Indigenous Food Insecurity in Canada
Globally, indigenous communities living on colonized land face significant difficulties beyond those of non-indigenous citizens. Systemic and historic discrimination have pushed down the livelihoods and traditions of indigenous peoples, creating widespread food insecurity at the same time. In Canada, indigenous households are more likely to face extreme poverty and food insecurity than non-indigenous households. While Canada is not a developing nation, the conditions and treatment of indigenous communities reflect the extreme poverty common in emerging economies. Here are three vital facts to know about indigenous food insecurity in Canada.

First Nation and Métis Food Security

A majority of First Nation people live off-reserve land in Canada, and food insecurity remains high within those communities and on-reserve First Nation people. In First Nation households, about a quarter of 2,878 households that a survey looked at experienced moderate food insecurity involving compromised diets and reduced quality or quantity of food. Compared to the 9% food insecurity among non-indigenous Canadians, 33% of off-reserve First Nation and Métis consider food insecurity prevalent and harmful. Conditions for on-reserve indigenous communities were worse than for off-reserve First Nation people, with approximately 54% of people food insecure. This wide gap between First Nation communities and the broader Canadian population highlights the institutional oversight and avoidance of confronting indigenous struggles.

Inuit Food Security

The Inuit, the indigenous people of the Canadian Arctic, face severe food insecurity rooted in failed government systems and neglect. The presence and prevalence of food insecurity in Inuit households ranked seven times higher than non-indigenous Canadian households. A survey on households with at least one preschooler determined that 69.6% of households were food insecure. Already significantly more at risk of food insecurity than non-indigenous Canadians, the Inuit people face food insecurity at a severity three times greater than First Nation and Métis indigenous nations.

These stark comparisons reflect a failure to support the Inuit people and end indigenous food insecurity in Canada. The access and availability of traditional food remained a significant factor in boosting food security for Inuit communities, and in households with at least one hunter, food insecurity became a less prevalent factor relating to health and livelihoods. Ultimately, the Inuit population in Canada faces the most extreme food insecurity out of other indigenous groups and needs revolutionary reforms to boost health and food systems in their communities.

Food Availability and Affordability

Within each tribe and community, the access to wild food becomes less secure; as a result, many turn to the local markets for sustenance. However, the exceptionally high prices at local markets and the low average incomes of many indigenous communities inhibit the possibility of buying groceries, let alone a meal, from local grocers. On top of high market pricing, the costs of hunting, fishing and gathering food increase due to gas prices and chances of returning empty-handed from hunts. While many indigenous people lack access to traditional meals or diets, the desire for more reasonable access to their traditional foods is powerful. In addition, high prices force families to choose cheaper, less nutritious options to feed themselves. These factors contribute to indigenous food insecurity in Canada and ultimately decrease well-being and perpetuate poverty within these communities.

Potential Solutions

The high food insecurity and poverty within indigenous communities in Canada demand solutions that uplift indigenous communities and put their voices at the forefront of change. There is an apparent schism between low-income indigenous nations and the Canadian government. Some argue to lower prohibitively high pricing for necessary goods and food products in Inuit and First Nation markets. This could be the first step in decreasing indigenous food insecurity in Canada. Organizing to support indigenous leaders and activists who highlight the inequality within Canadian food systems can help build support for change.

While the Canadian government cannot always provide necessary assistance and understanding, grassroots organizations and campaigns also work to end indigenous food insecurity and promote food sovereignty. The Indigenous Food Systems Network (ISFP) is an organization that combines the efforts and minds of Indigenous food producers, researchers and policymakers in Canada, promoting reform and deconstruction. The ISFP forms and supports various projects, such as the Indigenous Food Cooperatives and Challenge, revitalizing First Nation hunting, fishing, gathering and trade practices.

Outside of broad scope projects, the IFSP works on local levels, such as by organizing community gardens for indigenous communities. A second NGO attempting to eliminate food insecurity in Canada is Food Secure Canada, which attempts to reach zero hunger with healthy, safe and sustainable food. Since 2001, Food Secure Canada has lobbied for food justice and policy change, and in 2019, the Canadian government included within its budget $134 million for specific initiatives such as a national school food program. These organizations reflect the hope and growing support for indigenous nations in Canada fighting for positive reform.

