May 2018

Often community members such as the Boyne Britannia Neighbourhood Group are pushed to ask important questions: Why? What and who will benefit? Will harm be done to the people, community and to the environment? Civic society is dependent on evidence, education, dialogue and, ultimately decisions that inform action essential to build a safe community where human well-being is a priority. I bring the concerns and effort of these Milton citizens to your attention.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director

The Canadian National Railway Company (CN)

CN Rail is a multi-national corporation with revenues of $250 billion in 2018. Over the last 25 years, it has purchased 1,200 acres of land on the southwest corner of Milton and they are now proposing 400 acres be used to build its Rail Hub. The facility would be approximately 2,900 metres in length and have the capacity to handle four trains per day. Once completed, the terminal would operate 24 hours a day, seven days a week. It would be bordered by Tremaine Road to the west, Britannia Road to the north, Lower Base Line to the south and Highway 25 to the east.

The proposed CN Rail Hub or transport interchange will enable cargo to be exchanged between intermodal vehicles: that is rail cars and transport trucks. This intermodal exchange has the advantage that it can be done without any handling of the freight itself when changing modes. The method reduces cargo handling, and so improves security, reduces damage and loss, and allows freight to be transported faster. Reduced costs over road trucking is the key benefit for inter-continental use.
In 2008, CN announced that the economy could not support their proposed Rail Hub and they would not proceed with its construction.
In 2015, CN reversed its decision and announced it planned to build the Rail Hub in Milton.

Milton and Halton Region Planning

A decade ago there were 54,000 people living in Milton. Now, it’s about 113,000, with a 30.5 percent population growth between 2011 and 2016. The average age of Milton residents is 35, making it the youngest community in Ontario. Census figures show about 30 per cent of the population is 19 or younger.

Milton is experiencing an array of development challenges since the town began growing. Schools are struggling to house the population. GO transit has yet to be able to accommodate all the commuters to downtown Toronto. Fees to developers do not cover the health and emergency services the town and region must provide.
Milton planners have their sights set at population growth to 400,000 in 30 to 40 years.

In 2013, Halton Region and Milton approved a regional plan that assumed the CN Rail Hub would not be built. The plan includes high intensity residential (20,000 new homes), recreation, commercial and education facilities development immediately beside the proposed CN Rail Hub.

Access Road Issues with the Proposed CN Rail Hub

Milton community groups and individuals have claimed that building the CN Rail Hub now will affect quality of life of the growing population of Milton. Negative impact of the Rail Hub includes:

  • Property devaluation by the unsuspecting home owners who have purchased the newly built homes adjacent to the proposed CN Rail Hub.
  • The 24 hour a day 1,600 trucks and the 130 Rail Hub employees will create long rows of waiting trucks, heavy road use not only near the CN Rail Hub but throughout Milton as the trucks from the CN Rail Hub leave the Rail Hub directly into residential neighbourhoods built following the most recent Milton and Halton Region plans.
  • The CN Rail Hub will be handling toxic materials that will create risk to the adjacent residents.
  • Employment density will be far below the Provincial mandate – 5,000 versus 15,000– CN feels it is not required to meet density targets.
  • Development fees not collected to support infrastructure costs.
  • Loss of property taxes for Milton and Halton Region.
  • Regional Road #25 is the main road the 1,600 trucks a day will use travelling to and from the Rail Hub as it is presently the only road linking Milton to the 407 and the Queen Elizabeth Way.
  • In May 2018, truck routes for the CN Rail Hub are not built including the widening of Britannia Road, although the CN Rail Hub would be located on Tremaine Road, this road is not presently connected north to the 401 or south to the 407. Without one of these roads, truck traffic on Milton’s already busy arterial roads will be excessive.
  • Even though the southern part of the Rail Hub could be connected south on Regional Road 22, the CN Rail Hub is presently designed to have traffic only enter on the north side with all 1,600 trucks 24 hours a day entering a residential area of Milton.

Detailed information about the proposed CN Rail Hub is available on the Halton Region website ( As well, more issues are raised by the “Milton Says NO” community group (

CN Rail Research on Impact of Proposed Milton CN Rail Hub

In 2017, Scott Streiner, CEO of the Canadian Transportation Agency, reported in a speech to the Railway Association of Canada that a different approach was being taken by his agency for the approval process for construction of the proposed CN Rail Hub. He stated:

“We haven't had a large number of rail construction applications in recent years, but when they do come in, they can be contentious, depending on the planned location of the new line. A case in point is CN's proposed Milton logistics hub, for which the Minister of Environment and Climate Change and I have agreed to a joint hearings process – a sort of single window for gathering information relevant both to the environmental assessment and the Agency's determination on whether or not to authorize construction.” (

Therefore, the Milton Logistics Hub Project Review Panel (see Ref #80100) is a joint process established under the Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, 2012, and the Canada Transportation Act.

On March 21, 2018 CN submitted its responses to many of the Panel’s environmental assessment information requests. (

A public hearing will be announced by the Panel and 60 days notice will be provided once it is decided when the hearing is to be held. (

CN had submitted a report to the Panel in January 2018 ( about its ‘public consultation’. This report claimed shopping mall customers and interest groups favoured the proposed CN Rail Hub. This is in contrast to what a public referendum may find, for example, if a referendum had been included as part of the November 2018 municipal election. However, the deadline for submitting a referendum question was March 1, 2018.

