public education activity we support is monthly study circles.
In 2016, we celebrated 20 years of study circles. These circles
offer low-income individuals, volunteers, and activists the
opportunity to discuss poverty-related concerns that impact
their lives. Our staff provides resource materials and speakers, but the topics are decided on and often led by the group.
What are some recent social justice initiatives?
Last year, we participated in two federal Standing Committees
regarding legal protections for social and economic rights.
We are presently promoting the proposal of a Saskatchewan
Anti-Poverty Act, which would ensure basic social and economic rights are ensured under law.
How do you know you are making a difference?
What people need is not necessarily more money, but ser-
vices and programs that will help them improve their skills
and abilities so they can better compete in the job market.
A young man came to me because he had been cut off
welfare. He had told his social worker that he didn’t have
a Grade 8 education and couldn’t hold down a job. But the
government worker kept placing him in work positions that
he continued to fail at. The last job was in construction.
He couldn’t read a measuring tape and his fellow employ-
ees made fun of him. He came to us for help and we had to
appeal the decision to cut him off wel-
fare. We were able to show how no one
listened to him, and we got him and his
family back on welfare with retroactive
payments. About four years later, this
man came back to share with us that he
earned his Grade 12 diploma, went on to
graduate from a technical school with a
certificate in engineering, and had just
been offered a job. He is still working,
and hopefully will never to have to be
dependent on social assistance again.
The Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry (RAPM) is a social justice ministry of the Wascana Presbytery in Saskatchewan that launched in 1970 to address poverty in the city. RAPM, which is supported by Mission &
Service, is now the only community organization providing
welfare advocacy services in the province. Bonnie Morton
joined RAPM as a Designate Lay Minister and Advocate
when the organization launched 29 years ago. She talks to
Mandate magazine about her work.
In a nutshell what does RAPM do?
We help ensure low-income individuals and families receive
the benefits they are entitled to. Our Ministry has worked
on issues such as adequate income-security benefits, a living
wage, quality and affordable housing and childcare, equity
initiatives, disability benefit programs, and fair taxation. Our
work involves lobbying as well as community consultation.
RAPM also mediates conflicts between individuals and institutions so there are mutually agreed upon resolutions. When
that is not possible, we represent clients through the various
appeal processes. In all our case work, we seek to uphold the
dignity of those requesting our help.
How has the need grown for RAPM’s services?
Before 2000 we assisted between 600 and 700 people a year.
Government policy changes contributed
to an increase in our caseload that started
in 2003. In 2016, our caseload was 2,271,
which is an all-time high.
How is education an important part
of your community work?
We provide educational workshops and
resources on poverty to churches, community groups, service agencies, high
schools, universities, and government
officials. We also provide advocacy
training throughout the province. A key
supports people who’ve
fallen through the cracks
Bonnie Morton (right) with colleague, Peter Gilmer, of the
Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry.