OCAP Newsletter (April 1998) Issue 2

Graeme Bacque (gbacque@arcos.org)
Mon, 27 Apr 1998 22:33:43 -0400

                    Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
                           249 Sherbourne St.
                            Toronto, Ontario
                             (416) 925-6939
                            Table of Contents

   * (Editorial) Why I Joined OCAP

   * March on the Moneybags

   * Tories Plan Deeper Cuts to Welfare

   * 'Who's Cheating Who?'

   * Report on the Successes of OCAP 'Team Immigration'

   * Coming Soon to a Street Near You!


(Editorial) Why I joined OCAP

I'm a very proud member of the Ontario Coalition against Poverty (OCAP).
I've been active for about a year now. The OCAP event which made the
deepest inpression on me was oOCAP's attempt to take over the boarded-up
buildings at 88-90 Carleton St. last April 19. Over 300 OCAP members and
supporters showed up and confronted the police that day while making
huge political and social statements.

I saw many people literally put their bodies on the line surrounded by
menacing cops and horses. I saw people defy the police after some OCAP
activists were arrested for 'trespass.' I saw people stand up to the
fearsome horses. I saw raw courageand commitment.

Another scene - a cold summer day a few months later that year in front
of the Eaton Centre at Yonge and Dundas. That's when OCAP set up a
homeless camp on the corner. I felt damn proud and privileged to be one
of the OCAP people there, but also angry as hell at the Harris fascists
for having caused the current epidemic of hunger and homelessness across
Toronto and Ontario after brutally cutting welfare 22%. My raging anger
at abuse-discrimination-injustice helps keep me alive and struggling.

I like OCAP's direct action tactics inside and outside welfare offices.
Direct action cuts through bureaucratic bullshit and delays, direct
action gets respect, direct action is people power, direct action is
life itself.

I like and rerspect OCAP because it's democratic and open to everybody,
especially to poor and homeless people and others who have been abused
and descriminated against including immigrants, refugees, people with
disabilities, people of color and psychiatric survivors like myself. No
one in OCAP has patronized me for being a psychiatric survivor, that
means a lot to me. I know I can count on  OCAP to support mne and other
survivors in OCAP in our continuing struggle against forced psychiatric
treatment and for human rights, for dignity and respect.

(NOTE: Don Weitz  is an antipsychiatry activist and host-producer of
'Shrinkrap' on CKLN (FM-88.1) in toronto.)


Everyone knows that the Mike Harrises of the world are nothing more than
puppets for the big banks and corporations.

On March 26, OCAP held a march in the commercial heart of Toronto that
showed that the millionaires and billionaires who gave us the Harris
government can be made to pay a price if the unemployed and homeless
fight back with some imagination.  We assembled one hundred and fifty
of our members and supporters near City Hall for a March with a
difference. The huge force of cops on hand, many on horseback, seemed to
expect us to try and block an intersection in the financial district.
Instead to their obvious amazement, we took a quick detour at Bay and
Queen and headed down into the underground Mall and Banking system, the
'path' that stretches for a huge distance beneath the city streets.

The shout of 'Stop the war on the poor' coming from a large crowd of
poor and homeless people took the upscale set in first Canadian Place by
surprise. When they blocked us at the entrance to the Toronto Dominion
Centre, we simply rerouted things ending up at BCE as planned.

OCAP's march on Toronto's moneymakers provided an object lesson in how
we can disrupt their affairs if they continue to throw us into poverty.
WQe don't have to limit our protests to polite affairs on the lawns of
Queen's Park; we can hurt Harris's masters at the cash register. Our
task, however, is to build our movement so that we are not nipping at
them with crowds of hundreds of people but throwing them into crisis
with mobilizations in the tens of thousands. Join OCAP and help build
the movement!

Tories Plan Deeper Cuts to Welfare

As of next month, the full Conservative blueprint to replace welfare
with a slave labour 'workfare' system will be out on the table. It is
expected that 'Ontario works' will be extended so that workfare moves
beyond the community agencies and forced labourers are handed over
directly to private sector employers. A series of other brutal measures
geared to fleecing the poor and stepping up the intrusions of the system
into their lives will be revealed. There is also a real possibility that
the announcement will actually include a rate cut for single employable
people, pushing their maximun benefits below the miserable $520.00 they
presently receive each month.

Clearly, the Tory war on the poor is being extendeed and intensified.
This is taking place in asituation of relative economic upturn. The
present slashing of income support, however, will mean that the next
recession will see masses of people forced into a situation of utter
destitution. Even with the present limited upturn underway,  emergency
shelter use in Toronto has increased by 67% in the last year. The coming
downturn in the Ontario economy will will clearly produce a situation of
exploding poverty.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is preparing to  challenge the new
cuts. In large measures that fight will occur in many individual
situations as we resist efforts to deny income to families or confront
the implementation of workfare on a site by site basis.

With such forms of struggle, the poor are moving beyond non threatening
and conservative methods of protest and grappling with real resistance.
Linked to industrial action by union members, a strategy of mass action
can be developed to build a working class movement which can fight back!



