Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
June 1, 2009
Anti-poverty groups launch national Dignity for All campaign
WESTERN CATHOLIC REPORTER
CALGARY — Now is the time to end poverty in Canada. That's the key message of Dignity for All, a Canada-wide campaign aimed at eliminating poverty and building a more socially secure and cohesive Canada by the year 2020.
Canada Without Poverty (CWP) and Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ) launched the anti-poverty campaign in Calgary May 22.
"There is momentum across the country," says Joe Gunn, Executive Director of CPJ. "We're seeing organizations, cities, provinces and territories take action. It is time for the federal government to step up and do its part."
The campaign, which is seeking endorsements from organizations and individuals across Canada, calls for a federal plan to eliminate poverty, a federal anti-poverty act and increased federal investments in social security.
FREEDOM FROM POVERTY A RIGHT
"We believe that freedom from poverty is a human right," Rob Rainer, Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty (CWP), said in a prepared statement. "Vigorous and sustained action from the federal government is required to help eliminate poverty in Canada. We are calling on the federal government to act."
The campaign was launched during the final plenary session of the Canadian Social Forum in Calgary.
Gunn noted four provinces, including Quebec, Ontario and Newfoundland, have adopted poverty reduction strategies and said it is time for the federal government to act.
QUEBEC TAKES ACTION
Following pressure from anti-poverty organizations, the Quebec government in 2002 passed anti-poverty legislation aimed at making Quebec "one of the industrialized nations having the least number of persons living in poverty (by 2013)."
With a budget of $2.5 billion over five years, the plan seeks to improve access to Quebec's public pharmacare program, provide funding to build new affordable housing, and create rent supplements and adapt housing for people with disabilities.
In 2006 the government of Newfoundland and Labrador announced its intent to transform Newfoundland and Labrador from the province with the most poverty to the province with the least poverty within ten years.
A year later it came up with an anti-poverty plan that focuses on groups disproportionately impacted by poverty-families led by single mothers, single people, people aged 55-64, persons with disabilities, and Aboriginal peoples.
In late 2008 the Ontario government introduced Breaking the Cycle: Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy with the goal of "reducing the number of children living in poverty by 25 per cent over five years." In February the Ontario government introduced legislation that would enshrine in law a commitment to action on poverty.
There has also been a movement towards provincial poverty reduction strategies in Nova Scotia and New Brunswick and other provinces.
The time has come up for the federal government to come with a poverty reduction strategy for all of Canada, Gunn said. "We need federal government commitment," he said from Ottawa May 25. "In Ireland and Britain you also have anti-poverty legislation and they have both been fairly successful in lowering child-poverty rates and the numbers of people living in poverty. So it is clear to the movement in Canada that we need federal government commitment."
EQUALITY SAVES MONEY
Federal government officials seem "allergic" to more spending but "we argue that greater equality in society creates a healthier society in terms of health outcomes," Gunn noted.
A study done last year by the Ontario Food Banks Association found that poverty in the province cost the federal and provincial governments $13 billion. The total cost to Ontario society is between $32 billion and $38 billion.
"You know, poverty is expensive for the rest of society," said Gunn.
The campaign is called Dignity for All "because we believe all people have dignity and are made in the image and likeness of God," added Gunn. "But also we believe (eliminating poverty) is the right thing to do because it will make our society healthier in many, many ways."
Campaign organizers say any federal anti-poverty plan should include income security, food security, housing security, child care and early childhood development, education and training, labour standards, job creation, a green jobs strategy, unemployment insurance, health supports and supports for vulnerable populations.