Ontario Works and Ontario Disability Support Program Discretionary Benefits: Cooling Devices

Recipients of Ontario Works (OW) or Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) may be eligible to obtain a cooling device (such as an air conditioner) as a discretionary benefit.

As the frequency of extreme heat events occurs, the need for cooling devices increases. Those without access to cool spaces during extreme heat events can be subjected to prolonged exposure. Such exposure can cause loss of internal temperature regulation which can lead to various negative health effects or, in some cases, death.

The impacts of extreme heat events disproportionately effect certain vulnerable populations, such as the elderly, low-income earners, and individuals with existing health vulnerabilities.

Learn more, including eligibility requirements and restrictions, in OW and ODSP Discretionary Benefits and Cooling Devices (PDF). This is a resource developed by the Canadian Environmental Law Association.

Response to Hamilton’s 2022 reported hate crime statistics

In 2022, the city of Hamilton saw a 61% increase in reported hate crimes, of which the Black community is a targeted group, among other communities. In previous years, Hamilton had the highest number of hate crime reports in Canada and was deemed by the media as the hate crime capital of Canada. Hamilton has a lot of work to do.

This information comes as no surprise to Black community members and to all those on the frontlines of advocating against the harm and racism that our communities experience. It is important to note that this statistic only minimally represents the experiences of Black community members, as many often do not report incidents to police or authorities due to a lack of safety or willingness to subject themselves to a process of hate reporting. 

 It is without question that life as a Black person in Hamilton is difficult to support. Through the advisory committee of the Black Justice Program at the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic known as Together We Rise/Selever Ensemble, we know   Black community members face higher rates of income insecurity, housing insecurity, poverty, criminalization and harm. Currently, Black tenants are overwhelmed with high rents, lack of maintenance and unsafe living conditions in the downtown core. Students are experiencing structural racism in schooling systems.  Black community members are subject to higher incidents of low-income and/or precarious employment. Black community members experience medical racism and are often subjected to hate in the public arena as political candidates. Increasingly, Black community members are experiencing violence in all sectors of public and private life. Hate trends often do not reflect this reality of systemic and institutional anti-Black racism. All of this is important in acknowledging these trends as a part of a larger structure of anti-Blackness, what it looks like and how it comes about in every facet of Black life. 

In addition to raising awareness of anti-Black racism, we all must collectively and holistically build capacity amongst the Black community and address these systems of anti-Blackness and oppression.

Joint Statement Regarding Encampment Ruling


Joint Statement Regarding Encampment Ruling in The Regional Municipality of Waterloo v. Persons Unknown et al.

February 1, 2023

Last Friday, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice released its long-awaited decision on the Region of Waterloo’s Application to remove individuals from a homeless encampment. The Court held that the Region could not remove people from the encampment without violating their right to “life, liberty and security of the person” guaranteed by the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

The Superior Court made the following factual findings:

  • There are not enough shelter spaces to accommodate the Region’s homeless population.
  • Shelter spaces are often not accessible due to prohibitive rules, such as not allowing couples to stay together.
  • The forced eviction from encampments has serious impacts on the physical and mental health of individuals experiencing homelessness, ultimately creating a situation where they are even more vulnerable/at risk.

We have repeatedly raised the very same issues with the City of Hamilton and continue to do so in the Charter Application currently before the Superior Court about encampments in Hamilton. We are confident that when our case is heard, the Superior Court’s judgment in the Region of Waterloo case will be followed for Hamilton.

Until the City can provide encampment residents with immediate, permanent and supportive housing, any kind of encampment eviction violates the Charter. In addition to violating the rights to life, liberty and security of the person, encampment evictions discriminate against unhoused Indigenous and racialized individuals, women, people with disabilities, the 2SLGBTQIA+ community, and families. Until the City invests in and delivers permanent, affordable housing and related supports, the Charter requires the City to permit people to use tents and other survival materials.

Instead of complying with the Charter and taking meaningful and concrete steps to respond to these longstanding concerns, the City continues to rely on By-law enforcement and eviction, and on pouring resources into fruitless litigation that could be spent on affordable housing.

Indeed, the City has just recommended hiring two additional Municipal Law Enforcement Officers, at an annual cost of $277,000.00, and two Hamilton Police Services officers at an annual cost of $268,646.00 (see agenda item 10.4). Policing continues to be a violent and inappropriate solution to the lack of affordable housing. We oppose it unequivocally.

The City’s own Report arising from consultation sessions states “encampment evictions have profoundly negative impact on people’s physical and mental well-being.” The Superior Court reached the same conclusion. It remains to be seen whether Council will finally acknowledge these profound harms, move away from By-law enforcement, and focus on the creation of affordable housing.

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Hāki Chambers Global, Ross & McBride, and the Community Legal Clinic of York Region, continue to challenge the City’s discriminatory approach to encampments and unhoused residents in Court, until such time as Council takes steps to remedy the harm the City has caused to houseless residents.

For media inquiries please contact:

Sujit Choudhry: (416) 436-3679, (917) 683-1380

Sharon Crowe: (437) 218-2364

Ashley Wilson: (905) 572-5833

Statement on anti-2SLGBTQ+ action at Terryberry Library

On November 24th, 2022, a hate rally was organized in response to a family-friendly Drag Storytime event being held at the Terryberry library. Unfortunately, in response to the organization of this event, a small group of bigots gathered in an attempt to disrupt and protest. The words and actions of this group were in line with the rising tide of violence and hate that Queer communities across Canada are facing. Their allegations against the organizers, talent, and Queer community more broadly, have no basis in reality, and are irresponsible, ignorant, and dangerous. The Queer Justice Project and the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic condemn this hateful demonstration.

Such events are displays of ignorant bigotry that are putting our Queer communities in danger. It must not rest solely on Queer communities to bear witness, defend against, and call out this pattern of hate and violence. For our community at large, who might be just engaging with issues impacting the Queer community, we encourage you to take advantage of numerous educational and informational tools that can accessed online, including through the Hamilton Public Library. Queerness challenges and calls on all of us to reconsider beliefs and realities about more than just gender and sexuality but about how we love and live alongside each other in ways that respect and celebrate differences. All members of our community should rise to that challenge out of a shared spirit of love and acceptance – and not hatred and violence.

View the full statement on anti-2SLGBTQ+ action at Terryberry library

For Immediate Release – Press Conference on Police Violence in the Community


July 28, 2022


Earlier this year, Constable Brian Wren was charged with assault. Police service said it received a video from a business and a citizen after police arrested a suspect in a stolen vehicle investigation. Police said the officer’s use of force led to a criminal investigation.

Const. Brian Wren was immediately suspended and now also faces an assault charge. His first court appearance was July 21.

The individual assaulted and harmed is a member of the City of Hamilton Indigenous community. Members of the Indigenous community are very concerned that this appears not to be an isolated incident. This is the second time this has happened to this individual. The Hamilton Regional Indian Friendship Centre has justice related programs and reports that these types of allegations of aggressive police behaviours are frequent. This particular assault needs to be taken seriously, and major changes need to be made to not only protect our Indigenous relatives but also help protect our relatives of colour, members of various other ethnic backgrounds and members of other marginalized groups.

A full press release will take place on Tuesday August 2, 2022 at 1230pm in front of Hamilton Police Services downtown central location at 155 King William Street, Hamilton Ontario with members of Indigenous leadership, Indigenous community members and our friends and allies.

In solidarity.

Towards A New Future: Envisioning Electoral Priorities For the Black Community

Join us on Feb 28th at 4pm for a panel discussion on the upcoming provincial and municipal elections. This is an opportunity to start envisioning electoral priorities for the Black community in Ontario and to connect issues of housing, policing, healthcare, etc to anti-Blackness.

To register for this event : https://us06web.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_r3o6jsFySQKFLIftnv9x3g



For Immediate Release – Response to Councillor Nann’s Motion Re: Encampment Response

January 21, 2022 


Hamilton Community Legal Clinic’s Response to Councillor Nann’s Motion Re: Encampment Response

Hamilton Community Legal Clinic welcomes Council’s vote to change the way it responds to encampments. Specifically, the City has agreed to consult with community stakeholders, including front line services working with the unhoused population, those with lived experience, and the health sector, to create a “human rights based, health focused approach to housing”. A copy of the motion can be reviewed by clicking here.

We have always encouraged this type of collaboration and person-centred approach.

Tackling the issue of homelessness and some of its root causes can seem like a monumental undertaking. There are, however, immediate alternatives to encampments evictions which do not require significant funding changes: revising and unifying shelter service restriction policies so that fewer people are unnecessarily banned from shelters, temporarily suspending by-law enforcement, and allocating existing emergency funds to affordable housing projects like tiny cabins (which have already been established in various municipalities).

