OCAP | OCAP
Ontario Coalition Against Poverty is a direct action anti-poverty organization that fights for more shelter beds, social housing, and a raise in social assistance rates.
poverty, homelessness, housing, social assistance, ontario works, odsp, anti-poverty. ocap. ontario coalition against poverty, shelters,
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Rally: Expropriate 214-230 Sherbourne!

Download Flyer | Download Poster | Facebook Event

214 – 230 Sherbourne are 7 adjacent properties located at the southwest corner of Dundas and Sherbourne. For at least 50 years, three big houses on this lot provided housing for poor people. About 10 years ago, two of the houses were demolished, leaving just one 30-room house whose residents were then pushed out.

A decade later the lot remains empty and the house vacant. Meanwhile, the church across from it struggles to shelter the escalating numbers of people dumped on the streets by Toronto’s deadly housing crisis. The neighbourhood desperately needs housing that poor people can afford. So when the properties were listed for sale earlier this year, OCAP mobilized to get the City to purchase them. But the owners took the properties off the market, preferring to sell to condo developers willing to pay more than the already inflated market price.

If the owners won’t sell to the City, the City must take the properties over – expropriate them – and build social housing. The owners still get paid but the end result is housing for poor people, and not another gentrifying condo. 23 organizations have signed an open letter calling on the City to expropriate. It’s time.

Join us on October 11, and let’s fight to win!

Support the Fight for $15 and Fairness in Ontario this Saturday!

The Fight for $15 and Fairness campaign won a major victory in the fall of 2017 with the introduction of Bill 148: an immediate jump in minimum wage to $14/hr with a further increase to $15/hour scheduled in January 2019, paid sick days, equal pay for equal work provisions for contract and temp workers, and fairer scheduling rules, to name just a few gains. Taken together, these gains represent the most significant progress for low-wage workers in this province in decades.

However, the Ford Conservatives are set on repealing many of these gains, including blocking the raising of the minimum wage to $15. It is no coincidence that this attack on workers is progressing alongside the recently announced cuts to social assistance rates and the additional sweeping changes to OW and ODSP expected later this fall.

How better to roll out the red carpet for big business exploitation than to keep minimum wage workers and those on social assistance as poor and precarious as possible. Corporations and their executives make massive profits on the backs of poor workers – take for example Galen Weston Jr., the CEO of LoBlaws, who has a net worth of $8.82 billion. Unsurprisingly, he is also one of the people leading the charge against the minimum wage increase.

We need to be organizing with all we’ve got to defeat Ford’s cuts to welfare and workers’ rights. The Fight for $15 & Fairness is organizing a day of action this Saturday, September 15 with actions across Ontario, and we encourage everyone to join in. Details can be found on their website here.

Speakers Series: Rent Strikes, Expropriations & More: Resisting Gentrification

Rent Strikes, Expropriations & More: Resisting Gentrification
Thursday, September 20 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Download Flyer | Audio Archive

Bringing together struggles against gentrification unfolding in neighbourhoods in Toronto and Hamilton, this Speakers Series will profile successful models of resistance people are using to push back and win. Join us!

Speakers: Julia Manzo, Linda Habibi, Bjarke Risager, , and Gaetan Heroux

Julia Manzo is a resident of Parkdale, and one of the organizers of the successful rent strike in Parkdale last year. She is also a member of Parkdale Organize.

Linda Habibi is a tenant and strike captain in the Stoney Creek Towers in Hamilton, where tenants are currently on a rent strike. Details about their rent strike can be found here: facebook.com/hamiltontenantssolidarity/ and here: hamiltontenantssolidarity.ca

Bjarke Risager is an organizer with the Hamilton Tenants Solidarity Network.

Gaetan Heroux is a member of OCAP and has worked and fought for housing in the downtown east end of Toronto for over three decades.

The monthly Speakers Series is where we gather to discuss issues that are critical to the success of poor people’s movements. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win. 

Response to the Ford Governments Changes to Social Assistance

The Provincial Conservative government of Doug Ford announced three significant changes to social assistance today:

  1. They are cutting in half the 3% increase in social assistance rates scheduled to come into effect in September this year. Progressive changes to regulations scheduled to be implemented this fall have also been “paused,” and will likely be canceled.
  2. The 3 year basic income pilot program, which started last year, is now being canceled and “wound down.”
  3. A series of sweeping changes to social assistance are currently under review and will be announced within the next 100 days.

