GUEST OPINION: Can you get behind an Act to eliminate poverty in Canada?

Published November 24, 2010

The gospel requires us to stand in solidarity with all those who are marginalized.
Photo: Con Tanasiuk

As winter approaches, too many Canadians won’t have a home to bundle up in or a family to spend time with. The homeless and working poor will be the most hit by the winter, and are the most hit by the winter of gloomier economic times.

But you’ve probably heard all that before. You also know that poverty and social division aren’t pressing problems for only a few months of the year, but hurt our communities, our economies and our country all year round. Most importantly, you know that the gospel calls us to build a society and world where everyone has a home and a family and a future and a hope, and calls us to act on that vision through the mission of peace and justice.

In a joint letter on February 2008 to then-Minister of Human Resources and Development Canada, Monte Solberg, Archbishop Fred Hiltz  and ELCIC National Bishop Susan Johnson wrote that the gospel requires us “to stand in solidarity with, and to welcome into its midst, all those who are marginalized because of sin and who experience injustice.”

I came to Ottawa to both say that and to call for more action in Parliament, and to be part of that action as an MP. Up to now the response of the Canadian government has pretty much been an ad hoc, uncoordinated patchwork of initiatives that-as we all know-hasn’t come close to making a dent in reducing poverty in Canada, much less in eliminating it. That’s why so many organizations, churches and individual Canadians have demanded that the Government of Canada create a national strategy to eliminate poverty.

It’s why I introduced Private Member’s Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada, which would require the Canadian government to develop and implement such a national strategy. This legislation would amend the Canadian Human Rights Act to ensure that “social condition” does not deprive anyone of equal opportunity to live a full and productive life in our country. It is anchored on three, constitutive areas for poverty elimination- income security, housing and social inclusion. It creates an Office for Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion, and asks the Ministers of Human Resources and HRSDC to co-chair an inter-ministerial committee to steer the poverty elimination strategy. All future government legislation would be “poverty proofed” to serve the national strategy. This legislation is supported by some MPs in the Liberal and Bloc parties. The Dignity for All campaign which embraces national organizations and thousands of individuals has also endorsed the legislation.

If this sounds like something you can get behind, I urge you to talk about this Bill with your friends and families, to bring it up in your church communities, and to contact the Prime Minister and your MP and voice your support for Bill C-545, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada. You can also be kept informed on this and other poverty elimination initiatives by dropping me an email at [email protected]. For more information on the Bill itself and to read the actual text, go to  Together we can act on our faith in a more concerted and united way, and eliminate poverty in Canada once and for all.


Tony Martin, MP, is the Poverty Critic for the New Democratic Party of Canada.


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