British Columbia

Discrimination and poverty linked, says B.C. NDP report into poverty reduction

Poverty and discrimination are closely linked, according to a report released Thursday that compiled the results of provincewide public consultations.

B.C. remains only province without poverty reduction strategy

The government spoke with dozens of communities across the province and found common themes of discrimination and poverty. (Christopher Katsarov/Canadian Press)

Poverty and discrimination are closely linked, according to a report released Thursday that compiled the results of provincewide public consultations.

The What We Heard About Poverty in B.C. report is the result of public input on B.C.'s first official poverty reduction strategy.

Much of the report's information came from feedback the government received from B.C. residents during community meetings held across the province from Nov. 2017 to March 2018.

The government says it intends to use the information gathered to create a provincewide poverty reduction plan.

B.C.'s Ministry of Social Development and Poverty Reduction says the province has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada, yet B.C. is the only province without a formal poverty reduction plan.

The government says the official plan will be rolled out this fall.

Public feedback came from various engagement sessions held by the province and via emails, letters and phone calls from concerned citizens.

The B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition also provided the government with the results of surveys and focus groups designed to discover what British Columbians want to see from the plan.

"I'm glad we're in the process of finally developing a poverty reduction plan for B.C," said Trish Garner, the coalition's community organizer.

"It's exciting times, having not had a strategy for so long."

Common themes

The report found that those who experience poverty do so for a wide variety of reasons, but there are a number of "common themes" surrounding poverty in the province. The government said the results of public consultations have made it clear that poverty and discrimination are linked.

Indigenous peoples and persons with disabilities are twice as likely to live in poverty as other people, it said. Refugees and immigrants also experience high rates of poverty, as do people of colour, single parents, women, queer, non-binary and transgender people. 

The report said people in these groups are also more likely to experience difficulties finding employment, housing and accessing the services they need.

Immediate action

Garner said the NDP government has done a "good job" getting wheels moving on developing a plan but said there are immediate actions the province can take in the meantime.

Raising income assistance and disability rates would be a good move, said Garner. The NDP raised those rates by $100 per month when it first took office, but Garner says they should be increased further.

"That's something we could do immediately. It's something they heard at the consultations as a significant issue," said Garner.

"It's something we could do right now as we do the bigger work of developing the plan."

With files from On the Coast

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