OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister and Housing Minister on human rights based national housing strategy needed to house all Canadians

Canada is gripped by an unprecedented pandemic. Every single person across the country is affected by it and those who live in the margins of society are particularly vulnerable and face heightened risks. For the homeless population, the risks are glaringly apparent as they have no ability to engage in any of the safe practices recommended by medical officers.
Notwithstanding the fact that in 2019, Canada recognized that the right to adequate housing is a fundamental human right as affirmed in international human rights laws, it remains that Canada has a wide spread housing and homelessness crisis. The current COVID-19 pandemic brings to light in no uncertain terms the importance of housing for not only an individual's health, but for the overall health and safety of our communities.
The homelessness crisis is not only an affront to human rights, but also poses an enormous national public health risk. The lack of a coordinated, national strategy means that people will inevitably fall through the cracks of the patchwork efforts. This puts the individuals and the communities they live in at risk.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Immigration, Minister of Finance and Minister of Employment to address urgent immigration concerns

I write to you today to follow-up on the numerous concerns I have raised in previous letters to your offices regarding the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic for those engaged in the immigration process. To date, I have yet to receive any reply. As time goes by, the situation for those affected are growing increasingly dire and they deserve answers now. Throughout this pandemic it is essential we take care of the migrant population, as they have done for us.
I am therefore writing with a renewed sense of urgency to seek answers for the following questions.

OPEN LETTER to small business minister on support for self-employed individuals and sole-proprietors

….deep concern over the lack of support for self-employed individuals and sole-proprietors across Canada. In my home province of British Columbia, one-third of small businesses don’t believe they’ll qualify for the support that the government has given. This is especially true for businesses with less than 5 employees, of which nearly half don’t qualify for government support.
Several sole-proprietors have reached out to me personally for help because of the lack of assistance available to them. Many do not qualify for the business supports because they do not meet the payroll requirements, they rely on contract workers, are family-owned, or pay themselves in dividends. Your government has designed the current programs to exclude them. They cannot access the loan, wage-subsidy, or work-share programs. The only support they may qualify for is the individual CERB, which is not enough to get by with the overhead costs these businesses must continue to pay.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Finance, Minister of Employment and Minister of Immigration on support emergency support for migrant workers and temporary residents

The Covid 19 pandemic has impacted everyone across Canada. I am writing to you today with my concerns about the desperate need for support for migrant workers and temporary residents during this COVID-19 pandemic. While it is welcomed that the government has put in place the Canadian Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) as income support for eligible individuals including migrant workers; unfortunately, the reality for many in this country is that they s5ll cannot access it. In particular, I would like to flag to your attention the countless migrant workers and temporary residents across the country who are in dire need.
With the current CERB requirements, those applying must have a valid Social Insurance Number (SIN). This is a problem as many migrants do not have a valid SIN for a variety of reasons. It has come to my attention that the study permit for Alina Przybly, an international student from Toronto expired in January. Notwithstanding the fact that her employer closed the restaurant that she was working at because of the pandemic, due to processing delays at IRCC, she is unable to have her study permit extended. This has caused her SIN to expire. Without a valid SIN number, she is ineligible for CERB. Ms. Przybly is now in a dire situation through no fault of her own.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Minister and ministers on ensure seniors’ GIS won’t be disrupted

Therefore, I call on your government to grandfather in all seniors receiving Guaranteed Income Supplement, by automatically renewing their GIS for the 2020-2021 year. Doing so would ensure that no senior loses this vital source of income at a time when maintaining income security for seniors is crucial for their health and safety.
Another issue that the Centre has flagged for me is an issue of GIS eligibility for the 2021-2022 year, which will be based on 2020 income. Some seniors will have received some emergency government support to cope with COVID-19; for example, in BC, the provincial government is offering $300 in assistance for seniors in receipt of the provincial Senior’s Supplement, a measure for very low-income seniors. The Centre has advised that seniors are worried that receipt of this supplement would mean they may not qualify for GIS next year, or that it would have the effect of lowering their eligible GIS monthly amount. In light of this, I call on your government to affirm that any and all COVID-19 emergency aid measures will be exempted from the income calculation for GIS purposes.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister on US border restrictions on asylum seekers