In addition, CN’s ‘Mitigated Day-Night Sound Level Contours – Operations” study also submitted to the Panel in January 2018, omits the noise impact of the 1,600 Rail Hub trucks a day on Milton streets.

It’s Never Been More Important for Big Companies to Listen to Local Communities

The Harvard Business Review (November 2017) ( reported that there are new tools for governing the relationship between large corporations like CN with local communities. These include community benefit agreements, memoranda of understanding, and multi-stakeholder agreements designed to document commitments, responsibilities, and benefits surrounding a large investment project such as the CN Rail Hub. It is pointed out that these tools can help bring clarity to all involved and must be reviewed and renegotiated over time.

In March 2018, two community meetings were convened by CN to discuss the offering of ‘gifts’ to community groups to secure their support for the Rail Hub. Examples presented at these meetings and reported in CN’s “Milton Logistics Hub – Benefits Brief” involved:

Transportation and transit

  • Evaluate development of dedicated truck lane from proposed facility to 407
  • Contribution to additional overpass in the Halton Region in partnership with all levels of government


  • Contribution to partnership for a new arena in Milton
  • New connections to regional cycling network
  • Additional pedestrian/cycling overpass over mainline
  • Contribution of land to provincial greenbelt
  • Investment in a community park
  • Contribution to a new community sports field

Education and environment

  • Contribution to higher education programs or facility to Halton Region
  • New contributions to community programs and partnerships
  • Contribution to program or capital for Milton Education Village/Innovation Centre

However, in the same “Benefits Brief”, CN states it would support these and other ideas as long as:

  • The proposed Project is approved with reasonable, acceptable conditions
  • CN would be a contributor to a partnership funding envelop, not the sole contributor
  • The benefit does not require additional environmental assessment scope related to the proposed Project.
  • The proposed Project is not contingent on this additional benefit
  • The benefit does not impact the proposed Project’s schedule
  • The benefit is feasible
  • There is no specific timeline associated with the benefit
  • CN is not responsible for the operation or the maintenance of the benefit

Memoranda of understanding, and multi-stakeholder agreements designed to document commitments, responsibilities, and benefits surrounding the CN Rail Hub have yet to be agreed upon. These presumably would include negotiating with CN to relax the above listed conditions CN has stated in supporting any ‘benefits’.

Since 2014, the Halton Municipalities have cooperated in assessing the CN Rail Hub proposal for potential effects relating to areas of provincial and municipal responsibility through the Federal Environmental Assessment process.

Court Challenge

In March 2018, the Region of Halton, the Town of Milton, the City of Burlington, the Town of Halton Hills, and the Town of Oakville and Conservation Halton have filed a joint Court application to confirm their jurisdiction to review the impacts of the CN Rail Hub. This is in response to CN’s assertion that the CN Rail Hub is an exclusive federal jurisdiction, and neither the Province nor the municipalities have any regulatory role with respect to it.



The proposed CN Rail Hub highlights community issues that urgently need to be acted on by all stakeholders:

  • Milton should conduct a referendum outside of the election which would be much more representative of community views than Milton shopping mall ‘surveys’ conducted by CN’s consulting firm.
  • Milton and the Region of Halton should seek the support of local residents as part of the Court challenge so that local governments and citizens have an input into the decisions that affect their lives.
  • A process to disseminate information and create opportunity for broad public discussion of and consensus on the implications of the proposed CN Rail Hub. This is required to ensure a balanced approach to this proposal that is in the best interest of all concerned.
  • The impact of the truck traffic impact on Milton requires further examination including consideration of the proposed CN Rail Hub being redesigned so that its main entrance is not Britannia Road on its north side, but to Regional Road #22 on its south side.
  • More discussion about how local neighbourhoods in Milton receive from CN benefit agreements, memoranda of understanding, and multi-stakeholder agreements designed to document commitments, responsibilities, and benefits.

Boyne Britannia Neighbourhood Group

  Community Dispatch PDF

Produced by Community Development Halton
3350 South Service Roard
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3M6
(905) 632-1975; 1-855-395-8807 (toll free); E-mail:



February 2018

Community Development Halton as a member organization of the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO) supports the following policy and budgetary recommendations made at an Ontario Pre-Budget consultation on January 29, 2018. I share these with you as these recommended changes in policy will enhance the well-being of Ontario and Halton residents. They represent additional steps in building a healthy civic society.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director


SPNO acknowledges the important social investments that the Government has made in the last eighteen months in areas such as prescription drug coverage for children and youth, post-secondary tuition relief for low income families, increased support to seniors, expanded child care spaces, and, most recently, passage of The Fair Wages, Better Workplaces Act.

Policy and Budget Considerations

There, of course, remain important areas for policy and budget consideration in 2018-19.

