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Connecting Ottawa Communique

Connecting Ottawa Communique
January 25, 2023

We are pleased to provide this information for front-line workers to support the information and referral needs of clients. Connecting Ottawa education sessions that may be of interest to workers are listed first followed by information and updates from our lawyers and partners related to services and programs relevant to clients who have a communication barrier due to language or sensory disability. Please feel free to share this email widely among your networks.

Upcoming Connecting Ottawa education sessions:

Introduction to Connecting Ottawa – New front-line worker orientation session! 
Date:  Thursday, February 2, 2023
Time:  11:00 a.m. – 12:00 pm
Speakers:  Lawyers Heather Neufeld and Liz Majic 
Zoom link: https://us02web.zoom.us/j/87447861209?pwd=TDh6eXhPbXd5aVlSMHlMWTMvN0FjUT09
Meeting ID: 874 4786 1209
Passcode: 756610
This session introduces new caseworkers in our partnership network to Connecting Ottawa. Heather and Liz will discuss Connecting Ottawa’s mandate, target populations (the people we serve), and how you can access legal support services on behalf of your eligible clients. Heather and Liz will also explain certain legal documents, such as affidavits and statutory declarations; clarify the difference between Legal Aid Ontario and community legal clinics; and talk about what it means to give legal information versus legal advice. We hope new caseworkers at your organizations, or anyone who needs a refresher, can join us!

Free Income Tax & Benefit Clinics in Ottawa: Information for Frontline Workers to Support Clients
Date:  Tuesday, February 14, 2023
Time:  11:00 a.m. – 12:00 pm
Speakers:  Bill Singleton and Jonathan Rothschild
Zoom link:  https://us02web.zoom.us/j/86302493912?pwd=Qld0Sm1Jdk9PNjBZeU8zN3ZUdEt5dz09
Meeting ID: 863 0249 3912
Passcode: 348687

Legal information and updates: 

Information sessions for Ukrainian newcomers
OCISO will be hosting a virtual informative session for clients by Ronalee Carey, Immigration and Refugee Lawyer, on January 31, 2023 from 1:00 – 3:00 p.m. about the Express Entry program, including the eligibility requirements, how to improve your comprehensive ranking system score, upcoming changes to how applicants will be selected, and the alternatives to Express Entry.  Clients can register at: https://bit.ly/3j1nWFV

Jewish Family Services (JFS) will be hosting Immigration Lawyer Ronalee Carey for a presentation on permanent residency programs on February 6, 2023 from 7:00 to 9:00 p.m.  The presentation will focus on the main immigration programs that are currently available and their requirements.  The presentation will be held in English. Participation is free. Please have clients register for the presentation through the link: https://jfsottawa.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZ0kc-ygrTwqH92LUsQkEUVo5PE_ZEe4UopM

New Two-Year Pilot for Work Permits for Spouses and Working Age Dependent Children of Temporary Foreign Workers
Starting this month, Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada will begin to issue work permits to spouses and working-age dependent children of individuals coming to Canada as temporary foreign workers. In the past, only the spouses of high-skilled workers could obtain a permit to work full-time in Canada at the same time as their spouse coming to work here. However, under this new policy, which will be rolled out in phases, eventually spouses and working-age dependent children of workers at all skill levels will be able to come to Canada with their own work permit when accompanying the temporary foreign worker. This will permit more family members to come to Canada together and contribute to their family’s income. Although the two-year policy begins this month, the work permits for the family members of low-skill workers are not yet available. For more information, see: https://www.canada.ca/en/immigration-refugees-citizenship/news/2022/12/employers-and-temporary-workers-to-benefit-from-family-work-permits-to-address-labour-shortages.html

Can you apply for the Canada Dental Benefit if your child’s dental care is covered by Healthy Smiles Ontario?
Healthy Smiles Ontario is a free dental program for eligible children and youth 17 years of age and under. If your child’s dental care is covered by Healthy Smiles, you can apply for the Canada Dental Benefit (CDB) only IF Healthy Smiles does not cover the full cost of your child’s dental care. For example, if your child’s dental care cost $300 and Healthy Smiles only covered $200, you can apply for the CDB. The amount you get from the CDB is based on your income. If you receive $650 from the CDB because your annual income is below $70,000, you can use the benefit to cover the remaining $100 you paid out-of-pocket and keep the $550 unused portion. Make sure to keep all receipts and invoices for any dental care you paid for because the Canada Revenue Agency may ask you for this information at any time. We also encourage you to speak with your Ontario Works or ODSP caseworker to confirm whether or not the unused portion of the benefit counts as income. To download the updated CDB information sheet from Connecting Ottawa, visit: Connecting Ottawa Resources – Connecting Ottawa

