Saturday, July 18, 2009

The following story is from the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP). It's all about how the city of Toronto is trying to use the poor as a political football during the present civic workers strike in that town.
OCAP Demands that People on Assistance get Their Money!:‏
July 17, 2009
About 75 people on welfare and members of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty went to Mayor David Miller's office in City Hall today to demand that people be issued their benefits that they city is illegally withholding because of the strike.
“We waited outside the Mayor's office for over an hour but the city refused to even send someone out to speak to us. Eventually we delivered about 35 forms for the special diet by sliding them through a crack in Miller's glass doors,” said one member.
The City says that it will only deal with "emergency" situations for people on welfare. This means that the City is refusing to process most new benefits for people on assistance and has frozen people's cheques. Not having enough to eat because you can't get your special diet is an emergency but Miller doesn't think so. Right any now, people cannot access the special diet - money people desperately need to be able to buy groceries.
There is also a large number of people who are homeless or who are moving who cannot get last month's rent and risk losing apartments they have lined up. There are even people who have found jobs since the strike began who cannot get money to get to work and risk losing their jobs because of it. One person we spoke to was simply told not to cash his cheque because they would go after him for the money when the strike was over. Another person explained that he desperately needs glasses but was unable to get welfare to release a voucher so he can get them.
In a tremendous gesture of solidarity, CUPE workers lifted the picket line for OCAP to enter City Hall. While Miller is trying to spin the welfare crisis he created as just another reason for CUPE workers to sign a contract. But workers taking concessions does no good for people on welfare - it just creates a race to the bottom that makes things worse for everyone.
Miller's response to OCAP’s delegation was: "due to the limited number of workers that we have, and of course the demands for social assistance brought about by the recession, we are unable to process special claims like the special diet," he went on to say "While the garbage issue gets headlines, the example of social assistance is a very stark reminder of what I've been saying throughout -- this is a strike against the most vulnerable Torontonians, including social assistance recipients and children."
In other words, Miller blames the strikers for the city's refusal to issue people the money they desperately need. At the same time, Miller has been blaming welfare recipients for causing the financial crisis that led to the strike.
OCAP explains: “OCAP will continue to fight for people on assistance to get what they need and what they are entitled to. If you or someone you know is on welfare and being denied what you need right now or ever, call OCAP and we will fight together to get it. Today's action was only a first step we will not stop until the Miller ensures people are getting their grocery money, their rent money and the other benefits they are entitled to.”
Watch for more details & pictures on the OCAP website tomorrow, or for more information, call OCAP at 416-939-6950 or email

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