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Recent Research on Caregiving - an international newsletter edited by Beverley Smith, Canada

Mother playing with kids

 

Date:  June 21 2004

Happy Fathers Day in Canada June 20th.


Notice:
New Zealand feminist economist Marilyn Waring is in our country. She will be speaking in London Ontario at Althouse College at the University of Western Ontario June 24 7-9 PM. The session is open to the public. Waring is the author of several works on unpaid labor and has worked internationally for many years to raise the profile of womens caregiving work.

 

POSITIVE EFFECTS OF GOOD CARE

 

Former US president Ronald Reagan has passed away (June 2004), after being diagnosed in 1994 with Alzheimers. Since that time Nancy Reagan, his wife, has been a crusader to help find a cure for the illness, but has also been in the background, a principal caregiver to her failing husbands health.   Sheldon Goldberg, president of the Alzheimers Association has said that Mrs. Reagan has been an absolute model caregiver, totally committed and devoted to her husband On diagnosis President Reagan, anticipating his future said  Unfortunately as Alzheimers progresses, the family often bears a heavy burden. I only wish there was some way I could spare Nancy from this painful experience.  Mrs. Reagan has referred to the past ten years gently as her husbands long good-bye

 

Ruth Bieber who founded in 1992 the Inside Out Integrated Theatre Project has announced it a success by June 2004. Bieber, who lost her eyesight at age 7 to juvenile macular degeneration, created the company to provide an outlet for those with disabilities to feel creative and do improvisational skits based on real life experiences.  One recent production, Help Unwanted looked humorously at ways those who try to help sometimes make the disabled person feel worse.  Bieber has said that the comedic experience shares a serious message that the disabled are not really so different from everybody else

 

NEGATIVE EFFECTS OF BAD CARE

 

John Freeman of Queens University has released June 5, 2004 results of a study of health behavior in school-aged children, from 35 countries and tallying results from 150,000 young people aged 11-15.  The study found that among 15 year old Canadians rates of cannabis use are the highest of all nations studied. About 37% of girls and 43.4% of boys admitted using the drug, more than double the average in the study. However results of Canadians were positive for exercise. Canada ranked in the top 5 countries for physical activity at all age levels.

 

The  Psychology Foundation of Canada has announced June 2004 that it is operating a project called Kids Have Stress Too! helping parents and other caregivers identify and deal with such problems among the young.  Claire McDerment, co-chair of the project, feels that nowadays kids face new stress when they have many caregivers over a day, and when they are rushed from place to place by chronically hurried parents.  She finds that though parents think they are equipping children to cope well with life by exposing them to experiences, overloading them can lead to inattention, disruption and learning problems.  Barbara Everette of the Canadian Mental Health Association says kids nowadays are dropped in the deep end right away, instead of by a more gradual distancing from the protective wing of the parent.

 

An article by Antane Kapesh, Montagnais native has been published recently in school textbooks, outlining lessons from residential schools in 1953.  Kapesh points out that the intent of pulling native children away from their homes and forcing them to live at white-culture schools was well-meaning.  The goal according to Kapesh was to teach children, to protect them from injury, to ensure they got free clothes and good food, and to free up the parents so they could go hunting.  However despite these intentions, the move prevented children from learning their own native language, their native customs and robbed them of their heritage. Kapesh maintains that the long absences from the parent deprived the children of a vital emotional attachment and the lack of exposure to the woods and survival skills made it difficult for the children to function in anything other than the white community when they got out.  Kapesh also feels that the residential schools discouraged people from taking care of their own children and encouraged a dependency on government. Kapesh says that the real problem with residential schools was the destruction of a culture and recommends insteada that the raising of children ensure that a child is still instructed all day in the maternal language, that the culturee of the childs parents should be taught.  (it is eerily familiar to notice that proposals for universal daycare for all children often have the same stated intent, to benefit the child, and free up the parent, but may risk the same effect. In Canada those who used to attend residential schools are currently in the courts suing governments for the years of deprivation of that intangible-ones own culture. June 2004)

 

Dr. Michael Beach of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta Georgia has announced a campaign to make people aware of risks of swimming in contaminated water (June 2004).  Beach points out that one often ignored danger is the contamination of swimming pools, lakes and rivers by fecal matter in the form of a parasite called cryptosporidium.  He found that  chlorine takes 6 to 7 days to kill the parasite but does eventually kill it, and that swimmers, especially children, who defecate in the pool are sometimes to blame, but contaminated water by nearby animal feces may also be a concern.  Ultraviolet light will also kill the parasite.  Dr. Michael Rendel of New York City has reassured that the problem is usually only significant if the swimmer has an open cut or other injury by which bacteria can get in. Swimming in such a situation can result in ear, eye, skin or respiratory infections.  One advantage cited of ocean swimming is the high dilution it provides.

