On a chilly December 18, a small group of dedicated students took to the intersection of South Fraser Way and McCallum in Abbotsford to rally for social change and fairer wages in British Columbia. The point of the event, says organizer and UFV student Jennifer Colbourne, is to “raise awareness about B.C. poverty and the low minimum wage.”
“One thing that has become very clear is that it is impossible to live off of $8 an hour. You just can’t. People who are forced to work at $8 an hour – even if they’re lucky enough to get full-time work – are what my co-organizer Katherine Palmateer refers to as the ‘working poor.’”
Palmateer, Colbourne, and other UFV students attended the two hour rally, which began at 11 a.m., and carried signs with slogans such as “Fight Poverty in B.C.” and “No Christmas for the Working Poor.” The event, which was funded by the English Students Association and used literary references, including signs that said “Raise Scrooge Wages” and “Even Scrooge Pays More Than $8 / Hour.”
One protester was dressed as Charles Dickens’ classic Christmas miser, Ebeneezer Scrooge, and another protester wore a Grinch mask.
“With Christmas coming up, it seemed the perfect time to draw attention to the child poverty that is linked with our low minimum wage. It’s just deplorable that one out of seven children in B.C. is living in poverty,” said Colbourne, who is president of the English Students Association.
While disappointed with the low turnout, the event could still be considered a success. With large, boldly printed signs, the eight protestors effectively got the message out at a key Abbotsford intersection during a busy holiday shopping Saturday. Many passing drivers honked in agreement at the message, which was a non-partisan plea for a higher minimum wage and a commitment to end child poverty.
The high point of the afternoon was when the Abbotsford Food Bank food drive drove past the rally on South Fraser Way. The convoy, led by fire-trucks and including several vans, trucks, and SUVs, honked and cheered for the rally while they made their way to the Food Bank to deliver collected food.
Colbourne described the rally as a success: “We certainly made a concrete contribution in raising awareness about B.C. poverty and the low minimum wage,” she said. She added some inspiration for fellow student activists: “Change comes from somewhere, and even if our efforts are just a drop in a bucket, well, we are that one extra drop that might someday make the bucket overflow.”