DOCUMENTS FROM THE FAST TO END HUNGER AND HOMELESSNESS, SEPTEMBER 1998
(includes the proposal, a public statement, a flyer
Toronto Action for Social Change
Building Community Through Non-Violent Action
P.O. Box 73620, 509 St Clair Ave. West
Toronto, Ontario M6C 1C0
(416) 651-5800; e-mail email@example.com
HUNGERING FOR JUSTICE:
A One-Month Action Proposal from Toronto Action for Social Change
October 1, 1998 marks the third anniversary of what is arguably the single most devastating policy of the Harris regime: the 21.6% cut to social assistance. The immediate rise in hunger and homelessness was no accident, and the ongoing lineups at food banks and growing city of cardboard shelters under freeway overpasses are an ongoing testament to the fact that this was a cut that cannot heal. Dozens of deaths which are related to lack of affordable housing and support services have been documented in Toronto alone.
Especially since the attacks on the most vulnerable have not let up -- indeed, we are seeing increasingly punitive measures being lined up against those forced to beg a meal or a night's uninterrupted sleep -- we feel it is appropriate to take a moral, nonviolent stand against this injustice.
At a time when the press is attempting to convince us that the Harris government's policies represents a kind of evolving normalcy about which we can do nothing, we feel it is necessary to witness, to reflect, and to act upon the consequences of those policies: hunger &emdash; and, as is now documented, "severe food deprivation," &emdash; homelessness, death on the streets.
Therefore, we are undertaking the very least we can do, a symbolic statement to remind the government and the apathetic -- as well as those who've grown too heartsick to do anything -- of the damage which has been done, and which continues to deepen.
The September 1998 Fast Against Hunger and Homelessness is a series of locally-based, autonomous initiatives to place renewed focus on this most violent of acts: taking food out of the mouths of the hungry, forcing the perilously housed out into the open, where they face the perils of sleeping on the streets. For at least two days a week -- the average amount of time most food bank users go without food each week -- we shall not eat during the month of September. This will be a public fast, and on at least one of those days we will hold a vigil at the legislature or a representative of the government or of corporate greed, handing out information to passersby.
We will also organize public events on the connections between corporate greed and hunger. For example, on Tuesday, September 22, a public event entitled "When Macaroni is Not Enough: Food Charity Versus Food Justice,", takes place at Friends Meeting House, 60 Lowther. Five activists arrested at Loblaws last Easter for handing out anti-hunger literature in the middle of a food drive go to trial September 23. And one group is proposing bringing thousands of empty plates to be laid out at Queen's Park to represent the numbers who go to bed hungry each night in Ontario.
Finally, those who have had time to reflect on the nature of corporate and governmental violence will have an opportunity to join in an act of non-violent resistance on October 1. This may take many forms: a sit-in, an information picket, a phone or fax blitz to a local MPP, a rally. It may also involve something like a blood pouring: to mark the fact that this government does have blood on its hands. Blood taken from people who have not eaten for two days a week in September will take on added significance: it is the blood of people who are hungry.
We would ask that residents across Ontario consider taking part in such a statement, and that, if so, they sign a joint statement which we can present publicly at the launch of our activity.
For input on this proposal, or if you would like to do something in September which would be part of a province-wide statement, please contact Toronto Action for Social Change at (416) 651-5800 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next version of this statement will contain the first round of names of those committed to taking part in this project.
Fast to End Hunger and Homelessness
P.O. Box 73620, 509 St Clair Ave. West
Toronto, Ontario M6C 1C0
(416) 651-5800; e-mail email@example.com
"If hunger and food relief were a disease, the GTA (Greater Toronto Area) would be seen to be in an epidemic." Daily Bread Food Bank report, Who Goes Hungry?
We are a group of Ontario residents who, for the course of September, 1998, will not eat for two days a week in a symbolic act of solidarity with the hundreds of thousands of people in this province who are forced to suffer this hunger each week of the year.
We undertake this fast publicly, both to draw attention to the injustice of poverty and to designate clearly those forces responsible for hunger and homelessness in Ontario: corporations and the government of Mike Harris.
We also undertake this fast to know in some small way what it must be like to be deprived of the most basic of rights, the right to adequate food. In reflecting on this gesture -- however seemingly small -- we hope to conclude the month with an appropriate symbol of non-violent resistance designed to show the government, Bay Street and all those who would turn a blind eye to these problems the true human cost of hunger and homelessness.
