Tribute to Denise Vernier from The SDG Coalition for Social Justice – January 9, 2011 – Cornwall Ontario

Cornwall ON – We received the following release from the SDG Coalition for Social Justice co-chair Lori Taylor:

“On behalf of the Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry (SDG)Coalition for Social Justice, I would like to extend our condolences to Denise Vernier’s family and friends.  Denise was an active member of the Coalition for Social Justice and we counted Denise’s ODSP (Ontario Disability Support Program) Action Coalition as one of our key sister partners in the fight to end poverty, social injustice and discrimination at all levels and for all people.

Denise was more than just a fighter; however, Denise was a hero.  Denise was a woman who dared to speak and act upon many issues that often get swept under the rug; particularly those surrounding disability and mental illness.  From her petition to make life better for people receiving ODSP to her tireless championing of poverty issues, Denise was never one to shy away from hard work or hard issues.

In 2009, I had the honour of presenting Denise with the Community Activist award on behalf of the Cornwall and District Labour Council. As usual, Denise was very humble when receiving recognition and felt that the award belong to all those who were fighting injustice alongside her.  A year later, at the same ceremony, instead of celebrating with Denise, in a sad twist of fate, I found myself calling upon our activist and labour members to keep Denise in their thoughts and minds as the search for Denise continued.

As I write this now, we know that Denise has been found and that the social justice community has lost not only a passionate advocate, but a friend.  In the years that I have known Denise, I cannot even begin to count the times that she would phone me and start the conversation off with: “It’s just not right. It’s just not…”  Denise, in your memory and on behalf of the people you so passionately and with such dignity gave voice to,  your friends at the SDG Coalition for Social Justice will continue to fight in your honour and to work towards creating a community and world where things are “right” for ALL its citizens.

I offer my condolences to Denise Vernier’s family and friends. I also offer my condolences to activist communities in Cornwall and SD&G of which Denise was a committed member. She founded the SD&G Action Coalition on ODSP, she was an active member of the SD&G Coalition for Social Justice and gave her labour and her support to anyone who appealed to her. For her generous spirit and desire to help whenever she could, the Cornwall and District Labour Council once named her Community Activist of the Year.

Denise experienced first-hand, the challenges of coping with a disability and struggled daily to achieve security on an inadequate pension. To improve her situation and that of others, Denise established the SD&G Action Coalition. She held meetings to establish a network for those on ODSP and others programs and gave advice and support freely. Denise felt that if politicians knew the difficulties faced by people coping with disabilities, they would act to improve things. To that end, Denise embarked on an ambitious crusade to gather 5,000 signatures on a petition that she would take to Queens Park, to compel MPPs to alleviate the financial pressures faced by people who are in receipt of ODSP. And Denise wouldn’t delegate any of the signature-gathering. At one point, she had 3,500 signatures that represented 3,500 encounters with people she had stopped on street corners. Denise was tireless and dedicated. For her efforts, she was invited to be part of the pre-budget lockup at Queens Park, and her message went forward.

I will always remember Denise Vernier. She was a warm, unique and independent woman who tried to make the world a better place through her own personal efforts. Activists can have no better role model. In closing, I offer my special condolences to people who struggle to maintain some dignity within the constraints of an inadequate pension. Denise was a champion for everyone who experiences acute and systemic poverty. Denise tried to increase public awareness of the problem and she succeeded. To honour Denise’s memory, we would do well to continue her work. There is much more to be done.

Elaine MacDonald

President, Cornwall & District Labour council

We are going to open the lines on Seawayradio.com tonight at 8PM, Sunday January 9th, for anyone who wishes to call in and pay tribute to Ms Vernier.  The toll free number is 877 640 1175.

Click here to listen live or via podcast after.

Eight Zero Zero

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