June 2008

Growing Stronger Together
Whitney Block, Room 4620
99 Wellesley St. West
Toronto, ON M7A 1A1

Attention: The Honourable Deb Matthews,
Chair of the Cabinet Committee on Poverty Reduction
Minister of Children and Youth Services and Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues

Dear Minister Matthews:

Opening our hands to share the bounty

Greetings from the Anglican Diocese of Niagara.

We are writing to express our thanks for your leadership in the development of the Province’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and to add our voice to the many you have already heard.

The Diocese lies at the western end of Lake Ontario. Its backbone is defined roughly by the Niagara Escarpment from the Niagara River in the east to the Dundas Valley in the West and north to Shelburne, Mt. Forest and Orangeville. The area served includes the Niagara Peninsula, Hamilton, The Region of Halton, Guelph, Wellington County, and Dufferin County.

Christ’s Church Cathedral, the centre our Anglican life in this diocese, is located at 252 James St. North in Hamilton and is one of the historic buildings in the City of Hamilton. It is also at the centre of one of the most impoverished communities in the country.

Our mission as Church calls us to both loving service of our neighbours and to action to transform the structures of society that oppress our neighbours, leaving them living in poverty. As people of faith, we seek the development of a just society where all can flourish, even the most vulnerable, poor and dispossessed.

We are filled with hope that true structural change and improvement in living conditions is possible at this time as those who live in poverty, research poverty, serve those in poverty, and the provincial government work together on the development of Ontario’s poverty reduction strategy.

We acknowledge that the government has announced that its first focus is child poverty. However, a focus on children needs to recognize that children live in families in communities – we need healthier, stronger and more inclusive communities now.

As Church, we daily bear witness to all those who suffer due to poverty. We must name the injustices experienced by those who live in poverty – those people of aboriginal background, those living with mental illness, newcomers and refugees, visible minorities, single people, the elderly, the disabled, women fleeing abuse – and we call on the government to develop an effective poverty reduction strategy that will assist all people living in poverty in the province to live with dignity in a more just society.

We support the 25 in 5 founding declaration in that we agree Ontario’s poverty reduction plan should address three priorities:

1. Sustaining employment – means assuring a living standard above poverty for any adult who works full time throughout the year. It means fair pay and stable working conditions for all Ontarians. It means appropriate labour standards and increased enforcement especially for contract, temporary, and part time work as well as regulations and supervision of temporary employment agencies.

2. Livable incomes – means dignity for all Ontarians – including those unable to work. It means increased social assistance rates for recipients of Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program benefits.

3. Strong and supportive communities – means affordable housing, early learning and child care, public education and community programs that help people connect.

In the short term, we realize that charity and compassion are essential when people are suffering and we will continue to respond to the needs of our neighbours. But for too long, faith and community groups, individuals, volunteers and social service agencies and ministries have carried a disproportionate load in meeting the needs of individuals at the local community level through the operation of community centres, daycares, breakfast programs, thrift shops, food banks, overnight shelters, hospitality programs and other social services.

These temporary measures have not broken the cycle of poverty nor alleviated the diminishment of people’s dignity. To do more than respond to emergencies and crises, more resources are needed in our communities.

We recognize that we all have a role to play to reduce poverty, however, only government can accomplish the structural changes to law, programs and policies that are essential for a successful poverty reduction strategy. Only government can re-allocate the resources of society more equitably through its regulatory and taxing powers and increase its funding of social programs.

Please hear our communities’ call for social justice.

Bishop Michael Bird

3 thoughts on “Letter to Minister Matthews from Anglican Diocese of Niagara

  1. Will Deb Matthews comment on this? ?Nobody from the provence has bothered.

    This was sent to the Premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty, the Minister of Community and Social Services Madeleine Meilleur, Hamilton Mayor Fred Eisenberger and Hamilton city councilor Bernie Morelli, via e-mail on Feb 24 08.

    My question to you and to myself is how do they get away with the callous and unjust manner that workers approach their clients with, at Ontario Works, ODSP and even the Social Benefits Tribunal?

    The answer is very simple. BECAUSE THEY CAN

    For the record I would like to state, I have seen many improvements to the SBT since a change of it’s Chair and I expect to see many more. I can’t say the same for Ontario Works and ODSP.

