The United Church of Canada welcomes the federal government’s announcement of Canada’s first national anti-poverty strategy–Opportunity for All. The strategy is a fruit of years of advocacy by anti-poverty and faith organizations. We are keen to work with the government to ensure that the plans include mechanisms to diminish discriminatory barriers and systemic issues that impoverish Canadians. According to Dignity for All, 4.9 million Canadians, or 1 in 7, struggle to make ends meet: to pay rent, feed their families, and address basic needs.

The federal poverty reduction strategy sets a target to reduce poverty rates in Canada by 50 per cent of 2015 rates by 2030. We are pleased that this target and timeline, along with a National Advisory Council, will all be enshrined in legislation.

At the same time, the United Church is concerned that the plan does not contain new funding commitments or programs to enable it to reach this target. Substantial and ongoing funding is needed to reduce poverty rates. It is our expectation that the National Advisory Council will serve as an accountability mechanism centred on the voices of people living in poverty.

The plan also falls short in failing to recognize the centrality of working directly with Indigenous governments, respecting their right to self-determination as found in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples as a way of eliminating poverty among Indigenous peoples in Canada, including the loss of language, land, and so on.

People in the United Church across the country participated in the government consultations that led to the creation of this strategy, drawing on their experiences working with people who have lived experience of poverty through congregationally run out of the cold programs and community and social justice ministries that deliver critical services and support. Others lifted up the centrality of Indigenous rights and reconciliation arising from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission or advocated for measures to end child poverty as part of the United Church Women’s Bread Not Stones program to end child poverty.