Articles, Letters December 29, 2016

‘Bottle ladies’

by Kai L. Chan

Letter to the Globe & Mail

Published December 29, 2016

Marcus Gee’s article on Toronto’s “bottle ladies” (The Secret Lives Of Bottle Ladies – Dec. 24) was a refreshing look into the invisible poverty of parts of the highly diverse Chinese community of Toronto. This community generally keeps its head down and is not associated with negative social behaviours, so has not attracted the attention or sympathy of social activists. When I was a child, and before Toronto’s initial Blue Box recycling program, I, too, collected empty beer bottles and cans (found in alley ways and park garbage bins) to return for a refund at the Beer Store. It was a means to make a little honest money to counter growing up in poverty.

Although Mr. Gee notes that the women collecting bottles in his story are not doing it primarily because of money, I can assure you there are many who do it to supplement a meagre income and lifestyle. Poverty and its hardships for some members of this community are acute because they lack (among other things) the social capital and knowledge of the charitable services etc. available to them.

If only my parents had known about food banks – and if pride would not have stopped them from taking advantage of them – I would have had fewer nights going to bed hungry.

Kai L. Chan, distinguished fellow, INSEAD Abu Dhabi

Letter as it appeared in the G&M

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