We invite concerned residents of Ontario to join us in this fast, and to take part in some sort of public event on October 1 to mark the third anniversary of what we believe is still the most devastating single cut of the Harris government, the 21.6% slashing of social assistance. In Toronto, a Procession of Remembrance will take place, concluding at Queen's Park at 12 noon.
Please consider joining us, either as a faster or a supporter/endorser whose name can be added to this public statement. To endorse or join the fast, call us at (416) 651-5800, e-mail us at firstname.lastname@example.org, or write to the Fast Against Hunger and Homelessness, c/o Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.
Hungering for Justice:
Why We're Fasting
Like tens of thousands of Ontario residents, we are not eating for two days a week, every week, for the month of September. Unlike those tens of thousands of hungry people, though, we have chosen not to eat, to challenge ourselves and all who hear about our fast to take solid steps toward eliminating poverty in Ontario.
The Harris government has gone out of its way to portray people subsisting on a $520-a-month assistance cheque as the cause of our economic woes. But having no money is not a crime: those who would deprive the hungry and homeless of adequate assistance are committing the real crime.
Indeed, last year's bank profits of $7.1 billion eerily matched the projected cost of bringing every child in this country out of poverty -- $7.1 billion. Corporate Canada, in 1997, reaped a record $110 billion in operating profits. The problem is incredibly simple: the wealth of this nation is not shared amongst all of its residents.
Hunger and homelessness are not caused by laziness, lack of discipline or personality defects: they are a direct result of social policies enacted by government, and supported by greed-driven corporations.
After the Harris government implemented a 21.6% cut to social assistance in October, 1995, the numbers of those seeking emergency food relief at food banks skyrocketed. Similarly, evictions and homelessness increased dramatically as well. As the Toronto Star points out, Harris policies "have forced people out of their homes and into the street."
We are fasting publicly both at the seat of a government responsible for increasing human misery in this province, and at the entrance to one of the corporations which supports that government, Loblaws.
We are fasting at the steps of the legislature to remind the people of Ontario that hunger and homelessness are a direct consequence of cruel government cutbacks. These include the cancellation of hundreds of housing projects, the elimination of many tenant protections, and a tax cut which is redirecting billions of dollars from those at the bottom of the economic scale to those at the top.
Factor in the following: a 21.6% cut to social assistance; attempts to redefine disability; a government which has somehow found $180 million to pay American multinational Andersen Consulting to cut upwards of $1 billion more out of social assistance. Then it becomes ever so clear why panhandling and deaths in bus shelters are the stuff of our daily news.
The government says there is no money in the till, then turns around and spends $43.5 million in taxpayer dollars during 1997 on self-promoting advertising.
You can raise your voice by calling or writing Mike Harris (
Room 281, Legislative Building, M7A 1A1 Tel.: 325-1941; Fax:
325-3745) as well as members of the Liberals and NDP, to demand that people be allowed to live lives of dignity:
We would ask that you mention, among other things, the urgent need for:
The reversal of the welfare cuts and immediate provision of an adequate level of social assistance
Immediate reinstatement of cancelled housing projects and a provincial plan to ensure affordable housing for all
We are also fasting at Loblaws, a corporation whose parent, Weston Industries, is a close corporate friend of the Harris government. Loblaws contributes to the problem of hunger and homelessness through corporate policies which include: failure to pay over $56 million in deferred taxes currently owing (interest-free!), paying its President, Richard Currie, in excess of $8 million at a time when 21.6% of mothers using food banks in Toronto have been found to suffer from "severe food deprivation"; making a profit off of food drives (you buy the goods at retail prices at their stores before dropping them in the donation boxes); arresting Santa Claus, elves, the Easter Bunny, Robin Hood, and even a schoolteacher who were at anti-hunger protests at Loblaws (all of whom face trials, beginning September 23).
What you can do:
Call Richard Currie, President of Loblaws (922-2500, fax 922-0803), and demand:
That Loblaws stop arresting anti-hunger protesters, drop all charges, and take them up on their repeated requests to enter a dialogue on ending the root causes of hunger in Ontario;
That Currie and Loblaws show they are concerned about ending hunger by publicly opposing Harris government cutbacks;
That Currie share his salary with the thousands of hungry and homeless of this province
That Loblaws pay its deferred $56 million in taxes.
For more information contact Fast to End Hunger and Homelessness, c/o Toronto Action for Social Change, P.O. Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0.
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