 

CAREGIVING RESEARCH

 

The NDP and Liberal parties have promised a national daycare program for Canadas children as a lead-up to the federal election June 28th 2004.  Though many womens groups have supported such an initiative, others have noted that excluding nondaycare children from equal support makes the program somewhat one-sided in its agenda. Prime Minster Martin in making his daycare announcement has noted that 1.3 million Canadian mothers have paid employment, suggesting they therefore need daycare.  Martha Friendly of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit of the U of Toronto does not mind the preference of daycare lifestyle but wishes the government would provide at least $10 billion a year, possibly $12 billion instead of the Martin promise of $5 billion over 5 years..  Maryann Bird of the Child Care Advocacy Association of Canada says there are 900,000 children between ages 3 and 5 in Canada who could use such a program and present plans do not accommodate them (on the other hand, Kids First Parent Association of Canada has for many years noted that not all children of that age group actually use daycare and many parents, by polls indicate they prefer nondaycare options tag-team parenting, home-based office, telecommuting,  homeschooling, dad at home, mom in part-time paid work only, etc. Many have paid employment at home, from home or while the children are in school or in granny or paternal care so would not use daycare but might want equal financial support.-editor) 

 

Experienced caregivers learn over the years to protect themselves from liabilities and lawsuits while offering top quality care.  It is not uncommon for users to have to sign contracts with care providers and clauses of these contracts may be of interest.

One child care contract on the Internet indicates that parents must give 3 weeks written notice to withdraw the child and must pay if insufficient notice is given. There is a registration fee of $50 to cover the interview materials and set up supplies for each child in addition to the regular fees. Fees are charged weekly and are due in cash or cheque each Monday prior to care.  There is no reduction or rebate for hours or days not used in the week.  A late fee of $5 per day is charged for each day the payment is late, including weekends. Failure to arrive within 15 minutes of the regular drop-off time could jeopardize care for the child and there is no fee compensation for lost time. Fees are due if an absence day has not been called a vacation day allotment within those 15 minutes.  Fees are not charged for up to 10 days of summer vacation.  Additional summer days may be taken but half the daycare fee must still be paid. Unused days for holiday may not be carried forward to the next year or used during the final 3 weeks before termination of contract.  The daycare is closed all statutory holidays and these are paid holidays and fees will still be charged.  The child should arrive with at least one complete change of clothing including socks.  The fee for  a special needs child will be higher, depending on the level of care required and will be raised or lowered accordingly as skills are accomplished or milestones are passed.  A child with vomiting, diarrhea, rash, excessive coughing, constant nasal discharge or seeping sore should not be brought to care.  A child with a fever over 101 degrees F in the past 12 hours should not come to care parents can use a vacation day as long as the caregiver is told within the first 15 minutes of the regular drop-off time. Otherwise full day fees are charged even when the child is absent and sick.  Parents may only use the drop-off and pick-up times scheduled in the contract and are asked to have available alternate arrangements is they have to work early or late. Late fees are due for each hour or part of an hour for children not picked up on time.

http://www.angelfire.com/de3/dadycarefriends/page5.html

 

 

Though a few businesses are banning children from restaurants (see our last issue), the opposite trend is surfacing in many others (June 14 2004) Joel Sisson of Shoeless Joes restaurant chain in Toronto has admitted that in the past 3 years restaurants had to choose between allowing smoking or allowing children and many chose to ban children. However since June 2004 when Toronto banned all smoking in bars, polls halls, casinos and racetracks, many restaurants have lost customers and are seeking to rebuild their bottom line Todd Sherman of Gabbys  9 restaurants in Toronto said he is now spending $6,000 to send out flyers to 40,000 families welcoming them back to the restaurant and has set aside Tuesday as kids night with $3 meals for kids.  The Fox and Fiddle chain of 17 restaurants is now sponsoring  youth teams, many restaurants are reintroducing childrens menus and Shoeless Joes is running radio ads with draws for trips, golf clubs and bikes for kids.

 

Research for twenty years or more has looked at the effects of parental care compared to effects of nonparental care, finding in some cases advantages to the former and in other cases advantages to the latter. Such research continues.  Dr. Kei Nomaguchi of the University of Calgary has released a study June 10 23004 finding that maternal employment outside the home is not detrimental to newborns who had good social skills and vocabulary at age 4 even if they had spent much of their early life in daycare.  Her study did find some negative effects for low income children however.  Recent US research has found by contrast that maternal employment outside the home has a detrimental effect on girls, who tend to higher levels of physical aggression than if their mothers had been their primary caregivers.  (Such studies aim to help parents make child-rearing choices but the conclusions are unclear if one looks at all data and the choice remains therefore a personal one. Sadly governments rarely make it a personal one, often weighing the decision strongly in favor financially of leaving the child in third party care. It would be great if we could move past research aimed mainly at proving ones side is right and the other is wrong, to a welcoming of all styles of care equally editor)