 On Saturday, January 10, 1998  An inquiry was held at the Regent Park
Community Centre to determine who the real 'cheaters' were when it came
to Welfare and Family Benefits. Sponsored by the Ontario Coalition
Against Poverty and utilizing a panel of former and present social
assistance recipients, this inquiry heard testimony from nearly two
dozen people spelling out a shameful litany of abuses ranging from
deliberate delays in processing applications, needlessly harsh
application of the rules, and unsubstantiated accusations of fraud based
on cultural misassumptions or even malicious gossip. In conjunction with
the plans to introduce wholesale fingerprinting of  recipients, the
implementation of  'workfare'  and the expected reclassification of many
persons with disabilities, these presentations made it clear that a
systematic effort was underway by municipalities and the Province alike
to make social assistance more inaccessible and punitive than ever. The
entire session was recorded on video and formed the basis of OCAP's
report entitled 'Who's Cheating Who?'.

 On February 17, 1998, in keeping with the tradition of  'direct action
casework', Metro Hall was invaded by more than fifty OCAP members with
the intention of presenting the 'Who's Cheating Who' report directly to
the office  of Mayor Mel Lastman. After gathering at All Saints Church
for this 'Welfare Day of Action,' OCAP was able (despite the usual heavy
police presence) to force a meeting with  Social Services Commissioner
Shirley Hoy, in the course of which we were not only  able to force the
City to examine and respond to the contents of our report at an upcoming
Community and Neighborhood Committee meeting, but at the same time won
resolution of the cases of five welfare recipients who had come to us
for help after being denied benefits.  This tactic has proved highly
successful in winning people the assistance which is their right, and
illustrates the power of collective action in challenging a system which
operates by seeking to isolate and disempower individuals.

 To obtain a copy of 'Who's Cheating Who' or if you are experiencing
problems with Welfare or FBA,  contact OCAP.

Report on the Successes of OCAP 'Team immigration'

Kamyib Karamzadeh - Currently held in detention, but he may be allowed
to stay if his case is heard before proposed changes become law.

Moustapha Omar Hussein - VICTORY! He's been reunited with his wife as
well as having a deportation order cancelled.

Magdi - Sudanese worker on the run from persecution; he works closely
with us on things. Now the Mohawk Nation at Tyendinega has offered to
make him one of their members to allow him to land in Canada. Looks very

Maria Francis - we're still awaiting the outcome of her court case but
things appear to be favorable.

Ezzatullah Mojaddedi - VICTORY! Landed last week due to a protest on his

Tamara Minakina - Immigration seems hellbent on deporting her despite
her being persecuted and also her bedridden daughter's SOLE caregiver.
Send letters of support and we'll make your voices heard. We have to
keep this family together!

On Friday 29th May we're having a nation-wide demonstration against
proposed changes to immigration that will make the system even more
racist anti-poor! We're rallying at Liberal Party HQ (10 St. Mary St.,
just south of Bloor and Yonge) at 11 AM. Get involved and help us in the
struggle against this racist, classist attack on people.

Coming Soon to a Street Near You!

 Displaying an attitude so hostile that at one point he asked if he 'had
latitude to increase rather than reduce'  the penalty, an Appeals Court
judge dismissed Sharon Cook's appeal on January 22 of the boundaries
which effectively barred her from her long-time neighborhood for a
period of eighteen months. Members of TEDRA and SOBRA's 'witness
program'  (who were directly responsible  for Sharon's initial
banishment in their drive to purge the community of 'undesirables') were
once more in attendance and smirked as the judge rendered his decision.

 Fuelled by  desire to protect their property values and aided by
hostile judges and police officers from 51 division, these Yuppie scum
have sought to rid the Cabbagetown area of anyone not in their financial
bracket by terrorizing and banishing women involved in the sex trade.
(Subsequent to her arrest last July, Sharon Cook  was so severely beaten
by Det. Constable Charles Stern that she required hospital treatment,
and  her situation is hardly unique - Stern is notorious for his
violence towards sex trade workers and his appearance on the street  is
sufficient to send frightened women in frantic search of safe refuge).
This is in addition to pursuing changes to zoning regulations in order
to  prevent construction of affordable housing,  seeking relocation or
closure of agencies which serve the poor and in general sowing misery
among the low-income and homeless residents  of this downtown community.
In the most recent move, surveillance cameras have been installed around
the perimeter of All Saints Church, ostensibly with the aim of deterring
drug dealers but in reality to engage in general monitoring of street

 No doubt these  wealthy property owners will be responding in droves to
mega- Mayor Lastman's call for 'meet your neighbors' street celebrations
on June 16 but this time they will not be left to their own devices.
OCAP is calling for a real  celebration of resistance on Cabbagetown
streets involving all the poor and homeless, sex trade workers, recent
immigrants and others who have been systematically excluded and
banished  from this community to take place on this date. We have to
show our readiness  to defend the rights of people like Sharon Cook to
live without fear where they see fit, and to move towards the creation
of neighborhoods where inclusiveness, diversity and compassion hold sway
rather than property values. We gave SOBRA a taste on February 26 by
successfully preventing their 'public' meeting regarding the usage of
the former Imperial Optical site - now the pressure must continue.

For more information on the street celebration contact OCAP.