Vancouver What a treat spending time with the ACORN Canada staff in the Vancouver area in our New Westminster office! The organizers in the morning and the leaders in the evening wanted to brainstorm about current campaigns they were conducting to great effect. Roll up the sleeves and let’s get to work!
Over the weekend the topic was enforcement of penalties assessed to landlords for failing to maintain tenant properties and creating slumlord conditions. Recently ACORN had almost a $150000 penalty against a notoriously bad landlord and shockingly the provincial government of British Columbia had held the penalty in abeyance for up to 2-years to see if repairs were made trying to delay on the jaws of our victory. Leaders were mad and coming to a reckoning with the inability of the government to protect them and assure safe and decent housing.
The ACORN Disability Rights group has been pushing against the province in recent months to try and win an increase in benefits and some equity in the standards. Meetings with top ministers have been held, but no action seems imminent.
The standards also seem subjective. If they think there are “multi-barriers” to employment then your payment is some $600 per month as opposed to if they think your condition is worse, then $900 per month. Do doctors determine the level of disability? Unclear? If you have more training and education, then you might actually be paid less, even if your level of medical disability was the same as someone in the exact same condition with less training? Huh? Yes, you understand, almost arbitrary and capricious, isn’t it?
With the staff I found myself describing the old welfare rights “special needs” campaigns that pressured welfare offices into shifting money into increased payments and ratcheted the pressure on state systems. May have been over 40 years ago in a different world with welfare as we used to know it, but the same basic system is in play. There may not be “equal protection” here to assure equivalent benefits, but there is Article 15, the Equality Amendment of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which should work as well. There may not be emergency payments, as we used to know them, but there are “crisis” payments, which seem the same to me. Furthermore there is wide discretion, and that means subjective standards, and it is time to make up the forms so that all recipients are handled equally.
With the leaders and staff we had conversations about how to train members and leaders to be “stewards” handling these “grievance committees” to assure eligibility standards are met and that people know their rights. Maybe it’s another situation where the “more things change, the more they stay the same!”