Canada-Housing-Health
For quite some time, Canadian health officials have conducted thorough research to trace the cause of unstable housing. Now, officials have sorted out the missing link: bad health.

A 2005 published study by researcher Liz Evans presented the connection shared between HIV-sufferers and occupied hotel residency. At the time of the research, Evans illustrated the fact that 80% of Canada’s single-rooming units in hotels (estimated at 6,000) were located in Canada’s poorest Downtown Eastside, in which rooms were frequently occupied by those suffering from HIV.

One solution was to remove the hotel units; however, Evans knew that such an approach would result in “catastrophic” consequences. The analyst went on to state that the units were not “evils,” but rather an escape for HIV-sufferers who live in fear caused by social rejection.

Years would progress with minimal updates that validated Evans’ work until 2007, when TimesArgus.com broke a story on the 2010 Vancouver Games’ organizers deliberating if low-income housing should be moved elsewhere before the event. Although the organizers initially told the public that housing rights would be “respected,” over 700 low-income residents were displaced that same year in addition to inexpensive housing being converted into tourist venues. This action ignited strong backlash from a league of protestors.

The incident served as a rubric sheet for medical analysts to test theories that have longed signified a potential connection between housing issues and the trend of bad health yielded by the likes of street-involved youth.

Unearthed by the Public Health Agency of Canada, street-involved youths typically have a background of family abuse and a violent home environment. The aftermath follows with subjection to low income, low education, and lack of support or inability to pay first/last month’s rent; all of which are triggers to unstable housing.

Once housing becomes an issue, the vulnerability of infections caused by negative coping systems, such as drug use or unprotected sex, serves as a high risk.

In studying further developments, lead researcher C. Kim went on to run tests involving Vancouver-native drug users and non-drug users. Based on the test results, Kim discovered that active drug users were hepatitis C viral-carriers and singled out unstable housing as the prime connection.

With these results, varying researchers revisited the work done by Evans, who attempted to signify a connection involving HIV-sufferers and extreme occupancy within hotel units. It was in 2014 that analysts determined that the significant increase in emergency department-styled housing was being led by HIV-sufferers.

As conducted in Evans’ work, researchers indicated that those residing in the housing feared social backlash, further contributing to poor health caused by guilt and depression. In both the study and a separate one occurring one year later, analysts conclusively noted that like street-involved youths, unstable housing holds a poor-health effect on HIV-sufferers, where potential enablement of guilt, depression and drug use patterns pose as big risks.

So what exactly is being done to aid the problem?

For street-involved youths who have endured a brutal history, several intervention programs have been established to help those in need. Other establishments like Calgary-based Infinity Project provide youths with a permanent home in a community of their choosing, equipped with support and affordable options to secure them a better life. Similarly, support centers are urged, for those suffering from HIV, to decrease health-care costs and to minimize health problems relating to depression.

As positive networks continue to decrease the rate of unstable housing, optimism for more awareness of the issue comes with wishful thinking of the conflict fading away.

– Jeff Varner

Sources: NCBI, TimesArgus.com, NCBI, Public Health Agency of Canada, NCBI
Photo: Huffington Post

energy_transparency_law
Earlier this month, the Canadian government passed the Extractive Sector Transparency Measures Act (ESTMA), an energy transparency law that aims to shed more light on the financial activity of energy companies in foreign countries. The law applies to nearly 2,000 energy companies that are registered in Canada or listed on Toronto’s stock exchange and will require them to publish detailed records of payments made to foreign governments.

The ESTMA came just before the G7 Summit on June 7, and is the product of Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s commitment at the 2013 G8 Summit to establish stricter standards for the reporting of financial activity by Canadian extractive companies.

The stated purpose of the law is “to foster better transparency to ensure that the resource extractive industries support proper development in the countries where they operate, while at the same time making it harder to conceal illicit payments.” According to Canadian Securities Law, the Act will require affected companies to report any payments made in relation to the commercial development of oil, gas or minerals that exceed either the amount prescribed by regulation or $100,000 on a number of types of payments, including royalties, production entitlements, dividends and infrastructure improvement funding.

While a similar U.S. transparency law has existed since a 2010 amendment to the Dodd-Frank Act, no rules have been officially implemented for extractive industry activity abroad. The Securities and Exchange Commission threw out regulations written in 2013 after a lawsuit from the American Petroleum Institute – the oil industry’s principal U.S. lobbying organization – claimed the regulations were too punitive for its member companies. In the fall of 2014, Oxfam International filed its own lawsuit against the SEC for failure to implement previously mandated regulations and expects a decision “any day now” on whether or not a federal court will set a timeline for the SEC.

As of now, the majority of the world’s largest oil companies, including Exxon Mobil and Chevron, are nor required to report payments made to foreign governments.

