Goal 1: Reduce poverty in Canada in all its forms
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Why this goal is important
The Government of Canada is committed to reducing poverty, supporting Canadians working hard to join the middle class, and building a diverse, prosperous and truly inclusive country where everyone benefits from economic growth. This Goal's focus on reducing poverty in all of its forms directly supports SDG Global Indicator Framework target 1.2: by 2030, reduce at least by half the proportion of men, women and children of all ages living in poverty in all its dimensions according to national definitions.
Poverty can be understood as the condition of a person who is deprived of the resources, means, choices and power necessary to acquire and maintain a basic level of living standards and to facilitate integration and participation in society. While poverty affects everyone differently, when some Canadians are left behind, all Canadians are affected. Poverty influences the strength and resilience of our communities. People living in poverty are more likely to face health-related setbacks, to have difficulty finding and keeping a job, to find themselves in the criminal justice system, and to need various social supports and assistance. In addition, children who grow up in poverty are more likely to be in contact with the child welfare system as well as the justice system, and to remain in poverty as they age.
Data from the 2020 Canadian Income Survey released in 2022 shows that close to 2.7 million fewer people lived in poverty in 2020 compared to 2015. About 2.4 million Canadians, or 6.4% of the population, lived below Canada's official poverty line in 2020 compared to 14.5% in 2015. The government is making significant progress towards its target to reduce poverty by 50% by 2030, relative to 2015 levels. The poverty rate in Canada has decreased steadily since 2015, but the decrease in poverty between 2019 and 2020 is largely attributed to temporary COVID-19 emergency benefits.
While the overall poverty rate in Canada is falling, not all groups are affected equally. Single-parent families, single people aged 45 to 64, persons with disabilities, recent immigrants and Indigenous Peoples are more likely to have a low income than other groups in Canadian society. Some individuals may also face intersecting challenges that make them more at risk of poverty—for example, individuals from Black or other racialized communities, transgender individuals and persons with disabilities.
According to the Canadian Survey on Disability 2017, 13.5% of persons with a disability live below the poverty line, compared to 10.1% of all Canadians. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, working-aged Canadians with disabilities experienced significant financial hardships, on a systemic basis. They were twice as likely as their peers without disabilities to be living in poverty were and far more likely to live in deep poverty. The pandemic has made this situation worse. In a 2020 Statistics Canada crowd sourcing survey, 61% of participants aged 15 to 64 with disabilities or long-term conditions reported a major or moderate impact from COVID-19 on their ability to meet at least one type of financial obligation or essential need.
Individuals living in northern and remote communities can also experience distinct challenges that make them more at risk of living in poverty, such as high cost of food, barriers to accessing health care and unmet housing needs, which are particular challenges in Nunavut.
A similar proportion of men and women live in poverty, but some women face unique barriers that can make them more vulnerable to poverty than men. For example, 80% of single parents are women, and more than one third of single parent women live in poverty.
Poverty is linked with other sustainable development issues, including climate change. For example, poverty can worsen the impacts of extreme weather events and natural disasters, while these events can also cause or exacerbate poverty. Over the last 20 years, the world has experienced more floods, wildfires, and other climate-related disasters than in any other documented 20-year period in history. This has affected communities, the environment and the resources it provides, as well as overall poverty levels. (See Goal 13 for more information on extreme weather events and natural disasters).
How the Government of Canada contributes
The Government of Canada is committed to poverty reduction and is making significant investments to support the social and economic well-being of all Canadians. In 2018, the Government of Canada launched its first poverty reduction strategy, Opportunity for All - Canada's First Poverty Reduction Strategy. Building on a national consultation process with provincial, territorial, municipal and Indigenous governments, academics, people involved in social service delivery, and people who have lived experience of poverty, the strategy committed to the SDG 1 targets of reducing poverty by 20% by 2020 and 50% by 2030.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy seeks to reduce and remove systemic barriers, including for those communities that face unique barriers that can make them more vulnerable to poverty. This includes Indigenous Peoples, single people aged 45 to 64, persons with disabilities, single parents, newcomers, Black Canadians and individuals from other racialized communities, 2SLGBTQI+ (in particular transgender) individuals and Canadians with significant health issues.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy defined Canada's Official Poverty Line for the first time, based on the Market Basket Measure. It reflects the combined costs of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living. The basket includes items such as healthy food, appropriate shelter and home maintenance, and clothing and transportation. Wherever individuals and families are living across the country, if they cannot afford the cost of this basket of goods and services in their particular community, they are considered to be living in poverty.
