Seniors in several B.C. communities plan unified marches for Thursday

Pensioners protest poverty

Seniors in several communities across the province are banding together to protest their ever-shrinking pension dollars.

Carole Fawcett is a retired writer and councillor who staged her first public protest in Vernon in December 2023. At the time, she was unaware that Sharon Elliot from Vancouver had also been organizing demonstrations after witnessing a well-dressed woman digging through the trash at a nearby park for bottles and cans.

Elliot learned the woman was short on cash. Her pension no longer covered what it cost her to live, and during their conversation, the women agreed seniors would soon be standing on corners holding tin cups in order to survive each month. That's when Elliot started Seniors Tin Cup.

Since then, Elliot and Fawcett have found each other and joined forces in an effort to raise awareness of seniors living in poverty across the province.

They are hoping to get the Canadian government to notice the increasing number of retirees who find themselves living below the poverty line in what is supposed to be their golden years.

“We are aiming this at the federal government because they control the pensions,” Fawcett said in advance of the protest, which will include seniors from Vernon,Terrace, Prince George, Kamloops, White Rock, Vancouver and Ladysmith.

She said seniors deserve more when a student working part time at a minimum wage job takes home more per month than a senior relying on Canada Pension and Old Age Security.

Inflation has taken a big bite out of pension income — "food, gas, everything. ...Especially groceries," Fawcett said.

She said she collects CPP, OAS and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, but her annual income is still below what is considered the poverty line in Canada — $25,000.

Fawcett is advocating for the people whose income is below that. She explains she is not the only senior who, despite collecting their Canada Pension, Old Age Security, and a Guaranteed Income Supplement, still have incomes below the poverty line.

“If a low-income senior doesn’t own their own home, it could come close to ‘living-in-my-car-time’ — if they have a car,” she said.

Even though she spent most of her life working, Fawcett calculated her retirement income to be $7.36 an hour and incomes sitting on the poverty line are $12.14 an hour. She points out this isn’t even close to minimum wage, which in B.C., will increase to $17.40 as of June 1st.

“I just want the federal government to raise pensions and stop clawing back the guaranteed income supplement,” she says. “Even when we try to make some money by picking up odd jobs, we are penalized the next year on our taxes."

“It’s not like we want this money to take trips to the Caribbean, we just want to make it to the poverty line."

Thursday’s march gets underway at 11 a.m. across the province, at the following locations.

  • Vernon: Schubert Centre, 3505 30th Ave.
  • Terrace and Kitimat: Tillicum Theatre parking lot
  • Prince George: 1520 Third Ave., by government buildings
  • Kamloops: 700 Block Fortune Dr.
  • White Rock: MP's office, 135-1959 152 St.
  • Vancouver: 2305 W Seventh St. at Kitsilano Neighbourhood House At Seniors Tin Cup Table
  • Ladysmith: Island Hotel, across from Pharmasave on First Avenue

More BC News