  • While increasing the minimum wage was a major accomplishment in the last year and is generally recognized as just and fair in the public mind, the Government has recognized the increased cost pressures on about 400,000 small businesses and has accommodated with a business tax reduction. The 55,000 nonprofits and charities in Ontario with minimum wage employees are eager to pay their workers fairly. Unfortunately, raising prices in service work to their communities is not an option for most. As the Ontario Nonprofit Network has requested with the support of its organizational members including SPNO, the wage cost increases should be reflected in adjustments to Transfer Payment Agreements for the last part of 2017-18 and in new agreements for the next fiscal year.
  • SPNO has been an active contributor to the Ontario Government’s Community Hubs initiative to improve community capacity for health, social, economic, and cultural supports. We support the Ontario Nonprofit Network’s recommendation for capital funding, low cost loans, and multi-year, multi-program funding agreements for community hubs.
  • Through local research and a project on student well-being involving 14 communities, the SPNO is concerned about inequities and exclusion in the school system. A specific concern requiring attention in the 2018 Budget is the pressure on local school boards to use Learning Opportunities Grants designated for support to students in low income communities for other purposes. This problem arises from an inadequate school funding formula that SPNO recommends that the next Budget begin to address.
  • SPNO appreciates that both the provincial and federal governments are assuming more leadership on the affordable housing agenda, although much of the actual investment at least federally is spread over a long-time frame. Legislated inclusionary zoning would initiate more immediate relief. Inclusionary zoning assures that affordable housing is built to promote socio-economically diverse neighbourhoods. It requires developers to include a set portion of below-market units, either to buy or to sell, in every residential building. Unfortunately, the regulations as now drafted are counterproductive to the intent and purpose of inclusionary zoning. Although this enabling legislation for municipalities would not seem to have a direct impact on the Ontario budget, inclusionary zoning that requires additional direct costs on municipalities will undermine local adoption, thus reducing the role of municipalities as effective partners with the province and the federal government in solving the affordable housing crisis.
  • Finally, SPNO urges action on the recently released report, Income Security: A Roadmap for Change. As a long-term plan the report’s recommendations would transform the culture of the social assistance system from a policing and punitive model to a more personalized, responsive and supportive approach for Ontario’s most vulnerable residents. The proposal of achieving a Minimum Income Standard for all living in deep poverty is critically important, but A Roadmap for Change sets an unacceptably long-time horizon for achieving this standard (10 years). The specific recommendations for increases amounting to about 22% by 2020 for a single adult would still leave single recipients just over half-way to the official income poverty line. Notably, the Lankin and Sheikh Social Assistance Review Commission Report in 2012 recommended that the Government implement a $100/month Healthy Food Supplement endorsed by 25 municipal councils across the province, which would have been a 17% income increase for adults on social assistance in the first year.

As long as Government revenues reflect an Ontario economy that is showing strong growth, a first-year commitment in 2018-2019 to a larger rate increase in the order of 15% to 17% in the 2018 provincial budget would show a serious Government commitment to addressing deep poverty.  SPNO recommends this first step for the 2018-19 budget and an accelerated plan for achieving the Minimum Income Standard within three to five years.

For further information contact:
Peter Clutterbuck                                                                  Joey Edwardh, Ph.D.
Senior Community Planning Consultant, SPNO                       Executive Director
Tel. 416-653-7947 Cell: 416-738-3228                                     Community Development Halton                                                           

  Community Dispatch PDF

Produced by Community Development Halton
3350 South Service Roard
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3M6
(905) 632-1975; 1-855-395-8807 (toll free); E-mail:



January 2018

A new report, Income Security: A Roadmap for Change, recommends comprehensive changes to Ontario’s income security programs, Ontario Works, and the Ontario Disability Support Program. Many of you receiving this Community Dispatch work with people who are recipients of these two programs and are witness to their struggle to meet the necessities of life: food, shelter, transportation, health, and social services. I believe that the release of this important report was lost in the coverage and debate on the new Labour legislation – Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017 with its accompanying move to a $15 minimum wage and the celebrations of the Holiday Season. Therefore, to contribute to community understanding and dialogue, I would like to share with you the commentary of Community Development Halton’s provincial association, the Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO), on A Roadmap for Change. It is an important report that recognizes the dignity and humanity of those participating in our income security programs.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director


The Social Planning Network of Ontario (SPNO) is pleased to respond to Income Security: A Roadmap for Change, the recently released report on income security reform in Ontario produced by three working groups set up by the Ministry in 2016. We appreciate the opportunity to offer feedback to this latest report.

In doing so, we do wish to express our agreement with the analysis and recommendations with respect to A Roadmap for Change expressed in the submission of the submission of the Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC), which we have studied and support.

Conceptual Framework for Change

Overall, we find A Roadmap for Change to be an impressive and comprehensive approach to income security reform in Ontario. It properly situates social assistance within the larger income security system. Its critique of the social assistance system as it is now structured and operates is consistent with the research findings of community-based organizations that have documented the failure in the income support system for more than 20 years.

The review establishes up front a strong set of principles for a future income security system including “rights”, “equity and fairness”, “dignity and respect”, and critically, in terms of making a material difference in the lives of Ontarians living in poverty, “adequacy”, a principle and objective for which SPNO has advocated along with many other community groups and organizations since the campaign for an Ontario Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2008.

A Roadmap for Change presents a conceptual framework on the future state of income security centred on the notion of creating social and economic inclusion for those who require public assistance with their daily living needs. The graphic representation on page 2 clearly reflects the inter-connected array of supports required to realize the vision of social and economic inclusion.