– Mikey Redding
Photo: Flickr

women's rights in Canada
In 1884, Ontario became the first Canadian province to grant women the same legal rights as men through the Married Women’s Property Act. In 1900, Manitoba became the second province to recognize the act. While this proved to be a turning point for women’s rights in Canada, a great deal of work remained.

In 1928, five women, Henrietta Muir Edwards, Nellie McClung, Louise McKinney, Emily Murphy and Irene Parlby, petitioned the Canadian government to have the Supreme Court decide whether the British North America Act recognized women as “persons.” The court initially ruled that women were not considered “persons” under the act, but in 1929 it reversed its ruling. While this was a huge advancement of women’s rights in Canada, it was advantageous mainly for white women. It wasn’t until 1960 that women belonging to minority groups received full legal rights, including the right to vote.

Canada’s Gender Wage Gap

Through the years, the Canadian government has striven to promote gender equality across the country. However, plenty of work remains. In 2015, a U.N. Human Rights Report raised concerns about Canada’s economic inequality and in particular cited “persisting inequalities between women and men.” Similarly, in 2016, a study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) ranked Canada as having the eighth-highest gender pay gap out of 43 surveyed countries.

Women in Office

Women make up an estimated 50% of Canada’s population, and representatives should reflect their constituents. Following the 1929 clarification of “persons” in the British North America Act, women eventually began holding elected office. However, decades passed before women of color received the same legal rights as white women. Even today, the Canadian government struggles with a lack of diversity.

Fortunately, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has made it his goal to change this trend. In July 2021, Trudeau appointed Mary Simon, Canada’s first Indigenous governor general. Her appointment marks a major milestone for Canada as the country continues to grapple with past and current discriminatory practices against Indigenous communities.

Women in the Workforce during COVID-19

As the world continues to feel the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, many Canadians remain unemployed, and women have experienced higher rates of job loss than men. According to the Royal Bank of Canada (RBC), almost half a million women who lost their jobs during the pandemic have been unable to return to the workforce as of January 2021. Among those most impacted were women of color, immigrants, young professionals and new mothers. The pandemic forced many companies to downsize, and experts warn that these changes could permanently and disproportionately impact women.

Progress in Recent Years

Despite lingering uncertainties, Prime Minister Trudeau still believes the country can “smash one of the defining inequalities of our time.” Recently, Canada has pledged $100 million to address inequalities in both unpaid and paid care work internationally, as well as $80 million to support feminist movements and organizations around the world.

In July, Canada also announced the creation of the Pay Equity Act, which will go into effect on August 31, 2021. The new law will promote gender equality and help close the gender wage gap. It will also apply to parliamentary workplaces. Under the Pay Equity Act, employers will inform their employees of an upcoming new pay equity plan by November 1, 2021, create a pay equity committee and then share their pay equity plan with employees by September 1, 2024.

Canada’s ability to acknowledge its flaws will open new opportunities for the country to end gender inequality. The government’s commitment to advancing women’s rights in Canada and around the world will bring about needed change and serve as a blueprint for other countries hoping to improve women’s rights.

Jordyn Gilliard
Photo: Flickr

Poverty and Disability in Canada
Millions of Canadians live with disabilities. Around 16% of people 15 and older live with a disability, making up more than 4 million people. A correlation exists between poverty and disability in Canada. While about 10% of people without a disability live in poverty or around 3 million people, the poverty rate among those living with a disability is 14%, or around 600,000 people. Poverty rates also vary greatly among different types of disabilities.

What is a Disability?

The above statistics come from a 2006 study of the Participation and Activity Limitation Survey (PALS). The survey describes disability as any type of difficulty regarding hearing, seeing, communicating, walking, leaning over, learning or other physical or mental work. Disabilities hinder productivity at work, at school and at home.

Types of Disabilities and Their Poverty Rates

The connection between disability and poverty in Canada runs deep. Furthermore, a person’s particular type of disability correlates directly to their likelihood of living in poverty. Among people with disabilities in general, the poverty rate is around 14%. For people with limited mobility, the rate is a little over 15%. For people with limited ability to communicate, the rate is 24%. People with hearing disabilities have the lowest poverty rate among disabled people at 10%.