    The research shows when clients have contact with workers the response is not always the same. You could ask three different workers the same question and receive three different answers.

    If the worker doesn’t especially like you, they will simply ignore you. This means things like no return phone calls, ignoring verbal requests for benefits, requesting more than usual documents be brought in to prove eligibility and so on.

    If the worker really doesn’t like you, they will often do everything in their power to harass, intimidate and frustrate you into giving up and going away. This means things like ignoring written requests for benefits, telling you that the benefit doesn’t exist, denying benefits when you are entitled and no decision letters and so on.

    If the worker does like you, they will give you any of the benefits that you ask for if you entitled. This is only if the worker is aware of the benefits requested. Here is an interesting problem. The vast majority of the workers are not aware of benefits that are available. This even includes some of the excellent workers. Another problem is that the fast majority of clients don’t even know what the benefits are.

    ********All clients must document, tape record and video record everything, every time when dealing with any OW or ODSP staff. ********

    The governments must, as a gesture of good will, give all Ontario Works and ODSP clients a written copy of the benefits that they say clients are entitled.

    This would be a first concrete step taken to start the process in eliminating poverty.

    Ontario Works Directive # 31.0 found at http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/social/ow-directives/ow_policy_directives.htm or the:

    Ontario Disability Support Program Directives #s 9.1 to 9.19 Found at http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/mcss/english/pillars/social/odsp-is-directives/ODSP_incomesupport.htm

    The only real remedy to this problem is for clients to sue their respective governments. For Ontario Works it would be their local municipal government and the Province of Ontario and for ODSP it would be the Province of Ontario.

    In the Ontario Works Act it states No personal liability

    77.(1)No action or other proceeding in damages shall be instituted against the Ministry, the Director, a delivery agent, an officer or employee of any of them or anyone acting under their authority for any act done in good faith in the execution or intended execution of a duty or authority under this Act or for any alleged neglect or default in the execution in good faith of any duty or authority under this Act.

    In the Ontario Disability Support Program it states No personal liability

    58. (1) No action or other proceeding in damages shall be instituted against the Ministry, the Director or a delivery agent, an officer, employee of any of them or anyone acting under their authority for any act done in good faith in the execution or intended execution of a duty or authority under this Act or for any alleged neglect or default in the execution in good faith of any duty or authority under this Act. 1997, c. 25, Sched. B, s. 58 (1).

    This means that a client could sue for damages if bad faith could be proven.

    It is called bad faith; a person who intentionally tries to deceive or mislead another in order to gain some advantage.

    It is called willful blindness or willful deceit.

    The government must get rid of the discretionary powers it allows workers in the OW and OSSP, Act, Regulations and Directives.

    You’re either entitled to benefits or your not. It is extremely simple but the government will not do it until it gets sued for Bad Faith.

    It’s so simple; all the government has to do is to look at how the federal government implements its Employment Insurance application process, and they are saving millions.

    To receive benefits you must go online to apply, with exceptions for some disabled clients. You fill out a simple template and the next thing you experience is a cheque in the mail. If the federal government trusts us why can’t you?

    Ron Payne
    Welfare Legal
    Hamilton, Ontario.
    E-mail welfarelegal2004@hotmail.com

  2. Will Deb Matthews comment on this?


    The general public has no idea what the system is really like. They think fraud is ramped in Ontario Works and ODSP. Here is something to think about and it is just the tip of the iceberg according to our research.
    The provincial government says welfare fraud is around 2%.
    Who is really committing the fraud around here?
    The federal government says income tax fraud is 13%

    Ontario Works staff charged in $1.3million Fraud
    By Sarah Elizabeth Brown Tuesday March 4,2008
    Chronicle Journal http://tbay.ok.bc.ca/stories.php?id=95704

    Fraud Charges laid against a number of Ontario Works, Staff

    Budget cuts allow more Ontario Works staff fraud.

    Government ODSP worker charged in $585,000 fraud case.
    By SooToday.com Staff Wednesday, November 14, 2007

    93.7 million dollars in corporate welfare
    Linda Leatherdale March 7,2008
    Premier Dalton McGuity is handing over a 9.7 million dollar corporate welfare cheque to Kellogg. Kellogg’s profit was $1 billion. Also Ford got a $55 million cheque and is now cutting shifts, while GM got $29million and is also cutting shifts.

