February 20, 2018

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A citizen's duty

We mine the Free Press archives for advice that still applies today (...or doesn’t)

From The Winnipeg Free Press published Nov. 3, 1936

Dear Mrs. Thompson: Do you think it is a citizen’s duty to report people who are chiselling on relief? There are people living behind us getting their full relief allowance and at the same time buying new furniture, which is not needed. They also hold beer parties, get permanent waves, dress stylishly and do not hesitate to tell you they have never been so well off.

I think it is a citizen’s duty to report this sort of thing, as these people do not need relief. But my husband says the authorities should look into this, as they are hired for that purpose, and that I would only make bitter enemies if I did it and get the name of being a squealer.

Which one of us do you think this is right?

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From The Winnipeg Free Press published Nov. 3, 1936

Dear Mrs. Thompson: Do you think it is a citizen’s duty to report people who are chiselling on relief? There are people living behind us getting their full relief allowance and at the same time buying new furniture, which is not needed. They also hold beer parties, get permanent waves, dress stylishly and do not hesitate to tell you they have never been so well off.

I think it is a citizen’s duty to report this sort of thing, as these people do not need relief. But my husband says the authorities should look into this, as they are hired for that purpose, and that I would only make bitter enemies if I did it and get the name of being a squealer.

"Try this amazing test," reads this ad from November 1936. "With make-up removed, apply Princess Pat rouge to one cheek -- then gently pinch the other cheek to bring out the natural bloom. Astonishing result! In your mirror, two cheeks that are perfect colour twins -- revealing a rouge so divinely tone-true it can scarcely be distinguished frm the natural bloom of your cheek!" </p>

"Try this amazing test," reads this ad from November 1936. "With make-up removed, apply Princess Pat rouge to one cheek -- then gently pinch the other cheek to bring out the natural bloom. Astonishing result! In your mirror, two cheeks that are perfect colour twins -- revealing a rouge so divinely tone-true it can scarcely be distinguished frm the natural bloom of your cheek!"

Which one of us do you think this is right? 

— Indignant

Dear Indignant: You are. People who ask for relief when they do not need it are mean, low and vile. They prey on the human instincts of the community, make a mockery of well-meant efforts to relieve distress and add to the burdens of people who already have their backs to the wall.

Probably they say, "Other people get it, why shouldn’t we?"  If they think at all, they argue that cheating the government isn’t really cheating and isn’t a bit the same as stealing from an individual. But the government cannot dig money out of the ground or produce it from thin air. Actually, neither the city, province or Dominion has a cent except what comes from sales tax, income tax, gasoline tax, land tax, etc.  In the end, it is the friends and neighbours of these people who pay for their chiseling.

Your husband would not think of protecting a pickpocket, but that is what relief racketeers are and his own pocket is among those being picked. Next time he growls about his taxes or the size of the grocery bill, just point that out.

Welfare investigators are not private detectives. When they visit homes they find out what they can by looking around and asking questions, but it is not their duty to hide behind doors and listen at windows. They very properly try to leave unfortunate people some shreds of dignity. However they are just acting as agents for the rest of the community, distributing money provided by the community and checking frauds should also be a community effort. Every good citizen shares the responsibility.

Write a letter to the authorities, giving your name as evidence of good faith, but asking that it be kept confidential. Your neighbours could never prove that you had informed and if they did become your enemies, what of it? You certainly don’t want them as friends. 

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