Them That’s Not: Single Mothers and the Welfare System

Winner of a SPECIAL JURY PRIZE ,  Nominated in Best Public Affairs Documentary and Best Original Musical Score 
categories at Yorkton Short Film and Video Festival
 Winner of BRONZE APPLE AWARD at 25th National Educational Film and Video Festival
We are the ones who can change the welfare system, people who are the most oppressed – Native people, Black people, 
disable people, single mothers on welfare… It’s almost like a revolution, but a revolution without the violence…”  
Brenda Thompson, Author and Anti Poverty Activist 


From the courts of Nova Scotia to the streets of Vancouver, Them That’s Not takes a critical look at Canada’s welfare system through the eyes of single women and single mothers and examines why they and others and joining together to fight for social change.

The social assistance system in Canada is set up to give everyone who is eligible and in need the essential  offoods, clothing, shelter and health care that are necessary to sustain life. There are no extras.  For those living on social assistance, every day is a struggle living in poverty. And in Canada, most of those living in poverty are women: single women, and women with children.

There are many reasons why women end up on social assistance. Some are unable to work because of health problems or family responsibilities. Some don’t have the skills and training they need to get a job. Others mange to find a job at minimum wage but it’s impossible to support a family and make ends meet. Whatever the circumstance, the vast majority of women on welfare discover that the strict and often punitive rules and regulations build into the social assistance system make it very difficult to become independent.

Them That’s Not puts a face to the women in Canada who live on social assistance. It shows the courage and endurance of women who must cope daily with the many indignities of poverty.

The film provides a very personal insight into the lives of a few of the many Canadian women on assistance. Jennifer, a 17 year-old, remembers the hurtful scorn teachers and classmates directed against her because she was growing up on assistance. Arlene is a First Nations woman in Vancouver who now lives in a converted storage closet in a rooming house. She is tormented by memories of the abuse she suffered throughout her life. Maria, who is from Guatemala and now lives in Toronto with her children, deals fearfully with the authority of the welfare system and the barriers of language and culture.

Them That’s Not also emphasizes how important it is to organize with others. The film depicts a social rights group occupying a government office in Montreal to protest welfare cuts. It profiles Brenda Thompson, a social rights advocate in Nova Scotia who dared to take a government minister to court in her battle with the system, and win. In Montreal, Merle works in a community soup kitchen and helps her neighbor through the red tape of social assistance bureaucracy.

Ultimately, Them That’s Not is an empowering film. It  emphasizes that it is possible to join forces with others in community to fight for better treatment for people who are on welfare. It shows the importance of knowing your rights, and understanding the system.

Them That’s Not is the fourth film in the National Film Board of Canada’s Feminization of Poverty series.



54 Minutes, Color
A  National Film Board of Canada  production
Featuring:  Original music from  Four The Moment