For civilians in oil-rich countries, the detriments for allowing foreign energy corporations to extract their resources often outweigh the benefits they realize for hosting them.

“In many countries that are rich in oil, gas and other non-renewable natural resources, the communities from whose territory the resources are extracted bear the brunt of environmental and human rights impacts associated with extractive activity but see few tangible benefits,” said EarthRights International (ERI) in a statement in 2014. “We, along with our partners in Burma and elsewhere, believe that knowing what governments receive from extractive companies is an important step for communities to hold governments responsible for the use of natural resource revenues and to advocate for a fair share of the benefits.”

Since 2009 ERI has worked with Oxfam and other members of the Publish What You Pay Us (PWYP) coalition to fight for revenue transparency in the extractive industry. The stated mission of the PWYP is to “[help] citizens of resource-rich developing countries hold their governments accountable for the management of revenues from the oil, gas and mining industries.”

“Natural resource revenues are an important source of income for governments of over 50 developing countries,” states the PWYP coalition. “When properly managed these revenues should serve as a basis for poverty reduction, economic growth and development rather than exacerbating corruption, conflict and social divisiveness.”

Proponents of stricter oversight of extractive industries note that a lack of financial transparency raises doubts as to how much civilians in host countries benefit from the extraction of their resources by foreign energy companies. Detailed records published by energy companies will reveal more precisely who is benefiting from extractive industry spending and whether – and to what degree – recipient governments use that spending to benefit their own people.

– Zach VeShancey

Sources: Canadian Securities Law, Devex, Earthrights, Publish What you Pay
Photo: The Star

mining_partnerhships
Business deals between companies headquartered at opposite ends of the earth have become the rule, rather than the exception. These deals may make headlines for their magnitude, but not for their intercontinental nature. But recently, two such deals caught this writer’s attention. Though they received little coverage in the press, these deals exemplify the benefits of poverty reduction and development not only in countries experiencing development, but also in developed and undeveloped countries alike.

Both deals concern Zijin Mining Group Co., a Chinese firm, which late last month purchased large shares of two mines owned by Canadian firms. According to Bloomberg, Zijin bought a 50 percent share of the Porgera mine in Papua New Guinea from Toronto-based Barrick Gold Corp. and a 49.5 percent share of Kamoa mine in the Democratic Republic of the Congo from Vancouver-based Ivanhoe Mines Ltd. These deals infuse Canadian physical capital with Chinese financial capital, all while helping Papua New Guinea and the DR Congo grow their exports.

For Barrick and Ivanhoe, these deals amount to a crucial injection of capital. Both companies have faced financial difficulties recently: Barrick aims cut $3 billion of its $10 billion net debt by year’s end, while Ivanhoe declared bankruptcy at the beginning of this month after negotiations with creditors fell through. Both firms are expected to pursue expanded mining partnerships with Zijin in the coming years, so as to keep themselves solvent. For Western firms like Barrick and Ivanhoe, capital-rich corporations based in the developing world represent invaluable allies as global competition grows stiffer.

For Zijin, these deals not only offer a chance to get some cash off its hands, they also represent the culmination of decades-long poverty reduction efforts in China. Fifty years ago, a business like Zijin would have been unthinkable in China or any other low-development country; had China been a capitalist economy, foreign firms would have likely dominated its primary sector. But as China’s domestic industrial capacity grew, poverty rates in China plummeted. Firms like Zijin have turned poor countries into middle-income countries. Now, these countries are poised for a new stage of development as domestic firms go global by partnering with Western businesses.

Last but not least, these deals symbolize an opportunity for development and poverty reduction in Papua New Guinea and the Congo, where the mines in question are located. By aiding struggling Western firms, Zijin ensures that locals will remain employed and that transit infrastructure is well maintained. Employment and infrastructure are not only useful in and of themselves, they also give other businesses a chance to proliferate and make poverty reduction efforts simpler. Furthermore, these deals underscore what happens when a country outgrows its poverty—it begins trading intensively with other countries, many of which it helps to develop in the process.

Zijin, Barrick and Ivanhoe are not household names, and may never become household names. Nevertheless, these three firms exemplify how poverty reduction pays dividends for developed countries, developing countries and countries that have yet to develop. American firms take heed, partnerships with companies in the developing world help all countries, not just your bottom line.

– Leo Zucker

Sources: Barron’s Asia, Bloomberg, Financial Times, The Globe and Mail, The Northern Miner, The Wall Street Journal, Yahoo! Finance
Photo: Demanjo

childhood poverty
Canada hosts the sixth freest economy in the world and the freest economy in North America according to the 2014 Index of Economic Freedom. The country has a transparent and stable business climate that makes it one of the world’s most attractive investment destinations. This economic image has generated a GDP of over $1.8 billion U.S. dollars for the country in 2014.

