Programs Aiming to Curb Homelessness in CanadaOn any given day, there are 35,000 people experiencing homelessness in Canada. There are governmental policies put in place to alleviate people from experiencing homelessness but the policies are not enough to end homelessness. Here are a couple of programs that are working to curb homelessness in Canada.

The New Leaf Project

This program is a study where 50 homeless Canadians are given 7,500 Canadian dollars and their lives would be examined over the next 12 to 18 months in comparison to a control group that received no money. It has been argued that providing funding to the homeless population is not effective as it is assumed they would spend it on drugs and alcohol. However, the findings in this study say the contrary. The New Leaf Project found that homeless people spent the money on things they need and were able to secure housing faster than the control group.

It was also found that people who received the money had food security as well. About 70% of the people who received funding were able to find food within the first month and maintained greater food security for the rest of the year.

Another finding revealed that those who received funding spent most of it on rent, clothing and food. There was a 39% decrease in purchasing drugs or alcohol as well. Some people spent the money on other necessities like transportation whether it was a bike or for repairs to their vehicles. Some even bought a computer or saved money to start a business. The study only proved that when you invest in the homeless, they are more likely to spend money on things that can improve their quality of life.

Housing First in Canada: At Home/Chez Soi

This program was another study that tested the effectiveness of Housing First on Canadians back in 2009. Housing First, which originates from New York City in the 1990s, provides rapid housing combined with additional support for homeless people with mental health issues and drug addiction. The program achieved major success in New York City, so the people of At Home/Chez Soi wanted to see if the success can be replicated here in Canada.

Prior to the study, there were a few Canadian cities that had plans to reduce homelessness. However, there was a lack of innovation to push beyond just having shelters. There was also a lack of federal funding to focus on the root causes and preventable approaches to homelessness in Canada.

Since the launch of Housing First in Canada, about 70 Canadian cities have adopted the program and have helped over 1,000 Canadians find safe and affordable housing where many continued to stay after a decade. This study proves that “when communities use their existing skills and knowledge and combine that with a strong tool-kit like At Home/Chez Soi, they can help to address the needs of local populations and go a long way to curbing homelessness.”

An Overview of Homelessness in Canada

Homelessness was not considered to be an issue until the late 1980s. People did experience homelessness prior to that time, however, it was not as common as it is today.

The Canadian government did enact the National Housing Act in 1973 which provided social housing for low-income citizens, but social housing and other related programs were cut back in 1984. By the time 1987 hit, the government cutback caused a surge in homelessness.

By 1996, federal spending on constructing new social housing ceased and the federal government handed the responsibility for most existing social housing to the provinces. Like homeless people in many countries, homeless people in Canada rely on non-profit organizations to attend to their needs. All non-profits agree that “strategies to address homelessness must be tailored to each population group’s needs.”

Homeless people also rely on shelters for their needs. There are emergency shelters that provide shared sleeping facilities and some offer private rooms. However, these shelters expect clients to leave the morning after. Some shelters offer mid-term housing solutions and some have developed long-term housing units. These shelters also provide food, clothing, laundry services and references to other services or organizations. Other shelters offer counseling, legal assistance, harm reduction and advocacy.

While there are services available to help those experiencing homelessness in Canada, it is not enough to address the root causes of homelessness and prevent it from happening in the first place. Investing in the homeless is a viable option to help identify these root causes and end homelessness in Canada.

Jackson Lebedun
Photo: Flickr

Mental Health in Canada
Mental health in Canada has become a bigger issue due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Canada is fortunate to have the assistance of organizations and companies that are offering services to bring forth solutions that will alleviate the stresses of the pandemic and address ways to cope with mental health in Canada positively. One of Canada’s own pharmaceutical companies EmpowerPharm Inc. is creating a unique CBD (Cannabidiol) tablet to ease anxiety.

EmpowerPharm Inc. and Empower CBD

EmpowerPharm Inc.’s tablet Empower CBD is different from typical anxiety medications because it will not cause habit-forming behaviors or disability. Empower CBD will go through intensive clinical studies with departments like Health Canada. The tablet comprises synthetic CBD and will not contain any THC (Tetrahydrocannabinol). CBD is a better option because it gives medicinal effects without the high that usually exists in the THC strain.

