This month’s At the Heart of Justice blog focuses on the work of eradicating poverty. We offer this personal reflection by Bonnie Morton (Regina Anti-Poverty Ministry) as a way to move deeper into the important issue of poverty as a human rights violation.

One truth about poverty that sometimes gets lost in research is that no one wakes up one day and says; “Doesn’t poverty look great.  I aspire to be poor.” Poverty is not a personal choice. It is created by the political, social, and economic decisions of others. 

Poverty is recognized by the United Nations as a human rights violation. In 1976 Canada ratified the International Covenant on Economic Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR). This covenant recognizes the right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for themselves and their family. Since 1993 the International Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR) has recognized that Canada, including our provinces and territories, have been in non-compliance to many of the articles within this covenant.

In February 2016, Canada and Canadian NGOs (including the United Church’s partner Canada Without Poverty) presented to the ICESCR. This Committee raised many concerns in their Concluding Observations, around social economic and cultural rights that negatively impact the most vulnerable members of our society.

The recommendations they put forward include a call to raise the minimum wage and social benefit rates, ensure that social, economic and cultural rights are protected within legislation and laws, improve child care spaces and funding, provide adequate and affordable housing, and more. They were also clear that Canada has to improve on areas related to Indigenous social, economic and cultural rights. 

The research provided through Canada Without Poverty and our Canadian faith based organization, KAIROS, is a valuable tool in seeking justice.  We can support these two organizations, and those that may be in our own communities who are addressing poverty in our own backyards. Letter writing is valuable as well.  We need to be calling on our elected leaders to make the elimination of poverty a political priority.