Ahmed Hussen, our MP and the Minister of Immigration, had a ‘toy pile of shame’ outside his office this week. The toys were left there to protest the Canada’s policies against refugee claimants, and children in particular.
Critics, including Amnesty International, are calling on the federal government to rescind the Safe Third Country Agreement, which requires claimants to seek refugee protection in the first country they land in. They say that the United States is no longer a safe country for refugees, especially in light of the separation of children and parents.
Because the agreement applies only at regular border crossings, tens of thousands of refugee claimants have crossed on foot.
Chiara Padovani wants to be York South-Weston’s next councillor for Ward 11, replacing long-time incumbent Frances Nunziata. She has become quite active in the ward and among other things is closely monitoring the state of retail in YSW.
She recently promised that she would contact the Financial Consumer Agency regarding the recently announced closure of Weston’s TD Canada Trust branch. The closure was announced without any community consultation and Ms Padovani is seeking such a consultation by writing to the FCAC’s Commissioner, Lucie Tedesco.
Here is the letter that Ms Padovani sent:
Re: File with reference number 363484
Dear Commissioner Tedesco,
I am writing to request a meeting regarding the closure of the TD Canada Trust Bank located at 1979 Weston Road in Toronto Ontario (Branch Number 335).
This marks the fourth TD Branch closure in York South-Weston, a community that has become the target of predatory lending and payday loans. The bank has failed to fulfill its obligation to consult with the community, and many customers – myself included – did not even receive notice of the bank’s closure.
As a resident and local social worker in the community, I cannot stress the importance of providing fair access to financial institutions. Had TD Canada Trust consulted with the community, they would have become aware of the social and economic hardship that this closure will cause to the residents of Weston including but not limited to:
Proximity – The branch is within walking distance of over 10,000 residents. Many of these residents do not own cars and spending nearly $7 on the TTC fare required to get to the new location will be a significant barrier for low-income customers. In Forest Hill, a far less densely populated neighbourhood, there are seven TD Banks within close proximity of each other.
Accessibility – The branch is located in a neighbourhood where many residents are seniors and people with disabilities. These residents rely on this branch because they can access banking services without having to travel far.
Lack of financial alternatives – CIBC, Scotiabank and TD Canada Trust branches have already closed down and left the neighbourhood. Predatory lenders are quickly filling the gap for financial services in York South-Weston. As you know, these institutions trap hard-working families in a cycle of debt and economic violence that will threaten the quality of life for too many in this community.
These are just some of the reasons I ask that the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada convene a public meeting between the community and TD Canada Trust to discuss and resolve the challenges posed by the bank’s imminent closure.
I contacted the MP for York South-Weston Ahmed Hussen a couple of weeks ago regarding the closure and a staff member tried to fob me off to the Ottawa office bizarrely claiming that it was not a local matter. After persisting, the staffer said he would inform the minister and call back but never did. Apparently that’s not an unusual experience.
If you would like to add your voice to the initiative, contact the FCAC at 1-866-461-3222 and mention file number 363484.
Last night’s debate at the York Civic Centre was an exercise in civility as well as democracy. There’s a lot at stake in this election and all but one of the main party candidates showed up to answer questions from ordinary folks. Not all people present were regular voters. Many were party movers and shakers, aficionados and rabid hacks from all sides (you know who you are).
The ‘elephant’ not in the room was PC candidate Mark DeMontis. Whatever the reason, as Adam wrote yesterday, his absence was a loss to the debate. Mr. DeMontis allegedly spent the evening canvassing, tweeting profound thoughts while doing so. Here’s a sample:
Walking down #westonroad the heartbeat of #yorksouthweston and the #6ix tonight to meet and listen to the residence whose voices feel they have not been heard. I’m tired of talking about the past, I’m ready for a new vision for the future. This community raised me to take action
Organizers could have left an empty seat and name tag out for the missing candidate but didn’t, reflecting the professionalism and civility mentioned earlier. While candidates who miss debates are generally Conservative, Liberal MP Ahmed Hussen skipped out on the main YSW debate back in September 2015 and it didn’t seem to hurt him in spite of predictions to the contrary.
A consortium of groups came together to organize the debate including For Youth Initiative members GreenHills, Rockliffe Smythe and Mount Dennis community groups and the Weston Village and Stockyards residents’ associations.
Political debates can get nasty and raucous. This one was a positive love-fest thanks to superb organization with a team of volunteers performing a variety of tasks including ushering and gathering written audience questions. Questions were presented, usually by their authors. Candidates were able to deliver their answers without interruption. Moderator Sean Hertel outlined his expectations then kept things in line with effortless skill and injections of humour. Timekeeper Cherri Hurst kept candidates on the straight and narrow.
One thing pointed out during the debate was that all but one of the candidates present was an immigrant to Canada and how that reflected well on our country. Another thing that came across was the decency and sincerity of the candidates.
Faisal Hassan is the NDP hopeful in YSW and has been active in the party for a long time. He began his life in Canada in Winnipeg and more recently worked for former YSW MP, Mike Sullivan and for the NDP in Etobicoke North during the last federal general election. He has lived in Weston for 20 years and believes in the importance of helping members of the community. Over the last fifteen years, he thinks that life has become harder for people in YSW, referring to inadequate transit links, hallway medicine and expensive childcare. He believes that we need to make life more affordable for everyone. More on Mr Hassan here.