We have three things to say in response:

  1. The scheduled 3% increase passed by the Liberals was woefully inadequate, but it would have marked the second time in almost a quarter century that social assistance income would have risen above the rate of inflation. Instead, the 1.5% cut will yet again plunge social assistance below the rate of inflation, making social assistance recipients even poorer.
  2. We have been critical of the Basic Income pilot project, but canceling the pilot a year after it was underway demonstrates a reckless disregard for the lives of nearly 4000 people on the pilot who planned their lives on the assurance of having a set income for 3 years, and who must now scramble.
  3. The sweeping changes to social assistance that are being ominously hinted at are likely to be the same brand of ruthless right-wing reforms we saw under Mike Harris. We can expect dramatic restructuring of social assistance that cuts supports, forces those on social assistance, including disabled people, into the most exploitative jobs, and increases punitive surveillance and “fraud” crackdowns of the poorest people in this province.

Clearly, this is the war on the poor component of the Doug Ford agenda of neoliberal austerity. The Tories are forging a punishing regime of social abandonment that creates misery and utter desperation. It is the cutting edge of their attack and a compelling reason why we must unite and build a movement to defeat this Government and all it stands for.

Postponed: Press Conference to Respond to Vilification of Homeless People & Poor People Who Use Drugs

Update – Monday, July 23: Given the shooting on the Danforth last night, the press conference referenced below is being postponed to a later date.

Coalition of anti-poverty organizers, supervised injection and overdose prevention site workers, homeless service providers to respond to increasing vilification of homeless people & other poor people who use drugs

Press conference on Monday, July 23 at 10am at the corner of Dundas & Sherbourne

Speakers include: A.J. Withers (Ontario Coalition Against Poverty), Desmond Cole, Frank Coburn (Street Health), and representatives from the Moss Park Overdose Prevention Site

Toronto: There have been a series of lurid stories in the media recently of homeowners and businesses supposedly under attack by what the Toronto Sun’s Sue-Ann Levy calls “druggies.”

These articles further the position that supervised injection services (SIS) and overdose prevention sites (OPS) must be shut down and call for the return of policing programs that have been proven to be dangerous and racist. Echoing rhetoric of residents and business associations in gentrifying neighbourhoods, particularly in the downtown east end of Toronto, it is argued that SIS and OPS facilities encourage drug use and it is assumed, without any evidence, that the lack of such options would lead people to give up drug use.

“After letting the developers control and profit from the creation of upscale housing, after allowing public housing to crumble, after letting social assistance income decline substantially, and after failing to provide adequate shelter for the homeless for years, refugees have become a convenient target to blame for the problem. Now, the same interests are targeting poor and homeless people who use drugs, in a truly despicable move,” says A.J. Withers, organizer with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP).

Homeless people, whether they use drugs or not, are on the streets because shelters and respite facilities are packed full, and conditions within most of them remain deplorable and stressful.

“The residents and business associations don’t want homeless people on the streets, but they don’t want shelters in their neighbourhoods either. What they want are policing measures that target and remove homeless people from sight, with no regard to where or how people end up. Such a dystopic vision for dealing with serious social issues begs to be challenged,” says Yogi Acharya, organizer with OCAP.

The aforementioned press conference, to be held on Monday, July 23 at 10am at the corner of Dundas and Sherbourne, will respond to these arguments, make the case for the continued funding and operation of the SIS and OPS facilities, oppose the reintroduction of programs like the misleadingly named Toronto Anti-Violence Strategy (TAVIS), and finally, call for the creation of adequate shelter and housing.

Media Contact:
A.J. Withers & Yogi Acharya

Fight the Doug Ford Tories

Doug Ford is now Premier of Ontario and a hard right, class war Tory Government is in power. Our message is that their agenda of austerity, war on the poor, attacking workers’ gains, targeting migrants, gutting public services, racism, bigotry, environmental degradation and trampling on Indigenous rights, is inevitable only if we allow it to unfold without mounting the kind of real resistance that can bring it to a halt.

Comparisons are made to the Tory Governments in Ontario from 1995-2003. Let’s be clear that Ford represents something far worse. The international austerity agenda is far more advanced than during those years. We have also gone through fifteen years of ‘progressive’ Liberal cutbacks that have left their mark on public services like healthcare, ensured that people on social assistance are poorer than when the Tories left office and produced a housing and homeless crisis of terrible proportions. Frankly, there is very little flesh for Ford’s knife to cut into. It will be going into the bone.