As it stands, the government announced this temporary measure would be extended for an additional 30 days, with Prime Minister Trudeau stating these restrictions will not be lifted anytime soon. This is particularly concerning as there is a lack of clarity on assurances from the U.S. as to how asylum seekers who are turned away under this policy would be treated. A recent article published on April 10, 2020, from BBC News acknowledged a disturbing leaked document on the U.S. border controls that are currently taking place. The full leaked document can be found here: CAPIO.html. According to the document, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol have very broad powers. There is no clarity on what will happen to individuals who attempt to enter Canada to seek refugee protection and are turned back to the United States.
Given the government’s policy directive to turn back all irregular asylum seekers from the U.S. at the border, it is important that Canadians are given assurances that we have done our own diligence with respect to our international obligations.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister, Health Minister and National Revenue Minister on expanding emergency wage subsidy

As workers, businesses and organizations await the full rollout of the Canada Emergency Wage Subsidy Program (CEWS), I am hearing from organizations and entities who seeking assistance to retain employees, meet urgent funding shortfalls and prevent suspension or closure of operations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. These organizations and entities have been excluded from eligibility for the CEWS, and appeal for an expansion of the criteria in order to prevent negative fallout ranging from shutdown of projects to loss of staff to permanent closure, all of which will have cascading consequences for our community.
The eligibility criteria specifically exclude public bodies, including “municipalities and local governments, Crown corporations, wholly owned municipal corporations, public universities, colleges, schools and hospitals”.

OPEN LETTER to federal and provincial health minister, BC housing minister and Vancouver mayor on the supply of PPE to NGO and senior homes

It is my understanding that many nonprofit housing providers and care homes funded by B.C. Housing and the regional health authorities are part of a coordinated effort to receive PPE procured by the government, and many have received supplies.
I am concerned that senior’s care homes who are not operated and funded by B.C. Housing and the health authorities are still struggling to obtain PPE for their staff. In particular, Vancouver Grace Seniors Home (333 E Pender St, Vancouver, BC V6A 1V1), a care home in my riding, has reached out to me to inform me that they have been unable to obtain PPE for their staff.

OPEN LETTER to Deputy Prime Minister, Finance Minister and Employment Minister on assistance for single parents whose spousal and child payments are interrupted due to Covid-19

Based on the current eligibility rules for CERB, it would appear that single parents who are no longer receiving vital spousal or child support payments due to their ex-partners' income being affected by COVID-19 are not eligible.
Understandably, changes in an individual’s financial circumstances have been magnified during this time. This extends to ex-partners no longer having the income to make their spousal and child support payments, and in effect many single parents are suddenly left scrambling as their income has been severely reduced. Currently, child and spousal support do not qualify as income for the purposes of Employment Insurance (EI), nor as revenue for the purpose of qualifying for CERB.

OPEN LETTER to Finance and Transportation Minister on emergency funding for Translink

We are writing to bring to your attention the serious financial difficulty of TransLink funding for public transit due to Covid 19. Since the novel coronavirus pandemic in mid-March, TransLink ridership in Metro Vancouver has gone down 80%, resulting in a $2.5 million revenue shortfall per day or a staggering $75 million revenue shortfall per month. Not only that, special measures have been in place in order to implement physical distancing rules as directed by public health officers: rear-door boarding, limited seating capacity and increases in cleaning and sanitizing requirements. The scheduled fare increase on July 1 has been suspended, due to the economic crisis caused by the pandemic.

TransLink plays a vital role in ensuring the 75,000 essential workers in our region, such as nurses, hospital workers, and grocery workers, get to work by public transit every day during Covid19. Without an immediate injection of funding from the federal government, TransLink may face insolvency as early as June. The revenue shortfall will also impact the HandyDART accessible transportation service.

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