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  Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre
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Community Truth Hearings on Poverty and Equity


Conversations about poverty seem to be happening more frequently and at more tables than ever before. We want to shift the conversation. We want to add more texture and context through an equity approach to a poverty strategy that moves beyond assumptions to looking at areas, groups and lived experiences as the measure for a true understanding of the inequity at the root cause of poverty.

Why Community Truth Hearings?

There are many examples around the world that have used a truth and reconciliation model to address a gross violation or neglect of human rights or an indignity personally, nationally or internationally. There are mixed opinions about whether or not truth hearings are successful; however, it is generally agreed that they provide an opportunity for a deeper understanding of the injustice that has been perpetrated and for a systemic approach to reconciliation. They provide an opportunity to acknowledge and validate those with lived experiences while calling for honesty, accountability, transparency and importantly responsive corrective strategies for restoration. We believe that the Community Truth Hearings on Poverty and Equity is a bold new step in collectively and collaboratively gathering information in communities, across the country, and perhaps beyond, to influence change and public policy and to contribute to broadening the base of information upon which decisions are made.

The Platform and Approach

Our platform in the battle against poverty and for equity is based on three pillars:

  1. Poverty is the greatest health risk we face
  2. Poverty is a political choice
  3. Poverty is an unacceptable human condition
Mahatma Gandhi said that poverty is the worst form of violence. And as we look at the devastating impact of poverty on the lives of individuals and families in our community and around the world it seems that this statement is more than true. So what is poverty? As one author simply states “Poverty is hunger. Poverty is lack of shelter. Poverty is being sick and not being able to see a health provider. Poverty is not having access to school and not knowing how to read. Poverty is not having a job, is fear for the future, living one day at a time. Poverty is losing a child to illness brought about by unclean water. Poverty is powerlessness, lack of representation and loss of freedom.”
Our approach is supported by the social determinants of health and framed by the notion that Equity, Economic Justice and a Multidimensional Perspective of Poverty are keys in the efforts to make a substantial impact on the decisions and actions that keep people in poverty and on the margins of society.

Equity is about quality and fairness or what may be termed as the equality of outcomes. It represents a belief that there are some things which people should have, that there are basic needs that should be fulfilled, that burdens and rewards should not be spread too divergently across the community, and that policy should be directed with impartiality, fairness and justice towards these ends. This involves factoring in aspects of the system that have marginalized people and put particular groups at a disadvantage. (From Sharon Beder, 'Costing the Earth: Equity, Sustainable Development and Environmental Economics', New Zealand Journal of Environmental Law)

Economic Justice
Economic justice is the attainment of rightful access to basic financial and material resources and opportunities. Economic justice is a term that encompasses both a set of values and the policies utilized to further those values. The obvious content of economic justice is the enhancement of the welfare of individuals, groups, and nations within national and international and intra- and inter-generational contexts. Yet economic justice is not merely a concept of intuition or an issue of distribution of resources, including endowments. Unemployment, poverty wages, unsafe jobs, globalization, the rich getting richer and the poor getting poorer, taxes (who pays and how much), inadequate public schools, lack of access to food and nutrition, lack of safe and affordable, lack of health care – these are issues of economic justice. In general, economic justice is defined with reference to:

  1. Distributive Justice – it encompasses the norms and policies that determine the distribution of resources, such as capital and goods, within a society.
  2. Commutative Justice – this is a concept originally developed by the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle and refers to the honesty/truthfulness of the parties to an economic exchange.
  3. Restorative/Remedial Justice – this is an ex post form of economic justice encompassing the payment of compensation or undertaking of other punitive action to redress a wrong, especially where damage has occurred to life, freedom or property of individuals or homogeneous groups of individuals (e.g., ethnic, social, racial, sexual groups).

There are certain forms of economic activity, e.g., slavery, which would not only constitute an affront to fundamental human values, but would also violate all forms of economic justice. The basic and well accepted principle of economic justice and fairness is where the consequence of official policies should be the equal allocation of benefits among participants in an economy. For example, implementing policies that reflect the goal of economic justice might involve eliminating discriminatory hiring practices and permitting people to work freely where their skills are required. (from University of Edinburgh)

A Multidimensional Perspective of Poverty
Great work is being done with the Health and Well Being movement led by the Association of Ontario Health Centres (AOHC). We would like to delve deeper in this area. Economists at Oxford have developed a tool call the Multidimensional Poverty Index that looks at poverty from a deprivations perspective in an effort to go beyond vague numbers to look at elements beyond the basics and the degrees of poverty. This seems to be a good fit with an equity approach to a poverty strategy in that it moves beyond assumptions, i.e. Canada is a developed nation and therefore people do not experience poverty, to looking at areas, groups and lived experiences as the measure for understanding the inequity at the root cause of poverty. It also raises questions about access and choice and points to a better understanding to the on-the-ground conditions people are experiencing and as such a more realistic picture of what poverty means in any given location. Lessons may be learned from the Oxford experience and the index could be adapted to focus in on identifiers that could better articulate differences such as food access vs. access to nutrition. This may be a tool to help direct policy and resources in a different way and to have more impact or at least a different impact and “...the importance of using a poverty measure that can be disaggregated to show where and how people are poor and ensure that no one experiencing poverty is hidden from view” cannot be understated.

