A Face of Poverty & Desperation in Cornwall Ontario – Letter to the Editor – January 26, 2013

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I’m so tired of reading articles that bash people on social assistance!    I’m sure a lot of you have read the blogs and commentaries either online or in the local newspapers and some of you may even be the authors!  I’ve seen phrases like lazy, responsibility free, dope selling bums, drink their cheque, professional scammers, believe the world owes them a favor, they hang out at Timmy’s all day drinking coffee, abusing the system, sure to end up in jail and mentally unstable.    I can only hope to change your mind, to put a picture in your head of what it’s like and hopefully make you think twice next time you type those disparaging remarks that cut to the very soul.

Poverty to some might mean making their car last another year, downgrading their cell phone plan, not taking the trip they had planned or maybe cutting down on takeout meals.  I’m not talking about the kind of poverty we see in commercials of third world countries asking for donations.  I’m talking about the poverty in our very small city of Cornwall, Ontario that should not exist in our well developed country!  For me, poverty goes way beyond what you can imagine.  I really don’t mind not having a car, cell phone, takeout meals or being able to go on trips.


I don’t even mind not having cable TV, or not being able to go the hair salon to have my extremely fast growing hair trimmed, or not going to a show at the cinemas once in awhile.  My adult children even understood when I couldn’t buy them gifts this past Christmas and will understand when I can’t get them a gift for their up and coming birthdays either.  None of this matters when you can’t afford them, you just learn to do without, and people as a whole can do without those extras.  I’m living proof that you can, and no, you won’t die!  So that’s the list of things I can do without, easy enough, a lot of us in the lower tax bracket do and we survive.


So now, imagine your life as a single person, losing your job due to a permanent widespread lay off, collecting the Employment Insurance benefits you’re entitled to at 55% of your previous wages which weren’t great to begin with, all the while looking for work.  That’s pretty rough, but I made it through that too.  I was able to pay my rent and I did cut back on groceries, but was still able to make it through, hoping that a job would come up soon.  My lay off was in April of 2011, I was hoping by summer I’d be in the land of the employed again.


I have an education in Business Administration Accounting and a two year accounting diploma, some experience in office administration, accounting, and customer service, it shouldn’t be that hard!  The months came and went and nothing, I registered at some of the employment agencies to aid in my search, but still nothing, my EI benefits were running out by then.


By November, I went to Ontario Works, I needed help, and I figured it might only be for a little while.  November was ok, I had already paid my rent, and then December I would have the two cheques to pay my rent.  They would give me $599 per month, but at least I would have benefits.  In December, there was a raise to $606/month.  Let me break this down for you, there are two parts to the cheque, Basic Needs $230, and Shelter, $376.  I had to pay my $725 all inclusive rent out of a $376 Shelter allowance; you can’t even put a tent on a basic camping lot for a month for $376/per month.  So ok, I have some groceries stocked up, so I can use the $230 Basic Needs portion, only I’m missing $119 to cover it!  My wonderful daughter covered my rent, and I’m so very grateful but at the same time it’s tearing me apart having to borrow from my girl!  By the end of December, I’ve got 150 applications and resumes out there.


Keep in mind I’m confined to Cornwall, because I don’t have a car so my search is limited.  One suggestion was to bus to Ottawa every day, people can be a bit dense I guess, after researching, I found out it would cost about $400 per month to get to and from Ottawa, not feasible!  A suggestion from my OW worker, move, I said ok, who is going to pay for the move and the expenses of first and last months’ rent that is required?  That funding has been taken away by our government.  She said well put your name in for subsidized housing, well there’s a 3+ years waiting list for that.  I mentioned that I didn’t have any money for groceries, her suggestion:  there’s a place that if you give $10, you can get fruit and vegetables, I don’t have $10 to give I said.


