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International campaigns, community actions, and other items that don’t come under our main campaign areas.
 
 

NOW Magazine: Voices in the void

Oct 1st, 2010 by Ellie Kinzer in the NOW Magazine Toronto

The emergency meeting of One-Toronto that brought 300 to the Church of the Holy Trinity Monday night, September 27, was both gratifying and slightly impossiblist.

The proceedings, which moved with military precision and no audience participation (save a Tabby Johnson singalong), were geared to reframing the current election debate. Backed by a coalition of labour, arts, enviro and social justice groups, OneToronto is dedicated to a vision of the city that “builds on its successes, cares for its neighbours, protects the environment and values community.”

So far, so good.

Chair John McGrath tells the enthusiastic crowd that he’s troubled by the negativity in the campaign. “There’s too much no and not enough yes,” he says, laying out OneToronto’s terms: “We won’t be endorsing any candidate; we want candidates to come to us to adopt our approach.”

Then a roster of impressive activists takes to the stage. Tam Goossen makes a pitch for pushing diversity issues, and Toronto Environmental Alliance’s Franz Hartmann says people have bought into the notion that something is terribly wrong with our city, but there are huge strengths we have to build on.

Annie Kidder scores thunderous clapping when she warns, “Beware of those who want to cut the fat from the system: one man’s or woman’s fat may be another’s flesh and bones.”

Prince Waifeh, an Acorn member, says, “Politicians ignore low-income people, so low-income people are ignoring the politicians.... We have to talk about issues that really matter.”

And former mayor David Crombie offers eloquent pleas for grassroots processes and reminisces about his youthful fight to save this very church, stressing that “the public has to be the push behind City Hall.”

Believe me, I really want to get excited, but my engines, I’m afraid, are starting to sputter. Animator-in-chief Jack Blum of REEL Canada urges the repetition “until you’re sick of it” of the following: 1) Facts, not fury. 2) Protect what’s great about the city. 3) My city includes everybody.

The idea is to ask candidates these questions: how would they tackle climate change, improve city services, invest in communities and further equity and diversity?

Everyone is told to write letters to editors, send video clips to OneToronto’s YouTube channel (onetoronto.ca), tweet messages to the site and text five friends to get them to email questions to candidates.

“We want to get more voices out there than the ones we hear,” says McGrath. Suddenly, sparks of light flicker through the sanctuary as cellphones get turned on for the networking effort.

Here’s my problem. I love all the stuff where people find each other online and feel all mass-movementish. Still, if the purpose is to thump Rob Ford, folks in this room contacting five of their buddies isn’t really going to be that effective, if you see what I mean.

More importantly, I’m not sure whether this crowd under the vaulted ceiling realizes what mix-and-match policy weirdness there is in this election. The David Miller legacy (if we dare use the word), though unacknowledged, hangs in the atmosphere.

So amidst all the chatter on fiscal responsibility and value for tax dollars, you’ll see even conservative-minded candidates, Fordists excluded, scraping together positions on OneToronto’s four concerns. It’s happening on the ward level, too. But while you can ask the four questions, what are the correct answers?

All mayoral hopefuls – minus Ford, who sticks rigidly to script – appear to favour the priority area plan and the liveable city. Conservative Sarah Thomson (no longer a candidate) pushes radical road tolls. Right-wing Rocco Rossi now likes bike lanes and wants to dramatically increase arts funding. George Smitherman’s got the Green Energy Act covered, but he’s also put privatizing garbage service on the table, and a tax freeze.

The truth, it seems, is more than a few questions away. But beyond references to the “values we share,” policy fine points aren’t a big item in the pews tonight. It’s all cozy and fun, but I’m really not sure we’ve made much headway.

Member Profile: Kay Bisnath

Since Kay joined ACORN Canada she has been active in the campaigns to regulate payday lending, license landlords and raise the minimum wage. She says her experience on these campaigns is something she never would have had if it weren’t for the ACORN Canada organizer who knocked on her door asking if she had any community issues she wanted to discuss.

“I want recognition from every MP, MPP and City Councilor for the fact that ACORN Canada is leading the change that we need in the City of Toronto, and across Canada.” That’s Kay Bisnath in a nutshell; she’s a leader who wants her organization to get the respect she feels it deserves.

Born in Trinidad, Kay emigrated to Canada and eventually settled in the Gordonridge neighbourhood of Scarborough, Toronto in 1999.  She signed up as a Toronto ACORN member in 2006, and was elected as the Chapter Chair of Gordonridge ACORN in 2007, before being elected to represent Toronto on ACORN Canada’s national board the following year.