 

Canada has long boasted that it offers universal medicare to all citizens and the monthly insurance premiums are very low. However with rising costs of hospitalization and medical equipment and a rising number of aging seniors needing care, cash-strapped hospitals have been considering having a second tier of treatment, one funded partly by the patient. Private for-profit hospitals already operate in many countries and some theorists argue that they have many advantages, offering speedy treatment to those who can afford it, and lessening wait times for those left in the public system.  However  Steffi Woolhander of Harvard Medical School has commented June 2004 that a recent analysis of 8 large studies, each of which looked at around 324 hospitals, and one million patients in total, found that for-profit hospitals actually are not a moneysavings measure. The study, as noted by P. J. Devereaux of Hamiltons  McMaster University adds to earlier research done by his team finding that 38 million patients in the US had an 8% higher mortality rate in for-profit hospitals than did those in not-for-profit centers,. Research also found that administrative costs are about 6% higher, executive bonuses are 20% higher and less money is spent on nursing in the for-profit centers. Because the focus is on profit, there have also been suggestions for-profit centers upcode diagnoses, giving the more pessimistic version in order to maximum fees charged for tests.  Defenders of the for-profit centers however counter that comparisons are unfair since the for-profit centre may be treating more complex cases.

 

 

 

 

 

 

CHARACTERISTICS OF CAREGIVER
Though scales to measure loving care are hard to set up, Irene Taylor of Praxis Inc, a Toronto consulting firm has revealed that there is an assessment of something called EQ, emotional quotient or emotional intelligence. This questionnaire test has been endorsed by Professor John Oesch at the Joseph L. Rotman School of Management at the U of Toronto who says EQ is a solid psychological construct that not only can be measured but that can in some ways be taught.  Taylor charges $500 for a simple EQ assessment and has administered it to about 300 Canadian lawyers over the past 5 years. It is often part of a full-talent profile which looks at motivation, aptitude and personality.  A person fills out on-line questionnaire in 5 areas intrapersonal, interpersonal skills, adaptability, stress management and general mood, looking also at 15 specific emotional skills. There is then offered a follow-up of coaching sessions at $400 an hour.  Several law firms have found the assessment useful in improving the performance of their lawyers with clients and in court. Dale Lastman of Goodmans LLP in Toronto says knowing his EQ assessment has helped him read others and understand what motivates them.

 

June 20th is Fathers Day in Canada.  A 2001 study of fathers found poll results which  may be interesting (Todays Parent magazine, Canada)

-83% of men say they would like to be a father

-45% of men want two children; 9% want four or more

-10% of new dads admitted some sort of postpartum depression

-average age of 1st time father was 27

-Dr. Katherine Wynne-Edwards of Queens University found that expectant dads just before the birth have higher levels of estradiol, a female hormone and higher levels of cortisol. Cortisol has been associated with bonding

-23% of families have a dad as the sole earner (in 1976 that number was 54%)

-21% of dads with paid income would like to be home with their kids (Childrens Television Workshop statistic)

-77,000 dads are stay-at-home, full-time dads; 1.2 million women are stay-at-home full-time moms (in 1976 there were 1,000 dads and 3 million moms at home full-time)

-70% of those asked felt fathers needs get too little attention

-4% of dads take advantage of parental leave

-10% of divorces result in sole custody to father

 

HEALTH OF CHILD

 

Dr. Andrew Lynk of the Canadian Pediatric Society has released a study June 7 2004 finding that all-terrain vehicles operated by children and adolescents account for almost 25% of deaths on those vehicles, and one-third of serious injuries using them. The society is recommending ridership be restricted by provincial and territorial legislation requiring a minimum operator age of 16 years, compulsory helmet use and mandatory training. The society also recommends banning three-wheeled vehicles The CPS represents over 2000 pediatricians in Canada. (many seniors use 3 wheeled motorized scooters and their use has also been questioned for safety elsewhere-editor)

 

The Supreme Court of Canada is hearing June 2004 an appeal of a BC judgment  -the claim is made that autistic children, denied therapy were discriminated against unfairly. The therapy, currently  not funded under medical plans was ordered to be funded for $20,000-$60,000 per child per year.  Mary Eberts, lawyer for Friends of Children with Autism argues that untreated these children would live lives of isolation and misery and the equal access these children have to cancer or sore throat treatment is of no use to them because they need unequal treatment in order to not suffer a disadvantage. C. E. Hinkson , lawyer for the families also argued that 90% of untreated children end up in institutional care costing $500,000 per year. However Ontario lawyer Robert Charney put forward the case for government to not cover the massive costs of care saying that many health care costs are not covered under medicare including physiotherapy and psychology services, and opening the door to this group could trigger public demands for much other coverage the medical plan could not afford.

