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Raise Your Voice to Raise The Rates - ACORN Canada

Raise Your Voice to Raise The Rates

There’s a big misconception that people choose to live on a fixed income. I can say that I didn’t choose to live on a fixed income. However, I am happy to be in Canada, where, although the system needs to be fixed, there are existing systems to support its citizens.

We have to ask if the system is doing its job of helping or is it hurting us? As a citizen, a proud ACORN member, disability rights advocate, an artist, and a Disability Culture Consultant, I am urging others to raise their voices in support of our “raise the rates” campaign.

I must address this as I am one of many members of ACORN and the Ontarian and Canadian disability community. As such, I don’t speak for all.

“What should we be looking at?” I hear people ask.

We should focus on more than these individual fights. We, the members of the disability community, need to have a seat at the table regarding the implementation of bills like Bill C-22, The Canada Disability Benefit, and others, while simultaneously running provincial campaigns with Ontario ACORN until they are no longer applicable (because we’ve won).

We must realize we are fighting the false ideology of the North American dream: pull yourself up by your bootstraps, do it yourself, and make your way. No one ever, and I mean never, does it alone.

Being on a fixed income, like the Ontario Disability Support Program or Ontario Works, or whichever provincial support program, comes with a stigma a person can internalize. I know I did and still do occasionally.

In the case of O.D.S.P, recipients are 45% below Canada’s poverty line. This reality is extremely troubling given the cost-of-living crisis we’re all experiencing, and let’s be honest: things are not getting better overnight.

Ontario’s Ford government will say the number of individuals receiving ODSP is lowering, which is true, although the number of individuals receiving Ontario Works is rising.
I was born with Cerebral Palsy (C.P.), a visible disability as well as a less visible learning disability also referred to as a Global Developmental delay, attention deficit disorder or, in the umbrella term used nowadays, neurodivergent.

Therefore, in my case, I was not denied. However, when I connected with peers and other advocates in the disability community who are on Ontario Works (O.W.) and who have been dismissed for O.D.S. P., they recounted that an individual receiving O.W. receives substantially less than an individual receiving ODSP.

Like my community peers, I try to get jobs and volunteer opportunities. Often, our resumes get tossed to the side with disingenuous smiles, knowing there is no call coming.

Yes, there are individuals within the disability community who own their own homes, have jobs, and have pieces of the North American dream. Also, 5% of ODSP recipients own their own homes.

With inflation, the percentage of individuals receiving ODSP who own homes will decrease, thus reducing their independence and security.

There are those of us in the disability community who face barriers to education and, therefore, employment opportunities as we are considered underqualified.

Entering the adult system and realizing that what can feel like most see is lost income, productivity, and more expenses or liabilities. Still, we can’t get loans through traditional means. There is another roadblock to skills and social development.

Being trapped in the system is like being on a poverty treadmill as one sees their peers’ building skills and, as a result, building future relationships, families, and careers.

Yet, if an individual cohabitates with a partner who makes more income, claw backs take effect against the ODSP recipient. This claw back system creates a vulnerable situation of resentment dependency and takes away autonomy that should not be in any relationship.

Being on the poverty treadmill can trigger depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder. Being in the disability community, even in 2024 we are constantly subliminally reminded that we live in a world not built for us.

Waiting for accessible income on average is over ten years. Plus, like yourselves, when’s the last time you heard mainstream media and or politicians speak about young adults or middle aged adults with disabilities?

If we don’t raise the rates to create opportunities and we don’t deal with a lack of support and housing, it will increase the likelihood of disabled people being institutionalized. Plus, more than 45% of Canada’s homeless population identifies as disabled. Do we want this to grow?

Let us not forget about community members, two separate cases of a man and woman in Ontario who were seeking Medical Assistance in Dying (MAID) out of fear of homelessness and
lack of access, along with a lack of affordability.

Knowing this, along with the fact that ACORN is across Canada. ACORN chapters have long established ‘raise the rates’ campaigns.

I believe ACORN members, across the country, need to work together and keep our eyes on the development of disability related programs and bills like the Canada Disability Benefit.
We still need to figure out how this will work, who and how an individual can apply, what the financial side of the benefit will be, and how we, as advocates, need to protect the benefit from massive provincial claw backs and medical benefits.

Thank you for your time.

Please consider signing and sharing this campaign.


Written by Ontario ACORN Member & Disability Culture Consultant
Stephen C. Barns
Copyright 2024