Ontario government doubling Guaranteed Annual Income System (GAINS) payment beginning January 2023
The Ontario government is doubling the GAINS payment for all recipients for 12 months beginning January 2023. This measure will increase the maximum GAINS payment to $166 per month for single seniors and to $332 per month for couples, a maximum increase of almost $1,000 per person in 2023. Starting January 2023 until December 2023, the doubled payment will be issued automatically as part of regular monthly GAINS payments. For more information on GAINS, including the eligibility criteria, see here: Ontario Guaranteed Annual Income System payments for seniors | ontario.ca.

Employment Insurance (EI) sickness benefits extended to 26 weeks as of December 18, 2022
A reminder that the federal government extended the maximum period of EI sickness benefits from 15 weeks to 26 weeks. These extra weeks are available for new EI sickness claims established on or after December 18, 2022.  For more information see Community Legal Education Ontario’s recent On the Radar: CLEO’s On the Radar: Changes to EI sickness benefits – Steps to Justice.

Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario brochure on Elder Financial Abuse
Elder Abuse Prevention Ontario has published a brochure on elder financial abuse, how to spot it and what can be done to support individuals in these circumstances.  Download the brochure at: EAPO_brochure_FinancialAbuse_2022.pdf (eapon.ca)

Social Services Tribunal infographics on hearings processes
The Social Services Tribunal has released four infographics about hearings as part of their user-centred approach to providing justice services. Check out these tools below:

Hearings at the General Division:
o   Employment Insurance
o   Canada Pension Plan (including disability), Old Age Security (including Guaranteed Income Supplement)

Hearings at the Appeal Division:
o   Employment Insurance
o   Canada Pension Plan (including disability), Old Age Security (including Guaranteed Income Supplement)

Atelier d’information sur la demande de divorce simple
Date:   mardi, 31 janvier  
Heure: 15h00 à 16h30
Placer: 270 rue Marier, dans la Salle Raymond Delage
Conférencière:  Liliane Kalonji, avocate spécialisée en droit de la famille à la Clinique juridique francophone d’Ottawa (CJFO).
Inscription: https://www.eventbrite.ca/e/billets-atelier-dinformation-sur-la-demande-de-divorce-simple-520520700427

Atelier gratuit:  Centre d’information juridique de l’Ontario
Survol du formulaire N12 – Avis de résiliation de la location parce que le locateur, un acheteur ou un membre de la famille veut occuper le logement locatif
Date : Thursday January 26, 2022
Time : 12 :00 to 1 :00 pm
Speaker : Eric Cabana, Clinique juridique francophone d’Ottawa
Zoom : https://us02web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_RD7Lp8INRNOsr2ZtBCZb

Refugee 613 looking for clients to photograph
Refugee 613 is looking for faces from the Ottawa area to feature in their content.  They would like to photograph families, couples and individuals of all ages and countries of origin who reflect Canada’s immigrant communities. The professional photoshoots will take place in Ottawa on various dates and times. Refugee 613 is offering a modest compensation to participants as well as professional headshots for their own use.  Deadline to apply is January 27, 2023. Please have clients contact Laila Joud, Project Coordinator at laila@refugee613.ca.

Family Violence Family Law Project
This project, funded by the Public Health Agency of Canada, through the Alliance of Canadian Research Centres on Gender-Based Violence seeks to

  • Enhance training opportunities for GBV specialists and Family law specialists to support trauma-informed practice.     
  • Identify strategies for improved communication and awareness across sectors to support family violence survivors as they engage with the family law sector. 

