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Churches can make a difference in ending poverty

Help raise awareness on Oct. 17, International Day for the Eradication of Poverty

Often those of us working to end poverty in Canada do so hoping for good results but expecting change to be slow.

And it is. The reality of poverty is complex and requires many levels of engagement and action by governments and communities.

The pace can be frustrating, as poverty in Canada continues to damage so many lives and communities. As recent data indicate, close to half of female-led single parent families live in poverty, and poverty among seniors (particularly women) is rising again.

Marginalized groups, including refugees and refugee claimants, experience high rates of poverty along with multiple barriers that are socially isolating. And the continuing deep poverty among many indigenous communities, including lack of safe housing, safe water and enduring child poverty, continues to shame us all.

But change does happen, thanks to the work of people, communities and organizations who never stop in their efforts to make things better.

The recently launched Canada Child Benefit is an example of good policy developing out of the persistent efforts of child poverty eradication advocates like Campaign 2000.

It’s this kind of progress that inspires those of us doing work to end poverty in Canada. There are so many people working for change and making a difference.

For Christians, working to end poverty involves both a call to help those in need and a recognition that all people deserve to live fully and with dignity.

Many churches work to address immediate needs – feeding those who are hungry and providing safe shelter. Others also take on the structural injustice that leads to poverty, working for better social institutions and social policy. 

Christians are called to privilege the voices and experience of those who live in poverty. Their voices must be the strongest in the work to end poverty.

CPJ staff chat with Liberal MP Catherine McKenna (left).

Strength in numbers
It is an incredible testament to the strength of the human spirit when someone who has been pushed down by structures of injustice and by the weight of daily burdens can keep pushing back, affirming their dignity and the dignity of all people.

This is what the Dignity for All campaign wants to highlight in working for the creation of a national anti-poverty plan.

Since 2009, the campaign, led by Citizens for Public Justice and Canada Without Poverty, has been supported by a strong network of social policy, anti-poverty, community, faith-based organizations, as well as people with lived experience of poverty, all working to end poverty in Canada.

And the campaign goal of the development of a national anti-poverty plan is closer than it’s ever been.

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, Jean-Yves Duclos, has been mandated to develop a Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy (CPRS) that will be evaluated for its success and will align with provincial, territorial and municipal strategies.

In early September, Minister Duclos announced that six cities have been chosen as test sites for a national poverty reduction strategy: Saint John, N.B., Trois-Rivières, Que, Toronto, Winnipeg, Yellowknife and Tisdale, Sask. The Tackling Poverty Together Project could be a good step forward in developing the CPRS if there are opportunities for community engagement and meaningful consultations involving people with lived experience of poverty.

This brings some added excitement to the Dignity for All campaign’s annual public engagement event, Chew On This! On October 17th, the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, communities across Canada will participate in our nationally organized annual event to raise awareness about poverty in Canada and to push for a comprehensive national anti-poverty plan.

This year, people will be encouraged to sign postcards directed to Minister Duclos, calling for a meaningful consultation process in the development of the CPRS and ensuring that it is comprehensive and rights-based.

Chew On This! is a unique opportunity to feel the strength of that network of organizations and communities working to end poverty. And as the work continues, it’s nice to see some positive change taking shape.

Churches continue to play an important role in moving this work forward. In fact, at this unique moment where we are close to a national anti-poverty plan, churches can make a real difference.

Volunteers across Canada hand out lunch bags containing an apple, magnet and postcard to push for a comprehensive national anti-poverty plan.

Hungry at home

  • 852,000 Canadians visit a food bank each month.
  • 1 in 3 people helped by food banks are children.
  • Food banks were started in Canada in the 80s as a temporary way to address hunger. They were never meant to be permanent.
  • 1 in 8 Canadians live with some level of food insecurity.

Author

  • Darlene O’Leary is the socio-economic policy analyst at Citizens for Public Justice, a faith-based public policy organization in Ottawa. Learn more at dignityforall.ca/chew.

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