Kay says the most rewarding part of representing Toronto ACORN members is that she is “able to work with a group of people from across the country who are committed to community change. To making our neighbourhoods liveable and workable again.”

Member Profile: Andrea Thomas

Andrea Thomas understands the power of a dollar.  She understood it when she came into Ottawa ACORN’s free tax prep site, hoping to save a couple bucks on the cost of her return and she understands what a couple extra dollars an hour would mean to low wage workers fighting for a municipal living wage policy.

That’s the kind of leader Andrea is.  A community leader from Ottawa’s Vanier neighbourhood who has been active in campaigns for fair housing and tenants rights, a living wage policy for Ottawa and taken part in countless community meetings.

As a mother of three, it hasn’t always been easy for Andrea to stay active in her local organization.  She says she’s driven by “knowing that through ACORN I can help my neighbours”, whether its working to get their landlord to do repairs or arranging transportation to City Hall for a meeting - and her neighbourhs know they can count on Andrea.  

When asked what she wanted Ottawa ACORN to work on in the last half of 2010, she replied “I hope that we win our living wage campaign, because its something working families desperately need”. Adding that “Ottawa need to understand that ACORN members are taking responsibility for our neighbourhoods, we know no one is going to fix that, we can only do that by organizing.”

 

Member Profile: Sheila Searles

Sheila Searles is a Leader from the South Ottawa ACORN. She's a woman who has always been an active in her community, having served on tenants associations and as the Shop Stewart for her union.

She first became ACORN member in early 2009 after attending her first local chapter meeting. Sheila first heard of ACORN when another member knocked on her door asking her to buy a raffle ticket to help support the leadership conference to Toronto last year.

Sheila has been an active and passionate activist in our housing campaigns since she joined and was part of the leadership team that negotiated major renovations from Ottawa Community Housing (OCH) in summer 2009.  Those negotiations lead to her building and the neighbouring building receiving much needed new investments including new carpets in the hallways, new paint in the hallways, new security camera, new lighting on the outside of her building, new alarm systems, and individual unit repairs. She continues to be a leader within her building and community and actively meets with OCH as a leader of ACORN to ensure repairs and issues are addressed.

Reception 2010

Support Working Families Fighting for a Livable Housing, Living Wages and Fair EI.

This is your chance to come out and celebrate 6 years of ACORN's organizing for justice, meet ACORN leaders, and learn about ACORN's victories.

We have had many important accomplishments in the last year:

  • Improved enforcement of Tenant standards;
  • Thousands of dollars invested by private landlords in apartment maintenance in Toronto and Ottawa;
  • Living Wage Campaigns Launched in Ottawa and Metro Vancouver.

We need your support to continue our organizing and leadership development efforts in low and moderate income communities.

When: May 13th, 2010 6:00-8:30

Where: 25 Cecil St., Toronto

About: The event will feature speakers, campaign highlights, awards, hors d'oeuvres and a cash bar.

For ticket info click here: http://2010reception.eventbrite.com/

Our sponsors

Statement Regarding ACORN USA

Earlier today ACORN USA announced that they would cease operating as of April 1st, 2010. We wanted to take this opportunity to assure our members, allies, and supporters that their announcement will have no impact on ACORN Canada's operations

ACORN Canada will continue to operate as normal; serving our membership, advancing our campaigns and providing services just as we have for the last 5 years.

Recent months and years have seen a coordinated political strategy aimed at defunding ACORN USA’s nearly 40 year history of organizing poor and working families for a social and economic justice. We remain proud of our shared tradition and are saddened by the news.

Some of the highlights of ACORN USA's recent history include:

  • Ballot initiatives that raised the minimum wage in 4 states in 2004
  • Passage of 11 living wage ordinances, and minimum wage increases in Illinois, Massachusetts,
    Florida, New York, and the City of San Francisco.
  • Legislation limiting predatory lending in Massachusetts, New Mexico, California, New York and
    New Jersey, and improvements in federal regulations.
  • Agreements negotiated with some of the nation’s largest subprime lenders, including Household
    Finance, Wells Fargo Financial, and CitiFinancial, to change abusive practices and provide direct
    financial assistance to borrowers trapped in harmful loans.
  • Fee reductions on high-cost tax Refund Anticipation Loans sold by H&R Block, the biggest
    commercial tax preparation company in the country.