Although labeled as “Income Security: Future State”, this is really a more all-encompassing vision of individual and family well-being. Ironically, while the six components identified as creating inclusion are all essential, “income support” or “decent income for daily living” is not among them. This may not seem to be important. But conceptually, especially in terms of clarity in the public’s mind, income support (often seen as “welfare” in a narrow, negative sense) should be explicitly identified and integrally linked to the other forms of social, health, and employment supports for stability, security, opportunity, and participation in community life.

Income Security Future State

 Seriously Addressing Deep Poverty

Since 2008, poverty reduction policy in Ontario has been about fighting child poverty. Although not as much as originally targeted, there has been some success in reducing child poverty, increased in the several years by action at the federal level. Commendably, A Roadmap for Change addresses the issue of poverty in general and is explicit about the need for action on people in deepest poverty, single working age adults. It proposes a Minimum Income Standard (income floor below which no one should fall), which at first uses the current official Ontario Poverty Rate (LIM-50) but may be modified as a result of research over the next few years on Market Basket Needs varying by region. This approach would be fairly consistent with the private member’s Bill 6, Ministry of Community and Social Services Amendment Act (Social Assistance Research Commission), 2016. Bill 6 proposes setting social assistance rates based on field level research on the real cost of living, has wide community support, and received all-party support through a second reading in the Ontario Legislative Assembly.

Proposing a Minimum Income Standard for all living in deep poverty is critically important, but A Roadmap for Change sets an unacceptably long-time horizon for achieving this standard (10 years). The specific recommendations for increases amounting to about 22% by 2020 for a single adult would still leave single recipients just over half-way to the official income poverty line ($10,700 for Ontario Works (OW) recipients). The recommended base rate OW increase in the first year is 10% and the recommended Ontario Disabilities Support Program (ODSP) increase from a higher base level is 5%. Notably, the Lankin and Sheikh Social Assistance Review Commission Report in 2012 recommended that the government implement a $100/month Healthy Food Supplement endorsed by 25 municipal councils across the province, which would have been a 17% income increase for adults on social assistance in the first year.

As long as government revenues reflect an Ontario economy that is showing strong growth, a first-year commitment to a larger rate increase in the order of 15% to 17% in the 2018 provincial budget would show a serious government commitment to addressing deep poverty. Further, combined with development of the proposed Ontario Housing Benefit, an accelerated rate increase program to achieve the Minimum Income Standard earlier than the recommended 10-year horizon is necessary to achieve social and economic inclusion and well-being.

Finally, with respect to the issue of adequacy in setting a basic social assistance rate, it may be advisable to refer to a “Decent Standard Rate” or, as in the Lankin and Sheikh Commission Report, a “Basic Measure of Adequacy”, rather than a “Minimum Income Standard”. The term “minimum” has become strongly associated with the statutory hourly minimum wage rate, especially with the policy discussion and community advocacy campaigning for the recently successful Bill 148, Fair Workplaces, Better Jobs Act, 2017. Since there will be a differential between the final adequate standard social assistance rate and the annual income generated from full-year, full-time earnings at a minimum wage level, confusion between the two in the public mind should be avoided.

Balanced Restructuring of Benefits

Research and community development work by SPNO members across the province concur with A Roadmap for Change with respect to identifying the cost of housing as a major barrier to stability and security in the lives of low income individuals and families. The portable, income-tested housing benefit available to both social assistance recipients and working poor is good and would certainly factor into achieving a Minimum Income Standard. Again, however, as with the rate increase recommendations, the housing benefit proposal starts small, covering the gap between an affordable rent and the actual cost at 25% in 2019-20, 35% in 2020-21 and rising to 75% by 2027-28; another long-time horizon to full implementation, which should be accelerated, especially since it seems there may be some complementary federal action on affordable housing.

How social assistance benefits should be structured can be a contentious issue in income security reform. The inclination in “simplifying” the system is to integrate or consolidate in a uniform way, which can ignore the importance of appropriate differentiation for particular conditions. A Roadmap for Change recognizes the need for balance in this respect. Integrating the two-part composition of OW and ODSP benefits (Basic Needs and Shelter Allowance) into one Standard Flat Rate (a little higher for persons with disabilities) has been recommended by community-based organizations and groups as an appropriate change to the benefit structure. Retaining ODSP as distinct from OW in social assistance, however, recognizes some of the particular income security issues of persons with disabilities – especially regarding their tenuous connection to the labour market. An “assured income” for persons with disabilities and easier transition in and out of employment without loss of income and benefits is another recommendation responsive to their particular support needs.

A Roadmap for Change is highly sensitive to the myriad of fragmented benefit and support programs to persons with disabilities. It argues for consolidation and integration of these various sources of income so that “stacking” them could approach an adequate “assured income”, but importantly, is also careful to avoid change to existing supplemental benefits without further study (e.g. special diet allowance, medical transportation assistance, and assistive devices). SPNO supports the recommendation to retain special benefits such as these for now while engaging people now receiving them, policy experts and community advocates in a “co-design process” to determine how they might be re-fashioned into the overall income security system. This is a respectful and deliberative approach to system reform.

Further, in making the argument for “stacking,” A Roadmap for Change does attempt to distinguish between living needs that should be met directly through income transfers and extraordinary community living costs that require supplementary service or income supports. See the Appendix for the recommendations that speak specifically to this point. (pp. 108-111, and pp.121-122).

