Poverty in Canada
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Faith communities in Canada recognize, across our many different traditions, the unified impulse of all religious practice to nurture and share in community with those who are poor, and stand in solidarity with them.
—A Time for Inspired Leadership and Action: An Interfaith Declaration on Poverty in Canada
A biblical perspective on poverty must start with the recognition that all people are created in the image of God. Our love for God therefore requires that we respect our neighbours' dignity and care for their well-being. The Bible also calls us to practice justice, protecting and uplifting the weakest members of our society.
In Canada, 4.9 million people live in poverty. Compared to other developed countries, our poverty rate is shocking: Canada ranks 24th out of 34 OECD countries. It’s estimated that the financial cost of poverty in Canada is between $72.5 billion and $86.1 billion per year. The federal government has the tools to create positive, measurable change to significantly reduce poverty. Recent progress – specifically on children’s and seniors’ poverty – confirms this capacity.
CPJ works to advance federal policy measures that will reduce poverty, including measures on income security, affordable housing, childcare, progressive taxation, and jobs and training. CPJ specializes in providing timely political analysis on these issues, and our research is often referenced in the media and is well-used by groups at both the national and community level. We regularly meet with parliamentarians to provide input on poverty-related legislation. CPJ often works specifically with churches and denominational groups to help them take action on poverty.
CPJ co-leads Dignity for All: The campaign for a poverty-free Canada, a non-partisan initiative calling for a federal poverty elimination strategy. Every year we provide opportunities for engagement though our "Chew on This!" events around the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
Darlene O'Leary, CPJ's socio-economic policy analyst, is a member the National Steering Committee of Campaign 2000, a cross-Canada public education movement to build Canadian awareness and support for the 1989 all-party House of Commons resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. In 2012, CPJ helped establish the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus, a group of MPs and Senators who work across party lines to develop and promote policies for a more equitable Canada. We were also instrumental in bringing together the Interfaith Declaration on Poverty in Canada.
In 2011, CPJ published Living Justice: A Gospel Response to Poverty. This ecumenical worship and action guide continues to be used by small groups across the country ready to move beyond acts of charity when confronting poverty.
We expect to make significant progress on this file in the coming years. In February 2017, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos launched consultations to inform Canada's first ever poverty reduction strategy.
CPJ facilitates workshops on poverty in Canada and the call for a national anti-poverty plan. Contact Darlene O'Leary for more information.
Every October, CPJ releases our report on poverty in Canada. It highlights the unequal impact of poverty on new immigrants, families led by single mothers, un-attached adults, youth, and Aboriginal people. We also report on poverty rates of provinces, territories, and communities across Canada.
People living in poverty in Canada face multiple barriers. As a country, we can do better to address these persistent challenges. We need a national anti-poverty plan that takes a comprehensive approach to the complex reality of poverty. "Break the Barriers" is CPJ's annual report on poverty in Canada. While overall poverty rates have not seen significant change in the last several years, particular groups are increasingly vulnerable.
CPJ is calling for a plan to end poverty in Canada. In a country as wealthy as ours, 4.8 million people struggle to make ends meet: to pay their rent, feed their families, and address basic needs.
Despite multiple calls for the development of a national poverty plan by the United Nations, the Senate, and a House of Commons Standing Committee, Canada has not stepped up to the plate. This means that there is no strategy in place at the national level to address the needs of one in seven people in Canada who live in poverty.
Interested in getting your church engaged in anti-poverty discussions and reflections?
Check out a few of CPJ's resources to continue or initiate the conversation.
Looking for a resource to discuss, reflect, and take action on poverty in your community?
Living Justice: A Gospel Response to Poverty is a book for Christian faith communities trying to live out the justice mandate to love the stranger, the widow, and the orphan, and to seek just relations within society. It includes reflections, discussion questions, activities, and prayers that will provide insight into the situation of poverty in Canada, the challenges and opportunities we face as a society, and actions that we, as Christians, can take. Read more
Chew on This! 2017 is around the Corner
On October 17, 2017, people across Canada will gather in their communities for Chew on This! which marks the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. This October, on the 5th anniversary of Chew on This!, we’re planning to have even more groups across the country join us as we draw attention to poverty and food insecurity in Canada.
If you would like to organize a local Chew on This! event, find more information from Dignity for All.
Want to know what CPJ staff have been saying on poverty in Canada?
Keep up-to-date with the latest news and views from CPJ on poverty in Canada by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work. Read more
In February 2017, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos launched consultations to inform Canada's first Poverty Reduction Strategy. The Dignity for All campaign created an online form to help Canadians make their voices heard.
CPJ also developed resources to help guide an understanding of the framework and policies that should be part of a national strategy and to help communities engage in the consultation process.
CPJ submitted two briefs outlines our latest policy recommendations. "Restoring Dignity" is our submission to the HUMA committee calling for a strong anti-poverty plan. In "Ensuring Safe, Affordable, and Adequate Housing for All", CPJ called for a National Housing Strategy that sets clear goals and is developed in partnership with First Nations, Métis, and Inuit governments and organizations.
For two weeks in Spring 2015, CPJ organized "Justice Tour 2015," a delegation of national church leaders who traveled to eight cities to engage people of faith in conversations about poverty in Canada and climate change. Following the tour, CPJ helped to coordinate "On Promoting Climate Justice and Ending Poverty in Canada,” an inter-faith declaration from Canadian faith leaders.
The Dignity for All campaign released our model National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada in February 2015. The day after this release, MPs passed a nearly-unanimous motion calling on the government “to eradicate child poverty in Canada by developing a national poverty reduction plan.”
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