Today is the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. Sadly, that does not mean poverty was eradicated on this day in history. There is still a long way to go before that will happen.
One of the struggles faced by people advocating for the poor is that there is no common definition of poverty or standards by which comparisons can be made. And if you can’t measure the problem, it becomes harder to come up with solutions.
And yet, there is no denying that there is a problem.
Organizations such as Make Poverty History claim that more than three million people in Canada live in poverty, including more than 630,000 children – which is one in ten. At the Ottawa Food bank, 37% of 43,000 people they serve each month are children. In Canada’s First Nations communities, one in four children lives in poverty.
Poverty doesn’t just mean being unable to afford new clothes and a car. It means hunger, lack of educational opportunity, lack of access to adequate health care and recreation. It means substandard housing, insecurity, uncertainty.
There is a private member’s bill before Parliament – Bill C-233: An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada – which would bind the federal government to a long-term commitment on ending poverty and building a strategy through consultation with provinces, territories, cities, Aboriginal communities, and organizations. Unfortunately, most private member’s bills do not become law – especially when coming from the opposition in the face of a majority government.
As I mentioned, the lack of standards for defining poverty make the problem hard to measure. While there are many who say that poverty looks different across the country or between cities, towns and rural communities, there is agreement that more sharing of knowledge is needed to fully understand and address poverty in all its manifestations and complexities.
What can you do to eradicate poverty?
Support groups like Make Poverty History and the Dignity for All campaign. Sign up for their newsletters and lend your support when they call for targeted action.
Support your local food bank. Even dropping the odd can of soup or jar of peanut butter into the bin when you’re out shopping can make a difference.