The announcement this week that Nutrition North has failed to address the needs of rural and remote communities is disheartening – yet doesn’t surprise many within the anti-poverty community. Continue reading “Canada must step up to address failed Nutrition North”
It’s important that legislation for the new federal Poverty Reduction Strategy passes before the coming federal election so that ending poverty remains a priority in Canada no matter who gets elected. That’s why many anti-poverty organizations were pleased with the recent inclusion of poverty legislation, with the governments tabling of the Budget Implementation Act (BIA).
This week, Dignity for All co-leads, Canada Without Poverty (CWP) and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), had the opportunity to present as witnesses to the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance (FINA) regarding key poverty legislation. FINA’s study of the BIA gave way for a vigorous dialogue, and a chance to again reinforce our recommendations to improve the Poverty Reduction Act for the millions looking to this announcement.
In our open letter sent to the Honourable Minister Jean-Yves Duclos in February, sponsored by CWP, CPJ, and Campaign 2000 and signed by over 500 organizations and individuals, we outlined our position on the Poverty Reduction Act, making specific recommendations to strengthen the legislation. This Act – previously Bill C-87 – was tabled in Parliament and went to second reading, without any of the proposed amendments, to the Budget Implementation Act.
These recommendations, shared with the FINAnce Committee, are crucial if we want to get this legislation right:
- The Poverty Reduction Act should reflect Canada’s international human rights commitments, including the commitment that Canada has made in adopting the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The targets and timelines identified currently in the legislation reflect the minimum goals set out in the SDGs, to reduce poverty rates by 20% by 2020 and by 50% by 2030. ESDC is using the 2015 Market Basket Measure rates as a starting point for these targets. However, the first SDG goal to which Canada has committed is no poverty. We recommend that the legislation be amended to reflect this as the ultimate goal with a much more ambitious timeline. Otherwise, we are failing to honour our international commitments and are implicitly claiming that it is acceptable to leave behind those remaining in poverty once the minimum goals are achieved.We also recommend that the legislation be amended to affirm economic and social rights as ratified by Canada in international human rights laws.
- In addition, the legislation recognizes the new Official Poverty Line as the Market Basket Measure (MBM0. While the legislation indicates that the MBM be subject to regular review, we recommend that review takes place no longer than every 3 years. It should also include public input, to ensure that the costing of the items identified as part of the “basket of necessities” reflects the actual costs experienced by low-income households and that the basket includes an adequate and appropriate range of costs. The current MBM base has not been updated since 2011, with a slight adjustment in 2012, though it is currently under review. That means that the costs being calculated now, for example, the cost of shelter, are vastly underestimated for some communities. Given that the MBM could now be used to establish eligibility and access to needed programs and benefits for low-income people, regular and public reviews are essential. The legislation should also recognize that no one measure of low-income or costs captures the reality of poverty, so a range of publicly available data sets should be included in assessing progress in achieving targets.
- Further, the new National Advisory Council on Poverty is being established to advise and report to the Minister and engage with the public in reviewing the progress of federal poverty reduction strategy. For this council to be effective, it must be independent, adequately resourced, and given authority to make recommendations and require remedial action for compliance with economic and social rights. There must be a transparent process for appointment of council members, including establishing criteria of qualifications, such as expertise focused on poverty eradication, people with lived experience of poverty, and regional representation. We recommend that Section 11, which authorizes the dissolution of the council once poverty has been reduced by 50% of 2015 levels, be removed or amended to ensure an ongoing mandate for the Council to oversee a goal of sustained poverty eradication.
- In addition to this legislation, we hope to see the federal government work in partnership with Indigenous governments to co-develop initiatives to ensure accountability and implementation of remedies for the distinctive barriers faced by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit persons living in poverty.
In addition to speaking as witnesses, Dignity for All submitted a brief outlining our recommendations, which included the full open letter and list of signatories.
We hope that bringing these recommendations forward and indicating the broad support we’ve received from across the country that the legislation and the strategy will be strengthened. We hope, as well, that poverty eradication remains a priority issue as we move toward a federal election in October.
