Being on social assistance draws more spite than race, colour, gender . . . but not more than being Muslim: survey | Toronto Star

Some interesting insights, particularly with respect to contacts or not between groups:

While racial profiling and sexual harassment may have grabbed the public spotlight, being poor and living on assistance is more likely to elicit hostility and prejudice than race, skin colour or gender — although being Muslim is marginally worse for this.

According to an Ontario Human Rights Commission survey released Friday, one in five Ontarians have negative feelings against those on social assistance, surpassing their unfavourable views against all other groups, except Muslims, who were disliked by 21 per cent of the respondents.

The statistically validated survey of 1,501 Ontarians was the first attempt by the province’s human rights watchdog to measure public awareness, perception and attitudes towards different groups, and learn about personal experiences of discrimination in order to guide its strategic plan in the next five years.

“It is important for institutions, such as the commission, to try and reach people we may not encounter in our day-to-day work, just to get a sense more broadly what some of the sentiments are,” said its chief commissioner, Renu Mandhane.

“It will provide useful info for the commission, for the government and community, about how we can more effectively advance the public discourse about human rights.”

The questionnaire, conducted earlier this year, found 63 per cent of respondents believed race or colour to be one of the most common reasons for discrimination in Ontario, followed by sexual orientation (34 per cent), disability (25 per cent) and creed or religion (24 per cent).

While almost half of the survey participants said they experienced some form of discrimination in the past five years, seven in 10 of Indigenous respondents said they received prejudicial treatment over the time period.

Only four per cent of respondents say they were victims of discrimination as a result of being on social assistance, but those who are unemployed, from the LGBTQ community, who have disabilities, are on a low income and have less education were way more likely to say so.

“People on social assistance tend to map out against the (human rights) code grounds . . . racialized, Indigenous, people with disabilities, single parent. What this data shows us is that even stripping that away, there is a unique form of discrimination that poor people face,” Mandhane said.

“There is a private member’s bill in Ontario right now to include social conditions in the code. This is a solid foundation for the need to have our code modernized to account for the fact that poor people face unique discrimination.”

Mandhane said the lack of exposure to people from different backgrounds can breed ignorance and prejudice.

When asked about how often they came into contact with specific groups, some people were more insulated from diversity than others:

  • 1 out of 10 respondents said they rarely or never interacted with someone with a different ethnic origin or creed and religion
  • 14 per cent had few contacts with people of colour
  • One quarter had no dealinsg with immigrants
  • Two out of five seldom or never interacted with Indigenous or aboriginal people
  • 61 per cent hardly knew of a refugee
  • 66 per cent had little to do with transgender people.

The commission will “start to look at how we reach young people and teach them about human rights. Every time there is some discussion about curriculum, it is a very polarized environment,” said Mandhane.

“But 89 of respondents would support more human rights education in schools, which suggests that this cuts across demographics, across the regions, across income levels and should be a solid basis to move forward on that commitment.”

In response to people in religious and cultural attire, most respondents said they were comfortable seeing someone wearing a Christian cross, Jewish kippah or traditional Mennonite clothing. One out of five felt discomfort with men wearing turbans or women in hijab (head scarf). However, 46 per cent of people disapproved of a niqab or veil covering a woman’s face.

While seven per cent of respondents said they experienced sexual harassment in the past five years, one in 10 women say this happened to them, compared to just three per cent of men.

Four in 10 people believed it was sometimes justified for police to profile certain groups, namely Muslims, Arabs, homeless people, South Asians, young people, Blacks and people with mental health disabilities and addictions.

via Being on social assistance draws more spite than race, colour, gender . . . but not more than being Muslim: survey | Toronto Star

Social Assistance Receipt Among Refugee Claimants in Canada: Evidence from Linked Administrative Data Files

A good illustration of the benefits to evidence-based policy making by linking administrative and economic data. Bit dry analysis but essentially shows that number accessing declines with time but remains about Canadian average:

Focusing on the middle estimate [which excluded non-linked files], the receipt of SA in year t+1 among the 2005-to-2010 claimant cohorts generally ranged between 80% and 90% across family types, with rates highest among lone mothers and couples with more than two children. Similarly, the incidence of SA receipt generally ranged from about 80% to 90% across families in which the oldest member was between 19 to 24 and 55 to 64 years of age. Across provinces, the incidence of SA receipt in year t+1 was generally highest in Quebec, at over 85%, and lowest in Alberta, at under 60%.

SA receipt varied considerably across country of citizenship. Refugee claimants from countries such as Afghanistan, Colombia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, and Somalia all had relatively high SArates (close to or above 90%) throughout most of the study period, while  rates were lower among refugee claimants from Bangladesh, Haiti, India, and Jamaica (generally below 80%).

The rates of SA receipt tended to decline sharply in the years following the start of the refugee claim. Between years t+1 and t+2, rates fell by about 20 percentage points among most claimant cohorts, declining a further 15 percentage points between t+2 and t+3, and 10 percentage points between t+3 and t+4. By t+4, between 25% and 40% of refugee claimants received SA. However, it is important to recall that these figures pertain to the diminishing group of refugee claimants whose claims remained open up to that year. These figures are also well above the Canadian average of about 8%.

Among refugee claimant families that received SA in year t+1, the average total family income typically ranged from about $19,000 to $22,000, with SA benefits accounting for $8,000 to $11,000—or about 40% to 48%—of that total.

In aggregate terms, SA income paid to all recipients in Canada totaled $10 billion to $13 billion in most years. Given their relatively small size as a group, the dollar amount of SA paid to refugee claimant families amounted to between 1.9% and 4.4% of that total, depending on the year and on the treatment of unlinked cases.

