BC Hydro, provincial and federal governments oppose anti-poverty and seniors’ organizations’ application to intervene in Site C legal cases

For Immediate Release | BCPIAC

Vancouver – BC Hydro and the federal and provincial governments are opposing the participation of anti-poverty and seniors’ groups in Site C Dam Project legal cases.

Active Support Against Poverty, BC Old Age Pensioners’ Organization, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC, Disability Alliance BC and Together Against Poverty Society have applied to intervene in support of the Peace Valley Landowner Association (PVLA) challenges in BC Supreme Court and Federal Court of the approval of BC Hydro’s Site C Project, in order to represent the interests of low and fixed income residential ratepayers.

The Site C Project is currently projected to cost almost $9 billion, costs which will eventually have to be paid by BC Hydro ratepayers or taxpayers. The groups are asking for one hour of time in the PVLA’s BC Supreme Court case in order to explain how the flaws in the Site C approval process could result in significant rate increases to low-income ratepayers who are already having difficulty paying electricity bills.

“We plan to focus on the need for a thorough review by the BCUC of the need for and cost of the Site C Project, as recommended by the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel, to ensure that low-income people, including seniors and people with disabilities, aren’t required to pay unnecessary costs for electricity service,” said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre who is representing the groups.

Over the past decade, BC Hydro residential rates have increased by more than 41%, and will rise another 6% on April 1, 2015, for a total increase of 47% over 11 years.  BC Hydro’s rates could increase by another 10.5% between 2016 and 2018. These increases have not been matched by corresponding increases in BC’s welfare rates or minimum wage.

Because of government and BC Hydro opposition, a full day hearing has now been set to decide whether the groups and other intervenors will be allowed to participate before the BC Supreme Court.

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Low income residential ratepayers’ groups apply to intervene in Site C legal cases

For Immediate Release | BCPIAC

Vancouver, BC – Groups representing the interests of low and fixed income residential ratepayers have just applied to the Federal Court to intervene in support of the Peace Valley Landowner Association (PVLA) challenge to the federal approval of BC Hydro’s Site C Dam Project. The groups also plan to apply for intervenor status in the PVLA’s BC Supreme Court challenge against the provincial approval of the Project.

Active Support Against Poverty, BC Old Age Pensioners’ Organization, Council of Senior Citizens’ Organizations of BC, Disability Alliance BC and Together Against Poverty Society are represented by lawyers with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Center (BCPIAC), and if granted intervenor status, will highlight the perspective of BC Hydro ratepayers who are having difficulty paying their electricity bills amidst rising electricity rates.

We’ll focus on the need for a thorough review by the BCUC of the need for and cost of the Site C Project

“We’ll focus on the need for a thorough review by the BCUC of the need for and cost of the Site C Project, as recommended by the federal/provincial Joint Review Panel, to ensure that low-income people, including seniors and people with disabilities, aren’t required to pay unnecessary costs for electricity service,” said Sarah Khan, a lawyer with BCPIAC who is representing the groups.

Over the past decade, BC Hydro residential rates have increased by more than 41%, and will rise another 6% on April 1, 2015, for a total increase of 47% over 11 years.  BC Hydro’s rates could increase by another 10.5% between 2016 and 2018. These increases have not been matched by corresponding increases in BC’s welfare rates or minimum wage.

Gudrun Langolf, Vice President of the Council of Senior Citizens Organizations of BC said that “Between 15 – 20% of BC Hydro’s residential customers are low-income.  Since the Site C Project is currently estimated to cost $8.775 billion, we want to ensure that people who can least afford further rate increases aren’t left paying the bill for a project that hasn’t had a thorough economic review”.

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Community groups ask Auditor General to ensure welfare computer system has emergency back-up system in place

For Immediate Release | BCPIAC

Eight social justice organizations and churches from across BC have asked the BC Auditor General to look into whether the BC Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation has appropriate contingency plans in place should the computer system used to administer welfare crash again.

Beginning in late April, 2014, the Ministry’s Integrated Case Management (ICM) computer system remained mostly offline for more than two weeks. During this time, the Ministry was not able to provide many of its clients with much-needed services, including shelter and support payments, security deposits, crisis grants, and eligibility assessments for people with an immediate need for welfare.

We saw first-hand the chaos and stress that the failure of ICM caused to our clients and want the Ministry to have a plan to ensure that it never happens again

Kris Sutherland, Kettle Friendship Society

The request was filed with the Auditor General today by the BC Coalition of People with Disabilities, Downtown Eastside Women’s Centre, First United Church Community Ministry Society, Kettle Friendship Society, Okanagan Advocacy & Resource Society, Together Against Poverty Society, Vancouver South Presbytery of the United Church of Canada, and Wilson Heights United Church Advocacy Program.

Kris Sutherland, Manager of Advocacy Services at the Kettle Friendship Society said “We saw first-hand the chaos and stress that the failure of ICM caused to our clients and want the Ministry to have a plan to ensure that it never happens again.”

Sarah Khan, Staff Lawyer with the BC Public Interest Advocacy Centre, added that “The ICM has created additional barriers to accessing services for people in need of welfare, we are hopeful that the Ministry can work with the Auditor General to fix the problems so that vulnerable people are still able to access services and don’t risk losing their housing and the ability to meet their basic needs.”

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Tree planter case workers awarded $700,000 for injury to dignity

For Immediate Release | BCPIAC

The BC Human Rights Tribunal today issued its decision in favour of 55 tree planters who worked for Khaira Enterprises Ltd. in 2010, finding that the workers were subjected to discrimination on the basis of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour and sex.  All but one of the Complainants are of African origin.  The Tribunal has awarded the workers close to $700,000 in injury to dignity damages.

Tribunal Member Norman Trerise made a number of important findings, including:

  • Unlike the South Asian and white workers, the African workers were not paid all of the wages they were owed. It is more probable than not that Khaira chose to pay its South Asian and white workers out in full rather than to equally distribute available funds amongst all of the workers in order to preserve its relationship with South Asian and white workers because it valued those relationships more than its relationships with the African workers.
  • The African workers were subjected to racial slurs and racial harassment.
  • Khaira had a duty to ensure a respectful workplace and erase a poisonous workplace environment. Khaira failed in its obligations to normalize the working environment for its workers and is responsible for the discrimination of its principals against its African workers and white female worker.
  • The complaint was fully justified due to the discrimination endured by the workers.
  • The Complainants were not motivated by money in pursuing this complaint.

Sarah Khan, one of the lawyers representing the Complainants, said “We are very pleased that the Tribunal has recognized that the discrimination the workers endured harmed their dignity and self worth.”

We are very pleased that the Tribunal has recognized that the discrimination the workers endured harmed their dignity and self worth.

“This decision is a victory for the Khaira workers. The BC Federation of Labour has been involved with this case from the start and I am relieved that the efforts of these workers to stand up for their dignity and rights have been rewarded,” said Jim Sinclair President of the BC Federation of Labour. “But we need to remember that the conditions that led to this deplorable situation are still in place today. The provincial government needs to step up to the plate, apologize to these workers and immediately pay them the money ordered by the Human Rights Tribunal. These workers were planting trees under contract from the provincial government and they were working on public lands.”

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