Access to photo cards and birth certificates should be easier in Ontario.
Marginalized and vulnerable individuals often cannot afford to pay the fees for this identification.
Without government ID, individuals cannot obtain social assistance, open bank accounts, secure housing or receive medical care.
As this piece is being written, a private members bill which addresses this problem is working its way through the Ontario Legislature. Private members bills don’t very often become law. If this one does, we’ll be happy. If it fails or dies because the legislature adjourns for the June 7th provincial election, we hope it will be re-introduced.
Bill 26, sponsored by Kingston MPP Sophie Kiwali, amends the Photo Card Act, 2008 so that fee waivers will be provided for individuals who cannot afford to pay the fees required for photo cards. The Bill also amends the Vital Statistics Act so that fees will be waived for individuals who cannot afford to pay the fees required for birth certificates.
While we are on the topic of private member’s bills, it is worth mentioning two others.
Bill 30 is one. It was originally introduced in June of 2016 by Hamilton East MPP Paul Miller. The Ministry of Community and Social Services Amendment Act (Social Assistance Research Commission), 2018 calls for the creation of a social assistance rates commission.
This proposed legislation was introduced in a slightly different form eleven years ago by MPP Ted McMeekin. It died then with the adjournment for the 2007 election.
These bills put forward the totally sensible idea that social assistance rates should be based on the actual cost of food, rent and other essentials. Surely this idea will be adopted some day.
Another private members bill we have been interested in has died and will not come back before the election. That one was called the Protecting Vulnerable Persons in Supportive Living Accommodation (SLA) Act. It would have established licensing rules for privately operated SLAs, as well as increased protections to prevent mistreatment of vulnerable high-risk adults and seniors living in this type of housing.
Hamilton is one of only three cities that regulate such facilities and there is room for improvement on those regulations. It is inconceivable that there are no provincial standards
All three of these initiatives could improve the lives of people in Hamilton and Ontario.
Law reform doesn’t come about overnight. The provincial election provides an opportunity to discuss these ideas when candidates come knocking at your door.
Bob Wood is a Community Worker at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic. More information on the legislation discussed above can be found on the Clinic’s website at www.hamiltonjustice.ca