10 Years of pursuing Dignity for All

By Darlene O'Leary, Laura Neidhart

It’s hard to believe, but 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of Dignity for All, the campaign for a poverty-free Canada, a campaign co-led by CPJ and Canada Without Poverty (CWP).

Dignity for All started out with a vision of ending poverty in Canada and a conviction that it was possible through a strong, comprehensive national anti-poverty plan. At the campaign’s core was the belief that all people should live with dignity and that poverty violates this dignity. Over the years, this message has clearly resonated with people across the country, with campaign endorsements from over 12,000 individuals, including MPs and Senators, and almost 750 organizations to date.

The Early Days

Dignity for All was built on the shared belief that every human being deserves to live with dignity, free from poverty and in a situation of social and economic security. We launched the campaign in Calgary with presentations in English, French, Blackfoot and Mandarin, highlighting the reality that people from across the country must work together to address poverty in Canada. By coming together under a single banner, we hoped to present a unified, multi-sectoral voice on the imperative of federal action on poverty. In that, we have succeeded,” said Karri Munn-Venn, CPJ’s Senior Policy Analyst.

In its early years, the campaign gathered together people working on poverty eradication to develop a model of what an effective national anti-poverty plan would look like. Through a series of summits on six policy areas with policy analysts, academics, community service providers, experts in poverty-related fields, faith community members, and people with lived experience of poverty, the Dignity for All model national anti-poverty plan was formed.

“The creation of the Dignity for All model plan was an incredible achievement – not just for our movement, but for Canada. For five years, it has been the guiding human rights-based policy document on poverty in Canada, informed by the expertise and lived experience of people from coast-to-coast-to-coast, and we know it has been integral to the creation of the country’s first national poverty plan,” said CWP’s Michèle Biss.

Celebrating Successes

Dignity for All was instrumental in initiating the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus, a Parliamentary caucus that explores poverty issues, bringing together civil society organizations and Parliamentarians in a non-partisan forum. The caucus was co-chaired for many years by now retired Senator Art Eggleton and MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, providing forums to discuss policy solutions and the impacts of poverty on marginalized communities.

“The All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus has been a way for people who know poverty firsthand and policymakers at the highest level of Canadian government to meet on equal footing. Making  space in public policy dialogue for those with a lived experience of poverty is critical to ending poverty,” said CWP Deputy Director, Harriett McLachlan.

Dignity for All launched its flagship advocacy event, Chew on This!, in 2013 with a small group of organizers who wanted to mark October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, by calling for a national anti-poverty plan. From these humble beginnings, the annual postcard and outreach campaign has grown each year, reaching a record number of over 100 groups – with participation in every province and territory – in 2018.

After years of collaboration and advocacy, we have started to see significant movement.

In August 2018, the federal government launched Opportunity for All, Canada’s first national poverty reduction strategy.  Dignity for All has celebrated this achievement as one our campaign helped to make happen, thanks to dedicated supporters across the country! And following our 2018 Chew on This! call for immediate legislation of the federal PRS, Minister Duclos tabled Bill C-87, An Act respecting the reduction of poverty, in November 2018.

Looking Ahead

While these are huge achievements, our work continues.

In 2019, the Dignity for All campaign is joining partners to push to strengthen legislation for the PRS, through recommendations outlined in our open letter to Minister Duclos. Also, this year we are looking ahead to the coming federal election with hopes of making poverty eradication a campaign priority.

In reflecting on a decade of Dignity for All, we’re inspired by the work and dedication of so many people in Canada who want to see an end to poverty, and it’s clear that this dedication has made a real difference. Moving forward, we know the power of this commitment will lead to even better things. We can achieve dignity for all!

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