Challenging poverty through arts
Anti-poverty festival hosted in Regina around the provincial election
Community groups from around the city came to the Knox-Metropolitan Church Oct. 29 to take part in an anti-poverty festival to look at ways that the groups and individuals have challenged poverty through the use of the arts. Event organizers knowingly hosted the event around the Nov. 7 provincial election.
“When we set the time of the festival, we realized that we were also in conjunction with a provincial election campaign and so we also decided it would be important to hold a rally to focus on poverty issues and to continue to promote poverty issues as important election issues,” said Peter Gilmer, an advocate with the Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry. “So we are here to promote some of the concerns we have in regards to this election campaign.”
Although the planned rally that was supposed to happen outdoors took place in the church basement, important issues surrounding poverty were still able to be discussed, as well as the upcoming provincial election.
Gilmer said the biggest concerns this election for solving the issues surrounding poverty should be investment in social housing and rent control, calling for a living wage that is actually set above the minimum wage and poverty line, and that is indexed to the cost of living, calling for significant increase in the number of childcare spaces and an improvement in childcare subsidies.
Aside from the rally, the festival used drama, skits, visual arts, photography, paintings, poetry, and storytelling to examine and discuss the issues of poverty in the city.
“Using art is more effective than spewing statistical facts and figures and it brings people’s attention to these issues,” said Gerry Ruecker from the Common Will Community Arts program. Ruecker co-ordinated some skits and the screening of a movie for the festival. He said that speaking through art is important because “it gives people on the margins a voice.”
One of those people that used to live on the margins is Terri Slevea.
“I was there. I know what it feels like,” she said. “When we have such a have province, why should people be marginalized? Why should people be allowed to fall through the cracks? We need to help our poorest of the poor.”
Gilmer said that politicians and the public need to understand how much financial sense it would make to address poverty.
“It would actually be must less costly to eradicate poverty,” Gilmer said. “To limit economic inequality would be a big cost-saver because we would be saving in terms of poverty that we pay through our health system, our justice system. and through our other social systems. The income gap in our society is one the most pressing issues. There is a lot evidence that shows a society that has a narrower economic gap [is] actually healthier than societies that don’t, on a whole wide range of measures.”