The Plan - Refreshed

We encourage individuals, groups, communities and agencies to join in the Community Truth Hearings on Poverty and Equity by convening and participating in hearings in your own community until end April 2015 and to maintain a record of the hearings so that they may be added to the final account. This information will be shared with decision makers who influence public policy, those who have the capacity and compassion to insist on change and the general public through various media or social media.

There is still time to convene hearings. The schedule for Hamilton is:
Community Members, Clients, IndividualsTues. March 31, 20152:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Organizations, Agencies, Service ProvidersThurs. April 9, 20159:30 am to 12:00 noon
Community Leaders BreakfastSat. April 18, 20159:30 am to 12:30 pm

Contact information

Contact person: Tibor Lukacs
Phone: 905-522-3233 ext 243
Email: administration@hucchc.com
Website: www.hucchc.com Click on NO Community Stands ALONE

How to Set Up a Truth Hearing in Your Community

Step by Step

  1. Develop a timetable for the community truth hearings that includes specific dates and times for the hearings to take place. Share this information widely using various forms of promotion such as email, social media, and so on.
  2. Identify people who may be interested in sharing their story about equity, and poverty and its impact and invite them to make a presentation. This may be clients, community members, program participants, or someone with lived experience in poverty. The presentation need not be a formal one, the term is used here only in the sense that one person will be sharing while the others remain silent and listen. You may want to allocate 15 – 20 minutes for each presentation BUT it is important to let the person sharing their story speak for as long as they need to share their story, even if it goes well beyond the 15 minutes.
  3. Identify people who may be considered as elders, leaders, influencers or decision-makers and invite them to act as a panel member to hear the presentations. The role of the panel is to listen to what is being said and to accept the information as presented. The panel may ask for someone to tell them more about a particular item or to clarify something that was said BUT they may argue or debate or present any of their own insights. Ideally the panel should consist of three people. If more than one community truth hearing is being scheduled it may be necessary to have more than three panel members to ensure that a vacancy can be filled as needed.
  4. Assign one or two people to take notes or record the community truth hearings so that the stories can be shared as accurately as possible.

How to collect the information

Information can be gathered in different ways simply because people have different levels of comfort around how they wish to express themselves. Below are some examples of how you may find out about people’s lived experience.

  • Presentation to the Community Truth Hearings Panel
  • Face-to-face interviews
  • Telephone interviews
  • Short Video
  • Written story or poem
  • Short skit (play)
  • Artistic expression (e.g. art, drama, music, song)

Where to send the information

Information gathered from the Community Truth Hearing may be forwarded via

  1. Email to: administration@hucchc.com
  2. Mail: Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre, 71 Rebecca Street Hamilton, Ontario L8R 1B6
  3. Upload you file

Dates for Hamilton Urban Core Hearings

The dates of the hearings will be determined by what works best in your community. At Hamilton Urban Core it is our goal to have our hearings completed by the end of April.

Community Members, Clients, IndividualsTues. March 31, 20152:00 pm to 5:00 pm
Organizations, Agencies, Service ProvidersThurs. April 9, 20159:30 am to 12:00 noon
Community Leaders BreakfastSat. April 18, 20159:30 am to 12:30 pm

Check in dates

Hamilton Urban Core will host a webinar so that everyone who convened a hearing can share their findings and what was heard Community Truth Hearings on Poverty and Equity and what was heard. This is also an opportunity for knowledge exchange for those who did not have the opportunity to convene hearings. The webinar will be held within one month of the last hearing; details of the date and time to follow shortly.



Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre Launches
NO Community Stands ALONE presentation

in recognition of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty


Urban Crisis

The untold story of poverty in Hamilton

As an inner city health centre Hamilton Urban Core works closely with individuals, families and communities in the core as a trusted health service provider and strong advocate. Over the course of many months, and in some cases years, people have graciously shared their lives and experiences with us – experiences of living in poverty, of isolation and exclusion, and most importantly, of not being heard.

In response Hamilton Urban Core made a promise to listen, to raise awareness and to help to bring these voices to the places and spaces where decisions about poverty are being made. This is the motivation for this presentation.

This presentation was thoughtfully prepared by Hamilton Urban Core’s own staff. We hope after watching it you have a renewed commitment to the fight against poverty.

CLICK HERE to view Presentation

  Hamilton Urban Core Community Health Centre
NO Community Stands ALONE
Highlights of the Community Roundtable Discussions