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Defining ‘urgent’ in the global pandemic

May 1st, 2020 by Karly Wilson

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Seven weeks ago, we rolled our eyes when an email was labelled “Urgent.” It felt like a term thrown around too often, and with little meaning or weight. Like new alerts popping up on cell phones, there didn’t seem to be enough discernment about what was and was not worthy of panic and alarm.

Now, everything is urgent. There is an urgent need for medical supplies, for funding, for mental health support, for employment insurance reform, for a vaccine, for a cure. This has created an awkward and noticeable push to fill needs that social justice advocates have always considered urgent, but are suddenly (urgently!) gaining widespread support.

Individuals with disabilities, long having been told that their needs are too big to accommodate, are watching mass support roll out to assist the workforce. Advocates for a universal basic income are watching as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is instituted in a matter of weeks. At our firm, a large part of our practice focuses on supporting affordable housing initiatives, and we too have watched as our city (Toronto) has suddenly been at the forefront of creating new housing solutions for individuals experiencing homelessness.

In short, we are seeing concerns long considered urgent to finally be met with a sense of … well … urgency. Continue reading “Defining ‘urgent’ in the global pandemic”

Housing in the time of COVID-19

March 27th, 2020 by Safia Lakhani

This article was first published on rabble.ca

The first cases of COVID-19 are suspected to have occurred in Wuhan, China late last year. A few short months later, it has had far reaching and devastating consequences for economies around the world. Along with the loss of regular social contact and increasing uncertainty in employment, some will be at risk of losing access to housing. While several international treaties recognize housing as a human right, few governments have enacted domestic laws that ensure access to adequate housing for all citizens. In the midst of this global pandemic, calls for social distancing and sheltering in place are meaningless without access to shelter. Continue reading “Housing in the time of COVID-19”

Clearer rules needed for facial recognition technology

February 28th, 2020 by Michael Hackl

A version of this article was first published on rabble.ca

In a previous column, I wrote about the dangers that some police technology poses for civil liberties. In that column, I addressed police use of a computer program that claims to identify geographic areas that are more likely to experience crimes in order to direct police resources to those areas. Now, with Toronto police Chief Mark Saunders’ recent admission that some officers in the Toronto Police Service have been using a piece of facial recognition software called Clearview AI (named for the company that developed the software) since at least October 2019, we have another example of how law enforcement can use technology in a way that seriously threatens our civil liberties.

Clearview AI has apparently mined the internet for billions of photos of people, largely from social media sites and the open web, whereas other companies providing facial recognition technology to police rely upon government sources such as mugshots and driver’s license photos. Continue reading “Clearer rules needed for facial recognition technology”

Canada’s social economy about to get a boost, but problems remain

February 7th, 2020 by Brian Iler

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Canada’s social economy — those social enterprises (nonprofits, charities and co-operatives) that generate income in pursuit of social goals instead of profit — is about to get quite a boost.

Quietly, but thoughtfully and effectively, the federal government has initiated and funded, with serious money, a brand-new program creating the Social Finance Fund, to drastically expand the social economy.

This year, $50 million is flowing, and is set to quickly increase to $75 million per year for the next 10 years.

The fund is intended to address a major impediment to growth of the social economy — the shortage of investment capital.

While the private sector readily raises millions through Bay Street’s financial institutions, social enterprises don’t attract their interest. Instead, to be successful, social enterprises rely heavily on the communities they serve for financial support. And that often isn’t enough.

Hence the fund.

The creation of the fund was one of 12 recommendations in support of social innovation and social finance made to the federal government made in August 2018 by a steering group broadly representative of social economy organizations. Continue reading “Canada’s social economy about to get a boost, but problems remain”

Legal cannabis enters into debate about where Canadians can smoke

December 21st, 2019 by Celia Chandler

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Most people recognize that people have a right to live their lives so long as they don’t negatively affect their neighbours. But let’s face it — many things that people do have the potential to bug others: too loud music, intense cooking smells, children running around, dogs pooping in the wrong place, too many visitors, too much loud arguing, the list goes on.

Nothing, however, has the potential to irritate neighbours quite as much as cigarette and cannabis smoke. At least that’s our recent observation from our work helping housing providers deal with behaviours that don’t conform to providers’ standards. Add the fact that many people have medical conditions that are worsened by smoke and you’ve got a recipe for neighbourhood conflict.

Continue reading “Legal cannabis enters into debate about where Canadians can smoke”

Exploring new ways for charities to work in partnerships

December 10th, 2019 by Ted Hyland

This article was first published on rabble.ca

Registered charities in Canada find themselves increasingly drawn to find ways of operating through partnerships and networks. There are two legal impediments they face in doing their work. One is the requirement under the Income Tax Act that charities carry on their own activities themselves, known as the “direction and control” requirement. The other impediment is the prohibition against registered charities making gifts to any entity that is not a qualified donee (qualified donees are registered charities and other various tax-exempt entities specified in the act).

The Canada Revenue Agency’s (CRA) view is that charities are allowed to use their resources in only one of two ways: either by making gifts to other qualified donees (for most charities, this means to other registered charities) or by applying their resources to their “own activities,” which the charities must carry on themselves.

It is in this context that the Senate Special Committee on the Charitable Sector, established in January 2018, held hearings into the effect of laws and policies on the charitable sector. It issued its report, Catalyst for Change: A Roadmap to a Stronger Charitable Sector, in June 2019.

Continue reading “Exploring new ways for charities to work in partnerships”