Province releases What We Heard About Poverty in B.C. report

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Social Development and Poverty Reduction

British Columbia News

Province releases What We Heard About Poverty in B.C. report


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‘Accessible washrooms should include everyone’: N.S. human rights inquiry begins – Halifax

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Imagine only being able to go to a limited number of food establishments because the majority of them don’t have restrooms you’re able to access. Those living with physical disabilities in Nova Scotia say that is their ongoing reality.

Four people are now fighting the provincial government to address accessible bathrooms in a human rights inquiry.

“We have under a public health law, a requirement that every licensed food establishment has washrooms for the public that are convenient and those aren’t administered in any way that takes into account accessibility and our point of view is the public includes everybody, includes people who use wheelchairs for mobility and a convenient washroom for them is one that is accessible,” David Fraser said, the lawyer who’s representing the case on behalf of the complainants.

READ MORE: Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission to hold inquiry into restaurant washroom access

Fraser says the start of the inquiry is the latest stage in what’s been a “long process.”

He says his clients originally went to the Human Rights Commission to register a complaint about the way the province enforces accessible washrooms in the realm of public health. The commission rejected their complaint.

Fraser then took on the case pro-bono and the matter went before the Nova Scotia Supreme Court, where a court order was issued to accept the complaint.

That was last year, and since then the commission has appointed a tribunal to hear the matter.

The inquiry is being overseen by Gail Gatchalian, a human rights and labour law lawyer. Gatchalian has also granted intervenor status to the Restaurant Association of Nova Scotia, meaning they have the right to participate and provide comment on any legal issues being considered throughout the proceedings.

Fraser says the public-health law and regulations requiring accessible restrooms are in place, but how the government interprets them are key.

“Right now as we understand it, the government interprets the regulation in such a way that the public is the ‘average’ public and ‘convenient’ is only seen as a matter of, ‘Does the location of the washroom compromise food safety?’ And in our view, accessibility to the washroom actually has a big impact on that,” Fraser said.

One of the complaints is from Gus Reed, who wrote to the municipality when accessible patios were being considered, asking to consider the lack of accessible washrooms.

“I didn’t receive a response to that and in my own way, I pursued that by trying to speak with the minister of the environment,” he said.

Reed said he did have a meeting with the Department of Environment but that it was “inconclusive,” leading him to file a human rights complaint.

Reed ultimately wants the government to view inaccessibility to washrooms as a food-safety issue because if people with physical disabilities can’t wash their hands, it could impact the health safety of the restaurant as a whole.

Fraser reinforces that point by referencing an outbreak of Norovirus that occurred in a Halifax restaurant.

“Somebody came for a cruise ship and they transmitted Norovirus — a whole bunch of people on the staff got sick and hand hygiene is the number one thing that deals with those issues,” Fraser said.

The Department of Environment says regulations state that washrooms be in a convenient location, and the government recognizes the importance of accessibility.

“The province is working to address issues of accessibility through the Accessibility Act, with the goal of being accessible by 2030,” the department said in a statement to Global News.

The inquiry will run over the next several days.

© 2018 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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Researchers explore the potential of basic income in B.C.

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As part of the Province’s efforts to reduce poverty and prepare for the emerging economy, three distinguished researchers have been appointed to lead a B.C.-focused exploration of basic income.

This work relates to a commitment in the Confidence and Supply Agreement between government and the B.C. Green Party caucus.

David Green, from the Vancouver School of Economics at the University of British Columbia (UBC), will chair the expert committee. Joining him will be Jonathan Rhys Kesselman, from the School of Public Policy at Simon Fraser University, and Lindsay Tedds, from the School of Public Policy at the University of Calgary.

The committee will oversee independent research to test the feasibility of a basic-income pilot in British Columbia. It will also look at how basic-income principles might be used to improve the existing income and social-support system. The committee will also consider the impact that advances in technology and automation, and other shifts, are predicted to have on the labour market over the next several decades.

The research will also include simulations that will look at how various basic-income models work with B.C.’s population. These will identify the potential impacts and financial implications of different approaches and economic conditions on B.C. citizens.

The committee will begin work this summer, assisted by researchers at the University of British Columbia.


Shane Simpson, Minister of Social Development and Poverty Reduction —

“The researchers will look at whether a basic income is a viable option to reduce poverty, build financial security, and increase inclusion and well-being. This is a complex area of study, and our government looks forward to learning more about how to enhance the income-support system, to achieve measurable and lasting improvements for people living in poverty.”

Andrew Weaver, B.C. Green caucus leader —

“Amidst trends like automation, part-time and contract work, the nature of our economy and the jobs within it are rapidly shifting. There is strong evidence that basic income can provide greater income security, while saving costs in other areas. We proposed exploring how basic income could work in B.C., because government should have a plan for the changes on the horizon. The panelists are highly qualified, knowledgeable and creative thinkers. I am excited to work with them on this innovative project.”

David Green, chair of the Basic Income Expert Committee and professor, Vancouver School of Economics, UBC —

“Much of my work centres on policies that can reduce inequality and create a more just society. I am pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to an in-depth examination of the implications and benefits of a basic income and enhanced income support structures here in B.C.”

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