Poverty in Canada
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 (Statistics Canada, Low Income Measure, After Tax). 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.
What We Do
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.
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.
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.
CPJ expects to make significant progress on this file in the coming years. In November 2015, Canada’s new Prime Minister issued a mandate letter to the new Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, calling for him to “lead the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy that would set targets to reduce poverty and measure and publicly report on our progress.”
CPJ facilitates workshops on poverty in Canada and the call for a national anti-poverty plan. Contact Darlene O'Leary for more information.
2016: CPJ released "Break the Barriers," our annual report on poverty in Canada which highlighting the poverty rates of new immigrants, families led by single mothers, and Indigenous people in Canada.
2016: 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.
2016: CPJ submitted "Delivering the Promise of Justice" to the Standing Committee on Finance's Pre-Budget Consultations. In it, we call for the Canadian government to develop and implement a National Anti-Poverty Plan and create a National Housing Strategy.
2016: CPJ participated in a United Church of Canada hosted webinar called "Canada Without Poverty, Part II: A Focus on Charity and Justice."
2015: 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. This was the first such declaration in four years and was endorsed by over 65 signatories, including CPJ.
2015: The Dignity for All campaign released our model National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada in February 2015. To formulate this plan, CPJ and Canada Without Poverty (CWP) co-hosted poverty-related policy summits, bringing together the country’s foremost experts, academics, and organizations. 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.” Following the release, CPJ and CWP took the plan on the road with the Dignity for All workshop series with stops in Charlottetown, Halifax, Ottawa, Toronto, Hamilton, Port Colborne, London, Sarnia, Windsor, Calgary, Edmonton, Vancouver, Victoria, and Whitehorse.
2014: The Dignity for All campaign presented at the People's Social Forum on the call for a national anti-poverty plan.
2013: In addition to our annual Poverty Trends Report, CPJ released a series of three in-depth reports on poverty in Canada: "Labour Market Trends," "Income, Wealth, and Inequality," "Making Ends Meet."
2013: CPJ prepared an infographic comparing Canada's current welfare system to a Guaranteed Livable Income.
2013: CPJ co-led a major national campaign in early 2013 to encourage groups and individuals to support Bill C-400, which called for the development of a national housing strategy. Over 60 major organizations were involved, including the Assembly of First Nations, the Wellesley Institute, the Canadian Council of Churches, and several national church offices. Despite incredible support across the country, C-400 was defeated in late February 2013 in the House of Commons. All was not lost, however. In the 2013 federal budget, both the Affordable Housing Framework and the Homelessness Partnering Strategy were renewed for five years (an improvement over the less certain three-year funding cycles of the past).
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.
2011: CPJ was instrumental in bringing together the Interfaith Declaration on Poverty in Canada.
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.
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. Read more
Want to understand how Christian values can translate into policies that reduce poverty?
Read CPJ's policy statements on poverty in Canada, income inequality, and housing & homelessness. Read more
Want to take concrete steps towards ending poverty in Canada?
Here are some suggestions for political engagement, personal or small-group education, and spreading the word. Read more
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.
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. Read more
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