What Basic Income Means for Disabled People

by AJ Withers and John ClarkeBI andDisability

Disabled people in Ontario are much more likely to experience poverty than non-disabled people. Many have to live on sub poverty payments under the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) or the even more wretched income provided by Ontario Works (OW). Those that are in this situation are confronted by an ongoing process of surveillance, invasion of their privacy and moral policing. Those disabled people who are working, because of systemic discrimination, are less likely to be receiving living wages and are far more likely to be precariously employed. As anti poverty organizers, we fully understand the anger and desperation that such a situation generates.

On this basis, it is easy to see how, at first glance, there are aspects of a Basic Income (BI) approach that could be found attractive by disabled people. The promise of a somewhat higher payment, provided without the kind of intrusive element that presently exists, would seem to represent a step forward. However, we think it’s important to ask why the Liberal Government would suddenly support a new approach that would mean considerably increased costs. Why would a Government that has driven down the adequacy of benefit rates and cut programs for disabled people want to reverse course so dramatically? BI can look very alluring but we are convinced that, In reality, it will mean a degrading of the already inadequate ‘social safety net’ that will make things dramatically worse for disabled people. Continue reading

Basic Income: A Way Forward for the Left?

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Thursday, April 13 | 6:30pm-8:30pm (Doors Open 6pm) | OISE Auditorium
On Facebook | ASL Provided | Wheelchair Accessible | Next to St.George Station
Free & open to the public | Download Flyer

The idea of a Universal Basic Income (UBI) has been championed by both progressives and conservatives. Not everyone on the left, however, is behind the idea. Is the UBI a means of redistributing wealth, attacking poverty and protecting workers from technological displacement? Or will basic income serve to advance an agenda of austerity and privatization?

Join us on April 13th as we begin to debate these important questions. The debate will feature two speakers speaking in favour of the left support for Basic Income and two against.

Featuring:
John Clarke, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)
Josephine Grey, Low Income Families Together (LIFT)
Jessica Sikora, OPSEU Local 586
Guy Caron, MP (NDP) and Federal Leadership Candidate

Moderator: Avi Lewis, The Leap
Opening remarks: Kikélola Roach, Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice & Democracy, Ryerson University

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In the spirit of The Leap Manifesto’s call for ‘vigorous debate about the introduction of a universal basic income,’ this interactive event is for anyone trying to figure out whether basic income should be a priority demand for progressives.

Hosted in partnership with: OCAP, OPIRG-Toronto, OPSEU Local 586, Ryerson Centre for Policy Innovation and Public Engagement, The Leap, Unifor Sam Gindin Chair in Social Justice and Democracy.

Sleep Out at John Tory’s: Shelter Now!

sm SLEEPOUT POSTER for webSaturday, April 22 | 7pm-7am | Bloor & Bedford [Outside St.George Station]
Facebook Event | Dinner, Rally & Performers: 7pm – 9pm | Breakfast served at 6am
Don’t Miss the Beginning, Stay As Long As You Can
[ASL Interpreter on-site from 7pm-9pm, St.George is an accessible station]

Watch the Video Trailer | Download Flyer | Is OCAP being ‘unfair?’

Update: Read our article in the Now Magazine documenting how the city siphoned millions of dollars away from homelessness and homelessness prevention programs during this time of crisis.

It has been a terrible winter for Toronto’s homeless.  The shelters have seen appalling levels of overcrowding and even the warming centres and drop ins have been hard pressed to deal with the numbers seeking a place of refuge.  The overcrowding has caused four deaths and homeless people have been hospitalized with hypothermia.

Throughout these dreadful months, Mayor John Tory and the bureaucrats at City Hall have refused to open additional space. Now, the warming centres and volunteer-run ‘Out of the Cold’ facilities will be closing for the year. There will be even fewer options available to people trying to survive on streets. The City must open enough new spaces immediately to ensure that the policy of not running the shelters above 90% occupancy is actually in effect. They must ensure that enough low barrier and harm reduction spaces are available so that people can actually access the shelter system.

At this critical time, we are going back to John Tory’s multi-million condo home for a sleep out to drive home the need for shelters for the homeless in a City that drips with wealth. We will set up at 7.00 with a meal, speakers and entertainment. Come out and stay for as long as you can to help us win the right to shelter for those Tory and his friends are abandoning to the streets


What to bring:
If you can, bring blankets, sleeping bags, and other things to keep yourself warm through the night. We’ll have sleeping bags with us for those who don’t have them. There will also be warm drinks and snacks throughout the night.

