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Solidarity is the Antidote to Austerity

by Lara Longo

Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty activist Gary Kinsman: "Solidarity is the antidote to austerity." (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty activist Gary Kinsman: "Solidarity is the antidote to austerity." (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty activist Christy Knockleby: "We cannot cut back on services and supports on the poor and expect to have the economy booming because of that." (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty activist Christy Knockleby: "We cannot cut back on services and supports on the poor and expect to have the economy booming because of that." (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Demonstrators gathering in Memorial Park in downtown Sudbury for last Friday's Solidarity Against Austerity rally and march. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Demonstrators gathering in Memorial Park in downtown Sudbury for last Friday's Solidarity Against Austerity rally and march. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty activist Clarissa Lassaline: "It is very important for as many groups and organizations to get together and let the government know that we do not want the constant shrinking of resources for people living in poverty" (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty activist Clarissa Lassaline: "It is very important for as many groups and organizations to get together and let the government know that we do not want the constant shrinking of resources for people living in poverty" (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Demonstrators at last Friday's Solidarity Against Austerity action in Sudbury. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Demonstrators at last Friday's Solidarity Against Austerity action in Sudbury. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Demonstrators at the Solidarity Against Austerity action in Sudbury delivering an anti-austerity message in front of Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci's office. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)
Demonstrators at the Solidarity Against Austerity action in Sudbury delivering an anti-austerity message in front of Liberal MPP Rick Bartolucci's office. (Photo by Larson Heinonen)

“Solidarity is the antidote to austerity” – said Sudbury Collation Against Poverty (SCAP) member Gary Kinsmen over a megaphone to a crowd of 75-90 community members who gathered at Memorial Park on April 12th to show their support against provincial austerity measures.

The rally was focused on delivering the message of four key demands: Firstly; to raise the rates of social assistance (OW and ODSP). Second; to end the freeze on minimum wage and increase it to $14 an hour (an index to inflation). Thirdly; to restore the community start up and maintenance benefit (CSUMB) and finally, to prevent the cut to the special diet allowance which is a program that gives people access to nutritious food.

“Austerity is the idea that we all have to tighten our belts because the economy is not good,” said SCAP member Christy Knockleby. “Austerity is actually something the IMF (The International Monetary Fund) is starting to recant on. They had been the biggest supporters of austerity ever, but now they have actually acknowledged that countries shouldn’t be pushing this as hard, that it is sort of like having a doctor tell you that you shouldn’t be exercising. They are admitting it’s wrong and they need the federal and provincial government to recognize it’s not working! We cannot cut back on services and supports on the poor and expect to have the economy booming because of that”.

Despite the harsh weather conditions, there was a strong presence of community supporters in Sudbury. The rally offered food and hot chocolate, presented speakers from various organizations and unions and included two performances from local musicians Silvertongue and Dayv Poulin, both of whom identify as being anti-poverty activists.

“It is very important for as many groups and organizations to get together and let the government know that we do not want the constant shrinking of resources for people living in poverty” said Clarissa Lassaline, a member of SCAP. “I think that it is really fantastic that we had so many people out today for this rally from many different areas; the unions, the social homeless initiatives, the health representatives. This really gives an idea around how many people are realizing that what is happening right now is affecting all of us. There is a growing recognition that people living in poverty are really getting it ‘stuck to them’. People are realizing this and are fighting. We are here to say that we won’t accept this anymore”.

The message was clear: there is a fundamental concern in this community about the impact of austerity measures on people living in poverty in Sudbury (and in this province). As crucial programs are cut, the incredible hardships are getting worse for people all across this province.

The demonstrators marched the streets chanting slogans such as “Poor people under attack! What do we do? Stand up, fight back!” as they made their way to MPP Rick Bartolucci’s office. There, they continued to protest enforcing the message against austerity.

“The intention is this to show the provincial government that the people are watching,” said Knockleby. “The budget is going to be coming out within the next couple of weeks and that is when we will see whether the government is serious about working for social justice or whether they are giving us more austerity measures.”

“We are really pleased that today, here and across the province, workers and community groups are coming together to say no to austerity” said Kinsmen. “We are developing solidarity, caring and compassion; that is the basis of a new society that could meet people’s needs and not just meet the needs of the rich and powerful”.

Photographs By: Larson Heinonen
Interviews By: Lara Longo

This piece was originally published at Larson's Gallery.


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