Wednesday, November 22, 2000

Housing Strategy Action

National Housing Strategy Day of Action

Hamilton ON, November 22, 2000

Today at noon Santa and 20 or so elves who are also supporters of Hamilton Action for Social Change, Homes Not Bombs, and Christian Peacemaker Teams, visited Hamilton West Liberal MP Stan Keyes' campaign office on James St. S., Hamilton.

The group invited the Canadian government to "give the gift of affordable housing" to the 1.3 million Canadian children and their families living in poverty.

MP Stan came out of his office when he spotted the ONTV camera and made a speech extolling all of the goodies his party had promised to the homeless and those in danger of losing their shelter. He promised that things would be better for the poor of Hamilton somewhere in the future, because Homeless Minister Claudette Bradshaw had interviewed homeless people two years ago.

Santa reminded MP Stan that we were there to promote the 1% solution, that 1% ($2 billion) of Canada's GDP be spent to eliminate poverty by providing affordable housing as Canada's MP's pledged to do more than a decade ago. Santa also said that this small group was there in solidarity with the National Housing Strategy Day of Action taking place across Canada today.

Santa and his elves presented MP Keyes with a cardboard replica of an apartment building along with some readings from the UN's Declaration of Human Rights, which guarantee housing as a human right.
The group quoted Martin Luther King Jr., who said that "A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on the military than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death."

They then pointed out to the MP that in the fiscal year 2000-2001 Canada will spend $11.2 billion on war, and zero dollars on new affordable housing construction to address the national crisis of homelessness.

Canada annually spends over $80 million enforcing sanctions which have killed over a million Iraqis. That money could have provided for over 2,000 affordable housing units.

Mr Keyes was presented with the cardboard affordable housing unit and these words:
"In order to remind Mr Keyes that his government must radically alter priorities, we present you with this gift, a model of decent affordable housing so desperately needed to save the spiritual soul of Canada. We vow to see that whoever is elected will not avoid their responsibility to ensure affordable housing for all. We intend to hold the government accountable. Happy Holidays!"
The group ended the visit by singing the hymn "Amazing Grace" with lyrics by poet Allen Ginsberg, words that referred to homelessness and its alleviation [lyrics reprinted below] 

AMAZING GRACE

I dreamed I dwelled in a homeless place
Where I was lost alone
Folk look right through me into space
And passed with eyes of stone
O homeless hand on many a street
Accept this change from me
A friendly smile or word is sweet
As fearless charity
Woe working[folk] who hear the cry
And will not spare a dime
Nor look into a homeless eye
Afraid to give the time

So rich or poor no gold to talk
A smile on your face
The homeless ones where you may walk
Receive amazing grace

[repeat first stanza]

Friday, July 21, 2000

JUSTICE DEPARTS

JP EXCUSES HERSELF FROM PROTEST CASE
Postpones trial of five who occupied MPP's office

Friday, July 21, 2000 The Hamilton Spectator/A9
By JOHN BURMAN The Hamilton Spectator
STONEY CREEK


