At a mock funeral today people commemorated the shameful 10th anniversary of BC’s frozen welfare rates.
“Welfare cheques don’t come with a health warning,” said Raise the Rates organizer Bill Hopwood. “But about 100 people every week are killed in BC” because politicians have decided to promote poverty and inequality.
Hopwood was speaking at the event called by Raise the Rates to make the point that low welfare rates contribute to the inequality that causes about 40,000 deaths a year in Canada.
“Inequality is a political decision,” explained Hopwood. “The richest 1% in BC got a $41,000 a year tax break. The government must think it’s harder to be a millionaire than to live on welfare of $610 a month.”
“Wealth is not being fairly distributed,” said Dr. John Millar, former BC Public Health officer. As a result there is a “loss of hope, feeling of despair, pain and mental illness.”
Carmen Paterson called on the government to raise welfare rates to $1500 or more so people can have a healthy standard of living.
Without higher welfare, disability and minimum wages people living with HIV “are more likely to die in poverty just as they’re winning the war on HIV,” said Neil Self or Positive Living.
Raise the Rates is calling on the province to increase welfare rates to at least $1500 a month, the federal market basket measure, to promote more health better lives for low income people. The last increase in welfare for single people on basic welfare was on April 1, 2007.