Many individuals I have had the displeasure of running into protest out loud that we might have a smartphone, nice crafting paper, or have free passes to a few swimming pool venues that they have to pay $2 to get in. They insist loudly that we should pay “like everyone else.” Thing is, we are not “like everyone else.” Imagine a person who is finally coming out of many psychotic, depressive, and anxiety symptoms. Imagine them trying to get a job, put through the rigours of being vocationally grilled, then dismissed because finally they get out of the person that they are paranoid schizophrenic, majorly severely depressed, and suffering from generalized anxiety. Not to mention that they have agoraphobia and social phobia. Then there is the general incompetency at doing any sort of work and incapacity to deal with work stress. Imagine that the lucky get work and two months go by, maybe six, if luckier, eight. Then suicide is attempted. After hospitalization, their job is made redundant. NOW, imagine that person is YOUR child. It’s not too far-fetched. After all, mental diseases know no social, class, racial, age or economic discrimination. And neither do the curses made by the mentally-ill persons, whom you just insulted, against your children.
The previous Liberal Government froze our “dole” for 9 years. The former Premier Christy Clark said that she expected us mentally ill to work. She gave out election goodies that contradicted what she said, that never came to fulfillment, by saying she “might” consider making mental illness a disability. She never did do it despite winning two elections. She then went on to offer raise our income by $77 a month, $52 that the province would claw back if we kept our previously free bus pass, and give us a net increase, after nine years, of $25 a month. Even the then-transportation minister at the time, the somewhat self-conscious Mike De Jong, admitted it was only a drop in the bucket, but that it was “something”.
Another Liberal Party minister, Rich Coleman, compared our disability income to third world countries salaries, getting considerably less than what we were getting after currency exchange rates and said we should be satisfied. He couldn’t understand why we weren’t more contented. I mean we live in the most beautiful city in the world. The most accessible and most economically booming province in Canada, in the most envied country in the world. Might I remind him, that is exactly what makes the cost of living in Vancouver, Canada, the unreasonably highest in the first world and for what? Yes, we can move to Penticton, or to the Downtown East Side. Really?
I found my previous west side neighbourhood scary enough to walk around after dark when coming home from visiting family for dinner. And the basement suite was at cheaper than market demand. It included utilities. And I still found living off the dole from 2008 to 2016 challenging. Now provincial Liberal leader Andrew Wilkinson insists or even vows to continue Gordon Campbell’s and Christy Clark’s legacies. Former Premier Campbell’s was the most sympathetic of Liberals to the mentally ill and I have no quip with him. Previous Premier Clark was all smiles and harboured a heart of stone, in my opinion. She was fully aware of the issues around the mentally ill, and ignored them. And if she didn’t know, after nine years, she doesn’t deserve to enter politics again. She’s just another ineffectual, pretty face.
Now Wilkinson, when prodded, made a brief and rather insincere and non-committal, vague statement that mental health in BC could use some attention, like starting from the fentanyl problem. Then nothing. No plan, no promises, no more mentions. He seems to forget he has two sons whom mental illness and drug addiction may not spare, should they happen to them, too. He has no empathy because he is a Kits boy. He is privileged and of the right skin colour; he seems to have never suffered. Hence, he is only good at extending not so much Christy Clark’s legacy, but, even further back to the Social Credit Party’s, where the right-leaning conservatives denied aid to the mentally ill altogether. Zero. Zilch. Even though you were zonked out on Haldol and obviously would not be hired, you lined up at the ministry office for help after they lured you there. They then sent you away with a suicide-inducing message of, “You-are-obviously-not-hireable-but-we-expect-you-to-work-anyway.” What kind of Canadian governing party does that to its own people? Who does that kind of thing?
Do not be deceived. Should Wilkinson come into power, he will be a conservative on steroids. Meanwhile, some of us will be appealing to a Higher Court with our Higher Power to make his sons examples of the indiscrimination that mental illness promises the 25% of us British Columbians, and, indeed, of all Canadians. ~V
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