Espri by TELUS Health

Canadian essential workers have access to a mental health mobile app called Espri by TELUS Health. The mobile app offers resources in mental health and wellness to various frontline workers. Physicians and nurses are just two occupations that the app specifically mentions among others that offer tools that center on the particular stressors that occur in their day-to-day work shift.

Trained clinicians who understand the needs of essential workers who need support in times of crisis created the Espri by TELUS Health app. The app features informative content, a section to build goals to foster positive growth and virtual sessions to connect in a safe and confidential space that offers therapy and educational support.

CMHA Bounceback Program

The Canadian Mental Health Association supports mental health in Canada through the Bounceback program. The program is possible due to a $1 million donation that has allowed Bounceback into Alberta, the Atlantic provinces and Manitoba along with other parts of Canada. The program can be tailor-made to suit an individual’s needs, helping youth and adults learn how to cope with mood symptoms, mental illness and unpleasant mental and emotional states.

Bounceback works on a national level in Canada and has helped “reduce depressive and anxiety symptoms by 50%” through cognitive behavioral therapy. The program is available to English and French-speaking participants as long as a primary care provider becomes involved.

Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA)

Many know the Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) as one of the best mental health organizations; it has made its resources readily available in all 10 provinces and one territory and serves over 1.3 million Canadians. CMHA believes in full recovery among all individuals of all ages suffering from mental health issues. About “[one] in [five] people in Canada will personally experience a mental health problem or illness.” Meanwhile, before the age of 50, about half of the Canadian population will experience a mental illness, showing the importance of treating mental health in Canada.

The solutions to overcoming mental health in Canada are creative in all its forms through means of medicine, technology and health programs that all have one common goal to make the lives of many individuals better again.

– Amanda Ortiz
Photo: Flickr

Homeless Youth in CanadaThe plight of homeless youth in Canada is a recent issue in the public eye. The increased representation and awareness have garnered celebrity support, such as from Blake Lively and Ryan Reynolds. The married couple has committed to donating $500,000 in total to the cause. Covenant House Vancouver and Toronto, foundations dedicated to opening their door to the homeless youth in Canada, are the lucky recipients.

The Issue

The first majority study done on homeless youth in Canada, “Without a Home: The National Youth Homelessness Survey,” was conducted just four years ago in 2016. A recent study found that the youth make up around 20% of the entire homeless population in Canada.

These children often experience housing instability and child abuse prior to their homelessness experience. Once on the streets, children under 16 — around 40% of the homeless youth in Canada — struggle through increased adversity. Further, various forms of oppression often couple homelessness. A staggering number of these children identify as POC, LGBTQ+, and of many other marginalized groups.

However, organizations and philanthropists alike have stepped up to address this dire situation.

Covenant House

Covenant House is an international organization that provides support and aid for homeless youth in Canada. The organization’s mission statement is: “Covenant House launched a federation-wide initiative to design and implement a cutting-edge, data-informed strategy to help even more of our kids achieve meaningful, long-term outcomes.”

It especially focuses on offering services to members of the LGBTQ+ community, POC, and abuse victims. The organization provides more than just direct support for these young individuals. Covenant House commits to restructuring data processing regarding homeless youth, reviewing methods of information analysis and generation, and finding the best performance measurement strategies. The organization works toward short-term as well as long-term change.

Ryan Reynolds and Blake Lively’s Involvement

The serious issue of youth homelessness in Canada deeply struck Ryan Reynolds, a Canadian himself. In response, Reynolds and Blake Lively decided to donate $500,000 to the cause. The couple even matches donations up to $375,000 before the end of 2020 to encourage others to donate.

The choice of where the funds should go was a personal one. Reynolds has a long-time relationship with the Covenant House. The dedication they put into their work and the extensive impact they wield in the community inspired his “investment.”

In the interview done by Covenant House, he described the donation as an investment rather than a monetary donation into homeless youth in Canada. Reynolds stated, “The young people who pass through the doors of Covenant House more often than not have a story marked by extraordinary trauma. They are so much more than that trauma. They have so much to offer the world. Matching this gift is saying you believe in them. You believe in the power of compassion to transform the trajectory of a human being.”

The CEO of Covenant House Vancouver, Krista Thompson, expressed her gratitude for the donation and continued relationship with the couple. Thompson remarked, “Ryan and Blake truly understand that young people who are facing homelessness deserve unconditional love and absolute respect.” The money will be used to assist with youth experiencing homelessness and fund much of the research that is occurring to combat the issue of homelessness as a whole.

