Overcoming Ontario’s Poverty Pandemic

The Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC) recently engaged in a project of community hearings on poverty, meant to produce a report on the state of poverty in Ontario and a tool to help the public understand the multi-faceted complexity of the problem—and potential solutions.

I spent around a decade of my life living with poverty or just on the edge of it. Over the years since, I’ve read many different reports on poverty. At best most of those reports proposed only vague solutions and didn’t involve the people most likely to have the best handle on what is actually needed: people living with poverty.

That is why Overcoming Ontario’s Poverty Pandemic stands out. The report is rooted—in tangible ways—in the experiences of people currently living with poverty. The authors held community meanings where they asked concrete questions about access to food, housing, healthcare, transportation, and overall quality of life.

The introduction opens with the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi that poverty is the worst form of violence. Naming poverty as a form of violence is necessary for any honest look at its impact; without placing the violence of living through poverty at the very heart of the report, it would fall short of what is needed.

Importantly, the end of the report acknowledges that centering the voices of people with lived experience of poverty is not in itself a solution to the problem. It offers multi-prong solutions, which include specific increases to social assistance rates and minimum wage, concrete numbers of affordable or supportive housing units that must be built, support for anti-poverty organizations, and the necessity of a Guaranteed Basic Income.

As with any report, there are weaknesses. The report would have been stronger had it included questions to reflect the reality of systemic racism and social ills such as homophobia and transphobia. More meetings, across a wider spread of communities and regions, also would have improved the report’s quality, however, the pandemic made that impossible.

Overcoming Ontario’s Poverty Pandemic is a good starting point for readers to understand the violence of poverty in its complexity, and to engage in education and advocacy.

Overcoming Ontario’s Poverty Pandemic

By Murray MacAdam (Editor)
Interfaith Social Assistance Reform Coalition (ISARC), 2021

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