We all know from television what poverty looks like. We know about unwashed children with bloated stomachs, standing in front of mud huts or picking through mounds of garbage. Poverty for many Canadians is firmly associated with Third World countries far across the ocean.
However, Canada still has its own issues. Poverty in this country tends to be much less severe and better hidden than in Third World countries, but it is just as real. That’s what the Chew on This campaign on October 17th was all about.
The signs of poverty in Canada are there for anyone who chooses to look. Food Banks Canada reports that over 870,000 people used food banks in 2013, with many of the clients being families with young children. That number is almost 200,000 higher than it was before the economic crisis of 2008.
High housing costs are part of the problem. When half or more of a family’s income goes into housing, it leaves very little for other purchases, such as food and clothes. When combined with low-income and temporary jobs, the result is an increase in poverty that can seem almost impossible to overcome. What can anyone do?
October 17th was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty. In Winnipeg and cities around the world, people took action for change by holding rallies, petitioning the government, and much more. Chew on This was a call to action for Canadians to work towards the eradication of poverty in their country through a commitment to better planning and coordination.
Currently, Canada’s federal government has no comprehensive plan for dealing with poverty. Many of its programs, such as the GST rebate for low-income people, can help. Non-governmental organizations also work hard to help people in need. Without an overarching plan, however, individual programs are unlikely to get at the root of the issue.
The economic crises of the past few years have shown that even the most prudent and financially secure people can easily become poor and unemployed. Rising food prices and stagnant wages have made it increasingly difficult for many people to find enough affordable, good quality food to eat or safe and clean places to live. Added to that is the social exclusion that comes from having too little money to participate in concerts, sports, and many of the other events that help to bind people together.
Chew on This was only a single campaign held on one day to raise awareness of the issue of poverty, hunger, and social exclusion and to prompt the government to action. However, the problem is ongoing, and further action is necessary to alleviate the problem. Everyone, rich or poor, can join in one of the many e-mail campaigns, fundraisers, and other events that draw attention to the need for social security and inclusion.
Are you living in poverty or so close to the edge that you see no way out? You can lobby the government to address the issue of inequality in Canada.
Are you comfortably well off right now? You can use your resources to help people in need.
Living in a society without poverty is beneficial for both rich and poor, and problems left unaddressed only become larger. It’s time for all sectors of society to act.