Legislated Roadmap to Dignity for All

A message from CASW President Jan Christianson-Wood

In 1989, the House of Commons passed an ambitious resolution to eliminate poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. Unfortunately, no successive federal government has demonstrated any semblance of the determination required to realize this achievable goal.

Until now.

With the introduction of the Bill C-87: The Poverty Reduction Act, the Government of Canada has, for the first time in our nation’s history, enshrined poverty reduction into legislation while establishing an official poverty line in Canada.

Although not accompanied with immediate new federal investments to support more Canadians to realize a life out of the trap of poverty, the government has provided a legislated roadmap that has the potential of paving the way for Dignity for All in Canada.

For its part, CASW has been an active partner in the campaign for a poverty free Canada - Dignity for All. Since its inception in 2009, the Dignity for All campaign has built a nationwide drive for a national plan to eliminate poverty in Canada.

This movement was actively defied by the Conservative government with the elimination of the National Council of Welfare in 2012. Since the Council’s demise, Dignity for All also been calling for the reinstitution of the National Council of Welfare -- and we’re happy to say this new Act brings this Council back. 

There will and should be lots of debate around this new Act: questioning whether the method proposed to measure the poverty line is the right one to use and whether or not the newly reinstated Council includes enough folks with lived experience. But in the midst of legitimate and critical concerns about next steps and government accountability, we must take a moment to reflect and appreciate how far we have come.

Just ten years ago, a federal, legislated poverty reduction strategy seemed a legitimate impossibility.

A coordinated national housing strategy seemed an impossibility.

An additional $5 Billion dedicated to mental health and $6 billion over 10 years to support homecare also seemed an impossibility.

All these steps forward were pushed by advocates like social workers and our allies in the fight for a more dignified world for all of us.

So while poverty reduction legislation isn’t a silver bullet by any means – there’s still so much work to be done -- we’re hoping this Act really shifts society’s thinking on all aspects of Canadians’ dignity: poverty is real and together we can realize the commitment made in 1989 to eliminate poverty among all children in Canada.