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CPJ released Poverty Trends 2017, our annual report on poverty in Canada, a week ahead of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. It reports that a staggering 4.8 million people in Canada (or 13.9%) live in poverty. The report uses the Low-Income Measure (LIM), which defines the poverty rate as a 50 per cent of the median Canadian household income.
Poverty Trends 2017 identifies several key demographics of people in Canada that have particularly high poverty rates:
- Working-age adults (14.7%): Most adults living in poverty are employed.
- Single working-age adults (42.9%): Working-age adults are often overlooked and have limited policy supports.
- People with disabilities aged 25-64 (23.0%): People with disabilities are highly vulnerable to poverty, particularly those facing multiple discriminations.
- Children in single-parent families (43.4%): Single parent families are most often female-led (80%), and of these households, Indigenous women, racialized women, and women with disabilities have higher poverty rates.
- Indigenous people (25.3%): High poverty rates for Indigenous people are part of the continued legacy of colonization.
- New immigrants and refugees (34.2%): Refugees and refugee claimants remain vulnerable to poverty after settling in Canada.
Poverty Trends 2017 also includes a breakdown of poverty rates by province and territory. Nunavut continues to have the highest poverty rate in Canada (29.0%), followed by Manitoba (18.2%) and the Northwest Territories (16.2%).
Among major Canadian cities, Toronto has the highest rate of poverty at 17.0%, followed by Vancouver (16.9%) and Windsor (16.2%).
Data on poverty rates in Canada are an essential part of understanding the complex reality of poverty. However, in addition to economic measures, poverty also involves social, political, and cultural marginalization, with impacts on self-worth, spiritual vitality, and the well-being of communities. Individuals that face multiple barriers have an increased vulnerability to poverty.
The complex reality of poverty and its far-reaching effects for individuals and society in Canada requires a comprehensive, rights-based national anti-poverty plan. Ultimately, this plan must be grounded in the dignity of all people and the well-being of individuals and communities.