Poverty entails more than the lack of income and productive resources to ensure sustainable livelihoods. Its manifestations include hunger and malnutrition, limited access to education and other basic services, social discrimination and exclusion, as well as the lack of participation in decision-making
Poverty is a violation of the most fundamental human rights possessed by every person. However, not everyone is equally susceptible to living in poverty. Historically marginalized groups such as Indigenous, racialized people, recent immigrants and refugees, people with disabilities, single-parent families, seniors, youth, and 2SLGBTQ+ communities are more likely to live in poverty.
As of 2019, an estimated 10% of people in Canada currently live in conditions of poverty, but the poverty rate is expected to increase with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Poverty statistics exclude people living in hidden poverty, which occurs when an individual earns above the poverty line, but cannot afford adequate food, hydro bills, childcare, or other basic necessities. Hidden poverty also encompasses undocumented people in Canada, and people who are on the brink of poverty.
- In 2020, 1 in 4 children were living in poverty.
- Single adults are more likely to live in poverty. 30.7% of single adult males in poverty, and 35.5% of single adult females living in poverty.
Food insecurity occurs when individuals do not have access to adequately nutritious and/or culturally appropriate foods, due to a lack of financial means.
As with other dimensions of poverty, food insecurity is not experienced in isolation. Access to adequate affordable, culturally-appropriate, and nutritious foods can be closely linked to physical and mental health outcomes.
Household food insecurity by province/territory (2021)
- 63% of households relying on social assistance were food-insecure.
- In March 2021, one third of those who accessed Canada’s food banks were children.
- In 2017/2018, 49.4% of Nunavut households faced moderate or severe food insecurity.
- COVID-related job losses accounted for 87% of food banks’ increases in demand since 2020.
- 28.9% of Black households and 28.2% of Indigenous households live with food insecurity, compared to just 11% of white households.
Homelessness is the most common and obvious form of housing insecurity in Canada. However, housing insecurity is also felt by individuals who live in a dwelling that is unaffordable, is in need of repairs, or is over-crowded.
Core Housing Need Rate by Province in 2016: household food security by province
- In 2018, more than 1.6 million Canadian households, or every 1 in 10 households were living in core housing need.
- Almost one‑third of Canadian households live in an inadequate, unaffordable, or unsuitable dwelling, and one‑tenth live in core housing need.
- Households which are led by female lone parents, immigrant families, and Indigenous, Metis, and Inuit households experience a disproportionately higher risk of living in core housing need.
- People who live alone are twice as likely to experience core housing need.
- 41% of senior renters live in unaffordable housing.
- Individuals experiencing homelessness are five times more likely to die from COVID-19 and 20 times more likely to be hospitalized.
- 235,000 individuals are at risk of homelessness, every year.
Unmet Health Care Needs by Province and TerritoryThis is measured by the number of Canadians that reported health care needs not being met when needed within the last 12 months. It is measured by the Canadian Community Health Survey. The most recent data is from 2014.
Percentage of Adults in the Lowest Income Household Population with at least one underlying health condition (95% confidence interval)
- In 2019 approximately 1.1 million individuals with disabilities in Canada were living below the poverty line.
- Approximately 1 in 5 Canadians with a mobility disability report being homebound due to a lack of accessible transportation.
- Persons living with a severe disability are four times more likely to live in poverty.
- 85% of individuals living with a disability report having a higher cost of living, due to additional medical expenses and the cost of equipment.
- Individuals living in poverty have a higher risk of not taking their prescribed medications due to cost barriers. This can have serious health and social impacts for vulnerable populations, such as those living with chronic illnesses, seniors, women, and people who are transgender.
- Individuals living with severe mental illness experience more barriers to accessing essential services, including healthcare, housing, and income assistance programs.
Prevalence of poverty amongst Indigenous populations by province (2016 Census)Source data
- Status First Nations children, living on reserves, are over four times more likely to live in poverty than non-Indigenous children.
- 14.4% of Canadian households were low-income in 2015, while 44.0% of Indigenous households living on-reserves were low-income
- Almost half (47%) of all status First Nations children live in poverty, this is in contrast to 12% of non-Indigenous, non-racialized, non-newcomer children who live in poverty.
- Implementing the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples: Myths and Misrepresentations – Coalition for the Human Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Oct. 2020)
- COVID-19, First Nations and Poor Housing: “Wash hands frequently” and “Self-isolate” Akin to “Let them eat cake” in First Nations with Overcrowded Homes Lacking Piped Water – Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, Manitoba
- A Disproportionate Burden: COVID-19 Labour Market Impacts on Indigenous and Racialized Workers in Canada – Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
- Addressing Racism in the Health Care System: A Policy Position and Discussion Paper (April 2021) – Pauktuutit Inuit Women of Canada
- Native Women’s Association of Canada
Communities that have faced systemic racial discrimination, exclusion, and other intersecting forms of oppression have higher poverty rates than White Canadians.
Recent immigrants, refugees, and people with precarious status who are racialized face barriers to employment and housing in Canada due to discrimination in the job market and exclusion from Government benefits, including access to healthcare.
Prevalence of Low Income Amongst Visible Minority Groups (2016)
- In 2019, 17.4% of recent immigrants were living in poverty.
- In 2015, the median income for Black men in Canada was $41,000, which is in contrast to a median income of $56,000 for other men.
- In 2016, 27% of Black children under 15 were living in poverty. This is in contrast to 14% of other children who were living in poverty.
- In 2021, 42.8% of Black people in Canada between 25-54 held a university degree, compared with 33.6% of non-racialized individuals of the same age group. Despite this, non-racialized individuals had a higher rate of employment (91.1%) than did Black Canadians (86.1%).
- In 2021, Black Canadians who were employed earned, on average, $3.92 less per hour than non-racialized individuals. Black Canadians were also two times more likely to live in a household which reported struggling to meet basic financial commitments.
- Black Health Alliance – Improving the health and well-being of Black communities in Canada
- Equal Rights for Migrant Care Workers: The Case for Immigration Policy Transformation – Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
- Racialized Women & COVID-19 Challenges in Canada – Canadian Research Institute for the Advancement of Women
- Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change
- Leading in Colour
- Statistics Canada – Dimensions of Poverty Hub
- National Advisory Council on Poverty Reports
- Citizens for Public Justice: Poverty Trends 2021 – The Change We Need
- Alternative Federal Budget 2022 – Mission Critical: A Just and Equitable Recovery – Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives
- 2021 Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada. “No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery” – Campaign 2000
- Poverty Pandemic Watch: The Effects of Poverty During COVID-19 – Canada Without Poverty
- Basic Income: Some Policy Options for Canada – Basic Income of Canada Network
- Basic Income, Gender & Disability – Women’s Legal Education & Action Fund
- Toward a Guaranteed Livable Income: Annotated Bibliography
- What are the needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, and queer (LGBTQ+) people that should be addressed by Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS)? – A joint submission from the Canadian Coalition Against LGBTQ+ Poverty (CCALP)
- National Action Plan for LGBTQI2S Rights in Canada – Egale (full report)