    $150 million called corporate welfare for a profitable industry.
    Rob Ferguson January 10, 2008
    Queens Park Bureau http://www.thestar.com/Business/article/292631
    The Ontario Government has earmarked $150 million to encourage pharmaceutical companies to do more drug research and manufacturing in the province.

    Ontario government coughs up about $940 million a year on grants like this one.
    Health Canada has been advised that Tic Tacs are being voluntarily recalled. Premier McGuinty should demand taxpayers get back the $5.5 million the government gave to this corporate welfare failure.


    Hamilton’s, Ontario Works Staff Fraud

    An internal audit in Hamilton, Ontario showed that Ontario Works staff were taking the city’s credit card out and enjoying a nice lunch privately.

    The same audit showed that the Ontario Works workers had access to the main computer that issues their clients checks
    In a different Audit city staff admit missing cheque signatures.

    The system allows the data center staff to renumber the cheque printing sequences. The lack of an independent review allows for an opportunity by staff to manipulate the controls and misappropriate any number of cheques.

    The operating keys are left in the cheque signing machines and the password to operate the cheque signer is openly displayed in an internal policy document.

    The risk arises out of unauthorized manipulation of cheques by staff, clients or others. It assumes significance in the absence of regular bank reconciliations.


    Isn’t that a recipe for disaster?

    Ron Payne
    Welfare Legal
    Hamilton, Ontario
    E-mail welfarelegal2004@hotmail.com

  3. I wonder if Deb Matthews will comment on this. She told me that she would like to know the answer to this when I handed her a hard copy.

    Ontario Works (The Truth Part 2)

    Missing Ontario Works Recipients

    What happened to an estimated 500,000 + people that left the welfare rolls since Mike Harris and his Tory’s came into power? A select group of people have a good idea but where is all the proof. Their has been very little research done on the issue and the general population is not aware of the facts about the real fraud of Ontario Works and the people who need this kind of help. We need to educate.

    The computer program that the Tory’s bought from that USA company Anderson Consulting now Accenture was broken when they bought it. The widely documented and highly publicized, internet is full of evidence that shows Anderson/Accenture has been sued all over the world because these programs just didn’t work properly. The 64 000 dollar question is did the Tory’s know this at the time. It would be extremely unlikely that the Tory’s would have signed a then estimated $135.5 million contract with a company from another country without doing a simple check of the company’s record.

    In a 2001 document the costs for this computer program was 400 million dollars and counting. I wonder how much it is today?

    Well common sense tells us that this “check” was done so why did the Tories buy it? It was money. Millions of dollars would be taken away from single mothers, children, men and women alike. This would be accomplished very quickly with Anderson/Accenture’s contract, policies and computer program. The Conservatives (The Mike Harris, Tory government) simply and overnight established 800 hundred new rules governing eligibility for welfare payments for the sole purpose of reducing caseloads (savings).
    The one case below among many outstanding ones out there today, has been fully documented with audio tape recordings of various meetings with Ontario Works staff myself and a friend, turned client, a single mother, who just wanted to get an education and then a job so she could give her 12 year old son a better life.

    The hard proof research shows that this is not the exception, “It’s The Rule”.

    Case in point

    For the past few years I have been doing advocacy and research relating to Bad Faith at Ontario Works and ODSP and this is just a small part of one example of many that the Harris Conservative government purposefully allowed to happen to the most vulnerable and unequipped in society.

    On June 25 2004 at 9:05AM I made an official complaint to a Hamilton’s Ontario Works manager. I informed him that a client of mine file was missing and that I allege that the reason she was missing was because of corruption (Bad Faith) in the City of Hamilton at his Ontario Works (OW) office.

    This single 45 year old mother from Poland and her 12 year old son had been harassed and abused systemically by OW workers for years. I know this because I was there, with her, taping the interviews, and making copies of all the documentation regarding her experience with Ontario Works. The information gathered is absolutely unbelievable, considering that they did this right in front of me, an external witness to the fact.