Manasi Singh
Photo: Flickr

Poverty in NunavutAlthough Canada is an undeniably prosperous nation, some territories experience levels of poverty disproportionate to other areas. Poverty in Nunavut is deeper and more severe than in any other part of Canada and it affects First Nation, Inuit and Métis people at higher levels than any other group.

Poverty for Indigenous People

Overall, 25% of Inuit children live below the poverty line. As of 2010, 56% of the Inuit population was classified as food insecure, compared to the 14.7% that represents the Canadian average. This is not only due to the loss of historical lands and resources, but cultural heritage, traditional government and the impositions of colonization on traditional lifestyles and social structures. However, in recent years, local communities as well as government forces have worked to form innovative policy and poverty reduction techniques. This not only is creating important change in many communities but comes with a local catch-phrase: the Inuit principle, “Piliriqatigiingniq“, referring to people working together well, motivated by shared values, goals,and philosophies.

Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy

In 2016, the government of Canada instated a poverty reduction strategy, aimed to reduce Canada’s poverty rate by 50% by 2030. Importantly, this policy outlines initiatives that specifically reflect First Nations, Inuit and Métis perspectives on poverty and decision making. The priorities outlined included support for improved national housing, indigenous childcare and early learning as well as cooperation with local leaders.

Canada Child Benefit

The Canada Child Benefit works to reduce childhood poverty by helping financially support families that are experiencing poverty. Due to the marked success of the program, the number of children living in poverty decreased by 278,000 in just two years. Because Nunavut’s child poverty rate of 31.2% is well above the Canadian average of 18.6%, The Canada Child benefit directly impacts many Inuit, Métis and First Nation families.

Canada’s First National Housing Strategy

Over the course of 10 years, this initiative will invest $40 billion to fix broken housing, provide affordable housing and significantly reduce homelessness for Canadians in need. Additionally, the National Housing Strategy will be equitable with investments, ensuring 33% of the budget goes towards housing for First Nation, Inuit and Métis peoples as well as programs for women and children. This type of investment is the first of its kind for Canada and promises real change for many. https://www.oecd.org/els/family/child-well-being/Bussiere.pd

The Makimaniq Plans

The Makimaniq Plan 2 expresses a shared approach, “Piliriqatigiingniq”, to overcome the challenges faced by native people. This includes more adaptation to Inuit ways and better collaboration with the government among other ways people can work together to reduce poverty. This also covers strengthening local economies, increased access and amplification of community voices and a greater emphasis and investment in health and well-being. These are all problems that have significantly affected native people for generations and need to be addressed in order to create real change. Through increased community and government teamwork, there is a tangible method and drive to change conditions for people living in poverty in Nunavut. This is an important step for the Inuit people, as Nunavut is the only territory in Canada with a poverty reduction strategy that specifically targets Inuit interests.

Working Together

For the issue of poverty in Nunavut, “Piliriqatigiingniq” is more than just working together to achieve a common goal. It means growing as a country and as people and working to develop within communities, the lasting bonds of respect and teamwork to foster a better present and more equitable future. Due to changes already implemented, thousands of people’s standards of living have increased in the region.

– Noelle Nelson
Photo: Flickr

Indigenous Poverty in Canada
Statistics dating back to 2011 indicate that Canada ranked 21st out of 27 Organisations for Economic Co-operation and Development in terms of the level of poverty. In fact, one in seven people or 4.9 million total live in poverty in Canada. Out of those estimated 5 million people, 1.34 million children are in poverty. The indigenous population of Canada has a prevalent poverty rate with one in four aboriginals, Métis and Inuit living in poverty. Of these, four in 10 of Canada’s indigenous children live in poverty making indigenous poverty in Canada a serious issue.

The Situation

Many Native Americans within Canada’s borders are trying to maintain their customs, traditions and lifestyle, but they frequently have limited access to resources. In total, around 1 million indigenous people, Inuit and Métis live in Canada.

In 2016, the chief for the Attawapiskat First Nation, on James Bay in Ontario, Canada, sounded the alarm about a spike in suicide attempts in the indigenous community. Over 116 people attempted suicide within 12 months and this does not account for unreported attempts. A report from Health Canada stated that suicide is the number one cause of death for indigenous young people and adults up to 44.

Indigenous groups in Canada frequently face poorer health, lower education levels, housing that lacks quality and crowded living conditions. Additionally, lower levels of income, high rates of unemployment, strong levels of incarceration and high death rates among the youth due to accidents and high rates of suicide are issues as well.

