Finding those May flowers

April showers are supposed to bring May flowers, yet here we are, three days into May, and the rains continue with little sign of the flowers.

Over lunch on a very cold and rainy May Day, a friend and I mused about despair and hope. There seemed to both of us to be much of the former and not so much of the latter. Was it, we wondered, foolishness to look for things to make us feel hopeful? Was it a lack of seriousness in a time when being serious seems to be pretty important?

We concluded that, even though it is difficult right now to have hope, if we don’t, we might all wind up just staring at the television or eating potato chips or drinking gin (or all of the above). Most of all, we would be sitting at home, isolated, rather than engaging in activism to resist all that is going on around us.

This conversation motivated me to attend my community’s annual May Day barbecue, despite the inhospitable weather. I assumed that numbers would be low because of the cold and rain, but when I arrived at the park – clad in winter coat and gloves – I counted more than 70 people; a respectable number for such an event in Kingston. Warmed by grilled hamburgers and veggie dogs, we listened to a number of speakers and talked among ourselves about the current state of the world.

As I headed home for a mug of hot chocolate, I found myself feeling, if not cheerful, then at least somewhat hopeful that so many people had rallied, on a cold and wet evening, to show their support for workers’ rights and their opposition to the policies of Doug Ford.

Here are just a few examples of actions in the past week that offer glimmers of hope with some suggestions for what the rest of us can do to support them.

Dismantling the CICB

In its recent budget, the provincial government announced that it will be terminating the compensation program for victims of violent crime administered by the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board. As Deirdre McDade, Co-Director of Legal Services at Belleville’s Community Advocacy and Legal Centre and a member of the provincial CICB advisory committee, said in a press release issued on May 1st:

“We recover approximately $1 million annually for victims of domestic violence, child abuse and sexual assault. The average compensation received for pain and suffering is $20,000. [This award will be capped at $5,000 under the new regime.] These awards are life-changing and allow victims to receive trauma therapy, cover medical expenses and move on with their lives after receiving official recognition that they were victims of crime and their recovery is recognized as important.”

We all need to make noise about Ford’s plan to make demolish a critical program supporting victims of crime; changes that were made without consulting with the advisory committee. Send this media release to your MPP, whatever their party affiliation. If you tweet, send it to your followers. If you don’t, send it to your local newspaper.

More than a bed

It’s sometimes hard to tell what’s good news and what’s bad. Earlier this week, Women’s Shelters Canada released a national profile of 290 violence against women shelters and transition houses that offers some of both.

It notes that demand for shelter services continues to increase (bad news) while shelters must work with chronic funding gaps (more bad news). As a result, many shelters are filled beyond capacity on a regular basis and staff are assisting women whose situations are complex and, often, extremely high risk, while also fundraising to find the money to keep their doors open (even more bad news).

But, those shelters and the women who work in them continue to do their jobs despite the low wages and the burnout and, as a result, women and children are kept safe and alive (good news).

If you don’t already know about the shelter in your community, take some time to find out about it here. Make a donation of time or money. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper about the importance of the work done by the shelter. Attend and promote the shelter’s fundraising events. Make sure your MPP and MP know that you expect them to support funding for shelters and other violence against women services in your community and across the province and country.

Protecting the most vulnerable

Doug Ford’s budget made sweeping cuts to Legal Aid Ontario, an already underfunded agency that pays for legal representation for some of the most vulnerable in our communities. With a 30% across the board cut to LAO’s budget and an end to the use of any provincial money in refugee and immigration cases, low-income and newcomer Ontarians will be denied access to even the possibility of justice.

In a spirit of hope (let’s remember that this government responded to public pressure about its plans to eliminate the new sex ed curriculum and to cut spending on services for children with autism), a petition addressed to Attorney General Caroline Mulroney has been created to call for the cuts to LAO’s budget to be reversed.

As the petition says, in part:

“Access to legal aid is essential to low-income Ontarians who are facing legal proceedings such as in criminal, family, mental health, poverty law and child protection cases. These Ontarians will struggle to navigate these legally complex, high-stakes proceedings without legal assistance or resources.”

Take some time to sign the petition and to share it with others.

And there’s more

The past week has also seen demonstrations by Indigenous communities from northern Ontario in both Toronto and Ottawa, calling for action on promises made to address flooding in northern First Nations. Thousands gathered at Queen’s Park on Tuesday to oppose cuts to health care spending. Students across the province continue to walk out of their classrooms to show their opposition to the government’s plans to increase class size. May day rallies and marches happened in dozens of communities across the country.

Like the cheery daffodils waving in my cold and windy front yard in the hope that warmth and sunshine lie ahead, people are engaging in acts of hope everywhere in the province. And that itself gives me hope.

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