[Interview with Lisa Ryan, rural housing development coordinator with the Lunenburg Queens Homelessness Prevention and Housing Support Program}

I was hired here as a rural housing development coordinator. What that is, is to try to get a good understanding of what’s happening here on the South Shore. Who are the ones at risk, and who doesn’t have housing currently, and how are the programs within the community communicating and ensuring people aren’t slipping through the cracks? Where are the gaps? Who’s providing housing support services to those who will require more support than others with accessing housing?

It sounds like fiction, at first blush: hundreds of dollars appearing in your bank account every month, for no reason other than being alive.

However, Newfoundland and Labrador is taking the first step toward making a guaranteed basic income a reality.

“A Tory senator wrote a book on why we should do this as a country,” Labrador West MHA Jordan Brown said on the assembly floor last Wednesday, in reference to basic income advocate Hugh Segal.

“This crosses party lines, corporate lines.… This is something that’s been talked about since the ’70s.”

A growing number of homeless in Nova Scotia are families. Women and children make up a fast-growing segment of those who become homeless. Many of them simply cannot afford to pay rent and buy food on the income they receive from their low-wage jobs or from public assistance.

When politicians are asked there will be platitudes, but little-to-no active commitment. The idea that the provision of shelter is a government responsibility, undertaken out of a community sense of charity is not widely accepted by legislators in Nova Scotia.

But when homeless people are found dead in abandoned buildings it’s time to take political action.

The Canadian Chamber of Commerce is calling on the federal government to create its own basic income pilot project to replace the one that was prematurely cancelled by Doug Ford’s provincial government in 2018.

The national chamber adopted the resolution, which was put forward by the Hamilton and Thunder Bay Chambers of Commerce, at its annual general meeting this week.

It calls on the federal government to create a basic income pilot project and “assess the potential costs, benefits, pitfalls, challenges and outcomes of a nationwide basic income social assistance program.”

In a recent piece on the current state of food banks, Paul Taylor remarked, “We demand gratitude for what we’ve given.”

In a country where food has been recognized as a human right by the state (see the Universal Declaration on Human Rights), emergency access to food should not feel like a handout. People should not feel a sense of obligation to the person or institution who provided that food.

These historic notions of generosity and servitude are pervasive today, lingering still in the ways that we position emergency access to food as an act of charity. As long as we talk about food in the context of charity, we continue to rid the state of its responsibility to deliver on the right to food.

Remote Indigenous communities face a problem as the changing climate makes it more difficult to access traditional sources of food.

That issue, which is detailed in a new report by advocacy group Human Rights Watch, is exacerbated by the fact that many communities have a lack of alternatives that are both affordable and nutritious.

“It’s difficult for our people to access healthy foods,” Vern Cheechoo said Wednesday at a press conference that coincided with the report’s release.

In tiny Elliott Park, a spartan municipal campground with seven gravel-topped campsites, visitors can stay for five dollars a night with no check-ins and no permits required. The Exeter, Ont., park is maintained by volunteers and operates on an honour system similar to the roadside vegetable stands that dot this community of 4,800 people in Huron County, about 40 kilometres north of London, Ont.

In 2016, complaints started about campers overstaying. Some allegedly left drugs and drug paraphernalia scattered on lots a few blocks from the busy downtown shopping district. But as the municipality moved to clean up the park and ban long-term camping in 2019, the larger community was forced to confront deeper issues that had previously festered out of sight.