On February 3, 2015, the Dignity for All Campaign released its long-awaited “National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada.” This represents a big piece of work, conducted over the past five years through a series of six policy summits on key issues related to poverty. The plan was well received by faith groups, community organizations, and individuals across the country.
On the day of the release, the campaign held a breakfast on Parliament Hill, co-hosted by the All-Party Anti- Poverty Caucus. Community partners, reporters, and Members of Parliament and Senators from all major parties attended the event.
“We need to make the right call on poverty,” CPJ’s Executive Director Joe Gunn told the event attendees. “We need a plan. It needs to be a legislated plan that can be monitored and there can be accountability through the House of Commons.”
CPJ and Canada Without Poverty launched Dignity for All: the campaign for a poverty-free Canada in 2009. Since Dignity for All began, the campaign has brought together people of faith, community organizations, and persons with lived experiences of poverty to discuss poverty-related issues and potential solutions. Support has been widespread: over 15,000 individuals, 600 organizations, and 130 Members of Parliament and Senators have all signed on, agreeing that Canada needs a national plan to address poverty.
The plan itself brings together key policies that, if implemented, will make a meaningful difference in the lives of low-income Canadians, achieving greater prosperity and security for all. The recommendations made are not exhaustive but represent community consensus on six particular issue areas: income security, housing and homelessness, health, food security, employment, and early childhood education and care. “The plan is rooted in human rights,” Leilani Farha, Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty explains. “It provides the ‘architecture’ to deal with poverty.”
At the Parliament Hill event, Laurette Glasgow, Special Advisor for Government Relations at the Anglican Church of Canada, drew attention to a faith-based perspective on poverty. “We are accountable, both as individuals and as a society, to respond to those in need with compassion,” she said. “A comprehensive anti-poverty plan is the right thing to do, the smart thing to do – and it needs to be done.”
Public justice insists that everyone has a role to play in building a Canada free from poverty. But the federal government, with its particular policy-making, legislative, taxation, and redistributive powers, has the responsibility to provide leadership and promote reform in key areas under its jurisdiction. “We know that there are enough resources. It is really about the redistribution of resources,” said event panelist Katie- Sue Derejko from the Assembly of First Nations. “If Canada wants to be seen as a dignified country, then the country needs to act on this plan.”
Canada has achieved a measure of success in reducing rates of poverty among seniors, the result of important investments in seniors’ income security programs. Some provinces are also making headway in reducing the incidence and depth of poverty, notably in Newfoundland and Labrador and Quebec.
Concerted action is needed now on the part of the federal government. It needs to work with others to make meaningful investments in proven strategies to reduce poverty among people in Canada regardless of where they live or the unique circumstances of their lives. “All of our hands need to be on this issue,” said Conservative Senator Don Meredith at the release event.
Indeed, they do. In 2015, a federal election year, every political party platform should include the commitment to develop, and then implement, a national anti-poverty plan.
Read the “National Anti-Poverty Plan for Canada” at cpj.ca/FedPlan.
The Dignity for All Campaign will be travelling across Canada this year to present workshops and training on how to engage with the Anti-Poverty Plan.