Weekly Blog March 7th

This first week of March was frigidly cold, very busy, and rewarding. I began by having the privilege of going to a concert at Centennial Hall in honour of the Amabile choir’s 30th anniversary. The concert performances by Orchestra London and the Amabile choir were incredible, brilliantly conducted, and joyful to hear. Centennial Hall was packed; everyone enjoyed the performances!

On Sunday evening I attended the tenth memorial anniversary of Rafic Hariri. Rafic was the Prime Minister of Lebanon, revered even in death for his commitment to peace, economic development, and rebuilding his country after years of devastating civil war. The Lebanese community of London honours him every year for his peaceful approach and integrity and as an example of what a leader should be.

On Monday I visited the Lambeth Legion, to celebrate a New Horizons grant I was able to help secure. The grant will allow the Legion to make important repairs to its facilities. The cost and demands for maintaining an old building is difficult, and members of the legion have difficulty keeping up with the costs. It was a privilege to help them secure the funds to continue the programing and social activities they offer veterans and members of the legion.

On Wednesday made my usual visit to Scotian Isle Bakery and Coffee Shop to visit with the veterans at their weekly get together.  Later I went to a morning and afternoon citizenship ceremonies where we welcomed 128 new Canadians from 32 countries. It was a joyful celebration presided by judge Larry Gravelle.

On Thursday I did an interview with The Current, which was interested in my bill C-282, that would change tax laws in order to remove taxes from feminine hygiene products. There has been a great deal of interest from across the country for this initiative. The idea was started more than 10 years ago by an NDP MP and about a month ago a resourceful young women named Jill Piebiak started a petition in support of this bill. In one month 55 000 people have signed the petition.  This initiative parallels a drive in the UK and Australia to get rid of taxes on feminine products. The current Government taxation system views feminine hygiene products as luxury items, not as ‘necessities.’ This is an unfair gender based tax and should be changed.

On Friday I went to the Canadian Mental Health conference, where London-Middlesex community partners and the Canadian Mental Health Association convened to discuss how to work together for the wellbeing of those struggling with mental health issues. Mental Health issues deprive 20% of our population the ability to live comfortably and productively in our communities. There are many implications and possible solutions we can offer those with mental health conditions, but first we simply must address the taboos and the lack of awareness surrounding mental health.

Then I went to a poverty simulation sponsored by Middlesex-London Health Unit, the United Way, Child and Youth Network, and the London Poverty Research Centre. The purpose of the simulation was to help leaders in the community and service providers to understand the barriers, frustrations and stresses, that people living in poverty face on a daily basis. The volunteers who organized the event replicated the difficulties experienced by people from various age groups and family configurations. Those who participated went through a four week cycle in which they had to cope with problems of homelessness, mounting debt, lack of gainful employment, and barriers to suitable services. What I discovered is that there is a real disconnect between the services and programs available in the community and those who need them most. While service providers clearly want to help, the limitations imposed on them undermine their ability to deliver meaningful and effective solutions. Despite the fact it was only a few hours, I had a sense of the frustration and exhaustion of those who live with poverty every day. I felt disempowered, disenfranchised, frustrated, invisible, and exhausted. I great part of that frustration is realizing that there are solutions and if there was political will we could begin the task of eliminating poverty.

Friday evening I attended an annual update meeting for the work going on for the Veterans Memorial Parkway Community Program. This group has been working over the last several years to create a memorial to thank and acknowledge the contributions and sacrifices of the veterans who served in both World Wars, the Korean War, and subsequent peace keeping and military actions.

Today I will have the privilege to celebrate international women’s day with Carrefour des Femmes! And tomorrow I will be attending the St. Lawrence Presbyterian Church, to present Frances A. Barge and Maurice A. Coghlin, with their commemorative World War 2 medals.

I will be ending my weekend by attending an OPSEU International Women’s Day panel, where we will talk about the progress and challenges that women experience in Canada.