In December, Alternatives North, a social justice coalition in the Northwest Territories (NWT) released its first-ever Poverty Report Card, as a partner in Campaign 2000. Alternatives North works with No Place for Poverty Coalition to advocate for ending poverty in the territory.
This is a timely report card, one which factors in the current COVID-19 pandemic and its inevitable consequences on poverty. Contextualizing poverty within the wider historical, political, environmental, economic and health circumstances grounds and shapes actions needed.
Recognizing the complexity of poverty and its multifaceted nature, the group was able to collect data using 36 indicators accessed through Statistics Canada and NWT Bureau of Statistics. The report details areas of progress, flags gaps and an urgency to do more. Of note, promising progress on policies has been made, such as the wage top-up program for low-income earners. But there remains a division between the ‘haves and the have-nots’ - widespread inequalities persist. Inequities in access to services and socio-economic opportunities undermine basic living standards and participation in society. Many families continue to face financial challenges, with housing and food insecurity high on the list of struggles. It points to successful anti-poverty initiatives such as Housing First, family literacy programs and community-run social enterprises. A key strength identified is that adults in the NWT have a stronger sense of community and belonging than Canadians as a whole.
The report highlights government policy responses to the pandemic and the need to consider these as more than mere short-term measures to address poverty. Key recommendations to help make lives better include prioritizing basic guaranteed income, a living wage and economic restructuring, and an ongoing examination of the data trends.
Poverty Report Cards are an example of gathering and consolidating data, interpreting and presenting it in a way that provides a snapshot of the current realities. They promote public understanding and an audit of the local, provincial/territorial, or national status of poverty. Using evidence in this way makes a stronger case for poverty reduction strategies needed to achieve outcomes and long-term impact.
Campaign 2000 has been working on annual report cards as a way to track progress against child and family poverty. The national report is released every year to mark the passage of the 1989 resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.
Take Learn Your Further:
- Read the Case Study: The Social Justice Imperative in the Northwest Territories
- Learn about Alternatives North