The Poverty Reduction Strategy also established the National Advisory Council on Poverty. The council provides independent advice to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development on poverty reduction, reports on the progress achieved, and maintains a national dialogue with Canadians. It brings together a committed and diverse group of 10 members, including persons with lived experience, leaders, experts, academics, and practitioners that work in the field of poverty reduction.
The Government of Canada continues to work with National Indigenous Organizations and other partners to co-develop indicators of poverty and well-being from First Nations, Inuit, and Métis perspectives. This will help to better measure poverty among Indigenous populations in Canada in a way that is culturally appropriate.
Following from a commitment in Canada's First Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Poverty Reduction Act came into force in 2019. The Act enshrines into law the government's poverty reduction targets, Canada's Official Poverty Line, and the National Advisory Council on Poverty.
A number of initiatives to support low-income individuals and families are contributing to the target to reduce poverty in Canada by 50% by 2030. For example:
- The Canada Child Benefit (CCB), introduced in 2016, provides support for low- to middle-income families with children. The CCB provides support to about 3.5 million families in respect of over 6 million children, providing over $25 billion, tax-free, each year to Canadian families.
- The Child Disability Benefit is a tax-free monthly payment made to families who care for a child under age 18 with a severe and prolonged impairment in physical or mental functions.
- The Canada Workers Benefit is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low- and moderate- income workers, letting them take home more money while they work. It has two parts: a basic amount and a disability supplement.
- The On-reserve Income Assistance Program supports eligible First Nations on reserve residents to cover the costs of their daily living and provides funding to access pre-employment supports.
- To support future seniors, the Government of Canada, in collaboration with provincial partners, has enhanced the Canada Pension Plan (CPP). The enhancement increases the CPP retirement pension, post-retirement benefit, disability pension and survivor's pension that Canadians may receive.
- In July 2022, the Old Age Security pension increased by 10% for seniors aged 75 years and older to give seniors greater financial security as they advance in their retirement.
Key federal income supports are designed to keep up with inflation. Benefits such as the CCB, Canada Workers Benefit and the GST/HST tax credit, as well as Old Age Security and the Guaranteed Income Supplement, are indexed to the Consumer Price Index, allowing them to keep up with increases in the cost of living.
Through Canada's COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the government has invested in targeted income support to individuals, business, key sectors, and community organizations on the frontlines of serving Canadians to help reduce social inequalities and support vulnerable groups most affected by the global pandemic.
The federal government is also taking action to reduce homelessness and make housing in Canada more affordable. To learn about commitments and actions on housing, see Goal 11.
Canada Disability Benefit Act
The Government of Canada has reintroduced the Canada Disability Benefit Act(Bill C-22 (44-1)) in the House of Commons on June 2, 2022, which is the framework legislation for the proposed Canada Disability Benefit. The proposed Canada Disability Benefit is similar to the Guaranteed Income Supplement for seniors or the Canada Child Benefit for families with children. The goal of the proposed benefit is to reduce poverty and support the financial security of working-age persons with disabilities.
In the spirit and principle of “Nothing Without Us”, the proposed Canada Disability Benefit will be informed through further engagement with the disability community as well as other stakeholders, including Indigenous organizations, and academics.
Stakeholder perspective: The Canadian Poverty Institute
The Canadian Poverty Institute is an inter-disciplinary institute housed within Ambrose University that conducts research and teaching that informs public policy and promotes effective practices to prevent and eradicate poverty. The global pandemic has created massive disruption in life as usual. In particular, it has affected a new group of people termed “newly vulnerable”. These are people who were not previously in poverty but have been put at significant risk due to economic and social pressures linked to COVID-19. CPI is currently working on research on the subject of COVID19 and these newly vulnerable households to understand their characteristics and how best to serve this group to prevent even more Canadians from falling into poverty. The research is funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC).
Source: The Canadian Poverty Institute - www.povertyinstitute.ca