A Hamilton Justice of the Peace has excused herself from the trespassing trial of five social activists following their bid to be heard in provincial offences court yesterday.
She also sent a police officer after a spectator who swore out loud when she adjourned the case to November.
Justice Wendy Casey said she was removing herself from the case in order to eliminate any perception of unfairness.
Casey remanded the case until Nov. 27 after members of Hamilton Action for Social Change told her they were prepared to admit the facts against them in order to explain why they occupied Stoney Creek MPP Brad Clark's office April 3 in a non-violent protest against Ontario welfare laws.
Andrew Loucks, Randy Kay, Wendell Fields and Scott Neigh of the Hamilton Group and Matthew Behrens of Toronto Action for Social Change were charged with failing to leave a premise after they occupied Clark's King Street East office in Stoney Creek for 90 minutes. Police carried one of the protesters from the office.
The group is opposed to the provincial government's policy of zero tolerance on welfare fraud, which went into effect April 1 and denies benefits to anyone convicted of welfare fraud.
"We will agree with the facts of the case," Fields [sic] told the court. "It is a very simple case. We are willing to concede we were there and explain."
Casey told the five accused that would amount to a guilty plea. When she questioned their understanding of such an act, Fields started to leave and was called back.
A moment later, a spectator jumped up and shouted, then stormed out of the courtroom. A police officer brought him back.
Members of the group told Casey they understood the implications of agreeing to the Crown's facts in the case.
Some of the accused are quite familiar with public protests and their consequences.
Perhaps the most colourful is Behrens. He's been known to dress up as the Easter Bunny or Santa's Elf No. 2. He has taken canned food from the shelves of a downtown Toronto Loblaw's store and dumped it in the store's food bank bin to protest the company's political donations to Premier Mike Harris's Tories. He also participated in an attempt to perform a citizen's arrest on former United States secretary of state Henry Kissenger when he was in Toronto in May of last year.
Fields, Kay and Loucks were involved with the 1999 Father's Day Coalition for Peace protest at the Hamilton Airshow. Fields has in the past sought election as Hamilton mayor and as an MPP in the Hamilton West riding. He, along with Behrens and Kay, was also involved in a sit-in at Heritage Minister Sheila Copps' Hamilton office in February 1998.
As soon as she set the Nov. 27 date for trial, Casey excused herself from the trial and told the court clerk to make sure her wishes were noted on that day's trial list.
Once the trial date was settled, Casey called Andrew Sedgley to the front of the bench and asked him what he was doing shouting epithets at the court. Sedgley--who apparently is not a member of Action for Social Change in either Hamilton or Toronto, told the court he made an immature response and apologized. Casey accepted his apology.
Scott Neigh, spokesperson for Hamilton Action for Social Change, said in an interview outside the court that the group is a loose-knit organization with about 15 regular members. But it has had between 50 and 60 people out to participate in various demonstrations. Neigh, a freelance writer and broadcaster, said the membership consists of a mix of people who believe in social justice. Most members are between 20 and 50 years old. Neigh also said the group is not affiliated with Toronto Action for Social Change "but we have been known to cooperate in the past." After the sit-in at Clark's Stoney Creek office, Wey Robinson, a member of Hamilton Action for Social Change, said the group wished to protest Ontario welfare policies because of a lifetime benefit ban on anyone who's been convicted of welfare fraud "is immoral and unjust."
The group believes that there aren't enough welfare recipients who commit fraud to justify such a draconian policy, and that it will cost more money to care for people forced off welfare.
The group believes the policy violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and will hurt children, even though the government says portions of benefits which would have been paid to support the children of banned recipients will continue.


LOFTY POLITICAL DEFENCE FELL FLAT
Hamilton Spectator, December 7, 2000.

Five social activists who occupied the constituency office of Stoney Creek MPP Brad Clark last spring to protest changes in provincial welfare regulations were all fined $300 Monday in provincial offences court.
Andrew Loucks, Randy Kay, Wendell Fields, Scott Neigh and Matthew Behrens were found guilty of trespassing by justice of the peace Donald Stevely.
In a trial that saw one JP excuse herself from hearing the case, they all admitted the trespass but challenged whether it constituted a punishable offence. Conducting their own defence they cited everything from the Nuremberg trials to the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights as justification for their actions, arguing a democratic society should tolerate, not penalize, such actions.
In the end Stevely was buying none of it. "You are not making any protest that will be heard," he told the five men, "you're just blowing in the wind and causing a problem."
In his submission on sentencing, Behrens told the court "just because the law's the law, doesn't mean that sometimes there can't be citizen intervention to uphold higher international laws and international standards. We'll probably be seeing a lot of you again in this court because we can't simply be deterred by a fine or the threat of punishment."
In imposing the $300 fine, Stevely asked each if they required time to pay, four said they didn't intend to pay--Kay said he would go to jail before paying the fine. The fifth, Fields, asked for 10 years.
Stevely ignored their remarks and made no mention of the consequences of not paying the fine.
Chances of any of them going to jail are slim. Generally, unpaid fines for provincial offences other than the Highway Traffic Act, are turned over [to] a collection agency after 30 days.
The men were charged last April after police were called to Clark's King Street East office to disperse a group protesting the government's "zero tolerance policy on welfare fraud. Court was told they were arrested only after they refused to leave the office. Two had to be carried out by police.
In their defence, they argued they were merely citizens obliged to obey international law.
Stevely, although generally lenient in allowing political overtones to colour the defence, rejected it all. "This is about trespassing and leaving a premise," he said. "Pure and simple."

