Tag Archives: poor bashing

Entitlements? What About Understanding UNentitlements?

... Gifts > 1512Blvd Footwear > Adorable Snowman Winter Flip Flops
Punishing irony.

OK, I’m fine admitting it. I focus on entitlements a lot. I’m often trying to encourage people to examine our unexamined entitlements: race, age, economic class, gender, sexuality, etc.

But one way to understand entitlements is to understand how unentitlements work.

I’m guilty of overlooking this. Until today.

Read this, below, then read the rest of it. See if you don’t weep.

And ask yourself if BC Liberal MLAs can read this and understand what they don’t know about unentitlements.

This same boy, earlier in the year when the weather was just getting cold, was wearing flip flops to school. I asked him if he had another pair of shoes, and he said no. I took him to the clothes room at our school to pick out another pair. Yes, we have a clothes room. He chose a pair and he looked proud. When he ran off to go join his friends at the playground he called back to me: “I’ll bring back the shoes at the end of the day.” You see, he thought I’d given him the shoes for his time at school only. He felt so unentitled to shoes that he thought he had to give them back. That lack of self-worth is devastating. It prevents you from opening your mind to learning. It makes focusing on adding, or writing persuasive paragraphs, or learning about the water cycle, nearly impossible.

In My Class, Child Poverty Is No Numbers Game | The Tyee.

Poor Kids, Poor Families and Shame

“When Centennial’s students found out Seymour couldn’t hold a pyjama day because many students didn’t have pyjamas, they fundraised to buy every Seymour student a pair last Christmas.”

When the Field Trip’s Too Pricey, Students ‘Self-Exclude’

BC’s disgusting and preventable child poverty crisis. Let’s stop coddling the rich!

When parents receive letters from their kids’ school asking for donations for playground upgrades or library books or technological devices, a certain segment of the population sighs, grows a few more grey hairs and dies a little bit inside.

Parents who are struggling financially cannot afford the luxury of even a tax-deductible donation to the school their children attend.

Sometimes, parents are confused. Don’t we pay taxes? Aren’t taxes structured in such a way that those who are more well-off shoulder a bit more of a burden for social services than the poor and struggling? That’s called a progressive tax system, but it is hated in our neoliberal era of tax cuts, austerity, privatization and social service cuts. The BC Liberal Party hates the poor and has been bashing them for most of this century.

But these are often just abstract policy debates. The reality is that there are real families, tens of thousands of them in BC, and real children who suffer and are often ashamed, too ashamed to trot out their poverty at school.

Who teaches them to be ashamed?

Continue reading Poor Kids, Poor Families and Shame

Occupying Homelessness?

Joe Hatch
Homelessness isn’t a policy thing regarding random people. It’s a thing for actual people. It’s not abstract, it’s in our face, yet we live in denial.

Clearly, I’m no brain surgeon. But if there are homeless people, a civilized culture would find a way to use a progressive tax system to house them. Simple.

Homelessness, however, is a magnet for reprobate poor bashers who are too greedy to part with their wealth [massive or otherwise] to solve a problem.

But guess what. Research shows it’s actually cheaper to simply house the homeless. Unless you secretly hate them, or are a supporter of the Conservative Party of Canada that rejects science, research and data from an ideological, ignorance-embracing stance.

It’s actually this easy:

Continue reading Occupying Homelessness?

Don’t Tolerate Ignorance About the Minimum Wage

Now, stop tolerating ignorance! And smile, TGIF.


It’s Friday.

For many people it’s TGIF. But for many people who aren’t even teenagers, the work week isn’t ending today.

We often THINK minimum wage is for the new entries to the job market. Maybe it was one day. Maybe just for one day.

But today? If it isn’t a living wage, it’s exploitative.

And if it is just minimum wage, we are likely not too accurate on who is suffering with these low wages.

Let’s take a peek:

Continue reading Don’t Tolerate Ignorance About the Minimum Wage

BC’s Child Support Clawback Hurts Kids

 British Columbia’s Child Support Clawback for Children of Parents on Government Assistance Hurts Kids

When I bring up the issue of the child support clawback in British Columbia affecting single parents on temporary or disability assistance through the Ministry of Social Development and Social Innovation, most people are completely unaware of this mean-spirited policy. It requires that all single parents receiving assistance report the child support they  bring in on a monthly basis so the Ministry can then deduct it, 100%, dollar-for-dollar, off of their next monthly cheque.