The Majority of Canadians Support the Canadian Disability Benefit

The Canadian Disability Benefit, which the Canadian government created in 2021, set up a $12 million fund to benefit Canadians with disabilities over the course of the next three years by changing and reforming programs and benefits already in place. People recognize the link between disability and poverty in Canada. Nearly 90% of people polled either strongly or moderately support the Canadian Disability Benefit.

Disability Without Poverty Movement

Many programs aim to help eliminate poverty among people with disabilities in Canada. One is the Disability without Poverty movement, which is dedicated to ensuring people with disabilities are included in the design of the Canadian Disability Benefit. COVID-19 has greatly hurt people’s ability to seek help, including those with disabilities trying to acquire proper aid and benefits.

The connection between disability and poverty in Canada is a close one. Current aid programs in the works, like the Canadian Disability Benefit, have the design of helping people with disabilities during the COVID-19 pandemic. About 60% of Canadians are generally in favor of Canadians with disabilities receiving more aid and benefits, with even stronger support for the Canadian Disability Benefit in particular.

Jake Herbetko
Photo: Flickr

Elderly Poverty in Canada
Canada has an excellent track record when it comes to decreasing elderly poverty. Between 1976 and 1995, the rate of elderly poverty in Canada dropped from 36.9% to just 3.9%. Yet in the past two decades, elderly poverty in Canada has grown.

Current Elderly Poverty Rates in Canada

According to Ryerson University’s National Institute on Ageing, the rate of low-income older Canadians had increased to 14.5% by 2016. The situation is even more severe among certain groups, a recent study found. The nonprofit Social Planning Toronto and the research center Well Living House published a study in August 2020 finding that, as both a direct and indirect result of colonization, more than 90% of Toronto’s Indigenous seniors live in poverty. Poverty rates are higher among Indigenous Canadians because colonization has diminished Indigenous power and social structures.

Meanwhile, Toronto’s “racialized” and immigrant seniors live in poverty at double the rate of their counterparts. Discrimination leads to lower pay for racialized Canadians and immigrants, leaving them with less to live on when they retire. Additionally, immigrants may have less time to accrue assets and savings in the country before retirement.

Seniors Falling Through the Cracks

According to the National Institute on Ageing, Canada’s Retirement Income System stands on three pillars: government assistance, pensions that employers provide and seniors’ personal retirement plans, including tax-free savings accounts and non-registered assets.

However, in recent years, pensions have become a less common resource. Only about a third of working Canadians had registered pension plans from their employers in 2016, the National Institute on Ageing reported. Furthermore, even those with pensions still risk losing part of their pensions if the companies they work for go bankrupt.

Moreover, the most reliable and lucrative type of pension, a defined benefit (DB) pension, is becoming scarcer. Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan, a defined benefit plan, explained in a 2017 report that DB pensions “are paid for life, and, for some, even rise along with inflation.” In contrast, with other types of pensions, which are becoming more prevalent, income is not guaranteed and may fluctuate over time.

Furthermore, saving for retirement is not possible for all Canadians, as the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan report notes. Those without pensions are in a particularly difficult position. The report indicated that the median retirement savings among pensionless Canadians are just $3,000.

Recent Steps to Combat Elderly Poverty

In early 2021, the government acted to address elderly poverty in Canada. In May 2021, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced that he would include several provisions in the 2021 budget to aid seniors. Under this new budget, the government’s Old Age Security Pension for seniors will increase. The budget states that the government will give full pensioners $766 more in the first year of the change and will adjust the amount based on inflation in future years.

About 3.3 million Canadians 75 and older will receive increased pensions under the 2021 budget. They will also receive a lump sum of $500 in August under the 2021 budget. Acknowledging that “too many seniors are worried about their retirement savings running out,” the government expressed its commitment to supporting seniors’ solvency in retirement.

However, the new budget has also received criticism for not doing enough. The Canadian Federation of Pensioners castigated the budget in a press release for failing to keep defined benefit pensioners from losing pension money when companies go bankrupt. Another organization dedicated to seniors, C.A.R.P., explains that pensioners of bankrupt companies “are not automatically able to negotiate their terms when assets are divided,” while other creditors are. As a result, if companies go bankrupt and cannot pay pensions, pensioners receive only part of what they should.

