Churches to watchdog poverty reform

Published March 1, 2011

The Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada are pressing the federal government for immediate, concrete action to reduce the “unacceptably high” rates of poverty and homelessness in this country. The latest available statistics on poverty in Canada, from 2008, show that 9.4 per cent of Canadians live on a “low income.” This is the term now used to describe households spending 20 per cent more on food, clothing and shelter than the average Canadian household. Although this 2008 rate is significantly lower than the rate of 15.2 per cent observed in 1996, low income remains “a significant challenge” for 3.1 million Canadians, according to a study report. Family and child poverty rates in Canada are “unacceptably high,” said the authors of the report, which was recently released by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. In all, the committee has submitted 60 recommendations for reducing poverty. “Together, our churches will watch for indicators of an effective national strategy for reducing poverty and homelessness,” said Archbishop Fred Hiltz, primate of the Anglican Church of Canada, and National Bishop Susan Johnson of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), in a letter. Dated Jan. 20, the letter was addressed to Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development. Archbishop Hiltz and Bishop Johnson said the federal government can offer leadership in poverty reduction in a number of ways, including:
? raising the Canada Child Tax Benefit and supplement to $5,000 within five years;
? adopting a long-term national housing and homelessness strategy;
? adopting measures such as a refundable Disability Tax Credit;
? easing Employment Insurance qualifications; increasing adult literacy programs;
? increasing Guaranteed Income Supplements (GIS) for seniors; and implementing an early learning and child care strategy;
? providing housing, education and social services support for aboriginal people, while eliminating the 2 per cent cap on federal funding. In June 2010, the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada approved a resolution urging the government to reduce or eliminate poverty in Canada by 50 per cent over the next 10 years and to “reduce the growing gap between rich and poor by 2020.” Ω


  • Marites N. Sison

    Marites (Tess) Sison was editor of the Anglican Journal from August 2014 to July 2018, and senior staff writer from December 2003 to July 2014. An award-winning journalist, she has more that three decades of professional journalism experience in Canada and overseas. She has contributed to The Toronto Star and CBC Radio, and worked as a stringer for The New York Times.

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