"The tide is turning" NAPO celebrates another victory over discrimination

For immediate release
September 20, 2000

In a move which recognized that discrimination against poor people will no longer be tolerated, Winnipeg City Council passed a new by-law today on “obstructive solicitation” which made no reference to panhandling. The by-law, which replaces a former anti-panhandling by-law, was accepted by the National Anti-Poverty Organization, a group which had legally challenged the panhandling by-law for its violation of poor people's rights to free expression and to equal treatment under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Laurie Rektor, NAPO's Executive Director, pointed out that this victory signals a new trend, one that shows an increasing recognition of poor people's rights in Canada. “Our political and legal representatives are beginning to realize that the rights of low-income Canadians must be protected in order to create a just and democratic society. There is growing recognition that poor people experience discrimination as a group, and that this situation cannot continue. The tide is certainly beginning to turn.”

There is a growing body of evidence that indicates that the recognition of poor people's rights is becoming firmly established:

  • the recommendation by the Canadian Human Rights Act Review Panel that 'social condition' be recognized in the Act as one of the prohibited grounds for discrimination
  • the introduction of federal access-to-banking legislation into the House of Commons in June, which will ensure that employment and an initial minimum balance are no longer conditions for opening a bank account
  • the recent announcement in Manitoba that families receiving social assistance would no longer have the National Child Benefit clawed back
  • the decision this month that landlords in Ontario may no longer refuse to rent to low income households which would be paying more than 30% of their income on rent

Ms. Rektor noted that the cumulative impact of these decisions could be enormous. “If this trend continues, it will mark a sea change in how Canadians and our public institutions view poor people,” she argued. “As each barrier is brought down, the potential for poor people to participate as full and equal members of society is closer to being fully realized.”

NAPO has been working to end discrimination against poor people since its inception in 1971. The organization is currently involved with a challenge to a similar panhandling by-law in the City of Vancouver. That challenge is expected to go to court on January 15, 2001.

For more information, contact:
Laurie Rektor, Executive Director, at (613) 789-0096
Michael Conner, Legal Counsel, at (204) 985-5220