The Yukon Anti-Poverty Coalition had its summer barbecue earlier this week.
Threatening weather and cool temperatures kept it indoors this year.
Still well over 100 people came to enjoy the hamburgers, sausage and hot dogs offered along with the potluck array of salads and desserts.
Held once every three months, these seasonal gatherings offer the coalition the opportunity to be actively present to that portion of the community it is seeking to serve: Yukoners experiencing the crippling effects of poverty.
Almost always these community meals serve as a ‘reality check,’ a time to hear in the informal conversations which take place over a plate of food what is really on people’s minds.
Often it just means sharing a casual greeting or hello with people you usually see only on the street.
One fellow whom I had served with on a community board a few years back came by.
For the last couple of years he has been having a rough time. Alcohol has grabbed a hold on him and just won’t let go.
Alienated from his family by this addiction, he has been cast out onto our streets. In his voice you can hear frustration and even anger at times, but these can’t completely mask the decency and basic integrity at the core of his character.
He is a father just like me.
Father is a value-laden word.
Each of us, male or female, is the ‘father’ of our own destiny. We are the ones who have to accept responsibility for the course our own lives have taken and our impact on those around us. However, the larger community obviously has a role to play here as well.
Societal prejudices, institutional constraints and structural biases are among the factors that can impede or even bring to a screeching halt healthy, empowering personal development.
Our federal government’s residential school apology on Wednesday recognized that in this one area its past actions created a wave of social damage whose consequences persist to this day.
In what other areas has government at all levels failed us?
A host of intentional, concrete actions have created the society we live in now.
The massive cutbacks in social programs during the Chrétien government worsened the conditions for the poor across Canada.
A lack of resolve by its successors failed to check growing negative results of these legislated moves. Among other outcomes, inaction insured the continuation of the scourge of child poverty.
Results are clear here.
For example the lack of funding for and commitment to social housing has had a real impact here in our territory in the growing deficit in affordable housing.
Apologies for past injustices are important.
Actions, however, to address the social liabilities incurred must be initiated.
Without these, any good words will prove hollow.
Peter Maurin, co-founder of the Catholic Worker Movement and a street philosopher proposed a simple antidote for our social malaise.
“We need to make the kind of society,” he simply and clearly said, “where it is easier for people to be good.”
On Father’s Day this Sunday, maybe should go beyond the simple biological fact of fatherhood and reflect on our joint responsibility to ‘father’ the kind of society we need today.
Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse.