Chew on This! We Need a Plan to End Poverty in Canada

Most Canadians are not aware that 1 in 7 people in this country experience poverty. More than 800 000 rely on food banks each month and 13.3% of Canadian children live in poverty. And on any given night, about 30, 000 Canadians are homeless.

But what does poverty actually look like in Canada?

Poverty is a direct assault on human dignity. It is a lack of resources to meet basic needs. It is days spent going hungry, it is nights without any shelter, it is limited access to education and health services, and it is social discrimination and exclusion.

While food banks, soup kitchens, and other social service organizations have been instrumental in providing millions of Canadians with some level of support, they do not and cannot address the root causes of poverty. According to Tara Kainer from the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul, a cohesive and concerted strategy is needed, which Kainer says must ensure “adequate household income for food and other basic necessities like shelter, child care, and transportation,” and this is something the federal government has a key role in providing.

For years, numerous social services agencies, committees from the House of Commons and the Senate, and even the United Nations, have called on the federal government to implement a national poverty elimination plan and yet, to date, no such plan has been developed. Clearly, this call for action has fallen on deaf ears. More must be done.

On October 17th, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, poverty and human rights activists from 36 cities across Canada will mobilize to urge the government to step up to its responsibilities. In an innovative campaign called Chew on This!, volunteers will take to the streets during the lunch hour to distribute brown paper bags to passerby. Each bag will contain an apple, a Chew on This! magnet, and a post card expressing support for a national poverty plan that will be sent to Prime Minister Stephen Harper. The goal is to engage with individuals and encourage them to realize that as we go about our daily lives, people are suffering right in front of us. Poverty is a very real problem that is happening right at home, and it is in our power as citizens to change this.

Monique Verhoef is the Diversity and Human Rights Coordinator at Mount Royal University in Calgary. She expressed her support for the Chew on This! campaign, stating, “This is an important initiative because I think many don’t recognize the pervasive impacts of poverty on people’s lives and their ability to flourish.  I believe that helping people experience a connection to the impacts of poverty can help mobilize them for individual and collective action.”

The Chew on This! campaign will demonstrate to the federal government that ordinary Canadians care about the suffering of their neighbours and wish to see real action to lift them out of poverty.

Chew on This! will be present in the following 36 cities:

  • Abbotsford, BC
  • Ancaster, ON
  • Brockville, ON
  • Calgary, AB
  • Chilliwack, BC
  • Cranbrook, BC
  • Dartmouth, NS
  • Edmonton, AB
  • Edson, AB
  • Emo, ON
  • Glenburnie, ON
  • Guelph, ON
  • Halifax, NS
  • Hamilton, ON
  • Ingersoll, ON
  • Kingston, ON
  • Montreal, QC
  • New Westminster, BC
  • Newmarket, ON
  • Ottawa, ON
  • Peterborough, ON
  • Port Colborne, ON
  • Prince George, BC
  • Regina, SK
  • Richmond, BC
  • Sarnia, ON
  • Saskatoon, SK
  • Stewart, BC
  • Surrey, BC
  • Toronto, ON
  • Vancouver, BC
  • Victoria, BC
  • Whitehorse, YK
  • Windsor, ON
  • Woodbridge, ON
  • Yellowknife, NT

Author

  • Kathryn is a former Public Justice Intern at CPJ. Raised in the Catholic tradition, she believes that faith is an effective way through which to pursue social justice. During her Master of International Public Policy program at Wilfrid Laurier University, she focused on subjects such as the relationship between climate change and mental health, food security, and migration issues. She also holds a BA in International Studies from York University. She has volunteered with various non-profit organizations including the Canadian Centre for Victims of Torture and the International Development and Relief Foundation, and previously completed an internship with the World Health Organization in New York. She is passionate about promoting social justice and advocating for human rights.

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