Welcome to our monthly update about First Call’s advocacy work and key actions you can take to support children and youth in BC.
Highlights this month include:
- We reviewed the federal budget for highlights and misses for BC’s children and youth
- We heard back from MSDSI Minister Stilwell about family maintenance services
- We wrote to BC MPs in support of Bill C242 about inflicting torture
- We are looking for new steering committee members, could it be you?
- We were out in the community, including visiting First Call member Raffi
- We got a lot of news coverage about poverty, the living wage and Corinne’s Quest
Read on to learn more!
Yours for children and youth,
Julie, Sarena, Adrienne, and Deanna
FEDERAL BUDGET 2016 TAKES AIM AT CHILD POVERTY, MISSES EARLY CHILDHOOD URGENCY
First Call Coalition members were looking for a 2016 federal budget that put Canada’s children and youth first and that ensured that BC’s children and youth have the resources they need to thrive.
We were heartened by a number of new commitments for families with young children, especially the Canada Child Benefit, but were disappointed in the delay and lack of concrete action on a national childcare plan.
Read our full media release here.
RESPONSE FROM MSDSI MINISTER STILWELL RE: FAMILY MAINTENANCE SERVICE
On March 8, 2016, Michelle Stilwell, the minister of social development and social innovation, responded by email to First Call, West Coast LEAF and Single Mothers’ Alliance BC’s December 18, 2015 email regarding Family Maintenance Services (FMS), that is, MSDSI-funded legal help for benefit recipients to obtain or defend a child support order.
In the December 18 email we asked whether the Ministry anticipated any changes to the following for the 2016/17 fiscal year:
- the eligibility requirements for FMS
- the specific services provided through FMS
- the current FMS delivery model
- the funding allocation for FMS
The Minister responded with an assurance that the ministry does not anticipate any service changes for the 2016/17 fiscal year and that they continue to provide funding support for the provision of family maintenance services for all eligible clients.
She responded to our concerns about clearly and consistently informing clients about the availability of these services with links to information on the ministry website and assurances that staff training has been done and operating procedures to refer clients for legal help are clearly laid out.
However, First Call is still hearing reports from the field that some ministry staff are telling women this service no longer exists.
Read Minister Stilwell’s full response
- December 18, 2015:First Call, West Coast LEAF and Single Mothers’ Alliance BC’s email to MSDSI Minister Stillwell regarding Family Maintenance Services.
- March 23, 2015:MSDSI Minister Stilwell’s Child Support Clawback and Family Maintenance Service Response
- March 2, 2015:Letter to MSDSI Minister McRae Re Child Support Clawback and Family Maintenance Service
- February 11, 2015:Joint Submission to the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation Family Maintenance Consultation
FIRST CALL SUPPORTS BILL C-242 TO AMEND THE CRIMINAL CODE RE: INFLICTING TORTURE
This issue was brought to our attention by First Call member the University Women’s Club of Vancouver and we subsequently wrote a letter to all BC MPs urging them to support Bill C-242, a private member’s bill that would amend the Criminal Code (Inflicting Torture).
This bill is particularly important to First Call’s mission to put BC’s children and youth first given that women and girls are disproportionately affected by extreme forms of violence such as torture inflicted in the private realm.
The present legislation on torture (CC 269.1) only recognizes torture inflicted by a state official or someone acting with the consent and acquiescence of such an official. Acts of torture carried out by private individuals are not punishable under this section of the Criminal Code, and are instead considered aggravated assault – a crime that carries a maximum sentence of just 14 years.
We live in a day and age where states are not the only perpetrators of extreme violence and terror. We must amend our laws to keep up with changing times and to adequately recognize both the ordeals of victims and the crimes of the perpetrators.
The UN Committee against Torture has called on states to recognize and address acts of torture that are carried out in the private realm. This amendment to the Criminal Code would reflect Canada’s commitment to the United Nations human rights instruments, which we have ratified.
You can read out full letter here.
FIRST CALL SEEKING NEW STEERING COMMITTEE MEMBERS
First Call is seeking representative from our coalition members to serve on our steering committee for a two-year term with the option to renew. This is an opportunity to join a dynamic team of child and youth champions in supporting and leading First Call’s policy advocacy, public education and community mobilization work.
The committee is comprised of individual volunteers from First Call Coalition member organizations, including representation from members that work in areas aligned with each of the 4 Keys to Success for Children and Youth. The steering committee meets bi-monthly (six times a year) to oversee First Call’s strategic direction and serves as the liaison between the coalition member organisations and the coalition’s three staff who perform the day-to-day work of the coalition.
We are especially looking to build stronger representation on the steering committee related to the following areas of expertise and representation:
- Aboriginal communities
- youth-serving organizations
- disability sector
- health sector
- multicultural/immigrant/refugee sector
We are also seeking representation from beyond the Lower Mainland and can facilitate participation in steering committee meetings via teleconference.
If you are a First Call member and are interested in joining the steering committee, please review the steering committee terms of reference and complete and return the steering committee application form along with the most recent version of your resume, as soon as possible, to firstname.lastname@example.org.
SHOW YOUR SUPPORT – SIGN THE PETITION TO SUPPORT A LIVING WAGE IN PORT COQUITLAM
First Call’s Living Wage for Families Campaign has launched the Port Coquitlam campaign website to let city councilors know we support their leadership in becoming a Living Wage Employer.
Last December, the Port Coquitlam finance committee committed to exploring what it would mean to become a Living Wage Employer. (See “Living wage to come to Port Coquitlam city hall” from the Tri-City News.)
FIRST CALL OUT AND ABOUT
We had a busy month out in the community, including:
- A grand day out to Saltspring to touch base with BC’s beloved Raffi and his Centre for Child Honouring, a new First Call member. We strategized about partnering on a public event next year so stay tuned!
- Presenting at a well-attended public forum in Powell-River about child poverty and advocacy
- Presenting to the coordinators of the Community Action Program for Children in BC about our child poverty report card and early years call to action
FIRST CALL IN THE NEWS
Vancity Buzz: Raising minimum wage won’t help reduce poverty: study
Vancouver Sun Opinion: Low-wage workers deserve more than old messaging — they deserve a raise
Enterprise magazine: Pay it forward: Living wage employers play a powerful role in reducing poverty
Globe and Mail: Don’t worry about what the ‘experts’ say: The kids are going to be all right (Corinne’s Quest)
Powell River Peak: Groundwork for social planning in Powell River underway
FIRST CALL CORRESPONDENCE & PUBLICATIONS
February 2016: MCFD Responds to Concerns Re: Child Care Registry