    Various and yet numerous attempts by administration to extort money out of her illegally through alleged overpayments that the computer wrongly and illogically printed out. Remember the broken computer program the Tory’s bought from Anderson/Accenture. She had to be on the ball and ready to quickly appeal the many alleged overpayments, suspensions, cancellations and bad decisions from Ontario Works relating to her and her son’s eligibility.

    The majority of OW recipients that had reported these errors said they didn’t know how to navigate the very complicated legal appeal process and is having to pay back money they in fact didn’t owe.

    Making appointments in writing for 2pm and when our arrival 10 minutes early, we find out from Ontario Works her benefits have been suspended because she didn’t show up at 9am, we were forced to appeal, (save your documents people) the letter by the administration said 2pm. One appointment the worker never showed up at all. They said they phoned her 20 minutes before the meeting time to say the meeting was canceled. It was a 4 mile walk from her home to the welfare office as she didn’t have any money for the bus.

    Sometimes OW would call her in every two months. She was going to school full time and had to take time off. They would ask her to bring in her school attendance records all the time even though they already had this information. OW had already got this information by using the Consent to Disclose and Verify Information form that all OW and ODSP recipients are required to sign that allows workers to get information from anybody regarding the client and/or spouse and/or children.

    The Supreme Court of Nova Scotia found this type of document is an intrusion of ones privacy and is illegal.


    Making her walk 3½ to 4 miles one way to school all year round while a Ontario Works supervisor purposefully and in bad faith denied the existence of a buss pass to go to school. The same supervisor purposefully denied the existence of a buss pass and start-up allowance to do volunteer work. This lady was not sitting around doing nothing.

    I did a survey of people that attended an ODSP forum sponsored by a Hamilton Legal Clinic, which I was a guest speaker at and 70% of the social workers that attended didn’t know that the bus pass benefit even existed. Finally, the supervisor admitted her acts of bad faith, when I asked her in front of industry workers and legal clinic lawyers if Ontario works supplies these mandatory benefits. She had to say yes, she couldn’t lie in front of them. She certainly did not have conscience in any problem lying to my clients, even right in front of me.

    Some supervisors routinely lie and give faults information to OW staff and OW clients.

    Another part of that survey showed that 90% of the social workers didn’t know that if a Legal Clinic in Ontario refused to assist an Ontario Works or ODSP client the client could then get a Legal Aid Certificate and hire a their own lawyer.

    What about the client? Routinely requests for benefits were mostly denied or ignored by Ontario Works workers and supervisors. One of the many resulting Internal Review requests was denied, in writing because a decision was never made, therefore she can’t have an Internal Review. They also wrote that the request she is asking for was a discretionary benefit and cannot be appealed. (WRONG) It was clearly a mandatory benefit and can be appealed

    Then to the horror after appealing to the Social Benefits Tribunal (SBT) anyway, the Tribunal lost her appeal documentation, the file just got up and walked away. Now the SBT says too much time has passed and she cannot appeal (WRONG). All this happened while she was still walking to school summer and winter. Her legs and back were very sore. This and all of the intense stress caused by the Tribunal and the Ontario Works staffs acting in bad faith are well documented in her medical file.

    One OW supervisor threw us out of her office the second she found out who my client was. She was the one that had appealed all those faulty overpayments and made Ontario Works and its computer program look like a total fraud. We went there with an appointment to report the corruption of OW denying the existence of the mandatory, bus pass and volunteer benefits.

    Finally after all that, we again asked another worker a for the bus pass. This worker had previously denied the existence of the benefit and low and behold and without the usual step of asking the supervisor the worker granted the mandatory bus pass benefit.

    “This took almost two years to get and finally happened two months before she and her son went missing.”

    Another of her assigned workers threw us out of her office, illegally suspending her benefits, when I refused to give the worker my last name. Then her worker fabricated evidence in writing as to why the meeting ended. The complaint process which is incredibly not a written policy in Hamilton was totally ignored by this worker when I asked her to get us a supervisor to deal with this corruption.

    “The systemic policies allow workers to interpret the laws individually and when they have to fix their mistakes they are able to do so deceitfully and with immunity. The system very rarely admits to its mistakes.”

