Saint Kevin's Social Audit Forum IV
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
from the Social Justice Committee


APRIL 2006 – Publication of A Local Social Audit - An Investigation into the Causes of Poverty in Welland, the Ways the Poor Are Served by St. Kevin's Parish and Other City Agencies and How the Welland Community Might Enable these Agencies to Better Respond to the Needs of the Poor. This study was undertaken and produced by our parish Social Justice Committee.

MAY 1. 2006 – FEAST OF ST. JOSEPH THE WORKER – The Parish hosted a public Forum - now referred to as Social Audit Forum I - to begin a public discussion of the implications of our Local Social Audit. Almost 200 people gathered to discuss the content of the report and to address the question of how the report challenges us as individuals, as parish and as Welland community. Two clear impacts of the Audit: new understandings of the reasons that the poor in Welland are poor; a strong sense of public will to do something. One result: the commitment to a follow-up Forum in the Fall.

SEPT. 28, 2006 – The Parish hosted Social Audit Forum ll. Almost 125 people gathered. Representatives of neighbouring parishes and churches, city and regional government and social service agencies joined members of our parish to begin to work at concrete ways to respond to the Local Social Audit.

MAY 2, 2007 – We had Social Forum lll. The topic was "Minimum Wage vs. Minimum Wage." The purpose was not to argue whether the official minimum wage should be $9 or $10 and how soon. Rather, we considered the IDEA of minimum wage from the point of view of the scriptures and Catholic Social Teaching. We looked at the dignity and needs of workers in our society today . . . and how a society should understand when minimum wage is just. We considered the question of whether faith invites us to look at economic questions differently than government, Bay Street, or employers do. Our guest speaker was Joe Gunn, former director of the Social Affairs Commission of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops and current Director of the Social Justice Office of the Congregation of Notre Dame [Sisters] in Ottawa.

SEPT 19, 2007 – Social Forum IV took place. Keeping in mind that our Social Forums are occasion to learn how Catholic Social Teaching challenges us to consider and act upon contemporary social, political and economic justice questions, Social Forum IV was most timely. We studied a document titled Taking Stock: An Examination of Conscience, just updated and released by the Social Affairs Commission of the Ontario Conference of Catholic Bishops in anticipation of Ontario's Provincial Election October 10th. Taking Stock is a guide to the responsibility of voting - and voting ethically. Three guest speakers provided the 120+ people in attendance with rich resources with which to engage in the group discussions which followed. We offer on the next pages a report on Social Forum IV.


Presentation #1 – Bishop John 0'Mara
"Why Ontario's Bishops Write Documents such as Choosing a
Government and Taking Stock"


  • Bishop O'Mara recalled the long tradition of "the social teaching of the church."
  • He identified a key moment in his personal engagement with this social teaching: a presentation on world hunger by economist Barbara Ward at Vatican Council II.
  • He emphasized the key and enduring question which compels ever-developing Catholic Social Teaching: "What does the teaching of Jesus have to do with the economy, politics, culture, etc.?"
  • A key gospel text, the story of Dives and Lazarus, makes irrefutably clear that we are called to be engaged in narrowing the chasm between the rich and the poor.
  • A general critique of our "too busy" society: we don't see the poor and their need, manifested in poverty, unemployment and lack of affordable housing.
  • Inherent in the organization of our society is an understanding of the moral responsibilities of government and the moral obligation of individuals to see and respond to situations of injustice that cause inhuman living conditions for many in our society.
  • Elections are key moments in that they present us with an opportunity to opt for the kind of government we want - for ourselves, but especially for the poor.
  • In their social teaching that comments on politics, the bishops are scrupulous in their non-partisan stance.
  • Rather, they present, especially to Catholics, but often to a wider society, some moral and ethical considerations that will hopefully influence their attitudes, actions and values.
  • This was the mindset of Ontario's bishops when they prepared Choosing a Government in 1998 and Taking Stock in 2002, and which prompted them to update and re-issue Taking Stock as a summary of all the major ethical issues voters should take into account as they prepare to vote ethically.





Question for discussion:

"Considering the presentations this evening – and tapping into your own convictions and experience – what do you feel are the 5 most important issues in this election?


    a) Minimum wage should be living wage;
    b) Create conditions to attract good job opportunities.
    – return to former greater percentage of province budget.
    a) More affordable day care;
    b) More availa6ility of quality early childhood education.
    – especially, increase public transportation.


