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June 15, 2010
1. Future of OCSJ: a) end of OCSJ, and b) renewal?
a) End of OCSJ for now, as it has been
*No Funding: The regular funding of the OCSJ has ended, so the coalition has no funds for staff now, and no ongoing, regular activity. After our most recent assembly in Hamilton in February, the OCSJ Steering Committee decided that today, June 15th, is the date when operations as they have been, come to an official close.
*Thanks: It’s important, and activists who have believe in the goals of the OCSJ want to thank the unions, which have provided the coalition’s major funding over a number of years: the Canadian Auto Workers (CAW), the Canadian Labour Congress (CLC), the Canadian Union of Public Employees (CUPE), the Elementary Teachers Federation of Ontario (ETFO), the Ontario English Catholic Teachers Association (OECTA), the Ontario Federation of Labour (OFL), the Ontario Public Service Employees Union (OPSEU), the Ontario Secondary School Teachers Federation (OSSTF), the United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) Canada, and the United Steelworkers.
Particular thanks now, is merited to the CLC, for allowing the OCSJ to continue to use office space and receive mail in its office until activists with the OCSJ decide whether to close permanently, or to undertake to renew the OCSJ.
Important thanks are also due to Labour Councils in Ontario, union members of diverse unions, the Ontario Confederation of University Faculty Associations (OCUFA), student groups, community groups, social justice groups, women’s groups, and community legal clinics for supporting the OCSJ over the years, both financially and especially by expressing solidarity in campaigns for social justice.
b) Renewal of OCSJ?
A few members of the steering committee have discussed what’s appropriate now for the OCSJ, in the immediate future with no funds, and then over a longer term. We shall continue to discuss, reflect, and consider what to do.
*Newsletter / e-list: These newsletters about social justice issues in Ontario will continue, but as you may have noticed, they won’t be as frequent as previously.
*Need for organizing for social justice: Organizing is still needed. However, for now, the group of us wanting the coalition to continue have agreed it’s worthwhile to take a break, take time to reflect on the strengths and weaknesses of the OCSJ, and to participate, as possible, at events where we feel we may contribute, and also possibly renew the coalition.
*Social Justice Retreat: Algonquin Park: The annual social justice retreat organized by the Centre for Social Justice in Algonquin Park each August (see below) is one opportunity to meet allies and friends in various locations around the province. Maybe we can have an OCSJ workshop this summer?
The film “Poor No More” has been shown at various events and conferences in the last few months, and poses an exciting possibility of changing the neo-liberal downturn that has dominated too many countries recently, and to affirm instead, the values and beliefs that most of us really do have! Hosted by TV and film star Mary Walsh, the film can inspire people to get organized in their own communities to fight for social justice. Information about accessing the film is available at http://www.poornomore.ca/ .
The excellent, annual report from the provincial coalition People for Education has once again made news this year.
*** Waiting lists for special education services are down and schools have more access to psychologists and social workers, according to People for Education’s 13th Annual Report on Ontario’s Schools released on May 31st.
*** Librarians can instill a love of reading in students, yet this year’s report shows that many school libraries continue not to have teacher-librarians. Arts and sports programs play a key role in engaging students in school, yet the majority of elementary schools have no specialist Music or Health and Physical Education teacher, and parent fundraising for the arts and sports continues to create inequities among schools. *** This year, for the first time, the annual report looks at mental health. Although experts say schools are the ideal location to support young people struggling with mental health issues (15% to 21% of the population), the report says there is little coordination between schools and mental health professionals. *** Poverty continues to be an issue. Although some changes have been made to funding that is meant to provide support to low-income students, boards continue to struggle to provide things like counsellors, social workers, and extra help for the students who need it most. In 2002, the Premier promised a formal review of the funding formula in 2010. However, that review has yet to materialize. The full report is available at: www.peopleforeducation.com/annualreport2010 .
Social justice for First Nations is in the news in Ontario for 2 reasons now, in particular.
The Assembly of First Nations (AFN) is launching a National Call to Action on Education. It is asking the corporate sector, philanthropic organizations, higher learning institutions, provincial and federal governments, and ordinary Canadians to join the campaign. The campaign will emphasize reconciliation, First Nations’ rights, financial security for education, financial sustainability, accountability of institutions, and encouraging a culture of learning in First Nations communities. The campaign is explained on the AFN’s website at http://www.afn.ca/ .
b) Land Claim in Toronto
Negotiation and a democratic vote among the band members of the Missassaugas of the New Credit First Nation has resulted in this First Nation accepting the money offered by the federal government to make up for the injustice of the colonial deal two centuries ago which paid the band a pittance for the land which is now in the City of Toronto.
How can a federal government which alleges that governments typically spend too much money, itself spend ONE BILLION DOLLARS on security for the G8 & G20?
Two weekends and innumerable meetings are exciting, but also confusing! The website for the People’s Summit helps to outline the diversity of events and their timing.
i) The People’s Summit on June 18/19/20 in Toronto will be at Ryerson University and the University of Toronto and will feature workshops, seminars and teach-ins about globalization, decent work, social justice and the environment. Information about its events and discussions are at http://peoplessummit2010.ca/section/2 .
*** On Saturday, June 19th the Canadian Labour Congress is organizing an open forum from 9:00 a.m. - 6:00 p.m. named People First: We Deserve Better! It will take place in the Medical Science building, Room #2158, at 1 King’s College Circle, University of Toronto.
