Social Services in the Holidays



The holiday season can be a period of warmth for friends and family: the images of chestnuts roasting around the fireplace; the gift-giving rituals to loved ones in our lives; the celebratory end to another year as we set new goals for us to reach in the upcoming one. However, for others in Canada, the holidays may not elicit the same images. Earlier this September, we learned from the 2016 Canadian Census, that when using the low-income measure (LIM)  that 4.8 million people live below the poverty line. Additionally, it was reported that in 2015, 17% of Canadian children below the age of 18, lived in a low-income household. As such, the holidays can be a period of continued challenges for many: the abuse and neglect of a child on the welfare system and the loneliness they may face as they strive to reach their potential; The struggle to make ends meet as food groups get cut from the shopping list; the dependency on social assistance to pay for high bills for rent and utilities.

As public policy students at Beyond the Headlines, we are often faced with the paradigm of the “public good”, or how best to help the public in facing the problems that people often face. This is all within the safety of the classroom. We know that policy changes have the ability to provide relief and sustainability to Canada’s most vulnerable populations. However, policies may still leave gaps in the current system and it is the community organizations, charities, and front-line support that work endlessly to provide immediate relief to community members.  In removing ourselves from the technocracy and theory of policy, today we ask: What is being done in the community to help people in the holiday season? And what can we do as citizens to help our fellow beings?

In this special holiday episode, we talk to two organizations whose goals are to help those in need in Canada and in the community; Children and youth who face obstacles to reach their fullest potential in life and people who have to cut food from their budget to make ends meet. Through the lens of how these services have to adjust to meet the demands of the holiday season, we hope you come away with an appreciation for these services as we enter the season and the new year.

Richard Matern is the director of research and communications at the Daily Bread Food Bank, the largest food charity in Toronto. Research and publications are key tools in the Daily Bread’s work with government outreach and public education. Richard and his colleagues at Daily Bread have produced a number of reports on poverty and hunger in the GTA, including the annual Who’s Hungry report. This annual report provides a profile of hunger and food insecurity in Toronto.

” Hunger does not wait for policy change.” – Richard Matern, director of research and communications at the Daily Bread Food Bank

Valerie McMurtry is President & CEO of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada, the leading national charity dedicated to improving the lives of our country’s most vulnerable youth – those who have experienced abuse, neglect, and abandonment. Through the support of generous donors, Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada raises and grants funds, and delivers a wide range of high-impact programs and services, transforming the lives of over 24,000 children and youth each year. Valerie is currently leading Stand Up for Kids – Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada’s national campaign for child welfare, a$60-million effort to catalyze change for kids in Canada’s child welfare system.

“Housing supports, tutoring, education supports, youth employment help, and mental health supports are all important to us.” – Valerie McMurtry, President and CEO of the Children’s Aid Foundation of Canada

Anna Amy Ho is a Crisis Counsellor and Violence Prevention Program Coordinator, Aerialist, Motivational Speaker and advocate. In addition to being a Children’s Aid Foundation Young People’s Advisory Council member, she is a Board Executive for Ryerson Radio Inc. and an advisor to the CAS Investigations Unit with the Provincial Advocate’s Office. In 2015, along with graduating with an Honours Bachelor of Social Work degree, she received the Attorney General’s Victim Services Award of Distinction in recognition of her service to victims of crime and vulnerable youth. In 2017, she received the Isadore Sharp Outstanding Recent Graduate Award which is a prestigious Ryerson Alumni Achievement Award.

Despite childhood trauma that completely altered her life, Anna’s resilience has resulted in determination and resilience that leads her to succeed in the face of adversity. One day, Anna hopes to use dance movement therapy in trauma treatment and create a therapeutic arts center where people can access arts-based forms of psychotherapy.


Leanna Mora, Host, Executive Producer
Ian T. D Thomson, Host, Technical Producer, Executive Producer
Jonah Kotzer,
Technical Producer

Music Credits

Not Dead by Fine Times
I saw three ships
by Sufjan Stevens
Hanukah Blessings
by Barenaked Ladies
Maybe this Christmas
by Ron Sexsmith
Little Drummer Boy/Peace on Earth
by David Bowie and Bing Crosby
Christmas Party
by The Walkmen
The First Noel
by Crash Test Dummies
Auld Lang Syne by Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians


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