Changing Non-Guaranteed Pensions and Bringing in Bill C-253

C.A.R.P., the Canadian Federation of Pensioners and a third organization called the National Pensioners Federation have teamed up to change the system of non-guaranteed pensions. The organizations have suggested a government pension insurance program for federally regulated pensions. They are also pushing Canadians to contact their government. The Canadian Federation of Pensioners, in particular, encourages Canadians to ask their representatives to support Bill C-253, which will help prevent pension reduction when companies go bankrupt. A committee took the bill to the House of Commons as of June 6, 2021. The bill’s passage would be another step toward bringing down elderly poverty in Canada.

Victoria Albert
Photo: Pixabay

Women's Rights in Canada
Ontario in 1884 and Manitoba in 1900 were the first two Canadian provinces to enact the Married Women’s Property Act. This act allowed married women to have the same legal rights as men, such as purchasing property. Gradually, the other provinces and territories also signed the act. This was one of the first significant improvements to women’s rights in Canada. Further changes in legislation initiated the process of decreasing gender inequality in the country.

The Precedent of the Married Women’s Property Act

Many of the rights that women in Canada now possess are recent acquisitions, especially since Canada is a relatively young country. Most women’s rights became implemented throughout the past 100 years. The Married Women’s Property Act was one of the biggest breakthroughs in women’s rights in Canada because it set a historic precedent that women could be independent in legal matters. Furthermore, the act allowed women to exist independently as separate individuals from their male counterparts. By allowing women to buy property, women gained the ability to possess something of value for themselves.

Achieving Women’s Rights

By 1918, Caucasian women had all gained the right to vote in federal elections. However, it wasn’t until 1960 that Aboriginal women achieved women’s suffrage as well. Furthermore, women were identified as “persons” in the name of the law, which gave them the right to hold political office in 1929. Cairine Reay Wilson became the first woman elected to the Senate in the following year. By selecting a female senator, women’s rights in Canada progressed even further because a female leader represented and spoke up for women.

Moving forward, there were many more victories for women’s rights in Canada. In 1985, the government outlawed discrimination against an individual on the basis of sex, gender or sexual orientation. Around the same time, the government also criminalized sexual assault within marriage.

Organizations Making An Impact

Two major organizations that support women in Canada are the Canadian Women’s Foundation and the National Council of Women of Canada.

The Canadian Women’s Foundation is a nongovernmental organization that is committed to achieving gender equality. The organization implements social and economic strategies to do so. It specifically advocates for women of diverse backgrounds but is not limited to them. The organization funds programs dedicated to addressing the issues of violence, economic stability, women’s empowerment and leadership. Furthermore, the foundation’s mission reflects its dedication to achieving gender equality for all genders.

The National Council of Women of Canada addresses the welfare and improvement of the overall standard of life for women. The organization focuses on using research and education to empower women to make informed political decisions. This allows women to play a more active role in society and gain an equal position in important matters.

The Gender Wage Gap

Though Canada has made immense strides in gender equality, there are still many issues that the country has to address. One of these issues is the wage gap in Canada. The government made the gender wage gap illegal; however, women are still not all paid equally. This issue can be addressed by representing women in every field. Women occupy fewer high-paid roles than men do. By providing equal gender representation in career fields, the government will make large strides in addressing women’s rights in Canada.

Canada can push for women’s equality by setting an example and being active in women’s rights issues. The country has been successful in creating change and altering perceptions on women’s rights. Partnering with nonprofit organizations, such as the National Council of Women of Canada, will be essential in making Canada a leader in women’s rights and paving the way for future change.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr


Since 1976, The Québec Association of International Cooperation Organizations (AQOCI) has aided in bridging different organizations together from 13 regions of Québec for the same mission. This is to promote international solidarity and human development. Today, AQOCI is helping 64 organizations reach their goals. It is doing this by supporting members, building strategic alliances and sharing work with members of government and the general public. In addition, AQOCI is unique in that it not only works within its own organization but also lends a helping hand to its associated organizations. The Québec Association of International Cooperation Organizations promotes solidarity and unity among all nations to create equality.

AQOCI’s Programs

“Global education is a high priority for AQOCI,” explained AQOCI’S political analyst Denis Côté in an interview with The Borgen Project. In terms of global education, AQOCI uses public engagements such as events and activities to highlight issues relating to inequalities and gender rights, poverty, education and environmental sustainability. AQOCI takes pride in its many programs. These programs not only educate Québecers on issues but also creates advocacy at a national and international level.

Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (DFEG)

AQOCI’S Women’s Rights and Gender Equality (DFEG) program promotes concrete change for women. It does this by committing to ensuring greater consideration for women’s rights and equality by constantly creating new initiatives. Such initiatives include its 12 Days of Action Against Violence Against Women. The 12 Days of Action Against Violence Against Women is a campaign that runs from November 25 to December 6. Each year, it has a different topic that events and social media campaigns discuss. The topics have ranged from violence against women and migration to violence against women and climate change. According to Statistics Canada, half of all women in Canada have experienced one form of physical or sexual violence starting from the age of 16. Above all, this is a statistic AQOCI is working towards drastically lowering.

Canadian Coalition on Climate Change and Development (C4D)

Similarly, the Canadian Coalition on Climate Change and Development (C4D) is a coalition that AQOCI is a member of that focuses on climate-related issues. C4D consists of a cluster of international development and environmental organizations. All of the organizations are working towards exchanging knowledge and implementing action plans regarding environmental challenges. In addition, Côté says that AQOCI has “lobbied the government for many years to try to create an ombudsman person position to investigate when Canadian companies especially mining companies, are accused of human rights violations and countries of the global south.” These types of actions help push forward coalitions such as the C4D agenda.

Looking Ahead

AQOCI focuses not only on the symptoms of poverty and inequality but also works on fixing the causes. In the future, AQOCI will continue to give “as much voice as we can to marginalized communities in the south,” says Côté. It will especially focus on women and Indigenous people. The Québec Association of International Cooperation Organizations promotes solidarity in all it does to help fight for those who cannot. When discussing what the public should expect from the future, Côté explained that AQOCI has begun to focus on the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. Pandemic-related initiatives from the organization will continue to work towards changing the world through collectivity.

– Jessica Barile
Photo: Flickr

Canada’s Childcare FacilitiesOn April 19, 2021, the Canadian Government announced a new budget that includes increased support for Canada’s childcare facilities. The proposed financial support would reduce the average cost of childcare, granting the greatest benefit to Canada’s most economically vulnerable families. Though arranged by the federal government, the changes were advocated for by several non-governmental organizations (NGOs), including Child Care Now.

Government Promises

The government’s commitment to increasing childcare affordability is part of a newly proposed budget written to address the economic ravages of the COVID-19 pandemic. The new budget would allot $30 billion to childcare spending over the next five years.

The goal of the sizable expenditure is to nationally reduce the cost of childcare to an average of just $10 per day by 2025. If passed, federal money would be used in conjunction with provincial funding to subsidize Canada’s childcare facilities, thereby lowering the cost to parents. A portion of the $30 billion would also go toward improving the quality and accessibility of Canada’s childcare facilities.

Presently, costs for childcare vary widely across Canada. In Quebec’s cities, the monthly cost of childcare is less than $200 due to an initiative passed in 1997 that standardized childcare costs. Outside of Quebec, the average monthly cost can range anywhere from $451 in Winnipeg to more than $1,500 in Toronto. The high prices are burdensome for all Canadians, but particularly so for the nation’s impoverished communities.

Child Care, Poverty and the Pandemic

Though not the pandemic’s most obvious impact, a lack of affordable childcare has strained Canada’s economy over the past year. Some of the strain stems from Canada’s childcare facilities and schools being closed to prevent the spread of the virus. As a result, many working parents, particularly mothers, have had to take care of children instead of working.

The pressure that the COVID-19 pandemic has put on women and mothers is reflected in Canada’s 2020 labor statistics, which show that women have exited the workforce at higher rates than men. In fact, the number of men in Canada’s workforce has increased by more than 60,000, while the female workforce has shrunk by at least 20,000.

Impact on Mothers

A large proportion of the women impacted by job losses are low-income mothers. A review of labor statistics found that among mothers ages 25 to 54 who had children younger than 12 years old, the mothers making less than $1,200 per week accounted for most jobs lost within that maternal demographic. Mothers in that group who made more than $1,200 per week actually increased representation in the workforce by almost 12%.

