From 13 to 100: Chew On This!

This past August was a historic month for many in Canada’s anti-poverty community.

The release of the long anticipated poverty reduction strategy, Opportunity for All, had groups from coast-to-coast-to-coast celebrating what this could mean for millions of people in Canada living in low-income. And although it’s not perfect, the plan finally gives us something to chew on as we await what will come next.

As a new addition to the team at Canada Without Poverty (CWP), I was eager to see how the proposed strategy would impact the population it is meant to serve. Luckily for me, I arrived at the perfect time to tackle the 6th consecutive Chew on This! campaign. This annual campaign mobilizes people inside and outside the anti-poverty movement across the country, giving them a chance to educate people in their community and take direct action with policy makers, from Parliament Hill to individual neighbourhoods. I was keen to know how the government planned to implement a national strategy for a country as vast and diverse as Canada. 

Chew on This! campaign organizers – CWP and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) – are using the momentum from the new poverty strategy to shed light on what is still needed for this plan to become a reality. This year is an important time for constructive critiques of the strategy, as well as a pivotal time to push for human-rights based legislation and dedicated funding in 2019. Chew on This! events are scheduled to take place in every single province and territory.  With almost 100 groups joining this movement, 2018 will be our largest campaign to date.

Some of the critical calls of this year’s campaign include the government’s securing of the strategy within a human rights based Poverty Reduction Act this fall. In fact, in the August announcement, the government announced that they will include that Canada’s new Official Poverty Line and the National Advisory Council on Poverty be enshrined in law.

So, why do we think this is so important for people in Canada? Securing the strategy in rights-based legislation and allocating sufficient funds for its success will promote social inclusion, strengthen social security and make a real difference for the 1 in 7 households that would directly benefit from this strategy.

The reality in Canada is that 4 million people across the country live in food insecure households.

We all seem to understand the risks associated with continuing to neglect, or underfund, a poverty reduction strategy, yet we are still waiting on the necessary legislation and execution. And while many continue to wait, individuals on the front lines of poverty relief are battling with various other systemic issues that emphasize why Canada as a whole will benefit from the proposed plan.

Poor health resulting in higher health care costs, increasing demands on social and community services, family distress, diminishing educational success for young people and the unsettling loss of productivity and economic capacity for many, are some of the consequences the Chew on This! campaign aims to highlight.

This is the true cost of poverty we continue to claim we cannot afford.

Hundreds of organizers and volunteers from all over Canada will take to the streets October 17th to mark the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Their goal? To show that Canada can no longer be idle on its commitments to poverty reduction at home and on the world stage.

At events across the country, campaigners will hand out various materials from magnets, to snacks, to postcards addressed to the Prime Minister calling for the plan to be strengthened, legislated, and fully-funded in Budget 2019. Whether you are a member of an anti-poverty organization, a faith-based group, a campus initiative or you are a passionate volunteer, participating in the Chew on This! campaign shows policy makers that their constituents understand the true cost of poverty and the importance of helping all people in Canada live with dignity.

Chew on This! may be the real opportunity for all to partake in the conversation from Iqaluit to Nanaimo about what poverty really means in our own backyards. Standing alongside engaged and enthusiastic communities across the country, we are able to come together and share a platform that demands for a poverty-free Canada. How will you get involved this October 17th?

Alexandra Zannis is a Placement Student at Canada Without Poverty in the Carleton Bachelor of Social Work program.