On Nov. 9, 2012, S-CAP staged a sit-in in Bartolucci's office to protest cuts to a provincial social assistance program called the Community Maintenance and Startup Fund (CSUMB).
When they refused to leave after being ordered to do so by Greater Sudbury Police, 11 of the S-CAP members were arrested.
Six members of what the group has coined the “S-CAP 11” were back at Bartolucci's office again Oct. 18 as part of another protest of the CSUMB cuts.
Their reappearance at the MPP's office comes in advance of two upcoming court dates — Oct. 28 and 31 — related to the trespassing charges levelled against them after last year's incident.
In their most recent visit to the office, they were accompanied by only one plainclothes police officer, and nobody was arrested.
Bartolucci's receptionist listened as the protesters delivered a statement about the cuts in English and French. The staff member said her boss wasn't in the office, but she'd ensure he got a written copy of the statement.
“Why, rather than talk to us, did Mr. Bartolucci allow us to be arrested last Nov. 9?” the statement said.
“We were here in this constituency office to speak with you, Mr. Bartolucci, about a very important issue. You were in the back room, and were aware of us being here. But instead of coming out to talk to us, you decided to let the police arrest us.”
Outside, about 50 protesters chanted anti-poverty slogans, waved signs and even staged street theatre with a dummy resembling Bartolucci. When the S-CAP 11 emerged from the office, the crowd cheered.
Laurentian University sociology professor Gary Kinsman, one of the S-CAP 11, quipped that at least the dummy listens to him.
The protesters the marched through the streets of downtown Sudbury, chanting outside of the provincial building and inside Tom Davies Square, where curious city workers watched from upper levels.
CSUMB previously provided $800 for individuals or $1,500 for families on Ontario Works or Ontario Disability Support Program every 24 months for things such as last month's rent, hydro arrears or new furniture.
According to S-CAP, it allowed people to flee domestic violence, prevent homelessness or replace furniture infested with bedbugs, containing mould or that had been simply worn out or outgrown by children.
But this past January, the program was downloaded to municipalities, which were not given any money to administer it.
After an outcry by groups such as S-CAP, the province provided municipalities $42 million in bridge funding for 2013. But this funding dries up in 2014, and S-CAP said it fears what's coming once that happens.
The municipal program replacing CSUMB, termed the Community Homelessness Prevention Initiative (CHPI), is inferior, according to S-CAP.
“This year, we have seen people trying to have their start-up maintenance and housing needs met turned away and told there was no longer a benefit they could access,” a S-CAP statement said.
“We have seen a pregnant mother facing eviction headed for homelessness because the city would not cover last month's rent for her to get a new place to live.”
Ward 3 Coun. Claude Berthiaume, who spoke at a rally in Memorial Park before the protests, said the city tried to maintain the benefit this year, but he's not sure how well it succeeded.
Council passed a motion back in December 2012 asking the province to reconsider the cuts, he said.
“I don't believe we have received a reply,” he said. “We were given some money for transitional for the next couple of years, but it's not enough to provide the full benefit.”
He said the topic will come up again at a community services meeting Oct. 21, where city councillors will again make a plea to the province to reconsider the cuts.
S-CAP's latest visit to Bartolucci's office was part of a full week of anti-poverty actions across the province.
The week will wrap up in Sudbury Oct. 19 with a rally beginning at 2 p.m. at Sudbury Secondary School's Sheridan Auditorium.
Among the guest speakers will be Ontario Federation of Labour
president Sid Ryan.
Given that the event will focus on the province's interest in imposing workfare on those on ODSP, there will then be a march led by those with disabilities, Kinsman said.