Country’s first national poverty strategy acts as a foundation for a Canada without poverty
August 21, 2018
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
OTTAWA – The federal government announced details of its first Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS) – a national poverty plan that civil society, the United Nations, and people with lived experience have long called for.
Canada Without Poverty (CWP), a national anti-poverty and human rights organization, welcomes the launch of the CPRS as a hallmark moment for the country, and calls for the strategy to serve as a platform for the development of significantly stronger anti-poverty measures, policies, and programs. Nearly five million people in Canada currently live in poverty, with over four million people living in food insecure households, including over one million children, and three million households living in core housing need. Census data from 2016 also shows that poverty is on the rise for seniors.
“The release of this strategy is the realization of tireless work on the part of Canada’s strong anti-poverty movement and, though it does not allocate new funding, it provides a solid starting point for our ongoing work,” said Leilani Farha, Executive Director of CWP.
“We are certainly excited that the vision of this strategy includes working towards a ‘Canada without poverty’ and recognizes the role that systemic discrimination plays as a barrier to people living in poverty.”
The CPRS outlines measures taken by the government over the past few years, including the development of the Canada Child Benefit and improvement of the Guaranteed Income Supplement, as well as the launch of the National Housing Strategy. The strategy also indicates the creation of the first Official Poverty Line based on the Market Basket Measure, as well as the development of an independent National Advisory Council on Poverty as an accountability mechanism, and outlines plans to publish data on poverty annually.
“Unfortunately, the CPRS does not introduce any significant new programs to address our disproportionately high rates of poverty in Canada, relying instead on the programs this government has released since 2015,” said Ms Farha.
“While those programs have been constructive measures, there are some critical policy pieces including ensuring that the Canada Social Transfer to provinces and territories is subject to standards which meet our international human rights obligations. As Canada is currently on the global stage promoting human rights, we had hoped to see that level of commitment domestically.”
The strategy provides targets and timelines for poverty reduction, including reducing poverty by 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2030. Canada, along with most other countries, have signed on to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the first of which calls for the eradication of poverty by 2030, though sub-targets call for a minimum of “at least” 50% reduction by the deadline. The strategy makes reference to Canada’s human rights obligations, as well as the SDGs, though a dedicated human rights approach is not used.
“We are excited that Canada is starting to recognize its economic and social rights obligations by taking federal leadership on the elimination of poverty, something United Nations bodies have long pushed the government to do,” said CWP’s Deputy Director, Harriett McLachlan.
“A key piece we were looking for in the CPRS is mention of an accountability mechanism to ensure the voices of people in poverty are heard in response to systemic violations of economic and social rights. We look forward to further details of the mechanics of the Council, in particular whether it will be independent from the government, have authority to make decisions, and receive adequate funding. Critically, what would set this strategy apart is to ensure that this accountability mechanism provides genuine avenues of remedy for people living in poverty to access their human rights.”
The CPRS also indicates that the government will implement a Poverty Reduction Act, legislating the targets and timelines for the strategy, as well as the Advisory Council, a key ask of the Dignity for All campaign, which CWP co-leads with Citizens for Public Justice.
”For decades, we never would have expected a federal anti-poverty strategy – and certainly not one that referenced human rights. Though this strategy is not to the standard we were hoping for, this is a moment to be celebrated,” continued Ms. McLachlan.
“We hope this CPRS is a solid foundation for more substantial changes in the future that illustrate how Canada is moving towards realizing the human right to an adequate standard of living that all people in Canada.”
About Canada Without Poverty
Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, and charitable organization dedicated to ending poverty in Canada. The organization was created in 1971 as an outcome of the Poor People’s Conference, a national gathering of low-income individuals, under the name National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO). For over 40 years, CWP has been championing the rights of individuals experiencing poverty and marginalization through research, awareness-building campaigns, public policy development, and educational programming. See more at: www.cwp-csp.ca.
For more information or interview requests, please contact:
Canada Without Poverty – Communications and Development Coordinator
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