Open Letter to all Citizens of British Columbia
The current Kaien Anti Poverty Society became a reality in 2003 when a contract to provide after school recreational drop in programming for children, youth and families was signed with Ministry of Children and Family Development.
Since then KAPS, as we are commonly known as, has developed a “free store” for people in need to come in and shop for whatever their household needs may be. Accompanying the free store is an informal social network for people to drop by and talk about common issues/problems and seek information. A pro-bono service through Access Justice Society of Vancouver came about for people in Prince Rupert and surrounding areas to access legal advice through Skype with lawyers in the Lower Mainland. As our consumer population expanded we also expanded our services; a community garden has been developed for people to access and grow vegetables, have flower beds and learn how to be successful as a gardener on the North Coast. We developed a partnership with numerous groups to offer a Food Share program whereby people can access free fruit, veggies and staple food items on a daily basis.
Through our connection with the people who access our services we have come to learn that poverty is a huge issue in our community, region, province, country and the world. 2010 Canadian statistics states one in 10 Canadians live below the poverty line; on and off the reserve, one in four aboriginal people are living in poverty. Canada ranks forth on the United Nations Human Development Index. Statistics measuring aboriginal communities in Canada would rank Canada 78th on the Index; this status is currently held by Peru (a Third World country by all other measurements). 2010 statistics also state 770,000 Canadians use food banks on a monthly basis.
The United Nations Millennium Development Goals to End Poverty were established to cut poverty in half by 2015. On September 25, 2013 World Leaders agreed to scale up action against extreme poverty, hunger and disease and called for a 2015 Summit to adopt the next set of goals to focus on continued efforts. In 1989 there was an all party resolution passed here in Canada, to end child poverty by 2000. But no plan was adopted to achieve the goal. In 2007, the House of Commons Standing Committee on Finance recommended in its pre-budget report that the Federal Government develop a poverty reduction strategy with targets and timelines to reduce child poverty in Canada. It also recommended a coordinated strategy of meeting with provincial and territorial governments and groups assisting and/or representing the disadvantaged Canadians. The “Make Poverty History” campaign puts forward achievable demands; but here in Canada, we have never had a comprehensive anti-poverty strategy.
In 2014 there are all but two provinces in Canada with poverty reduction plans. British Columbia is one of the hold-out provinces. There are 4.3 million people living in this beautiful section of Canada. However, B.C. has the highest poverty rate in Canada; 13 per cent of B.C.’s population (550,000) lives in poverty. We have the highest child poverty rate in Canada at 16 per cent. Just think of it, 16 per cent of our children in British Columbia live in poverty. Why? Why is B.C. not establishing a poverty reduction plan? Why are our politicians avoiding the issue? In this days and age there is absolutely no reason for people to be waking up hungry, going to work or school hungry and managing their day with hunger pangs interrupting their thinking or learning process. Wake up B.C.; get on board the anti-poverty train.
Improving life with less hunger, improved housing, education opportunities leading to employment locally, all begins at the local level; we need to stand as one in our communities and demand change.
British Columbians need to shout long and loud our concerns to government leaders, and demand we be part of the solution.
Chair, Kaien Anti Poverty Society