    Then the city of Hamilton tried to cover the incident up by not giving any of the requested relevant full disclosure documentation when we asked for it in a Freedom of Information Act request. The suspension had to be appealed. The city only gave us half of the documented evidence that didn’t show the workers fabricated part. My client and I were in the process of swearing out affidavits that totally contradicted the workers fabricated written evidence. The city finally gave us a copy of the whole document only after I threatened to appeal and expose the corruption and acts of bad faith.

    “The evidence is called narrative notes. These notes are prescribed by law and are legal documents. The notes are made by workers explaining any contact with a client and/or work done in the clients file and must be written within 24 hours from the time of the contact.”

    This issue of abuse, harassment and Ontario Works acting in bad faith is amplified by the fact Ontario Works workers are commissionaires and swear out a judicial oath which gives them the power to witness and receive sworn affidavits by OW recipients and are used in court. Meanwhile some of these commissioners are lying through their teeth making themselves look good in the eyes of management for achieving what the Ontario Works Act, Regulations, and
    Directives dictate by lessoning the numbers of people on benefits. This is done with full knowledge of immunity from the municipality and the provincial government with impunity.

    The system allowed the client to be harassed and abused while having full knowledge that nobody within the system will listen, and act on the complaints of people on benefits. The stigma that welfare recipients are bums is still very much alive and well even today, by landlords, the general population and a great many people in power. The face of welfare recipients has changed drastically over the years and my missing client is a perfect example of that change. A very smart female from another country that just wanted a better life for her and her very polite, thoughtful and well mannered 12 year old son.

    The client’s problems were exacerbated by the actions of Ontario Works workers and management with the massive problem of lost or missing documents at Ontario Works.

    Research on the problem of missing or lost documents was used in a presentation to Hamilton’s City Council, Hearings Sub-Committee and showed 6 of 11 documents were going missing. These documents prevented clients from receiving necessary mandatory benefits which they are absolutely entitled too by law.

    Ontario Works had lost so many of her documents, most of her spare time was spent on Ontario Works matters filling out Internal Reviews and replacing all the alleged lost or missing documents. About 90% was for mandatory benefits that should have been paid immediately.

    “This is all a clear and vivid example of bad faith.”

    The client’s son once needed medically necessary emergency dental benefits.
    Again the same old story, we do not pay for that. One manager said that welfare has paid for these kinds of benefits before, while the client’s worker, supervisor and the subsequent Internal Review both said that OW has no provisions for this kind of benefit. It was time for the client to appeal again. Who would represent her?

    The Social Benefits Tribunal which was well known to just rubber stamp OW interpretations of their mandatory and discretionary powers, usually agreeing with OW’s position even when OW didn’t show up or give evidence at a hearing.

    The system is so very complicated recipients can’t navigate through the voluminous rules that OW keeps to itself and very rarely shares with its clients. The client had experienced receiving bad legal advice more than once from our legal clinic, which services the vast majority of OW and OSSP in the downtown core here in Hamilton. This bad advice had caused her medically documented depression to intensify while costing my client thousands of dollars in wasted money and benefits.

    After loosing all faith in the legal clinic lack of interest in her area the surrounding legal clinics also refused too help with the systemic and ever ongoing legal problems she had, by saying she can only use her designated legal clinic.

    “The other two Legal Clinics in Hamilton even refused a request, in writing to meet with my organization Welfare Legal for the purpose of producing all evidence of corruption and bad faith that is going on in the City Of Hamilton.”

    After applying for and receiving a legal aid certificate, it was necessary for her to get a Toronto lawyer that was well recommended by experienced people in the know. This was necessary after my organization did a survey of all Hamilton lawyers which results were very disturbing. The results showed the Mike Harris Conservative government’s cuts to legal aid and the meager amounts that were being paid for reduced legal services, there were no longer any lawyers in Hamilton that would do legal aid work except for one that had no experience with OW, ODSP or the SBT.

    Ontario Works said to the Tribunal in writing, that the Social Benefits Tribunal had no authority to hear this requested appeal as the City of Hamilton had no provisions for this discretionary benefit. They were so absolutely sure the tribunal would just agree with them they wrote that Ontario Works would not be showing up or giving any evidence. OW was relying on the Tribunal’s rubber stamp knowing full well that the system would not help her.

    A Toronto lawyer sent notice to the client and Legal Aid, saying that my client had no hope of being successful if he were to represent her. Now what is she going to do? I spent weeks trying to get her help but the help didn’t exist.

