada committed to improve services for Canadians. To support this commitment, the Government is taking action by launching the Employment Insurance Service Quality Review, a nationwide consultation process with key stakeholders and the public to seek their input on ways to improve services to Employment Insurance (EI) claimants.

Terry Duguid, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and Rodger Cuzner, Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Labour, in collaboration with Rémi Massé, Member of Parliament for Avignon–La Mitis–Matane–Matapédia, were asked by Ministers Duclos and Mihychuk to lead the review.

The review will examine how Service Canada administers the EI program so that resources are focused on providing the best possible service to Canadians. This exercise will be based on feedback from stakeholders and Canadians, performance measurement and evidence.

Quick Facts

  • In 2014–15, Service Canada received 2.8 million EI applications and issued $15.7 billion dollars in payments to claimants.
  • In 2015-2016, 10.3 million calls to the Employment Insurance (EI) call centre were unable to reach an agent and over a million calls were abandoned, meaning the caller hangs up while waiting.
  • Individuals who disagree with a decision related to their EI claim have the right to request reconsideration within 30 days from the date the decision was communicated. The Department aims to have 70 percent of decisions finalized within 30 days from receipt of the request. To date, this target has not been met. In 2015–16, the average time for completion was 38 days, with 56 percent of requests being completed within 30 days.


Associated Links

Employment Insurance Service Quality Review

Employment Insurance Service Quality Review Online Survey

Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) Vulnerability Measure

Thu, 2016-05-12 14:18

The OHS Vulnerability Measure, developed at the Institute for Work & Health (IWH), measures the extent to which a worker may be vulnerable to occupational health and safety (OHS) risks at work. IWH research has shown that vulnerability, as measured by this tool, is associated with elevated rates of self-reported work injury and illness.

The tool assesses OHS vulnerability in four areas: hazard exposure; workplace policies and procedures; worker awareness of hazards and OHS rights and responsibilities; and worker empowerment to participate in injury and illness prevention. Using the measure, a worker is considered most vulnerable to injury and illness when exposed to hazards in the workplace in combination with inadequate workplace policies and procedures, low OHS awareness and/or a workplace culture that discourages worker participation in injury and illness prevention.

The OHS Vulnerability Measure can be used to assess worker vulnerability at a point in time. It can also be administered again at a later date after introducing an injury and illness prevention program to gauge the success of the program in reducing vulnerability.

OAITH Foundations of Violence Against Women (VAW) Online Training Program Evaluation

Thu, 2016-05-12 14:13

The Ontario Association of Interval & Transition Houses (OAITH) is a provincial coalition founded by women’s shelter advocates in 1977. Membership includes first stage emergency shelters for abused women and their children, second stages housing programs and community-based women’s service organizations. OAITH works with member agencies to educate and promote change in all areas that abused women and their children identify as important to their freedom from violence. OAITH developed an online training course for individuals working or planning to work in the violence against women (VAW) sector, entitled the Foundations of VAW Online Training Course. OAITH requested an external evaluation of the Foundations course to be carried out by the Learning Network. The Learning Network is a provincial knowledge translation and exchange initiative at the Centre for research & Education on Violence Against Women & Children funded by the Government of Ontario through the Ontario Women’s Directorate.

With the guidance of its Provincial Resource Group, the Learning Network’s mandate is to build knowledge on gender-based violence, including the enhancement of supports for survivors, training for professionals, public education, and evaluation. The evaluation contained in this report includes both quantitative and qualitative assessments of participants’ perceived and actual learning from the Foundations course across two groups of participants. Results point to the value of the course in its positive impact on a variety of participant outcomes (e.g. knowledge, attitudes), as well as recommendations for future course development and evaluation.

Access the report.

Measuring Precarious Work and Its Impact on Health

Thu, 2016-05-12 09:36

Is employment becoming more precarious? And is precarious work associated with poorer health outcomes?

The answer depends on how you identify precarious workers in the data available, according to Dr. Wayne Lewchuk of McMaster University’s School of Labour Studies and Department of Economics. In a recent IWH plenary, Lewchuk introduced an index his team has developed to assess precarity. He also shared which employment characteristics included in this Employment Precarity Index are linked with workers’ health and mental health. The findings may surprise you.

Find out how researchers measure the impact of precarious work on health indicators, including physical and mental health. Find out how they tease out the interaction between poverty, precarious employment and health outcomes.

In this plenary, Dr. Wayne Lewchuk talks about the survey data collected by the Poverty and Employment Precarity in Southern Ontario (PEPSO) research group in 2011 and 2014. He compares the Employment Precarity Index developed by this group with the data collected by Statistics Canada on temporary employment, and highlights in particular how crude measures of precarity can lead to misleading conclusions regarding the impact of insecure employment on health outcomes.

Access the slidecast.

Employment Standards Multilingual Resources

Thu, 2016-05-12 09:22

The Ministry of Labour has recently published the following four Employment Standards resources in multiple languages:

These resources are available in:

  • Arabic
  • Chinese (Simplified)
  • Chinese (Traditional)
  • Hindi
  • Portuguese
  • Punjabi
  • Spanish
  • Tagalog
  • Thai
  • Urdu

Access a complete listing of all Ministry of Labour multilingual resources.

