Housing advocates across Ontario denounce Flaherty's plan - Ontario Coaliton for Social Justice Press Release

Root cause of housing crisis is government funding cuts and faulty legislation

Media advisory
For immediate release
February 13, 2002

Housing advocates across Ontario denounce Flaherty's plan to arrest homeless people; root cause of housing crisis is government funding cuts and faulty legislation.

Forty housing advocates from across Ontario, meeting at a special forum at the University of Toronto on February 14 and 15, have denounced plans by Tory leadership candidate Jim Flaherty to round up homeless people and force them into hospitals, hostels or jails. They are calling on the province to tackle the real causes of the province-wide housing crisis and homelessness disaster, which include massive cuts to government housing funding and other legislative changes introduced by Flaherty's
government.

"Minister Flaherty and his cabinet colleagues cut more than $300 million from provincial housing spending in the 1990s, about one-quarter of the entire housing budget," says Kira Heineck, Co-ordinator of the Ontario Coalition for Social Justice. "They cut welfare rates by 21%. They gutted tenant protection laws. The major cause of the homelessness in Ontario is a desperate shortage of affordable housing and critically low tenant household incomes. It's simply wrong to suggest that homeless
people choose to be homeless, or that they are 'too sick' to find housing."

"Minister Flaherty's plans are morally unconscionable and religiously repulsive," says Gerald Vandezande, Volunteer Spokesperson for the Campaign Against Child Poverty, which includes numerous representatives of diverse, life-affirming faith communities across Canada. "Flaherty's proposed actions are totally unacceptable from any faith perspective. To criminalize the weakest and most vulnerable members of our society is cruel, oppressive and discriminatory. No faith community could with a clear conscience and in good faith publicly support this violation of human dignity, legal equality and social justice for all people. People of faith and committed to fundamental human values are indeed called to be compassionate and not cruel. Many are active in Out of the Cold programs and publicly support generous government measures that are
clearly aimed at the effective elimination of child and family poverty in our midst."

"Minister Flaherty's statement is a pitiful comment on the quality of leadership among Conservatives," says Janet Collins of Kingston's Low Income Needs Coalition (LINC).

A wrap-up press conference at the end of the housing forum will feature experts from across Ontario. The press conference will be held at 3 p.m. on Friday, Feb. 15, in Room 548, Faculty of Social Work, University of Toronto, 246 Bloor Street West, Toronto (at the corner of Bedford and Bloor, next to Ontario Institute for Studies in Education).

For information:
Kira Heineck, OCSJ - 416-529-7521
Gerald Vandezande (after 5 p.m. on Friday 416-293-8912)