Libertarian Party of Ontario candidate Bonnie Hu is a grocery store worker who has run for the party here and in a Vancouver by-election in 2016. Her party is big on self-sufficiency, lower taxes and minimal government involvement and Bonnie’s answers were mainly consistent with that philosophy – although she does feel we should spend money on ESL teachers. She would like more services for immigrants, decriminalization of all drugs and is opposed to the $14 minimum wage and says it was too large a hike.
Grad Murray is the Green Party of Ontario’s nominee. Articulate and knowledgeable, Mr. Murray has a degree in political science and it shows. He wants to put the community first and believes everyone has a right to live in dignity and that would include comprehensive health care and transportation systems. Mr. Murray believes in the need for ‘fearless public transportation’ and says that investing in people is a helpful hand up, not a humiliating hand-out.
Laura Albanese for the Liberal Party of Ontario stressed the importance for voters to be informed. She reminded the audience that she has represented YSW for the last 10 years and believes that the most important job of a legislator is to bring real improvements to a community. As evidence, she pointed to investments in the West Park Health Care Centre, the UP Express and Eglinton Crosstown Line, training and support for young people, full day kindergaten in schools, modernizing classrooms. She would like to continue to do more like provide free childcare and tuition programs.
TD Canada Trust has officially announced the upcoming closure of its Weston branch at 1979 Weston Road. Adam broke the story last year. The bean counters at TD Canada Trust have decided that closing the Weston branch will save them more money than the potential loss of clients. According to the bank handout regarding the closure,
Prior to making a decision to close a particular branch and move customer accounts to another branch, TD Canada Trust always undertakes a thorough review of the customer impact of the move. If our review indicates that the move may result in some particular concerns for all or a certain group of the affected customers, TD Canada Trust will hold an information session to discuss our plans and how we propose to deal with those concerns.
From September 21, Weston customers who stay with TD will be expected to schlep along to 2547 Weston Road at the 401. It’s another example of the banking industry reaping huge profits while abandoning their customers. This also makes room for payday loan companies to fill the void; unconscionable in a community with a fair number of vulnerable residents.
“You should know, however, that under the regulations, the Commissioners of the FCAC may require TD Canada Trust representatives to hold and attend a meeting with FCAC representatives and interested parties, in order to exchange views about the closure of a branch IF:
An individual from the area affected by the closure of the branch submits a written request to the FCAC for the meeting; and
2. TD Canada Trust has not adequately consulted the community about the branch closure; and
3. The request is not frivolous or vexatious.”
I’d like to know who the bank consulted with before deciding it was ok to close the branch. My wife has an account at the branch and this is the first she’d heard about the closing.
If you feel you haven’t been consulted enough about the move, submit your non-frivolous written request to:
Financial Consumer Agency of Canada
427 Laurier Avenue West, 6th Floor
Ottawa ON K1R 1B9
Phone contact for TD Canada Trust: 1-866-222-3456
Phone contact for FCAC: 1-866-461-3222
Perhaps this is where York South-Weston’s non-resident MP, Honourable Ahmed Hussen could get involved. Scotiabank’s closing was seemingly ignored by Mr. Hussen – a self-described social activist. I contacted his office and a staff member said they would pass my concerns about the latest bank closing to the minister.
Ahmed Hussen has always been prickly in the House, and often refuses to answer questions from members of the opposition. Instead, he frequently attacks his questioners for their perceived failures and their records–even though the Liberals were elected in 2015.
Yesterday Hussen was being questioned about his department’s response to the swelling numbers of refugee claimants crossing from the US. Hussen crossed a line and insulted his colleagues in response to a question from Alice Wong, a Conservative from BC.
Mr. Speaker, the Harper Conservatives would not know what compassion is if it hit them in the face.
The Harper Conservatives cut $400 million from border security operations, and they pretend to care about the border. The Harper Conservatives kept families apart, with spouses, live-in caregivers, children, and others in queues. We inherited a huge, ballooning backlog under the privately sponsored refugees.
The Conservatives have no idea what compassion is about. They did not care about the Yazidi refugees.
The Speaker, Geoff Regan, rebuked Hussen for being unparliamentary, and said
It is not helpful for order in this place to suggest that people are not honourable or lack compassion or are not competent. Of course, that goes both ways. I ask members to be cautious and careful in the words they use, and particularly the minister on this occasion. I would ask him not to use that kind of suggestion in the future.
Hussen was barely chastened. Questioned again, this time by Michelle Rempel, he again blamed the Conservatives for his predicament, saying:
Mr. Speaker, the Harper Conservatives never understood a very simple thing about immigration, that investment follows silence. They did not make the necessary investments in immigration processing.
CBC TV’s The National had an interview with Abdoul Abdi, the man who, having been released from a prison sentence for serious crimes, is facing deportation. Abdi is not a Canadian citizen—but he was a child refugee and ward of the state, and it was Nova Scotia’s responsibility to ensure he got his citizenship.
Abdoul Abdi’s adoptive mother lives in York South–Weston, and Abdoul had planned to move here. Ahmed Hussen, our MP, will ultimately be responsible for his deportation, should it occur.