Labour Views: Economic Security is Dignity

By Lorraine Rousseau

Poverty is more expensive than implementing programs to leave no one behind. As I’m writing this column, we’re preparing for a panel that our union will be hosting. By the time this article is published, we would have already had the opportunity to hear from our speakers on what’s Guaranteed Livable Basic Income, and why we need this in the North.

I’m not an expert on this topic, but like you, I witness the faces of poverty every day. We don’t have to look far to see what poverty looks like. Homelessness. Food insecurity. And it’s not hard to imagine, what are the consequences of poverty for individuals, families and communities.

Communities from coast to coast to coast are impacted by the increasing cost of living. According to Statics Canada, nationally, the consumer price index peaked at a 40-year high of 8.1 per cent. Many goods and services continue to get more expensive. Although, this inflation and increase cost of living impact all over Canada, it’s more prominent in northern communities where the rates of poverty and food insecurity are higher. 

There is no one solution to end this. Governments must work together to implement programs that leave no one behind. Poverty isn’t a choice, it’s a reality that many have no option but to live with. Food insecurity is a large component of poverty, but it’s not the only one. Earlier this year, we launched Illunnata campaign that focuses on finding solutions to end food insecurity. Illunnata means “all of us” in Inuktitut, because all of us deserve food security. Affected individuals and families are welcome to share their stories on the platform. For all of us, I want to invite you to take action and send a letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations Marc Miller and Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Mari-Claude Bibeau, demanding an end to northern food insecurity. Visit for more information. These actions, whether large or small, a few minutes or months; all do make change happen. Anyone one of us could be facing or are facing the loss of Human Rights: food, water and dignity.

Economic security is essential

As individuals and organizations, we should not ignore the increase in cost of living. For individuals who are unemployed, in precarious jobs or earning below the living wage, basic life necessities are not affordable. Programs such as Guaranteed Livable Basic Income aim to lift individuals and communities out of poverty. This is not a novel idea.

In a 1967 speech, “Where Do We Go From Here?” given in Atlanta, Martin Luther King Jr. said: “The dignity of the individual will flourish when the decisions concerning his life are in his own hands, when he has the assurance that his income is stable and certain, and when he know that he has the means to seek self-improvement.”

Nothing describes the outcomes of economic security more than this. ‘Why don’t they work?’ We hear this too often when suggesting or discussing programs such as basic income. Here is my answer: If you’re fortunate to have a good paying job, we are very pleased for you. However, we you know that poverty is a cycle. If a person is forced daily to choose between putting food on the table and paying for rent, where and when would they be able to invest in making themselves more employable?

I invite you, to take a collective action. Demand change. Send an email to your Member of Parliament (MP) or have an in-person meeting with them. Ask about their position on implementing programs such as Guaranteed Livable Basic Income or other similar concepts that aim to end poverty and help lift everyone up. Demand their support and have conversations about urgent issues such as making life affordable.

The North wants and needs your voice. 

The column was published in the Yellowknifer on October 26, 2022.