“The COVID-19 pandemic has emphasized our interconnectedness to one another across this country. As a church we seek to care for and uplift human dignity and spirit from birth through death…”
—Moderator Richard Bott
Poverty can happen very quickly to anyone. Aware that some pandemic-related relief programs (such as the Canada Emergency Response Benefit, CERB) are scheduled to wind up in July, Moderator Richard Bott has written to elected officials encouraging them to seize the moment to roll out a universal basic income (UBI) program in collaboration with the provinces, territories, and Indigenous leadership.
“It is my belief,” he writes, “that our collective experience as Canadians during COVID-19 presents a vital opportunity.... [T]ogether we can take important steps to protect the health and safety of all Canadians going forward.” The full letter is available under Downloads, below.
A growing movement of Senators, Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran bishops, and many more across Canada are calling for a universal basic income. Add your voice to this growing movement for an adequate living level for all—one that addresses the persistent structural inequities existing within the present wage and benefit structures of our country.
- Call or write to your member of Parliament and urge them to support the growing call for a UBI. Ask your MP to
- seize this moment to roll out a UBI program in collaboration with the provinces, territories, and Indigenous leadership
- develop and implement a program that provides an adequate living level for everyone and addresses the persistent inequities that exist within the present wage and social benefit structures of our country
- address systemic barriers experienced by Indigenous peoples in accessing relief programs (for example, those related to COVID-19)
- build a program that is universal, preserves human dignity rather than creates stigma, removes discriminatory barriers, does not penalize people for the work that they do, and is available with a minimum of bureaucracy
- Share this Take Action on your social media networks. Use the hashtags #UCCan, #poverty, #UBI, #universalbasicincome, #basicincome.
- Learn more about UBI by engaging with
- United Church policies available on United Church Commons (in particular, "Adequate Guaranteed Annual Income," 1972 and "Guaranteed Annual Income," 1986)
- this FAQ from Basic Income Canada
- this simple introductory video Basic Income for Canada
- a public letter on guaranteed basic income by Anglican and Evangelical Lutheran bishops from May 2020
- an April 2020 open letter signed by 50 senators calling for a minimum basic income [pdf on sencanada.ca]
The United Church of Canada affirms that a guaranteed annual income is the most efficient way of ensuring that all Canadians will have a secure economic floor to stand on (see the 1972 and 1986 policies available on United Church Commons).
Since 1972, The United Church of Canada has advocated a policy of guaranteed annual income that is more equitable and less expensive and complicated to administer than the numerous government support programs presently available. Since then, national and international studies and programs have shown that a universal basic income is both affordable and had beneficial effects in the areas of health, justice, education, and social welfare.
Indigenous members of the United Church have described how structural inequities in Canadian society continue to be reinforced in this time of pandemic. They have reported barriers to accessing relief programs designed to help Canadians through the pandemic crisis. Accordingly, it is critical that a UBI program be designed to ensure both the application and payment processes facilitate participation by all Indigenous peoples, whether they live in urban centres or remote communities. The government should build a program that is universal, preserves human dignity rather than creates stigma, removes discriminatory barriers, does not penalize people for the work that they do, and is available with a minimum of bureaucracy.
Please note that the term “universal basic income” (UBI) used here does not endorse any particular model. The intent of the Moderator's letter and this Take Action is to raise up principles on which a program for basic income would be designed and implemented.
What Is Basic Income?
A guaranteed annual income (also called a universal basic income) would ensure everyone an income adequate for meeting basic needs, allowing all people to live with dignity regardless of work status. UBI would be part of the national fabric of services that preserve and protect Canadians; or, as Jesus put it, “to love our neighbours as ourselves.”
With UBI, rather than have a rules-based, bureaucratically driven application process (during which applications must prove they are "really poor" before being approved), all Canadian citizens are ensured an automatic top-up when their income collapses for whatever reason. The incomes would be unconditional, automatic, non-withdrawable, individual, and a right of every legal resident.
A universal basic income is an effective way to support the reduction and elimination of poverty and insecurity; the narrowing of extreme income and wealth inequalities; shared citizenship; and improved democratic and economic functioning.
- Universal basic income could change more than how we work (Broadview article by Jonas Cornelsen)
- Lift the Floor: Would a universal basic income guarantee a good life for all Canadians? (a webinar by Broadbent Institute, May 14, 2020)
- Massey Dialogues: Hugh Segal on Judgement-free Money Efficiently Distributed: Time for Basic Income? (April 2, 2020)
- Guaranteed Livable Income, Senator Kim Pate (February 25, 2020)
- Basic Income: Rethinking Social Policy (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2016)
- The Intended and Unexpected Benefits of Guaranteed Basic Income (Citizens for Public Justice, June 21, 2019)
- Basic Income Canada
- Ending Poverty (learn more about the United Church’s anti-poverty justice work)