The grassroots movement against global financial inequality and corporate greed has landed in Maple Ridge.
Inspired by the Occupy Wall Street protest that began in New York City a month ago, the Maple Ridge version is still in its nascent stage and has yet to pick a location or date for the occupation.
The charge is being led by Daniel Epp, a 38-year-old father who doesn’t fit the mould of a professional protester.
Epp spent 12 years working in the casino industry, climbing the rungs into management until he quit this past spring.
He’s seen greed and corruption at its worst. It’s why the Occupy movement, with its focus on inclusion and equality that has spread to more than 80 countries, resonated with him.
“I couldn’t sit back,” said Epp, who attended the first day of protest in front of the Vancouver Art Gallery on Saturday.
“Without sounding like an idealist, our democratic system is a joke. It is appalling that 99 per cent of people can agree with something, yet all these corporations or politicians can stand in the way of it.”
Travelling to Vancouver every day or pitching a tent on the lawn of the art gallery just isn’t an option for Epp, so he decided to bring the protest home.
People in the suburbs feel disconnected with what’s happening in Vancouver even though they share the same concerns, said Epp.
“The only way this entire movement is going to have a voice is by more movements starting up.”
Epp is working with Occupy Fraser Valley, based in Chilliwack, which is holding its first general assembly on Oct. 26.
Before an Occupy Maple Ridge protest begins, he wants to gather people who are interested, hold a town hall meeting and flush out where they can legally demonstrate.
Although criticized for their lack of leadership and organization, the Occupy movement now has support from B.C. Federation of Labour and has even been endorsed by Bank of Canada governor Mark Carney, a former Goldman Sachs investment banker.
Data shows a widening gap between the poor and the rich in Canada based on the spending patterns of recent years.
In a report by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, between 1999 and 2007, annual spending by the poorest households rose $1,283, or 6.1 per cent, while spending by the richest growing gap project rose $16,497, or 13 per cent.
The poor had the smallest increase in dollar terms and the smallest percentage increase of any income group. The rich had the largest increases.
Epp tells critics of the Occupy movement to look around them.
“If you honestly don’t see something wrong or believe democracy can’t be improved, then, by all means, oppose this movement,” he added.
“We don’t have to look at stats and figures. We can all see what is happening. If we want it to go in a different direction, we have to turn it around. It’s not going to happen casually.”
• While the gap between the rich and poor is widening in Canada, compared to the rest of the world, we’re not doing poorly. Three decades ago, people in well-to-do countries were 30 times better off than those in countries where the poorest 20 percent of the world’s people live. By 1998, that gap had widened to 82 times. The average worldwide income is $5,000. If you make more than $47,000 annual, you are in the top one per cent of earners. Visit www.globalrichlist.com to feel better!