 

Dr. David Rothner, pediatric neurologist of the Cleveland Clinic has revealed June 16 2004 results of a recent survey of 680 patients, finding that 22% of those referred to the headache centre were using over the counter headache medication 3 doses a week for over 6 weeks and that many of those users were children.  Rothner warns that overuse of such medication can lead to side effects of kidney damage,liver damage, or stomach bleeding and that in the case of children, it can actually worsen headaches in a rebound effect.

 

HEALTH OF PARENT

 

With concerns over obesity and lack of exercise among North Americans, many restaurants are serving lower-calorie meals and exercise is being promoted in the schools. However one British shopping chain, Tesco, is taking a different approach. It has introduced a shopping cart into its stores that can be programmed to 10 levels of resistance as it is being pushed, giving the shopper a built-in workout. The Trim Trolley has built-in sensors to read heart rate, distance and calories burned.  Derek Thowney who helped develop the cart says it  also will help raise awareness of weight and fitness.

 

Ellen Bialystok of York University has released a study June 14 2004 finding that among 154 bilingual and monolingual adult university graduates in India or in Toronto, those who daily spoke two languages- Tamil and English did better on a common psychological reaction time test than did those who only spoke only one  language daily.  Dr. Bialystok  found that those who were 60-88 years old and bilingual had the same reaction time as the younger, aged 30-59 monolinguals and speculates that ability to focus ones attention and respond to rapidly changing tasks is enhanced if someone learns two languages.

 

Though one instance of unprotected intercourse has always been known to pose a small risk of pregnancy, recent research has found that powerful biological urges at certain times of the month that might lead to unprotected intercourse actually pose a higher risk of pregnancy.  Allen Wilcox of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Durham North Carolina has studied 68 sexually active women over 3 months and found that their rates of and interest in intercourse peaked during their six day fertility period five days before and the actual day of ovulation.

 

Dr. Bruce Yanker of Harvard Medical School has released results of a study June 10 2004 in which he did molecular analysis on brains of 30 deceased individuals aged 26 to 106. He found that 180 genes including 20 linked to memory and cognitive function were badly damaged in people over age 70 but were working well in brains of those under age 40. However between aged 40 and 70 there was wide variation, not related to age. Yanker suspects that genes become damaged at varying rates in some people and that other genes involved in brain repair may decrease based on factors not related to age.  Yanker hopes that his study will help understand Parkinsons and Alzheimers diseases, theorizing that those who have these illnesses may have inadequate repair mechanisms in the brain, and that possibly the repair of genes currently possible in labs could be done for them one day also.

 

CAREER TRENDS

 

Though many admit there is a dilemma for those trying to balance career and family obligations over a lifetime with some sequencing the roles and some trying to do them simultaneously, the paid workworld is also trying to make this balance fairer.  Many feel asking personal questions biases employers to not hire those with caregiving responsibilities. The University of Washington has revealed on its website June 2004 the fair inquiry guidelines established by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission in the US. There are similar guidelines in some provinces in  Canada. By such rules it is illegal now for employers to ask certain personal questions as they consider who to employ.

-They are not permitted to ask your marital status, names of your relatives or spouse or children if you are over 18, or questions about who you live with. It is legal for them to ask if any of your relatives are employed with this company or a competitor.

-They are not allowed to ask anything about your medical history, pregnancy or to ask if or when you plan to have children. It is legal for them to ask if you foresee any longterm absences in the future

-They are not allowed to ask if you have any handicaps, about causes of prognosis of your physical handicap or whether you have ever had serious illness. It is legal for them to ask if you need any special accommodations to perform the job youve applied for and for them to ask if you can lift 40 pounds or other job-related skill inquiry.

-It is not legal for them to ask about your spouses employment, salary, child-care,  or dependents, or for them to ask how your spouse would feel about your traveling for the job. It is legal for them to ask if you can meet specified work schedules, whether you can work overtime or whether you can be at the job at a given start time.

-It is not legal for them to ask your marital status, lineage, ancestry, national origin or descent or any questions that would reveal that information such as whether you had legally changed your name. It is legal for them to ask if you have worked for the company or any competitor under any other name and for them to ask what name you are known by for the references you provided.

-It is not legal for them to ask you if you want to be addressed as Mrs. Ms. Miss or Ms., or whether you plan to have children.

-It is not legal for them to ask you to submit a photo

-It is not legal for them to ask any questions that would tend to identify those aged 40 or over. It is legal for them to ask if you are 18 or over and for them to ask that, if hired, you could produce proof of age.

-It is not legal for them to ask you the nationality, racial or religious affiliation of any school you attended. It is legal for them to ask about your academic, vocational and professional education, schools attended, diplomas and degrees received, dates graduated.