To put the attacks against ACORN USA in context we recommend the following resources:

ACORN’s real crime: empowering the poor

http://www.alternet.org/story/145371/acorn%27s_real_crime:_empowering_the_poor?page=entire

ACORN’s back in the news and the news gets it wrong

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/peter-dreier/acorn-is-back-in-the-news_b_438478.html

Video: Rachel Maddow: The truth about the lies about ACORN

http://www.videosift.com/video/Maddow-The-Truth-About-the-Lies-About-Acorn

ACORN Wins: A 10 year monetary impact report

http://www.acorn.org/fileadmin/Reports/ACORN_Wins_Report.pdf

 

Environmental Change Program

ACORN Canada’s Environmental Change programs aim to increase the ability of community and neighbourhood groups to identify and undertake actions in their community, which will result in a reduction in greenhouse gas and smog causing emissions.

Community organizers engage these groups and helping them undertake range of actions to meet project objectives

The program works by engaging residents through door-to-door outreach; get commitments for participation; distribute information about the project; ivsit community organizations who expressed interest; hold planning meetings;  leadership development to find new projects leads. Get draft agenda together with project leads and assign new leaders to run meeting; announce decided initiative and go over what is needed to implement project; Get feed back; Develop implementation plan for project.

 

 

 

 

2009 year in review

2009 saw ACORN Canada achieve important milestones in organizational growth as well as progress on key campaigns.   ACORN Canada continued to be a leading voice for working families across the country while solidifying its position the largest national community organizing network.

Nationally, ACORN Canada passed the 30,000 mark in membership this year – meaning 30,000 + low and moderate income families across the country have now joined the organization and committed to building a national organization to defend and advance their interests. 

Raising Wages – ACORN Canada is now the driving force behind 2 campaigns attempting to establish the first Living Wage Bylaw.  In New Westminster BC as well as in Ottawa members are organizing vibrant campaigns to raise wages for working families.  

Quality Housing – In Toronto, ACORN’s multi year campaign to win landlord licensing has yielded major victories in the past year.  The City, for the first time since amalgamating, is now deploying a proactive inspection program that is leading to increased apartment repairs across the city.

Member Profile: Roy Anderson

Roy Anderson was a long time resident of Vanier who became involved with ACORN at the second meeting that was ever head after the founding of Ottawa ACORN.

Many members know Roy for his hard work on a number of campaigns, but most notably his leadership on the campaign to regulate payday lending.  After being taken advantage of an unscrupulous payday lender, Roy became a powerful advocate for reform of the industry.

He helped organize rallies, was a spokesperson to the press and worked to develop ACORN’s policies on the campaign.  During the midst of the campaign to see the province regulate payday lending Roy was fond of saying that “Before ACORN, no one was talking about payday lending. Now, we're winning change”.  

When Ottawa launched a tax site to help low income families with their income tax filling Roy was among the first to sign up to help.  He wanted the community to know that his organization wasn’t only out there opposing predatory financial practices; it was part of the solution.  With working families facing setback after setback because of the recession, Roy urged his neighbours to take advantage of the services, billing the tax site as a “mini-economic stimulus package for Vanier”.

On Oct. 22, 2009 Roy Anderson passed away.  He will be missed and remembered.

Member Profile: Tom Page

Like so many ACORN members, Tom Page first got involved as a member when a community organizer knocked on the door of his apartment in the Vancouver suburb of New Westminster.

The message of ACORN as an organization out there standing up for working families immediately resonated with Tom who has struggled for years living on BC’s Provincial Disability Program that has been frozen for years despite the skyrocketing cost of living.

Tom came to his first ACORN meeting shortly afterwards in the Whaley Chapter where members talked and planned action around tenants issues and other community concerns.  Since those first encounters with an ACORN organizer Tom has become one of BC ACORN’s leading members and has worked on the campaigns for tenants’ rights, a national affordable housing strategy and fair remittance rates for working families.  “I enjoy working with active and positive people who are committed to improving our communities and our world.  Most of the challenges that face us would be overwhelming if we tried to engage them alone, but with teamwork we can make a difference” he said.

As an active leader in BC ACORN Tom is now taking leadership in starting to get a Living Wage Campaign up and running in New Westminster.  By working with allies, helping build support for the campaign, and meeting with elected officials Tom has become a model of leadership in his community.  Something he attributes to that first knock on his door from an ACORN organizer – signing up as a member “Then and there”.

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