Saskatoon adopts a bold anti-racist and equity-building approach to ending poverty

Saskatoon adopts a bold anti-racist and equity-building approach to ending poverty

The Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership (SPRP) recognizes poverty as a complex interconnected issue.

Saskatoon Poverty Reduction Partnership comprises more than 100 partners representing more than 60 agencies across jurisdictions and the human services systems. They apply a collective impact model, a constellation governance structure, and are backboned by a local community agency.When COVID-19 hit, the organization knew that an effective pandemic response would need to actively consider the health and equity of populations already disproportionately impacted by racism and poverty. Recognizing the need to focus their efforts on the space where policy and practice interface, they brought 190 people together through the Saskatoon Interagency Response, which functioned as the community’s Vulnerable Sector Incident Command Structure.

Addressing critical gaps

While all ideas from SPRP’s 12 Bold Ideas to Eliminate Poverty plan remained relevant throughout the pandemic, critical gaps emerged, particularly around the following areas:

  • Housing (e.g., systems discharging people into homelessness)

  • Public washrooms (e.g., vulnerable community members went more than 100 days mid-pandemic without access)

  • The digital divide (e.g., access to technology including devices and internet)

  • Provincial investment (e.g., the need for the provincial government to invest in the local-level response).

SPRP updated their plan to explicitly name these priorities.

12 Bold Ideas Learned from COVID: 1 - Income and Assets; 2 - Public Washrooms; 3 - Social enterprise; 4 - Childcare; 5 - Education; 6 - Healthcare; 7 - Transportation; 8 - Access to food; 9 - Housing; 10 - Justice; 11 - Literacy and technology; 12 - System Navigation


Saskatoon’s Anti-Racism Network

The Partnership decided that they needed to be even more bold about the way they talked about the interface between poverty and the legacies and realities of racism.

Creating space to think outside the box, they collaborated with Saskatoon’s Anti-Racism Network (ARN), a small group of folks incredibly committed to embedding anti-racist and anti-oppressive education into systems.

Together, SPRP and the ARN explored how racism was rooted in each of the Bold Ideas. They recognized that, while anti-poverty efforts usually consider programmatic solutions, what is really needed is a fundamental shift in policy.

Based on a firm belief that poverty is created because of a lack of, or inappropriate, policies that are designed purposely to exclude people, they shifted their thinking from filling gaps to recognizing that service gaps shouldn’t exist in the first place. They also explored how new policies could be rooted in equity and inclusion.

Questions for reflection

Questions that SPRP and ARN reflected on included the following:

  • How do we make brave and bold decisions to stop doing the same things over and over?

  • How do we disrupt and dismantle systems?

  • How can policies be rewritten to ensure the implementation of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada’s Calls to Action – specifically Call to Action #47 (see call-out box)?

  • How can colonial policymakers design and implement effective policies when the realities and legacies of failed Treaties, The Indian Act and all associated structures exist?

Next steps

Poverty and Racism Are Interconnected | Call to Action #47 We call upon federal, provincial, territorial, and municipal governments to repudiate concepts used to justify European sovereignty over Indigenous peoples and lands, such as the Doctrine of Discovery and terra nullius, and to reform those laws, government policies, and litigation strategies that continue to rely on such concepts.

Recognizing that equity- and inclusion-building requires all partners to understand privilege, power and constructs of race, SPRP will continue to shift mindsets by implementing mandatory training for all partners, and by gaining commitment from each partner that they will train their own agencies (including staff, decision makers, funders, boards of directors, and volunteers).

Next steps include adding youth coordinators and an Elder’s advisory committee, enhancing training modules and creating policy review toolkits and a targeted media campaign.

SPRP and APN plan to conduct a full review of the 12 Bold Ideas and associated policy recommendations from an anti-racist and equity-building lens. SPRP will then take the following actions:

Reframe all of its work with anti-racist and anti-oppressive language
Integrate Gender-Based Analysis Plus (GBA+) and values-based (including equity, wellness, understanding, connection, sustainability and recovery) frameworks
Continue to explore and action anti-poverty and equity-building conversations from a human rights approach.


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