Thursday, September 27, 2007

Justice With Dignity: Still Waiting for Action on Poverty

The following is an article in the local daily, which I found reproduced here. Note how elementary mathematics are reduced to a matter of opinion, with the journalist tacking on "committee members argue" to the sentence pointing out that social assistance rates are currently 44% below what they were in 1995.

Justice With Dignity: Still Waiting for Action on Poverty
by Harold Carmichael, published in the Sudbury Star

Five years after the inquest into the death of Kimberly Rogers, Greater Sudbury's Justice With Dignity Committee says it is still waiting for serious action to increase Ontario's social assistance rates.

So, what better time to renew the call for rates to be hiked than during a political election?

"At this point, we are not endorsing any political party, but we are calling on the parties to raise the rates," said Laurie McGauley, committee chairwoman, following a press conference Wednesday at St. Andrew's Place.

"It was a very specific recommendation that came from the jury. This was crafted very carefully by a jury of their peers. They came to the conclusion the rates needed to be raised."

Members of the Justice With Dignity committee were expected to attend and ask questions at a Sudbury riding all-candidates debate meeting last night St. Andrew's Place, and a Nickel Belt riding all-candidates meeting 7-9 p.m. Thursday at the Lionel Lalonde Centre in Azilda.

The two meetings were organized by the Social Planning Council of Sudbury, one of the organizations represented at Wednesday's press conference.

The Justice With Dignity committee says that, after the former provincial government of Mike Harris cut social assistance rates by 22 per cent in 1995, rates were only boosted by five per cent by the Liberal government of Dalton McGuinty from 2003-07.

Since the cost of living rose by 27 per cent over the past 12 years, current rates being paid out are 44 per cent less than in 1995, committee members argue.

In August 2001, Kimberly Rogers died in Greater Sudbury while under arrest for committing social assistance fraud - receiving both social assistance and a student loan at the same time. The Justice With Dignity Committee was formed in September 2001 as a consequence of Rogers' death.

Sandra Lacle, acting chief executive officer of the Sudbury and District Health Unit, said low incomes translate into poor health, lower self-esteem and less opportunity.

"At every rung up the income ladder, Canadians have less sickness, higher life expectancy and improved health," she said. "Living in poverty creates feelings of social exclusion and isolation, people feeling they do not belong, cannot participate in community decisions."

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