Posts Tagged ‘ poverty makes us sick ’

Disabled People Against the Cuts (DPAC) Speaking Tour coming to Kitchener and Ottawa this May!




From May 4-15th, Ellen Clifford from DPAC will be on a provincial speaking tour, visiting Toronto, Kitchener, Sudbury, Kingston and Ottawa. Ellen has been campaigning with the disabled people’s movement for 15 years and, since 2011, has sat on the National Steering Committee of DPAC. She is also a member of Unite the Union and works to build solidarity between workers in unions and those forced to live on social benefits.

The Cameron Government in the UK has implemented brutal cuts to programs for unemployed and disabled people. This includes a system called the Work Capability Assessment that has been used to deny benefits to thousands of people.

Disabled People Against Cuts (DPAC) is an organization in the UK that has been at the forefront of challenging this situation.  It has mobilized disabled people to fight back and formed alliances with community organizations and unions in resisting the austerity measures of the Cameron Government. The hated private company, Atos, that was carrying out the assessments of sick and disabled people has been forced to quit as a result of the powerful resistance DPAC and others have take up.

Here in Ontario, we also face major attacks. Ontario Works and ODSP rates are too low to enable people to pay their rent and eat properly. The Special Diet and Community Start Up have been slashed. There is a very real threat that the Government here will merge OW and ODSP and bring in a UK style assessment system. We need to understand what is happening in that country and how people are fighting back against the attacks.

Poverty Makes Us Sick is very excited to host stops in both Kitchener and Ottawa as a part of the provincial tour.

The Ottawa stop of the tour will be on Wednesday, May 7th, at 6:30pm. This event, with local speakers, Raise the Rates Campaign founders from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) and Ellen Clifford of DPAC, will also serve as the public re-launch of the Raise the Rates Campaign in Ottawa.  Space has been provided by the Somerset West Community Health Centre (55 Eccles St) and is fully accessible. A meal will be included and bus tickets will be available. Childcare, ASL and French whisper interpretation will be provided as needed (please confirm by May 1st).

The Kitchener stop of the tour will be on Tuesday, May 13th, at 7pm.  It will be held at the Queen Street Commons (43 Queen St S).  A light meal will be provided.  The Commons is wheelchair accessible and has one single-occupancy washroom.  It is a kid-friendly space. Vegan and gluten-free foods will be available.

For more information call Poverty Makes Us Sick, (613) 220-0554 or email
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The Ontario budget for 2012 calls for the cancellation of the Community Start-up and Maintenance Benefit and the Home Repairs Benefit (CSUMB).  The cuts are scheduled to take effect in January 2013.

Cutting these vital benefits will ensure that many people are thrown into an endless cycle of poverty, violence, houselessness, isolation and institutionalization.

The cuts will have a devastating impact on the nearly 900,000 people living in Ontario who currently rely on Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) for their incomes.  OW and ODSP currently offer despicably low monthly rates, already far below the poverty line.

Most people living on OW and ODSP are renters. CSUMB, sometimes called simply CSU, provides funds of up to $800 once every two years, for people on OW and ODSP to maintain their housing. Essentially, this is a homelessness prevention benefit.  It is also about offering people the necessary economic mobility required to keep themselves, and their children, in safe living conditions.

It helps people pay for things like first and last month’s rent deposits. It helps people buy or replace furniture. It helps people put down deposits on utilities or pay overdue utility bills.  The loss of CSUMB will hurt many people who otherwise cannot afford these expenses. OW and ODSP incomes do not allow any wiggle room for one to save for the costs that the CSUMB currently covers.

People on assistance are already getting free bus tickets from churches to get to the food bank.  No one is saving up first and last month’s rent!!

The people who will be hurt by these cuts include:

women and young people who are fleeing violence where they live or are trying to move from transition shelters into permanent homes after experiencing domestic violence. Denying people access to mobility is nothing short of complicity in gendered violence, which is systemic in our society.

–  people trying to move from shelters into permanent homes.

people transitioning from prison into society.  Without the ability to pay first and last month’s rent, as is mandatory for renters, those who our government has imprisoned will be likely to be re-arrested for issues associated with houselessness such as failing to report to parole or probation officers, living without a fixed address, or being forced to steal food and clothes.

people leaving psychiatric units.  Someone on OW who is forcefully abducted and locked in a Psych Unit might not be allowed or able to submit their monthly report card to OW. Even though there are social workers employed by the hospital who ought to see to this, they never do – ever.  When OW reports aren’t submitted, a recipient is placed on suspension and can lose their coverage through OW.   Certainly in the case of an extended stay a consumer will have little to no financial supports.  Even if they are signed up before they are discharged they will not have enough to pay first and last month’s rent, let alone pay for food and transportation

(new) parents who need to move into a living situation that the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) will not deem unsafe.

people dealing with unhealthy barriers to an adequate quality of life, such as bedbug infestations or mold.

people who cannot afford the rising cost of energy.

