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Walk for Welfare Justice

News Release – March 27, 2013

Vancouver, Unceded Coast Salish Territory

Photos from the walk are available here.

The weather shone on the Raise the Rates’ Walk for Welfare Justice today, March 27. Over 100 people joined at least part of the 15 kilometre walk across Vancouver.

The journey started with over 40 people at a Rally at the Premier of BC, Christy Clark’s office in Point Grey. We then walked along Broadway to Commercial Drive, up Victoria Drive and along Kingsway and then up Joyce. The walk ended with a rally of over 60 people at the Leader of the Opposition, Adrian Dix’s office. Along the way there were quick soap box rallies at several main intersections. Thousands of flyers were given out and many people honked their horns in support or said well done to us on the streets.

Along the way we chanted:
• Tax the rich to feed the poor – Raise welfare now!
• Mend the social safety net – Raise welfare rates now!
• Welfare rights are workers rights! Migrant rights are workers rights!
• What do we want? Social Housing!

At the all the rallies people spoke movingly about the harm that poverty causes people, the struggles of surviving on $610 a month, of living on an inadequate diet and the struggles of raising children. People end up in poverty and on welfare because of misfortune – loss of their job, serious injury, physical and mental ill-health and escaping violence and abuse. Most people in BC live only a couple of pay cheques away from poverty.

“I haven’t walked this far in as long as I can remember but I’m a grandmother & I did it to raise welfare rates.” said Victoria Bull.

GwinGadlthAmetGoot (Herb Varley) remembered that “When I lost my job I had to wait 5 weeks for welfare so I lost all my savings & lost my home before welfare would help me. Need to end the 5 week wait so people don’t become homeless.”

“We need a welfare increase so we don’t have to sell sex to survive” stated LuLu B.

Harold Lavender explained that “the welfare system is punitive and that’s not just. We’re here against inequality and for justice.”

At each office Raise the Rates handed a letter to Christy Clark’s office and Adrian Dix. It pointed out that people cannot live a healthy life on welfare. The Dietitians of Canada in their report, Cost of Eating in BC, 2011, point out that people on welfare would have to spend almost every cent they receive on food and still would not have a healthy basic diet. This assumes they spend nothing on clothing, looking for work or keeping clean. A single person on welfare really only has $26 a week for food and even a trained dietitian or chef cannot make the money stretch.

The BC government decides how many people will live in poverty by the decisions the MLAs make about welfare rates, minimum wage and low paid work. How can they justify a disability rate of $906 a month while Alberta has a rate of $1588 a month?

Poverty costs BC at least $8 billion a year, with over $1 billion in health costs alone. A strategy to end poverty would cost around $4 billion a year, so ending poverty in BC would save $4 billion a year. Yet politicians claim they cannot afford to end poverty – really we all cannot afford them not to act.

It is clear that most of the people of BC want action on poverty and with good reason. Compared to the rest of Canada, BC has the worst poverty, the worst inequality and has had the worst or 2nd worst record on child poverty for a decade. A recent opinion poll commissioned by the BC Healthy Living Alliance found that 78% of people support a provincial poverty reduction strategy and 75% support adjusting income assistance rates to account for the real cost of a nutritious diet and real market rental rates.

Several major city councils, including Victoria, Vancouver and Surrey have passed resolutions calling for action on poverty including the province to raise welfare rates.

Raise the Rates challenged both leaders to show really leadership and act to raise welfare and end poverty in BC.

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Walk for Welfare Justice

Walk for Welfare Justice – From Christy Clark to Adrian Dix

Wednesday, March 27

Raise the Rates and others are organizing a Walk for Welfare Justice on Wednesday, March 27. The purpose is to highlight the need for a real and significant increase in welfare rates as part of a comprehensive anti-poverty plan.

We will start at Christy Clark’s office (3615 West 4th Ave) and plan to deliver an open letter and maybe even speak with her or her staff. We will then walk across town, holding brief soapbox meetings at main intersections, to Adrian Dix’s office (5022 Joyce Street), where again we will deliver an open letter and seek a meeting. We will hold a news conference/rally at the start and finish.

We are inviting people to join us for all or part of the walk. You are welcome to bring banner and home made placards. We are working on the details of food, toilets, support transport (there will be an escort vehicle if people need help, etc), etc. Click here for  the timetable of the walk.

Take a look at the poster and the flyer for more information.

If you have any questions, please contact me, Bill Hopwood, bill50@vcn.bc.ca.

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“Families first” doesn’t apply to families on welfare

News release:

“Even though the Premier says families are first, families on welfare are last.”  Stacey Bonefant was explaining why a group of about 15 people, including single parents on welfare, were at the Vancouver Aquarium 4 days before Family Day on Feb. 11th. “Families on welfare don’t have enough money to eat and pay the rent, let alone take our kids to the Aquarium,” Bonenfant said.

The mothers and grandmothers are part of Parents and Grandparents in Poverty, a group that meets in Strathcona and works to get higher welfare rates and better housing.  A single parent with one child gets about $1236 a month to live on from welfare and the Child Benefit.  Rent for a 2 bedroom apartment in a cheaper area of Vancouver is over $1000 a month, the group pointed out. Continue reading ““Families first” doesn’t apply to families on welfare”

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Raise the Rates visits NDP leader’s office

News release:

A delegation of twenty people from Raise the Rates told the NDP that they want an immediate commitment to increasing welfare rates.  The group delivered this message by hand to Adrian Dix’s office.

A year ago today Jagrup Brar, NDP MLA for Surrey Fleetwood, completed his month of living on the welfare rate of $610. Brar found he could not live on welfare; he lost 26 pounds in weight. A year later welfare rates have not changed and people still cannot live on $610. The letter called on Adrian Dix and the NDP to make a clear commitment to increase welfare rates substantially.  Continue reading “Raise the Rates visits NDP leader’s office”

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Open Letter to Adrian Dix

Today a group of Raise the Rates supporters visited the office of Adrian Dix and delivered the following letter.

Dear Adrian Dix,

We are a small group here today, but we are not alone as we represent hundreds of thousands of British Columbians who are affected by poverty and the millions more who want action. We are here to ask you to publicly state that you support increasing welfare rates substantially.

Across the globe, popular movements of ordinary people have emerged, declaring in words and actions that they are no longer satisfied with the status quo. People have grown restless with a leadership that serves the interests of the political, social and economic elite while ignoring the needs of the majority. There is a growing disconnect between the popular mood and leaders who are reluctant to act. Increasingly people are taking action and not waiting for leaders. Continue reading “Open Letter to Adrian Dix”