Volume 94, Issue 97

Friday, March 23, 2001


Editorial Board 2000-2001

The homeless deserve better

Editorial Cartoon

The homeless deserve better

"Big brother" is getting ready to rear his ugly head upon the poor of the city of Calgary.

On Wednesday, the community strategy division of Calgary's City Council, made a proposal that would have panhandlers forced to wear photo identification while out on the streets.

The idea behind the proposal is to help put a face on the homeless, eliminate aggressive panhandling and ease the public's fear of panhandlers in general.

One has to be a wee bit insane not to see the slippery slope that could develop if a proposal such as this one ever sees the light of day.

What sort of restrictions could shelters and poverty services be placed under because of the proposal? Could Calgary pass a proposal to only allow admittance those who have been registered in the city's panhandlers program, which is essentially a registration for the homeless? Will panhandlers who fail to produce identification be immediately fined or thrown into prison? And how poor do you have to be in order to get recognized under the proposal?

Calgary it seems, wants to be the first city in Canada that has reached the point of becoming so resigned to the poverty of its many citizens, that they have decided to label and keep track of them under an organized system, instead of finding ways to alleviate their situation. It's a sick world if a Canadian city gets to the point where a city hall that can track its homeless constituents.

We should be highly skeptical of a city that legislates poverty instead of solving it. We live in a society that continually seems to emphasize the individual over the collective. A vast amount of people do not want to look beyond their own lives and their own needs. The identification program for panhandlers which is being proposed by Calgary's city council only seems to emphasize that point.

The identification system seems to say that the City of Calgary condones poverty, as they are trying to institutionalize it. What definitions of panhandling are placed upon someone before they can be checked for their identification?

We live in a society where people walk over panhandlers as they pass them in the street. People purposely try to avoid making eye contact with the less fortunate. Out of sight, out of mind. People prefer not to be faced with a dilemma in their conscience.

We do need to put a human face on poverty, but not the kind of face that Calgary is proposing. The vast majority do not wish to be in the position they find themselves in. They deserve a solution, not an even greater stigma being thrust upon them.

To condemn an entire group in the lower economic strata of our society is an atrocity. Photo identification is a direct attack on their rights as human beings and citizens of Canada.

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