We are pleased to see the City signal a willingness to engage in an open dialogue on an incredibly important matter. We encourage the City of Hamilton to prioritize these discussions and resolution in light of the urgency of the ongoing pandemic, shelter and housing crisis.

We are hopeful that the newly formed committee results in solutions that address and eradicate the harms associated with homelessness and evicting encampment residents.

For a copy of this letter, please click here: Statement

Official Statement on Arrests of Youth Supporting Encampment Residents


Together We Rise Logo

Together We Rise is an initiative of the Hamilton Community Legal Clinic to combat individual and systemic Anti-Black racism by providing a range of clinic law services and collaborating with Black-serving community organizations and agencies to build relationships and trust. We use an anti-racism, anti-oppression lens and seek to foster systemic change by identifying harmful structures, policies and actions, and advocating for more inclusive and equitable practices across our community.

Hamilton is experiencing a housing crisis. The city is one of the most unaffordable places to live in North America, tenants are facing renovictions and shelter spaces are at a premium. Many people experiencing poverty have been forced to seek shelter in tents in neighbourhood parks and on public lands. A disproportionate number of these residents are Indigenous, Black and racialized.

On November 24th and 26th six community advocates were arrested at a park encampment and in front of the downtown police station. Five of those arrested were Black youth. All six were regularly engaging in community work, providing food, supports and assistance to encampment residents.

Individuals sustained severe injuries during their arrests, including punches to the face, concussions, being choked, a knee pin to the neck and possible fractures. Severe conditions were also imposed on all six, which bans them from all encampments and city parks, preventing them from participating in community work.

As a society we have acknowledged that anti-Blackness is embedded in all of our systems and structures, including our large institutions like the police and municipal government.  It is important that we understand these arrests in this context and collectively frame excessive use of force as a manifestation of anti-Blackness. An officer on the scene was photographed with a thin blue line patch on his uniform, what has become a symbol of white supremacy and far right groups opposing the Black Lives Matter movement. These incidents occurred within 48 hours of Hamilton Police Service’s “Rebuilding trust with the Black community session”, where relationship building were discussed and promoted.

Peaceful protest is a hallmark of a free and democratic society. It must not be criminalized. We urge the City of Hamilton and Hamilton Police Services to apply the “equity, diversity and inclusion” lens they espouse, to understand their role in perpetuating anti-Blackness regarding encampment evictions and peaceful protest. These arrests and the criminalization of Black youth are an issue of anti-Blackness. We are alarmed by the harm, trauma and anti-Blackness experienced by these Black youth, and are concerned for their wellness, livelihood and futures stemming from this excessive criminalization.

We stand in solidarity with those in our community exercising their right to peaceful protest in support of those in encampments.

We stand in solidarity with leaders in the Black community and endorse their calls for the charges to be dropped, a judicial inquiry of the incidents and an end to encampment evictions outside of the negotiated protocol.

Together We Rise

Black Justice Initiative – Hamilton Community Legal Clinic


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: 26 November 2021 6:15 pm

The Hamilton Community Legal Clinic, Matthew Green (Member of Parliament for Hamilton Centre), and Wade Poziomka and Jennifer Zdriluk, partners in the Human Rights Group at Ross & McBride LLP stand in solidarity with those in our community exercising their right to peaceful protest in our community over the past two days to support those in encampments with no options. We echo the concerns of Councillor Nrinder Nann posted on social media today wherein Councillor Nann stated:

“Very troubling footage this week of excessive use-of-force by Hamilton Police. Last year, stats showed disproportionate use against black resident in Hamilton. This is counter to the City’s Safety & Wellbeing Plan and breaks trust. It is not enough to say systemic racism exists”.

Peaceful protest is a hallmark of a free and democratic society. It must not be criminalized. We call upon the Hamilton Police Service to exercise proper restraint, de-escalate community tension and ensure that those engaged in peaceful demonstrations are permitted to exercise that right. Violent interactions with police will only serve to further the divide that exists between police and community. Public resources are better utilized addressing the root problems – such as a lack of affordable housing and community support – than fighting those attempting to show support to vulnerable members of our community.

We call for the immediate release of those taken into custody. Community support and protest must not be criminalized. We encourage Chief Bergen to take steps to ease police enforcement measures as community tension escalates. We encourage supporters to join those in peaceful protest to highlight the concern around recent police escalation.

Black Entrepreneurs

To honour Black History Month, Centre Francophone Hamilton would light to highlight black francophone entrepreneurs on our social media. If yourself or someone you know would like to participate, please fill out this short form.