This is problematic for so many reasons. The most obvious is that it does not allow for any child living in poverty with a single parent on assistance to be lifted out of poverty, no matter how well the non-custodial parent is doing financially. According to the Legal Services Society in BC, laws surrounding child support are “based on the idea that a child should benefit from both parents’ ability to support him or her in the same way he or she would if the parents lived together.” Furthermore, the law states that, “Child support […] is the legal right of the child.” Therefore, the provincial government is breaking the law by enriching itself on the backs of children who receive child support and also have a parent on assistance.

The facts about income assistance and child support

I’m about to get personal here and detail my specific situation as an example. Let’s break down what it’s like for a single parent living on temporary or disability assistance in BC:

I am on disability for severe episodic bouts of major depression that I was diagnosed with 17 years ago. Without a child, I would receive $906 per month to live on. With my daughter, I receive $1241 per month, so that means the ministry provides $335 extra to provide food, clothing, and shelter for her. According to the child support table, based on the wages of my daughter’s father, he should pay $634 per month to her. Take that amount away from $1241 and you get a figure of $541 that the Ministry will cut for my daughter and me to live on for the month. The money provided by my ex is intended solely for the care of our child. Keeping myself fed and clothed is next to impossible, as is evident by my 30 pound weight loss since being a single parent on disability for the past year and a half. It doesn’t make a lot of sense that the child support (I do not have a spousal support order) paid to my daughter cuts into the $906 a single person would receive, which keeps disabled people in abject poverty, unable to maintain a dignified standard of living in the first place.

This all guarantees that my daughter cannot live in a household that has an income of more than $1241 per month, ensuring that she consistently lives around 50% below the poverty line. After rent and bills, this leaves us with a little less than $200 per month for food, clothing, toys, educational materials, and outings.

Strangely, I am allowed to bring in employment income of up to $800 per month that will not be deducted from our monthly cheque from the Ministry, and I have attempted to take advantage of this with little success. The idea behind this policy is that many disabilities, physical and mental, are episodic and that folks can and should be able to bring in a little extra income when they are feeling well. I have casual employment as a clinical secretary in a hospital, and have gone months without being called into work. When I did get the occasional call, there was only one month where I worked enough to surpass the $800 limit. I am lucky to have even been able to do this. Most people on disability cannot work at all, ever, and for those who can when they are feeling well, it is virtually impossible to find a job that will allow you to work little enough to not go over the $800 threshold, (many see earning money that will be clawed back as “working for free,” and frankly would not be on disability if they could work more than that anyway) let alone here and there, off and on, when one is feeling well. It’s a policy that only benefits a few and doesn’t do much to resolve child poverty. The government has called this a “common sense move” in terms of making the lives of people on government income assistance easier.

Why isn’t the same “common sense” applied to the child care clawback?

The sole purpose of deducting child support dollar-for-dollar from assistance cheques is to save the government a couple of bucks. Well actually, $15 million per year, according to First Call BC, West Coast Leaf, and the Community Legal Assistance Society , which is actually only less than 1% of the total budget the Ministry allocates for social assistance. That’s not much to the Ministry, but if that money stayed in the hands of the children it was intended for, each family experiencing the clawback would be up $3750 per year; a significant difference for the poorest kids in the province. Why is the province enriching itself on the backs of the most poor and vulnerable children in BC?

“You’re ‘double dipping,’ lazy, and should get back to work!”

I’ve heard the argument made in comment sections about this topic that allowing children of single parents on temporary or disability assistance to keep their child support is “double dipping,” as if children would be unfairly advantaged if they were allowed to keep what is rightfully their money. Let’s look at this from the perspective of a single parent who does not receive any government assistance:

A hypothetical single mother brings in an employment income of $2000 per month. She uses a certain portion of that money every month to feed, clothe, entertain, and educate her child. Her former spouse is ordered to pay $500. That money also goes into the care of the child, making it possible for the mother to provide a home with separate bedrooms, Internet access, a healthy diet for the child, and whatever else she can do to improve the life chances and opportunities for said child. In this situation, both parents are pitching in to financially take care of their child, as the law and general basic morals require.

Why should a single mother or father on assistance not be able to also financially contribute to their child’s well-being the same way the paying parent does? It is in the child’s best interest that both parents contribute, and the child support clawback policy ensures this is undermined. Clicklaw Wikibooks states that:

The legislation on family law issues also assumes that the payment of support by one parent under the Guidelines is not going to be a complete payment of all of the child’s needs. Section 1(b) of the Guidelines says that the purpose of the Guidelines is to ensure that children benefit “from the financial means of both spouses after separation.” In other words, payment according to the Guidelines child support tables are not assumed to cover all of a child’s costs, and the parent receiving the support payments is assumed to contribute towards the child’s needs as well.

As the child of a disabled person, my daughter should be able to benefit from the $335 that the government allocates for me to care for her with as well as the amount her father contributes.