-It is not legal for them to ask your nationality, how you became familiar with a foreign language or country

-It is not legal for them to ask any question that directly or indirectly relates to your race or color

-it is not legal for them to ask any question that directly or indirectly relates to a religion, what religious holidays you celebrate or your religious affiliation. It is legal for them to ask if you can work on Saturdays or other questions related to the job schedule.

_it is not legal for them to ask your height or weight except based on job requirements and the employer must be able to show that those with ineligible height and weight cannot do the job

 

Lynn Jerchel of Alberta Childrens Services has revealed June 2004 that the current daycare  worker salary in that province is $9.53 per hour and up to $12.09 an hour for those with a two year early childhood education diploma.  She points out also that the daycare staff turnover rate is now down to9.3% (much research confirms children need stability in their lives and staff turnover puts children at some risk. Increased wages are often promoted to to reduce staff turnover. Care of children is now seen as a worthy career,but ironically the same job description when performed by a mother or father is not only given no salary and no tax deductions editor)

 

Workers at Chark River Laboratories of Atomic Energy of Canada are required to participate monthly in collection of 24 hour collections of urine samples to determine if they have been accidentally exposed to high levels of radiation.  In 2002 since tests were coming back inaccurate due to the uranium levels in the background of the lab, employees were asked to conduct these tests at home, on Sundays, but they were not paid for the inconvenience this collection process entailed.  The Canadian Union of Public Employees filed a grievance saying pay should be given but Dan Palayew, lawyer for the labs said there is no pay deserved for carrying out a normal body function.  A judgment was not announced (June 2004)

 

Home-based caregiving obligations have now become a subject of union negotiations. The United Nurses of Alberta have run ads June 15 2004 noting difficulties they are having negotiating with the Alberta Cancer Board. The board refuses to permit nurses six months of unpaid leave to provide care of a dying family member, and will not provide benefits for the time off.   The United Nurses union says terminal care leave is already resolved for the 20,000 nurses who work for Albertas other health regions and the cancer board should not be an exception

 

Though many studies lately point out that career and professional women have a declining birth rate, Christine Chalupka-Bird, national vice president of Coles Indigo Books in Toronto has revealed June 8 2004 that she feels the job site can help address this lack of interest in child-bearing.  Chalupka-Bird has just given birth to her third child and is thrilled to reveal that he company has offered her a flexible option of not losing her recent promotion, of working from home and of reducing her travel obligations for a while. She says her CEO is a self-professed baby hog who feels a companys measure of success is being able to put in a daycare at our home office.  Chalupka-Bird feels governments must start to recognize that the responsibility of bringing up Canadians falls often to mothers and they should get better compensation and be celebrated for their labor.

 

Though many retired persons and seniors do not want the pressure of full-time paid work, many are restless and would like to do something part-time.  Canadian Linda Welstead, a retired high school teacher, along with her daughter Sara Welstead, who operates a marketing company, have set up a website to assist seniors in just such a position. The site began in October 2003 after Welstead found that sites Moster.ca and workopolis.com were mostly for younger people. The website at www.retiredworker.ca allows seniors to search free if they want a job, while employers pay $50 for each posting. Within 24 hours of posting an ad, employers are e-mailed a list of 10 candidates who might meet their requirements. Jobs include truck drivers, translators, mystery shoppers and even employment for retired bookkeepers and medical personnel.  Welstead finds that seniors have a strong work ethic. Stats Canada has found that 8.4% of seniors were employed for pay in 2001, up from 7.8 % in 1996. And contrary to assumptions that seniors are computer-illiterate, a Forrester Research report in 2003 found that 20%of European seniors communicated online and an eMarketer study found 46% of US seniors have already been using the Net for over five years.  The Welsteads website has become so popular it expanded from Toronto all across Canada and now also has a website for California, Florida and Texas at www.theretired-worker.com

Other such websites are

http://www.experienceworks.org

http://www.availablejones.com

http://www.aarp.com

 

___________________________________________________


Beverley Smith is an Canadian writer who has taken part in petitions, demonstrations, letter writing campaigns and has headed Kids First Parent Association for 3 years (2001-2004). Out of concern for perceived unequal treatment of caregivers by her country she complained to the Human Rights Commission four times and when the commission refused her request,to the Division for the Advancement of Women at the UN in 1997.
Her complaint was supported by numerous international organizations including Endeavour Forum in Australia, The World Movement of Mothers, The European Foundation for Women Working in the Home and Unica in Rome. Though Canada officially denied her claims the UN Working group concluded there was an international trend of an absence of women in decision-making, there were legal systems discriminating in the complainant countries, and there was a high incidence of women and children in poverty.
Smith continues her struggle to get equal rights for the traditional caregiving role in order to go the final step in the feminist struggle for equality - the third wave.

