Family and child poverty rates in Canada are unacceptably high.
Photo portrait: Jaimie Duplass
The Anglican and Lutheran churches in Canada have asked the federal government to adopt recommendations made by a House of Commons committee to “immediately commit to an action plan to reduce poverty in the country.
“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. Addressed to Diane Finley, Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, the letter was dated Jan. 20.
Family and child poverty rates in Canada are “unacceptably high,” according to a study report recently released by the parliamentary Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities. The latest statistics on poverty in Canada, from 2008, show that 9.4 per cent of Canadians live on a low income. Although this is significantly lower than the rate of 15.2% observed in 1996, low income remains “a significant challenge” for 3.1 million Canadians, according to the report. Households spending 20% or more on food, clothing and shelter than the average Canadian household are considered “low income.”
The committee offered 60 recommendations on how the federal government can help combat poverty, including:
- the establishment of a lead department or departments, including a specific poverty reduction office or secretariat, to oversee the creation and implementation of a federal action plan to reduce poverty in Canada;
- consultation and collaboration among various federal departments and agencies, and the creation of an inter-departmental working group or cabinet committee for poverty reduction to be headed by the minister in charge of the lead department;
- building partnerships with the non-profit and voluntary sector.
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 su
- 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; and
- providing housing, education and social services support for aboriginal people, and eliminate the 2% cap on federal funding.
In June 2010, the General Synod (governing body) 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 “substantially reduce the growing gap between rich and poor by 2020.” The National Convention of the ELCIC, in 2009, urged the government to make housing for the poor and subsidized housing high priorities.
In addition, both churches have endorsed the goals of several anti-poverty movements, including the Dignity for All Campaign of the Citizens for Public Justice, Canada Without Poverty, and Make Poverty History.