Our baptismal call for the eradication of poverty

By Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle 

Have you ever dreamed about winning the lottery? What would you do with the bounty that you have been given? Would you continue to work? What could you buy? Where might you go? What worries could you let go?

It can be fun to consider the possibilities of a significant financial windfall. It would be life changing, allowing us to explore opportunities we don’t think are as available to us otherwise.

Beginning in April of 2017, 4,000 Ontarians received word that they would be part of a project that would allow them to dream bigger than they had ever dreamed before. Thanks to the Basic Income Pilot Project, these individuals and families would know the security of having enough for three years.  Many followed those dreams:

“UBI (Universal Basic Income) has helped me become an active volunteer, artist and entrepreneur!”

“UBI helped me get back on my feet & helped get out of debt. Finally support myself!”

“UBI has helped me to catch up on bills, not live paycheck to paycheck & get my husband into recovery!”

“UBI has made it possible for me to return to school for social work so I can give back to my community”

“BI (Basic Income) was helping me cover expenses for a chronic health condition, find a place to live, and get a used vehicle so that I can focus once more on bringing my skills and passion to the world.”

“Basic income was how I was going to get back to school to work towards a better career. After working for over a decade building my career, only to be derailed by company closures and bankruptcies, basic income was going to help drag me out of the swamp of unstable work and allow me to work towards a more stable career and a better life.”

These stories and far more are part of a photo essay by Jessie Golem who was also a basic income recipient (see #humansofbasicincome). Each photograph is a reminder that behind each of the paycheques issued through the Basic Income Pilot Project, there was a human being, dreaming, hoping, and longing for an opportunity to pull themselves out of poverty.

The pilot project was meant to gather research to assess the ability of a basic income program to reduce poverty. Now that it is cancelled, we don’t know whether this option is helpful or not.  All we know is that there are 4,000 Ontarians who thought they won a kind of lottery, only to have that money taken from them.

The first of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to end poverty in all its forms everywhere. Thus, October 17th is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.  Remembering our Baptismal call to “strive for justice and peace among all people, and respect the dignity of every human being” (BAS p. 159), individuals and communities are encouraged to mark this day with prayer and action, calling on our governments to act with justice and compassion for those living in poverty.  How will you mark this day?  How will you help to transform the unjust structures of society which keep people in poverty?  All are encouraged to share this work through the Huron Church News and the parish mission and ministry plans.

Rev. Chris Brouillard-Coyle is the Social & Ecological Justice Huron co-chair.