February 23, 2015

OTTAWA –Poverty is the most important issue facing Canada and should be an election issue, say two groups who released their anti-poverty plan Feb. 3.

Canada has to "share a vision that includes everybody," Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, told a breakfast on Parliament Hill.

CPJ and Canada Without Poverty say poverty violates the human rights of Canada's 4.8 million poor.

Leilani Farha, executive director of the CWP, said the 48-page anti-poverty plan developed by the two groups "moves from a charitable framework to a human rights framework."

When people don't have housing, food, stable incomes and employment, the government "is supposed to protect their human rights," Farha said.

The plan, entitled Dignity For All, makes recommendations in six policy areas: labour and employment, food security, health, income security, housing and homelessness, and early childhood education and care.

The report recommends setting national wage standards above the poverty line.

It calls on the federal government to increase the maximum national child benefit to $5,600 for eligible families.

Another recommendation is for a "high-quality, universal, publicly-funded and managed early childhood education and care program" for children under five, and a program for school children up to age 12.

It urges the federal government to recognize "the social determinants of health" that are poverty-related such as homelessness, lack of food and chronic unemployment.

Katie-Sue Derejko of the Assembly of First Nations said something needs to be done to change the "piecemeal" approach to poverty that is not working.