So there was no help for my situation, I did ask to be assigned an employment worker, I’m still waiting on that.  We’re coming up to the end of January; I now have about 200 job applications out there.  February’s rent is coming up and I have a $605 cheque coming.  I have 49 cents in the bank but will go into overdraft when they take my bank fee out.  What to do?  Well I guess there’s a few things I could sell, but I would only get a fraction of their worth and if OW found out if I don’t claim it, the police would be at my door charging me with fraud.  Tonight’s menu, porridge, I’m running through what groceries I’ve had stocked up.  I’ve already begged, borrowed, but haven’t stolen yet, I guess that might be next because I’m running out of everything…I guess in the end, I could end up being just like those Welfare recipient bashers call us!


Desperate in Cornwall

Donna R. – Cornwall, Ontario
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  1. Donna said, “I see the issue of bilingualism as a bit of a farce, if we, as workers, are required to be able to communicate effectively in both languages to be qualified for a job, then I believe that the public at large should also be required to communicate effectively in both languages. To have that expectation sounds silly right?”

    Yes, it is silly. How can one expect the public at large to communicate effectively in French if demographically Canada and the province of Ontario are overwhelmingly English? Very few anglophones know French, but all francophones in Ontario know English. Who in their right mind decided majority of jobs in Ontario require French???

  2. Thank you Stella, all words of encouragement mean so much! Give up, no, to give up means to lay down and die! I’ve always been a fighter and will continue!

  3. Donna your very honest with your situation and I am sure enough that an employer will wecome your skills .

    Myself, I really welcomed your integrity and honesty that my girl is hard to find and an employer would most certainly benefit having you on their team.

    Best of luck ,hold your head high ,your future will only blossom.

  4. There are some people trying to get off safety nets and the system is not set up to do that, change is needed. Why can’t we have someone just starting EI or social assistance being offered a training course to get them working in a field they like or in demand?
    Short order cooks, bookkeeping, ceramic tiler, Plumbing or other trades helpers are examples of accelerated course possibilities.

    If this job ad said English only (OR DO NOT APPLY), how many noses would be dislocated? Good for you Donna, let people know when they need it.

    “One of my recent communications with a potential employer was in response to an ad for an administrative secretary position, this ad specifically says ‘completely bilingual (OR DO NOT APPLY)’. I am completely qualified for this job and did email the employer to let her know that I’m disappointed that the only thing stopping me from being able to apply is that fact! There has been no response whatsoever, this was Thursday.”

  5. @CC2….Helga and other english freedom fighters…this article is not about french and English…..ca-vas?

    Do you have to bring up language in every article….my God, get a life. Relax some…take time to live life **smile**

  6. stellabystarlight
    January 28, 2013 at 9:50 am

    “@CC2….Helga and other english freedom fighters…this article is not about french and English…..ca-vas?”

    “this ad specifically says ‘completely bilingual (OR DO NOT APPLY)’. I am completely qualified for this job and did email the employer to let her know that I’m disappointed that the only thing stopping me from being able to apply is that fact!”

    So yes Stella this comment says it all from Donna -QUALIFIED but LANGUAGE is a barrier once again.

    Canada has a cast system similar to India -Bilingual (French) <17% , Uni-lingual 83% .

    Great government opportunities NOT allowed for 83%,yet they pay for that burden with their taxes.

  7. highlander……It seems like you did not read the article…..read it. In the article itself there is no mention of language….got that?

    The language issue, as usual, was brought up in a post by an english freedom fighter……until that post came up there was no mention of language……comprends-tu?

    So my question again….why do the freedom fighters have to bring language up in every article? **smile**

  8. stellabystarlight
    January 28, 2013 at 1:34 pm

    “So my question again….why do the freedom fighters have to bring language up in every article? **smile**”

    Because in most circumstances there is relevancy to it.

    Why institute full bilingualism in Ontario for 4% of the population or for the 14th most spoken language in Ontario -POLITICS ,POLITICS !

    concerned citizen 2
    January 28, 2013 at 8:30 am


    So Stella what is your answer to this ?

    Now don’t say nobody cares what happens in Quebec it is still part of Canada-because most do .If you did ANY research you would realize that .

    So my English hater -do you agree with whats happening to that individual ?Do you think its as fair how Quebec treats non French?

    Do you advocate such behavior ,yet the rest of the country must implement French even if numbers do not warrant?

