Tag Archives: Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

Poverty and Homelessness in Canada: Kurdish Socialists Host John Clarke

Members of Socialist Action joined about 30 Kurdish socialists and supporters gathered at the East York Civic Center on June 4 to listen to John Clarke, provincial organizer of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, talk about Poverty and Homelessness in Canada. The event was sponsored by Voices – an independent Kurdish Online publication.

John exposed the root causes of poverty in Ontario and described the heroic role of OCAP.  He told the audience how every night over 4000 people crowd into shelters, how tens of thousands have been forced by the government’s neo-liberal austerity policies to use food banks, and how since last year there have been over 100 tragic homeless deaths on the streets— the most ever recorded in Toronto!  He illustrated how disgraceful it is that this can happen in a city with such immense wealth. He also aptly defended OCAP’s use of direct action tactics, without seeking permission from the cops or anyone.  Clarke noted that while workers can withdraw their labour and go on strike, the unemployed and homeless can use only direct action as their weapon to fight against the system. His talk was animated by very moving personal anecdotes about the many people that OCAP has helped over the years.

During the discussion period, Barry Weisleder, a leader of Socialist Action, stressed that the only way to end poverty is through a revolutionary break with the existing class system, that is, by a socialist transformation of society. Such a transformation has at least two pre-conditions for it’s success: a working class that is rising in anger about the unacceptability of current conditions, and a revolutionary leadership in the unions and other working class organizations that will fight for a program to fundamentally change society.

This is not a matter of charity.  It is a struggle for justice and a revolt against unacceptable conditions for humanity and the environment. He urged members of the audience to join with Socialist Action in order to help build a strong and resolutely revolutionary party.

Socialist Action demands immediate action as follows:
• Mayor Tory: Immediately expand Toronto’s shelter capacity.  Open the armories!  People have been waiting long enough!

• Build decent housing for all, starting with a crash programme to create 500,000 new housing units by means of a publicly owned land development and construction industry.

• Provide immediate support and resources for those suffering mental health issues and drug addiction!

• Stop the war on the poor! Tax rich property owners, land developers, giant corporations and banks!


OCAP Says No to Welfare Merger/Cuts

by John Wilson
On New Year’s day 2014 there’s not much to celebrate for those who are unemployed, low-waged, who rely on welfare, or live on disability benefits in Ontario. To make matters worse, only 35 per cent of the unemployed even qualified for Employment Insurance benefits (which have been reduced), compared to 74 per cent eligible in 1990. Two priority campaigns of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) highlight this reality.
The first is the campaign to “raise the rates”. The rates paid by Ontario Works (welfare) were brutally slashed by nearly 22% bywe're here for our$ the notorious regime of Mike Harris in the mid-90s. Since then, for single claimants, the payments have lost a staggering 56% of their spending power. These rates were frozen since 1995, until the advent of the present Liberal regime, but any increases have been miniscule – only 15% over the last ten years, far less than the rate of inflation.
OCAP demands an immediate 55% increase. It is common knowledge that welfare recipients have little left over after paying rent. They rely on food banks to survive and have almost nothing for other needs. Supplementary benefits have been under continuous attack, despite the laughable “poverty reduction” mantra of the austerity-mongering Wynne government. As OCAP organizer John Clarke wrote in the Bullet (May 2013): “The fundamental nature of the welfare system can be traced all the way back to its roots in the old English Poor Laws. The system has always been there to reluctantly provide enough assistance to stave off unrest and social dislocation, but to do so at levels and in forms that maximize the flow of labour into the lowest paying and most exploitative jobs on offer.” “Ontario Works” says it all.
DSCN1663The same approach to disability benefits leads into a second major campaign to prevent the merger of Ontario Works and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). At a November 20 rally in Toronto, attended by over 120 people, speakers outlined their concerns. Historically, disability and welfare rates have been separate. If combined, from where will any increases for disability come? With downloading to municipalities, will ‘reassessment’ of disability claimants follow the notorious British model? Rally participants learned about the savage cuts to disability programs by the reactionary coalition government in Britain, which has handed this process over to ATOS, a private company.
Huge numbers of people there have been disqualified on incredibly specious grounds. A video showed a large field of flowers, each representing a disabled person who died within a short period of being disqualified, often by suicide. It is hardly ‘alarmist’ to think that the same could happen here, since the Ontario Workplace Safety and Insurance Board (WSIB) has already privatized reassessment with a stupefying increase in disqualifications. The austerity agenda, which has particularly targeted disabled people, is international, as is the capitalist system, which promotes it in the interest of ever cheaper labour platforms.
These two campaigns by OCAP clearly merit the unqualified support of labour, the left and social movements. Attacks on welfare and disability benefits will not only further impoverish poor people, but everyone. The greater the number of people desperate enough to accept the most wretched jobs, the more downward pressure there will be on wage levels, and the more intense will be the attacks on unions.nov 5th cap is broken 2 PS

Toronto area Anti-Drone tour

The Anti-Drone War tour came to Toronto November 29-30 to raise awareness about a state-sponsored crime against humanity – America’s use of unmanned bomber aircraft to conduct wars of intervention in Pakistan, Afganistan, the Middle East and Africa. Over a hundred people attended meetings that included a talk and photo slide show by veteran peace activist Joe Lombardo at Mississauga Central Library and at two downtown Toronto university campuses.

