KJIPUKTUK (Halifax) – “Poverty is like screaming and not hearing an echo,” said Amy Moonshadow, speaking at a press conference / community gathering on the occasion of the United Nations International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Moonshadow, who struggles to make ends meet on a meagre allowance, is Chair of the Community Advocates Network, an anti-poverty group active in the Halifax North End.
“It’s a scandal. All that money being spent on studies by governments who think they know what’s good for us. Let’s give that money to poor people, and let’s start listening to what poor people are saying,” Moonshadow said.
Picking up on that theme of “nothing about us without us”, long time first voice activist Anne Duffy pointed specifically to the joint effort by United Way Halifax and the city to develop a poverty strategy.
“Only one of the 21 members of its advisory committee has lived experience of poverty, that’s ridiculous,” said Duffy.
Front and center in much of the conversation was the Community Services Transformation initiative, something we are told will change the way income assistance is delivered, but that has otherwise been low on details.
“I call it the peekaboo process,” said human rights lawyer Vince Calderhead. “I’d say the signs are not good, Community Services says that it is even possible some people will receive less after implementation.”
Calderhead believes a human rights-based approach may be an effective response.
“The idea that poverty is a human rights violation holds promise,” Calderhead said. “The idea that things like food and housing are basic human rights. That idea has the potential to be extremely powerful. In some sense we live in an illegal society.”
Robert Wright, a sociologist and social worker in private practice, also tackled the Community Services transformation in his presentation.
“The current approach at Community Services is like reordering the deck chairs on the Titanic,” said Wright. “Rather than transforming society we are transforming Community Services, this tiny little box.”
“There is no talk of social housing, no talk of health, no talk of removing educational barriers. I can confidently predict right now that this kind of tinkering will not lead to the eradication of poverty,” Wright said.
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