Peterborough and District Labour Council

Standing up for Working People
In our workplaces and our community

Ruth Mead Speaks at the Community Day of Action Rally

One of the most important speakers on June 24th was Ruth Mead, a young mother with small children subsisting on social assistance. Her words put the reasons for our fight-back in focus in a way no one else could. Ruth's words speak louder than anything we might say, so here's Ruth's story...

Speech for the Labour Rally, June 24, 1996, Peterborough, Ont.

I am speaking today so that I may express my anger and my utter disbelief of the treatment emanating from Mike Harris's fascist regime. Their harassing and intimidating tactics are oppressive and abusive for many of us. These common sense revolutionary tactics have negatively influenced and altered many of our lives. Mike Harris' rich boy's club approach has devalued single women with children and has labelled us criminals by implicating punishments such as the welfare snitch line, the fingerprinting of recipients, and workfare.

Every night when I get into bed I am literally exhausted from being a single mother, a university student, a C.S.A. farmer and a volunteer and social activist within this community. Why am I labelled a criminal when all I have done is tried to better myself and my children? I ask that question today. I feel I am being forced and manipulated into someone I never thought I would be. Without enough money and the risk of my children going without the necessities, my moral ideology is shifting. Maybe they will succeed at criminializing me.

Being a single woman with three children, I have had to deal with these oppressive implications creatively. I have had to rely on my ingenuity to bring dignity, food and materials to my family. A 21.6% reduction means $320.00 less a month for my children and myself. After the fixed bills are paid I am left with $430.00 for food and any other costs that come up. A lot comes up with 3 children. It is a continuous battle to try and stay confident and composed when trying to endure. I have never experienced so much stress in my entire life. I wish one of these politicians would follow me around for a whole month so that they may see their true effects of their policies. Every day is a financial battle such as coping with costly school events and trips. It is also difficult going to the grocery store with $7 in my pocket, it makes me feel sick to my stomach. My children have noticed a big change in me lately. One of my children calls me a garbage picker, she is only 4 years old. It seems cute and funny to us at the time but then the reality hits me after the cuteness dies away. I am picking garbage for food and other goods in order to survive. I have eaten food that I never thought I would ever eat. I have also made my degrading monthly visit to the Food Bank. I ran out of toilet paper for a whole week this month. I needed a lot of creative thinking order to resolve that dilemma. I'll save you the details. Next time I run out I will be visiting Gary Stewart office, I'm sure he has huge rolls of wipes there.

Anxiety and depression imprisons me for many days on end. It's hard to keep the tears hidden from my children, it is hard for the them to totally understand what the hell is going on. I wonder if I will be able continue to go to university, if I will have appropriate child care for my children when I am at work and school, I wonder if we will eat, I wonder if I will have to turn to the Children's Aid Society as it may come to the point where I will have to give my children up.

I have listened to other women's experiences. There are many similarities and differences, but all these experiences are horrific because the fact is we are living under these oppressive conditions that rob us of our dignity and rights. I think that we all must come together and work toward supporting one another by sharing these experiences. It is then that we can build the strength to fight back so that we may try to reinforce the value of social responsibility towards our neighbours and friends.

This protest is only the beginning. From the strength and support gained here today, we can proceed to carry on fighting within our own communities. I encourage you to remember your dignity and use your creativity to productively work within these restraints. I wish us all well in our lives.

Ruth Mead
General Delivery
Apsley, ON KOL 1A0