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The Solidarity BBQ held in Ottawa’s McNabb Park on Saturday was a big hit with the community. Approximately 500 people came out to enjoy the event and support the fight to Raise the Rates and Restore the Special Diet for those on welfare and disability benefits.  The perfect weather, great entertainment, tasty food, face painting, info booth and appreciative crowd all contributed to an excellent event.

CUPE Ontario is partnering with labour and community allies to organize this series of Solidarity BBQs, to gain support and momentum leading up to the Ontario provincial election on October 6th.

Speakers at the barbecue included Carrie Lynn Poole, CUPE Ontario Division executive member representing Social Services and Linda Lalonde from the Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network.  Ottawa-Centre NDP candidate Anil Naidoo spoke briefly to the crowd before helping to serve up lunch. “This event has no basis in anything other than a society who is not taking care of people properly,” said Naidoo.

Volunteers at the event – sponsored by CUPE Ontario – cooked up hotdogs, burgers, and veggie burgers for the appreciative crowd.  Entertainment was provided by CUPE’s own talented Heather Farrow, who belted out five labour songs, accompanied by guitar and mandolin. Marie Hawkins,activist and entertainer extraordinaire from the Ottawa Poverty Reduction Network, kept the crowd going for the rest of the afternoon.

Hawkins began the singing with audience shout-backs.  She invited the audience to join in with many rock and roll favourites like Proud Mary and Mustang Sally, before leading the group in a banner dance and fun sporting competitions.

We put on these events because there are people in this town who have to choose between rent and food,” Hawkins told the crowd.

The Raise the Rates and Restore the Special Diet campaign by CUPE Ontario and the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) is being fought on behalf of those on welfare and disability benefits. People receiving the Special Diet Allowance will now have to re-apply under a much tougher system. It is expected that countless vulnerable people living in poverty will lose this vital benefit or have it reduced significantly.

Ottawa Solidarity BBQ photos

CUPE Ontarioalso sponsored the Solidarity Barbecue in Toronto on July 23 http://www.cupe.on.ca/d1525/raise-rates-solidarity-bbqand are sponsoring two upcoming events in St. Catharines and Hamilton.


St. Catharines: Sunday, August 21st
Montebello Park, 64 Ontario Street
12:00 noon – 3 p.m.

Hamilton: Saturday, August 27th
Location to be confirmed.
12:00 noon – 5 p.m.

These family friendly events are an opportunity to share food, socialize and deepen labour/community links while bringing much-needed public awareness to growing and visible levels of poverty, hunger and disparity affecting our communities.