UC Observer logo
UCObserver on SoundCloud UCObserver on YouTube UCObserver on Facebook UCObserver on Twitter UCObserver's RSS Feeds
Photo by Carolyn Pogue

Rag dolls in the Legislature

A playful campaign asks Alberta MLAs to take a serious look at child poverty

By Carolyn Pogue

In the visitor’s gallery of the Alberta Legislature in Edmonton, 35 members and supporters of the Child Well-Being Initiative (CWBI), waited for the MLAs to file in. From my seat, I glanced around in anticipation at the Speaker’s chair and the 83 empty desks, about to be occupied. Sitting there, I swear I heard women’s rights pioneer Nellie McClung cheering us on.

The CWBI, a campaign organized by United Church women, has been raising awareness about 77,595 Alberta children living in poverty since 2007. They’ve organized petitions, letters and a rally at the Legislature. This year, CWBI organized a student writing and art competition in which participants responded to the question, “What if . . . every child in Alberta had a safe home and enough to eat?”

Then women girls and youth around the province started stitching rag dolls. We made 83 dolls, one for each MLA and more to spare. Attached to every doll is a list of four requests to help children, a paraphrase of the Persistent Widow parable, and a quote from Jesus who asked, “If a child asks for bread, who of us would give a child a stone?”

The visitor’s gallery gives a bird’s-eye view of the floor, and it was fun to watch the pages moving purposefully to deliver a colourful rag doll to each desk. When the MLAs entered the chamber, we watched as they spied their doll and picked it up. We saw a couple trade dolls. We saw men examine their dolls and read the message even before sitting down. We saw a little derision, much curiosity and many smiles.

Harry Chase, Liberal critic for children and youth services, introduced us. The first part of question period was taken with Opposition questions focusing on child poverty. David Swann, leader of the Opposition, called for the creation of a child nutrition program to end hunger in Alberta children. Raj Sherman, subsequently ousted from the Conservative caucus, tabled the CWBI petitions.

Elsewhere in the province, individuals and small groups of people were taking a moment to pray for the deliberations in the Legislature. In Lethbridge, Alta., 30 people rallied on the frigid steps of Southminster United to listen to speeches and readings of young people, and to pray.
At a press conference held just before our appearance at the Legislature, Lillian Stewart, CWBI co-chair, told reporters, “We are asking our elected representatives to lead the way. We want a bold, well-resourced, accountable child poverty reduction strategy. We want firm goals and timelines. Quebec, Newfoundland/Labrador, Ontario, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia already have strategies.”

Lillian also told a Premier’s assistant, “We’ll be back next year to see how you are doing and what new initiatives are working.” But Yvonne Fritz, minister for children and youth, has already summoned the CWBI to meet with her in Edmonton before Christmas.

Nellie McClung was a United Church woman who believed in the power of women working together. She was imperfect, faithful, creative and had a great sense of humour. I hope that she will continue to travel with us. Nellie makes the journey way more fun.

Author's photo
Carolyn Pogue is a longtime Observer contributor. New posts of The Pogue Blog will appear on the first and third Thursday of the month. For more information on Carolyn Pogue, visit www.carolynpogue.ca..
Readers’ advisory: The discussion below is moderated by The UC Observer and facilitated by Intense Debate (ID), an online commentary system. The Observer reserves the right to edit or reject any comment it deems to be inappropriate. Approved comments may be further edited for length, clarity and accuracy, and published in the print edition of the magazine. Please note: readers do not need to sign up with ID to post their comments on ucobserver.org. We require only your user name and e-mail address. Your comments will be posted from Monday to Friday between 9:30 a.m. and 5:30 p.m. Join the discussion today!
Promotional Image

Editorials

David Wilson%

Observations

by David Wilson

If statues could talk

Promotional Image

Video

ObserverDocs: Stolen Mother

by Observer Staff

The daughter and adoptive mother of one of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women share their story

Promotional Image

Society

July 2017

From far and wide

by Various Writers

Meet 11 immigrants who are putting down new roots

World

June 2017

A suitcase for Cuba

by Christopher Levan

You’ll find more than giveaway toiletries and hand-me-downs in the writer's luggage. Each carefully chosen gift offers a glimpse into the lives of Cubans today.

Justice

June 2017

Undocumented

by Kristy Woudstra

Up to half a million people are living in Canada without official status. The ‘sanctuary city’ movement is growing, but the fear of deportation persists.

World

June 2017

Resisting genocide

by Sally Armstrong

In August 2014, ISIS attacked Iraq’s Yazidis, slaughtering thousands and forcing women and girls into sexual slavery. Today, the survivors are fighting for their ancient way of life.

Society

April 2017

Dear Grandkids

by Various Writers

Six acclaimed Canadian authors write letters from the heart

Society

March 2017

Called to resist

by Paul Wilson

Liberal Christians in the United States test their faith against a demagogue

Promotional Image