    I represented my client at the Tribunal even though I had had very little experience at this level. My reasoning was that only a corrupt kangaroo court would give a decision to a side that didn’t even bother to show up or give any evidence, I gave evidence that OW had in fact paid for the requested emergency medical dental benefit to children before and gave evidence that the Tribunal could in fact, hear the case.

    The Ontario Works Regulations state;

    Decision of Tribunal
    The Tribunal shall deliver a written decision to the parties to an appeal within 60 days after it last receives evidence or submissions on the appeal. O. Reg. 227/98, s. 37.

    The Tribunal heard this case on Feb 3rd 2004 and had not given a decision before my client and her son went missing 5 months later, knowing full well that this benefit was a request for emergency medical benefits and had documentation from the 12 year olds doctor that states that not having this emergency operation it will have negative effect on the boy’s heath for life.

    At a different hearing a SBT member told my client and I that the Tribunal will make its decision within 60 days. The client then informed the Tribunal member that it’s been about 4½ months wait at that time for the Tribunal to make a decision on a previous hearing where OW didn’t even bother to show up. The only thing the Tribunal member would say after that is that my client has a right to make a complaint to Ontario’s Ombudsman. In other words there is no enforcement of the Ontario Works Act or Regulations available within the city or the provincial ministry to deal with an emergency.

    When we were talking to the member after this hearing about the apparent fraud of the system itself, the member reassured us that if there was an overpayment over $45,000 he would not find a finding of guilt if OW or ODSP didn’t show up. So that means if the faulty computer prints out a faulty overpayment of $44,999 and OW doesn’t show up you could very well owe big time and there is nothing you could do about it. Should you do not have the ability to appeal to the next court level.

    The client was supposed to meet me at 9:00am on June 25 2004 for another information update. The system was seemingly designed to harass people on benefits. This is clearly shown in the evidence we have recorded and documented. Ontario Works asks every year to see her income tax when they have already received this info from the Canadian government, using the legal authority given to them in the consent/disclose information form that I described above.

    The harassment and abuse never stopped attacking the client. Some worker phoned her threatening to cut her off if she did not comply with a letter that OW was presently writing and immediately going to send her. The client was deeply depressed at this point in time over the corruption she was encountering with the system and OW. Her medical problems and medications arising from all the incidences that OW caused and are liable for are well documented with her doctor and are contained in her medical file.

    The one and only very real obstacle recipients have to deal with, at present is they will get no legal help here in Ontario. The legal system available to them is basically lawyer less, regarding acting on these types of legal issues (Bad Faith) and Ontario Works, ODSP and the Province knows it. In fact they count on it, they rely on it. The stigmas recipients have been unfairly labeled with are simple to strong for anybody to do anything about it

    The province is receiving millions of dollars, illegally, with it’s faulty, overpayments, suspensions cancellations, missing documents, acts of bad faith and let’s not forget the missing 500,000 Ontario Works recipients.

    They have been able to redirect millions upon millions of dollars, taking from the poor and giving to the rich illegally.

    We have to ask the media to print the truth about the real fraud the Harris government pulled on the people of Ontario. The process developed here in Ontario allows corruption, harassment and abuse to run in essence undetectable.

    The real crime here is that the premier of Ontario Dalton McGuinty and his provincial Liberals are not doing a damn thing about it, and they know what I am saying here is fact.

    On June 25th 2004 my friend and her son went missing, just like many, many thousands before her. I have shown but the tip of the evidence that unmistakably, and yet clearly shows that the policies that the Mike Harris Conservatives adopted from Anderson, now Accenture and that broken computer program they knowingly bought is the cause.

    Approximately 60 days after my client went missing the Social Benefits Tribunal sent me the decision for her son’s, emergency medical dental appeal. My client and her son had won.

    Ontario Works then tried to appeal that decision and lost. Go figure, they didn’t show up and didn’t give any evidence. Talk about abuse of process.

    Ron Payne
    Welfare Legal
    19 John Street North
    Hamilton, Ontario
    Phone 289-808-5047
    E-mail welfarelegal2004@hotmail.com
    E-mail welfarelegal2004@gmail.com

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