My father used to say this to me often as a kid, it was all about applying lessons and not making the same mistakes again, sometimes the lessons required more than one mistake to sink in, but such is life. I thought it would be an appropriate title for this post as it beautifully summarizes the learning journey that we, National Advisory Council on Poverty, went on over the past year.
One year ago, we were eight weeks into a cross Canada tour, and had hosted engagement dialogues in Surrey, New Westminster, Abbotsford, East Hastings, Yellowknife, Edmonton, Prince Albert, Saskatoon, and Winnipeg. However, our tour was cut short as the world shutdown in response to COVID-19.
While we had planned on talking with people in Toronto, Montreal, Ottawa, Quebec, Halifax, St. Johns, Charlottetown, and Fredericton, we had to all go home. We started going through the conversations we did have with over 200 people during those first two weeks.
“What does Poverty Mean to You?”
This was how each conversation started. Where they went was up to those that were living out the experience. These people shared powerful stories of struggle and grit and caring which became the foundation of the report. Their tales of disappointment, hope and confusion recommitted the Council to give voice to the voiceless and bring lessons from the edge to the center of the national conversation.
We sought out statistics that could reflect the experience of those we never got to talk to. To our surprise, they were not able to be broken down, or did not exist. We questioned how anyone could make evidence informed decisions without any evidence?
We had many questions. We wanted to know more; we wanted to do more. We met often, challenging ideas, and opinions, seeking out experts and data, writing and reviewing and rewriting until we felt that, to the best of our ability, the report honored those that had shared themselves with us.
The National Advisory Council on Poverty released the first annual report on our progress toward meeting Canada’s poverty reduction goals, including a 20% reduction in our national poverty rate by 2020 and a 50% reduction by 2030, as set out in Opportunity for All: Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Building understanding: The first report of the National Advisory Council on Poverty (2020) is an honest reflection of the people we met, the stories they told and what we learned though the process. When I read the report, I hear the individual members speaking passionately through various sections. I remember the time we took breaking down stories into themes and looking for upstream policy alternatives. I can feel the care for others that went into the report from all of our members in the middle of a global pandemic.
Here is the report. I hope it provides you with insight, empathy, and a deeper connection to our shared humanity, I know it does for me.
Scott MacAfee, Chair, National Advisory Council on Poverty