Letter To Toronto Councillor Wong-Tam Opposing the School House Shelter Closure

Apr 3, 2012

To Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam;

As a member of Health Providers Against Poverty, an organization of Health Providers committed to addressing poverty as a health issue, I am urging you to put the issue of the School House Shelter’s pending closure on the agenda of the next City of Toronto Community Development and Recreation Committee on March 27th. Furthermore, we ask you to put forward a motion to keep the School House open and operating in the East end of Toronto. With the severe lack of affordable housing in Toronto and the lack of supportive shelters like the School House, a wet shelter for vulnerable men who are often unable to access other shelters, the move to close the School House is shortsighted, furthers ill health and will result in increased costs to the overall system. We ask you to take a strong stand regarding this important matter and oppose the closing of the School House.

Thank you for your attention to this crucial matter,

Anne Egger, RNEC
Health Providers Against Poverty

Letter To Minister Hoskins on Harmful Cuts to the Special Diet Allowance

Honourable Dr. Eric Hoskins
Minister of Citizenship and Immigration
St. Paul’s, 8035 St. Clair Ave. West
Toronto, ON, M6C 1B9

April 18, 2010

To Honourable Dr. Hoskins:

I am writing to you with regards to the Liberal Government’s decision on March 25th to cut the Special Diet Allowance for people living on social assistance. This is the single most punitive and inhumane decision of this government and has to be reversed immediately.

As a nurse practitioner working in downtown Toronto with homeless, under housed and food insecure individuals and communities, I see directly the multifaceted ravages that poverty leads to. At the same time, I have countless accounts of individuals and families whose physical and mental health has benefited from the Special Diet Supplement.

I am appealing to you as a physician with a history of strong humanitarian work and as my MPP to confront this inhumane decision with your colleagues in Parliament and with Premier Dalton McGuinty. As you are aware, the Special Diet, albeit grossly inadequate helps to provide financial assistance towards the purchase of nutritious foods for people with certain medical conditions. Individuals and families who have to rely on social assistance experience a level of poverty that is totally unacceptable in this rich province of ours. When rent consumes more than 75% of your income and there are more than 70.000 people waiting for subsidized housing, people face homelessness and food insecurity on a daily basis.

As you are aware, poverty is the single most important predictor of ill health. People living in poverty face increased rates of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, obesity, arthritis, stress and depression and increased rates of cancer and low infant birth weight. In 2008, the Liberal Party committed to a poverty reduction strategy, 25in5. The recent decision to cut the Special Diet program and replace it with a more restrictive, not yet defined, nutritional supplement, is a far cry from poverty reduction and goes a long way towards a poverty augmentation strategy.

Honourable Dr. Hoskins, now more than ever is the time to remember your Hippocratic oath: “Do no harm”. I strongly urge you and your colleagues in Parliament, along with the Premier to start acknowledging the true perils of poverty and work towards reversing this “unconscionable” decision and increasing social assistance rates to reflect the actual cost of living.

Due to the importance of this matter, I would appreciate meeting with you to this discuss this at a time that may be convenient to you.


Anne Egger, Nurse Practitioner
Member of Health Providers Against Poverty

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Letter on the Importance of Maintaining The Special Diet Allowance in Ontario

March 22, 2010

TO: Hon. Madeleine Meilleur, Minister of Community and Social Services

CC: Hon. Dalton McGuinty, Premier of Ontario
Hon. Deb Matthews, Minister of Health and Long-Term Care
Hon. Dwight Duncan, Minister of Finance
Members of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council

RE: Maintaining the Special Diet Allowance

Dear Minister Meilleur,

We urge you to maintain the Special Diet Allowance. Despite its shortcomings, it is essential to the health of social assistance recipients in Ontario.

Income is the key determinant of health. Countless studies demonstrate that poor people have worse health. Part of this relationship is food insecurity, a devastating reality for Canadians living in poverty. People who are food insecure eat less fruits, vegetables and dairy products, have low fiber intake, and have increased consumption of energy-dense foods. Being food insecure is a risk factor for diabetes, obesity and cardiovascular diseases.

The main cause of food insecurity is poverty. More than 40% of low-income people experience food insecurity8. At particular risk are people living on social assistance who have been shown to be at the greatest risk of food insecurity. Social assistance rates in Ontario are grossly inadequate to maintain food security. Costs of Nutritious Food Baskets, reported to your government, highlight the stark gap between welfare incomes and what a healthy diet costs. For example, in Toronto, the gap for a single person on Ontario Works is over $400 per month.

Despite your stated commitment to reduce poverty, you have taken little action to improve the incomes of adults on social assistance since you were elected in 2003. You have refused to implement the recommendations of the Special Diets Expert Review Committee, which you convened in 2006 and which reported in 2008. You issued a memo on December 18, 2009, encouraging administrators of Special Diet Allowance forms to question the decisions of health professionals. Following the recent report of the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, you have been unclear about the future of the Allowance.

Eliminating the Special Diet Allowance would be a major cut to social assistance, disproportionately impacting those with existing health conditions. Tens of thousands of poor Ontarians need the Special Diet Allowance to maintain their food security and their health.

We, the below organizations, call on you to:

  1. Maintain the Special Diet Allowance and implement the recommendations of the Special Diets Expert Review Committee and the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal,
  2. Commit to implementing the recommendations of the Social Assistance Review Advisory Council, and
  3. Raise social assistance rates to meet the basic requirements of healthy living.


Andrew Pinto MD and Anne Egger RNEC on behalf of Health Providers Against Poverty
Jill Alston, on behalf of Canadian Doctors for Medicare, University of Toronto
Michaela Beder MD, on behalf of Health for All
Gary Bloch MD, on behalf of Inner City Health Associates
Dale Gunter MD, on behalf of McMaster Family Practice, McMaster University
Gordon Guyatt MD, on behalf of the Medical Reform Group
Rosanna Pellizzari MD and Michael Rachlis MD, on behalf of the Ontario Physician Working Group on Poverty
Jennifer Loo, on behalf of the Public Health Interest Group, University of Toronto
Sheila Braided, on behalf of Regent Park Community Health Centre
Doris Grinspun RN, on behalf of Registered Nurses’ Association of Ontario (RNAO)
Malika Sharma MD, on behalf of Residents Without Borders
Celia Fernandes, on behalf of the Right to Healthcare Coalition
Lori Regenstreif MD, on behalf of the Shelter Health Network
Bev Leaver MD, on behalf of Stonegate Community Health Centre
Ritika Goel MD, on behalf of Students for Medicare
Nick Saul and Jonah Schein, on behalf of The Stop Community Food Centre
Cathy Crowe RN, on behalf of Toronto Disaster Relief Committee
Mike Creek, on behalf of Voices from the Street

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