Monday, June 19, 2000

22 arrested at Hamilton War Show

Fathers Day Coalition for Peace

1280 Main Street West, Box 19

Hamilton ON L8S 1C0


FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE June 19, 2000



Hamilton War Show Suffers Serious Setback from Combination of Nonviolent Direct Action, Alternative Festival of Life, and Mother Nature; 22 Activists Arrested and Criminally Charged; War Show Faces Major Financial Losses



In what has proven a significant weekend in the new effort to end the 26-year-old Hamilton War Show, a combination of nonviolent protest and resultant traffic tie-ups on Saturday, June 17, and rain on Sunday, June 18, may prove too much for the financially unstable institution to continue its annual homage to planes whose only purpose is mass murder from the air.

A testament to the seriousnessness with which the City of Hamilton treated the protests was reflected in criminal charges and severe bail restrictions. But by the time the last resister was released from jail at 3:30 pm on Sunday, war show organizers were no doubt left wondering what the future looked like considering two crucial factors: given that the Sunday is usually a bigger turnout than the Saturday, a huge source of revenue was lost through the rainout. In addition, the massive traffic jams on Saturday, which were partly credited to the protests, caused numerous cars to turn around, with drivers perhaps thinking Sunday might be a better try. (Later, war show organizers admitted Saturday attendance was actually down from last year, a sign attendees hoped to avoid the protests).

Even more important was the fact that, despite the usual catcalls and verbal threats from the truly dedicated war show fans, thousands of attendees were actually reading the flyers handed to them during their stay in the traffic jam, and some engaged in dialogue with the clowns, grannies and others who were eager to discuss their opposition to the exhibition. For the first time, many of these folks had to consider why they unquestioningly attended something innocently labelled family entertainment each Fathers Day Weekend, to ask themselves how one family's entertainment could represent another family's terror and tragedy.

The War Show, which goes by the friendly moniker "air show", features such events as "Kiddie Commando", in which little children dress up as soldiers in camouflage with facepaint and play war on an obstacle course with real soldiers sporting large water guns, "toy" grenades and military camouflage and facepaint. It is one of the largest displays of aerial firepower each summer in North America, with a range of criminal warplanes from the air forces of Canada, the U.S. and U.K.

Thursday, June 15, 2000

war show countdown

WAR SHOW BACKGROUND: A CHRONOLOGY


The decision to engage in nonviolent direct action against the Hamilton War Show comes out of a lengthy year-long process of attempted negotiation, educational efforts, lobbying, letter-writing, and more. Details are listed below.

June 9, 1999. The Fathers Day Coalition for Peace, following on the decision by Montreal War Show organizers to cancel their air show in respect for the victims of the bombing of the former Yugoslavia, write a Letter to Hamilton Air Show Board asking them to cancel show: "we hope you agree that the horror of all wars that have taken fathers from their wives and children make Fathers Day an inappropriate time to celebrate war"

June 20, 1999. Five people arrested and charged with trespassing for standing in front of an A-10 warplane while praying and holding a vigil for victims of militarism. The arrests generate a significant debate in the Hamilton-area media, with numerous letters to the editor and an opinion peace by arrestee Murray Lumley.

October 16, 1999 "A wing and a prayer" evening peace celebration in support of the "Father's Day Five" featuring performances by Bob Wiseman, Selina Martin, Tim McCarroll Butler and Raging Grannies. Debut of the video documenting the 1999 protest at the air show "Target audience: Children, War and the Hamilton International Air Show."

October 18, 1999 First Court appearance for Father's Day Five&endash;remanded.

December 20, 1999 Second Court appearance--charges quashed. "We can only conclude they didn't want us to be heard," concludes the coalition.

February 3, 2000 Call to Close the War Show goes out to activists. across Ontario.

February 11, 2000 Representatives of the Fathers Day Coalition for Peace refused permission to speak at the Hamilton-Wentworth Regional Grants Committee about the $100,000 regional grant money that goes to the air show.

February 14, 2000 "Death" visits the Regional Council meeting during a vigil/demonstration at city hall. The issue of war show's militarism is raised by Dundas Mayor John Addison: "those aircraft are built solely for one purpose, and that's to kill as many people as possible & those bombs cannot distinguish between civilians and military personnel; or children, women, elderly, and people carrying a gun." $100,000 Grant is nevertheless awarded to the War Show.

February 15, 2000 Letter to War Show Board sent asking for them to discuss our concerns, and to cancel the militarized show. "We are writing to ask you to cancel the yearly event known as 'the Hamilton International Air Show.' Our primary reason for this request is rooted in a concern about the overly militaristic nature of the Air Show. Indeed, a more truthful name for this annual display of military air power would be the Hamilton International War Show, since clearly war is what is celebrated each year."

