Monday, Nov 28, Toronto: A crowd of residents from across Toronto organizing in neighbourhood committees of Stop The Cuts Network gathered at 9am under the banner Stop the Cuts at City Hall to protest the launch of the 2012 budget. AIDS ACTION NOW! member Jordan B.G. spoke to the crowd of residents and reporters.
“Good morning everyone! I am here to represent AIDS ACTION NOW! We are a direct action community-based group engaged in promoting the rights of people living with HIV, AIDS and/or Hepatitis C. We are calling attention to the many organizations focused on the health of marginalized communities throughout Toronto—organizations now facing cuts under this Ford’s administration.
I am one of the more than 17,000 people living with HIV and AIDS in Toronto. There are 2 new HIV infections each day in Toronto, with rates on the rise each year: young women, gay men, seniors, people who use drugs, people from Aboriginal communities, newcomers to Canada, refuges, non-status peoples, from the suburbs, from Rosedale to Regent Park, from Rexdale to Willowdale.
HIV, AIDS and Hepatitis C can be devastating physically, emotionally — and often financially. Many of us live below the poverty line, trying to cope with a significant health challenge while trying to survive on the meager payment provided by ODSP. People with HIV, AIDS and/or Hepatitis C depend on services like food banks, subsidized housing, Wheel Trans and the TTC, the services of many community groups and AIDS Service Organizations. These services are necessary for us to stay alive, to keep our jobs, to go to doctors, to receive treatments, and to connect with others like ourselves.
I’m sure you’ve heard that this City Council is cutting 800 units of social housing. This is housing where people with HIV and Hepatitis C live. This is housing where people receive treatment. This is housing that keeps people alive! These housing cuts will put people out on the street where they will not have the ability to manage their health.
A recent study noted that a majority of people with HIV who live in the GTA were living on less than $1500 a month — putting them at the edge of, or below, the poverty line here in Toronto. Nationally, just 11% of people not affected by HIV and AIDS are living on the same amount. We who are living with HIV, AIDS and/or Hepatitis C are part of the countless numbers who will be bearing the brunt of these, and other, hateful and devastating cuts.
From the very beginning of the budget process by Ford and supporters on Council — the Core Services Review, the subsequent community consultations, the deputations — this Ford’s supporters on Council goals have been to ignore any voices that they don’t agree with. Instead, this these councilors want to gut the very services and necessities that all marginalized and vulnerable people in Toronto require to live. Not cuts to frills — not gravy — but cuts to food, shelter, transportation, services — the essentials of our lives.
Rob Ford’s agenda is to punish those whose survival depends on social services — because he considers those services to be wasteful, and he considers us to be a drain on the system. He mistakenly eliminates city revenue sources like the Vehicle Registration Tax, and then cuts our services to make up for his mistakes. We’ve heard a lot about the 1% and the 99%. This agenda of destruction serves the 1% who cannot understand what it means to go hungry — or to live with astronomical medical costs — or to be unable to work even though we want to. This agenda has no compassion, no humanity — and it serves a vision that has no compassion, no humanity. These cuts will result in a greater cost than we can see right now. A cost in our city’s quality of life — and a cost in lives.
In our communities, we have already seen how quickly we can be dehumanized — to fit our mayor’s idea of who is of valued and who is not. This mayor and this city council were elected to represent and to serve all Torontonians. Even the poorest, most vulnerable citizens are worthy of respect, and cannot be ignored.
We at AIDS ACTION NOW! stand in solidarity with you — and with everyone saying no to these attacks from our Mayor and our City Council. Thank you for this chance to speak with you this morning, and STOP THE CUTS!”
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