Social justice is the capacity to organize with others to accomplish ends that serve the common good.
Justice, rather than Charity, is the focus of our JPIC Office work. Charitable deeds have not been abandoned, but Charity is insufficient to address root causes and challenge injustices embedded in our systems – whether social, economic or political. Justice, on the other hand, challenges the status quo, leading inevitably to change.
The following are some examples of campaigns through the JPIC Office that seek social justice and pursue the common good:
Fight for $15 and Fairness
In addition to fighting for $15/hr. minimum wages, the campaign seeks ‘fairness’ for workers, meaning better and safer working conditions. Every worker in Ontario is entitled at minimum to receive a wage set by the province. Employers can pay more, but they can’t pay less. If minimum wage was raised to $15/hr., no full-time worker would be left living in poverty.
While living wages are voluntary and not mandatory like minimum wage, they are calculated yearly and based on the actual costs of living in a particular community. The hourly rate takes care of the basic needs of a family of four, with additional income to help improve quality of life, such as taking a college course and a yearly holiday. Currently, eighteen employers including the City of Kingston pay their workers at least at the level of Kingston’s living wage of $17.57 an hour.
A basic income as part of a comprehensive social safety net would make sure people have enough income to bring them above the poverty line to meet their basic needs and live with dignity, whether they work or not. Unlike social assistance, basic income recipients wouldn’t have to constantly check-in to prove they’re deserving of the benefit, or get their income deducted if they are able to work. As we perceive it, a basic income would be an unconditional benefit provided by government through the tax system.
JPIC joins the Citizens for Public Justice every October 17th for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Chew On This! marks the day each year with a nation-wide event, drawing attention to poverty in Canada and calling for action to end poverty through a national plan.
Staff in the JPIC office helped to initiate the Poverty Challenge in 2009. It is an intensive one-day workshop that provides experiential learning about living in poverty and about poverty reduction.
Resilient Food Systems
The Food Policy Council for Kingston, Frontenac, Lennox & Addington focuses on policies that support resilient food systems. Reliable access to healthy, affordable, and culturally appropriate food for all and an environment within which food can be grown, processed and sold locally characterize a resilient food system.
Community Harvest Kingston has been offering a farmers market in Kingston’s Rideau Heights community for more than a decade. An affordable farmers market within a low-income neighbourhood is a creative policy solution that contributes to the autonomy and dignity of its residents. Access to fresh, local, nutritious food can forward a variety of objectives: promote good health, build strong and diverse communities, increase choice, protect the environment, and strengthen the economy.
Additional justice work includes campaigns for safe, affordable housing and healthy food for all.
Social justice campaigns such as these active in the JPIC Office aim to create just policies that remove stigma. They offer choice and ensure autonomy. Since justice is a right or an entitlement provided to all citizens and not just a chosen few, it doesn’t demand repayment. Charity always does, even if only in the form of gratitude.