Foreword by :Frances Fox Piven
Imprint:Between the Lines - Toronto
Dimensions:8.75in x 7.25 x 1 in | 838 gr
Page Count:544 pages
Toronto’s Poor reveals the long and too often forgotten history of poor people’s resistance. It details how people without housing, people living in poverty, and unemployed people have struggled to survive and secure food and shelter in the wake of the many panics, downturns, recessions, and depressions that punctuate the years from the 1830s to the present.
Written by a historian of the working class and a poor people’s activist, this is a rebellious book that links past and present in an almost two-hundred year story of struggle and resistance. It is about men, women, and children relegated to lives of desperation by an uncaring system, and how they have refused to be defeated. In that refusal, and in winning better conditions for themselves, Toronto’s poor create the possibility of a new kind of society, one ordered not by acquisition and individual advance, but by appreciations of collective rights and responsibilities.
Bryan D. Palmer was the Trent University Canada Research Chair (2001-2015), and currently chairs the Department of Canadian Studies.
Gaétan Héroux is a long time anti-poverty activist with the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty.
Frances Fox Piven is on the faculty of the Graduate Center of the City University of New York. She is the author, most recently, of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America.
Héroux and Palmer provide a powerful and instructive account of how generations of poor people in Toronto have resisted outright abandonment and challenged the inadequacies of reluctant provision. Sometimes their resistance has smouldered and at other times it has flared up, but it has been a constant and vital part of equation. In this age of austerity this book gives us reason to hope and expect that the rebellious history of Toronto’s poor is far from over.- John Clarke, Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP)
Toronto’s history is always told as the history of its rulers. This remarkable, riveting book by Bryan Palmer and Gaétan Héroux turns these city-building mythologies inside-out. They retrieve the history of Toronto’s tramps, squeegee kids, unemployed, homeless, and wageless in one neighbourhood after another. The dispossessed here are not merely the victims of the boundless greed of capitalism. They are at the centre of class struggle, of communists and socialists, of poor peoples’ movements battling in the streets, of riots and cops, of housing squats and occupations. In the grit of the daily struggle of survival and resistance of the dispossessed, astonishing revelations about the real history of Toronto appear on virtually every page. A rebellious history, indeed—demanding an even more rebellious future.- Greg Albo, Sam Gindin, and Leo Panitch, Socialist Project and Department of Political Science, York University
Palmer and Héroux show that Toronto has been an exemplary Canadian city: its poverty has been inclusive, although not perfectly equal-opportunity. It has embraced male and female, young and old, city and suburban, immigrant and native born, and not excluding First Nations. This is Toronto’s history from the bottom up, and with attitude. Long overdue.- Richard Harris, School of Geography and Earth Sciences, McMaster University
This book not only fills important gaps in the literature, but also makes a valuable contribution to the history of the poor and disposed in one of the leading cities in North America. Furthermore, it may usefully serve as a basis upon which to construct more general comparative and transnational histories both of the poor themselves, their experiences, daily struggles, and movements, and of their relations with the rest of the working class and those in power. At once scholarly, lucid, well written, and reasonably priced (British publishers of very expensive hardback labour history books please take note!), this book will appeal to political activists and interested general readers as well as academics. It also offers an important rallying point for the future abolition of poverty and dispossession.- Labour History Review
The book provides absorbing context in outlining how Torontonians situated on the poverty rung of the class structure have been treated—and how they’ve fought for survival.- This Magazine
Toronto’s Poor tells an important and under-told side of this city’s history, where the civic narrative has often focused on waves of growth and prosperity, ignoring a continuum of dispossession and struggle here since before the city’s founding. In an era of precarious employment and when poverty is even more hidden than ever in the suburbs and apartment towers, Toronto’s Poor provides some context for current conditions.- Shawn Micallef, editor at Spacing, Toronto Star columnist, author of Stroll: Psychogeographic Walking Tours of Toronto and Frontier City: Toronto on the Verge of Greatness
Toronto’s Poor shows us the importance of knowing and understanding our history because history can repeat itself. Whether it is in the nineteenth or twenty-first century, poor people’s experience of cold and hunger, crummy shelter conditions, inadequate housing, and vulnerability to die early are caused by bitter and punitive social policies. What is most exciting about this book is the mostly untold story of poor people’s resistance, activism and fight-back struggles that have and will continue to win huge victories alleviating poverty.- Cathy Crowe, Street Nurse
This is a deeply engaging and exhaustively researched history of the resistance of the marginalized, the unemployed, the homeless, and the dispossessed of Toronto to the humiliation of relief and welfare policies directed against them over the past 185 years. There is no study like it in Canadian scholarship. Toronto’s Poor should become the starting point for teaching and writing about the history of anti-poverty mobilization in Canada for years to come.- James Struthers, Department of History, Trent University
This book is important because the authors have a clear and illuminating understanding that the hardship and humiliations imposed on the poor meshes with the deteriorating life circumstances of the mass of working people.- Frances Fox Piven, author of Challenging Authority: How Ordinary People Change America
An extremely well documented history of how Toronto’s destitute, homeless, and unemployed were scapegoated and typecast as undeserving of social support, and how they and others resisted and fought back against great odds. This is a history of capitalism, crisis, and class as played out in Canada’s largest city over two centuries. It brings into the picture the dispossessed and the struggle for progressive social change, which historical research too often ignores. An excellent account for all who care about the struggle for social justice.- J. David Hulchanski, professor of housing and community development, University of Toronto
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