Besides, what incentive does it give the non-custodial parent to pay child support owed, when he or she knows that no matter how much income is earned, no matter how hard he or she works, that their money will not go into improving the life of the child? Saving the government a few dollars is hardly motivation to pay.

“But it’s not fair to people who aren’t getting any help from their former spouse!”

Those who make the argument about double dipping also tend to claim that the $335 is actually meant for children of single parents who do not receive child and/or spousal support, and that by keeping support paid by the non-custodial parent it is unfair to families that do not have maintenance coming in. This argument is so ridiculous I feel silly even addressing it. There are many deadbeat, non-custodial parents out there who are not paying child support to children whose custodial parents aren’t on assistance. Does that mean that the children from families where the non-custodial parent responsibly and consistently pays their child support should have to forfeit their maintenance to the government because others have trouble getting the former spouse to pay? Of course not.

Speaking of responsible and consistent payments of child support, what about those parents on assistance whose former spouses only periodically pay the amount they have been ordered to pay?  The amount paid by the payee is deducted off of the next month’s assistance cheque received by the single parent and child. If the paying parent does not pay the next month’s payment, the receiving parties are left with a cheque hundreds of dollars short, making payment of next month’s bills, rent, groceries, and other necessities difficult or impossible. Families living in poverty cannot afford to hold the money over to the next month. Any extra money received goes into unpaid bills that the primary caregiver was previously unable to pay, or special expenses that everyone who has children knows come along with raising a child (school supplies, new jacket or shoes, etc.); the necessary expenses that were unattainable in the previous months because of the low assistance rates. When a family lives 50% below the poverty line, in abject poverty, saving money into the next month isn’t an option.

It’s time this society and this government start thinking first and foremost about what’s fair for the child who is being deprived of his or her right to child support, as it seems the focus is often on what’s fair for everyone but the actual child.

Let’s tone down the poor, single-mother hating, ok?

It is important to remember that this issue is about the children, and not enriching the single parent. Throughout this piece, I’ve referred to the parents receiving child support payments as just that; parents. But it is important to acknowledge that a hugely disproportionate number of single parents are women.

Society seems to have a lot of animosity towards single mothers, especially those on welfare, but this isn’t about the mothers, how much people hate them, or how badly their life decisions are perceived to have been; it’s about keeping children out of poverty. Many say that poor women should never have had children in the first place, without acknowledging that poverty often happens after the children are already here, due to illness, a breakup, or safety reasons, for instance.

The fact that this country does not have a universal childcare system means that single-income families whose head does not have an opportunity for high paid employment (women still make only 75% of what men do, and we all know that wages don’t match cost of living in the first place) are stuck at home on assistance due to the high costs of childcare (it can cost more than rent does, per child). Mothers don’t want to be at home wondering where the next meal will come from. Being on temporary assistance or disability is not a comfortable life.

Mothers want what’s best for their children and don’t want to see them suffer, experiencing less opportunity than the next child due to poverty. If we can move away from the misogynistic, single-mom-on-welfare bashing and focus on the needs of the kids, this problem can begin to be addressed.

What can be done about this?

I’ve been protesting this policy with BC ACORN for months, only to receive copy-and-paste responses in the media from Minister Don McRae that were also sent in emails from predecessor, Minister Moira Stilwell, claiming that it’s not fair to taxpayers to raise assistance rates and/or let children keep their child support. Recently we received a more detailed response from Minister McRae, stating that there are no plans to raise assistance rates or end the child support clawback, as the clawback is something that happens across the country (a bad policy across the board does not equal a good policy!). He did state that that the Ministry will be developing a white paper on the problems people with disabilities face in BC, saying that it will be an opportunity for stakeholders to “share their thoughts.” I suspect this is intended to pacify those of us who take issue with policies that hurt kids of disabled parents, but somewhat impatiently await the white paper nonetheless.

I met with my MLA, Sue Hammell, who promised to take this issue to the NDP Social Issues Caucus as well as the NDP Women’s Caucus, in order to fight the BC Liberals on this Charter-violating policy (yes, this violates the child’s section 7, 8, and 15 Charter rights), only to have Premier Christy Clark declare that the legislature will not be sitting this term. I’ve had enough. I want the best for my daughter and she will not be punished by this government because I have a disability. I’ve decided to take another route.

I recently found this article talking about a Winnipeg mother who was suing the province of Manitoba for the right for all children of parents on assistance in that province to be able to keep their child support. She had been part of a class action lawsuit to return all child support paid to Manitoban children as well as to keep future support payments by the paying parent. Unfortunately, Miss Miyai dropped her involvement in the suit after receiving massive amounts hate online from people who believe that single mothers on assistance, as well as their children, don’t deserve to live in dignity. Fortunately, her lawyer, Norman Rosenbaum, is continuing with the class action suit, substituting Miyai’s name with another custodial parent.

