Amidst incredible wealth, more than 3.5 million Canadian live in poverty. In fact, poverty is increasing for youth, workers, young families and immigrants and people of colour in this country. Poverty in Aboriginal groups remains appallingly high, both on and off reserve. While Canada officially ranks an impressive 4th on the UN Human Development Index, the statistics measuring poverty in Canada’s Aboriginal communities would place us 78th—a ranking currently held by Peru.
The inherited poverty facing our youth is especially emergent. On average, one in every ten children in Canada struggles to have their basic needs met. In First Nations and Inuit communities, one in every four children grows up in poverty. More than twenty years after the House of Commons passed a resolution to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000, our government has failed to take any meaningful action in this direction.
In Canada right now:
One in ten children is poor.
Canada’s child poverty rate of 15 percent is three times as high as the rates of Sweden, Norway or Finland.
Every month, 770,000 people in Canada use food banks. Forty percent of those relying on food banks are children. These statistics point to a betrayal of Canada’s children.
What makes the persistence of child poverty all the more disturbing is that Canada is such a resource-rich country. It doesn’t have to be this way. All children should have the chance to meet their potential.
National Poverty Reduction Plan
The Canadian government talks a good talk of addressing suffering abroad, but we need to focus on poverty reduction strategies at home if we are to have any credibility on the global stage. The national platform of the Make Poverty History campaign in Canada puts forward achievable demands that would make a significant contribution to making poverty history—both globally and in Canada.
Make Poverty History calls on the government of Canada to implement a plan to reduce—and ultimately eliminate—poverty in Canada. Developed in consultation with people living in poverty, this nation-wide strategy will complement and unify existing efforts at the provincial and territorial level. To-date, Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Ontario have implemented poverty reduction plans.
In order for these measures to succeed, we must also adopt a federal anti-poverty act that would hold our government accountable for setting and achieving measurable results within a reasonable timeframe. Poverty reduction plans and coordinated policies have proved an effective combination for turning the tide of poverty in other countries, as well as in the provinces and territories in Canada that have adopted them.
It is possible for all Canadians to have a decent standard of living. Now is the time to take action and make it a reality.