By Lorraine Rousseau
We often speak of ‘back to normal,’ a ‘reset,’ or ‘before the pandemic;’ however, was it that desirable? Now is the time for a reset, a just recovery. Meaning that the systemic issues, the societal injustices, the unattainable means to survive that have been highlighted over and again, these cannot be an acceptable part of our communities any further. No one can be or should be left behind. We have this opportunity to address the most vulnerable individuals, families and communities. When the term ‘poverty’ is mentioned, many think of extreme situations that happen thousands of miles away from this land called Canada. Sadly, we don’t have to look too far or beyond geographic borders to witness poverty.
Children going hungry to schools. Families unable to afford healthy nutritional food. A worker earning minimum wage unable to afford decent shelter. A woman choosing to stay in an abusive relationship because she can’t afford to leave. The list is long and frankly heartbreaking. We see this every day, and this could be anyone of us, a family member or friend. If you wonder what the faces of poverty are, those are the faces of poverty in our communities, we at any given moment could find ourselves destitute — in the North and across the country.
Here is how the World Bank Organization describes poverty:
“Poverty has many faces, changing from place to place and across time, and has been described in many ways. Most often, poverty is a situation people want to escape. So, poverty is a call to action — for the poor and the wealthy alike — a call to change the world so that many more may have enough to eat, adequate shelter, access to education and health, protection from violence, and a voice in what happens in their communities.”
Working together to eradicate poverty is not an act of charity, it’s an obligation to restore and establish justice that has been undermined by systems oriented for the benefit of few. How can we work together to ensure that no one is left behind?
Guaranteed Basic or Livable Income is one of the solutions, and I believe that it will be the most effective one. Nationally, Canada needs the political will to implement Guaranteed Basic Income. Are we able to afford it? Yes.
When the federal government launched Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) last year, this gave a glimpse of hope that when emerging from the pandemic it could be turned to Guaranteed Basic Income that would help lift struggling Canadians out of poverty. However, CERB was not a Guaranteed Basic Income nor a pilot project to implement a program beyond COVID-19 response— and there were conditions to qualify. Workers were only eligible if they were out of work for specific reasons.
What’s Guaranteed Livable Income?
According to Evelyn Forget, the author of Basic Income for Canadians: from the COVID-19 emergency to financial security for all, Guaranteed Livable Income ensures that “anyone with no other source of income would receive an amount sufficient to live a modest but dignified life. Anyone who works but still lives in poverty would receive a partial benefit.”
This income is more than band-aid solution to help individuals with no or little source of income. It’s meant to be a sustainable system.
This is not a partisan issue. Regardless of whether the proposed is Guaranteed Livable Income or Universal Basic Income the two have garnered support from politicians across the political spectrum.
If you’re wondering, what can you do to help advocate for basic income, there are resources on www.ubiworks.ca. On December 16, 2021, Member of Parliament Leah Gazan introduced Bill C-223, which if passed would establish the first national framework for a Guaranteed Livable Basic Income across Canada. This text was introduced by Senator Kim Pate, forming a coordinated effort from within the House of Commons and the Senate.
You can help by asking your Member of Parliament to vote yes on Bill C-223. Every voice count, sign the petition on UBI website and/or call your MP.
Let’s all work together to lift each other up. When we emerge from this pandemic, we should not be back to normal. We should emerge to a reality where no one is left behind.
This article originally appeared in the Yellowknifer on January 19, 2022