For Immediate Release – Thursday September 23, 2010
Re: The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) – Social Audit – York Region Report Release
Contact for interviews: 289-221-0928
Date: September 23, 2010 Media contact: 289-221-0928
First Ever York Region Social Audit Report Released
“Behind The Masks”
….testimonials from those marginalized by income
“When anyone is hungry while others have too much to eat, when anyone has no shelter while others live in luxury, or when anyone lives in poverty while others enjoy affluence, justice is not present. Where justice is not present, the quality of all of our lives and communities disappears. ISARC believes that justice is the mutual responsibility of individuals, communities, and government, working together for a better future.”
The above quote is repeated in the Introduction section of the newly released 80 page social audit report on York Region, which is entitled – Behind The Masks – testimonials from those marginalized by income as per ISARC’s previously published 2007 province-wide report.
ISARC has been conducting social audits across Ontario since 1986. ISARC – The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition – is a provincial wide network of faith groups working together for greater social justice. ISARC meets and works with leaders from all political parties to develop and support legislation to provide help to those most in need via province-wide hearings, consultations and briefings, presentations to legislative committees, and through publications and resources that give a voice to those in poverty.
REPORT RELEASE: York Region’s recent participation – for the first time ever – has resulted in the release of this report – Behind The Masks ….testimonials from those marginalized by income – made possible through the lobbying efforts of the Poverty Action for Change Coalition with the support and participation of others. As the host group, the key was to form a collaborative planning team from organizations and individuals across York Region; co-conveners Tom Pearson (Poverty Action for Change Coalition, PACC) and Yvonne Kelly (York Region Food Network, YRFN) then worked to achieve this; putting together a diverse collaborative planning team and players, including front-line workers, church members, anti-poverty advocates, concerned residents, and included representation from those with lived experience – which laid the foundation for a successful social audit. York Region’s version included recording video statements, which were edited into a documentary-style format, and was also very well received.
Said Mr. Pearson, Poverty Action for Change Coalition (PACC) Chair and also a credited TV/Film Producer,
“Our report / audit and documentary presentation was very well received provincially, and in fact told we had submitted one of the best – even though it was our first year and we had limited time. That speaks to the strength of our team.”
Part of the make-up of the social audit – apart from forming a planning team and inviting participants – was choosing key players such as the “Rapporteurs”. A Rapporteur is a person whose opinion is widely respected in the region where the audit is held who listens to testimonials from those living in poverty. Their reflections are recorded alongside those stories. In making a decision to hold two (north/south) locations for story collecting in York Region, the York Region (YR) planning team was fortunate enough to attract several highly qualified potential candidates. Ultimately the group chose Daisy Wai, John Rogers, and Charles Beer. It is hoped their experiences will follow them beyond the day to further create an awareness and understanding from others through them – and likewise those reading the report.
Daisy is well known in the business community as founder and President of Ad2000 and Beyond Advertising and is in a number of capacities including as a member of the Board of Trustees for the York Central Hospital. Daisy has received a number of awards for her contributions to the community and is involved in the Chinese Christian community. She was particularly moved by host performer Fred Joly whose song “Behind His Mask”, which inspired the report name and was written from lived experience, really touched her. Said Daisy in reflection,
“You know of all the things I saw and heard today, his song really affected me.”
Likewise John Rogers, a former Mayor of Georgina and member of York Region Council as well as former Chair of the Board of Directors for the United Way of York Region and Co-Chair of the Central LHIN Advisory Group, to name some of his past accomplishments was not a tough sell, as he embraced the role with vigour. Said Mr. Rogers about his role in the social audit,
“I was honoured to be asked to help in a very important process that is being held for the first time in York Region. It is critical that all members of our community are heard, and the social audit process I am sure will bring very important views and stories forward to the public’s attention and as well assist politicians in addressing poverty more effectively. “
Charles Beer was chosen as the third Rapporteur – also a respected voice of influence. Mr. Beer is a Principal with Counsel Public Affairs located in Toronto. He served as Chief of Staff to Ontario’s Minister of Health and Long Term Care, was the President and CEO of the Canadian Executive Service Organization – a not-for-profit organization which transfers Canadian expertise to organizations in developing nations, in emerging market economies of Europe and the former Soviet Union, and in Canadian Aboriginal communities. Charles spent 23 years in the Ontario government, serving from 1987 – 1995 as a member of the provincial parliament. During this time, he was Minister of Community and Social Services and Minister responsible for Francophone Affairs. Beer also served in senior level positions within ministries relating to citizenship, culture and recreation, intergovernmental affairs, treasury and economics and was the Executive Director of the office of the leader of the official opposition from 1977-1981. He currently sits on a number of boards relating to health and education.
All three Rapporteurs report having been affected by participating and have their reflections contained in the report.
In addition to hearing from those marginalized by income, the social audit also held focus sessions represented in the report, including front-line workers and municipal politicians from across the region, while Danieli Zanotti CEO for the United Way of York Region facilitated the politician’s focus group.
Behind The Masks represents a diverse cross section of those marginalized by income across York Region and itemizes the “impossible choices” many are forced to make each and every day. This report contains important data – first hand information about the conditions, sacrifices, and issues people living on the lowest incomes in York Region must face – direct data of which York Region has very little. It also contains some suggested plans of action or study that can be used by organizations, politicians, residents, facilitators, the media, and others to better understand and more directly affect change for the better for our marginalized York Region residents.
Next steps for the audit include possible inclusion by York Region Council for 2011 in guidance toward poverty reduction measures, use by MPP’s, MP’s and representation at Queens Park alongside provincial audit counterparts. Excerpts from York Regions Audit will also be featured in the province print /book version for wide-release. A documentary is also being post-produced for release and use for educating.
Sense of Urgency
The making of the report involved individuals sharing some very personal information about themselves – a sacrifice for some who worry about losing income, homes, children, health, and dignity by revealing – all in hopes their pleas for change will be heard and respected before it’s too late for them or their children – so they don’t have to live behind the masks.
This report has been directly electronic-released to a pre-determined list, and some hard copies. Additional hard copies may be made available, however, there may be a cost.
The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) www.isarc.ca
Poverty Action for Change Coalition (PACC) www.povertyacc.com
York Region Food Network (YRFN) www.yrfn.ca
Please click here on this underlined title for the First Ever York Region Social Audit Report Released today.