I went to city council that evening to show my support for strengthening enforcement of the Westray Act.
At the beginning of the meeting, I was caught off guard when council’s roll call was interrupted by members of SCAP (Sudbury Coalition Against Poverty). SCAP was protesting the lack of warm shelters for Sudbury’s homeless.
In particular, they were bringing light to the fact that Greater Sudbury’s city council seems to be ignoring this problem, while Toronto (and their crack-smoking mayor) has opened city hall to the homeless in the cold.
With record low temperatures this winter, SCAP was holding an impromptu demonstration asking for warm spaces for our homeless. In response, Mayor Marianne Matichuk quickly prompted council to leave the council chamber.
Thankfully (although not without sensing disapproval of the public) council chose to stay for the entire five- to 10-minute peaceful protest.
At one point during the SCAP protest, the entire gallery stood up and applauded.
It was spontaneous, so I can’t speak for everyone. However, I think it’s fair to say that we were acknowledging the fact that the members of SCAP were standing up on behalf the homeless.
Gandhi once said: “The true measure of any society can be found in how it treats its most vulnerable members.” I think the members of the gallery were all just proud to see Sudburians who were advocates of our city’s most vulnerable members.
After the peaceful protest, council made no comments – acknowledgements or otherwise — about what had just occurred. I recognize that there is a protocol and agenda to be followed, but let’s be honest, we’ve all been discussing the Sudbury deep-freeze over the past few weeks.
The SCAP protesters were shining a light on an ugly truth and it was met with callous disregard. That just disgusts me.
How do we show caring for our most vulnerable? Not by hiding from those who speak on their behalf. Not by pretending to ignore the problem.
Imagine complaining about how long it took to warm up your car during the drive to city council and then pretending that you don’t hear the worry of your neighbours when they ask where our homeless can take shelter.
It may be freezing outside for our homeless, but it’s even colder in Greater Sudbury city council.
president, Sudbury and District Labour Council