Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sue - activism - part 2

Above is a picture of Queen's Park, the Ontario Legislature Building in Toronto, Canada
Above is a picture of Bob Rae, the former Premier of Ontario

Above is a picture of Grace-Edward Galabuzi who worked in Bob Rae's office and who assisted Sue

Sue sings at Queen's Park

I was being harassed by my old boyfriend Stephane. I decided to skip town and go to Toronto, Ontario. I had stayed at Nellie's Shelter before. Nellie allowed me to stay 3 times a year for a few weeks to do my work in social justice.

Nellie's Shelter was a place I could let my hair hang down and relate to other women with similar
experiences. The staff were nice and friendly and accommodating. The women who stayed at
Nellie's shelter all had a story of their own to tell, very often not a good one. These women had
experienced hardship in their lives and circumstances that put them at the doorstep of Nellie's.

Nellie's shelter has four floors. As you come into the shelter, the office is to the left and the
staircase is facing you. To the right is a big livingroom and next to it is the dining room.
Down the hallway is a big kitchen. On the main floor is the showers and the tub and toilets. Downstairs in the basement is a tv room and a laundry room a phone to use.

I slept alone in bedroom as I snore loudly. The staff knew that from complaints I got from some of my room mates from when I stayed at the shelter before.

I was on the third floor. I had put my suitcase down and said hello to Joanie Headley one of the staff
who became a friend of mine. She came to visit me in Ottawa on the weekend my first husband had died Januzary 1989. She did not Fred had died. She helped me cope with the grief I was experiencing. She took me out for Chinese dinner which I enjoyed. Joanie is such a nice person.
I have not seen her since 1995 when I was in Toronto.

I had been there for about a week when I started looking for housing in Toronto. I heard the waiting lists were very long. I combed the streets for housing. My feet started to get blisters and I had enough of being told that the housing lists were like 5 years for this place, 7 years for this housing,
10 years for this housing and the list went on. I just got fed us of being told I had to "wait" and I had
no patience in all in what I was hearing.

I got on a subway and I started to cry outloud and let the tears flow. A lady handed me some kleenex.
When I was finished crying, I asked someone on subway where Queen's Park was. I was given the instructions and then got off the subway and jumped onto a bus. I was abled bodied at this time.
I got off the bus and to the left I saw a large building with the Ontario flag and the Canada Flag on it.
A vast area of green grass and a long sidewalk awaited me. I was ready to fight for my rights.
"Housing is a right" I said to myself as I marched into the building. I went into the Queen's Park like a warrior ready for fighting. Having some Irish and Portuguese blood in me fueled my passion for the fight awaiting me. Little did I realize I would not have to fight for very long.

I went to the reception desk as I walked into the Legislature. Someone told me to take the elevator
to Bob Rae's office, who was the Premier of Ontario at that time. I saw a security guard and asked
her where Bob Rae's office was. She told me I needed an appointment to see the Premier. I told I did not have one. I walked around the corner and in big bold letters was a door with the letters "Bob Rae" on it. As I looked to the right, I could see all the other floors above me as I looked up.

I started to shout "I am Sue Clark from Ottawa and I need housing now", "I was told I have to wait
10 years, 7 years, 6 years, and I can't wait for housing, I need it now". I was getting louder and louder. I waved to some people on the other floors looking to see what the commotion down below them was all about, meaning me. Some of them waved back.

The woman security guard standing beside me became irritated at me and said "You can't shout in here and you will have to leave the building now". I asked her if there was a by-law prohibiting someone from singing. She said no. So I proceeded to sing the opera "Madame Butterfly" I am not a very good singer and I sound like I have a frog in my throat. I got louder and louder. I sounded awful for sure.

About ten minutes later, a nice looking tall black man came out of Bob Rae's office. He approached me and asked me respectfully "May I assist you". I told him who I was and why I was at Queen's Park. He asked me to come inside Bob Rae's office and I did. We sat on a leather couch in the Bob Rae's reception area of his office. I could see a long hallway with offices in front of me. The gentleman listened to me patiently as I whinned about all my housing issues.

The man who I later found out was Grace-Edward Galabuzi who worked in Bob Rae's office. He was
professional in his manner and treated me nicely. I told him that I needed housing and that I had
gone to many co-ops and other housing and could not find any housing as there were waiting lists for all of them. I told him I was angry.

I told Mr. Galabuzi that I would come back the next day and sing some more. I knew many operas and it would be no problem for me to come back and sing all day. I meant it. I had to get a place to live. Mr. Galabuzi was genuine in his wanting to assist me. He took down my name, where I was staying and the co-op where I wanted to live which was at Dundas and Sherbourne Street. I asked for his name and put it in my address book. He shook my hand. I was very relieved to know someone wanted to help me. I was at the end of my rope before that. Hope was vanishing from me and I knew my fighting spirit would help me out. I did.

I walked out of Queen's Park more relaxed. It was a sunny day and everything seemed to be going my way or so I hoped.

I went to shopping center to get a cup of coffee. I am a caffeine addict. I drink 4 or 5 cups of coffee a day. I needed my fix of caffeine. I reflected on what happened earlier in the day. I hoped that
my strategy of going to Bob Rae's office would work in getting the housing I needed and wanted.
I then realized what I had done was very brave of me, maybe a bit bizzare but I hope it would work.
Beggars can't be choosers.

A few hours later I entered Nellie's shelter when one of the staff members came out of the office and told me I had a message. I took the note and it said to call the co-op because they wanted to know the day I was moving in. I put the note in my pocket.

The next day I decided to return to Ottawa. I thanked Nellie's shelter staff. I took a bus out of Toronto heading for Ottawa. I was afraid to move into a big city, I got cold feet you could say.
My family and friends were in Ottawa, most of them. I got home sick.

When I got back into Ottawa, Jane Scharf called me and told me that some co-op called and asked me
where I was. Jane told them I was back in Ottawa. I forgot to call the co-op I was did not want the apartment after all. I was embarassed to say the least.

So that is one of my social justice actions that worked for me and then I declined the offer.

I have recently emailed Mr. Galabuzi. He is a professor at Ryerson in Toronto.

I thank Mr. Galabuzi for assisting me.