activists baffled by Grits' inaction
Monday, December 15, 2003
A year after
a coroner's jury recommended the end of lifetime bans for social assistance
recipients, advocates still wait for action
Local News - One year after a Sudbury coroner's jury called on the province to drop its lifetime ban for those convicted of welfare fraud, the recommendation has not been acted on.
The jury was probing the death of Kimberly Ann Rogers, who was found guilty of welfare fraud for accepting student loans while also receiving social assistance.
She was sentenced to house arrest.
Rogers, 40 and pregnant, died in her apartment on Aug. 9, 2001, while serving her sentence.
The first of 14 recommendations handed down by the five-member jury, a year ago today, called for the province to drop its lifetime ban saying it had a "devastating and detrimental effect."
Under rationale for the recommendation, the verdict form reads, "to prevent anyone of having to go without food and/or shelter," and "to prevent the death of impoverished individuals."
Rogers' death and its cause, sparked outrage across the country and led to the formation of a committee fighting for welfare reform in Rogers' name.
Laurie McGauley, who helped launch that movement, said she can't understand the new government's delay in acting on the jury recommendations.
"I'm very surprised that nothing has happened," said McGauley. Removing the lifetime ban for people convicted of welfare fraud will not cost the government any money, she said and "would have been a great message to give to people who are living in poverty that things might start to change."
The Liberal party, which took over the government in Ontario in October, campaigned on lifting the ban, said McGauley so it is puzzling that nothing has happened.
The government has said a $5.6-billion deficit for the previous Progressive Conservative government is delaying some of the things the party wanted to do.
But welfare recipients can't wait, she said.
"It is going to take us years and decades to repair the damage that the Tories have done. But in the meantime, the most poor people in this province can't wait any longer.
"They have been maligned and basically left out in the cold literally for the last eight years. They can't wait any longer."
Sudbury MPP Rick Bartolucci, now a cabinet member in the Liberal government, said the government is committed to carrying out the recommendations of the jury.
"We made very specific commitments during the election with regards to that and I see no reason why we wouldn't be living up to those commitments. I feel a lifetime ban for welfare fraud is not right."
The timeline, however remains uncertain.
An economic statement is to be delivered in the legislature this week, that may provide "a clearer view with regards to the finances of the province," and how quickly the government can move, he said.
The Justice with Dignity Committee will hold a press conference on Wednesday to talk about