Week of Action comes to K-W

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(Photo by Lindsay Purchase)

A demonstration was held in Uptown Waterloo earlier this week to protest government changes and funding inadequacies in social assistance programming.

The protest was in correlation with the Raise the Rates province-wide week of action.

One of the main concerns presented by the event was a potential government merger of Ontario Works (OW) and the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP). While the government has not yet announced this, according to media coordinator and Poverty Makes Us Sick representative Ian Stumpf, it’s likely that action will be taken before winter.

He believes the merger would be “a way of blocking services from people who are on ODSP.”

“The problems we see with that merger are OW is set up in a way to make it difficult to navigate and access programs and difficult to live on. And it’s some sort of unfortunate motivator to get back into the work force,” Stumpf explained.

“And when you’re on Disability, in theory you’re nurtured a little bit more by the system and are given a bit more assistance to navigate the system and to access additional programs.”

While public consultation is a possibility should a merger be considered, he doesn’t believe that this would be effective.

“Nobody that we’re allied with has any faith in those consultation processes,” he added.

The turnout for the demonstration was about 15 people. Other organizers included the Canadian Union of Public Employees and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.

Di Hartman, a Kitchener resident who is also affiliated with Poverty Makes Us Sick, came out to show her support for the cause.

“I was hoping for a bit more people, but it’s better than no one,” she said, commenting on the event.

She continued, “I think the minimum wage as it is right now is disgusting and the fact that they want to merge the OW and the ODSP really is wrong because it’s going to stop a lot of people from accessing a lot of really beneficial programs.”
Some participants held up large signs referencing different social causes.

Making the connection between social spending and crime, one sign read “No Poverty, No Violence, No Prison.” Another, held by Laurier grad and Grand River Indigenous Solidarity member Adam Lewis, along with a couple of other demonstrators, presented the message “Prison Fails the Community.”

Lewis believes that putting money into community programs will help decrease funds needed for the prison system.

“Anytime you start decreasing social services and cutting those supports for people in the community, that’s when people end up getting pushed into situations that are much more difficult. When you take away those services, more people are turning to crime, because people need to find ways to make ends meet,” he explained.

The event, which took place on Tuesday, was the second of the week. A rally in Kitchener took place the previous day, where over 200 meals were also given out to community members.

Broader goals for the week of action include raising the minimum wage to $14 an hour and increasing social assistance rates 55 per cent to account for government cuts and the increased cost of living. The week will culminate with a provincial convergence in Sudbury this Saturday for a rally and march.

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