Reducing Unemployment Among Indigenous People in Canada

Currently, in 2020, the Canadian employment rate is at 59% and its unemployment rate is at 9%. Canada’s government grants the opportunity for indigenous people to find employment through one of its webpages. All they have to do is declare themselves an indigenous person when they apply to receive various public service-wide job opportunities and jobs from specific departments. The Indigenous Student Employment Opportunity program is open year-round to indigenous students and can help support and train them as they garner employment.

Providing Employment Through Natural Resources

Canada has a wide range of natural resources including lumber, uranium, lead, zinc, oil and diamonds. Luckily, Canada gives aboriginal people constitutional rights and all the agreements on their lands must be fair to them and provide jobs.

Diavik, Canada’s largest diamond mine, initiated mining endeavors northeast of Yellowknife in 1999. Diavik aims to aid local indigenous people by providing them with employment, scholarships, training and business opportunities. As of 2013, it provided employment to 171 aboriginal people in the area. Diavik also promised to return the mine areas back to the lake and improve the habitat for fish at the end of the contract.

If more companies include indigenous people in their businesses and policies, there will be a chance for Native Americans to increase their economic status and reduce indigenous poverty in Canada. There is still a long road to equity in Canada, but there are signs of improvement based on some economic successes for aboriginal peoples. Hopefully, with continued aid, indigenous poverty in Canada will become nonexistent.

– Elhadj Oumar Tall
Photo: Flickr

Canada’s Foreign Aid
In 2019, the last year Canada released a complete set on Canada’s foreign aid budget and distribution, its budget increased by 4.9% from the previous year to $4.6 billion. The top five countries that Canada distributed aid to were Ethiopia ($203 million CAD) followed by Bangladesh ($199 million CAD), Afghanistan ($197 million CAD), Syria ($150 million CAD) and Mali ($140 million CAD). Canada has consistently taken part in providing foreign aid during this time period when global health is almost an unavoidable topic and has been one of many countries to step forward to combat the pandemic. Here are five successes of Canada’s foreign aid.

5 Successes of Canada’s Foreign Aid

  1. COVID-19: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, Canada has not only helped fight the virus globally by limiting case counts in its own country, but also by providing funding to vital health organizations and countries. For example, the Canadian government has provided $2 million to the World Health Organization (WHO) to assist with vulnerable countries’ preparation plans. Additionally, Canada has further committed $50 million to the WHO, continuing to help with global health efforts surrounding the effects of COVID-19. Canada has also provided China with 16 tonnes of personal protective equipment to help squash the outbreak at the epicenter. Finally, the government is also collaborating with international health regulators like the European Medicines Agency and the United States Food and Drug Administration to find suitable countermeasures to the virus and help vaccine development.
  2. Global Poverty Reduction: Canada’s foreign aid has also gone toward global poverty reduction over the last 30 years. For example, Canada launched the Development Finance Institution as part of Export Development Canada with the aim of increasing private sector investment in developing nations. The government committed $300 million toward this program and the private sector funding will prioritize initiatives in the private sector to back women and youth-led movements. The Canadian government is also trying to create more responsive programs like challenges, micro-funding and other incentive-based funding schemes.
  3. International Disarmament Efforts: Canada also uses its foreign aid in a leadership capacity to guide international disarmament efforts. The country made these strides following the 2001 9/11 attacks that sent shockwaves around the world. For example, Canada was one of the founding members of the G8 Global Partnership Against the spread of weapons and Material of mass Destruction initiative, originally receiving a budget of $20 billion over a 10 year period. Additionally, the former G8 partnership turned G7 led collective has further provided $25 billion in concise and clear programming to aid in disarmament efforts worldwide since the group’s original founding in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Canada has also made a flagship-level contribution with the G7 led Global Partnership program by personally contributing $1.5 billion in projects to aid disarmament methods.
  4. Refugees: Canada is also implementing some of its foreign aid work back home by helping relocate refugees from Iraq and Syria to Canada. In fact, the country welcomed 25,000 refugees by February 2016, along with a further 25,000 refugees by the end of 2016. Canada has also either processed or is still in the midst of processing all the privately sponsored Syrian refugees who applied for amnesty by March 31, 2016.
  5. Sanitation: Canada’s foreign aid has also gone to international clean water measures. Some of Canada’s more notable support projects in developing nations include providing $40 million in funding to the African Water Facility, creating water infrastructure in post-war countries. Canada also gave $17.9 million to Ghana’s Enhanced Wash which allowed communities and schools better water, and the ability to practice better hygiene and further sanitation. Finally, in Peru, Bolivia and Burkina Faso, Canada supplied $17 million to the Food Security Innovation and Mobilization Initiative which allowed communities in these countries to have access to innovative technology. Some of this new technology included water pumps, but altogether the technology aided food security during the dry season.

