Policy Statements: Poverty in Canada

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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.

CPJ is calling for a plan to end poverty in Canada. In a country as wealthy as ours, 4.8 million people struggle to make ends meet: to pay their rent, feed their families, and address basic needs.

Despite multiple calls for the development of a national poverty plan by the United Nations, the Senate, and a House of Commons Standing Committee, Canada has not stepped up to the plate. This means that there is no strategy in place at the national level to address the needs of one in seven people in Canada who live in poverty.

The Dignity for All Campaign, co-led by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty, is calling for a national anti-poverty for Canada. In 2015, the campaign developed a model plan focused on six different themes.

In 2017, CPJ called for the federal government to allocate $5.59 billion annually in new spending as a downpayment on the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy, beginning in 2018.

Income security

Canada’s income security system is now one of the weakest among developed countries. Those in receipt of social assistance continue to subsist on benefits that place them well below any poverty measure used in Canada.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Reform income assistance programs, such as Employment Insurance.
  • Increase the National Child Benefit to $5,600 annually for eligible families. Index it to the cost of living and ensure that families living on social assistance retain the full child benefit without claw backs.
  • Increase the Working Income Tax Benefit.

Housing and homelessness

While there are at least 250,000 homeless persons in Canada, most shelters are at maximum capacity.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Develop and implement a coordinate National Housing Strategy based in human rights.
  • Increase funding by no less than $2 billion per year in new money to implement housing strategies that meet the strategy targets.


Socio-economic disparities account for 20% of total annual health care spending (expected to have exceeded $211 billion in 2013). Medicare covers only 70% of total health care costs – the rest is covered by private insurance plans and out-of-pocket spending.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Recognize in the legislation of an anti-poverty plan the social determinants of health, including income, employment, food security, early childhood education and care, and housing.
  • Commit to a new ten-year Health Accord including a National Pharmacare Program.

Food security

Since the 2008-2009 economic recession, food bank usage has increased by 25%, with children and youth now representing over 30% of food bank users. Among Inuit adults living in Nunavut, the rate of food insecurity is shockingly high at 69%.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Develop a National Right to Food Policy.
  • Increase federal investment to address the very high levels of household food insecurity among First Nations, Inuit, and Métis peoples.

Early childhood education and care

Regulated child care in Canada is currently characterized by high fees, low staff wages, mediocre quality, and unmet demand.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Develop a high-quality, universal, publicly-funded and managed early childhood education and care program for children aged 0 to 5 years and for school-aged children up to age 12.
  • Dedicate federal transfers of $1 billion, $1.6 billion, and $2.3 billion over each of the next three years.

Jobs and employment

In the past 20 years, precarious employment, characterized by some degree of insecurity and unpredictability, generally low wages and few benefits, has increased by nearly 50%. Youth and other groups under-represented in the workforce face particular barriers in obtaining secure employment.

Dignity for All recommends that Canada:

  • Set national wage standards above the poverty line.
  • Provide employment incentives for youth and other groups under-represented in the workforce.

Letter to Minister Duclos on Poverty Reduction Strategy

August 2018

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CPJ wrote to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, to thank his government for following through on their commitment to reduce poverty in Canada, through the release of the first-ever national poverty reduction strategy. 

CPJ lauds the launch of a federal poverty strategy


Ottawa, ON: August 21, 2018 — After years of advocacy from anti-poverty organizations across Canada, the federal government has launched the long-awaited national poverty reduction strategy – Creating Opportunity for All: Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy.

Open Letter on the Right to Housing

August 2018

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CPJ signed on to an open letter urging the Prime Minister to make good on his commitment to the right to housing by enshrining that right in upcoming National Housing Strategy legislation.

CPJ writes to Trudeau in support of C-262, UNDRIP

December 2017
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CPJ wrote to Prime Minister Trudeau to commend his decision to support Bill C-262, a private member's bill that will ensure the laws of Canada are in harmony with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). By supporting the adoption of Bill C-262 – and subsequently following up with implementation – the Government of Canada can fulfill its commitment to realize the calls to action of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and “renew the relationship between Canada and Indigenous peoples.” In March 2016, CPJ issued a statement in compliance with the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s Recommendation #48, stating our full support of UNDRIP.

Beyond Productivity: Promoting the Well-being of Canadians

Submission to the Standing Committee on Finance Pre-Budget Consultations
August 2017
Download the brief (PDF)

Focusing the budget discussion narrowly on productivity and competitiveness diminishes Canadians to our economic “value” as workers. This framework fails to account for personal fulfilment, community well-being, and ecological integrity. And, it ignores the importance and benefits of connection, culture, and creativity. Drawing on CPJ’s recent submissions to consultations on climate change, housing, and poverty reduction, and our work on refugees, CPJ hase developed a number of recommendations for Budget 2018 focused on human and ecological flourishing.

Flourishing Together

A Public Justice Approach to the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy

Submission to Employment and Social Development for Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy Consultations
June 2017
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CPJ is very pleased to see that the federal government is moving forward in the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS). We want to ensure that this strategy is comprehensive, accountable, and enhances the dignity of all people.

Towards a Guaranteed Livable Income

Towards a Guaranteed Livable Income March 2017
Download the Briefing Note (PDF)

This Briefing Note lays out CPJ’s position on guaranteed annual income (GAI) / basic income (BI) programs to support CPJ’s participation in current debates, and to inform the development of a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy. It complements CPJ’s work in support of the Dignity for All campaign and its proposals to eliminate poverty contained in A National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada, published in 2015.


Restoring Dignity: A Strong National Anti-Poverty Plan

Submission to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities
October 2016
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Canada is one of the world’s wealthiest countries, yet 4.9 million people live in poverty. That is 14.4% of us, or 1 in 7 people. The impact of poverty is far-reaching, hitting communities across Canada hard. 


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