Dignity for All before the standing committee on Finance (audio only):
Michèle Biss, Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer at Canada Without Poverty:
Leilani Farha, Executive Director at Canada Without Poverty and United Nations Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing:
Darlene O’Leary, Socio-Economic Policy Analyst at Citizens for Public Justice:
It’s hard to believe, but 2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of Dignity for All, the campaign for a poverty-free Canada, a campaign co-led by CPJ and Canada Without Poverty (CWP).
Dignity for All started out with a vision of ending poverty in Canada and a conviction that it was possible through a strong, comprehensive national anti-poverty plan. At the campaign’s core was the belief that all people should live with dignity and that poverty violates this dignity. Over the years, this message has clearly resonated with people across the country, with campaign endorsements from over 12,000 individuals, including MPs and Senators, and almost 750 organizations to date.
The Early Days
“Dignity for All was built on the shared belief that every human being deserves to live with dignity, free from poverty and in a situation of social and economic security. We launched the campaign in Calgary with presentations in English, French, Blackfoot and Mandarin, highlighting the reality that people from across the country must work together to address poverty in Canada. By coming together under a single banner, we hoped to present a unified, multi-sectoral voice on the imperative of federal action on poverty. In that, we have succeeded,” said Karri Munn-Venn, CPJ’s Senior Policy Analyst.
In its early years, the campaign gathered together people working on poverty eradication to develop a model of what an effective national anti-poverty plan would look like. Through a series of summits on six policy areas with policy analysts, academics, community service providers, experts in poverty-related fields, faith community members, and people with lived experience of poverty, the Dignity for All model national anti-poverty plan was formed.
“The creation of the Dignity for All model plan was an incredible achievement – not just for our movement, but for Canada. For five years, it has been the guiding human rights-based policy document on poverty in Canada, informed by the expertise and lived experience of people from coast-to-coast-to-coast, and we know it has been integral to the creation of the country’s first national poverty plan,” said CWP’s Michèle Biss.
Dignity for All was instrumental in initiating the All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus, a Parliamentary caucus that explores poverty issues, bringing together civil society organizations and Parliamentarians in a non-partisan forum. The caucus was co-chaired for many years by now retired Senator Art Eggleton and MP Marjolaine Boutin-Sweet, providing forums to discuss policy solutions and the impacts of poverty on marginalized communities.
“The All-Party Anti-Poverty Caucus has been a way for people who know poverty firsthand and policymakers at the highest level of Canadian government to meet on equal footing. Making space in public policy dialogue for those with a lived experience of poverty is critical to ending poverty,” said CWP Deputy Director, Harriett McLachlan.
Dignity for All launched its flagship advocacy event, Chew on This!, in 2013 with a small group of organizers who wanted to mark October 17, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, by calling for a national anti-poverty plan. From these humble beginnings, the annual postcard and outreach campaign has grown each year, reaching a record number of over 100 groups – with participation in every province and territory – in 2018.
After years of collaboration and advocacy, we have started to see significant movement.
In August 2018, the federal government launched Opportunity for All, Canada’s first national poverty reduction strategy. Dignity for Allhas celebrated this achievement as one our campaign helped to make happen, thanks to dedicated supporters across the country! And following our 2018 Chew on This! call for immediate legislation of the federal PRS, Minister Duclos tabled Bill C-87, An Act respecting the reduction of poverty, in November 2018.
While these are huge achievements, our work continues.
In 2019, the Dignity for All campaign is joining partners to push to strengthen legislation for the PRS, through recommendations outlined in our open letter to Minister Duclos. Also, this year we are looking ahead to the coming federal election with hopes of making poverty eradication a campaign priority.
In reflecting on a decade of Dignity for All, we’re inspired by the work and dedication of so many people in Canada who want to see an end to poverty, and it’s clear that this dedication has made a real difference. Moving forward, we know the power of this commitment will lead to even better things. We can achieve dignity for all!
