Religious Leaders Forum
Closing the Gap: Social Assistance in Ontario 2009
April 30, 2009, Queen's Park, Toronto
Presentations were given on how the 2009 budget affects the most marginalized in Ontario and on the current status and future hopes for the upcoming social assistance reform.
Zaineb Zimmerman, from the Kingston Round Table on Poverty, and Michael Creek, from Voices on the Street in Toronto, described how their dignity had been stripped away while on social assistance. Zaineb's marriage ended and she came back to Canada as a single mother; Michael struggled with cancer.
Rabbi Tina Grimberg, Imam Habeeb Alli, and Paula Finbow from Society of St Vincent de Paul reflected on the Interfaith Prayer Vigil, which provided the occasion to join with people of other faiths to pray for legislators and the poor in Ontario. Each brought wisdom from their tradition and experiences that were reflected in the vigil.
ISARC now has candles from the prayer vigil for each Member of the Provincial Parliament (MPP). Hopefully constituents can present the candle, let the MPP know that s/he is remembered in prayer, and request that Ontario push to eliminate poverty as soon as possible. This summer “Do the Math” will be available to demonstrate the difference between the cost of living and OW, ODSP, minimum wage, and EI. At the forum, candles were presented to MPPs Cheri DiNovo, John Milloy, Gerry Phillips, and Michael Prue.
Marvyn Novick, from Social Planning Network of Ontario, said we should focus our energy to increase rates for social assistance (not only OW and ODSP, but also EI and minimum wage). All are poor! People may wish to debate Guaranteed Annual Income and other long term changes, but right now rates need to be increased.
Sarah Blackstock, from Income Security Advocacy Centre, up-dated ISARC on the up-coming provincial Social Assistance Review. Little information is available about starting times, who will be appointed to the review committee, or what topics will be discussed. Yet this review is important, especially if the changes include asset rates, transition to employment, health and dental benefits, and amount of money deducted from social assistance when a recipient earns money.
At the end of the forum, participants put together a resolution (below) regarding Bill 152, the Poverty Reduction Act. ISARC respectfully request that each party in the Legislature, as well as each elected representative, provide ISARC with an official, written response to the resolution.
ISARC RELIGIOUS LEADERS' FORUM RESOLUTION
QUEEN'S PARK APRIL 30, 2009
We greet you as members of the many faith communities that make up the Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), who are gathered at Queen's Park this 30th of April 2009 for the Religious Leaders' Forum.
We are part of ISARC because each of our faith traditions calls upon us to care for our neighbours in need and work to eliminate the causes of poverty and injustice.
We acknowledge the significance of Bill 152, the Poverty Reduction Act. We commend the willingness of all parties to listen to and hear the recommendations of the many groups from across Ontario that offered amendments to the bill.
A province as rich in human and natural resources as our own must be free from poverty and the shame that it brings to our common life.
We understand Bill 152 to be a commitment of the Government of Ontario as well as all parties in the Legislature to realize the vision of a poverty-free Ontario.
We understand that this commitment implies that each and every Government policy, program and decision must take into account the effect it will have on the lives of our most vulnerable neighbours and on the effort to eradicate poverty among us.
We understand this commitment as a particular recognition that the Government of Ontario's future budgets must direct our collective wealth to the urgent task of improving the lives of our most vulnerable neighbours so that our communities are truly inclusive, equitable, and free of poverty.
The good we secure for ourselves as individuals is partial and incomplete until it is incorporated into our common lives. Therefore, as members of ISARC, we pledge to work to realize the vision of a poverty-free Ontario. We will do that by working in our own communities and by continuing to insist that you our elected representatives work consistently to realize this vision.
We respectfully request that each party in the Legislature, as well as each elected representative, provide us with an official, written response to this Resolution.
Rev. Susan Eagle, Chairperson
Rev. Dr. Brice Balmer, Secretary
Greg deGroot-Maggetti, ISARC liaison to the "25 in 5 Network"
ISARC member faith communities
- Anglican Church of Canada
- Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec
- Buddhist Community of Greater Toronto
- Canadian Council for Reform Judaism
- Canadian Council of Imams
- Canadian Hindu Heritage Centre
- Canadian Islamic Congress
- Canadian Jewish Congress
- Canadian Religious Conference (Ontario Region - Catholic Orders)
- Canadian Unitarian Council
- Canadian Unitarians for Social Justice
- Council of Canadian Hindus
- Council of Christian Reformed Churches in Canada
- Darchei Noam Reconstructionist Synagogue
- Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (Eastern Synod)
- Islamic Humanitarian Service
- Mennonite Central Committee, Ontario
- Ontario Coalition for Social Justice
- Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops
- Pentecostal Assemblies of Canada
- Presbyterian Church in Canada
- The Salvation Army
- Sisters of Providence, Kingston
- Society of Friends (Quakers)
- Society of St. Vincent de Paul
- Toronto Board of Rabbis
- United Church of Canada