The same report also shows that mothers left the workforce at higher rates than other Canadian women in 2020. For instance, among women ages 25 to 54 who make between $500 and $799 per week, there was an almost 34% decrease in employment among mothers compared to a 21% decrease among women without children. This trend holds true for other earning brackets below $1,200.

While not all job loss among Canadian women can be attributed to maternal responsibilities, motherhood has clearly been a contributing factor for many women who have lost jobs during the pandemic. The fact is particularly true for low-income mothers who are least likely to have a job that will allow them to work from home. Without access to affordable childcare, mothers will continue to remain stuck between joblessness and caring for their children. The new Canadian budget and its advocates aim to solve this bind.

Child Care Now

One of the NGOs that gave support to the new budgetary spending on childcare was Child Care Now. Child Care Now is a Canadian nonprofit organization founded in 1982. The organization advocates for increased government spending on public and nonprofit childcare facilities. The nonprofit’s membership is made up of parents, childcare professionals and all parties concerned with the availability of accessible, affordable and safe childcare. Among the most pressing goals is the expansion of public childcare options throughout Canada.

On February 19, 2021, Child Care Now submitted a budgetary consultation to the Federal Ministry of Finance. In this consultation, Child Care Now made a case for increased federal spending on Canadian childcare, both in response to the impacts of COVID-19 and as an investment in the future of Canada’s childcare system.

Among the recommendations made by Child Care Now is the allotment of $2 billion in emergency spending to bolster Canada’s childcare facilities as well as the allocation of an additional $10 billion over the next three years to increase the access and affordability of public and nonprofit childcare options. When the government announced $30 billion in new spending on childcare, the response from Child Care Now was enthusiastic.

The Road Ahead

While the new budget still needs to be passed by the Canadian House of Commons, Canada’s investment in affordable childcare shows that the government is committed to the well-being of Canadian families. Should the budget pass into law, it will undoubtedly benefit the low-income mothers who have suffered the brunt of the pandemics’ economic hardships.

Joseph Cavanagh
Photo: Flickr

Impact of COVID-19 on Poverty in Canada
The COVID-19 pandemic brought hardship in many forms during the year 2020. Every country struggled to mitigate infection. However, the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Canada is still prevalent over 15 months into the pandemic.

According to The Toronto Star, 10.1% of Canadians (3.7 million) were living in poverty in 2019. Data in the coming years may actually show a continuation of the recent trend of reduced poverty levels into 2020. However, there may be an imminent correction of sorts. The director of fiscal and provincial economics at Scotiabank, Rebekah Young, explained that government will likely contribute to the visibility of an “artificial drop in poverty” in 2020. Here is some information about the impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Canada.

Unemployment rates in Canada

At the beginning of the pandemic, unemployment rates rose due to COVID-19 restrictions. The unemployment rates during the first few months of lockdowns were as follows:

February 2020 – 5.9%
March 2020 – 8.4%
April 2020 – 13.5%
May 2020 – 13.8%
June 2020 – 12.3%

As UBC Canada pointed out, the pandemic has exacerbated the disparity between high and low-income families. When this occurs, the cost of living generally rises. According to the report, “people in poverty are more likely to work in front-line and service” industries that COVID-19 restrictions most affected.

This reality is especially troublesome for such workers in Canada. The New York Times reported that fully vaccinated Americans could begin to enter certain public areas without a mask on May 13, 2021. This development is a promising sign as some industries continue to struggle amid COVID-19 regulations. However, Canada’s vaccination progress lags significantly behind.

Canadian Government Support Programs

While government support programs allowed for incomes of various demographics to rise during the majority of 2020, many Canadians struggled to maintain financial stability. Spending on recreational activities and even necessities declined for low to middle-income families as a result. Middle- to high-income families avoided the costs of travel and recreation, further widening the disparity between the two segments.

Across Ontario, food banks witnessed a substantial increase in traffic leading up to the start of the pandemic. Nearly 20% of food banks in the province saw an increase of 54% through the first four months of COVID-19.

Feed Ontario reported that one of the main causes of this continued increase in foodbank use is “precarious employment.” As of November 2020, Ontario saw an 8% increase in employed adults visiting food banks.