March 1, 2000 Brabant Papers carry editorial supporting Father's Day Coalition for Peace's position: "the people of Hamilton-Wentworth are subsidizing an event that is little more than a trade show for the U.S. military industrial complex."

March 1, 2000 Letter writing campaign to have Revenue Canada look at the War Show's charitable status begins. "The HIAS does not fulfil any of the purposes that would qualify it for charitable status. Clearly the Show is not relieving poverty (1) or advancing religion (2). Nor is it a "benefit" to community (4). It could be argued that the War Show's insensitive display of weapons used against soldiers and civilians alike is in fact a detriment rather than a benefit to communities since this technology has decimated numerous such communities. The HIAS should not qualify as "advancing education"(3) for two reasons: they do not provide "significant training or instruction," nor do they provide "a full and fair presentation of the facts."

March 22, 2000 Letter refusing dialogue sent to Fathers Day Coalition for Peace by War Show board of directors chair Wayne Thompson. "We have no intention of excluding any type of aircraft from this celebration, especially military aircraft that contribute to our security and defend your freedom to express your personal opinions. On the matter of opinions, evidently, we have fundamental differences that are not likely to be resolved in the dialogue you propose concerning 'other possibilities.'"

March 23 onward Individual Coalition members write responses to Thompson's refusal. "To close the Hamilton War show will not be an act of hatred or violence. No, it will be an act of love, and a gift not just to the many children whose parents will be participating in the protests, but also to those children who will not, for this year, be allowed to dress up as child soldiers and play mock battles with Canadian soldiers in your "Kiddie Commando."

April 14, 2000 Letters sent to local media asking them to re-consider their sponsorship of the War Show. "Like education, media coverage should entail a full and fair presentation of the facts. We wonder if you will be able to provide unbiased and fair coverage of a controversial community event like the HIAS if you are simultaneously sponsoring the event."

April 20, 2000 Fathers Day Coalition for Peace members receive registered letters from War Show's Wayne Thompson warning against non-violent disruptions. "No interference with the functioning of the show will be tolerated, regardless of the motivation for the disruption. Any interference with any aspect of the show will result in immediate eviction from the site." The letters are cc-ed to Hamilton police

April 25, 2000 Santa Claus, Easter Bunny leaflet at war show offices, asking for dialogue. The doors to the offices are locked.

May 4, 2000 War show closes their web site "guest book" after receiving messages of peace and comments critical of the show's militarism.

May 12, 2000 Letter faxed to Glanbrook Town Council requesting information about by-laws for a proposed event at a Mount Hope restaurant parking lot.

May 29, 2000 Public Event at Hamilton Public Library featuring Eldon Comfort (87-year-old WWII Veteran), Matthew Behrens (Father's Day Coalition) and Joanna Santa Barbara (Child Psychiatrist, Physicians for Global Survival) War Show invited to speak; refused to send representative.

May 31, 2000 Public Event at Burlington Central Library featuring Murray Lumley (Father's Day Coalition) and Joanna Santa Barbara. War show invited, refused to send representative.

June 10, 2000 Father's Day Coalition for Peace holds a non-violence, civil disobedience training in Hamilton to prepare for June 17 protests. In New York City the same day, an international "people's tribunal" declared NATO countries (including Canada) guilty of war crimes and crimes against humanity for the 78-day bombing campaign against the people of the former Yugoslavia. Judges include Ben Dupuy, Former Ambassador at Large for Haiti under the first government of Jean-Bertrand Aristide, Member of Spanish Parliament, Angeles Maestro Martin, Turkish Human Rights Association member Cimile Cakir, former Italian Senator Raniero La Valle, Dr. Wolfgang Richter, who is Chairperson of the Society for the Protection of Civil Rights and Human Dignity in Germany, and Michael Ratner of the U.S. Center for Constitutional Rights. Former U.S. Attorney General Ramsey Clark led the prosecution.

June 12, 2000 Glanbrook Council finally sends a letter with by-laws, a month after the original request and only five days before the event.

