Let them eat garbage

Last year, 851,014 Canadians used food banks on average each month, down marginally from 2010, but more than at any other time in history.

Last year, 851,014 Canadians used food banks on average each month, down marginally from 2010, but more than at any other time in history.

Though the poor are everywhere, the urban poor are the most visible, and even the most gilded cities have their share of the homeless and the hungry. One in 10 Calgarians live in poverty. In Lord Selkirk Park, home to most of Winnipeg’s aboriginal population, 68 per cent of residents live below the poverty line. By a curious coincidence, Winnipeg is also the murder capital of Canada, and has the highest incarceration rate in the country.

Federal and provincial governments have taken herculean measures to conquer poverty, so far with measured success. They’ve cut welfare rates to force the poor to work, introduced laws to put more poor people in prison and off the streets, imported cheap foreign labour to stabilize prices on macaroni and cat food, and slashed taxes for the rich on the principle that when there’s more money floating around the poor can grab whatever floats by.

And still the food banks are stretched to the limit. Why is this problem so intractable?

This week two prominent Westerners came forward with innovative ideas on how to address two of the ills associated with poverty: hunger and crime.

On Sunday, Alberta’s Wildrose Party Opposition Leader Danielle Smith tweeted her frustration that tainted meat from the XL plant was going to waste, and posed the question, “Is there no way to cook it so its safe and feed the hungry?” (On Twitter, syntax and punctuation are optional.)

A day later, Winnipeg’s acting Police Chief Devon Clunis asked, “What would happen if we all just truly – I’m talking about all religious stripes here – started praying for the peace of this city and then actually started putting some action behind that?”

Here is how great movements begin, with the blending of great ideas. In a better future, we’ll look back on this as the time we turned the corner on poverty, the day we iterated the two golden rules for serving the poor: feed them garbage, and pray. Just think how much spoiled food is thrown in the landfills and compost heaps every year which, if cooked properly and blessed by the gods, might be safe to feed to the hungry. Imagine a future where the crimes of poverty are obliterated by divine intervention and E. coli.

When you’re poised on the threshold of a dream, there are always questions to be asked. For instance, what happens when the tainted meat runs out? What if the hunger of the hungry outstrips the availability of garbage? Will we be reduced to feeding the poor on food that’s fit for human consumption, or will we have some meat tainted for them so they feel at home? Or will new, even more innovative sources of food have to be found? What, for instance, happens to all those rats they poison in the Prairie granaries? Is there no way to cook them to make them safe?

In any great movement, education is key. With proper teaching there are no end of food sources currently being ignored by social service agencies. Outreach vans could teach pigeon snaring, along with safe cooking practices. Drop-in centres could offer courses for street kids on how to safely slaughter and prepare their pit bulls for the table, first taking a moment to propitiate the appropriate deities.

For that matter, after the final prayer has been prayed over the homeless, why shouldn’t they be allowed to donate their remains – on a strictly voluntary basis of course – to feed those who survive them? Surely there’s a way?

There are other ways to deal with poverty and crime, tried and proven programs like social housing, better schools for poor kids, job training for poor adults, addiction treatment, school meals, neighbourhood renewal, and community policing to name a few. Studies have shown that these programs reduce crime and improve outcomes for people struggling to rise out of poverty.

The trouble with these liberal-minded solutions is that they’re not punitive. Poverty is a sin that must never go unpunished. If you’re not suffering in your poverty, what are you learning?

Let us pray that when we prey upon the poor, they don’t bite back. Let us pray that people who live in substandard housing and go to sleep hungry don’t take drugs and break into our cars. Let us feed them on offal we wouldn’t give our dogs and house them under bridges out of the rain.

It won’t make the country a better place, but at least they’ll be worse off than we are. You don’t want the poor getting above themselves.

Al Pope won the Ma Murray Award for Best Columnist in B.C./Yukon in 2010 and 2002.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

The City of Whitehorse’s projected deficit could be $100,000 more than originally predicted earlier this year. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
City deficit could be just over $640,000 this year

Third quarter financial reports presented to council

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley speaks during a COVID-19 press conference in Whitehorse on Oct. 30. Masks became mandatory in the Yukon for anyone five years old and older as of Dec. 1 while in public spaces. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
As mask law comes into effect, premier says $500 fines will be last resort

The territory currently has 17 active cases of COVID-19

Crystal Schick/Yukon News file
Ranj Pillai, minister of economic development, during a press conference on April 1.
Government rejects ATAC mining road proposal north of Keno City

Concerns from the First Nation of Na-Cho Nyäk Dun were cited as the main reason for the decision

asdf
WYATT’S WORLD

Wyatt’s World for Dec. 2, 2020

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited internet options beginning Dec. 1. (Yukon News file)
Unlimited internet for some available Dec. 1

Whitehorse and Carcross will be among seven northern communities to have unlimited… Continue reading

Submitted/Yukon News file
Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to the unsolved homicide of Allan Donald Waugh, 69, who was found deceased in his house on May 30, 2014.
Yukon RCMP investigating unsolved Allan Waugh homicide

Yukon RCMP’s Historical Case Unit is seeking information related to an unsolved… Continue reading

A jogger runs along Millenium Trail as the sun rises over the trees around 11 a.m. in Whitehorse on Dec. 12, 2018. The City of Whitehorse could soon have a new trail plan in place to serve as a guide in managing the more than 233 kilometres of trails the city manages. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
2020 trail plan comes forward

Policies and bylaws would look at e-mobility devices

Snow-making machines are pushed and pulled uphill at Mount Sima in 2015. The ski hill will be converting snow-making to electric power with more than $5 million in funding from the territorial and federal governments. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
Mount Sima funded to cut diesel reliance

Mount Sima ski hill is converting its snowmaking to electric power with… Continue reading

Fossil finds at Mt. Stephen. (Photo: Sarah Fuller/Parks Canada)
Extreme hiking, time travel and science converge in the Burgess Shale

Climb high in the alpine and trace your family tree back millions of years – to our ocean ancestors

Black Press Media and BraveFace have come together to support children facing life-threatening conditions. Net proceeds from these washable, reusable, three-layer masks go to Make-A-Wish Foundation BC & Yukon.
Put on a BraveFace: Mask fundraiser helps make children’s wishes come true

From Black Press Media + BraveFace – adult, youth and kid masks support Make-A-Wish Foundation

Colin McDowell, the director of land management for the Yukon government, pulls lottery tickets at random during a Whistle Bend property lottery in Whitehorse on Sept. 9, 2019. A large amount of lots are becoming available via lottery in Whistle Bend as the neighbourhood enters phase five of development. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Lottery for more than 250 new Whistle Bend lots planned for January 2021

Eight commercial lots are being tendered in additional to residential plots

The Government of Yukon Main Administration Building in Whitehorse on Aug. 21. The Canada Border Services Agency announced Nov. 26 that they have laid charges against six people, including one Government of Yukon employee, connected to immigration fraud that involved forged Yukon government documents. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News file)
Charges laid in immigration fraud scheme, warrant out for former Yukon government employee

Permanent residency applications were submitted with fake Yukon government documents

Whitehorse City Hall. (Joel Krahn/Yukon News file)
City hall, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council this week

Most Read