Politics has long been a reflection of who’s on top at any given time in the black community. It may not be all their fault.
Bowing to pressure from activists who claim North America’s urban food infrastructure is not reflective of the black community, Canada’s largest city council voted to pass a raft of measures Monday night that aim to improve the quality of health and economic outcomes for its growing black population.
At the heart of the vote was a sweeping emergency motion passed in September. It called for the City of Toronto to pass a series of measures that will give a boost to black communities in the city, which traditionally have little economic clout. It also means an immediate ban on stores that have been caught selling high-sugar, high-salt foods as well as the establishment of a rent-stabilized mixed-income community on Dixon Road in the city’s east end.
One month before the vote, a small but vocal group of activists rose up to demand action. Ed Gardow, an economist who also works with local churches and soup kitchens, began pushing for a number of radical measures that would be met with wide condemnation from the black community. The group’s first step was to include the recent food stamp program as an issue to be tackled, arguing that having food stamps on the same level as human-use payouts in Canada is sending the wrong message to people living in poverty.
“This is more than a mere policy change; this represents a change in who is empowered in the community,” Gardow said during the initiative’s launch.
Like Donald Trump’s administration, Toronto’s appears poised to ditch longstanding federal food stamp programs in favor of a nationwide block grant. The measure is expected to save hundreds of millions of dollars but is also expected to leave up to half of all Canadian food stamp recipients in Ontario, Canada’s most populous province, without adequate groceries. The latter concern became a central concern of the proposed changes and those who pushed for the bold actions in Toronto.
Meanwhile, Canada’s NDP has also proposed an ambitious financial empowerment plan to allow its citizens to get small loans at no interest – which they would pay back with monthly rent payments. The loans would range from less than $100 for a home improvement project to around $1,000 for a car.
But like in the United States, the real push comes from movements such as Black Lives Matter and Idle No More, movements that have hijacked the black community’s economic and political power. Black Lives Matter often rails against corporations such as Walmart and McDonald’s that they see as key players in the widespread opiate epidemic, while fighting for the poor in the United States. Idle No More’s organizers claimed to have been shut down by police in Toronto this past weekend as a protest against the city’s police department’s ongoing war on drugs.
More than 80 percent of the black population in Toronto and 25 percent of all non-white residents in Canada live below the poverty line, according to the federal government. At the time of the September vote, five people were overdosing in a single 24-hour period.
“Why isn’t it a priority for our city council to serve the people of our city?” Rafeal Best, a city councilor, said on the morning of the vote. “We have food banks, we have organizations that help people get off the street, get off drugs and get jobs … We must change the land use policies and pass this emergency motion to put in the necessary measures to make sure our city has support for our small businesses, our entrepreneurs.”
For his part, Gardow said the group doesn’t want any special treatment. Rather, they want to set a precedent that should spread across North America and make a tangible difference for marginalized communities.
“The challenge for us is we’re really not asking for special consideration, we just want a fair shake from the political elites,” he said.
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Tod Leonard is a contributor to The Daily Caller. He has written for dozens of print publications including The Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, Fox News and various Wall Street newspapers.