Source: Social Assistance Receipt Among Refugee Claimants in Canada: Evidence from Linked Administrative Data Files

Don’t cut social assistance for newcomers to Canada: Omidvar

Ratna Omidvar correctly calls out the Government on the omnibus budget bill provision allowing provinces to deny social assistance to refugee claimants:

Future citizenship is both policy and public philosophy. There is a clear and relatively quick pathway to citizenship for immigrants to Canada, although the waiting time is set to get longer in 2015. As for public philosophy, immigrant children learn in public schools from a young age that “you’re just as Canadian as anyone else.” Because this message is in our books and infused in our day-to-day, the idea that immigrants are future citizens actually becomes lived expression.

In the last of her Massey Lectures on citizenship, Adrienne Clarkson explains why the Canadian mindset works using the theory of Hans Vaihinger, who thought that to act “as if” something is true is a practical way to get there.

Because we treat newcomers as future citizens, serious investment is made in their health, well-being and skill level from the start, often regardless of immigration status. Canada has a robust settlement sector, we pay for language courses, we extend health care and social services to non-citizens, and some cities invite non-citizens to sit on local boards. The Canadian mindset is why our school boards and police services follow a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy, so that status does not determine access to essential services. When we act as if newcomers are citizens, they truly are citizens in the making.

But this core trait that makes us work — and that’s exportable to countries like Germany where the citizenship laws are under revision — is being chipped away by policies introduced by this government. I alluded to one of these changes already: the coming increase in residence time from three to four years before applying for citizenship.

But there is another change buried in a thick new omnibus bill and it is far worse. It would allow provinces to restrict refugee claimants and others without permanent status from accessing social assistance by lifting a ban on minimum residency requirements — a ban that said we don’t care if you’ve been here for two years or 24 hours, if you’re a refugee claimant or other temporary resident, you will be treated humanely. In the worst-case scenario if this law is passed, people without permanent status would lose social assistance, which for some is their only source of income.

Don’t cut social assistance for newcomers to Canada | Toronto Star.

Refugee advocates battle federal government over welfare

More on the Government’s decision to allow provinces to restrict access to refugee claimants to social assistance.

As usual, appears limited or no consultations with provinces, no evidence-base provided as justification, and buried in the omnibus budget bill to avoid Parliamentary scrutiny and debate:

Ontario says it won’t go along with a proposed federal bill that refugee groups fear could severely restrict their clients’ access to welfare during their first months in Canada.

“We have no intention to change our policy as it relates to refugee claimants at all,” Community and Social Services Minister Helena Jaczek said in an interview Tuesday.

She was referring to the ongoing fight is over provisions in Bill C-43 an omnibus budgetary bill. Refugee groups say the proposals will allow provinces to restrict access to social assistance for refugee claimants and others who have not yet been granted permanent residence.

“We were not consulted. There was no communication from the federal government alerting us. We were very surprised,” Jaczek said of the omnibus bill.

“It’s sort of a downloading to the province to make a decision.”

On Tuesday the Canadian Council for Refugees joined 160 groups across Canada to release an open letter to federal Finance Minister Joe Oliver to withdraw the proposals, and a small group demonstrated in front of his constituency office in Toronto and delivered the letter through the mail slot.

“To receive social assistance in any province, one must already qualify through testing and demonstrate great need. To then deny social assistance based on immigration status is to cruelly deny the most vulnerable in our society the crucial lifeline that allows them to survive,’’ the groups say in the letter.

Refugee advocates battle federal government over welfare | Toronto Star.

Omnibus budget bill restricts refugee access to social assistance

Whether or not you agree with the restriction (given that the major changes to the refugee system have dramatically reduced the numbers claiming refugee status, hard not to see this as more ideologically driven than based upon evidence), it is abuse of Parliament to include this measure (along with far too many others) in the Omnibus Budget Bill.

Not the first government to stuff budget bills with measures that should be debated and reviewed separately (Liberals under Chrétien started the trend), but as the Globe editorial notes, this government has taken this to new lows –Harper’s Ottawa is Omnibusted):

Although he did not take issue with the timing, New Democrat MP Craig Scott said the government uses omnibus bills precisely to avoid scrutiny of controversial provisions like the refugee social assistance cuts.

Scott called the social assistance and health care cuts “a one-two punch,” aimed at discouraging vulnerable, desperate people from finding their way to Canada and claiming refugee status, even though many claimants turn out to be genuine refugees.

“It suggests to me that they are pursuing the Fortress Canada approach to refugees to the nth degree,” said Scott, adding that the NDP will press the government to split the refugee provision from the budget bill.

“We want this pulled, simply because it’s frankly so offensive that they can’t justify the substance, let alone how they’re doing it.”

A spokesman for Immigration Minister Chris Alexander defended the notion of restricting refugees access to social assistance in essentially the same language the government used to justify limiting their access to health care.

“Canada has the most fair and generous immigration system in the world,” said Kevin Menard.

“However, Canadians have no tolerance for those who take unfair advantage of our generosity.”

Menard added that allowing provinces to impose minimum residency requirements would build on the savings already racked up as a result of reforms to the refugee asylum system, which he pegged at $1.6 billion over five years.

He stressed, however, that it’s up to each province to decide whether to impose minimum periods of residence to qualify for social assistance.

Deputy Liberal leader Ralph Goodale called the governments latest move on refugees the product of a “nasty, vindictive and irresponsible” ideology.

Omnibus budget bill restricts refugee access to social assistance – Politics – CBC News.