She was named 1999 Calgarian of the Year by Business in Calgary magazine, has been nominated by the YWCA for the Women of Distinction Award and in May 2003 received the Queen's Golden Jubilee Medal for her work on behalf of those who care for the young, sick, elderly, handicapped and dying. She has met with several politicians including the present Prime Minister of Canada, Paul Martin when he was finance minister (1999) and with leaders of several opposition parties. (Stephen Harper, Gilles Duceppe). She has however not yet succeeded in changing related laws and has made an application to the Minister of Justice for a Supreme Court reference to determine if the related laws are consistent with the Charter of Rights

Smith edited for several years a newsletter that soon was distributed to over 4,000 subscribers and adherents. It became so large that she has decided to put it up on the Net so others can consult it at their leisure

A child is nature's opinion the world should go on
Illustration: Helping Mom in the kitchen
Take care of someone who loves you

 

FAMILY FINANCES POVERTY, PENSIONS, TAX

 

The Certified General Accountants Association of Canada has released as study June 10 2004 looking at 847 pension plans in Canada, and has found that many lack sufficient assets to pay the pensions they have promised. The association found that laws only require companies to keep a legal minimum on hand and they suggest those amounts be raised. Otherwise surpluses from contributions are often confiscated and given out as worker benefits during a corporate change or bankruptcy.  The study estimated that $160 billion will be required to cover the current shortfall and six out of 10 pension plans in the study are implicated.

 

A provision under the 1998 Bankruptcy and Insolvency Act  that bans graduate students from discharging their student loans for 10 years after graduation is being questioned in a court challenge in Ottawa June 2004.  Though regular consumer debt can be discharged within 9 months so an applicant can make a fresh start, students are not allowed to do so. Lawyer Todd Burke is acting on behalf of Annick Chenier, a student of the University of Ottawa who graduated in 1997 with a $51,000 student loan debt and began a job at $34,000 per year. Unable to make her monthly loan payments of $90, she asked her bank to reduce the payments spread out over longer but the bank refused so she defaulted on her student loan, making her ineligible for interest relief and other government programs.  Burke argues that the 10 year prohibition on students violates the Charter of Rights because it tends to discriminate based on age and gender.  However Rick Woyiwada for the federal government says the act protects the student loan program.  Mr. Justice Gordon Sedgewich has reserved judgment though in 2003 a Senate committee on banking, trade and commerce itself concluded that student bankruptcy rules were too harsh and should be overhauled.

 

LEGAL AND POLITICAL DEVELOPMENTS

 

Reaction to the one-sidedness of electoral candidates daycare proposals has been swift. The Calgary Herald editorial board June 5 2004 observed that the Quebec plan on which a federal plan may be modeled, charges all customers $7 a day, whether they are rich or poor so ordinary taxpayers, even those who dont use daycare often subsidize the rich.  The Herald noted that not all children use daycare in Alberta, with 6,500 spaces of the 26,000 available currently unused.  The national paper, The Globe and Mail on June 4 2004 said that it would be easier to provide parents with money to decide for themselves how to raise a child. Wouldnt it be better to have a system that helps all parents who need help raising a family?  Peter Shawn Taylor, writing for the National Post June 8th said that good public policy demands that all children be equally treated whether at daycare or raised at home and that the social investment of raising a child be recognized.  He argues that the actual cost of daycare in Quebec, where parents pay $7 a day, is actually around $40 a day, heavily subsidized by the state. and says that daycare currently is the third largest expenditure of the provincial budget, trailing only health and education. He maintains that the current daycare policy, which Paul Martin has said he plans to imitate nationally, actually benefits most the middle and upper income sectors- around 50% of those who use daycare come from the top 30% income bracket. He also observed that when governments take sides in funding, parental decision making is distorted and he finds that unions have a vested interest in promoting daycares.

 

A Windsor Ontario woman whose estranged husband died after smashing through her home and setting it on fire, has learned June 16 2004 that her home insurance company will not cover the costs of repair to the house because the house policy does not cover damage that is intentional.  Anna Cipka maintains that her estranged husband was under a court order to not come near the house at the time and the RBC Insurance policy should therefore cover the $80,000 damage to her $160,000 home. However she admits she had forgotten to take his name off the house insurance document. The Cipkars had been married for twelve years but when she learned he had been having an affair for 18 months he attempted suicide, was hospitalized and then lost his job and during an argument tried to kill her. Ms. Cipkar works shifts at a plastic factory.

 

A New York school teacher who disciplined a 10 year old boy for making a nasty sexual reference to a 3rd grade child by having him wash his mouth out using a drop of liquid soap,  has been put on paid leave.Lori Thomas said she used the old-fashioned punishment and to keep the child from earning another one week suspension since he had already been frequently sent home for bad behavior. However though the foster mother  did not complain, the boys brother told distict officials who then suspended the teacher indefinitely. Thomas has taught for 3 years.  An investigation is pending. Meanwhile over 40 relatives of the children in Ms Thomas class have asked that she be reinstated.