Monday, April 3, 2000

FIVE 0

ACTIVISTS OCCUPY MPP'S OFFICE OVER ZERO TOLERANCE
44 King Street East, Stoney Creek

Monday, April 3, 2000


Minutes ago, members of Hamilton Action for Social Change began non-violently sitting-in at the office of Brad Clark, MPP.
We are asking that:
1) The zero tolerance policy for welfare fraud be rescinded immediately;

2) Welfare rates be restored to their pre-1995 levels;

3) The government terminate its relationship with Andersen Consulting;

and; 4) Because the oppression faced by poor people includes the abysmal conditions at the lower end of the labour market, that the minimum wage be increased.

As concerned citizens, we attempted to initiate dialogue with Clark, the only government member in Hamilton-Wentworth. Our attempts met with silence. Given this reluctance to discuss our concerns, the urgency of the issue, and the very real suffering caused by this government's welfare policies, we feel that we have no choice but to non-violently occupy Clark's office.
We object to zero tolerance because:
1) It is unnecessary. According to the Region of Hamilton-Wentworth, no one in this area has ever been convicted a second time for defrauding Ontario Works. In fact, the overall rate of fraud is miniscule: in 1999, out of a local caseload of 14,000 people, there were only 41 convictions.

2) It will cost more money than it will save. People in need who are denied benefits stand a good chance of ending up on the streets, in the emergency shelter system, and in the food bank system. Per person, these are much more expensive alternatives than Ontario Works.

3) It violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights, articles 22 and 25.1.

4) It targets children. The government says that the portion of payments designated for the children of people denied benefits under this law will still be paid, but it is ridiculous to say that children will be unaffected. Landlords are not going to evict parents and let children stay.

5) It is happening in a general context of a war against the poor. It is designed to intimidate, when we should be helping.

Zero tolerance is demagoguery in action. At heart this issue is about the suffering of human beings, and it is being manipulated by this government to serve political ends.


5 CHARGED AT STONEY CREEK SIT-IN
Protesters at MPP's office object to policy on welfare fraud

Hamilton Spectator, Tuesday April 4, 2000 [page A2]
By Nick Lewis Special to the Spectator


Five members of the Hamilton Action for Social Change were arrested yesterday after staging a non-violent sit-in at the Stoney Creek office of MPP Brad Clark.
The members were arrested for trespassing an hour and a half after walking into the lobby.
The group opposed the provincial government's zero-tolerance on welfare fraud policy which took effect April 1.
"It is a lifetime ban on anyone who�s had any welfare fraud, and we think that�s immoral and unjust," said Wey Robinson, one of the members.
Prior to the new policy, recipients charged for welfare fraud received a three-month suspension of benefits on the first offence, and a six-month suspension on subsequent charges. The new policy states any fraud will be result in an immediate and absolute ban of privileges.
"The ban is unnecessary," Robinson said. "No one in this region has ever been convicted a second time for defrauding Ontario Works. And last year only 41 people out of 14,000 were charged for fraud."
Until two weeks ago the community services and public health committee for Hamilton-Wentworth had considered continuing social assistance to those charged with fraud after the new law took effect, But they recanted their offer and instead asked the province to reconsider the policy.
The protesting group had other concerns as well. It asked that welfare amounts be increased to its pre-Harris government rates. In 1995, when Mike Harris became premier, he slashed welfare payments by 21.5 per cent.
Protesters also asked that the amount for minimum wage be increased and that the government terminate its relationship with Anderson Consulting, an accounting firm that charged the Tories $55 million to find $66 million in welfare savings.
Clark said he tried to arrange a meeting with the group prior to the sit-in, but was refused.
"I�m not sure what their point is," he said, adding he thought it was a publicity stunt.
"All the legislation is saying is if you commit fraud then one of the repercussions may be a lifetime ban. If you have a problem with it, don�t commit fraud.
"I don�t agree with their other concerns either. Ontario�s welfare rates are the highest in the country, Anderson Consulting has helped us find savings, and we don�t need a higher minimum wage."


JP EXCUSES HERSELF FROM PROTEST CASE
Postpones trial of five who occupied MPP's office

Friday, July 21, 2000 The Hamilton Spectator/A9
By JOHN BURMAN The Hamilton Spectator
STONEY CREEK