When the Tories last held power, there was a powerful mobilization against them but it failed to stop them because it was held back by disunity and a failure to take things to the level necessary to win. A creature like Ford will not be stopped by moral arguments or token protest. A movement that creates serious economic disruption and a political crisis is what is needed. The Tory agenda must be blocked by a struggle that makes the Province ungovernable.

On June 16, Fight for $15 and Fairness will be rallying at the Ministry of Labour in Toronto. We should all work to build this action and use it as a springboard for Ontario wide resistance. OCAP is talking to allies about convening an Assembly to bring together those who want to fight back decisively. The most vital thing is that we must not let the Tories gain the initiative by remaining passive as they start their attacks.

Ontario is about to became a key site of struggle. We have the chance to demonstrate to the world that a vicious hard right austerity regime can be defeated by creating a model of resistance of enormous importance. Unless we want to go down in defeat at the hands of a gang of Tories headed up by a scandal ridden buffoon, we must be ready to fight to win and bring together a movement that can empty the workplaces and fill the streets.

Speakers Series: Policing Black Lives

Policing Black Lives: State Violence in Canada from Slavery to the Present
Thursday, June 21 | 6pm – 8pm | CRC, 40 Oak St.
[Free event with meal, childcare, wheelchair access and tokens]
Facebook event | Speakers Series Audio Archive

Delving behind Canada’s veneer of multiculturalism and tolerance, this talk will trace the violent realities of anti-Black racism from the slave ships to prisons, classrooms and beyond, providing a comprehensive account of nearly four hundred years of state-sanctioned surveillance, criminalization and punishment off Black lives in Canada.

Speaker: Robyn Maynard

Robyn is a Black feminist writer, grassroots community organizer and intellectual based in Montreal. Her work has appeared in the Toronto Star, the Montreal Gazette, World Policy Journal and Canadian Women Studies Journal.

The monthly Speakers Series is where we gather to discuss issues that are critical to the success of poor people’s movements. It’s where we build our capacity to fight to win. 

Media Release: OCAP to rally at Doug Ford’s Campaign Headquarters on Saturday, June 2

Toronto: The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), along with a coalition of grassroots organizations, is organizing a rally outside Doug Ford’s campaign headquarters at 2141 Kipling Avenue, this Saturday, June 2 at 2pm. Additional details about the rally are available on OCAP’s website at ocap.ca/defeat-ford-action.

“We believe the only way for the struggling people of this province to win is to build determined social movements capable of taking on whoever gets in power. A Ford government would intensify the ongoing attack on poor and working class people, and so a resistance movement powerful enough to confront and defeat him must be built,” says John Clarke, organizer with OCAP, of the motivation behind the rally.

Support for Ford is slipping but a hard-right government led by the Conservatives remains a serious possibility. OCAP is no stranger to the Fords, having fought the Ford brothers’ attacks poor and homeless people during Rob Ford’s mayoralty at city hall. The current slew of corruption scandals, lies, bullying, and racism that has plagued Doug Ford’s election campaign is no surprise given his past record. It’s also a harbinger of worse to come should Ford actually become premier of Ontario.

“Much has been made about the lack of a costed platform by the Conservatives, but most people know what they they are concealing. A Ford government promises tax-breaks for corporations and the wealthy, and service cuts for the rest of us who depend on public hospitals, education, roads, transit, income support and decent jobs. That’s not the basis on which an election can be won, so they’re choosing deceit and empty populism,” says Chris Ramsaroop, migrant rights organizer and lifelong resident of North Etobicoke, the riding Ford is trying to win a seat in.

“We are equally convinced, however, that the day after the election, whatever its result and whoever forms the government, that the struggle against austerity will have to continue. If that struggle is against Ford, we will be fighting a hard right regime. If the NDP wins, from day one, big business will be working to push them to the right, and only a serious social mobilization will be able to counter this. That’s precisely what we intend to build,” adds Clarke.

Confirmed speakers at the rally will include representatives from OCAP, the $15 and Fairness campaign, the Overdose Prevention Society, Health Providers Against Poverty, Canadian Union of Public Employees Local 3903 (York University), and migrant justice activists.

Media Spokespersons:

John Clarke, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty & Chris Ramsaroop, Migrant justice activist and lifelong resident of Etobicoke