Poverty in Canada
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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, 5.8 million people live in poverty. 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.
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.
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 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. In 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. We were also instrumental in bringing together the Interfaith Declaration on Poverty in Canada.
In 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.
In February 2017, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos launched consultations to inform Canada's first ever federal poverty reduction strategy, and in August 2018, Opportunity for All, was launched. While this was an important moment for CPJ and Dignity for All, more work is required to strengthen the new strategy.
CPJ will continue to call for a stronger federal strategy, that includes increased funding and accountability mechanisms, and to engage with the federal government to ensure that implementation is timely and moves toward the ultimate goal of poverty eradication in Canada.
CPJ facilitates workshops on poverty in Canada and the call for a stronger national anti-poverty plan. Contact Darlene O'Leary for more information.
Every October, CPJ releases our report on poverty in Canada. It highlights the unequal effects of poverty on racialized people, single-parent families, single seniors and adults, children, persons with disabilities, and Indigenous peoples. We also report on poverty rates of provinces, territories, and communities across Canada.
People living in poverty in Canada face multiple barriers. As a country, we can do better to address these persistent challenges. We need a strong national anti-poverty plan that takes a comprehensive approach to the complex reality of poverty. "Poverty Trends 2018" is CPJ's latest report on poverty in Canada. While overall poverty rates have not seen significant changes in the last several years, particular groups are increasingly vulnerable.
CPJ is calling for a plan to end poverty in Canada. In a country as wealthy as ours, 5.8 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.
Interested in getting your church engaged in anti-poverty discussions and reflections?
Check out a few of CPJ's resources to continue or initiate the conversation.
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. Read more
Chew on This! 2018 was the biggest one yet!
On October 17, 2018, people across Canada gathered in their communities for Chew on This! an annual event to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.
To find out more about Chew On This!, visit: Dignity for All
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 by reading the articles written by CPJ staff and citing CPJ’s work. Read more
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