My first official week at Canada Without Poverty (CWP) has been nothing shy of electric.
With the release of the Budget Implementation Act which included key legislation for the National Housing and Poverty Reduction strategies to the Ontario Budget release, the Alberta Election to Equal Pay Day – it has been an important week for us at CWP. Continue reading “Framing poverty: who really gets to grow in Ontario?”
The Dignity for All Campaign and Campaign 2000, along with over 500 anti-poverty advocates and organizations, have sent an open letter to the federal government with recommendations to strengthen the forthcoming legislation of Canada’s first federal poverty reduction strategy.
For Immediate Release
Ottawa, ON, February 20, 2019 – Ahead of the federal government’s legislation of Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS), Campaign 2000 and the Dignity for All Campaign, co-led by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty have sent an open letter to Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, with recommendations to strengthen Bill C-87, An Act respecting the reduction of poverty.
More than 100 organizations have signed the letter, including national and regional groups, and over 400 individuals from across Canada added their name to the letter, including those with lived experiences of poverty. Notable signatories include the Canadian Alliance to End Homelessness, the Canadian Health Coalition, the First Nations Child & Family Caring Society, Oxfam Canada, Child Care Now, UNICEF, the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, the Canadian Labour Congress, the YWCA, Unifor, and more.
“As organizations and individuals that are working to end poverty in Canada, we believe that this legislation must be strengthened to ensure we meet the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) to end poverty by 2030,” the letter states.
The letter follows years of campaigning by the Dignity for All Campaign and partners aimed at the establishment of Canada’s first-ever poverty reduction strategy. When the federal government announced the CPRS in August 2018, the coalition shifted their focus to the legislation of the strategy. With the November 2018 tabling of Bill C-87, which legislates the CPRS, the coalition’s momentum has continued to grow.
Anita Khanna, National Coordinator of Campaign 2000, says the details contained in the forthcoming legislation will have serious repercussions for those experiencing poverty in Canada. “After decades of promises to end child poverty, we finally have legislation that will help us hold government accountable for action-or inaction-in continually reducing poverty. All parties claim a commitment to children and families, yet we are now in the thirtieth year of the all-party resolution to end child poverty by the year 2000 and 1.4 million children still live in poverty. The open letter outlines clear steps to help get this legislation right so the long-awaited CPRS lives up to its potential to make poverty history.
Similarly, Darlene O’Leary, Socio-economic Policy Analyst at Citizens for Public Justice says “CPJ and the Dignity for All campaign are pleased to see legislation of the poverty strategy move forward, but it needs stronger targets, accountability mechanisms, and a goal of ending poverty. Our recommendations show how this can be done so the strategy can be implemented without delay.”
Leilani Farha, UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing and Executive Director at Canada Without Poverty, also sees this as an important moment.
“Canada’s commitment to the SDGs and its international human rights obligations require that the maximum of available resources are used to fulfil human rights, including the right to an adequate standard of living,” she said. “ Now is the moment to get it right by aiming to end poverty for everyone – something that is certainly achievable for such a wealthy country.”
This Bill comes at a critical moment in Canada’s history. With the upcoming federal election later this year, the group is urging the government to pass legislation for the CPRS before the end of this parliamentary session. Among its five key recommendations, the letter outlines the need to improve Canada’s Official Poverty Line (the Market Basket Measure), establish the National Advisory Council on Poverty as an independent body, and raise ambition to end poverty in Canada by 2030.
About Dignity for All
Since 2009, Dignity for All has called for a comprehensive, rights-based, and adequately-funded national anti-poverty plan. In 2015, co-leaders of the campaign Canada Without Poverty and Citizens for Public Justice worked with partner organizations, community and faith groups, and people with lived experience of poverty to draft a model plan with strong targets and a human rights-based approach which was endorsed by over 12,000 people and organizations. In 2017, the DFA network made up over 75 per cent of email submissions to the government’s consultation for the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy.
