Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Reassessing Support for Vulnerable Populations in Canada

Academic journal article Canadian Review of Social Policy

Reassessing Support for Vulnerable Populations in Canada

Article excerpt

The articles in this general issue cover a diverse range of policy and issue areas and reflect different analytical interests. All of them present important insights into current social realities in Canada. The first two articles speak of the dangers and damage posed by neoliberal and neoconservative ideas, discourses and practices and their impact on social and equality rights. Eleanor Carlson's article, "Canadian Food Banks and the Depoliticization of Food Insecurity at the Individual and Community Levels," analyses the discourses, policies and practices of one prominent food bank in British Columbia to show how they serve to reinforce neoliberal notions of the deserving and undeserving poor. In doing so, these policies individualise and depoliticise the issue of hunger and assign responsibility for solving the problem to the local community while obscuring the responsibility of governments for ensuring that their citizens have access to adequate (if not decent) standards of food security - i.e. are not going hungry. The paper concludes with reflections on how food banks can be sites for mobilisation and innovation by providing the public as well as private and public funders with alternative politicized understandings of food security and poverty.

The next article, "Our Bodies are Our Own: Connecting Abortion and Social Policy," Sonya Bourgeois presents a timely analysis of recent "pro-life" discourse and its implication in shaping public debate about women and abortion rights. The author reveals the pointedly simplistic portrayals of women and gender relations that underpin this discourse, the way they distort and render invisible the complex realities of women's lives, and their implicit call for a return of patriarchy and to a society in which women are subordinate. The author calls upon those working in the field of social policy to stop being silent on this issue, to recognize access to abortion as essential to women's access to equality and liberation, and to incorporate those values into social policy.

The next two articles document the unstable and insecure situations facing specific particularly vulnerable groups. In "Look at my Life: Access to Education for the Remand Population in Ontario," Sarah Woods, Tina Gopal, and Purnima George, study the extensive and "under-educated" remand population in Ontario and focus on the violation of the rights of this population to education. There is a growing population of people in remand (i.e. incarcerated and awaiting trial) in that province, and while they can find themselves in this situation for an extended period, they are denied any possibility of pursuing or of continuing their education during this time. As a result, these individuals can become even more vulnerable and more likely to reoffend once released. The authors see the absence of educational opportunity as a blatant failure by the state to live up to its obligations to protect the basic human right to education, to which we are all entitled. They recommend concrete measures that will ensure that the basic right to education for this vulnerable and marginalized group is guaranteed and protected.

The article, "Young Adult Experiences with Securing Employment: Perceptions of and Experiences With Employer Discrimination and Expectations Hinder Successful Labour Market Attachment," by Michael Shier, John Graham, Mary Goitam, and Marilyn Eisenstat, presents the results of an in-depth study of the experiences of young racialised adults who live in the relatively marginalised Jane and Finch community in Toronto as they attempt to find and keep jobs. The findings reveal the various kinds of discrimination these individuals face when they seek jobs or are already in jobs. The authors argue that these factors, and not any personal shortcomings, lack of skills or training, are the key barriers preventing these young adults from accessing and maintaining employment. The authors state that, unless governments step in to regulate the functioning of the labour market, that young, racialised adults will continue to be victimized and marginalized. …

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