The Impact of Unemployment During COVID-19

To put things in perspective, permitted activities for Canadian citizens as of May 20, 2021, essentially consisted of what the average U.S. citizen was limited to a year ago. Outside of shopping for essentials and going for a walk, routine actions became restricted in accordance with stay-at-home orders for many parts of the country.

United States industries including food service have begun to recover as states allow limited capacity in restaurants. Canada’s food service became limited exclusively to takeout. Other sectors such as the entertainment industry have initiated a quasi-revival as movie theaters begin to house limited capacity. Establishments in the entertainment industry are seemingly a long way from opening in Canada. The impact of COVID-19 on poverty in Canada will continue to prove much greater as a result of industries similar to entertainment being severely diminished or in some cases obsolete for a much longer period of time.

“Around half a billion people could be pushed into poverty globally,” according to UBC Canada. A bigger share of this number is realized as the longer service workers and those alike are unemployed while the socioeconomic disparities increase as a result of COVID-19.

A Look Ahead

A sense of employment is shining through in 2021. Canada’s unemployment rate recently decreased by 0.7% to 7.5%, marking the lowest rate since February 2020.

After initially delaying the administration of second doses of COVID-19 vaccines for up to 16 weeks, the Canadian government looks to expedite those second doses to a population that has more than half of its citizens partially vaccinated.

In the meantime, the Highly Affected Sectors Credit Availability Program grants businesses “guaranteed, low-interest loans” up to $1,000,000. Started in January 2021, the program aimed to help the travel and tourism industries along with other industries the COVID-19 pandemic immediately affected.

Now, while the nation has a way to go to inoculate a sufficient portion of its population, Canada is providing more doses of COVID-19 vaccines per capita each day than the United States.

– Paolo Giannandrea
Photo: Flickr

University of CalgaryThe University of Calgary (UCalgary), one of the premier research universities in Canada, has been establishing meaningful global partnerships which have produced tangible results. While the university has multiple international campuses and partnerships, the successes of a few have particularly stood out. UCalgary’s global health partnerships with the Mbarara University of Science and Technology and other global health organizations are working to improve health in Uganda and Tanzania.

Healthy Child Uganda

UCalgary’s global health partnerships work with the Cumming School of Medicine. This allows medical students to gain experience and provide much-needed help in health outcomes and projects in Uganda and Tanzania.

One of UCalgary’s most important partnerships is Healthy Child Uganda. Healthy Child Uganda is a partnership between Mbarara University, UCalgary and the Canadian Paediatric Society, with some funding from other universities and associations. It “works with national and district health planners, leaders and communities themselves to develop, implement and evaluate initiatives that strengthen health systems and improve health for mothers, babies and children.” It is based adjacent to Mbarara University’s campus in Mbarara town, Uganda. The Healthy Child Uganda partnership operates in the districts of Mbarara, Bushenyi, Buhweju, Ntungamo and Rubirizi in Uganda as well as two districts of the Mwanza Region in Tanzania.

Healthy Child Uganda was established in 2002. Its multitude of efforts aims to improve health services in Uganda, especially in maternal and pediatric care.

The Impact of Healthy Child Uganda

Since its establishment, Healthy Child Uganda has partnered with local health authorities to train more than 5,000 community health workers for service in almost 1,000 villages in Uganda. Community health workers promote health in their villages, take part in development activities, spread awareness and monitor sick children and pregnant women to see if they need treatment. Healthy Child Uganda shares its training curriculum for community health workers online, providing valuable information to other medical providers. It is also a leader in maternal and child health research, having developed many different practice approaches that have provided models for many other organizations.

Healthy Child Uganda has also worked to combat COVID-19 in Uganda, with funding largely provided by the UCalgary. In the early stages of the pandemic, it was able to provide cleaning products, PPE, handwashing stations, fuel, hand sanitizer and hygiene soap. This was crucial in providing protection in Uganda before provisions came in from Uganda’s Ministry of Health. Healthy Child Uganda also worked to train frontline health workers in fighting COVID-19.

Mama Na Mtoto

The University of Calgary is also a valuable partner in Mama na Mtoto, a partnership that seeks to improve women and child health in rural Tanzania. Mama na Mtoto does its work in the Mwanza Region of Tanzania.

Mama na Mtoto performs many of the same functions as Healthy Child Uganda, just in a different location. It works with the government and existing health facilities to “support communities to adapt and lead activities and innovations that address their own health challenges.”