 

The federal election will take place June 28th 2004. A quick summary of platforms from the five main parties on the subject of caregiving follows:

Bloc Quebecois-  tax credit for families with children, continue universal daycare but ask for Ottawa to return money Ottawa got from it, increase parental leave, have Ottawa refund $3.2 billion to seniors, and fund Quebec education  more

Conservative reduce middle-income earner tax to 25%, have a $2,000 per child tax deduction, give tax credits for caregivers of the elderly, sick and disabled, have more loans and grants for students

Green-raise benefits for parental leave, extend compassionate care leave,, recognize womens work in unpaid caregiving, provide student loan forgiveness to graduates of early childhood education programs, promote parents having more time with their children, support non-profit daycare and also support at-home parents

Liberal- create a universal daycare system modeled on the Quebec plan, creating 250,000 more daycare spaces, increasing benefits to seniors and giving some tax deductions for family caregivers of the elderly, help the poor send their children to post-secondary, give a new tax deduction for the disabled

New Democratic Party- increase the child tax benefit, remove tax on incomes under $15,000, create 200,000 daycare spaces costing $5.2 billion, create two new national holidays so people can spend more time with the family, cut GST from family essentials, cut tuition fees.

 

Womens groups have issued statements looking towards the election. The Feminist Alliance for International Action  has reported consensus with 35 womens groups and partner organizations for government to implement the UNs Convention to Eliminate Discrimination Against Women. They also ask that Parliament create a standing committee on womens issues and a ministry for Status of Women. (June 2004)

 

Dr. Ian Gentles of the Department of History, Glendon College of Toronto has reported June 8 2004 that Canada offers nearly no legal protection to the unborn in criminal law. But he notes that in civil law or tort law the unborn do have legal rights including the right to inherit a bequest left to all living children, and the right to sue after birth for wrongful injuries.

 

FEMINIST ANGLE

 

Though politicians try to avoid of clearly divisive womens issues during election campaigns, abortion rights have surfaced at repeated news conferences and public rallies.  This issue is an international one. In Kenya abortion is outlawed unless a mothers life is threatened but Cape Verde, South Africa and Tunisia permit abortion on demand during the first trimester of pregnancy.  However the abortion debate has re-ignited in Kenya after the discovery of 15 aborted fetuses, some nearly full term, dumped in plastic garbage bags by a Nairobi river. Christian and Muslim groups have criticized the clause ensuring women have the right to reproductive health care in a constitution redraft, saying this is code for access to abortion services. However the Kenyan Medical Association and the Federation of Women Lawyers in May 2004 observed that the lack of abortion has been linked to around 300,000 illegal abortions being performed each year in Kenya and that around 20,000 women are hospitalized after such procedures go wrong and 2,600 die.

 

Peter Shawn Taylor, writing in the National Post June 11 2004 has objected to the fact that Child Tax benefit cheques are addressed to the mother. Taylor is an at-home father who feels that mens caregiving is being overlooked by such bias.  Frances Woolley of Canadian Public Policy of Carleton University has also concluded in March 2004 that favoring mothers is not logical. She notes that the moms-only cheque is given on the assumption mothers need the financial help more than men do, and on the assumption women are more likely to spend the money on the kids than dads would. In  of the 300 Ottawa families she interviewed, the woman was not viewed as a financial dependent but as a joint partner, sharing pooled bank accounts. For them the  CTB deposit could be accessed by either partner once in the bank anyway so there was no reason to assume only women should have their names on the cheques  (one of the goals of feminism is to recognize that caregiving itself is useful work in society, done by either gender. It is a historically female role but it need not be done by women only. editor)

 

The Canadian Community Health Survey has released data June 15 2004 finding that though the gay community estimates between 5-10% of the population is homosexual, those who identify themselves officially number about 1% only.   The Statistics Canada study looked for the first time in its history at sexual orientation asking 83,000 men and women between ages 18-59. 0.7 % of those asked listed themselves as bisexual.  Laurie Arron of the activist group Egale Canada has expressed happiness the questions are finally being asked but feels the numbers show some underreporting.  Statscan analyst Vincent Dale admitted that the phrasing of the question can change results, with higher incidence likely if the question were phrased Are your partners of the same sex or the opposite sex?

 

Though sex is often celebrated as a natural expression of love and some feel young adults engage in it too often, the AERA magazine in Japan has issued a report in May 2004 noting that interest in sex is actually declining in that country.  The popular newsmagazine has found a drop in sales of condoms, and in business at love-hotels that rent by the hour,  that may be linked to an overstressed population, too busy for pleasure.  Junko Sakai has written a bestseller Cry of the Losing Dogs to make public the plight of many women in Japan who are in their thirties and unmarried.  Economists have noted that the Japanese birth rate at 1.1 million babies per year is now 1.32 per couple, well below the minimum needed of 2.08 to renew the population.  The AERA newsmagaizne has urged young singles to stop shopping with their mothers, to stop going with same-sex buddies out for the evening, but to start enjoying sex again.

