Education / Status of Women
STANDING COMMITTEE ON LEGISLATION
Chair: Sheila Lacroix
Members of the Legislation Committee monitor current provincial legislation and meet to identify, discuss and learn about current issues. Skills are also gained in how to influence public policy. Between meetings, members are active following through with activities in their home Clubs. This may involve urging their Club to inform local MPPs of CFUW policy, assisting individual members to take action, or collecting information on issues that affect their community.
Topic: Act Locally. Advocating at the Municipal Level.
Speaker: Toronto City Councillor Janet Davis
Our afternoon guest was Toronto City Councillor Janet Davis, Beaches - East York, a mixed income ward with challenges common within many municipalities. A councillor since 2003, Janet is known as a strong supporter of city services that promote healthy, safe communities, including child care services. Prior to her career as Councillor, Janet was instrumental in developing child care at the Toronto District School Board. Her expertise and background in Early Learning and Child Care (ELCC) enabled us to build on the theme of the morning guest speaker, Shannon Fuller, Assistant Deputy Minister, Early Years Division, Ministry of Education.
Councillor Davis provided:
- an overview of the complexities and disadvantages of Canada's existing funding system;
- current challenges in providing social services, in particular ELCC, at the municipal level; and
- insight into the workings of municipal politics.
Closing the Gender Wage Gap
Speaker: Jan Borowy, Equal Pay Coalition and Doris Mae Oulton, Past President, CFUW for Linda Davis, Ontario Government’s Gender Wage Gap Strategy Steering Committee
Closing the Gender Wage Gap (GWG) was selected as the theme to kick start our journey of learning and advocacy for 2017. The gap remains high, at approximately 30 %. Equal Pay Day this year is April 19, symbolizing how far into the year women must work to earn what men earned last year. What drives this gap? What can be done?
Setting the Stage
This write-up will only include highlights selected to inform and guide our work. Our speakers offered helpful information and advice. It is recommended that you check the CFUW Ontario Council website to consult the resources provided on this topic, including speaker presentations plus the handout Gender Wage Gap in Ontario Backgrounder that lists the recommendations of both the Gender Wage Gap (GWG) Strategy Steering Committee and the Equal Pay Coalition (EPC).
Topic: Legislation and Policy 101
Facilitators: Sheila Lacroix, Chair, Legislation Committee and Teri Shaw, Chair, Advocacy
In the first section, How to Find What you Need, Sheila concentrated on the basics of the legislative process: how parliaments works; how to find legislation, both Ontario and Federal; how to track the life of a bill; the importance of knowing and understanding human rights legislation. Throughout the process, points where advocacy is most effective, such as the committee stage when submissions are often requested, were highlighted.
In the second section, How to Use What you Find, Teri spoke of using this information for CFUW clubs and individual members, as well as individuals.
Her main emphasis built upon the first section, whenever doing any advocacy work, either for the organization or for yourself think of the questions What? Why? Who? When? Where? and How? … READ MORE
The theme for the March 12th sessions hosted by the Legislation Committee was Syrian refugee resettlement. In the morning, our two guests took us from the streets and settlements of Turkey for a glimpse into the lives of transient Syrians, to the strategies and services in Canada to support the arrivals.
The morning plenary began with Dr. Secil Ertorer’s presentation: A Struggle to Survive: Syrian Refugees in a Hostile Zone. Dr. Ertorer, an Assistant Professor at the Department of Sociology and the Centre for Refugee Studies at York University, spent time in Turkey last summer visiting refugee settlements and documenting both the serious challenges faced by these displaced peoples and the Turkish government’s policies that create barriers. Dr. Ertorer began with a short but powerful video, Syria’s War: A (5) Minute History available on YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cgi9tz3IZWQ. It emphasizes the complexities of the power struggles in the current war and concludes that there is no end in sight. It is no wonder so many have fled their homes in hopelessness and are traumatized. Secil’s presentation really emphasized the human tragedy brought about by despotic leaders who have no concern for humanity – even their own citizens!
See full report of Morning Plenary
In the afternoon, Dr. Agic joined us as we moved into more practical aspects of supporting refugees in our communities. Some Ontario CFUW clubs are sponsoring or co-sponsoring a family; others are offering assistance to local refugee sponsors. Outside of CFUW work, many of our members are volunteering on refugee sponsorship committees. It was an opportunity to learn and share experiences
See full Report of afternoon session
See full report of the Legislation Committe.