A Hamilton Justice of the Peace has excused herself from the trespassing trial of five social activists following their bid to be heard in provincial offences court yesterday.
She also sent a police officer after a spectator who swore out loud when she adjourned the case to November.
Justice Wendy Casey said she was removing herself from the case in order to eliminate any perception of unfairness.
Casey remanded the case until Nov. 27 after members of Hamilton Action for Social Change told her they were prepared to admit the facts against them in order to explain why they occupied Stoney Creek MPP Brad Clark's office April 3 in a non-violent protest against Ontario welfare laws.
Andrew Loucks, Randy Kay, Wendell Fields and Scott Neigh of the Hamilton Group and Matthew Behrens of Toronto Action for Social Change were charged with failing to leave a premise after they occupied Clark's King Street East office in Stoney Creek for 90 minutes. Police carried one of the protesters from the office.
The group is opposed to the provincial government's policy of zero tolerance on welfare fraud, which went into effect April 1 and denies benefits to anyone convicted of welfare fraud.
"We will agree with the facts of the case," Fields [sic] told the court. "It is a very simple case. We are willing to concede we were there and explain."
Casey told the five accused that would amount to a guilty plea. When she questioned their understanding of such an act, Fields started to leave and was called back.
A moment later, a spectator jumped up and shouted, then stormed out of the courtroom. A police officer brought him back.
Members of the group told Casey they understood the implications of agreeing to the Crown's facts in the case.
Some of the accused are quite familiar with public protests and their consequences.
Perhaps the most colourful is Behrens. He's been known to dress up as the Easter Bunny or Santa's Elf No. 2. He has taken canned food from the shelves of a downtown Toronto Loblaw's store and dumped it in the store's food bank bin to protest the company's political donations to Premier Mike Harris's Tories. He also participated in an attempt to perform a citizen's arrest on former United States secretary of state Henry Kissenger when he was in Toronto in May of last year.
Fields, Kay and Loucks were involved with the 1999 Father's Day Coalition for Peace protest at the Hamilton Airshow. Fields has in the past sought election as Hamilton mayor and as an MPP in the Hamilton West riding. He, along with Behrens and Kay, was also involved in a sit-in at Heritage Minister Sheila Copps' Hamilton office in February 1998.
As soon as she set the Nov. 27 date for trial, Casey excused herself from the trial and told the court clerk to make sure her wishes were noted on that day's trial list.
Once the trial date was settled, Casey called Andrew Sedgley to the front of the bench and asked him what he was doing shouting epithets at the court. Sedgley--who apparently is not a member of Action for Social Change in either Hamilton or Toronto, told the court he made an immature response and apologized. Casey accepted his apology.
Scott Neigh, spokesperson for Hamilton Action for Social Change, said in an interview outside the court that the group is a loose-knit organization with about 15 regular members. But it has had between 50 and 60 people out to participate in various demonstrations. Neigh, a freelance writer and broadcaster, said the membership consists of a mix of people who believe in social justice. Most members are between 20 and 50 years old. Neigh also said the group is not affiliated with Toronto Action for Social Change "but we have been known to cooperate in the past." After the sit-in at Clark's Stoney Creek office, Wey Robinson, a member of Hamilton Action for Social Change, said the group wished to protest Ontario welfare policies because of a lifetime benefit ban on anyone who's been convicted of welfare fraud "is immoral and unjust."
The group believes that there aren't enough welfare recipients who commit fraud to justify such a draconian policy, and that it will cost more money to care for people forced off welfare.
The group believes the policy violates the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights and will hurt children, even though the government says portions of benefits which would have been paid to support the children of banned recipients will continue.


LOFTY POLITICAL DEFENCE FELL FLAT
Hamilton Spectator, December 7, 2000.

Five social activists who occupied the constituency office of Stoney Creek MPP Brad Clark last spring to protest changes in provincial welfare regulations were all fined $300 Monday in provincial offences court.
Andrew Loucks, Randy Kay, Wendell Fields, Scott Neigh and Matthew Behrens were found guilty of trespassing by justice of the peace Donald Stevely.
In a trial that saw one JP excuse herself from hearing the case, they all admitted the trespass but challenged whether it constituted a punishable offence. Conducting their own defence they cited everything from the Nuremberg trials to the UN's Universal Declaration of Human Rights as justification for their actions, arguing a democratic society should tolerate, not penalize, such actions.
In the end Stevely was buying none of it. "You are not making any protest that will be heard," he told the five men, "you're just blowing in the wind and causing a problem."
In his submission on sentencing, Behrens told the court "just because the law's the law, doesn't mean that sometimes there can't be citizen intervention to uphold higher international laws and international standards. We'll probably be seeing a lot of you again in this court because we can't simply be deterred by a fine or the threat of punishment."
In imposing the $300 fine, Stevely asked each if they required time to pay, four said they didn't intend to pay--Kay said he would go to jail before paying the fine. The fifth, Fields, asked for 10 years.
Stevely ignored their remarks and made no mention of the consequences of not paying the fine.
Chances of any of them going to jail are slim. Generally, unpaid fines for provincial offences other than the Highway Traffic Act, are turned over [to] a collection agency after 30 days.
The men were charged last April after police were called to Clark's King Street East office to disperse a group protesting the government's "zero tolerance policy on welfare fraud. Court was told they were arrested only after they refused to leave the office. Two had to be carried out by police.
In their defence, they argued they were merely citizens obliged to obey international law.
Stevely, although generally lenient in allowing political overtones to colour the defence, rejected it all. "This is about trespassing and leaving a premise," he said. "Pure and simple."

