GDC: Panhandler Piper Defies Community Service Order

A panhandler piper who cut the wires of a competing music speaker in an Ottawa underpass in 2009 is continuing his fight against the city and a welfare system that he says is an institution of modern slavery.

The judge convicted him and sentenced him to 20 hours of community service with the Salvation Army, which he refused. He had filed an appeal, but a misunderstanding over the date in November 2010, meant he missed it. The judge dismissed the appeal due to his absence.

“They gave me a piece of paper with a Salvation Army logo on it for 20 hours and I said, ‘I’m not working for those guys’,” said Loomer, who objects to community service as a form of slavery. He said that obligatory community service enforced by the courts and police is nothing like volunteering and actually working in the community. The Salvation Army and other agencies like it are “religious extensions of the government” that benefit and depend on the free labour given them by such sentences.

Loomer’s refusal to do community service led to a breach of conditions hearing on Jan. 5, 2010, which was then postponed to Jan. 26, pending him getting a lawyer to represent him.

“The Salvation Army has taken on the role of Pharaoh and it’s our part to cross the Red Sea to freedom.”

Loomer is aiming to challenge Ontario’s social welfare system and its requirement that people are destitute and property-less before they can receive help from the government. This system resembles more the ‘poor house’ model of 19th Century England, than one in the present day.

Loomer is not the only one challenging Ontario’s social assistance system. The Social Assistance Review Council declared it as having “outdated models of social assistance” and recommended a total income security review that included Ontario Works, Ontario Disability Support Program, Employment Insurance, the Canada Pension Plan, disability benefits, Workplace Safety and Insurance Board, federal and provincial child benefits, among other tax break and income programs run by the two levels of government. The report said that everyone in the system, from recipients to service providers to recipients think the system is broken, but there is no consensus on how to change it.

The Ontario government responded by announcing a “Social Assistance Review” on November 30, 2010, leaving the victims of the system trapped in a cycle of poverty for another year-and-a-half.