    I thought North America removed segregation -only to realize we have imported and improved on it through legislation in Canada.

  9. I’ve had a very fruitful day today, no I didn’t get a job, but working at it! I had an appointment with my OW worker to update my participation agreement, which basically outlines that I’m looking for work. She also gave me a list of potential job leads which is great! I told her of my letter writing endeavor this past weekend, and invited her to come and read it, she thought it was wonderful that I’m being so proactive! My OW worker is a very nice lady who understands inadequacies in the system as well as the fraudulent use of the system. She’s paid to spot the ones who are or aren’t trying and has assured me that she knows that I am trying wholeheartedly! This was a great appointment, and very much enjoy speaking with her!

    After that, I went to Jobzone where I got some copies made of my resume and dropped them off to some of the job leads that some of you had recommended. Wow, Northern Lights was so hard to find!

    My goal for this week: to get a job! Can I do it? I’m going to try my hardest!

    One last thing, Pastor Tom and his wife had been in contact with me through email, they asked what I needed. Basics are always great, anything other than that is a bonus, and gave them a small list of absolute needs, and the extras. Saturday night they dropped around and brought me every item I had on the list! I was so surprised and thankful. I did thank them that evening, but I thought I should mention it on here. They are wonderful people, and we had a nice conversation.

  10. Donna….YOU GO GIRL!!!

    Positive thinking brings about positive results!!



    Though I agree for once with Stella,Make note of that Stella .
    Donna “Positive thinking brings about positive results!”

  12. One thing I did forget to mention about my meeting with my OW worker is that she gave me clarification as to having a part time job if that is all I can find. My earlier post was incorrect, since I have been on the system now for 3 months, that no longer applies to me so then the 50% of earnings would be taken off the cheque.

  13. Author

    Hi everyone. We have a multitude of subjects for the language issue to be discussed. Please stay on topic and save some wear and tear on your humble moderation team.

    Thank you kindly.

  14. Hi Everyone hospital will be at the city council tonight 7pm to discuss the second street site .

    Is that alright my humble moderator ?

    My humble moderator did you get my message for all my Jewish friends I was thinking of them during the rememberence of the Shoah,sorry friends it was late in the evening I sent it.

  15. Daily job searching can be very frustrating! The need to job search can’t always be done door to door like in the old days, and we rely on our computers to take us to various job search sites to look for jobs. Often the required and expected method of submitting an application and resume is electronically. I’m not saying that door to door isn’t something that you shouldn’t do, but often your resume needs to be submitted through their website, or applications are often followed by testing on the websites for recruiting processes. Often they want to weed out the flakes, the ones who are inexperienced, or the ones who just aren’t qualified. Sometimes your skills might even be tested through these online applications.

    As well as accessing Cornwall’s business Directory regularly to access various business career sections to see who might be hiring, I always access certain job sites one of which is the Service Canada Job Bank. On this site, you can break your search down by certain criteria such as location, qualifications, etc. Doing my search today on this site, I decided to try something different to break down the job search. My search had the criteria of just ‘Cornwall & Area’, there’s no way to confine it to just Cornwall, it came up with 99 jobs. That’s pretty good right? I should be able to find a job there! Here’s what I did:

    I exported those 99 jobs to Excel, and then used conditional formatting to slowly eliminate the jobs that I couldn’t do because of certain constraints which were out of my control. Here is the breakdown:

    – Removed all of the jobs outside of Cornwall, this left 28 jobs
    – Removed anything that had the text ‘mechanic’, ‘dentist’, ‘dental’, ‘electrician’, ‘technician’, this left 20 jobs
    – Removed jobs requiring special qualifications, licensing, education, experience and certification, this left 8 jobs.
    – Removed all the jobs requiring a car for travel within the job, this left 6 jobs.
    – Removed all the jobs requiring absolute bilingualism or ‘do not apply’, this left 4 jobs.
    – Then I removed the last 4 jobs because I had already applied to them in the preceding weeks.

