Canadian provinces, it would seem, now have a new export commodity: the homeless.
Without delving too deeply into the case of two men, who were given ‘one way bus tickets’ out of Saskatchewan to B.C., the decision by a social service worker in the flatlands does bring to the fore the need for a national strategy on homelessness and poverty.
Before that can be implemented, of course, there have to be provincial strategies in place, and quite clearly what’s been happening on the courthouse lawn in Victoria demonstrates that B.C. is very far from anything but reactive, temporary fixes.
The solution in B.C. seems to be blaming the homeless themselves and offering a ‘helping hand’ that giveth grudgingly, then taketh away in a blink.
Our latest demonstration of B.C.’s callousness and stinginess didn’t have to do strictly with the homeless, but it was symptomatic of a government that can’t imagine what it’s like to be poor in a wealthy society: offering a meagre $77 a month increase in benefits to people with disabilities at the same time a $45 annual bus pass was taken away.
Finance Minister Michael de Jong’s budget-speech comment about making life ‘a little less hard’ for the poor and homeless was as meaningless as it was patronizing. Offering an insult makes life harder for everyone.
But we can’t blame the politicians. Here in Ladysmith the poor and homeless are not so visible. But they are here. In any case, our responsibility as a society doesn’t end south of the Malahat or north of the Nanaimo River. Letting our poor and homeless gravitate to larger centres doesn’t wash our hands of responsibility.
The poor will always be with us. That’s true. But unless we are always coming up with innovative ways to ease their hardships and include them in our prosperity, we should feel ashamed when we pass a man or woman begging in our streets.
Editor, Craig Spence