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New Legislation on Poverty and Housing

04-9-19

New Legislation on Poverty and Housing Takes Big Steps but Misses the Mark on Human Rights

April 9, 2019

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

OTTAWA – Yesterday afternoon, the Government of Canada tabled the Budget Implementation Act (Bill C-97), which features legislation creating a Poverty Reduction Act, as well as a National Housing Strategy Act.

Canada Without Poverty (CWP), a leading voice in the anti-poverty movement, welcomes both pieces of legislation. However, the organization cautions that critical changes must be made before the measures proposed in the legislation can effectively address the needs of millions in Canada in poverty and inadequate housing.

The Budget Implementation Act is a reiteration of the previously tabled Bill C-87, An Act respecting the reduction of poverty. The bill commits Canada to three key points: a target of reducing poverty by 50%; the establishment of the method to calculate the Canada’s first official poverty line; and a poverty advisory council mandated to hold the government accountable for progress on poverty.

In January 2019, CWP, in coalition with partners Citizens for Public Justice and Campaign 2000: End Child and Family Poverty, released an open letter signed by 587 organizations and individuals which called for critical changes to the bill. This included amendments to commit to ending poverty – rather than simply reducing it – as well as measures to make sure the new poverty line could not be skewed to inaccurately reflect how quickly we’ve met our targets.

Although CWP supports legislation for the poverty reduction strategy, the organization is disappointed that none of the improvements proposed in the open letter were reflected in the new bill.

“It’s encouraging to see that the Poverty Reduction Act has been included in Bill C-97. However, we have serious concerns that the government has ignored our vital recommendations,” said CWP’s Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer, Michèle Biss.

“The legislation commits to reducing poverty, but not eliminating it. It also gives the government the power to dissolve the poverty advisory council once poverty has been reduced by 50%. In other words, the government is only committing to be held accountable to 50% of those in poverty. Canada must recognize that it’s a human rights issue when millions of people are having to make impossible choices between paying the rent or paying for hydro – and it must remain accountable until poverty is eliminated in this country.”

CWP welcomes the National Housing Strategy legislation also included in this bill as a step towards recognizing the right to housing for all people in Canada but has some serious concerns regarding accountability mechanisms.

“With the National Housing Strategy legislation tabled yesterday, it remains unclear how a person living in poverty could bring forward complaints of systemic violations of the right to housing,” said CWP’s President of the Board of Directors, Laura Cattari. “We look forward to hearing more from the government on how this legislation will be made real for millions living in poverty in this country.”

CWP is a member of Legislate the Right to Housing Coalition. To read about the coalition, click here.

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About Canada Without Poverty

Canada Without Poverty (CWP) is a non-partisan, not-for-profit, and charitable organization dedicated to ending poverty in Canada. The organization was created in 1971 as an outcome of the Poor People’s Conference, a national gathering of low-income individuals, under the name National Anti-Poverty Organization (NAPO). For over 40 years, CWP has been championing the rights of individuals experiencing poverty and marginalization through research, awareness-building campaigns, public policy development, and educational programming. See more at: www.cwp-csp.ca.

For more information or interview requests, please contact:

Michèle Biss

Canada Without Poverty – Policy Director and Human Rights Lawyer

Phone: 613-697-8743 Email: michele@cwp-csp.ca