    This search yielded absolutely nothing! While I do access this particular site daily, there rarely is anything new. I don’t usually break it down so methodically, but I just wanted to demonstrate how very frustrating it can be! I do access more than a half a dozen sites daily, and do a mental elimination of the jobs I can apply for and then proceed with the application process as requested by potential employers, sometimes they want a call, sometimes they want you to fax in your resume/cover letter, sometimes email.

    On to the next job search sites….

  16. Donna, I feel your pain. I lost my great job after a back injury after I couldn’t get back to work within a reasonable amount of time (gotta love contract work). I saw a specialist who said my injury didn’t warrant any surgery and I should try other forms of treatment which comes at an extra cost. I’m still undergoing treatment daily which isn’t cheap to say the least. My EI is running out in a few months and it’s just enough to cover the rent and move to my in-laws. Since my wife makes a reasonable amount, I do not qualify for social assistance, disability and when the EI runs out, that’s the end of my income until I start working again.

    You gotta love our wonderful system right?!?!

  17. I am so sorry for everything that you a going through…my daughter also lives in Cornwall and the system is also not helping her at all….she is a single mom with a 4 yr old and they told her to volunteer or work full time and she is going to college on her own and paying for it herself. Assistance should he there to help the ones in actual need but you have these others that abused the system so bad that the innocent are affected. Then they wonder why they want to get the recipients drug tested…..wonder why. What will happen once the tests come back positive are they getting cut off or sent for help. There is honest and decent people on the system that are trying so hard to get off and have a better life and actually it’s not giving them much hope at all.


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  19. If someone wanted to help out Donna R. How would we do that?

  20. Author

    Angel this story is from 2013. I think she’s doing much better.

  21. It would seem that I need to post an update!

    My job search continued on, I had nearly 500 applications out by the time I got my current job nearly 2 years later. As I had stated earlier, I had to “dumb down” my resume because I was over-qualified for a lot of jobs I was applying for. In my educational field, it seemed that my college education wasn’t enough either for the Accounting jobs, most interviewers were looking for someone with at least 5 yrs experience and/or a university degree.

    I’m working part time, from home. Up until September 2015, Welfare was supplementing my part time wage. It wasn’t much extra, sometimes as low as $25 for the month, but it kept benefits going. That’s cut off now. All was done legally without defrauding the system! I work a maximum 28 hrs per week with the option sometimes of signing up for extra hours, which I do as often as I can! I’m hoping to find a second part time job to supplement my current job.

    I still can’t afford a car, nor do I take trips, I don’t have a cell phone, nor do I have cable TV. I can however order take out, get a haircut, and go to that show when the mood strikes! Half the battle of surviving job loss and the ensuing poverty it brings about, is knowing how to live within your means! My bills are paid on time, rent is never late, my cupboards and freezer are always full (I don’t eat porridge for supper!) and I’m managing to put a bit of money aside to one day buy a good used car 🙂

    I’ll never be rich, but I survived!

  22. Author

    Glad to see you’re out of crisis Donna and if you ever are interested CFN is always looking for sales reps. It’s flexible and has a great commission and bonus package right now.

  23. Donna R. is the exception to the rules, congratulations Donna for being the exception.

  24. I read that the bus that takes people from Cornwall to Ottawa charges $400./month. My daughter uses OC Transpo here in Ottawa and her monthly bus pass is $103.25 and she paid her February pass earlier this afternoon. My daughter will get a receipt through the net on March 1 so as to claim it in the tax. For those of you who take that bus to Ottawa you can claim that transportation. The LRT system in Ottawa is more expensive and I don’t know the price but we will do what we can to avoid it.

  25. Good for you Donna! I hope you are proud of your resilience, your tenacity and your positive outlook. I have to tell you that I am, what I am often told, a “bleeding heart”. I would rather pay taxes for people who abuse the system, than not pay taxes when there are people like you who are trying as hard as they can. The system isn’t perfect (far from it), but I’m glad it’s there as some kind of safety net.

  26. Donna my daughter was taking the three year business program back in the year 2000 at SLC in Cornwall in the accounting and she became very sick and it wasn’t until we got to Ottawa to find out that she had thyroid disease – hyperthyroid back then and when they went to treat her at the Civic Hospital they took off too much off her thyroid and became hypothyroid.

