Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 15/10/2009 (2719 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
For people younger than 18, the percentage is even higher -- 21 per cent fall below the Low Income Cutoff indicator.
Though we are no longer known as "the child poverty capital of Canada," those numbers are still cause for alarm as too often it is the children who are the victims of poverty.
While there is cause for alarm, however, there is also cause for hope as there are signs of a growing consensus in Winnipeg that something needs to be done about the dismal situation that these statistics portray.
The fight against poverty is too large an issue for government to handle alone. It requires leadership from every sector of our community, from business owners, those working for social service agencies, and educators.
This realization led United Way of Winnipeg to establish the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council two years ago. The council has engaged senior leaders from all sectors in what is anticipated will be a strategic and sustained effort to address poverty in Winnipeg. Over the past year, the council has been able to establish solid partnerships and collaborations with several community groups who are doing outstanding work in our inner city. While the jury is still out, the potential is promising as the broad-based consensus to do something about poverty takes hold.
It is noteworthy that last month the Winnipeg Chamber of Commerce chose to make poverty the first topic for its We Believe in Winnipeg breakfast series. The first speaker, the president and CEO of the Business Council of Manitoba, a group of 65 CEOs of Manitoba's leading companies, had a clear and concise message: Poverty is everyone's business.
The business council is actively engaged in commendable work to combat poverty. Of particular note is the business council's scholarship program through which to date some 1,000 aboriginal youth have received awards totalling $2.8 million.
Some recipients have also been provided with job opportunities, which can go a long way to provide the kind of assistance needed to break the cycle of generational stagnation and poverty that affects so many in the aboriginal community.
The City of Winnipeg must be recognized for its leadership in deciding to collaborate with United Way, Make Poverty History Manitoba and the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council in holding a roundtable discussion on poverty last month as part of its Speak Up Winnipeg initiative.
The issue was deemed important enough to hold a separate round-table as part of the city's consultations in drafting its most important policy document, Our Winnipeg. There were 70 people in attendance; more than double the number for any of the city's previous seven round-tables. The turnout demonstrated how important the issue of poverty is to the community.
The Manitoba Chambers of Commerce also needs to be recognized for its leadership a year ago when it signed on to the Raise the Rates campaign to increase payment levels for people on welfare and social assistance.
Another cause for hope is the Manitoba government's commitment to the ALL Aboard Strategy to reduce poverty. A commitment that comes with $212 million in new funding.
All who are concerned about poverty would have been both impressed, and gratified by the leadership forum on poverty at the University of Winnipeg earlier this month. It was gratifying that the Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall was filled to the rafters and that both Steve Ashton and Greg Selinger, the men who are vying to be our next premier, spoke passionately about their commitment to reducing poverty.
A key recurring theme for the evening was that regardless of where you live in Manitoba, or your own personal circumstances, fighting poverty is everyone's business.
So there is hope. Our leaders are showing their support. Business owners and legislators and educators are involved. But we are far from having won the war on poverty.
We must continue to work together to make Winnipeg a city where everyone belongs. For that to happen, everyone needs to play a part. Not just government. Not just social service agencies. Not just the business community.
Because the issue is so invasive, so intricate and so insidious, it requires a strong commitment from every one of us. Everyone has a role to play. Your part can be as simple as volunteering your time at an inner-city school. It can be mentoring a young person. It can be donating cash. It can be lobbying your elected representatives so all political parties see this issue as a priority.
Many of our leaders have shown their commitment to reduce poverty. It is time now for all to get involved because poverty, "the worst form of violence," as Ghandi said, is everyone's business.
Harry Finnigan is managing director of the Winnipeg Poverty Reduction Council