This is a critically important distinction, since people in particular circumstances have living expenses beyond the regular daily costs of living (e.g. person with disability needing attendant care; low income individual living in a remote community with costly transportation to needed health services; single or low-income parents requiring help with childcare costs). In that regard, expanding core health benefits to all low-income persons and families, including those in deepest poverty, is probably one of the most important and commendable recommendations in A Roadmap for Change (pp. 86-87). These kinds of essential supplementary benefits and service supports should always be recognized as coverage distinct from income adequacy for normal everyday living costs and should never be “monetized” into the calculation for a Minimum Standard Rate. A clear and precise distinction of the income benefit and support service structure for a comprehensive approach to social and economic inclusion would reflect three main components:

  1. income – adequate to meet the cost of daily living needs, including housing (Minimum Income Standard);
  2. employment supports for the opportunity to participate in the labour market and become more self-sustaining; and
  3. health and social supports – stabilizing factors such as drug coverage, counselling, mental health services, childcare, extraordinary daily living needs for persons with disabilities such as attendant care.

Transforming the Culture to Trust and Collaboration

The section in A Roadmap for Change on “Transforming Social Assistance” reflects the leadership of George Thomson who facilitated the review process. This section is an updated version of his landmark welfare reform report Transitions in the late 1980s. Transitions’ positive vision of “welfare reform” got lost in the economic and political conditions of the early and mid-1990s. In fact, this period not only resulted in the slashing of benefit rates, but it introduced the intrusive and punitive culture in the administration of social assistance that prevails to this day. Recognizing this as a major challenge, A Roadmap for Change calls for a “culture of trust, collaboration and problem-solving” and a “person-centred approach” to working with people on social assistance, converting social assistance workers from a policing and monitoring roles to “case collaborators” in helping people not only achieve stability in their lives but also develop opportunities to participate in the community (reminiscent of “Opportunity Planners” in Transitions). This transformation would not only have a major positive impact on the lives of people using the system but also on the sense of contribution and accomplishment of the workers who provide the services and supports. SPNO strongly supports this kind of cultural transformation in the design and delivery of income security in the province.


Finally, A Roadmap for Change devotes a good amount of time and attention to income security reform to First Nations communities, which have special self-governance and resource requirements and claims on the provision of support to Indigenous peoples in Ontario. SPNO respects and supports the recommendations in A Roadmap for Change made by the First Nations Income Security Reform Working Group and the Urban Indigenous Table on Income Security Reform.

Visit the Income Security Reform website and click on Read the full report, or view the report Income Security: A Roadmap for Change here:

Appendix (pp. 108-111, and pp.121-122).

Recommendation 10: Use an inclusive process to design an “assured income” approach for people with disabilities.


Co-design an “assured income” mechanism for delivering financial support to people who meet the ODSP definition of disability. Consultation with First Nations people is essential.


Include the following features in the assured income mechanism:

  • Income-tested only (i.e., no asset test).
  • Stacking of income benefits to reach adequacy.
  • Tax-based definition of income (i.e., does not include
  • financial help (gifts) from family or friends).
  • Continued responsibility of the provincial government to determine disability, with the right of appeal to the Ontario

      Social Benefits Tribunal.

  • Flexibility to adjust to in-year income changes.
  • Safe to move into employment and back to the program.


Provide an initial Assured Income benefit at least as high as the ODSP Standard Flat Rate at the time of transition. Provide continued increases until the Minimum Income Standard is achieved in combination with other income security components (see Setting a Goal for Income Adequacy, page 69).


Ensure that people receiving the Assured Income have full access to ODSP caseworker services and support.


Provide First Nations with the ability to administer and deliver ODSP in their own communities in the same manner as Ontario Works.

Recommendation 13: Modernize income and asset rules so people can maximize the income sources available to them and save for the future.


Exempt as assets funds held in Tax-Free Savings Accounts and all forms of Registered Retirement Savings Plans so people do not have to deplete resources meant for their senior years.


Initially exempt 25% of Canada Pension Plan - Disability, Employment Insurance and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board payments from social assistance (i.e., social assistance would be reduced by 75 cents for every dollar of income from these sources rather than dollar for dollar).


Increase the income exemption for Canada Pension Plan ­ Disability, Employment Insurance and Workplace Safety and Insurance Board to the same level as the existing earnings exemption by 2022–23.

Recommendation 14: Ensure ongoing access to targeted allowances and benefits until such a time as adequacy is achieved. Determine which extraordinary costs remain beyond the means of individuals even when adequacy is achieved and maintain those benefits.


Retain the following special-purpose allowances/benefits and review as progress towards adequacy is made and people’s outcomes are better understood:

  • Special Diet Allowance
  • Mandatory Special Necessities/Medical Transportation.
  • Pregnancy and Breast-Feeding Nutritional Allowance „
  • ODSP Work-Related Benefit


Revise medical transportation rules to include and support improved access to traditional healers.


Review and introduce expanded eligibility criteria for the Remote Communities Allowance to better address the needs of northern and remote communities.


Redesign Ontario Works discretionary benefits as other recommendations are implemented (e.g., making core health benefits and help with funeral and burial costs mandatory) and consider making them available to the broader low-income population.

