Summer is vacation time for many people. They save all year for their little piece of summer fun, leaving the city and the pressures of life. No alarm clocks, no deadlines, no traffic jams—just relaxing in the sun, letting the rest of the world fade away.
But not everyone will have the privilege of a vacation this year. More than five million people in Canada live below the low-income cut-off line. They may work at low-paying, casual jobs. Or perhaps they'll be sleeping in one of the many shelters in cities across our country.
Canada is not doing well when it comes to poverty, especially for children. More than one in seven children live in poverty in Canada. According to the Conference Board of Canada, we rank 15th out of 17 peer countries and have a “C” rating. When children experience poverty, they are at greater risk of suffering health problems, developmental delays and behaviour disorders. They have lower levels of education and often end up like their parents—living in poverty.
I'm not sure what our government is doing to address this problem, but a child poverty rate of 15 percent is unacceptable. Nordic countries, which have the lowest levels of poverty, have policies that are very simple to implement. We have the ability to make a difference. We could raise our minimum wage, ensure adequate income assistance for families, create a strong daycare program, and strengthen education and health initiatives. But we seem unable to grasp the relationship between social spending and poverty.
We Are the Difference
I'm often at a loss when I talk about this subject with my family. However, I am convinced there is something we can do. I love the Michael Jackson song Man in the Mirror—I think it encompasses what can make the difference in this world, especially with the ever-increasing gap between the rich and the poor. We are the difference. We need to change our lives.
As Christians, we are no longer our own; we belong to Christ. “So then, if anyone is in Christ, that person is part of the new creation. The old things have gone away, and look, new things have arrived!” (2 Corinthians 5:17 CEB). God has a heart for the poor. I love the Salvation Army ad that says: “When wi-fi hot spots are everywhere, no one should be searching for a hot meal.” It's time to end poverty in Canada.
So what can I do to make a difference?
1. I can learn about the issue and teach my children about it. Poverty in Canada is a significant burden on the economy. Housing is ridiculously priced, especially in our larger cities. There are often no regulations in place to protect people from being priced out of a place to call home.
2. I can advocate for the poor. I can write or speak to my member of Parliament or provincial legislature. I can talk about the issue with my friends. I can share things on Facebook that ask people to fight poverty by getting involved. I can vote for change.
3. I can donate money to a worthy organization that helps the poor. I can get my children involved in a fundraiser for a local food bank or soup kitchen. If I don't have enough money, my children and I can donate our time to help prepare a meal in a soup kitchen or sort through donations.
4. I can reach out a hand to help people in my church or community who are struggling. I can babysit for a single mom. I can drive someone without a car to an appointment. I can invite a family into my home and share a meal with them.
There's a lot I can do to make a difference. The only barrier to change is me.
Major Kathie Chiu is the corps officer at Richmond Community Church, B.C.