While Canada has been a major player and helped many nations through foreign aid, Canada is still failing to meet the 0.7% Gross National Income (GNI) target G8 countries committed to by some distance, with only 0.27% GNI committed as of 2019. Canada still has room to improve, not just to alleviate global poverty, but to make good on the promises it made as part of the G8.

Sean Armstrong
Photo: Flickr

SDG Goal 1The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a set of 17 U.N. goals aiming to achieve global sustainability through smaller subgoals like eradicating poverty and moving toward clean energy. Member states of the U.N. aim to achieve all of the SDGs by 2030. Goal 1, in particular, hopes to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere.” In recent times, achieving the SDGs by the target date has become uncertain due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, Canada has shown progress in meeting SDG Goal 1.

Poverty Overview

Canada is the second-largest country in the world by land area. The country has a universal healthcare system and a high standard of living. Despite this, the country is not immune to poverty. In 2018, 5.4% of Canadians were experiencing deep income poverty, which means having an income below 75% of Canada’s official poverty threshold. In addition, Canada’s indigenous population, which make up around 5% of the population, are often subject to extreme political and societal marginalization, making them more susceptible to poverty and homelessness.

Poverty remains a reality in Canada, in spite of its reputable presence on the global stage. The country has not yet met SDG Goal 1 but continues to make efforts toward it. The Canadian Government has developed several initiatives and allocated resources to attempt to meet these goals. In 2018, a budget of $49.4 million spread over 13 years was approved to help meet the SDGs.

Tracking Canada’s Poverty Progress

The Canadian Government has been funding and supporting numerous initiatives to alleviate poverty in the country. In total, since 2015, the Canadian Government has invested $22 billion in efforts to alleviate poverty and grow the middle-class. The results have been positive. In 2015, the Canadian Poverty Reduction Strategy resolved to reduce poverty by 20% before 2020. The 2015 poverty rate was 12% and this strategy aimed to achieve a 10% poverty rate by 2020. Canada achieved this goal in 2017 when the Canadian Income Report reported that the country had reached its lowest poverty rate in history.

These improvements are due to several poverty reduction initiatives. Canada’s Guaranteed Income Supplement, for example, provides monetary assistance to senior citizens with low incomes, preventing them from falling into poverty. The reforms also introduced the Canada Child Benefit, granting families with young children more financial assistance. Additionally, the Canada Workers Benefit was introduced with an aim to lift 74,000 people out of poverty.

The Canadian Government has also resolved to aid its indigenous populations. In 2010, just over 7% of individuals who identified as indigenous were found to make less than $10,000 annually. Recent government initiatives have attempted to remedy these poverty gaps, including the National Housing Strategy’s promise to help indigenous populations.

Looking Forward

While Canada is yet to meet SDG Goal 1, the country has made substantial progress in reducing poverty. As of 2018, the poverty rate was measured to be 8.7%, a decrease from the 12% poverty rate in 2015. Increased poverty-related challenges are apparent as the COVID-19 pandemic threatens people’s economic security. Still, however, the data on Canada’s progress shows just how much the country has done in the fight against poverty and the positive impact of its poverty reduction initiatives.

Maggie Sun
Photo: Flickr

How Child Care Initiatives Improve Poverty in Canada
Although poverty in Canada has significantly improved in the last decade, the problem as a whole still exists. For many, this way of living begins when a person is still a child in early stages of their development and growth. Parents of these children often do not make enough money, which is a cause of generational poverty. Because of this, many families struggle to complete both money-making and child care tasks properly. Thus, extreme poverty may not be eradicated without accessible and affordable childcare. Here are several child care initiatives in Canada working to assist impoverished parents and children.

Canada Child Benefit

The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) is a program created by the Canadian government to help relieve parents of some child care stress. By paying a tax-free fee every month, parents who need some extra support raising their children can benefit from this program. The CCB provides basic assistance such as supervision and proper medical care for children while their parents are away at work. It also accommodates for child care situations in which supervision is required for longer periods of time.

