Peasants & Emperors is a podcast presenting topics related to democracy, science, culture, women’s issues, current events and critical thinking. A new podcast is produced and available for listening/download approximately every two weeks.
In episode 17, Jess and Rick interview Kirby Criddle. Criddle is one of three founding members of the Freedom Fooders—a grass roots initiative attempting to address the problem of food insecurity in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan. The Freedom Fooders build food boxes placing them in various neighborhoods where need is perceived to be the greatest. The initiative has inspired similar actions in cities throughout Western Canada.
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Notes & Clarifications
1). During the podcast, the topic of safe injection sites were discussed. These sites are controversial because they offer a counter-intuitive solution to the problem of illicit drug use. The previous Conservative government opposed safe injection sites partly for economic reasons and partly ethical reasons. Specifically, Rona Ambrose, the former federal Minister of Health, argued essential resources were being diverted from treatment and prevention while drug use was being legitimated by Insite (the name of the safe injection program in Vancouver).
Conventional treatment and prevention services are essential; however, by adding safe injection sites people already addicted are provided safe needles (preventing HIV and hepatitis infections) and access to emergency services otherwise unavailable to people who struggle with addictions. According to a Maclean’s article published on July 20, 2015, Vancouver was in the midst of a health crisis that Dr. Thomas Kerr of the B.C. Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS called “the most explosive epidemic of HIV infection that had been observed outside of sub-Saharan Africa.” Since Insite (the name of the safe injection program) was established in 2003, British Columbia has gone from having the highest infection rate in Canada to among the lowest. Dr. Kerr observed, “In the immediate area around Insite, the 40-block area around the facility, there’s been a 35% decline in overdose deaths. And people who use Insite on a regular basis are 30% more likely to enter addiction treatment.”
2). Additionally, during the podcast the topic of how Medicine Hat is dealing with homelessness was discussed. Instead of just ignoring the homeless, the municipality of Medicine Hat is dealing with the issue head on. Mayor Ted Clugson led an initiative to provide homes (not just shelter) for people. He argued that it made “financial sense…You can actually save money by giving somebody some dignity and giving them a place to live.” During the initiative, Medicine Hat has provided living spaces for at least 885 people (nearly 1,000 people out of a city population of 61,000).
According to a paper published by the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness called The State of Homelessness in Canada (2014), finding housing for homeless people in the short-term will cost municipal, provincial and federal level governments a lot of money; however, in the long-term instead of spending 7 billion a year on emergency shelters, social services, health care, and law enforcement and judicial costs, ending homelessness through a “comprehensive housing strategy would cost much less: 3.75 billion in 2015-16 and 44 billion over a decade [rather than 70 billion].”