By Roderick Benns
In May 2016, Reza Hajivandi and a bunch of others interested in social issues ended up in the same space under the North York Community Housing Leadership and Community Engagement program in Toronto.
Through the course they were taking, they discussed and learned what community leadership and participation meant. As a last step of fulfilling the course’s requirements, they had to apply their skills and then both advocate and engage with the community on one issue. They chose Basic Income as their issue.
“Our goal was to get about a 100 signatures while different group members provided different estimates with the highest being 2,000,” says Hajivandi.
To their shock, in 24 hours they had over 20,000 petitions, with thousands of comments through their ‘Canadian Initiative for Basic Income.’
“It was encouraging and overwhelming at the same time,” says Hajivandi. “Given the reception, and our passion for social issues, we felt that we needed to go on, and continue with the project beyond the course. Here we are today, and we have been able to continue with our petition, make connections, advocate for an effective Basic Income policy, and currently, we are in the process of finishing up our draft policy proposal for a Basic Income.”
With his passion for learning within the social issues, Hajivandi also saw this as an excellent opportunity to actually apply his skills for a real, tangible cause.
“I think this is a very important issue because we may be at a critical juncture where changes to the welfare system are more necessary than ever before,” he says.
He says that poverty, unemployment, and to a certain extent, “precarity” have always existed in Canadian history. On the flip side, he notes that government policy to battle these challenges have also always existed.
“However, the high rates of poverty, precarity, expensive living conditions today coupled with an incapable welfare system means that more Canadians are suffering every day and expect change,” he says.
Hajivandi notes that under a neoliberal framework, governments usually seek to cut more and spend less on social services. He sees a Basic Income as a way to both appease people and reduce spending.
“At this critical juncture a radical reform of social security could have major implications,” he says. If done effectively, Hajivandi says a Basic Income can help Canadians out of poverty and “remove the conditions and surveillance mechanisms” of the existing welfare security system, which have only exacerbated poverty.