  Community Dispatch PDF

Produced by Community Development Halton
3350 South Service Roard
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3M6
(905) 632-1975; 1-855-395-8807 (toll free); E-mail:



December 2017

In September, Community Development Halton held its Annual General Meeting, with speaker Henriëtte Thompson on the theme of “Volunteers: Builders of Inclusive and Vibrant Communities.” As former Director of Public Witness for Social and Ecological Justice for the Anglican Church of Canada, and as its liaison to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (TRC), Henriëtte Thompson’s message is a powerful one – that the indispensable contributions made by Indigenous peoples in building healthy communities throughout Canada’s history, from before and throughout the earliest settler days up to the present, have for far too long remained unacknowledged, and unreciprocated. In this year of Canada 150, and grounded in the TRC’s call for reconciliation and healing, I share with you Henriëtte Thompson’s reflections on the imperative that each of us, as individuals and in community-based organizations, act to learn and acknowledge this neglected history, and to foster reciprocity with Indigenous peoples in our shared endeavour to build an inclusive and vibrant society.

Joey Edwardh
Executive Director

Address by Henriëtte Thompson, CDH Annual General Meeting, Sep 20/17[1]

Good evening. I would like to begin by acknowledging that the land on which we gather is part of the Treaty Lands and Territory of the Mississaugas of the New Credit.[2] It is an honour to be invited to address all of you here tonight at the Annual General Meeting of Community Development Halton. Thank you.

The focus of this gathering and of my reflection is on the gift and the challenge of volunteers in building inclusive and vibrant communities, historically and in our contemporary context. I felt that this invitation was also an invitation to “name the moment”[3] – that is, to identify some of the deeper issues that provide both opportunity and challenge to the voluntary sector.

Recognizing Volunteering in 2017, is a report published by Volunteer Canada just a few months ago.   Just as we have evolved a notion of Corporate Social Responsibility, the report presents a notion of Individual Social Responsibility as a way of describing attitudes toward volunteer action. Individual Social Responsibility refers to “the commitment to improving the quality of life of other individuals, groups, teams as well as society at large.” This is then referred to as each person’s own personal brand of Individual Social Responsibility.[4]  

Casting a backwards glance at the role of nonprofits and volunteers is helpful. Volunteer Canada offers a helpful overview in a blog entitled, “150 years of volunteer history.” I would like to paint a picture of the ways in which volunteer history in colonial Canada unfolded alongside the historic experience of Indigenous people in Canada.

By way of explaining why I might be able to share some limited insight on this, I should mention that for six years (2009 – 2015), I represented the Anglican Church of Canada (itself a voluntary sector institution) at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, along with survivors of residential schools and Indigenous Elders, with national Indigenous leaders, and with the Government of Canada.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Final Report was published two years ago, and it included 94 Calls to Action. I’ll come back to several of these shortly.

Several important and broad-based insights were generated during the TRC period –

  1. Canadians were not taught their real history. The lament of many is “but, I didn’t know…”
  2. The devastating legacy of colonialism and residential schools continues to reverberate in the lives of families and communities today – there are more Indigenous children in care than during the residential school era and the Sixties Scoop;
  3. Indigenous peoples who have lived on this land for 15,000 years(!) are resilient, have always resisted colonization since first encounter with Europeans, and are reclaiming their nationhood and their identities; and,
  4. Systemic racism is present in Canadian government and social structures, and white supremacy threatens to undermine the goal of having vibrant and inclusive communities.

When we talk about social inclusion, we can look at its dimensions across space and time.

First, space (or distance). Just 35 minutes down the road from here is the Mohawk Institute, a residential school in Brantford for children from Six Nations of the Grand River, the largest reserve in Canada.

The Mohawk Institute ran from 1828 to 1970. It is one of only a handful of residential schools still left standing across the country. There is a “Save the Evidence” campaign to raise funds to restore the school building as a permanent witness to what happens when we don’t challenge assumptions in dominant society.

Furthermore, just 20 to 30 minutes past Brantford live the Mississaugas of the New Credit on whose traditional land we are gathered today. 2017 marked 170 years since the Mississaugas of the New Credit moved from the mouth of the Credit River to Hagersville.

In spite of these short driving distances from Burlington to neighbouring Haudenosaunee and Anishinaabe communities (and they are as different from each other culturally and linguistically as French and English), I would hazard a guess that the cognitive distance between most or many people in the Region and the Mississaugas or the Haudenosaunee is a world apart.

But, the gap is closing because the Truth and Reconciliation Commission provided a roadmap to close that cognitive distance, and communities have a critical role to play in bridging these spaces.

Time – or the history of Canadian civil society organizations as they engaged in social change – is another way of understanding social inclusion at both national and local levels.

Before the first European settlers arrived and brought with them an understanding of state sovereignty, Indigenous nations were built on a notion of kinship that extended not only to human beings but to the non-human world. Indigenous nations are made up of four factors – a shared language, a sacred history, a ceremonial cycle, and a place or territory. Geography and a harsh climate across this land, meant that cooperation and a shared responsibility for the impact of actions on seven generations in the future, were crucial.

Early European settlers from the 1600s onward were challenged to establish and run hospitals, schools, orphanages and homes for the elderly in order to support the needs of communities as there was very limited government provision.[5] Without establishing these services, death and illness rates would have been much higher, and the education of settlers to read and write would have been grossly inadequate.