The Dignity for All campaign has drafted a letter to be sent to Minister Jean-Yves Duclos, the Member of Parliament responsible for Canada’s poverty reduction strategy, with recommendations to strengthen Bill C-87, An Act respecting the reduction of poverty. Along with partners, we are calling on the government to align Canada with our obligations under international human rights law to ensure we meet the first Sustainable Development Goal (SDG): to end poverty by 2030.
This Bill comes at a critical moment in Canada’s history. With the upcoming federal election later this year, we urge the government to pass legislation for the poverty reduction strategy before this session ends.
Along with Canada’s first anti-poverty strategy, this legislation provides a historic opportunity for leadership. With our global commitments to end poverty by 2030, and our aspiration to be a country that leads on human rights, the time is now to implement anti-poverty legislation that move us forward to a more equal Canada.
537 individuals and organizations have signed our open letter!
- Amend the legislation to affirm economic and social rights as ratified by Canada, including: the right to an adequate standard of living; right to food; right to housing; right to work and access to childcare; right to social security; right to health as articulated in international human rights laws, such as the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), as fundamental human rights;
- Establish regulations to Bill C-87, which articulate that the goal to reduce poverty by 50% of 2015 MBM levels by 2030 is a minimum target. Regulations must reflect that the obligation under the Sustainable Development Goals is to end poverty in Canada.
- Establish measures to ensure Canada’s official poverty line genuinely reflects the experience of poverty in Canada, particularly those in marginalized groups who are more likely to experience poverty.
- Ensure that the National Advisory Council on Poverty can adequately implement accountability of government for those living in poverty for the progressive realization of the right to an adequate standard of living and social security rights, as guaranteed by articles 2(1), 9 and 11 of the ICESCR.
- In addition to this legislation, co-develop initiatives to ensure accountability and implementation of remedies for the distinctive barriers faced by First Nations, Métis, and Inuit persons living in poverty.
***The letter was updated from the original version on Feb 1, 2019 at 10:15 a.m.
The federal government launched its poverty reduction strategy, Opportunity for All, in August 2018. As part of the strategy, Canada will be adopting the Market Basket Measure (MBM) as the official poverty line.
Currently, the federal government has initiated a consultation on the MBM as part of a review and update to the measure. The results will have serious implications for people in poverty.
We urge our colleagues and partners to participate in Statistics Canada’s survey on the MBM. The deadline to fill out the survey is January 31, 2019. The following document provides an outline of some of the systemic issues arising in the survey, along with some helpful guidelines as you submit your answers.
Add your input to make sure the MBM keeps dignity in mind!
Dignity, inclusion and empowerment are some of the buzzwords found within the August release of Canada’s first Poverty Reduction Strategy, Opportunity for All. The strategy announced by Minister Jean-Yves Duclos provides a solid base for the anti-poverty community to celebrate the feat, as well as regroup advocacy efforts around one common goal: a Canada without poverty.
Continue reading “Moving towards a poverty-free Canada”
This October 17th, the flurry of activity on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty left all of us at Dignity for All feeling grateful and energized.
Continue reading “Looking back over a historic Chew On This! campaign”
Here’s what news outlets across Canada had to say about ChewOnThis! 2018:
- Radio Canada: Une carte postale destinée à Justin Trudeau pour lutter contre la pauvreté
- Red Deer Advocate: Chew On This! campaign draws attention to national poverty
- Blackburn News: Windsor activists demand end to poverty with ‘Chew on This!’ campaign
- The Guardian (PEI): Activists in Charlottetown launch anti-poverty campaign
- Stratford Beacon Herald: Perth District Health Unit and Local Community Food Centre push for action on national poverty strategy
- RDNewsNow: Creating Better Insight Into Poverty in Red Deer
- Catholic Register: One in six Canadians are poor, Citizens for Public Justice Report says
- Hill Times: When a heart-wrenching photo made it better for children
- Hill Times: Will the poor always be with us? (and would we notice?)
- The United Church of Canada: The Call for Justice is Not an Option