Topic: Protecting Water Quality in Ontario
Speaker: Erica Stahl, Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA)
This report focuses primarily on the Legislation Committee meeting September 26 when we welcomed Erica Stahl, Counsel, Canadian Environmental Law Association (CELA). CELA is involved in many environmental issues, including protecting our water. It is a member of the Great Lakes Protection Act Alliance (GLPAA), which has been actively engaged in consultations regarding both prior versions of the bill to protect the Great Lakes and the current Bill 66 which probably will have passed third reading by the time this newsletter is published.
CELA is an Ontario specialty legal aid clinic funded by Legal Aid Ontario. Events such as the Walkerton water contamination disaster were a driving force in putting water quality on the agenda. CELA works on behalf of individuals and non-profit citizen groups experiencing pollution and other environmental problems. Its services include litigation, law reform and public legal education. It is currently supporting the Grassy Narrows First Nation in its battle against the Government of Ontario for allowing clear cutting of forests that will release mercury into the waterways. This could be a groundbreaker; if this case is won, section 7 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms will broaden protection from harm and discrimination to include that arising from environmental degradation.
CELA follows a “watershed approach” which includes activities that impact water quality at every stage throughout the watershed, from protecting drinking water sources through to ensuring regulatory oversight with checks and balances. Erica recommended that we focus on the first stage: protecting drinking water sources, as it is the most important and the easiest to control. The purpose of the Clean Water Act, 2006, is to protect current and future sources of drinking water. The CELA website, www.cela.ca, has fact sheets to answer your questions.
There are many provincial laws impacting water and the watershed. An example is the Safe Drinking Water Act passed in 2000 and the Clean Water Act already mentioned. There are also agreements, such as the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement (GLWQA) between the United States and Canada that was signed in 1972 and has been updated several times, most recently in 2012. Its purpose is to protect the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River Basin. It is not legally binding but can be used to put pressure on municipalities. Some of the issues:
• Pathogens: The Great Lakes receive billions of litres of wastewater annually from municipal sewage and storm water run-off, as well as billions of litres of untreated sewage as a result of aging sewer systems, and by passes. Heavier rains as a result of climate change are affecting storm water overflows.
• Toxic Chemicals: Facilities releasing toxic chemicals, in some cases toxic chemicals that are carcinogens, are tracked by Environment Canada. Erica showed a map indicating concentrations of facilities releasing chemicals showing alarmingly heavy concentration in particular in southwestern Ontario, in the ‘Golden Triangle’ (Hamilton Greater Toronto Area) and along the St. Lawrence River.
• Nutrients, primarily phosphorus: This is the cause of the algal bloom in the western part of Lake Erie and is primarily the result of agricultural.
Over 250 pollutants have been found in our waters. Many are from commercial products such as deodorants and pharmaceuticals. Benzene, a carcinogen, is found everywhere. Unfortunately, the targets set in the GLWQA were not updated in the 2012 revision and toxic chemicals have lost priority; in fact, no list of toxic substances is in the agreement so action is yet to be determined. However, its scope was expanded to include dealing with climate change and invasive species.
Another strong voice is the Great Lake City Initiative. CFUW members are urged to find out if your city participates. This could be a venue for partnering to advocate for local water issues that arise.
Great Lakes Protection Act
This is a current priority. The previous two bills died, but the current Bill 66 is going to third reading this week. CELA and other GLPAA members sent a submission recommending amendments and CFUW Ontario Council joined the group in signing this submission. Some purposes include establishing: a Great Lakes Guardian Council; a 6-year Great Lakes Strategy; monitoring and reporting standards.
Erica ended with some actions our Clubs can take.
• Contact our MPPs regarding the Great Lakes Water Protections Act. As I write, this could have passed third reading. If so, you can still write your MPP with your expectations that the government will commit to ensuring sufficient resources to implement the legislation to its full extent.
• Push for a stronger implementation of the GLWQA with a focus on prevention rather than control of toxic substances. You can monitor your municipality to determine if anything is being done to prevent contamination.
• Engage in local implementation of the Source Water Protection Plans developed under the Clean Water Act.
If you require any assistance with letter writing, let me know. Remember, letters send with your Club’s voice and perspective are more effective that a ‘form letter’. However, it certainly helps to have a couple of samples on hand.