#ODSPoverty: Where the D now stands for despair

Sometimes I am at a loss for words—which is a mighty rare thing for someone from the east coast who is frequently hopped up on caffeine, chocolate milk, or rage.

What continues to blow my grey matter is how, in a wealthy country whose pundits praise its kindness, generosity to other nations, and other treatments of people which would shine the halo, disabled persons—folk amongst those least able to find gainful employment, be traditionally employable, or sometimes even care for themselves in an appreciably decent fashion—are also those most frequently ignored and left by the wayside, and are amongst those with the lowest forms of financial supports.

#ODSPoverty is the hashtag favoured amongst Twitter users when posting about their struggles trying to survive on the Ontario Disability Support Program.

The buck-passing bandying between the federal government and the provinces/territories about whose responsibility it is to deal with it, has continued for more decades than it should.  You know whose responsibility it is?  Everyone’s.  But the loonie, as it were, does ultimately stop at the federal level, especially when this country is half-way led at the provincial level by factions that think austerity measures are the bee’s knees, and who spend their reigns going after the easiest targets they can.  The Liberal factions seem to want to spend time looking like they’re doing something, but end up doing nothing at all.

Studies?  We don’t need studies.  We don’t need studies when people are looking to Medical Assistance in Dying to avoid the legislated poverty of living on provincial funding, or when people feel like they’re the target of some foul form of eugenics.

Does none of this give you pause?  Does none of this give you pause while you hand out funding to other sections of the population in less immediate and dire need of it, to people and businesses who aren’t in danger of going hungry or losing their homes?  Does none of this give you pause when people consider killing themselves as their only future?

That was an email I sent to the Prime Minister because of an advocacy push online.  You can send a message yourself via this link: https://pm.gc.ca/en/connect/contact.

The past year has, more acutely than before, shone a stark, painfully revealing light on the state of many things in this country (and others): the delicacy of the supply chain and the importance of the people who work in it, packaging our food and getting it to us; the disgusting state of long-term care; the excruciating need for more medical personnel at all levels to care for us; the shocking lack of funding for all of them; and the deeply disheartening lack of financial assistance for anyone left out in the cold from all walks of life, particularly those in a position to be unable to earn enough to take care of themselves.

More sadly, along with the complete lack of immediate funding increases for those in dire need of it in the most recent federal and Ontario budgets, is the continued lack of attention, beyond lip service, that the situation gets at both the federal and provincial levels, and the lack of empathy shown by some parts of the populace.  You should not be asking whether or not these people should be helped.  There shouldn’t be a question at all, other than, “How can we fix this and make it work?”

Ontario’s ODSP rates are still at levels set in the mid-’90s.  For pandemic-related aid, Ontario provided only an extra $100 per month for only a few months during 2020 for extra costs incurred related to COVID, and that went only to people who asked for it, yet the province did not advertise this money was available and, by the time many on ODSP found out about it, the extra funding program was cancelled.

The federal government provided only a one-time (up to) $600 COVID-related payment to those who get the Disability Tax Credit (which is not universal to all disabled people), and it took them up until just a month or so ago to even provide the money to some people.  The federal government did ask the provinces not to claw-back from provincial benefits for anyone in a position to also receive CERB last year.  Ontario chose not to fully comply with that request, as did many provinces.  In fact, only British Columbia, Yukon, and Northwest Territories fully followed the federal government’s request not to claw back.

This entire situation is a shameful tarnish to whatever crown Canada wears.  If this is how this country treats its most vulnerable, well, I don’t know about you, but this is not a nation I can take pride in.  Press your MPs, MPPs, and MLAs to advocate for increased provincial funding for the disabled, for a provincial or federal basic income for them and the elderly at least, and for more creative solutions to employing those disabled folk who are in a position to work.

Peters, Gabrielle, (2020) “Dying for the Right to Live”., Macleans’ Magazine.  Retrieved online from: https://www.macleans.ca/opinion/dying-for-the-right-to-live/