Joe is Co-Coordinator of the United National Antiwar Coalition (UNAC). During the Vietnam War, he was a staff person for the National Peace Action Coalition, one of the 2 major anti-war coalitions at the time. Joe, a retired public service worker, lives in Albany, New York, where he is a leader of Bethlehem Neighbors for Peace.

He participated in the 31-member CodePink-initiated U.S. delegation to Pakistan in October to meet with anti-drone activists and relatives of the 760 civilians murdered by U.S. bombs. The delegates visited Karachi, Islamabad, and Lahore, but were turned back by the Pakistan military as they approached Waziristan (the province bordering Afghanistan).

The American delegation was front-page news in Pakistan for the duration of its visit. Participants met with scores of victims of drone warfare, and spoke at several news conferences. They travelled the countryside in a kilometres-long caravan of vehicles, addressing impromptu rallies in town after town. The caravan was led by Imran Khan, prominent anti-drone politician and legendary cricket star.

The speaking engagements in the Toronto area were organized by Socialist Action-Canada. Endorsing groups included: Code Pink – Canada; the Executive of the Greater Toronto Area Council of the Ontario Public Service Employees’ Union;Toronto-Danforth NDP; Thornhill NDP; Canadian Arab Federation; IJV- Independent Jewish Voices; NION – Not in our name, Jewish voices opposing Zionism; Crescent International newsmagazine; Science for Peace; NDP Socialist Caucus; Youth for Socialist Action; Toronto Haiti Action Committee; TorontoForum on Cuba; the Latin American and Caribbean Solidarity Network; TorontoAssociation for Peace and Solidarity; and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

Each meeting featured a lively question and discussion period. Early on, one person asked, “What is the Canadian connection to drone war crimes?” Organizers responded, “It is the NATO connection. As junior partner to US imperialism, Ottawa wages wars of intervention across the Arab Nation, in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Canadian police occupy Haiti. Canadian Forces led the bombing of Libya. Ottawa supports the siege of Gaza, backs Israeli apartheid, and condones the use of drone bombers against Palestinians. Canada is the seventh biggest arms exporter in the world. And, according to the Ottawa Citizen newspaper in July, the Harper government is committed to spend $1 billion on the purchase of unmanned aircraft able to carry precision-guided munitions. The Tories might even have called it part of their Economic Stimulus Programme, except that they retired that self-serving moniker a year ago. Whatever they call it, we call it wanton waste and horrific destruction of innocent lives. We join with our American comrades, sisters and brothers, to rid this world of the war-makers, their machines of death, and the capitalist system of plunder for profit.”

Another person asked, “How does the drone issue relate to the average person here?” SA-Canada members pointed out that workers continue to face the biggest economic crisis since the 1930s. And while there is plenty of money for corporate bail-outs and for military spending, our rulers maintain there is no money for housing, transportation, education, health care, childcare – not even for enforcement of decent food inspection standards.

The truth is: people can’t eat bullets. The homeless can’t live in fighter jets and tanks. And military spending is not the key to peace and security. Social justice is the key.

Ottawa’s policy is not, and never was peacekeeping. It is about militarism for profit. It is about arms production and sales. At the United Nations in late November, Canada’s delegate was one of only 11 reps, out of 194 countries, to vote against observer state status for Palestine.

The Canadian state does not approach international relations with clean hands. Seventy per cent of the largest mining firms in the world are based in Canada. They cause untold harm to indigenous peoples. The mine owners want ‘security’ – to plunder and profit from the labour and natural resources of the less developed countries.

So, in this struggle against war and for social justice, which emanates not from a policy, but from the capitalist system, who is on our side?

The New Democratic Party is the only labour party in North America, based on the unions. But the policy of NDP leaders is pro-capitalist, pro-pipelines and pro-Zionist. This stance is in violent contradiction with the interests of the vast majority of NDP voters and members. The same contradiction is evident in our unions. Union leaders preach against social cuts, layoffs and inequality. At the same time they negotiate concessionary contracts that establish two-tier wages and benefits – economic provisions that discriminate against young workers and immigrants.

What are we, working people, to do?

Well, it makes no sense to abandon our organizations. We struggle to build them, and to make them work for the majority, for the working class and the poor. We fight to win support for a Workers’ Agenda in the unions, and for socialist policies in the NDP.

Socialist Action is a revolutionary workers’ organization with members across the country, from Montreal to Vancouver. We are active year-round. We publish a monthly newspaper, many booklets and other literature. We organize conferences, film festivals, concerts, student study groups and demonstrations.

With your participation we could do much more. We could turn the tide on capitalist austerity and war. We can build a socialist movement that will transform Canada and the world. If you agree with those goals, we invite you to join Socialist Action today.