Toronto Media Co-op

Local Independent News

More independent news:
Do you want free independent news delivered weekly? sign up now
Can you support independent journalists with $5? donate today!

Hundreds protest suspension of social assistance health benefit

Community occupies Metro Hall after City refuses to process Special Diet applications

by Andrew Mindszenthy

Demonstrators in Metro Hall's lobby, cut off from friends occupying the 12th floor welfare offices by electronic controls on the elevators
Demonstrators in Metro Hall's lobby, cut off from friends occupying the 12th floor welfare offices by electronic controls on the elevators
Police look on as demonstrators chant "We won't be quiet 'til we get our Special Diet"
Police look on as demonstrators chant "We won't be quiet 'til we get our Special Diet"
Police declined to comment on how they weigh deploying the Emergency Task Force against refugees with experience of violence. In the background, a new luxury condo development.
Police declined to comment on how they weigh deploying the Emergency Task Force against refugees with experience of violence. In the background, a new luxury condo development.
Are City services accessible to poor people?
Are City services accessible to poor people?

TORONTO -- On December 8, 150-200 people living on social assistance, mostly women, immigrant/refugees and parents, occupied the City of Toronto’s central welfare office in Metro Hall to demand access to the Special Diet Benefit, a modest allowance that helps people with health conditions afford appropriate food. The group wants the City to recognize doctor-supported applications for them and their children – applications the City has been refusing to process because they are signed by a popular Toronto doctor serving poor and marginalized communities.

“They say they’re not accepting it from [Dr. Roland Wong] although he is a certified doctor” says Asha. “They are the ones breaking the law”.

Dr. Wong has been “filling out the form for those who need it, poor families who need more money to feed their kids” says Ali, a single father raising six children on a fixed income.

As news of Dr. Wong's work spread, Conservative City Councillor Rob Ford submitted a complaint to the Ontario College of Physicians & Surgeons suggesting he is helping poor people scam the welfare system. He is now under investigation by the College and has become the object of critical national media attention - the Globe & Mail calls him "a Chinatown doctor".

Yet nothing has been proven against Dr. Wong. In an email to the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP), an as yet unnamed City bureaucrat stated the reason the City is refusing to process his applications is that his office voicemail greeting recently stated he was on vacation and therefore any forms with his signature must be fraudulent - this, despite communication from Dr. Wong to the to the contrary. As a result, hundreds of adults and children struggling with poverty-related health problems remain unable to eat appropriately without the Special Diet Benefit to help.

Welfare and disability recipients are accustomed to being denied access. Case managers “ignore us, they can’t do anything” when individuals try to get help over the phone, says Asha.  "I don't have nothing, I'm a single mom."

When frustrated community members went to Metro Hall en mass on December 8, City bureaucrats called in police who threatened the group with fines and criminal charges, and eventually deployed the Emergency Task Force (aka ‘SWAT team’) wearing tactical armour against the peaceful but loudly chanting group.

“We are moms, we have small kids: we cannot go to jail. We’re refugees too: we’re afraid to talk to them.” explains Khadija. “They don’t respect us, they don’t listen to us.”

Community members left after three hours occupying the building’s lobby and 12th floor welfare office.

As the group prepared to leave, OCAP organizers announced that they would hold public meetings to organize further, larger actions, noting that this demonstration attracted hundreds of people with only a few days notice.


Socialize:
Want more grassroots coverage?
Join the Media Co-op today.

About the poster

Trusted by 0 other users.
Has posted 5 times.
View Andrew Mindszenthy's profile »

Recent Posts:


Andrew Mindszenthy (Andrew Mindszenthy)
Toronto, ON
Member since December 2009

About:


459 words

Comments

diet

 thanks too my special diet i had food in my  stomach   it was great while it lasted now that you took it away i guess were all  really gonna be on a permanent one  diet that is.... got to hand it too yas put people on the streets an turn them into criminals  hope   enjoy the can goods  you robbed use of  a hungry man! is a angry man! 

Join the media co-op today
Things the Media Co-op does: Support
Things the Media Co-op does: Report
Things the Media Co-op does: Network
Things the Media Co-op does: Educate
Things the Media Co-op does: Discover
Things the Media Co-op does: Cooperate
Things the Media Co-op does: Build
Things the Media Co-op does: Amplify

User login


Google+
Subscribe to the Dominion $25/year

The Media Co-op's flagship publication features in-depth reporting, original art, and the best grassroots news from across Canada and beyond. Sign up now!