Launch of New Settlement Online Pre-Arrival (SOPA) Website with Video

Wed, 2016-05-11 09:35

SOPA is funded by Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC) It was created to improve connections between pre-arrival and post arrival services using Immigrant Services Association of Nova Scotia’s (ISANS) suite of professional online tools. SOPA’s professional orientation and courses ensures that immigrants develop job search and communication skills and arrive in Canada better prepared, more confident and enter the workforce sooner. SOPA seeks to provide these services in the following ways:

Skill Development: Participate in facilitated, interactive and informative online courses designed to prepare you for working in Canada.

Orientation: Learn about the essential skills necessary to find a job and be successful in your Canadian workplace.

Connect to Resources: Connect to key settlement and job search websites and supports before you arrive.

See attached spring quarterly newsletter.

Lived Experiences and Ideas for Change by Young People with Disabilities

Wed, 2016-05-11 09:04

Children and youth with special needs gathered to speak with government representatives, education leaders, health professionals and service providers about their lives, dreams, and changes they need to achieve their goals.

These youth represent the views of more than 170 submissions received by the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth as part of the “I Have Something to Say” project. The lived experiences and ideas for change shared by young people – many of whom have numerous or complex special needs – their families and caregivers from across Ontario are captured in a new report, “We Have Something to Say: Young people and their families speak out about special needs and change.”

An estimated 300,000 children under the age of 18, or one in nine children, have a special need in Ontario.  Special needs include behavioral issues, autism spectrum disorder, Down syndrome, mental health issues, and long-term medical conditions.

Irwin Elman, Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth said, “Like you and I, young people with special needs have ideas, dreams and talents; yet many are kept on the sidelines of their own lives when it comes to decision-making, denied opportunities, and access to the critical supports and services they need. As a result, many children and their families find themselves struggling, alienated, and discouraged from achieving their goals.”

The report captures the experiences of young people, their families and caregivers/care providers and the barriers they face because society often associates them with their special need. Many spoke of navigating multiple, confusing and fragmented systems of care tied to educational, health, financial and community services and supports. The Advocate’s Office repeatedly heard stories of families feeling overwhelmed having to play the additional role of medical caregivers, which in turn put substantial emotional, physical and financial burden. These frustrations are exacerbated if families live in isolated or remote communities, or are newcomers to Canada where English or French is not their first language.

A consistent theme is that young people received limited access to critical supports in the classrooms and in their health care. They also felt left out of the decisions about their lives or were denied opportunities to socialize with their friends, other kids, because of the label of “special needs or disability.”

The report outlines recommendations to bring multiple ministries together to address service gaps for children with special needs; involve young people in decision-making processes; change the way that young people are perceived by services providers, educators and government; and offer better supports for families. A copy of the report and the full list of recommendations are available at:

Young people and their families are encouraged to join the “We Have Something to Say” movement by sharing their stories and ideas for change at: #wehavesomethingtosay

About the “I Have Something to Say” project
In early 2014, the Advocate’s Office launched the I Have Something to Say project to elevate the voices of young people with disabilities in an effort to improve communication between children and youth with disabilities and those who are in a position to provide them services to fill the gap between policy and practice.

The Advocate’s Office conducted one-on-one interviews with young people, and received approximately 170 submissions in the form of written work, art, songs, videos and other mediums from hundreds of youth representing a cross-section of many different ages and abilities on the unique barriers they face trying to find or access services. Over time, the voices represented in the submissions took form and shaped the We Have Something to Say movement. This represents a mobilization as a community of young people, families, caregivers, service providers and others seeking to be part of creating collective, transformative change – the first of its kind in Ontario.

The Advocate’s Office has compiled their ideas in the report on what changes are needed in the system to ensure they receive the care and support they require in order to live healthily, thrive and succeed.

DNA Testing for Family Reunification in Canada: Points to Consider

Wed, 2016-05-11 08:55

Countries have adopted different laws, policies, and practices that allow immigration officers to request in certain cases DNA tests to confirm biological relationships in the context of family reunification. In Canada, Citizenship and Immigration Canada has adopted a policy of suggesting DNA testing only as a last resort in cases where no documentary evidence has been submitted or where the evidence provided is deemed unsatisfactory. However, in practice, there have been concerns on the increasing use of DNA tests in family reunification processes of nationals from certain regions including Africa, Asia, and Latin America. Moreover, the Immigration and Refugee Protection Regulations (IRPR) presents a biological definition of family as a determinant of parenthood in the context of family reunification that is inconsistent with the psychosocial definition used in provincial family laws. Although there are cases that can justify the request for DNA tests, there are also significant social, legal, and ethical issues, including discrimination and unfair practices, raised by this increasing use of genetic information in immigration. This policy brief identifies points to consider for policymakers regarding the use of DNA testing in Canadian family reunification procedures. These include (1) the need to refine the policy of “using DNA testing as a last resort” and its implementation, (2) the need to modify the definition of “dependent child” under the IRPR to reflect the intrinsic reality of psychosocial family ties, and (3) the importance of conducting more research on the use of DNA testing in other immigration contexts.

Access the full article.