The amount of monetary assistance a parent may receive depends on a number of things. For example, how many children are present in a household or how much money a family makes. Just from the past two years, nearly 24 billion U.S. dollars have served over three and a half million Canadian families. CCB has led to a continuous decline in the number of children living in poverty in Canada, meaning families are able to strive towards a better future.

Child Care Now

Child Care Now is a non-profit organization aiming for quality child care throughout Canada. More than 700 delegates help advocate for Child Care Now. In addition, the non-profit has relieved the strain put on families to find adequate and affordable child care. From the start of Child Care Now, many areas in Canada have expanded their child care locations. In Ontario, around 100 spaces have opened with regulated care and in Manitoba, another 700 licensed spaces have opened. With its many locations, Child Care Now hopes to provide families with the affordable and quality child care they deserve.

Early Education and Child Care

Early Education and Child Care (ECEC) is a Canadian program that aims to benefit child development while children are in school. Education for young children is crucial for development because children absorb the most information at very young ages. Low-income families are provided with subsidies or sometimes even given free education for their children. According to the Conference Board of Canada, spending a dollar on education for children below five will help children gain six dollars in the future. This shows just how important it is for children to receive quality care and education.

How Child Care Initiatives Help Poverty in Canada

These initiatives are just a few that provide child care and resources to Canadian children and families in need. Investing in a low-income child’s future while they are young will only benefit their future. Without proper education for parents and children, it makes it extremely difficult for one to gain upward mobility without a resume or experience. Through child care initiatives, financially struggling families can improve their chances of economic mobility and lower rates of poverty in Canada simultaneously.

Karina Wong
Photo: Flickr

canada's indigenous populationDespite being one of the wealthiest and most productive countries in the world, Canada does not provide equally for all of its citizens. Specifically, Canada’s Indigenous population constitutes 4% of the nation’s population of about 34.7 million. Despite their name of “First Peoples,” Indigenous people in Canada receive less priority for public aid and infrastructure. Canada’s Indigenous population disproportionately lives in poverty. For example, 25% of First Nations, Métis and Inuit people live in poverty. Out of the population of First Peoples’ children, 40% live below the poverty line as well.

The Housing Crisis

Many indigenous residences are overcrowded, often in poor and unsafe conditions. Overall, 20% of Canada’s Indigenous population lives in overcrowded households, both on and off reserves. Additionally, 25% of First Nations people live in housing that is substandard. Among Canada’s homeless population, 22% are First Nations.

While high rates of poverty among First Nations people are one major contributor to the housing crisis, the limited number of homes available to them is another large problem. Estimates suggest that Canada’s Indigenous population living on reserves needs anywhere from 130,000 to 175,000 new homes. It is even more difficult to gauge the number of housing units needed to accommodate the off-reservation First Nations population. Information for off-reservation housing extends to other Indigenous populations like the Métis and Inuit.

Food Deserts

Approximately 48% of First Nation households struggle to meet their daily food needs. This rate is higher in Canada’s Alberta province, where 60% of First Nations people find it difficult to feed their families. Both of these numbers are much higher among Canada’s Indigenous population compared to the national rate of 8.4%.

Within Canada’s Indigenous population, food insecurity continues to climb. This is especially true in remote areas with little to no access to a service center. When available, these centers help the Indigenous population with food, water, housing, health and education services.

While getting food is a struggle in itself, not all meals are equally nutritious. First Nations people have an even harder time getting healthy foods due to high demand, few centers and high prices. Traditional foods, like game and fish, are also hard to come by due to pollution and industry in Canada. However, these traditional foods generally lack the preservatives and artificial sugars found in much other food. As a result, many Indigenous adults suffer dietary issues. About 82% are overweight, while 20% suffer from diabetes. Again, these rates are disproportionately high among Canada’s Indigenous population relative to the overall population.

Education and Employment

Education remains one of the most effective ways for members of impoverished communities to lift themselves out of poverty. However, under a system that treats the Indigenous population like second-class citizens, quality education is scarce. This makes it more difficult for Canada’s indigenous population to improve their quality of life.

Less than 50% of First Peoples have a high school diploma. Further, just 6% have any kind of college degree. Canada has a history of investing fewer resources into Indigenous education than in its public education. Specifically, the disparity may be as severe as investing $8,000 less per Indigenous student than per Canadian student.

