Even though Indigenous women are only 2% of the women in the lower mainland, they comprised more than 30% of the women who called us looking for safe shelter for themselves and their children.
Since the beginning of this year, 466 women called our crisis line looking for shelter, 130 of them were Indigenous. Approximately two-thirds of the Indigenous women who called us are on income assistance. This basically means that they are poor.
It has been well established that poverty increases the vulnerability of women to being attacked in their homes, on the job, on public transit, and on the street. It has also been well established that poverty prevents women from leaving abusive relationships, forces women to stay in poorly paid jobs where they are objectified, exploited and harassed, and that it is a key coercive factor in women resorting to prostitution. Poverty means that women have very few options, sometimes, none.
There is plenty of research that demonstrates that the price of poverty in monetary value is actually higher than the cost of elevating people from poverty due to the burden it creates on the healthcare and criminal justice systems.
But even if this wasn’t the case, poverty is an unacceptable reality. We live in a wealthy country and an equal share of its wealth would mean that no one has to go without nutritious food, adequate housing and all the other basic necessities one is entitled to, by virtue of being a human being.
The welfare system, across Canada, has not only kept people entrenched in poverty but has also stripped them of their dignity. The premise of the welfare system is to provide as little as possible to as few people as possible.
“Welfare is like a super-sexist marriage. You trade in a man for the man. But you can’t divorce him if he treats you bad. He can divorce you, of course, cut you off anytime he wants… The man, the welfare system, controls your money. He tells you what to buy, what not to buy, where to buy it, and how much things cost. If things-rent, for instance-really cost more than he says they do, it’s just too bad for you. He’s always right” -Johnnie Tillmon, 1972
Research has revealed that when people have unconditional secured livable income, they use their time to do good by their families and communities.
“I’m now convinced that the simplest approach will prove to be the most effective – the solution to poverty is to abolish it directly by a now widely discussed measure: the guaranteed income… The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he knows that he has the means to seek self-improvement” -Martin Luther King Jr., 1967
We support the demand for a dramatic increase of income assistance rates as a temporary measure of financial support for those in need. But in the long run, we believe we are better off with a profoundly different mechanism that will provide people with their economic needs.
We support the demand for livable wage but we reject the idea that a paid job should be a condition for adequate income.
Ultimately, we are calling for Guaranteed Livable Income with the following principles:
We are willing to organize, host and/or participate in a national consultation of economic and feminist experts to produce a concrete scheme for the mechanism of delivering Guaranteed Livable Income.
We believe that the application of this concept will ensure that no one, let alone women and in this context Indigenous women, suffers from economic hardship and poverty.
Read Vancouver Rape Relief’s full Submission to the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls
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