On February 12, at 7:40 AM, a group of six young activists representing Shit Harper Did (SHD) erected a wall of 300 cans of food in Toronto's financial district, literally blockading the entrance to the Conservative Cabinet Ministers regional office. Sean Devlin, a SHD representative, claims the Conservative government's new budget completely ignores this country’s nasty case of growing economic inequality: “Right now inequality in Canada is actually accelerating faster than it is in the United States, and it’s predominantly impacting younger people a lot harder than those over 35. The unemployment rate for folks under 25 is almost double what the national average is. That's a big part of why we decided to do this today.”
The demonstration, which has quietly flown under the media radar, was also inspired by an unfortunately crass PR snafu from the Federal Minister of Industry, James Moore, who obnoxiously asked a reporter: “Is it my job to feed my neighbours child? I don’t think so.” Despite J-Mo’s subsequent half-assed apology, Shit Harper Did felt that if politicians don’t have the time or money to ensure their children are fed because they’re too busy pissing it all away on ad campaigns about how great our economy is—then they might as well pile a truckload of non-perishable items in front of the Toronto Conservative Cabinet office to make a point.
While the idea of watching ministerial security guards try to figure out what to do with stacks of canned chick peas is, at the very least, amusing, the point the activists were trying to make is serious: 4 million Canadians now struggle with sufficient access to healthy food, an ugly truth made evident by a 23 percent rise since 2008 in the portion of Canadians reliant on food banks. To add insult to injury this comes at a time when Conservative tax cuts have allowed the largest corporations to hoard over have a trillion dollars in tax payer subsided profits.
"Canada's top 100 CEOs earned an average of 171 times what the average Canadian worker hopes to make. A third of all food bank users in Toronto are 18 or under. 20 percent of those using food banks have graduated from high school or university. The Conservatives promised to create jobs, but food banks are witnessing the devastating impacts of rising income inequality," said Vanessa Lorraine Phillips, one of the protestors.
The protestors also argue that the Tories are actually planning to make matters worse by introducing a tax gift for well off families that would only create more inequality.
SHD volunteers from across Toronto donated the nutritious obstruction of mostly vegetarian protein. Unfortunately for them, however, the much-needed food was confiscated. The Minister’s office then proceeded to throw a hissy fit, refusing to confirm if the food would be delivered to the food bank or thrown in the trash (it was later confirmed that after two days, the cans were finally donated to the food bank).
The food blockade was just one example of a nation-wide movement that the SHD crew is cultivating. According to Shane Ingles, the tools will soon be in place to provide people across the country with access to the same system these activists used to make the action happen. “The Shit Harper Did portal is going to provide people across Canada with the ability to log in and start an event in their community which is going to be about gathering food to do something like what we did today," he said. "It will allow people to connect with other locals who want to be a part of the SHD movement. They can have a point person and a drop off site, and hopefully that will encourage them to donate food to their local MP and make them responsible for getting it to a food bank. It also shows people that as Canadians, we care.”