To learn more and to sign up for the newsletter, visit the website at:Home – Family Violence Family Law – Home – Family Violence Family Law – Western University (fvfl-vfdf.ca)

OCDSB Kindergarten registration
Children who are four years old by December 31, 2023 can be registered for Kindergarten with the OCDSB at any time. Visit the website to learn more, register, or find out when local schools’ parent information night will be held. Website: https://www.ocdsb.ca/cms/One.aspx?portalId=55478&pageId=33665098

Youth living with coercive control
Youth may experience coercive control and abuse in the context of adult intimate partner violence, divorce, and separation. It is essential to acknowledge and respect the rights, safety, and well-being of young people navigating such situations. WesternU Learning Network has posted a recording from a recent webinar with voices of three youth advocates as they describe their experiences with coercive control and abuse, and their subsequent experiences in the justice and service provision systems. Panelists offer recommendations for how service providers and the justice system can better support youth, respect their rights, and acknowledge them as whole persons.  To view the recorded webinar, visit: Lauren Irvine, Selena Lai, and Izzy Lebrun – Learning Network – Western University (vawlearningnetwork.ca)

Intimate images and consent
WesternU Learning  Network is hosting a two day virtual session on February 8 and 9, 2023  from 1:30 – 3:30 p.m. on the topic of intimate images and consent. This forum explores non-consensual distribution of intimate images of adults in the Canadian context.  An intersectional and sex-positive lens will be used to explore its forms and how it impacts different communities. Barriers to support seeking and trauma-informed responses to support survivors will be discussed.  To register, visit: Not Yours to Distribute! Intimate Images and Consent – Learning Network – Western University (vawlearningnetwork.ca)

Survey of young workers
The Better Work Project wants to learn more about how young people evaluate the quality of their paid work. They are interested in hearing from young people (ages 16-29) living in Ontario about all types of paid work – jobs, gig work, freelance work, small businesses and more. Please share with your networks: Better Work Survey (qualtrics.com)

Reminder: Proxy marriages not permitted under Canadian immigration law
At Connecting Ottawa, we receive many questions concerning whether an individual can sponsor their spouse for permanent residence after marrying in a ceremony that did not involve both spouses being together in-person. In many cases, one spouse is in Canada and the other abroad. They conduct the ceremony by video or relatives represent one of the spouses at the wedding. It is important to know that such “proxy” marriages are not permitted for Canadian immigration purposes. Individuals who seek to sponsor a spouse based on marriage must have physically married in the presence of the other spouse.

Reminder: All children have the right to attend school in Ontario except visitors (other than CUAET)
We often speak to workers who are confused about who may study at elementary school and secondary school in Ontario. Please note that all children have the right to study for free, including children with no immigration status. Whether children may study has nothing to do with whether or not their parents pay taxes. The only children who may not study at elementary and secondary school for free are those who are in Canada on a visitor visa. All other children have the right to study.  Although children on visitor visas are not permitted to attend school, the province has made an exception for Ukrainians who enter as visitors pursuant to the Canada Ukraine Authorization for Emergency Travel (CUAET). All Ukrainian children are permitted to study without paying fees.

Reminder: Can Ukrainians and refugee claimants apply for the one-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit? 
Short answer: it depends. Ukrainians who came to Canada on CUAET and refugee claimants must meet all of the eligibility criteria to apply for this benefit. In particular, you have to be a resident of Canada for tax purposes in 2022 (Determining your residency status – Canada.ca) and you and your spouse or common-law partner have filed your 2021 income tax and benefit returns. Since Ukrainians on CUAET and some refugee claimants did not file 2021 income tax returns, they must declare their world income for 2021 and any income in 2022 before arriving in Canada to the Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) general benefits line: 1-800-387-1193 (press “0” to speak with an agent). Ukrainians on CUAET and refugee claimants can presumably apply for the benefit as soon as the CRA updates their income information: How to apply – One-time top-up to the Canada Housing Benefit – Canada.ca.

In case you missed it … (we think the following information bears repeating)

Updated Connecting Ottawa information sheets
The following resources have been produced by Connecting Ottawa lawyers to provide front line workers and community members with information and referral resources for common legal issues.  Please feel free to share with your clients and networks.

Monthly earnings exemption to increase for Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) from $200 to $1,000 per month
As of February 1, 2023, ODSP is increasing the monthly earnings exemption from $200 to $1,000 per month without affecting ODSP income support, benefits, or eligibility. This means that the amount people can earn without any deductions will increase from $200 to $1,000. The new exemption rules apply only to adult benefit unit members who are either persons with a disability or members of a prescribed class – other benefit unit members remain subject to current exemption rules. The amount that is deducted on income above the new exemption amount will also increase from 50% to 75%. This change will be reflected in the March 2023 payment.

