A Town Hall to End Poverty

A Community Dialogue on Priorities for Poverty Reduction in Ontario

“People shouldn’t have to fight for what they need”

On July 17th, 2008, residents of Thunder Bay gathered at the Lakehead Labour Centre to participate in a community dialogue to end poverty. The forum was hosted by Gilles Bisson MPP ((Timmins–James Bay).

Participants were given the opportunity to share and discuss the issues that they felt were important. Everyone was asked to split up into groups, and discuss the key concerns, or symptoms they observe in respects to poverty in our city. From these observations, the groups came together to form clusters of the observed poverty symptoms:

  • Suicide, Mental Health, Counseling
  • Food and Nutrition, Physical Health
  • Housing and Income Support
  • Dignity, Seniors, Children and Families, Individuals
  • Racism
  • Education
  • Disabilities
  • Violence

From this list, participants were again split up into groups, and suggestions were drawn up as possible remedies to the problem. Some of them are as follows:

  • OW and ODSP rates are insufficient and need to be increased
  • There needs to be more advocacy for mental health issues, and more follow up
  • Eliminate the element of privatized heath care
  • Increase awareness of the issues in our city
  • All political parties should support the same common goals in respect to eliminating poverty
  • We need more models for social housing and repairs for existing housing situations
  • Eliminate the ‘working poor’ – Increase minimum wage
  • Open more youth drop-in centers for youths
  • Encourage and increase literacy rates in adults and children
  • There needs to be a simplification of public forms ( OW or ODSP application forms)
  • There is a negative perception of Aboriginal people within our community and that needs to be remedied
  • Racism is a learned behaviour, education on acceptance should start at a young age
  • Implement more nutrition programs in every school
  • Post-secondary education needs o be made more affordable
  • Hidden disabilities need to be recognized
  • Remove the barriers people with disabilities face upon attaining employment
  • Create more programs for children that will keep them off the street and out of gangs
  • Improve education so to prevent stereotypes that lead to violence
  • Develop better programs or counseling options for victims of violence

Gilles Bisson addressed the participants of the forum and spoke on the notion that communities throughout Ontario are facing similar issues and that action needs to be taken. It shouldn’t matter who wins in the coming election, as all political parties should be fighting for the same goals to end poverty. He ended the forum with the statement: “I am tired of a society that leaves people out”.

Prepared by Maryanne Matthews