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Committee takes up ailing man’s cause

BY TAMARA BELKOV Raymond Boucher just turned 54 but he didn’t celebrate with cake and balloons. Instead he had a bowl of soup.
Raymond Boucher is refusing to take his medication in protest of how “the system” is treating him.


Raymond Boucher just turned 54 but he didn’t celebrate with cake and balloons. Instead he had a bowl of soup.

Barely able to keep any food down, the Sudbury man claims his physical and mental condition has deteriorated since he began his protest against the Ontario Disability Support Program (ODSP) more than a month ago.

A diabetic, Boucher is due to undergo dialysis. He receives a disability pension and lives on $1,100 per month.

Upset that his food supplement was cut by $51 and how his case has been handled by ODSP, Boucher stopped taking prescribed medications in order to protest what he calls an unfair system.

“This is crazy, a broken-down system that’s failing everyone on disability,” Boucher says over the phone, his speech slightly slurred.

“I can’t go to the food bank. I can’t eat that food. With all this, I’m so upset I can’t eat anything at all. I can’t stop throwing up.”

Gary Kinsman and the Hunger Clinic Organizing Committee have taken up Boucher’s cause.

“He’s been treated very badly by ODSP. They issued a letter that made it look like he’d get more (money) when he was really going to get less. It’s very deceiving,” says Kinsman.

He alleges in Boucher’s case, ODSP violated policies.

ODSP made an arbitrary change to Boucher’s special diet supplement without a doctor’s consultation and they failed to send a new special diet form to Boucher Feb. 17. After receiving the form, he should have had 90 days to see his doctor and have the form re-submitted to ODSP, during which time his supplement was to remain unchanged, Kinsman says.

Instead, Boucher’s supplement was reduced immediately and no new form was sent to him nor was he informed he could re-apply.

After weeks of repeated calls and visits to Sudbury’s ODSP office—he has been accused of harassing staff—Boucher was told he could re-apply. Boucher picked up the necessary form despite being banned from the office.

The Hunger Clinic Organizing Committee has sent a letter to ODSP on behalf of Boucher, demanding his special diet supplement be reinstated to $147 for at least 90 days as required under existing OSDP policy. Kinsman says Boucher intends to meet with a lawyer from the Sudbury Community Legal Clinic to form an appeal.

According to Kinsman, Boucher’s case is not unique.

ODSP has sent similar letters to others who normally receive a food supplement of up to $250 a month to cover special dietary needs as described by a registered medical professional — doctor, nurse practitioner, dietitian and/or midwife.

The provincial government uses the same system to allocate funds for people on social assistance. Changes made to the system by the government last November are starting to be felt by recipients of both ODSP and Ontario Works.

Anti-poverty and social justice advocates say the policy is designed to make it more difficult for those in need to access help.

A Sudbury woman recently ended a hunger strike she undertook to protest her treatment under Ontario Works. After the government reviewed her case she was moved from Ontario Works to ODSP. The monthly allotment for basic needs and shelter are more for those on ODSP and they are not expected to return to work on a full-time basis.

The dietary supplement is intended to provide extra funds for those on social assistance with medical conditions to purchase special foods. For example an adult diabetic with a milk allergy and congestive heart failure is eligible for a food supplement of $121 a month, while an infant with just a milk allergy is eligible for $95.

Those in need must apply to ODSP or Ontario Works for the Special Diets form, have it filled out by a medical professional and returned to the government in the time allowed. Recipients are to be advised of the approved amount along with the renewal date.


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