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Groups call for national anti-poverty strategy

By Deborah Gyapong

Canadian Catholic News


At the press conference on Parliament Hill in advance of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty Oct. 17 are, from left: Joe Gunn, Leilani Farha (at microphone) Tim Richter, Laura Neidhart, Stephan Corriveau and Anglican Bishop John Chapman. (Photo by Art Babych)

OTTAWA (CCN) — On Oct. 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, 80 groups in more than 30 communities across Canada called for a national anti-poverty strategy.

They called for comprehensive plan based on human rights and fully funded in the next federal budget, through participating in the fifth Chew on This! campaign to call attention to the estimated 850,000 people who visit a food bank each month, and the 4.8 million Canadians who live below the poverty line.

“Canada needs to develop at all levels a plan to address poverty,” said Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) executive director Joe Gunn. Chew on This! is organized by the Dignity for All Campaign, a joint venture of CPJ and Canada Without Poverty.

The campaign included 22,000 lunch bags containing a snack such as an apple, a magnet, and a postcard saying “We Need a Plan to end poverty, food insecurity, and homelessness in Canada.”

Gunn and a team from CPJ were on Parliament Hill handing out lunch bags and encouraging passers-by to mail the postcard to Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos.

To help equip the groups who took part, CPJ published its annual October analysis of Canada’s poverty levels in Poverty Trends 2017.

Based on the latest Statistics Canada figures from 2015, the report shows one in seven Canadians, or 4.8 million people, live in poverty.

“It allows people to have a snapshot in mind of what poverty looks like when handing out a postcard or an apple,” Gunn said. 

Most people in Canada think of poverty in terms of the “urban poor man sleeping homeless on the streets,” Gunn said. “The report points out most poor people are actually working,” but at “precarious jobs,” with few hours, with no benefits and no protections.

“Certainly anyone working full time in all provinces of Canada but on minimum wage would be counted as living in poverty,” Gunn said.

The CPJ report showed 70 per cent of those living in poverty are working poor. “Youth 15-24 and women are over-represented in precarious work, along with racialized people, indigenous people, immigrants, people with disabilities, and older, working-age adults,” the report says.

“Child and family poverty persists at high rates, particularly in single-parent households (32.4 per cent), in spite of a commitment made in Parliament in 1989 to end child poverty in Canada by 2000,” the report said. Single-parent families are often led by women.

The report showed 25.3 per cent of Canada’s indigenous people live in poverty as “part of the continued legacy of colonization” including the “legacy of residential schools, forced migration and intergenerational trauma.”

It noted the desperate need for safe water and housing in some indigenous communities, as well as the high rates of food insecurity, especially in the North. In Nunavut 46.8 per cent of the predominantly Inuit population experiences food insecurity, the report said.

Twenty-three per cent of people with disabilities aged 25-64 live in poverty, the report showed. Refugees and refugee claimants are also vulnerable to poverty once sponsorship and government supports end, it said, noting “34.2 per cent of new immigrants and refugees live in poverty.”

“Chew On This! provides an opportunity to reflect on poverty issues in Kingston and across Canada,” said Tara Kainer, of the Sisters of Providence of St. Vincent de Paul’s Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Office, in a release. The Sisters of Providence in Kingston, Ont., joined groups from Vancouver to Yellowknife to St. John’s in the campaign to “raise awareness about poverty’s impact on health, income and food insecurity, precarious jobs and unemployment, as well as the lack of affordable housing and the need for quality early childhood care and education,” Rainer said.

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