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[left to right] Michele Biss, Kate McInturff, Darlene O'Leary, Leilani Farha, and Sarah DelVillano at the National Poverty Conference in Ottawa

We Can End, Not Just Reduce, Poverty in Canada

On September 28, 2017, the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos hosted the National Poverty Conference in Ottawa. This conference sought to bring stakeholders, front-line workers, academics, researchers, and members of the Minister’s Advisory Committee on Poverty together to discuss the development of the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS) and to hear updates from recent studies and initiatives.

The Dignity for All Campaign co-leads, Canada Without Poverty and Citizens for Public Justice, attended the conference. We were pleased with the participation of three Ministers, Minister Duclos, Agriculture Minister Lawrence MacAuley, and Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould, as well as Parliamentary Secretary to Minister Duclos, Adam Vaughan. We see this as a very positive demonstration of the federal commitment to the development of the CPRS.

A report on the Tackling Poverty Together project, a study which surveyed what poverty looks like in six different Canadian communities, was an interesting highlight. The project did a very good job of demonstrating Canadian resilience throughout each of the communities who participated. But with 1 in 7 Canadians still living in poverty, the study made clear that more needs to be done.

There was also a presentation involving youth perspectives on poverty, which was highly engaging and well-received by the attendees. Dignity for All would like to encourage the federal government to continue consulting with Canadian youth regarding their experiences and views towards poverty, beyond the government’s call for submissions from youth on poverty in Canada.

Although not much was discussed about the CPRS consultations, which took place this past spring and summer, we remain hopeful that the government’s plan will reflect the voices of Canadians, particularly those with lived experience of poverty. The Dignity for All Campaign was able to hear from 864 of those voices through online submissions sent directly to the federal government in our own CPRS consultation process.

Dignity for All’s independent CPRS consultations also saw 400 individual comments submitted with key policy priorities identified as being concerns for Indigenous rights, child poverty, mental health, as well as all six of Dignity for All’s policy areas: income security, housing and homelessness, health, food security, jobs and employment and early childhood education. Dignity for All’s model National Anti-Poverty Plan was also submitted to the federal government’s CPRS consultations.

The Dignity for All Campaign emphasizes poverty eradication – a plausible and attainable goal within this country – rather than poverty reduction. This is a sentiment that was echoed throughout yesterday’s conference, and consistent with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, with Goal 1 being to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” (Unfortunately, this was misrepresented during the “hackathon” section of yesterday’s conference, which referred to the SDG’s focus on poverty reduction.)

We need to do better, and we need a plan that will reflect the needs of all Canadians – especially those most vulnerable.

Throughout yesterday’s conference, Minister Duclos’ “3 A’s” were a major theme: ambition, action and attitude. We are calling on the government to take the necessary action, have the right attitude and be ambitious enough to #EndPoverty in Canada.

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