Research: Poverty in Canada

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Want to learn more about poverty in Canada?

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.

Highlights from CPJ's 2016 report, "Break the Barriers: Millions in Canada still struggle to get by":

4.9 million Canadians live in poverty

Poverty in Canada is persistently leaving people and communities on the margins. According to the Low Income Measure, 1 in 7 Canadians (or 14.4%) live in poverty. 

Although regular commitments have been made in Parliament since 1989 to end child poverty, including a 2015 motion, M-534, unanimously approved (save one abstention), child poverty in Canada persists. Today, 19% of children in Canada live in poverty. 

We know that poverty rates only tell us part of the reality of poverty in Canada. The reality also includes isolation and marginalization, as well as social and health impacts.

High poverty rates for single parents, Indigenous Canadians, and newcomers

In 2014, 34.5% of all single-parent families live in poverty. Meanwhile, a full 45.7% of children in single-parent families are poor.

The legacy of colonialism and exploitation has inflicted deep and intergenerational damage on Indigenous communities. The poverty rate of Indigenous people is 25.3%.

Newcomers to Canada, whether immigrants, refugees, or refugee claimants, face challenges, including precarious employment and lower wages that do not meet the cost of living; and 34.2% of newcomers live in poverty.

Poverty rates of provinces and territories

British Columbia, with a poverty rate of 16.0%, is the only province without a poverty plan in development or in place. Among the 10 provinces, Manitoba has the highest poverty rate, at 18.7%.

The 2014 Saskatchewan Government Speech from the Throne committed to a provincial poverty reduction strategy. In 2015, New Brunswick was recognized for the Economic Social Inclusion Plan – Overcoming Poverty Together.

Nunavut's poverty rate, the highest among the territories, is 30.5%.

Ranking of poverty rates in communities across Canada

Many communities across Canada have continued their hard work to develop poverty reduction/ poverty elimination strategies, task forces, and councils.

Among big cities, Toronto (17.9%), Vancouver (17.6%) and Windsor (17.0%) have the highest poverty rates.  Edmonton Mayor Iveson has commissioned a task force with a goal to end poverty in Edmonton in a generation.

For smaller communities, the highest poverty rates are in Campbellton, QC (39.3%), Leamington, ON (31.2%), and Portage la Prairie, MB (26.6%). 

Quality Care, Quality Choices: Backgrounder & position paper

May 2010
Rooted in issues of early childhood development, gender equality, and poverty, the lack of a national childcare plan is having detrimental effects on many children and their families in Canada. It is clear that what is needed is an affordable, accessible, quality national childcare program based on the best interest of the child. It is crucial that this program be situated within the context of a comprehensive set of family-oriented policies.

Bearing the Brunt

May 2010
Bearing the Brunt: How the 2008-2009 Recession Created Poverty for Canadian Families details the rise in poverty and economic insecurity caused by the recession.

Justice and Jubilee: CPJ Backgrounder on Poverty

May 2009
Our foundational backgrounder on poverty is intended to be a resource for those who are wondering about the faith basis of CPJ’s work on poverty, highlighting our understanding of the Biblical call to justice and a Christian vision of economics. It also explains our public justice perspective on poverty, and the moral obligation of governments to take leadership on poverty, as well as the responsibility of every person and every social institution to eradicate poverty. 
It can also be a useful tool for small groups to explore the issue of poverty and to understand the values that perpetuate poverty, as well as the values and principles that call us to action on poverty.

CPJ’s backgrounder & position paper on homelessness

June 2008
A growing number of Canadians today face concerns of housing affordability and feel the impact of inadequate housing and homelessness. CPJ believes governments are responsible for protecting the rights of their citizens and for promoting the well-being of communities by investing in affordable housing and providing necessary funding and infrastructures. There is a great need for strong political leadership to create a comprehensive housing strategy that ensures all Canadians, regardless of income, have access to affordable housing.

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