The French and English settlers and explorers knew that their very lives depended on the knowledge and skill of Indigenous peoples. The earliest pre-Confederation treaties in eastern Canada were peace and friendship treaties because mutual interdependence was acknowledged by both parties. As Niigaan James Sinclair says: “When immigrants came and joined our nations they were offered a place, role, and responsibility not only, so the work would be shared but so that they could feel valued, be recognized, and feel at home. So that they could help build life too. This is, after all, what keeps families together.”[6]

After Confederation, colonial volunteers focused on assisting with basic rights such as decent housing, adequate health care, and free access to education. However, these improvements in social change were not extended to Indigenous peoples. The disregard for post-Confederation treaties and the establishment of the Indian Act of 1876 resulted in federal responsibility for Indigenous peoples’ welfare and an aggressive policy of assimilation that denied Indigenous peoples of their human rights still to this day. The ground is hopefully starting to change – three weeks ago, the Prime Minister announced his wish to end the Indian Act of 1876.[7]

There was a colonial perception of an “Indian problem” that needed solving in the drive for water routes, land, and furs. To solve the so-called “problem” Indian residential schools were established.

Over a period of 150 years from the 1850s to the late 1990s, the government of Canada forcibly removed 150,000 Indigenous children from their families and communities and sent them far away to church-run residential schools. The children, some as young as three, were denied use of their language and culture; they were stripped of their identity, and siblings were separated from each other for years in the same or different schools. The government of Canada’s aim was to assimilate Indigenous people into colonial society, beginning with the children, by removing them from their families, communities, and ways of life. The churches aided and abetted this aim. The intergenerational devastation of the First Peoples was actively underway.

At the turn of the new century, the national camping movement launched by Ernest Thompson Seton and his Woodcraft Indians movement exposed middle-class kids from the dominant culture to “Indian Days” at camp and to training in outdoors skills. Who doesn’t love the Boy Scouts, the Girl Guides, and summer camp? While the camping movement grew, survival skills teaching was stripped from Indigenous kids as they endured residential school for years and lost access to how to live on the land.

“During the Great Depression in the 1930s, it fell to caring individuals and voluntary organizations to provide relief for the hungry and the homeless. The role of volunteers was especially essential in supporting the war effort; and clearly proved to the world that Canadians could mobilize in times of crisis,” notes Volunteer Canada’s overview of 150 years of Canadian volunteering history.[8]

What is not as well known is that First Nations, Inuit and Metis people have a long tradition of military service. Awareness is growing around the role of Indigenous warriors during the War of 1812. In the past 100 years, 12,000 Indigenous persons are estimated to have served in the Canadian forces in three wars -- World Wars I and II and the Korean War. Sadly, the equal treatment that veterans experienced during the wars disappeared once they returned home to Canada and bureaucratic red tape between government ministries left them without access to services like housing and education that were available to other veterans. The federal government apologized in 2000 and offered compensation.[9]

By the 1950s, public health and medical research became a growing area for volunteer involvement across Canada, except on reserves. Recently, we learned that during the period between the two wars, medical scientists conducted tests on malnourished Indigenous people to answer questions about human requirements for vitamins. Research by the University of Guelph in 2013 revealed a long-standing, government-run experiment that came to span the entire country and involved at least 1,300 Aboriginal people, most of them children.[10] Thus, while public health and medical research improved for mainstream Canadians, isolated, dependent, hungry Indigenous people were unwitting subjects for medical tests.

Voluntary efforts in Canada in the 1960s and 1970s were dominated by citizens' movements that grew out of vital social issues of the time. During this period, individuals and voluntary organizations began to focus on supporting the causes of disadvantaged Canadians. Volunteers worked on issues such as providing better services for disabled individuals and addressing environmental issues. Volunteer activity then began increasing throughout Canada as volunteer centres established themselves in many urban areas. Volunteers raised funds, helped run programs, and served on governance boards.[11]

Volunteering in the 1980s and 1990s continued to evolve to address the changing priorities of an ever-changing settler and immigrant society while Indigenous populations continued to struggle with marginalization, poverty, and the loss of traditional ways of life.

Tribal councils arose across the country to try to address the deep-seated discrimination faced by Indigenous peoples. Churches that ran residential schools began the difficult self-critical and constructive work of acknowledgement, apology, and living into apology. Comprehensive reports such as the 1996 Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples Report were shelved by successive governments and the gap between Indigenous and non-Indigenous people in Canada grew.

The tone at the federal government shifted in 2015. Said the new Prime Minister: “No relationship is more important to me and to Canada than the one with Indigenous Peoples. It is time for a renewed, nation-to-nation relationship with Indigenous Peoples, based on recognition of rights, respect, co-operation, and partnership.”

Soon after the October 2015 federal election and the launch of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Final Report two months later, the polling firm, Environics, produced a report on Canadian attitudes on Aboriginal peoples.[12]

The  study revealed that there is a broad public consensus on the importance of learning about the historical abuses and discrimination that Aboriginal peoples have faced in Canada. Solid majorities strongly back education-related recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to include mandatory curriculum in all schools to teach about Aboriginal history and culture, and to ensure that funding for Aboriginal schools matches funding for other schools in the same province or territory. So, watch out – I say this in a good way! Our children and grandchildren will not be able to say as I and probably many of us in this room could say – “but, I didn’t know.” Education for reconciliation gives me hope.