    My daughter found out back then that you need a university degree in accounting and you need all the maths and they think in the mathematical way. The college education in accounting is of a clerical level. It took my daughter some time to find out where she would like to work and is doing exceptionally well.

    A co-worker of my daughter left for Toronto with friends and she was going into the course but in “Entrepreneurialship” and she wants to make her own company cleaning houses for seniors and people who have no time to clean.

    Jamie is offering you a good position to start and that is Marketing work. Think about it and you are in the business program and it is a good start. Never give up the ship. My daughter is back in school at age 36 but in a private college where she has an excellerated program which is in one year that would normally take two. Never give up. I went through hell in past years in Cornwall when I would have one job and got laid off and it kept going like that until we made up our minds to leave Cornwall and that was when industries were in full swing.

  27. I put full blame on the mayors and councellors of both the present system of today 2016 and past years why Cornwall has never got ahead and stayed behind to die and that is literally. You have to be on the outside looking in to see Cornwall’s problems. Anybody who has any kind of education has to leave Cornwall or else you just wither away unless you have connections that get you the job. All the people that I went to school with in Cornwall have left and never returned except for the very few who inherited their father’s businesses. You have to have a plan as well as ambition and as long as Cornwall has the kind of mayor and council like what you see it will never change. Cornwall’s mayor and council is what I compare it to the old 50’s era puppet “Howdy Doody Time” and absolutely no vision at all and that brought Cornwall right down onto its knees. As long as this kind of malfunction of a system continues there is no hope in hell of being anything but the butt of the country. I have said plenty over the years and I continue to do so because I want people to be awake and do something about it before it is too late. Get rid of the clique and rebuild the town for what it can be.

  28. Donna I completely understand your situation and how some bad apples on system who abuse get away with it and more and good people trying to just get by have it so hard and trying to make better in life. As for learning French over on McConnell is a place called Moi j’apprend and it’s free you just go 20 hours a week and they build your French speaking, writing and reading skills to help you land the job. Good luck it is so hard to get ahead seems like everyone who really doesn’t care is and people who try so hard not so much! Stay strong!

  29. Donna Jenn gave you some good ideas about going for French training. Get all the education that you can and learn French which is a must. Those in Vancouver B.C. learn Mandarin Chinese and other languages and compared to the Chinese dialects French is a sinch. Take our time Donna and study hard. My daughter studies all the time here and a while ago I let her on the machine to print out her notes. What she is studying is like being a nurse – I was in shock to see what she is doing.

  30. Donna $725./month for rent – gee you are lucky. Here in Ottawa my rent is exhuberant and we are paying one of the lowest rents and the area is not the best. We are on the other side of where all the trouble is located but right nearby. There are townhouses in one of the areas that is notoriously bad that are going to be torn down soon and tenants already have their notices to vacate at the end of this month and the corporation gave them 3 months rent free so as they can look for another place to live.

    Donna people don’t know what it is like to live in poverty and that dirty clique in Cornwall is hurting all of you whether you are poor, middle income or whatever. I am so mad that I can eat nails at the way the dirty clique hurt others and you have no idea how I feel. I got away as far as I could from Cornwall and never ever to return again. You took a very good course and are qualified for jobs but I will tell you honestly Cornwall is dead and buried and very little hope and if you do find employment I will jump up and down in my unit and everyone will know that wacky Jules has lost it I would be very happy for you.

    We got rid of the basic cable and we use IP TV and I don’t watch TV at all since 12 years and my husband and adult kids love it. I love my high speed internet since it is that that interests me and there was nothing at all on cable and my husband said one day the hell with it and cancelled it and not because we can’t afford it but on the contrary we are not the kind who will pay for something that we don’t like. Rogers is in trouble along with many companies and even Shaw cable amalgamated with another cable company to stay alive. The Ottawa Sun and Ottawa Citizen amalgamated to stay alive as well. What do you think that the toilet papers of record in Cornwall the Seaway News and the Standard Freeloader will do – they will be gone in no time and there is nothing in those papers – they are funny papers to me.

