Letter to the Editor

End the dithering Open letter to Health and Social Services Minister Brad Cathers: Last week, your government proclaimed Homelessness Action Week…

End the dithering

Open letter to Health and Social Services Minister Brad Cathers:

Last week, your government proclaimed Homelessness Action Week to focus attention on the need to address the serious problem of poverty and homelessness in the territory.

During that week, the world had also commemorated the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

With these events in mind, the NDP caucus would like to take this opportunity to urge you to take swift and decisive action to improve the plight of Yukon individuals and families who are reliant on social assistance.

The Yukon’s social assistance rates have not been increased for 15 years, yet the cost of living has risen by 26 per cent over that same period.

Earlier last week, you stated publicly that “…the department of Health and Social Services is conducting the most significant review of the social assistance program that has been conducted since its inception, reviewing not only the adequacy of social assistance rates but what impediments are in place that prevent those [on] social assistance from entering the work force.”

With respect, Cathers, the time for reviews and studies is long since past.

It is time for action.

Every month of delay means another month that single mothers and others on social assistance face the necessity to scrimp on food in order to pay their rent in a market that is becoming increasingly expensive.

Every month of delay means another month where children from families on social assistance are achieving below their potential at school because their basic nutritional needs are not being met.

Every month of delay means that single parents are raising their children in overcrowded hotel rooms, or rental accommodations that may be barely fit for human occupation.

It does not take extensive reviews to realize that the current rates are woefully out of line with the reality of housing costs in the Yukon, not to mention the increasing costs of food, clothing and other basic necessities.

The Yukon government continues to enjoy a very healthy balance sheet. As legislators, we have no moral justification to continue ignoring the plight of the poor and homeless in our society.

Thursday, the Yukon legislative assembly will reconvene. One of the principal items we will be discussing is a supplementary budget for the current fiscal year.

We urge you and your cabinet colleagues to ensure that this supplementary budget includes a substantial increase in the basic allowance for food, clothing and incidentals, as well as an increase in the accommodation allowance that brings it more closely in line with the current reality of rental and housing costs in the territory.

Once that first step is taken, we urge you to direct your department to fast-track the current review of social assistance rates, so that those who require this social safety net can live in dignity, health and genuine hope that they and their children will be able to break free of the destructive and depressing cycle of poverty.

John Edzerza, NDP Health & Social Services critic, Todd Hardy, leader NDP Caucus, Steve Cardiff, MLA Mount Lorne

Sled dog advocacy?

Some of you in Whitehorse may have seen the posters put up by Terry Cumming, opposing the Yukon Quest in particular and mushing in general, due to what Terry claims is the cruelty of the sport.

I know Cumming well, and have just ignored his nonsense up until yesterday when I read his letter to the editor in which he trashes the person/people who is/are tearing down his posters, calling them “very cowardly.”

I’ve discovered that for some reason Whitehorse has no bylaws preventing him or anyone else from posting up such posters on light poles or trash bins, though they’re every bit as obnoxious as that of any of the other brainless “taggers” in this town.

If Cumming chose to target the places where dog cruelty actually takes place (or animal cruelty in other forms), I’d continue to ignore him or maybe even support what he’s doing, but targeting mushers just puts my blood on low simmer.

Any of you who know huskies know that you cannot force a husky to run.

They love to run, and when they feel like quitting they do — period.

Mushers don’t beat their dogs to make them run. Yes, they live much of their lives tethered to their doghouses — how is that any worse than the way much of the human population lives? (No, I certainly do not include myself in that number).

Sled dogs get high-quality meals a couple of times a day — how many million people in the world can only dream about being that lucky?

Check out a few of the Yukon/Alaska mushers’ websites for photos of their dogs and compare them to any number of photos you’ll see on tonight’s news — who is healthier, who is having a better life?

Sticking to dog cruelty, though, Cumming needs to focus on the problem that he knows well from his years working with the Mae Bachur shelter — people who refuse to spay or neuter their animals.

How many sled dogs die each year doing what they love to do compared to the number of dogs who are ploughed under at the Whitehorse garbage dump every year because nobody wants them?

How many who do survive end up on apartment balconies or tied in backyards with no exercise, minimal food and no love?

I see professional mushers who even have chiropractors to help keep their dogs in shape — how many of you have ever taken your dog to a chiropractor?

Cumming, get a life — I haven’t been one of the people who tears down your posters, but I’m going to start.

As you stated in your letter to the editor that your “freedom of expression” allows you to put up those posters, my freedom of expression allows me to take them down.

Murray Lundberg