I went for a drive a few weeks ago. Everyone is talking about social justice issues these days and I can’t help but wonder where the justice is in my own community. The pictures below are just a few of the ones I took on my drive through “the ridges”. Charlotte County, I’ve been told, is economically the poorest county in Canada and just a few minutes drive on some rural back roads is found the evidence. Looking at some of the conditions people live in makes me wonder are we really any better here in Canada then some of the developing nations we criticize?

I spent some time in South Africa a few years ago and one thing for which we heavily criticized the government was the dramatic gap we saw between the rich and the poor. In the midst of Cape Town or Johannesburg we could convince ourselves we were in any 1st world, Western city. But just a few miles out into the rural area were massive townships where thousands of people lived in destitute conditions.

How can everyone just ignore such a huge problem? I wondered. How can the government justify allowing so many people to live in such poverty? Now I understand that there was a plank in my own eye and that we live in the same sort of denial here in the Maritimes. Sure, it may not look like a South African township, but some of conditions here, when combined with harsh winters, no electricity/water, and the rising cost of fuel, mean that many New Brunswickers live in 3rd world standards. I know it’s not just Charlotte County, in fact it’s a country wide problem and very much a wide spread problem here in the Maritimes (I have seen some similar areas in Cape Breton, Western PEI, Northern Aboriginal Reserves, etc.).

Please do not misinterpret what I am saying. Believe me, I think it is beyond necessary that we all move toward a way of life that consumes less resources and I would never want to criticize someone for choosing to live simply. But we all deserve the opportunity to make that choice. I do not think that this perpetual cycle of poverty is of many people’s choosing.

I can’t seem to escape the nagging question playing on repeat in the back of my head asking “Why do we allow this? How do I allow it?” I know there is no one, single, solution–nothing so simple or else we would have fixed it by now. In part the federal government has taken much and given back very little in return; in part it is corporations like Irving that we have allowed to run our province, take our land, and determine working standards; and in part it is our own “poverty mentality” and inability to step up and assume responsibility for our neighbours. As Maritimers it is all we have ever known and therefore we do not know anymore what is and is not acceptable.

Let me say this now.

This is absolutely not acceptable.

I don’t know what the answer is but I will continue to seek for one, and I hope and pray that as we all become more aware of the plank in our own eye we will stop ignoring our own economic problems, convincing ourselves that we are “making poverty history” because we verbally encourage our government (and Bono) to give more of our federal dollars toward eradicating 3rd world hunger at a G8 summit. There are plenty of justice issues next door and we need to stand together and figure this one out.


7 Responses to “WHERE IS THE JUSTICE?”

  1. 2 Heidi Renee April 22, 2008 at 11:02 pm

    I’m with you Shelley, the poverty here astounds me. Then I realized that our mountain range here in NB is actually part of the Appalachia’s and I realized that it is very similar to the poverty we saw down in Pennsylvania, West Virginia & Kentucky.

    This is more than money can fix. The depth of involvement will have to go so deep. When we were at the symposium on homelessness in SJ last month I spoke at length with the woman who began the soup kitchen there and she is feeding her SIXTH generation of families there – six generations stuck in poverty and it is only now with this youngest generation that they are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.

    I will stand with you in this. It is one of the deep cries of my heart.

  2. 3 becks April 23, 2008 at 3:52 am

    This is a real problem, it’s true. So, what can be done?

    What can I do? If given a direction in which to help, I want to help.

  3. 4 Barrett April 23, 2008 at 3:11 pm

    Great post…I always have the same feeling when travelling up the Western Post in West Prince back home. So many run-down shacks, yards full of rusted cars. Not sure how we break the cycle of poverty in these areas. A lot of it has to do with job opportunities and education. You would think that in a place like the Maritimes, where no one is really that far from a city/town of some size, this wouldn’t be as much of an issue…but it is.

    Perhaps embracing green power initiatives and eco-friendly industries will be part of it…I’m not sure. That being said…these houses are often found in the parts of our provinces where no one is really that excited about living (ie. Miscouche Swamp, the interior of NB)

    Thanks for provoking much thought!

  4. 5 sweetlybroken April 24, 2008 at 1:02 am

    I am but one small person who has a passion to create equality for all but I fully understand that I may only change the world for one person. The magnitude of poverty in our own backyards leaves me feeling powerless, overwhelmed and yet I keep trying to change the world, for one person at a time. Our current poverty problem will continue to increase as long as no one else tries to take responsibilty for the life of another. Life is just getting too busy for some folks who would rather throw a buck at the problem than spend a buck to get to know the problem better.
    Awesome post!

  5. 6 joel mason April 27, 2008 at 3:34 am

    tied to this problem, in my opinion, is the high mobility rate of many people our age as we grow up. Without putting roots down somewhere, no one will ever be part of a community. without being part of a community, all you have left is the individual and an individual can do nothing helpful or sustainable except make themselves feel better.

    This is an inner issue in those of our age group: how will we live in our public spaces? permanently or in-and-out? Am I willing to plunk down in St. Stephen long enough to make some friends in those shacks? I hope so. Only with a loving community that i trust (Church) who will tell me to make some new friends can i be PART of furthering a different socio-economic way of life

    great post shell

  6. 7 Melly April 30, 2008 at 3:28 pm

    Shell, you just wrote a piece out of my own heart. I am struggling, trying to find a way to make a difference…and its only going to get worse here too. We must make a change somehow, someway…the how and the way I am still trying to figure out. Great post Shell. Love you.

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