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Poverty in Canada

For those who think povety happens "over there," a recent UN report drove it home for us (more on the report here).

Poverty is a woman's health issue. Single parent families, most often headed by women, are the fastest growing group of people living in poverty.

Try budgeting one meal a day for yourself, so your kids can eat three. And then take a look around you and say that this doesn't happen in Canada. Not just in remote Canada, but in your area, your neighborhood, your city or town, next door.

For many people poverty in Canada has long been a reality, and no report is going to change that right now. For others, poverty is a dawning reality, as global capitalism and the politics of "fiscal restraint" rip through the remaining threads of our social safety net.

Your friends, your family, your colleagues, people you know, are all vulnerable. Maybe they are already there and you haven't noticed. Or, maybe you are and no one is listening. Somehow we don't see the signs around us, or we make up ways to ignore them.

We call poor people "irresponsible" or "lazy", as if this makes it all right for people to hurt. We don't allow poor people to defend themselves -- "what are they doing protesting when they should be looking for work?"

In a world of McJobs and record bank profits, we blame the poor for sucking our social welcare dry, when corporations are slashing, burning and exporting ways of lives. It took a condemning report from a "neutral" (read=establishment) body to shake things up and get folks at home listening.

But are people listening for the wrong reasons? Is it just a lesson in how to not let ourselves be embarrassed when we have to report to some UN body in another five years?

The cries of "our standars are too high" appear to make this true. Our government now calls for a new way to measure poverty, one that will leave many people out in the cold.

We have to take a long, hard look at today's Canada. If we want to brag about our human rights record, we're going to have to earn it, and not just by moving our goalposts.

Rachel Thompson

>>> Next...Exposing the ugly truth about poverty in Canada