I want this to happen in BC.

As lawyer Norman Rosenbaum points out, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled in a case in 2009 that children are entitled to child support payments (this seems like it should have been obvious).  Also, since May 1, 1997, in British Columbia, child support has not been considered income for tax purposes for the custodial parent. The government cannot have it both ways. It cannot say that child support isn’t income and then turn around and state to parents on assistance that it is. By forcing parents of children receiving child support to turn over their payments, the government is breaking the law and the Charter rights of children of single parents on assistance, plain and simple.

I urge you to join me in the fight to end child poverty in BC. Contact the webmaster of this site (stephen@politicsrespun.org) if you are interested in mobilizing to end the child support clawback that hurts so many kids. Ending the clawback won’t completely wipe out child poverty in this province, but it is an excellent start in tackling the shocking levels of poverty that we are currently seeing children experience. In the meantime, I will be contacting lawyers, politicians, and everyday citizens to organize and work to change this policy through petitioning, protesting, and whatever other strategies we think of. I don’t plan on giving up on this, even if my daughter gets too old to receive child support before this policy is changed. Stay tuned.

New Premier, Same Dismissive BC Liberal Insensitivities

In less that two weeks, Premier Clark and the same old BC Liberal government have boldly continued the decade-long tradition of being mean, dismissive and insensitive to vulnerable British Columbians:

  1. suggesting students should drink less coffee to pay for tuition fee increases
  2. highlighting how much grant money they are not restoring after restoring a minority of grant money they previously stripped
  3. funding food banks when party policies have entrenched poverty for almost a decade

1. Just hours after being sworn in, the government released a fact sheet on post-secondary education. It included a clever comparison of recent tuition fee increases to a cup of coffee a day, implying reducing by a cup a day would make the pain of tuition fee increases go away. The new minister apologized for the insensitivity and the ministry yanked the insensitive statement from the fact sheet. And since the BC government will collect more in tuition fees next year than in corporate income taxes, we’ve gone fully through the rabbit hole of fair taxation [Did you know BC’s corporate tax rate hits zero percent next January for the first $500,000 in revenue?]. The BC Liberal brand has a new spokesperson/premier, but it is the same dismissive insensitivity we’ve seen for a decade. Let them eat cake/coffee/whatever.

2. In an attempt to re-spin the mean-spirited reputation of the previous BC Liberal government, the new premier cheerily announced the restoration of $15 million in grants her party previously stripped from community organizations. Not only is it cynical to celebrate the reversal of her own party’s anti-social funding cuts, the restoration of just 5/12 of the money stripped allowed everyone to focus on the glass that is still 7/12 empty as $21 million remains stripped away. Why not restore it all? Even her main leadership opponent pledged to restore it all, but not the new premier. Trying to spin this announcement like some sort of gift is typical dismissiveness from the BC Liberal party.

3. But most galling is that the anti-social, poor bashing policies of a decade of misery with this government have led to record child poverty, a stalled minimum wage, depressed social assistance rates, increased user fees and stripped advocacy services for the poor. In this context, and in the premier’s announcement of restored funding, she included this gem, “This new funding will provide an extra 25 per cent to help food banks meet growing demand.” So not only does her party exacerbate poverty for a decade, then strip funding from community groups, then in magnanimously restoring it, pledge to fund food banks, a band aid solution to the poverty they themselves have stoked.

“It’s very interesting,” said Cheryl Carline, CEO of the Greater Vancouver Food Bank, following the statement from Clark. “We don’t accept government funding. We never have.”

In fact, none of the 90 or so food banks represented by Food Banks B.C. accept government funding.

The reason, Carline said, is to ensure that the organization remains autonomous.

“We’ve always been self-sustaining,” Carline said. “While we’ve always had good relationships with governments, we’ve never accepted government funding simply because we need to be able to speak candidly about the issue of hunger as an NGO.”

“I was surprised when the announcement came across my desk, and we’ll be getting in touch with the premier’s office for some clarification.”

via Metro – Food banks puzzled by announcement.

In the end, the public is going to have to sift through the spin and rhetoric from a new face on the same mean-spirited, insensitive, dismissive party that has been bludgeoning the vulnerable for the first decade of this century.

The new premier might smile more, deliver announcements in as many child care centres as she wishes, but she will still be peddling the same brand of BC Liberal misery that has been destroying the social fabric of the province for years.

I’ve had enough.