In October I was appointed to the Minister’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction. To this project, I bring my years of personal experience living in poverty, plus my experience working with other people who are in poverty, both as a peer supporter and through my work with TAPS, Our Place, PEERS and other organizations. This is right down my alley!
The Advisory Forum’s first meeting took place in Vancouver in November. The travel costs were covered—Helijet, at over $300 one way. That makes the cost both ways for two trips $1200—the amount I get on a disability cheque for a full month. I have a real struggle with this. My morals are challenged to the degree that I have to rationalize the work I am doing to cover that travel cost. The work of convincing the government that change is needed has to be done. We need deep change, change to the legislation and policies that have an impact on so many aspects of the lives of people living in poverty. This is not a “one-ministry fix”; the ministries of housing, health, education, children and families, and finance, as well as the social development ministry, must be involved, as the policies of all these ministries affect the lives of people struggling on low incomes.
The Poverty Reduction Forum is holding community meetings around the province to hear people’s views. The community meeting in Victoria took place on November 27 at the Leonardo da Vinci Centre, and Khalela from TAPS helped me organize the community social action bus to take people over there. For true consultation, those on low incomes need to be included financially and nutritionally. The forum gave those who attended $20 and provided food, but there wasn’t enough food, and that became a great learning experience for everyone. At the community meeting were people living in poverty, the working poor and folks who work with marginalized people. The contributions from those with lived experience truly shone through! The representatives from the Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction and the Honorable Minister Shane Simpson were impressed with the turnout. And people were sincerely impressed that the Minister was there; they have some sense that this time it may not all be talk.
Through this process so far, I have met so many passionate people from around BC, people who are all in the same fight to end poverty everywhere in the province.
You can get your ideas and opinions in to the Ministry’s Advisory Forum on Poverty Reduction at BCPovertyReduction@gov.bc.ca, or phone 778-698-7746 in Victoria, or 1-800-663-7867 elsewhere in BC. Make your voice heard! Let them know we need to end poverty now, not later! There are Poverty Reduction Forum community meetings around British Columbia and another one in Victoria in March. Visit https://engage.gov.bc.ca/bcpovertyreduction/ for more information.
Hilary Marks is a long-time volunteer with Together Against Poverty Society, where she is a front desk receptionist, disability advocate and board member.