“Grassroots organizing is needed to put pressure on politicians” (Maynooth)
30 people packed into a room at the Arlington Hotel in Maynooth to talk about organizing to end poverty in North Hastings.
The conversation began with a discussion of people’s experience with poverty:
- “I had my hydro cut off last year. So now I cook on a camp stove, get my water from town and I built an outhouse.”
- Wynne’s Band-Aid subsidy is not going to solve my neighbour’s hydro problems.
- Poverty is not as visible here as in the city. Lots of couch surfing.
- More women live in poverty than men
- There is a lethargy that comes from eating processed foods like you get from the food bank. If you have enough money for a healthy diet and lifestyle you can stay healthy and avoid problems.
- Catastrophic events – accidents, health emergencies - are part of life – but the results should not destroy your life. The social safety net has big holes and doesn’t get you back on your feet after a catastrophe.
- “Have to be very creative and resilient to get by in a rural community”
People talked about the limits of charity as a response to poverty: “Charity while necessary in an unjust society is not enough. It absolves government of their responsibilities.”
When asked about the causes of poverty people said
- The idea that your life is defined by having a job. There isn’t enough work for everyone, and everyone can’t work – so then who are you if you don’t have a job? We need to change that.
- Free trade
- Greedy corporations, and governments that are not making corporations pay enough taxes.
- It’s the structure of capitalism – it’s ridiculous that 62 billionaires have more wealth than half of the world’s population (Oxfam report).
We talked about strategies to end poverty
- We have to keep the faces and stories of people in poverty in the public eye.
- We need empathy, solidarity and allies. A member of the group said “I can’t live with the fact that someone who lives in poverty will likely die ten years earlier than I will.
- These grassroots conversation can engage people and our organizing can lead to challenging politicians.
- Electoral politics can’t address the problem. We need more revolutionary strategies – like democratic control of resources and institutions.
"I come to the Arlington to dance for stress management."