Mama na Mtoto plans activities that emphasize information and teachings about women and child care, from adolescence to pregnancy. This, therefore, helps to take the burden off of government health services and equip mothers with the best tools to succeed in places where there is little access to health information.

UCalgary’s Successes

UCalgary’s work in Uganda has had tangible results. In 2020, Bushenyi District was recognized as the best performing district for healthcare in Uganda. UCalgary helped this district under Healthy Child Uganda. UCalgary is also working with Mbarara University on another initiative known as HAY! (Healthy Adolescents and Young People in Uganda), which will educate youth on family planning, sexual health, menstrual hygiene and gender-based violence. The University of Calgary is showing how universities can be proactive and provide support that improves health in vulnerable areas.

Clay Hallee
Photo: Flickr

Canadian Food BanksCanadian food banks have been providing meals for those in need across Canada for the past 40 years. The more than 11,000 food banks in Canada saw a spike in clients in 2020, with a report of more than 1.1 million people going to food banks in March alone. Additionally, in 2020, 20,000 people a week used food banks in Canada, up significantly from 15,000 a week in 2019. However, food banks and donators have doubled their efforts amid COVID-19 to address food insecurity in Canada.

Food Insecurity in Canada

The 2019 Food Insecurity Policy Research report states that in 2018 one in eight households was food insecure. Moreover, in 2018, 4.4 million people ranged between marginal food insecurity (with roughly 1.5 million people), moderate food insecurity (with roughly two million people) and severe food insecurity (with roughly 500,000 thousand people) in those tiers.

Within the provinces, Nunavut reported the worst level of food insecurity at 57%, and the Northwest territories at 27%. The rest of the provinces, such as Yukon, faired a bit better at 16.9%, with the Quebec province being the lowest at only 11.8%. Additionally, 84% of those who reported food insecurity live in either Ontario, Alberta, Quebec or British Columbia.

Compared to reports in 2015-2016, food insecurity in the province of Nunavut rose roughly by 6% between 2017-2018 from 51% to 57%. In the Northwest Territories food insecurity rose by 7% from 20% to 27%, Yukon remained the same, British Columbia remained the same at 12% and Quebec went down 1% from 12% to 11%.

Food Banks’ Donations

In 2020, donations rose by approximately 5% in food banks across Canada, and they received over 24 billion pounds of food. It went up more than a million dollars compared to 2019, with a total of $24 million in food donations. In 2019, food banks received a total of $64 million of donations of all varieties, which was an overall decline from $54 million in total donations in 2020.

These statistics indicate 2019 was a drastically more prosperous year. However, 2020 saw an outflow of $56 million back to the people through other donated goods, money to other food banks and money donated overall back to the community. In contrast, 2019 only saw a $9 million return to the community.

In 2020, food banks had a higher return of goods back to the public than monetary donations, with over a $2 million difference. The demand is so high it begs the question of what is being done to help support food banks and Canadians in need.

Alternative Solutions for the Hungry

Canadians who may need to use food banks fall into several categories: people lacking the skills necessary for labor jobs within the Canadian market, the loss of well-paying blue-collar jobs, pensions not covering the basics, and inadequate programs to help those in serious need. Various reports have shown the several ways in which the Canadian government can better help those who are at risk of going hungry.

One way to address hunger insecurity is to increase investments in federal housing. Creating housing such as social housing that is controlled by the government results in capped rental prices, allowing vulnerable populations to pay rent each month at an affordable level. Addressing the higher levels of food security in the northern regions is another important goal. The Canadian Government should focus on areas such as Nunavut that have the highest rates of food insecurity.

Canada Child Benefit

Another way to provide more effective support to low-income families with children is to replace the current range of federal child benefits with a strengthened Canada Child Benefit. The Canada Child Benefit provides financial support to eligible families that have children under the age of 18. While the benefit does support households to a degree, it has not been seen as nearly enough. Moreover, the more funding given to families in need, the less likely they are to be food insufficient.

Thanks to the work of the Canadian food banks, thousands of people can enjoy hot meals. However, a sustainable solution to food insecurity must also include other solutions and government programs to eradicate hunger in Canada.

– Claire Olmstead
Photo: Flickr