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Mother's Day Liberation Rally & Community Supper 2011: Respect, Community & Dignity for All Low-Income Mothers and Children!

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Committee for Single Mothers on the Move
Committee for Single Mothers on the Move

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Mother’s Day Liberation Rally & Community Supper 2011

Committee for Single Mothers on the Move

May 7-8, Vancouver, Unceded and Occupied Coast Salish Territory

Continuing the Legacy

The Committee for Single Mothers on the Move is led by a grassroots collective of low-income single mothers of colour, the Breakthrough Mamas, with allies in the Vancouver Status of Women, the Philippine Women’s Centre, Transformative Communities Project Society, and No One is Illegal-Vancouver. We are proud to continue a legacy for the reclamation of Mother’s Day, organized from 2003 to 2010 by Grassroots Women.

We stand in solidarity with indigenous struggles for decolonization and sovereignty all across Turtle Island. We also honor our ancestors and all people engaged in mothering and care-giving work who nurture, heal and revitalize our communities of resistance every day.

Conditions of Mothering Work

In North America, Mother’s Day has become just another hike in corporate profits as people flock to purchase superficial tokens of appreciation for their moms. Meanwhile, mothering is one of the most exploited kinds of labor in North American society.

Mothers do not earn a livelihood from our work. Consequently, low-income mothers must survive under conditions of extreme precarity and vulnerability. In BC, 20% of families are headed by single moms, 51% of whom live below the poverty line.  For young single mothers, the poverty rate skyrockets to 90%. And BC has had, for nearly a decade now, the highest child poverty rate in Canada. Low-income single mothers face significant barriers in accessing sustainable housing, being mobile in the city because of prohibitive transit costs, and are amongst the most likely members of our society to go hungry.

When her child turns three, a mother on income assistance has to look for work, whether she has childcare or not in a city where waitlists at childcare facilities can be as long as two years. The current income assistance rate is $375.58/month for an “employable” mother and $423.58/month if for a mother with a disability.  There is a two-year limit on receipt of income assistance before it gets cut by $100/month, unless the mother can prove that she is actively searching for employment. And for every dollar a single mother receives in child support, a dollar is taken away in income assistance. These policies are designed both to enforce the devaluation of mothering work and to force mothers into waged work – the only kind of work recognized by capitalist society because it is owned by and benefits capitalists, rather than workers themselves.

Thus, in spite of the fact that mothering work is what reproduces our communities, not only biologically, but also socially and culturally, there are no rights for mothers as people who work – for instance, the right to rest, or the right to not be discriminated against. In part, this is because in a society built on colonial, hetero-patriarchal oppression the right to do mothering work itself cannot be affirmed for all peoples.

“Motherhood is an act of defiance in the midst of colonization.”

Violent dispossessions of the right to mother has been one of the most consistent colonial policies in Canadian history, from residential schools, to the 1960s scoop, to present day child apprehensions targeting indigenous and poor families. Sterilization acts in BC and Alberta, inspired by the eugenics movement in the early 20th century, also targeted indigenous women, mentally and physically disabled people and people institutionalized for poverty-associated “crimes” including sex work and addiction. These racist and classist views persist today in stereotypes of welfare mothers, teen mothers and racialized mothers as incompetent, lazy, irresponsible, and “undeserving” of support. 

They and their children are regularly depicted as social problems by the media, academics, politicians and even progressive folks: as drains on “national” resources (while corporations plundering indigenous resources, women’s unpaid work and working poor people’s labor get tax breaks); threats to “national” morality (while the basis of Canada remains the illegal occupation of indigenous lands and war against indigenous peoples); or even perpetrators of the global “overpopulation” crisis (while the top 10% of the world’s population controls 85% of its resources).

Meanwhile, the culturally celebrated ideal of middle/upper-class, white, hetero-normative mothering is supported by a global imperialist machine that systemically impoverishes countries in the South through the legacy of colonialism, predatory “free” trade agreements, structural adjustment, war and the “debt crisis”; displaces mass numbers of people from their homelands; and profits from the cheap labour of vulnerable migrants. Many of them are women who come to Canada as domestic workers and nannies via the Live-in Caregiver Program, forced to leave their families and children behind to clean rich people’s homes and raise rich people’s kids. Required to work continuously for three years before becoming eligible to apply for permanent residency, they are inherently vulnerable to abuse by their employers because of the threat of deportation.

Under increasingly punitive and xenophobic immigration policies, other migrant women and their children who arrive as refugees, non-documented workers, or spouses who lose their status when they leave abusive partners, have been subjected to raids, detentions without charges, and deportations without appeal. They are forced to live in fear and poverty, many without access to even basic necessities like food banks.

We know that mothering work has always been targeted when the people performing it belong to oppressed (resisting!) communities – whether they are indigenous, people of colour, people in the Third World, poor people, disabled people, queer or two-spirited/trans people. This is because mothering work is what enables communities to continue, to weave lifelines across generations. Mothering work feeds, nurtures, heals, teaches and transmits legacies on a micro, daily basis – the basis out of which we are made. Fighting for just conditions of mothering is about women’s rights, but it is also about fighting for conditions to build and sustain communities capable of multigenerational revolutionary struggle.

Not Flowers, But Justice!

At their 2006 Mother’s Day rally, Grassroots Women declared:

“We march to give voice to the collective frustration of working class women the world over as we are expected to make due with less, even as we work more inside and outside the home. Today we celebrate the mothers who are organizing all over the world to fight for food and housing, living wages and higher social assistance rates, healthcare, childcare, and public transit, for lives free of violence, and for land and dignity for themselves, their families and their communities.

We march in solidarity with the increasingly organized collective anger of migrant women who are forced into the incredibly heartbreaking reality of having to leave their home countries and often their children to try to find work in countries like Canada so that their families can survive. And we march to honour the collective strength of indigenous women, like the Six Nations Clan Mothers who, in the face of brutal racism and police violence, continue to stand their ground so that the generations to come will have their land and their sovereignty.

We come out today to stand in solidarity with mothers around the world who know the real costs of imperialist invasions and occupations. Mothers who have lost sons and daughters who went off to fight in illegal wars of aggression in the hopes of getting a college education. Mothers who have lost their sons and daughters or their own lives as they resist the invasion, occupation and re-colonization of their lands.”

To this declaration we add that we march to celebrate all the diverse bodies that mother through adversity, violence and oppression all over the world, and for the right, and responsibility, of all people to participate in mothering and care-giving work in our communities. We are done with limited conceptions of mothering justice as a “personal choice” that traps people who mother in isolation and allows both mainstream and radical spaces to operate as though we and our children do not exist. This is our revolution, too. RESPECT, COMMUNITY and DIGNITY for all low-income mothers and children NOW!

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