Contact us at ocap(at)tao.ca or call at 416-925-6939 for other accessibility concerns.

Speakers Series: Fighting Back in the Age of Trump

trump-protestThursday, March 16 | 6pm | CRC (40 Oak Street) | Facebook Event
[Free Event with a meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]

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Join us for our monthly speakers series focusing on topics central to poor people’s issues and organizing. A new topic is presented every month and all events are open to the public. Come on out, invite your friends and please share widely!

This month’s topic is: Fighting Back in the Age of Trump
– What does the Trump victory mean for poor people’s struggles here?
– How can he be defeated?
– If Trump is our enemy, is Trudeau our friend?

Join us for a conversation over good food as we strategize around these and other questions to build a movement of capable of stifling the rise of Trump and all that his ilk stand for.

Speakers: Zabia Afzal & John Clarke

Zabia is community organizer in the Thorncliffe Park neighbourhood and PhD student at York University.

John is organizer at the OCAP.

Come for the meal at 6pm and stay for what promises to be a a very informative and engaging session!

A Response to John Tory’s Continued Denial of the Homeless Shelter Crisis

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Last week, a twenty eight year old homeless indigenous man perished in Toronto, after staff at a drop in had to tell him that the facility was too overwhelmed to provide a place of shelter for the night.

For months, homeless people, advocates and service providers have been telling Mayor John Tory that the shelter system is hopelessly overcrowded and that a death was all but inevitable. We were so sure of this horrible reality in OCAP that we had a contingency plan to hold a memorial at Tory’s luxury condo in the event of a death. Last Sunday, we had to do just that.

Unbelievably, the response of the Mayor’s office to the tragedy has been to double down on the evasions. Rather than to open the federal armouries or some equivalent location, as the community had demanded, to try and save lives, Tory and his entourage have ducked and weaved to try and deflect the blame they can’t escape.

Continue reading

John Tory Tip Line

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Is the Mayor of Toronto visiting your community? Call the John Tory Tip Line! 

Last week, a homeless man died after an overwhelmed drop-in was not even able to offer him a mat on the floor. The place was so crowded that nine others could not be taken in that night.

Toronto’s shelter system is bursting at the seams and homeless people and their allies having been telling that to Mayor John Tory for months. He was warned that the level of overcrowding was life threatening and urged to open up the federal armouries to take the pressure off the system. He failed to act and a human life was lost. The lives of many others are at risk.

Despite this grim situation, the Mayor is still not taking the emergency action that is needed. Last weekend, we held a memorial for the man who died at Tory’s luxury condo. He didn’t like that much and he wasn’t supposed to. We want to increase the pressure and force him to open space.

We intend to confront John Tory as he goes about his round of Mayoral events, cutting ribbons and kissing babies. If he is coming to your community or you learn of a function he will be attending, please call OCAP at (416) 925-6939 or email us at ocap@tao.ca

Thanks for any and all tips and information.

Memorial for Another Life Lost to Shelter Overcrowding

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Sunday, February 17 | 5pm | Mayor John Tory’s Condo (1 Bedford Road)
[Bedford and Bloor, Outside St.George Subway Station] | Facebook Event

After months of ignoring the alarm bells raised by homeless people and their allies, and on the same night that Mayor John Tory pushed through a further 2.6% cut to the shelter system, a deadly tragedy people fought so hard to prevent was unfolding on the streets. On Wednesday night, as City Council passed a budget that further gutted a system already bursting at the seams, a 28 year old indigenous man was trying to get into a warming centre in Kensington Market. He was told the centre was, yet again, full and that he could only be placed on a waiting list. Denied even the most basic shelter from the elements, he died a few hours later in what may have been a fentanyl overdose. We know, however, that this young man, whose identity is not being revealed at this time, died because he had been driven out onto the streets because of official negligence and by the City’s utter disregard for the lives of the homeless.

One homeless person dies in Toronto every ten days. Yet, the City continues to under-fund and under-resource shelters and boards up thousand of public housing units. It refuses to meet occupancy targets that allow homeless people even the most basic assurance of survival. In a city with sky-high rents and declining social assistance rates, the misery of the poor and homeless is not a surprise but has been willfully created and must be ended.  

On Sunday, we will gather in front of John Tory’s $2.4 million luxury condo to remember the man whose life was taken so cruelly and needlessly. Our tribute to him will take the form, though, of fighting for the living and demanding that no one else be allowed to perish through the kind of the shameful neglect that caused this death. Please bring flowers, candles and other symbols of respect and mourning. We will lay them where they deserve to be laid, at John Tory’s doorstep.