Presentation #2 - Father James Mulligan, CSC
"A Walk Through Taking Stock"


  • This Fall 2007 update and reissue is in a tradition of statements from Ontario's bishops relating to politics pertinent to Ontario. Previously: For the Good of All (1991), Choosing a Government (1998), and Taking Stock: An Examination of Conscience (2002).
  • Elections are conscience moments for people of faith.
  • People of faith - as individuals and as a society - are called to encounter Jesus in his identification with the poor: "I was hungry and you gave me food .... 1 was hungry and you gave me no food. "[Mt 25]
  • Catholic Social Teaching emphasizes our responsibility for the common good and for the poor with whom Jesus identified.
  • In this Pastoral Letter the Ontario Bishops want to emphasize the importance of responsible participation in the political process and the need for wise reflection concerning candidates and issues....
  • The Bishops ask: "How are we, as a society, creating a just, social and economic climate in which all can become more fully human?"


  • The Bishops review eleven principles upon which a just, human society is based:
    1. The human dignity of every person is to be respected at all times.
    2. Respect for human dignity requires a vigorous pursuit of the common good.
    3. Governments must balance the rights, obligations and opportunities of various segments of society.
    4. Governments must demonstrate a grasp of the concept of stewardship.
    5. Governments must support the right to private property but at the same time recognize that this right is not absolute.
    6. Governments must recognize that human beings derive identity and self esteem, as well as economic well being, from the use of their God-given talents in useful work and, therefore, they have a right to employment.
    7. Governments must support the rights of workers to form unions in order to protect the quality of their lives, their safety and their security.
    8. Governments must protect those who are marginalized in our society; that is, have a preferential option for the poor and voiceless.
    9. Governments must support life.
    10. Governments must encourage and facilitate involvement in the process of political decision-making.
    11. Governments worthy of support must respect the prerogatives of other governments and non-governmental bodies with respect to decision-making
  • The bishops emphasize: "No political party and no government is perfect. Far from it. All of us are fallible human beings. As a people, we have a responsibility constantly to take stock, to measure our progress against our principles and to choose the people we are convinced will take us in the direction of a just, inclusive and fully human society."
  • The bishops propose in alphabetical order some of the areas of public policy that affect the common good, urge us to measure party platforms in each area and judge which party's platform in most categories promises to work for the common good.


Areas of Public policy proposed for consideration (in alphabetical order]: The Criminal Justice System, The Economy, Education, Employment, The Environment, Life Ethic, The Family, Health Care, Housing, Labour Relations, The Poor, Taxation


Presentation #3 – Brian Hutchings,
Niagara Region Social Services Commissioner
"A Profile of the Social Reality in the Niagara Region"


  • Highlighted key findings presented in A Legacy of Poverty? Addressing Cycles of Poverty and the Impact on Child Health in Niagara Region - A Report prepared for the Region of Niagara, Department of Community and Social Services (June, 2007).
  • Made starkly clear how critically important concern for the common good and the poor are in this election.
  • Presented 4 "Frameworks for Understanding Poverty":
    • Measure of poverty as Low Income Cut-Off (LICO); also "Market Basket" measure - costs of goods and services related to food, clothing and footwear, shelter and transportation compared to income.
    • Impact on the social determinants of health
    • Experience of powerlessness, voicelessness and social exclusion
    • Erosion of the social fabric.
  • 16.2% of Canadians live in poverty. 14.3% of Ontarians live in poverty. 14% of the Niagara Region lives in poverty.
  • Depth of po9verty is increasing.
    • From 1996 to 2001, 30.7% of Canadians were poor for at least one year.
    • 1 out of 3 children lived in poverty for at least on e year.
    • In Ontario, 77% of children living in poverty are there for 2-6 years.
    • 46% of single Canadians ages 35 - 64 who live in poverty survive on incomes of less than half the poverty line.
    • In Niagara Region 15.6% of children live in poverty. This mirrors the national average.
  • Indicators of Poverty in Niagara
    • 14.0% of Niagara residents live in poverty.
    • 12.7% of Niagara families
    • 15.6% of Niagara children
    • 42.0% of Ontario Works (OS) caseload are children
    • 15.0% of Niagara families in workforce make less than $20,000.
    • 78% of employed in Niagara work full time
    • $23,400 is median employment income
      33.0% of unemployed in Niagara are eligible for El.
    • 33.0% of visits to food banks in Niagara are made by children.
    • 45.6% of Niagara residents pay greater than 30% of income for rent.
  • Groups Most Afflicted with Poverty in Niagara Women
    • Single family homes
    • Victims of violence [50% of children witness violence]
    • Aboriginals
    • New immigrants
    • People with disabilities
    • People with mental illness
    • Low Income families [Income $9,900. below the poverty line
  • 14.9% of Welland lives in poverty– the 2nd highest in Niagara
  • It takes 171 hours of work a month to pay for the average home in Niagara.
  • Property taxes have increased 74% since 1997; wage increases have averaged 10%
  • Major effect: neighbourhood erosion. Families tend to move 3-4 times