Tag Archives: Canada

(72) Foodbankistan

Sorry Charlie, ...you had to use a food bank.
Sorry Charlie, …you had to use a food bank.

While consuming an overpriced coffee product this morning we accidentally read part of today’s Globe & Mail.  It was left behind on a table in a Barstuck’s coffee shop in Toronto’s financial district.  The usual doom-and-gloom and consumerism filled the paper but we were heartened to see one article: a double pager with no ads about food bank use in every province.  Maps and graphics made for factually solid reading.  At suburban-poverty.com we are torn by media coverage of poverty.  We are glad to see it and we hate to see it.

Ironically, we were on our way to Metropolitan United Church Community Services where  participation in the Out-of-the-Cold program is under way.  Thusly aligning the reality of the Globe piece with our own, however fleetingly.  Curiously, we were chatting with several of suburban-poverty.com’s board of governors the other day and we remarked that when we were in Grade 8 there were no food banks, but there was this Prime Minister named Mulroney…

Demand for food banks stubbornly high

(71) Toronto 2025: when three unequals add up to 99%

Here’s a recent feature from the Toronto Star about inequality.  Written by J David Hulchanski, a university of Toronto social work academic, it notably takes up the language of the occupy movement.  That movement may fade a little as winter weather sets in but suburban-poverty.com feels it is now a full contributor to the general discourse in the United States and the United Kingdom.  In Canada it is not as developed.  Mixed feelings about the banks do exist here but there is a genuine sense that the regulatory environment and the corporate culture in banks here deserve some moral credit for keeping us a little more secure than elsewhere.
Don’t get us wrong, the fact Canadian banks didn’t deliver us unto a foreclosure crisis or help themselves to even more of our money in the form of direct bailouts should probably not be viewed as a major favour.  That goes double when you consider two more things.  Firstly, “our” banks have been drawing on a major piece of real estate, the second largest country in the world for two hundred years so they can afford to be well regulated and like it along the way.  Second, we bail them out indirectly every day in the form of transaction fees.  Suburban-poverty.com’s treasurer was aghast the other day to have an ATM screen inform him of a new $1 charge for printing a statement the size of a modest convenience store receipt.  All those “tips” add up, people.
Hulchanski’s article elaborates on an established concept, the emergence of three cities in the Greater Toronto Area.  Basically it’s about the death of the middle class.  Statistics, a graph and a map indicate the reality of suburban poverty in the fifth largest city in North America, Canada’s business capital and a vast area increasingly defined by, and living off of the avails of, suburban sprawl.
The 99% know all about inequality
[statistics for 1970 & 2005 – projections for 2025]

(68) Escape from suburbia [DVD]

Escape From Suburbia: Beyond The American Dream dates from 2007 but we reference it here as quite a nice piece of background material.  The topic is peak oil and suburbia.  Escape is the follow up to The End of Suburbia and focuses on possible solutions.  Nothing much has really changed since either movie came out except that all our money was emailed up to some giant orbiting death star and we burned another 400 million barrels of oil.  Neither commodity is coming back any time soon.
The people seen in Escape are undertaking a handful of possible responses to the withdrawal of cheap energy from suburbia.  Some are optimistic, some are pessimistic, some are getting the hell out while they figure they still can.  Some are staying put, some are intellectualizing, others are angry.  The critique of the energy and consumer future begun in End of Suburbia turns toward suburban poverty with the compelling destruction of a large community garden in south central Los Angeles.  Implicit the whole time is that suburban poverty will be coming to a cul-de-sac near you sooner rather than later and that it won’t be pretty.
In 2007 suburban poverty was still somewhat behind the curtain …it ain’t now.
What will it all look like in 2017?

Canadians will enjoy scenes filmed in and around the Greater Toronto Area and words from David Suzuki and Kathryn Holloway.
James Howard Kunstler, a suburban-poverty.com favourite for years now, warns us not to ask him (or anyone for that matter) for solutions and hope but to find them within ourselves.  JHK would make a better social worker than he thinks he would.

(67) Hasn’t been the same since…

Econometrics don’t fully account for the quality of life in a country.  For many years there has been a strong desire to have other benchmarks for assessing the big picture that include imponderables, things like cultural participation, personal happiness, stress and security, working hours, crime, family life, environmental quality, levels of harm associated with economic acitivity, volunteer activity and so on.  We suspect suburban poverty, a complex and underreported phenomenon, might be easier to understand (and then fix) with more socially conscious benchmarking tools.  The article linked below describes a good effort in this direction.
New Canadian Index of Wellbeing reveals how Canadians are really faring
Toronto Star