    You stay strong Donna mighty hard times are coming and I don’t say that lightly. I go by the food and I shake my head and many refuse to pay for the high prices and you should see people’s faces at the meat counter – I would love to take their pictures. LOL LOL. It is mighty sad and hang on and never get discouraged. We haven’t given our kids gifts for Christmas since they were little and my husband gives both my adult kids each $100. at Christmas so as they can buy what they want. My husband and I don’t exchange gifts either at any time so you dry those tears and you would be shocked to see the people losing their jobs and homes just now out west and having to go home where they came from. Think of me wacky Jules and you will laugh away your tears and make good plans for your life. If only I could explain what happened in the dentist’s office today that I went through would make all of you laugh to pieces. I wanted to be buried in the cemetary nearby. LOL LOL. ROLF! Take care and all the best.

  31. Je l’ai déjà dit que je suis bilingue, mais pas assez bilingue! I’ve already been to Le Centre Moi J’apprends, I already know how to speak, read, and write in french, and comprehension and ability to translate is excellent . They couldn’t teach me fluency.

    Comments, suggestions and well wishes are appreciated 🙂 ! An update was posted yesterday.

  32. Donna it is getting so mighty tough to deal with the bilingualism that the companies and government wants from people and so many people are more than fed up. My doctor’s secretary speaks basic French and gets by very well with the patients and even foreign people who are Arab, Italian, etc. and she speaks slow enough to make herself understood and no complaints at all about her French. I have heard her speak and I have complemented her on her effort and I found her French better than a lot of the students that I went to school with in Cornwall. Never give up at all and you are doing very well. Cornwall doesn’t have much in the way of jobs and even here in Ottawa most people are working part time and everything is a great deal more expensive than Cornwall. People are shunning at the cost of food and everything else and believe me you are not alone. Keep up the great work.

  33. Donna people are having a hard time everywhere. I was talking to Anna one of my daughter’s co-workers who is either 56 or 57 years old and works as a cashier nearby. Yesterday we spoke with her because he daughter is taking a similar course as my daughter but a different school and Anna spoke about her daughter having a special needs baby (autistic) and wakes her up at all hours and cannot sleep. Anna’s children all live with her in a small townhouse off St. Laurent Blvd. and the eldest girl has a young child as well and she has a son everyone living in one tiny household that is how expensive it is here in Ottawa. Anna was telling me about her sister who is 53 years old and lost her job just lately and had to move out of her apartment and move back in with her mom. So many people have to share rents because it is over many peoples heads. There are no full time jobs like what used to exist except for a very few. People are having a mighty hard time. My little hovel costs a mint and way over what it should be but the taxes here in Ottawa are murder. My rent is the cost of a house in the Glebe – an historical house. I knew that by a lady that I met at the material store where I go for my quilting stuff and she owns an historical home in the Glebe area and I almost collapsed at what she quoted. People in my building keep moving out because the heat is way down, the roof leaked before and there is damage on the ceiling and walls and one time it rained heavy and the rain soaked through the brick and when I got up one morning my carpet was all wet and I said to my husband “did I do that”? LOL LOL. Every apartment below me had that problem and men had to come and repair.

  34. Donna I should have quoted it this way – my rent is the cost of an historical home in the Glebe. When I was told how much taxes a lady pays who owns a house in that neighborhood I was literally blown away and almost collapsed in shock. This woman was working two jobs and did sewing on the side for people and her husband was doing two jobs as well to keep going. There is water in between our walls and on the roof that seeps in and plaster falls from the ceiling. That is the owner’s problem. I am very happy not to own a house these days and was mighty happy to sell. We had water problems as well at the house and broken pipes, electrical work to be done, roof to be replaced, new siding, etc. and it was like building a whole new house. No tanks I sure don’t need those problems. You would have roared with laughter to see what Yahoo.ca put as a house in Vancouver B.C. at well over a million dollars and no land at all and no enough room between the other homes. I have seen tiny shacks in Cornwall in much better shape. There are plenty of people much worse off than you can imagine. People are struggling to keep their heads above water.

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