*** On the same day, Saturday, June 19th, a Forum on Health, Poverty, & Privatization will take place from 9:00 a.m. - 3:00 p.m. in the Peace Room at OISE in Toronto, 252 Bloor St. W., 7th floor, located near the Bedford exit of the St. George subway station.
ii) On June 26th the labour movement will host a major rally and march for good jobs and global justice, as of 1:00 p.m. at Queen’s Park, just north of the College subway station at University Ave & College St. For more information, look at the People’s Summit website http://peoplessummit2010.ca/section/2, or contact Mehdi at the Canadian Labour Congress at (416) 441-2731.
a) Special Diet & Dental Care!
The Ontario Government has bragged about its poverty reduction strategy, but the latest practical initiatives by the Government have been to end the Special Diet allowance and therefore reduce the amount of income for the persons and families who survive on the lowest income among Ontarians. The Income Security Advocacy Centre (ISAC) has criticized this at its website: http://www.incomesecurity.org/specialdiet.htm .
The Government also claims that it can’t carry out its promise to offer dental care for the province’s working poor, so it is retreating, emphasizing its continuing commitment to end child poverty, and hoping that the majority of voters won’t notice the broken election promise of offering dental care. Indeed, all that may be left of its poverty reduction strategy for the whole population, will be its limited emphasis on children!
b) ODSP Action Coalition event: July 7th
The ODSP Action Coalition’s event “Telling Our Stories: Disability Should Not Equal Poverty” has been rescheduled from June 24 to Wednesday, July 7.
This event will bring together ODSP recipients, agency workers and members of the general public to learn more about what it is really like to live on ODSP. It will take place at Metro Hall Rotunda, 55 John St. in Toronto from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. Information about the event is at http://www.odspaction.ca/ .
The Canadian Labour Congress and other unions have been arguing for improvements to the Canada Pension Plan (CPP) strongly enough that the issue is on the agenda now.
Both Federal Finance Minister Jim Flaherty and Ontario Finance Minister Dwight Duncan said a few days ago that they support enhancements to the CPP. Mayors and city councillors support this too, as demonstrated at the convention a few weeks ago of the Federation of Canadian Municipalities, when a resolution was adopted calling for expanded public pensions in Canada.
CLC President Ken Georgetti explained in an article 2 days ago in the Toronto Star that when the CPP was introduced in the 1960s, it was designed to replace about ¼ of a worker’s wages in retirement, under the assumption that the private sector would top up retirement income. It has not done so. So the CLC is arguing that CPP benefits be doubled in order that everyone would benefit through a public program. The article is at http://www.thestar.com/opinion/editorialopinion/article/822631--how-to-build-a-bigger-safer-nest-egg .
Training workshops in numerous locations in Ontario have now been completed with the help of the Canadian Labour Congress, so that in the 4 months before local elections on October 25th this year, Labour Councils are beginning to endorse candidates for city councils and boards of education across the province.
A specific local campaign that is active now is to keep public transit a priority, and so maintain provincial funding, as the Ontario Government had promised. This affects people throughout Ontario, with huge gaps in public transit in rural areas keeping people more isolated than they would be with clear investments in public transportation.
The public transit coalition in the Toronto area is the one that’s active now, encouraging supporters to sign pledges and so pressure the provincial government to offer the funding it had promised. Information: http://publictransitcoalition.ca/the-pledge/ .
The 13th annual social justice retreat in Algonquin Park will take place from August 26 to August 29, 2010. Registration for it will open as of July 1st.
This year’s theme will be the economic crisis affecting the world, and how we in Ontario and Canada can organize to protest cuts in public programs. More information is available at the Centre’s website at http://www.socialjustice.org/ .
June This month has been declared National Aboriginal History Month by Parliament, which joins the legislatures in Saskatchewan and Alberta that recognize the contributions of aboriginals by celebrating them publicly. This is appropriate as well, since June is the month for National Aboriginal Day on the 21st.
June 16 John Stapleton, a knowledgeable former civil servant and now consultant on social policy, will speak on “Poverty Reduction at the Crossroads: Where do we go from here?” in Hamilton at the First Unitarian Church at 7:00 p.m. The event is hosted by the Social Justice Committee of First Unitarian, the Campaign for Adequate Welfare & Disability Benefits, and Maggie Hughes.
June 18 - 20 The People’s Summit information: http://peoplessummit2010.ca/section/2
June 21 The United Food & Commercial Workers (UFCW) is hosting a perfect event to illustrate the success of powerful, transnational business. Walmart: The Face of Global Greed will take place amidst the G8 & G20 Summits at Primrose Hotel in downtown Toronto, 111 Carlton St. near the College subway stop from 1:00 - 4:00 p.m. Information is at the union’s website: http://www.ufcw.ca/ .
June 21 The Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN) is hosting a barbeque at 5:30 p.m., followed by its first AGM, at Alpha House, 1346 Pembroke St. West in Pembroke. Patrizia Albanese, Associate Professor of Sociology at Ryerson University is the guest speaker, who has written the book Child Poverty in Canada. RSVP to Lyn Smith, Coordinator at email@example.com or (613) 735-2378.
June 26 The Canadian Labour Congress is cooperating with allies like the Council of Canadians, the Canadian Federation of Students, the Ontario Federation of Labour, and Oxfam to organize a public rally and march that begins at 1:00 p.m. at Queen’s Park, north of College & University Ave. to argue that at the G8 & G20 meetings “People First! We Deserve Better!”
July 7 The ODSP Action Coalition is hosting an event “Telling Our Stories: Disability Should Not Equal Poverty” in Toronto at Metro Hall Rotunda from 1:00 - 5:00 p.m. See Item 6 b) above.
An OCSJ press release on International Human Rights Day
An Open Letter to the People of Ontario in Response to the Poverty Reduction Strategy Announced by the Ontario Government