rich white guys in boardrooms who think they can end poverty?

(Article aptly titled, and inspired by a good friend and fellow caring citizen).

Have you ever sat in a board room and observed a bunch of wealthy, Caucasian, Anglosaxon men (and a handful of women, and non-white, and non-Anglo wealthy people) talking Poverty?

It wasn’t long ago I had the incredible learning experience of a not-so-off-the-mark event such as this.

It was an opening session meeting of the Parliamentary committee of HUMA. Parliament had just reconvened which meant every committee had to hit reset, and set a “new” agenda for the session. This meeting included a short discussion of what Bills were not scrapped when Parliament was prorogued (all Private Members Bills survive), and other projects that were on the committee’s portfolio.

I sat in as a staff observer while completing my social work field placement shadowing Megan Leslie, MP for Halifax, NS. It was an experience, to put it mildly. I had the great fortune of being prepped with some of the preliminary work put into the theatrics of attempting to have a Bill passed. I was also able to follow some of the work to be done in preparing for the committee actually addressing the Bill on the agenda in forthcoming weekly meetings. This wasn’t just any Bill. This was the Bill C304: An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians (A National Housing Strategy). From a social worker’s perspective, this was exciting stuff. From a New Democrat Member of Parliament’s perspective (who sat as the Housing & Homelessness critic for her party), this was exciting stuff.

Now I must say this was not a dramatic sort of meeting. The theatrics were all in the background. Who is on side? Who do we need to get on side? Who is never going to be on side no matter how hard we aim to persuade them? What must be done to address some of the outstanding issues that might prevent this ever passing 2nd (then 3rd) reading in the House? It is a lot of jumping through hoops, and I learned in what ways citizens’ voices can have some effect on legislation.

Another item on the agenda that was discussed (in somewhat greater length) at this preliminary meeting was that of a report being prepared by the committee, on Poverty. It’s a project that’s been ongoing for considerable time (2-3 years?), and is near completion, but for a few important areas that need further fleshing out. It all SOUNDS quite fantastic. But when I tried to wrap my head around it, I could only imagine the expense of sending this team of Parliamentarians on a field trip to get a better grasp of the depths of poverty in our aboriginal communities. That money could be so much better spent. And to what end? First, it would seem to me that the order of events was all wrong. Shouldn’t the field trip frame the research? And what exactly will be accomplished once this magnificent multi-hundred page document is released?

Now don’t get me wrong, I’m all for peer education. I’m all for public and political awareness raising. I believe that coming from fellow elected officials and being submitted by an (albeit multi-partisan) committee of this Conservative government there is some healthy ammo for us activist types to use when arguing for the need for our government, our nation, to step up and DO something about our own country’s despicable situation. However, will the government themselves take any initiative to DO something? Is there any chance that we will finally make even minute progress on that commitment to end child poverty (by the year 2000) in Canada that our nation made more than 20 years ago? I have my doubts.

I want to see our governments, at all levels, put their money where their mouth is and walk the talk.

Sitting in this room, listening to all of these wealthy and powerful white men discuss the need to get their hands dirty, left me feeling just a little disgraced. The children of our nation don’t need more reports to prove their needs are worthy. They need action, and swiftly.

*If you want to have a voice, contact your Member of Parliament and express your support for Bill C304: An Act to ensure secure, adequate, accessible and affordable housing for Canadians, as well as Bill C-545: An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada, presented in June and at 1st reading this session.

About Trish

family legacy curator, social justice advocate, blogger, amateur photographer, reader, cyclist, runner & swimmer, mom of two