The report also found that “…many non-Aboriginal Canadians acknowledge that discrimination represents an important challenge for Aboriginal peoples, one that is also tied to a sense of isolation, separation from others in Canada, and a certain stigma for being Aboriginal. And there is widespread recognition that discrimination against Aboriginal peoples is commonplace”[13] although this recognition varies by region across Canada.

This brings us to the matter of “belonging.” In 2015, Community Foundations Canada focused their Vital Signs study on the theme of belonging.[14] When people have a strong sense of belonging and trust at community or national levels, then good things happen – social inclusion and public health improve, participation goes up, culture and identity flourish, communities are safer, and they bounce back after emergencies.

There are an estimated 4,000 Indigenous people living in Halton Region [since Henriëtte Thompson’s address on September 20, 2017, newly-released data from the 2016 Census show this number has increased to 5,455[15]] and, as noted earlier, the Region is within an easy drive of two reserves – New Credit and Six Nations.

Many of the TRC calls to action speak to the idea of “belonging” – of individual and communal healing that comes through recovery of language and culture; of apologies and commitments to Indigenous rights that create the conditions for reconciliation at the national level; of respect for land and resources to which they have treaty and constitutional rights, and that sustain a spirituality of kinship with human and non-human life.

In order to respect the nation-to-nation relationship between Indigenous peoples and the Crown, leaders across Canadian society are called to educate themselves – to “paddle their own canoe” as it were, and obtain “skills-based training in intercultural competency, conflict resolution, human rights, and anti-racism.” (Call to Action #57 and others)[16]

As TRC lead commissioner, Senator Murray Sinclair said: “We have described for you a mountain. We have shown you the path to the top. We call upon you to do the climbing."

In the Calls to Action, community-based youth organizations are singled out as significant in “delivering programs on reconciliation, and they are asked to establish a national network to share information and best practices.”[17]

Museums are called to collaborate with Aboriginal peoples. Nationally, the federal government and the Canadian Museum Association are to set aside funds for 150th anniversary commemoration projects on the theme of reconciliation.[18]

Sports and recreation represent a major area for volunteer engagement and are called along with “…all levels of government, in collaboration with Aboriginal peoples, sports halls of fame, and other relevant organizations, to provide public education that tells the national story of Aboriginal athletes in history.”[19]

And, finally, since Halton Region and many other regions in the country have welcomed newcomers from around the world for many years and continue to do so, it is important for voluntary sector leaders to know that there is a call to revise “…the information kit for newcomers to Canada and its citizenship test to reflect a more inclusive history of the diverse Aboriginal peoples of Canada, including Calls to Action, information about the Treaties and the history of residential schools.”[20]

In conclusion, whereas engaging in the work of reconciliation in Halton Region may initially be regarded as one more requirement for a stretched voluntary sector, I wonder if there is another form of math going on. That reconciliation between Indigenous and non-Indigenous peoples will enhance the prospects for vibrant and inclusive communities in ways that are more than we can ask or imagine.

I am reminded of the words of Australian Aborigine activist, artist and academic, Lilla Watson, who said: “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then let us work together.”

Thank you for listening.

To Learn More

National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation

The permanent home for all statements, documents, and other materials gathered by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, including the Calls To Action (see ‘Reports’)

KAIROS: Canadian Ecumenical Justice Initiatives

Ecumenical movement for ecological justice and human rights, encompassing 10 major churches and religious groups, in a cross-Canada network.

Woodland Cultural Centre and the Mohawk Institute

[1] This transcript has been slightly abridged from remarks delivered

[2] Map and description:

[3] Naming the Moment is a participatory method of identifying and analyzing issues in order to decide how to act on them. It began in 1986 and is based on popular education techniques, particularly those of Paulo Friere. 

[4] Volunteer Canada, “150 years of Canadian volunteering history,” June 26, 2017 (blog),

[5] Janet Lautenschlager, “Volunteering: a traditional Canadian value,” Canadian Heritage.

[6] Niigaan James Sinclair, “Indigenous nationhood can save the world. Here’s how”, Globe & Mail, September 12, 2017.

[7] Don Smith, “Toronto played a role in dark history of assimilation,” Toronto Star, Sept 17, 2017.

[8] Volunteer Canada, “150 years of Canadian volunteering history,”

[9]   November 8, 2016, accessed September 19.

[10]  U of Guelph researcher, Ian Mosby.

[11] Volunteer Canada, “150 years of Canadian volunteering history,”

[12] Environics, Canadian Public Opinion on Aboriginal Peoples, June 2016.

[13] Environics, p 25.

[14] Community Foundations Canada, Vital Signs 2015 report, “Belonging”.

[15] Statistics Canada. 2017. Halton, RM [Census division], Ontario and Ontario [Province] (table). Census Profile. 2016 Census. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 98-316-X2016001. Ottawa. Released November 29, 2017. (accessed December 4, 2017).

[16] Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada, 94 Calls to Action,

[17] Ibid. TRC Call to Action #66

[18] Ibid. TRC Call to Action #68.

[19] Ibid. TRC Calls to Action #87-91.

[20] Ibid. TRC Calls to Action #93 and 94.

  Community Dispatch PDF

Produced by Community Development Halton
3350 South Service Roard
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3M6
(905) 632-1975; 1-855-395-8807 (toll free); E-mail: