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From pay equity to the links between racialization, poverty and health outcomes, the Canadian Union of Public Employee (CUPE) Ontario’s Human Rights conference provided an in-depth perspective for public service workers to understand the steps needed to help eradicate poverty. Over 125 participants attended the conference held November 16-18, 2007 at Ryerson University’s Student Campus Centre.

“CUPE Ontario has just come through one of the most active periods in recent memory on human rights and international solidarity fronts and we mustn’t slow down,” said CUPE Ontario President Sid Ryan in his welcoming remarks. He noted that Ontario’s child poverty rate is 17.4% and low-income families are living in deeper poverty now than 12 years ago. “The Liberal government recently won an increased majority—which is going to make it harder to move them on social and economic policy.”

Along with a presentation on racial profiling by David Mitchell, founder and president of the Association of Black Enforcement Officers, participants heard how pay equity and union organizing are key to reducing racialized poverty (see article below). The whole issue of racialized poverty in Ontario is the subject of intense study by The Colour of Poverty Campaign, a joint project of diverse community organizations. The campaign’s website at  provides a series of fact sheets and stats on income, employment, housing and other issues that are extremely useful for anti-poverty activists.

Aboriginal HIV/AIDS worker Wanda Whitebird reminded participants that, for Aboriginal people in Ontario, “Poverty is not just about money. It’s about the loss of culture, spirituality and where you come from.” She added that “We like to have allies, but we must ensure that we address the issues from the perspective of those who are living it.”

That need to address poverty and its relationship to HIV/AIDS from the lived perspective of those who face it was the theme of  a presentation by Seodi White, a lawyer and women’s rights advocate from Malawa in Southern Africa.

“There is no doubt that the AIDS architecture is based on the neo-Liberal agenda. By letting free trade agreements flow, privatizing and cutting government spending, governments like Malawi are fostering increased poverty and leaving women and children very susceptible to the ravages of HIV/AIDS,” said White. “We must connect on the fight against privatization and develop a sense of globalized citizenship and solidarity. This is not just about money, but a social movement to benefit all humanity.”

Click here to see photographs from the conference.