10 paid sick days for workers covered by federal labour laws
If you are employed in an industry that’s covered by Federal labour laws such as airlines, railways, trucking, banking, or telecommunications, you will have up to 10 paid sick days in 2023. These permanent, employer-paid sick days came into effect under the Canada Labour Code on December 1, 2022. However, the earliest that workers can access their paid sick days is January 1, 2023 when they will have access to 3 days after 30 days of continuous employment. After that, you earn 1 additional day at the start of each month. any paid sick days not used each year can be carried to the next calendar year. For more information on Federal paid sick leave, visit the Workers’ Action Centre: 10 Paid Sick Days for Workers Covered by Federal Labour Laws (workersactioncentre.org) or read their helpful information sheet: Federal-Paid-Sick-Leave-Factsheet_English_Dec-2022.pdf (workersactioncentre.org).

Community dental screenings
Ottawa Public Health has confirmed that community dental screenings activities will continue to be provided in the new year at Neighbourhood Health and Wellness Hubs.  Front line workers are encouraged to refer clients that have dental needs.  A full schedule for services and locations is available at: www.OttawaPublicHealth.ca/NeighbourhoodHub.  In between dental screening dates, if front-line workers have clients that need urgent attention, please call the OPH Dental Information Line at 613-2424, ext 23510 to see if they are eligible for a dental program.

CLEO’s Guided Pathway to fight eviction now has a personalized checklist
CLEO’s free Guided Pathway can help clients whose landlord is trying to evict because of unpaid rent. The Eviction Solution Explorer asks questions about the situation, gives information to help answer them, and creates documents based on the answers. At the end of the pathway, clients can download and save or print all selections and notes in a personalized list. For more information on the Eviction Solution Explorer, visit: stepstojustice.ca/guided-pathways/housing-law-eviction-solution-explorer.

Refugee 613 multilingual infographic on COVID-19, the flu and RSV
Multi-lingual infographics to help clients stay safe from COVID-19, RSV, and the flu are now available in 12 languages (Arabic, Dari, English, French, Hindi, Pashto, Punjabi, Simplified Chinese, Spanish, Traditional Chinese, Ukrainian and Urdu).  Visit https://bit.ly/Flu_COVID_RSV to download these important infographics.

Self help tenant forms
The Lake Country Community Legal Clinic has shared a series of helpful information sheets and forms for tenants.  Please click on the link below to download:

Employment Insurance (EI) benefit rate increase 
The maximum insurable earnings (MIE) is the income level up to which EI premiums are paid. Effective January 1, 2023, the MIE will increase from $60,300 to $61,500. This means an insured worker will pay EI premiums in 2023 on insured earnings up to $61,500. In 2023, the employee EI premium rate will be $1.63 per $100. This premium rate and the MIE increase means that insured workers will pay a maximum annual EI premium in 2023 of $1,002.45 compared with $952.74 in 2022. Because of the increased MIE, beginning in January 2023, the maximum weekly EI benefit rate will increase from $638 to $650 per week. Claims established before December 31, 2022, will not be affected by the 2023 MIE increase.

OW/ODSP treatment of “Catch Up Payment” benefits
At the end of October, the Ontario government announced the new “Catch Up Payment” benefit to help pay for student learning supports to help fill gaps that may have emerged because of COVID‑19.  MCCSS has advised that the new COVID-19 “Catch Up Payments” being issued through the Ministry of Education to address learning gaps due to the pandemic will not be considered income for purposes of determining eligibility for social assistance.  Eligible applicants (parents/guardians or secondary students aged 18) can apply from now until the end of March 2023 for one-time payments of:

  • $200 for each student between kindergarten and Grade 12, up to age 18
  • $250 for each student with special education needs between kindergarten and Grade 12, up to age 21

Connecting Ottawa lawyer Liz Majic recently published an information sheet on this new benefit.  You can view the info sheet at: https://connectingottawa.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/11/CatchUpPayments_Nov-1.pdf  For further details and to access the application form, see https://www.ontario.ca/page/catch-up-payments.

Connect with us …
Connecting Ottawa is available to support front-line workers in Ottawa to provide appropriate legal information and referrals to clients with  communication barriers as a result of language or sensory disability. If you have a question or require a consultation, please send it to info@connectingottawa.comalong with an Intake Form: https://connectingottawa.com/request-for-information-consultation/.  This will ensure the most efficient response to your request.  As a reminder, we do not provide direct legal services to individuals