 

 

 

ECONOMICS OF THE NATION

 

Saturday Night magazine in its June 2004 issue has done a study of ways nations prepare their economic reports, and find that the GDP has been found incomplete and unfair in several circumstances.  Ron Colman formerly of St. Marys University has found that the GDP is a quantitative measure but it does not measure quality of life. John Kenneth Galbraith, famous economist has also suggested that the GDP must be changed . The GDP counts any flow of money as progress, even if jobs were created because of a disaster such as an oil spill, a flash flood or an ice storm and it looks on war and crime as industries to be celebrated if they grow. The GDP also excludes all activity not in the paid market so it ignores household labor, community service as irrelevant. Robert Kennedy once noted the irony saying that the GDP measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile. Colman feels that what used to be unpaid has now become part of the paid economy and this shift, which is not in amount of work actually done, is officially tallied as if it were a sign of economic growth. Parenting became child care, air conditioners replaced shady trees, all increasing the GDP without necessarily helping the quality of life. Recently measures have been created to more accurately define all the work done in a nation. The HDI looks at life expectancy , literacy , school enrolment and per capital GDP. The Human Poverty Index of the UN looks at poverty, illiteracy, unemployment and life expectancy. The Gender Empowerment Measure tallies womens participation in politics  and business. However Canada is working on a measure called the GPI- genuine progress index. This calculates economic value of nonmarket goods and services by estimating what it would cost to replace those in the market economy. Volunteer hours for instance are counted as dollars worth of services.  Colman feels the GDP ignores depletion of natural or human resources but the GPI notices it.

 

 

INTERNATIONAL DEVELOPMENTS

 

A 1998 sudy by  Dr. Ken Boessenkool and James B. Davies at the University of Western Ontario has revealed a quick summary of how other nations handle the financing of those who raise children. The two writers prepared Giving Mom and Dad a Break: Returning Fairness to Families in Canadas Tax and Transfer System

-France income tax is based on household not individual income and is computed per adult by a formula that divides the household income by the number of adults there.

Germany husbands and wives file a joint assessment or separately as they choose. The personal allowance for a married person is double that of a single person and the result is that a married taxpayer filing jointly pays no income tax unless the couples income is more than 4 times the minimum for a single person.

Italy tax is based on individual income. Credits for a dependent spouse are 8 times as large as the credit for each dependent child.

Japan- tax is based on individual income.. There is a basic allowance for a dependent spouse the same size as the allowance for each dependent child and there is a special allowance for those with low income.

-The UK tax is based on individual income but a married couple can share personal and married couple allowances and income from jointly owned property can be split.

-the US there are four tax categories- married couples filing jointly, head of household who is single taking care of children, single person, married persons filing separately. Married couples can choose whether to be taxed as individuals or jointly and all schedules have five rates but the ceilings differ depending on the category (15,28, 31, 36 and 39.6%)

-Canada uses only the individual as the basis of taxation and the spousal deduction is less than a personal deduction. The writers conclude that joint filing is attractive because it maintains horizontal and vertical equity.  They also suggest that joint filing would help Canadians of middle and lower incomes and would be more efficient.. They say however that individual filing creates an incentive for women to work outside the home which some feel is positive and it removes the problems of defining what is a family.  They do feel however that the current tax system based on the individual, though preferable has flaws. It has inequities between single and dual earner families and it gives social benefits unfairly equally to singles and heads of families based only on income and it is particularly flawed in its treatment of parents.  They note that society itself not just the parents derive benefits of human capital investments represented by raising children They prefer a deduction to a tax credit and feel that expenses for children are nondiscretionary and should not be part of the tax base.. The writers consider the value of a universal deduction for children and recommend it along with generous personal and spousal deductions in preference to universal child cash payments. They make a stinging indictment that the current system treats children as consumer purchases and say this is wholly unacceptable.

 

The US House of Representatives is voting this month on a budget bill 3973 which is raising concerns among those at the Childrens Defense league.

The bill would withdraw tax benefits to the poor while increasing them to the wealthy, and would fund improvements to foster care, adoption, school lunch, welfare and other programs only by making cuts elsewhere within the programs.  The bill would cut $100 billion in services over five years for Head Start education programs for children in poverty, would cut Medicaid by $392 billion, would cut earned income tax credit and child tax credit $54 billion, would cut food stamps $43 billion.  The league speculates that with such cuts nearly all of the 24 million children covered by Medicaid would lose coverage, 567, 000 children would lose welfare, 1.5 million children would lose basic nutrition food stamps, 100,000 disabled children would lose supplementary security income assistance and 3.9 million children would lose free school lunch.

 

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