CORNWALL — A coalition of local residents have renewed their call for government to address social justice issues in the Cornwall and Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry.
In its fifth year, the SD&G Coalition for Social Justice held elections for a new executive recently, and set out a mission statement to push the group forward.
The coalition’s mission statement claims it ‘aims to enhance and advance the full spectrum of human rights for everyone in the community,’ including on issues like poverty, women’s rights, gay rights, disability and accessibility to social assistance and employment.
Through activism, fundraising, raising awareness and discussing issues, the coalition’s vice-chair Jason Setnyk said the group hopes to fuel social change.
‘We have a great community in Cornwall, but is there room for improvement? Yes,’ Setnyk said. ‘And that shouldn’t be a discouraging remark. We should be optimistic, hopeful and loving when thinking about what we can do to make our community more inclusive and more fair.’
Recently, the coalition met to discuss recommendations for a province-wide review of social assistance programs currently being undertaken in Ontario.
In a letter of response, the coalition forwarded the review board a list of 15 recommendations about improvements to programs, including Ontario Works, employment insurance and the Ontario Disability Support Program.
‘(We’re) advocating for all people,’ Setnyk said. ‘Everyone deserves a voice, an opportunity to live in a fair and just society.’
Setnyk said the coalition also expects to focus on a number of other social just ice issues in the community, including lobbying the provincial government to raise the minimum wage from $10.25 to $12.
‘I find it bizarre that someone can be working full-time and still be poor,’ Setnyk said. ‘Someone working full time should be able to afford housing, food and a few small luxuries. They shouldn’t have to choose between paying their rent and buying groceries.’
Elaine MacDonald, co-founder and a executive member of the coalition, said the group is committed to rallying for issues that aren’t addressed by most politicians.
‘For those issues that won’t get touched by anybody else, the coalition will be there to champion them,’ MacDonald said. ‘The fact that we’re making noise, somehow I hope it has some effect. That’s probably going to be the greatest achievement (of the coalition).’
On Oct. 28, the coalition will host a memorial dinner for Denise Vernier, who died last year after going missing in September. Vernier had bipolar disorder, and advocated for changes to the Ontario Disability Support Program.
Setnyk said the dinner will act as a fundraiser for various social justice causes in the community.
‘Dinner where we can bring the community together to talk about some issues and raise some money for good causes,’ he said.
One idea, Setnyk said, is to create a scholarship through St. Lawrence College that would be awarded to a student studying in the social justice field.
The Denise Vernier Memorial Dinner and Silent Auction will be held at the Army, Navy, Air Force Club at 14 Marlborough Street. The event begins at 6 p.m., and tickets can be purchased for $10.