(65) Humber College… lacking social knowledge

If gargoyles could vomit with disgust somebody would be hanging up buckets at Humber College’s Lakeshore campus next week.  The college, located in a converted Edwardian psychiatric hospital on the shore of Lake Ontario in Toronto, is hosting two eating contests.  This is a place of education that trains social service workers and community service workers.  Suburban-poverty.com thinks this is wrong in so many ways.  There are food banks in every corner of the GTA now and there are people experiencing starvation in the world beyond. What kind of signal does this send to low income students or young women experiencing eating disorders and to the world at large about Humber?  Why does the Humber Student Federation think it’s okay to put on this kind of event, supported by student fees?  This is just more evidence, written in all caps in a font called Frat Boy Idiot, of just how low the level of mindfulness, social consciousness, and general discussion of poverty and other issues can be.  Shame on you Humber if you go ahead with this.  A growing number of students object to the eating contests and hopefully they will be heard by management in time to kill them stone dead.  Even a gargoyle can figure this one out.

(62) Poverty in Canada [Book review]

Today in Canada is Thanksgiving Day.  Jour de l’Action de grâce has been a national holiday since 1957.  What better spot on the calendar could we pick to review the second edition of Poverty In Canada: Implications for Health & Quality of Life by York University professor Dennis Raphael?

From first encounter this work comes across well.  The second edition clears 500 pages in trade paperback form and continues the fact-jammed academic dissection of poverty in the first edition, with extras.  Of course, there are tables and charts and analysis with references, index and suggestions for web resources and further reading all in the right places.  Plentiful ammunition for journalists, academics, policy makers and public servants to use against ignorance of poverty and hopefully poverty itself.  Students should find this book useful in many fields.

Poverty in Canada is too frequent, too consistent, too often racialized, too hard on too many children, too deep, too little studied, too (literally) sickening, too often not acknowledged at all, too often blamed on the individual affected by it, too closely linked to deliberately chosen neo-conservative economic policies, and too readily reduced or eliminated by quite reasonable efforts and means.  Again and again in this book Canada is seen to fare better than the United States but significantly worse than the Scandinavian countries when it comes to poverty.  Considering the size and economic output of this country our poverty has to be some of the craziest shit in the developed world.  If you are remotely interested in this topic you will find something of disturbing value in Raphael’s work.

Lived experience of poverty has been given more profile in the new edition.  This is sensible.  Elaborating the real thing is humane and complements the statistical approach.

Curiously, there is no specific mention of suburban poverty.  When we purchased Poverty In Canada we expected to find some direct mention of the phenomenon since the Brookings Institution has done a lot to make it a mainstream issue south of the border.  Additionally, we can claim to have directly observed suburban poverty in Canada through social service sector study and volunteering and through living in the suburbs.  In its own modest, amateur way this blog has begun to register and aggregate information about Canadian suburban poverty so we are surprised that a big gun academic like Raphael approaches it indirectly, hasn’t chosen to name it.  Some of this may have to do with the domestic statistical sources he uses and with the fact that the definitions of suburban and urban remains somewhat vague at times for many of us.

Ultimately, all poverty is a disaster and the labels attached to it are less important than the realities of it.  Nonetheless, the experience of poverty changes over time and suburbs are a new frontier of problematic social conditions in Canada.

Seriously, buy and read this book.  Mail a copy to your political representative.  Put it on your students’ reading lists if you are a teacher.  It’s available online and through most book stores.

(61) Flemo!

The National Film Board of Canada came up with a documentary recently about an aging suburb in the northeast corner of Toronto called Flemingdon Park.  It’s an honest piece of work directly engaging the people and place.  Now, Flemingdon Park is not exactly south central Los Angeles but it sure ain’t film festival Toronto either.  Rarely does this flopped Utopia ever make it into the mass media in the GTA unless some young man has just gotten murdered in a housing project.  Lack of transit and poor socioeconomic conditions are combined with a lacklustre aesthetic environment that you would imagine from the outside all but destroys meaningful human experience or connection to place.  The people of Flemingdon Park may be an archetype of life in many North American suburbs because of the former but they might surprise viewers a little on the latter.

(40) Historica [deux]

If we can’t spend Labour Day wallowing in the past then what good is it?  Besides, there’s a lot to be learned back there.  When considering suburban poverty and how we got to be where we are it’s hard to ask for a better starting point than a particular item in the archives of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation.  From late 1954, this News Magazine feature examines the state of housing in the entire country.  The music and voice over evoke the seriousness of war time.  Sure, there is a Levittownesque optimism but there’s also a grim tone regarding affordability and the extent of the costly undertaking of keeping the working families of a growing country properly housed.  The persistence of 1930s-style poverty wherein “housewives struggle against decay and filth” is openly acknowledged, too.  The latter did much to drive the exertions required to build suburbia and is easily forgotten in 2011.  Two approaches to housing Canadians are seen.  Public housing –  urban redevelopment in Regent Park – and private suburban housing in Don Mills.  The latter was among Canada’s first couple of planned suburbs.

CBC News Magazine: White Picket Dreams