Currently, about 16,000 Ontarians rely on these benefits each month.

Municipalities across Ontario are very concerned about the loss of these two benefits, as well as the cap that the 2012 budget puts on discretionary health-related benefits.

We call on housing workers, community legal clinic caseworkers, and others who support people living in poverty on OW and ODSP to act to protect these programs, and to not merely express concern that these cuts will result in more hardship, more desperation, and in fact more homelessness among people on assistance.

On June 4th, seven First Nations communities from the North Shore of Lake Huron held a rally against these cuts held at Queen’s Park.  They have since protested in Sudbury as well.

OCAP is coordinating a province-wide response to these cuts.

Poverty Makes Us Sick is hosting an info night, including a core organizer with OCAP, on Tuesday July 11th at the Queen St. Commons Café in Kitchener from 7-9pm.

Action will follow.

More Blatant Disregard for Workers

Members of Poverty Makes Us Sick are involved with the Tri-Cities Zellers Employee Solidarity Coalition (TCZESC). Please link to the TCZESC by clicking here.

In Kitchener/Waterloo, on Wednesday June 6th, two Zellers Stores closed forever.  The Stanley Park Mall and Bridgeport Plaza locations will reopen as Wal-mart.  None of the front line workers have been offered jobs*, or offered any preference for re-hire, by Wal-mart.  The employees are welcome to apply like anyone else.  We hope that their skills and experience will be valued.

We offer our love and support to all those who have lost their jobs.

Zellers is owned by HBC. Tiffany Bourre, HBC’s external communications manager says that “an average [Zellers] location has 100 employees…”. A few Zellers employees from these two locations have received transfers to other Zellers locations, but this is rare and most folks are losing their jobs.  According to Bourre’s statement, up to 500 people from our community may lose their jobs if Target decides to claim its contractual option on all five Zellers stores in the Tri-Cities.  In addition to the two stores that closed today, two others are scheduled to close in 2013. There is no official word on the 5th store yet.

Unemployment is devastating even in a healthy job market, but during this time of high unemployment, recession and cuts to vital social services, the loss of these jobs will prove especially challenging.

Tiffany Bourre also says that the employees affected will be offered what she termed “career transition and support services”. Bourré said, an online program will offer tips on resume writing, interview skills and professional development.  We call this bullshit.  We are happy if these resources helped folks right resumes (God knows we forget how!), but it’s insulting to the workers that this fluff is even named as support.  It’s insulting to us all that corporations think that they fool us so easily and find us so docile!

PMUS has typically acted locally with a focus on provincial policies affecting poverty.  While we have always maintained an analysis that is globally-minded, we are now expanding our work to include the necessary fights at the federal level, such as the detrimental changes being proposed to the Employment Insurance (EI) system and the despicable workfare initiatives aimed at indigenous people living on reserve.

Not all Zellers employees are even eligible for EI.  Some of the laid off employees will likely require access to Ontario Works (OW). As PMUS and its allies have been arguing for years, the inhumanely low, sub-poverty rates paid out by OW are not enough to buy healthy food, pay hydro and afford rent or mortgage.  No one should have to survive on these inadequate rates.

The TCZESC hopes to see employment maintained for those workers who seek it and seeks to foster worker-led mobilization.

Jobs and respect for those who have worked hard for Zellers and our community!

Visit the TCZESC blog at, email or go to for more information.

*Originally the available information suggested that no employees would be maintaining employment with Walmart or Target without re-applying, but we have seen evidence in the conduct of some, at one of the locations, to suggest that they may have a greater sense of allegiance to Walmart than to their current employees.  That is, we were aggressively removed from the store by one Zellers employee on his second last day of work, because a really wealthy-looking guy in a fancy suit told him to throw us out as we were distributing invitations to an info night for laid-off employees. The guy who threw us out had some sort of middle management vibe. He acted aloof when asked if he was also losing his job.  He refused to answer. At the other location that was also closing we were treated well, like a human being ought to be treated.

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