Wednesday, February 9, 2000

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT!

HOUSING IS A HUMAN RIGHT

The Committee is gravely concerned that such a wealthy country as Canada has allowed the problem of homelessness and inadequate housing to grow to such proportions that the mayors of Canada's ten largest cities have now declared homelessness a national disaster.

United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Ultimately, a great nation is a compassionate nation. No individual or nation can be great if it does not have a concern for the "least of these."
Martin Luther King Jr.



Z e r o % C i t y ?

INSIST THAT THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT TAKE ACTION ON HOMELESSNESS: SUPPORT THE 1% SOLUTION.


Homes not Bombs Hamilton invite you to attend ZERO CITY, a cardboard community set up to demonstrate that a government not willing to implement the 1% solution to homelessness is preparing the way for increased misery in our communities. ZERO CITY will set up in front of Liberal M.P. John Bryden's constituency office Wednesday afternoon (February 9, 2000) at 5:00 p.m.

ZERO CITY hopes to draw attention to the fact that a motion before the House of Parliament (M123), to be debated on Friday (February 11) at 1:30 p.m., is seen by many anti-poverty organizations as a desperately needed first step to addressing the serious crisis of lack of affordable housing.

"If the government doesn't seize this opportunity to address the lack of decent, affordable housing, they are dooming millions of people to a future of life on the streets, in places like Zero City. We need a 1% beginning, not a zero percent abandonment," says Homes Not Bombs spokesperson Gail Lorimer.

ZERO CITY will be constructed out of cardboard and found materials. Candlelight vigils will remind people that a lasting solution to homelessness needs the attention, and financial support of government. People are being encouraged to contact their MPs and ask them to support this motion.

Wentworth Burlington MP John Bryden's office is located at 2 King Street West in Dundas.

For More information about ZERO CITY please contact Gail Lorimer at (905) 634-7654

- - - -

NOTES FROM ZERO PERCENT CITY
Wednesday February 9, 2000. "Homeless: Studied to Death; Social Housing Now!"
 
A cardboard city sprang up in minutes outside Liberal MP (Wentworth/Burlington) John Bryden's constituency office in Dundas, Ontario today.
ZERO CITY, a "cardboard community" was set up by Homes Not Bombs Hamilton activists to draw attention to government inaction on the crisis of homelessness. A sign asking "Is 1% too much 2 ask?" highlighted the concern that a government not willing to implement the "1%" solution to homelessness is preparing the way for increased misery in our communities. The 1% motion, drafted by NDP member Libby Davies, states
"That, in the opinion of this House, the government should adopt a national housing strategy and housing supply program, in co-operation with the provinces, that recognizes housing as a human right and meets the goal of providing an additional 1% of federal budgetary spending to meet basic housing needs in Canada."
Many anti-poverty organizations see the 1% motion as a desperately needed first step to addressing the serious crisis of lack of affordable housing in Canada.
"If the government doesn't seize this opportunity to address the lack of decent, affordable housing, they are dooming millions of people to a future of life on the streets, in places like Zero City. We need a 1% beginning, not a zero percent abandonment," says Homes Not Bombs spokesperson Gail Lorimer.
Leaflets encouraged people to contact their MPs and ask them to support this motion, scheduled for debate on Friday, February 11 at 1:30 p.m. About 20 people attended Zero City, which ended with a candlelight vigil, as the names of people who have died homeless were read out. The refrain "people who have died homeless, who might have lived: 1% is not too much" was repeated at intervals.
54 Homes Not Bombs activists were arrested in Ottawa, November 12, 1999, for taking part in a non-violent demonstration attempting to convert the War Department into the Housing Department. Trials are pending. Homes Not Bombs (Hamilton) can be reached at hasc@tao.ca or by phoning (905) 627-2696 or (905) 528-5925. Homes Not Bombs Toronto can be reached at tasc@web.net or (416) 651-5800.