This disparity between First Peoples and Canada’s population continues to affect employment trends. Unemployment rates among the Inuit, Métis and First Nations are more than double Canada’s rate. In some areas, 80% of the Indigenous population relies on welfare. Reducing the educational gap (and consequently, the employment gap) would infuse an additional $36 billion into Canada’s economy by 2026.

Employment and education disparities also exist between on-reserve and off-reserve Indigenous people. As of 2007, the high school graduation rate was up to 70% for off-reserve First Peoples. By contrast, on-reserve rates rest at about 45%. Among the Inuit population, the high school graduation rate has decreased, falling from 52% to 41%.

The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund

In a country that’s thriving, it can be hard to believe that there are populations so deprived of resources and opportunities. The Gord Downie and Chanie Wenjack Fund (DWF) strives to build people’s awareness about the marginalization of First Peoples. It also seeks to mend the relationship between Canada and its Indigenous population through teaching their history and culture.

The donations the DWF receives go to the creation of legacy schools and spaces. For example, its Legacy School program is a partnership between the DWF and certain schools. These legacy schools educate students on the history and culture of First Peoples. The Legacy Spaces program is a similar program that partners with organizations and corporations who are passionate about mending the divide between Canada’s non-Indigenous and Indigenous populations.

In focusing on building mutual understanding, the DWF seeks a more supportive relationship between Canada’s two populations. This would serve to preserve the culture of the First Peoples. Importantly, it would also help the Canadian government to finally recognize its duty to its most marginalized population.

Catherine Lin
Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Canada
With nearly 9.5% of the population falling below the poverty line, food insecurity in Canada appears to directly correlate with financial issues. Hunger in Canada has negatively impacted the physical, mental and emotional well-being of citizens. Such a scenario has meant negative implications for the country’s health care system as well. While Canada may not be a country with severe financial difficulties, a situation unlike many impoverished countries, some Canadians suffer from severe food insecurity. These five data points highlight the prevalence of hunger in Canadian society.

5 Facts About Hunger in Canada

  1. One out of every six children under the age of 18 suffers from food insecurity. This is most prevalent in Northern Canada. This area suffers from a lack of employment opportunities and elevated produce prices. In addition, those who live in Northern Canada have switched from hunting to relying on store-bought goods, which tends to cost more than in the rest of Canada. In fact, Northern Ontario communities, such as Moose Factory and Attawapiskat, on average spend twice the amount of money on food as Southern Ontario communities.
  2. Nearly half of food-insecure households consist of those living alone. Single-person households are difficult to maintain as many citizens struggle to sustain their employment. In 2019, the unemployment rate increased to 5.67% and continues to increase. This trend has persisted throughout 2020, with unemployment rates reaching 13.7% due largely to the effects of COVID-19.
  3. Low household income individuals frequently suffer from food insecurity. In food-insecure households, over 60% of salaries and wages are necessary for necessities. The minimum wage in Canada is $14.25 CAD per hour, which is not much more than an average meal price of roughly $13.
  4. Households that comprise of senior citizens are less likely to suffer from food insecurity. Canada’s Pension Plan (CPP) is designed to replace a person’s income when they retire. These pensions have severely affected how seniors face Canadian poverty. Because of such consistent and large sums of money, the rates of food insecurity are lower in these households.
  5. Food intake severely contributes to wellbeing. Mood and anxiety disorders are higher in food-insecure households. Studies show that the prevalence of depressive thoughts is nearly 23% greater in food-insecure households. Food insecurity forces individuals to make stressful life-altering decisions, which in turn can cause increases in depression and anxiety. Scientific studies further show that lack of food can render the brain unable to access the proper amount of nutrients, ultimately leading to lower amounts of dopamine and serotonin. These are chemicals that are associated with happiness.

While hunger in Canada is a severe issue, many political campaigns tackle food insecurity. The Eat Think Vote campaign encourages the government to establish a basic income to ensure that all Canadians are able to afford healthy meals. This campaign recommends multiple strategies, such as increasing the National Child Benefit, developing a national housing strategy, etc. In doing so, specific provinces (such as Quebec) have greatly decreased their prevalence of food insecurity.  These actions have enabled the government to combat financial obstacles that greatly impact hunger in Canada.

– Aditi Prasad
Photo: Flickr