Morel D'Amour Jailed for Providing for Her Daughter
February 16, 2001 -- Today at Ontario Divisional Court, single mother Morel D'Amour was taken away in handcuffs for the crime of caring for her daughter. Charged with welfare fraud-D'Amour had, for a two year period, supplemented meagre social assistance benefits with a menial $8/hr job to pay for her daughter's dance training, D'Amour was shipped out to Metro West Detention Centre to begin a 90-day sentence, to be served on weekends.
Notably absent in court-as at Metro West-were the many Royal Bank brokers convicted of a million-dollar scam last summer. Absent as well were executives of Andersen Consulting (also known as Accenture) who make $575/hr to kick people off of welfare in Ontario. The amount of "fraud" for which D'Amour was found guilty-just over $14,000-is equivalent to three days' salary of an Andersen executive whose job it is to make life miserable for those on social assistance. Also absent in court were representatives of thousands of corporations in Canada which get away with massive tax fraud every year, which owe over $45 billion in deferred taxes, and which lobby for the kinds of cruel policies which force parents such as Morel to make the choices she did.
D'Amour was convicted under the wisdom of the law which prevents both the rich and poor from sleeping on park benches, which prevents rich and poor from lifting a loaf of bread to feed hungry children, the law which says if you have no money you and your family are condemned to an endless cycle of poverty. D'Amour received welfare from Sept. 1, 1994 to July 30, 1996, during which time she also had a part-time $8/hr job. In 1997, the Ministry of Community and Social Services asked for D'Amour's financial information, which was willingly provided, despite the fact that it could prove "incriminating." Charges of welfare fraud were then brought against her.
D'Amour needed the money to put her daughter through dance school. Her daughter, Naomi, had shown a great talent for dance from an early age, but was unable, despite the great efforts of her mother, to receive the assistance she needed to attend dance training in Canada. She eventually was accepted at a school in Europe, where today she performs regularly. D'Amour states that such a happy ending would not have been possible without the choice she made.
In sentencing, a vindictive judge stated D'Amour had a great resume and wondered why she could not find "suitable employment." The judge was horrified at what she deemed Morel's proud statement that she would do it all again if faced with the same circumstances. The judge declared "this utter absence of remorse disentitles her to leniency." Because of this "open and unrepentant disrespect for the law," Morel was sentenced to 90 days in prison, 1 year probation, and payment of $14,609.34 in restitution. She must also perform 200 hours of community service. Such a sentence, the judge insisted, was important for the concept of "general deterrence."
However, the judge did not say how this sentence would prevent the type of "fraud" that results when a single person on welfare (at $520 per month) takes in a bit of spare change or receives a Christmas gift and does not "declare" this "extra income" to a welfare case worker. D'Amour was led away without her purse or winter jacket, and the judge left the room with no further understanding of the difficult choices people in poverty continue to face as a result of Harris government/Chretien government policies.
Members of Toronto Action for Social Change, appalled at the verdict, will pick up D'Amour Monday morning from the jail and start arranging some fundraising efforts so that Morel is not forced further into poverty by the "repayment."
"We will personally be paying the first $100 of this punishment, and call on all people who are outraged at the Harris government's welfare cuts policies and this harsh sentence to come forward with similar pledges," said Laurel Smith.
The REAL Crime is Poverty
Vigil of Support and Compassion for Morel D'Amour, A Single Mother Sentenced to 90 Days in Jail for alleged "welfare fraud"
Friday, February 23, 6-7 pm
Metro West Detention Centre
111 Disco Road (see directions below)
D'Amour must serve the time on weekends. Think of all the unpunished corporate crime committed daily in Canada, the billions in unpaid taxes, the crimes of governments whose policies increase poverty and then punish the poor for trying to survive, and then join us before Morel has to turn herself in at 7 pm.
TO GET THERE
From East or West on the 401: Take the 401 to Highway 427 North, get off at Airport Rd. Turn right at Dixon, go to Carlingview, turn left and go north to Disco Rd, turn right and go 100 metres. From 401 East, you can also take Hwy 409 to Belfield, following it west all the way until it ends at Attwell. Turn right, and Attwell becomes Disco.
By TTC: Take the Bloor subway to Kipling, transfer to 112F West Mall Bus North, which stops at Disco Rd. This takes about an hour.
For more info: Toronto Action for Social Change, (416) 651-5800.
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