-30-



Dundas Star News, Wednesday, February 16, 2000

Bryden fingers Tories for homeless situation

Protesters are marching at wrong door, MP says

By Richard Leitner
Staff Writer Wentworth-Burlington Liberal MP John Bryden says protesters are choosing the wrong target by demonstrating outside his office for more money for social housing.
Rejecting their calls for his government to boost its spending on social housing, Mr. Bryden said the province is to blame for the growing number of homeless people in Ontario because it prefers cutting taxes over fulfilling its constitutional responsibility for housing.
"As far as I'm concerned, the protesters are protesting at the wrong door. They should be protesting at the door of the area MPPs" he said, calling homelessness a provincial disgrace. "We all want tax cuts, but the whole idea of having organized society is that you have to pay a certain amount of tax for a certain amount of service. And as a government decides not to provide a minimum service that is expected by the taxpayers, the taxpayers should expect to see consequences."
During an early evening protest outside his Dundas constituency office last week, a dozen people called on Bryden and his government to commit to a target of spending an extra one percent of the federal budget on housing - about $2 billion annually, double what it currently spends.
The Chretien government stopped building social housing in 1993, a move that cut the planned construction of 75,000 units by 1997. It recently committed an extra $305 million for housing shelters over three years, but has made no indication it will start building housing units again.
"It was declared a national disaster by the United Nations but they've done nothing" said Randy Kay, a Dundas resident who helped organize last week's demonstration.
"They've studied it to death, literally to death - people are dying all the time - and they're studying and they want to study it more. It's time to start taking small steps toward (solving the problem)."
A member of the group Homes Not Bombs, Mr Kay said the federal government didn't blink an eye in spending $500 million on the war in Yugoslavia, so political will, rather than money, is at the root of the problem.
"Someone's got to take responsibility, Who is the federal government supposed to be governing for, if not all the people?," he said, calling the one percent target reasonable.
But Mr. Bryden said homelessness is less the result of a housing shortage than the provinces closing of psychiatric hospital beds and "desperate" underfunding of existing shelters.
He said he opposes his government re-entering social housing construction because it is a provincial responsibility and will only lead to more federal bashing.
"I feel very strongly that this federal government, and I hope the (upcoming) budget reflects it, has to spend in the federal areas, and that the provinces spend in the provincial areas," Mr. Bryden said.
"Otherwise, we get blamed for not spending in areas of provincial responsibility at the same time as we're blamed for not cutting taxes. I can tell you up here in Ottawa, I think just about every Liberal backbencher is fed up dealing with Ontario. We're fed up with the fact that we're being blamed for what is entirely an Ontario responsibility."
While Wentworth-Burlington currently has no provincial representative, Stoney Creek Tory MPP Brad Clark aid he believes his government is doing more than its fair share to address homelessness. TREATMENT
The province has assumed financial and administrative responsibility for thousands of federal not-for-profit housing units, he said, calling the issue of psychiatric bed closures "a red herring" because discharged patients who refuse to take their medication cannot be forced into treatment.
"I think it's shameful that politicians from all levels of governments are still playing the blame game. It's the responsibility of municipalities, the province and the federal government to deal with the homeless issue," Mr. Clark said.
"I think everybody should be sitting down working together to solve the issue."
Murray Lumley, an Ancaster resident who also took part in the protest, said Canada is one of the few developed nations without a national housing strategy, something he blames on the current political climate.
"I think (federal Finance Minister) Paul Martin and the business leaders in Canada have gone the route of neo-liberalism or neo-conservatism that says the free market will take care of everything," he said.
"It doesn't work in the United States. They have a huge gap between the rich and the poor. It's not working here. I read things from Central and South America; it doesn't work there.
"The neo-liberal agenda creates millionaires, but basically takes away from the lowest income and most vulnerable people in every country. There has to be some sort of levelling and redistribution so that everybody tends to live, but I don't think we have the political will in Canada, even among the populace, to make it happen."

[Photo caption: PROTESTERS HOLD A candlelight vigil outside local Liberal MP John Bryden's office in honour of more than 40 homeless people who have died on the streets in recent years. The vigil was held to show support for calls for the federal government to boost spending on social housing.]