The year of Canada’s sesquicentennial has arrived. Most of us are still learning how to pronounce that word! More difficult yet, we must also decide how best to commemorate this notable moment in our history.
The official celebrations are likely to be upbeat, providing welcome moments to pause in gratitude and count our blessings. At the same time, Canadians know that not all of us have benefitted equally from the past. Indigenous leaders have already stated that they do not have much to “celebrate.” At CPJ, we’ve decided that the best way to participate in Canada’s 150th anniversary is to renew our resolve to work for public justice and the flourishing of God’s shalom in the land.
2017 is an historic moment, worthy of our every effort to show what love looks like in public.
There is perhaps no better way to do this, than by ensuring our federal leaders complete the development and implementation of a robust poverty reduction plan.
“Canada's poverty reduction strategy needs to have measurable objectives - such as a significant reduction (and elimination) in the number of Canadians living in core housing need. Increasing Canada's stock of affordable and supportive housing, and making housing more affordable through a housing benefit, would help address the most significant cost—and determinant of well-being—in Canadians' lives.”
— Mike Bulthuis, Executive Director, Alliance to End Homelessness Ottawa
On February 13, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, announced the launch of two important steps towards the development of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. An online consultation process has been opened to the public, allowing all to express their views. Members of Parliament and civil society groups have also been invited to organize roundtable discussions and town hall meetings over the next five months.
“Campaign 2000 calls on the government to implement robust targets and timelines in the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. This includes a reduction in child poverty by 50 per cent by 2020. Uprooting poverty requires strong federal leadership in creating quality jobs, adequate funding for child welfare for Indigenous children, investments in accessible and affordable childcare and housing, and a social safety net that meets families’ current needs and realities.”
— Anita Khanna, National Coordinator, Campaign 2000
Since its creation in 2009, the Dignity for All campaign (which CPJ co-leads) has advocated for Ottawa to commit to such a plan. Our model poverty reduction plan, released on Parliament Hill in 2015, was five years in the making. They’ve asked for a plan – and civil society has supplied the ingredients!
Already in 2017, CPJ has organized day-long workshops to help prepare and animate participation in the upcoming consultation processes. Over 30 leaders in faith communities have taken part. They are specifically interested in making their commitments to reconciliation come alive. In the coming months, they will be pressuring government to improve socio-economic conditions and educational opportunities for Indigenous youth. Better support for refugees and newcomers to Canada was also a focus. And faith leaders are committed to assisting the one in five children still experiencing poverty.
Poverty is a complex phenomenon. No single policy suffices to heal all deficiencies. The goal of civil society groups in these consultations must be to support the active participation of those persons who have lived experience of poverty. They must be the architects of their own liberation. Meanwhile public justice advocates can supply good research into the most effective policy levers. Most importantly, we need to educate our neighbours and organize our communities to create the societal will necessary to ensure that governments implement the structural changes required to reduce poverty.
This would make Canada’s anniversary truly worth celebrating.
CPJ has prepared materials to bolster public engagement in the government’s consultation process.
Photo: Danforth Multifaith Community’s Chew On This! event in Toronto. CreditL Chris Javier.