Yet, even with this back drop of positive fiscal news, several Canadians are accusing the country of failing the children of the lower class. Despite making up almost three percent of the global economy Canada still has roughly 967,000 children living in poverty.

This number ranks it 15th for lowest child poverty rate out of 17 peer countries. Roughly 15 percent, or one in 10 children, live in poverty. In 1989, the House of Commons voted unanimously to end child poverty within Canadian borders. There was initial success when the rate dropped from 15 percent to 12 percent, but in the mid-1990s childhood poverty was again on the rise and by mid-2000s the rate was back to 15 percent.

According to Dr. Elizabeth Lee Ford-Jones, a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto, Canada may loose its high economic status unless it starts addressing the problem of  child poverty. Dr. Ford-Jones explains, “mounting evidence in the field of social epidemiology shows that poverty limits the futures of children, especially babies, who lack living environments with family support and opportunities to learn and be active, mentally and physically.”

She goes onto say that the only way to eliminate this problem is to provide access “to jobs that pay a living wage and appropriate community supports for every Canadian.” To help promote the awareness of this problem, she and her colleagues started an elective in the social pediatrics course. Students visited homes with case workers and witnessed the social impacts on a patient’s health. “The stories they report back from the field are deeply troubling, particularly for a country as wealthy as Canada.”

The OECD, or the Organization for Economic and Co-Operative Development, echoes the sentiments presented by Dr. Ford-Jones. The OECD concluded that “failure to tackle the poverty and exclusion facing millions of families and their children is not only socially reprehensible, but it will also weigh heavily on countries’ capacity to sustain economic growth in years to come.”

The OECD also put forth its own recommendations for any country that wishes to reduce its child poverty numbers. “The answer lies in striking the appropriate balance between a ‘benefits strategy’ and a ‘work strategy’.” In other words it’s up to each country to ensure adequate income assistance to families and provide incentives for people to work and support themselves. A meeting ground between the two is still in debate around the world.

— Frederick Wood II

Sources: Trading Economics, Heritage, Huffington Post, Conference Board
Photo: Flickr

minimum wage
An ongoing dispute occurred in Windsor as Ontario workers rallied to protest for a raise in the minimum wage. The Ontario government raised the minimum wage to the current $11.

“The increase is a good start,” said Canadian Union of Public Employees’ President Fred Hahn, “but still not good enough to bring workers over the poverty line. It needs to be $14. At $11, that means somebody working full-time is not making enough to be above the poverty line.”

According to the Raise a Minimum Wage campaign, the current increase still has full time minimum-wage workers earning 16 percent below the poverty line.“We have to do this because we owe it to our kids, and their kids,” said Hahn.

Currently, there are approximately 500,000 people in Ontario earning minimum wage, according to a Statistics Canada report done in 2011. However, not all workers will receive the same raise in their pay.

Students under the age of 18 will receive a 70-cent raise instead of the 75-cent increase the majority of workers will receive. Liquor servers will only receive a 65-cent raise. Farm workers are completely excluded from the raise in salary.

“$11 per hour is a start,” said Paul Chislett, a representative with the Windsor Workers Action Center, “but it’s not enough. We’re trying to reduce the levels of inequality.”

The last time the minimum wage was increased in Ontario was in 2010. The increase in wage is meant to help the citizens and reduce some of their expenses. According to the National Household Survey released this year, 3.3 million households in Canada are paying more than what they should for housing—approximately 30 percent of their monthly salary.

“I believe the minimum wage should be $14 an hour,” said Leticia Boahen, one of the many minimum wage workers in Ontario. “Yes, $11 is great, but it is still not a living wage. It is not something that families can survive on. That idea that you hear from right-wing Conservatives that $11 is for entrants…it’s not accurate. There are many racialized workers, immigrants, people in the food industry—who are being paid below the $10.25 they should be paid—that are struggling.”

Currently, there is no official poverty line in Canada. Statistics Canada reported that 14.9 percent of Canadians have ‘low income’ but the group is hesitant to label that group as poor. In 2008, the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) reported that poverty had been steadily rising in Canada since the mid-1990s.

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business states, however, that an increase in the minimum wage would be a detriment to businesses and may end up costing Ontario citizens jobs instead of easing them out of poverty.

However, supporters of the raise state that a higher minimum wage can only help the economy and elevate the 5.5-6.6 percent of the Gross Domestic Product poverty costs Ontario each year.

“It circulates,” said Hahn. “When you give people money in their pocket, they spend it in their community. It helps everyone.”

– Monica Newell

Sources: CBC (1)CBC (2)The Windsor Star
Photo: Linked In