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Relative poverty in the Canadian subdivisions (territories not included).
  13 - 13.9
  12 - 12.9
  11 - 11.9
  No data

Poverty in Canada remains prevalent within some segments of society and according to a 2008 report by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, the rate of poverty in Canada, is among the highest of the OECD member nations, the world's wealthiest industrialized nations.[1] Canada's official poverty line was set out in Opportunity for All- Canada's First Poverty Reduction Strategy, published in August, 2018[2] This measure is based on the cost of a basket of goods and services in the various regions of Canada. Dennis Raphael, author of Poverty in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life[3][4] reported that the United Nations Development Program, the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development and Canadian poverty researchers[notes 1][5] find that relative poverty is the "most useful measure for ascertaining poverty rates in wealthy developed nations such as Canada."[1][6][7][8] In its report released the Conference Board.[9] Currently, an income inequality measure known as low income cut-off (LICO) published by Statistics Canada is frequently used as a poverty rate and is 10.8% as of 2005.[10] The Central Intelligence Agency uses the LICO as the relative measure results in a higher poverty figure than an absolute one. Statistics Canada has refused to endorse any metric as a measure of poverty, including the low-income cut off it publishes, without a mandate to do so from the federal government. Statistics Canada is looking into creating an initiative on how to better calculate the poverty line.

Some elements that work towards reducing poverty in Canada include Canada's strong economic growth, government transfers to persons of $164 billion per annum as of 2008,[11] universal medical and public education systems, and minimum wage laws in each of the provinces and territories of Canada.

In recent times, after a spike in poverty and low-income rates around the 1996 recession, relative poverty has continued to decline. Certain groups experience higher low-income rates, including children,[12] families with single-parent mothers, Indigenous peoples, the mentally ill, the physically handicapped, recent immigrants,[13][14] and students.[citation needed]



Canada's history is marked by identified periods of growth and recession, and an evolving response of government intervention to assist low-income Canadians.

Reflecting the practice in the British Isles, organized assistance to the poor was largely the realm of churches.[15] In the early 20th century, the Catholic Encyclopedia reported that there were eighty-seven hospitals in Canada under the control and direction of various Catholic religious communities.[16]

After the Great Depression, Bennett and Mackenzie King spurred the first stages of Canada's welfare state, and the size and role of the government began to grow immensely over the next decades. Many social programs developed during this time designed to increase the Canadian citizen's quality of life.

According to one estimate, 15% of Canadians lived in poverty by 1961,[17] while at the end of the Sixties, Statistics Canada estimated that the number of Canadians living in poverty (using measurements drawn up by Jenny Podoluk) had fallen from about 25% of the population in 1961 to about 18% in 1969.[18] A Senate inquiry in 1969, however, estimated that as many as 1 in 4 Canadians were living in poverty that year.[19] From 1969 to 1982, the proportion of families with incomes below the poverty line fell from 20.8% to 13.9%.[20] According to one definition, nearly two-fifths of Canadians lived in poverty in 1951, falling slightly to more than one-fifth in 1961 and to slightly less than one-fifth by 1968.[21]

In recent years, newly arrived immigrants have higher than average low-income rates, although each immigrant arrival cohort year experiences a declining low-income rate over time.

Colonial history of povertyEdit

Poverty in Canada must be understood within the context of this British colony (traditional Indigenous lands) being shaped by two intersecting of the pillars: racism and classism. Woodworth’s (1909) manuscript, “Strangers within our Gates or Coming Canadians” is a tell-all account of the hierarchical desirability of immigrants to recruit and accept for immigration and thus, colonization..[22] We see these echoes in all facets of Canadian institutions and society today. White, wealthy male Protestants (and their families) from Great Britain were the most desirable. Second, white, wealthy male Catholics (and their families) from Great Britain. As one goes down the hierarchy of “desirable” immigrants, skin colour deepens and socioeconomic status decreases. This desirability included people who were viewed as most likely to assimilate to Northern European cultures, language, customs, etc. That is, British in most regions. The most desirable were immigrants from Great Britain; the least desirable were "the Negro and the Indian" (p. 9). "Indian" in this context refers to Indigenous peoples whose lands, cultures, languages were being stolen and lives destroyed.

The legacy of colonization continues to this day. See the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for more information.[23][24]

Measures of poverty in CanadaEdit

As of 2018, Canada has no official poverty measure.[25] Instead, researchers and governments have used a variety of measures of the depth and extent of poverty in Canada.[26][27]

Market basket measureEdit

The Government of Canada's Department of Human Resources and Skills Development Canada developed the Market Basket Measure (MBM) of poverty in 2003.[28][29] MBM thresholds take into account community size, location and household and composition, estimating the disposable income required to meet basic needs.[30][31] Forty eight Canadian communities have been included in the measure.[27]

The government of Newfoundland and Labrador are now developing a market basket measure which is more granular, costing out a set of basic goods in over 400 communities in the province.[27]

In August 2018, it was announced that the Government of Canada was going to use the MBM as the official poverty line.[32]

Low-Income Cut-OffEdit

Source: Statistics Canada

Low-income cut-off (LICO) rates are often quoted by the media as a measure of poverty[33] even though Statistics Canada has stated it is not a poverty measure.[25] It is also used by statistics collators like the Central Intelligence Agency in lieu of an official measure, although the CIA also notes that it "results in higher figures than found in many comparable economies".[34]

The measure has been reported by Statistics Canada since the 1960s.[35] They were reported only in their "pre-tax" form until 2000, at which point Statistics Canada started to publish both pre and after-tax LICO rates. After-tax LICO rates have been retroactively calculated back to 1986. The measure is intended to represent an income threshold below which a family will likely devote a larger share of its income on the necessities of food shelter and clothing than the average family.[36] As of 2011, 8.8% of Canadians are in a family whose income is below the after-tax low-income cut-off.[37]

There are 7 family sizes and 5 community sizes, resulting in 35 total LICO groups, each one evaluated on a pre and after-tax basis (70 calculations in total). The LICO is currently set at 63% of the average family income within each group. This stems from the 1992 Family Expenditures Survey, which showed the average family spent 43% of its after-tax income on food, shelter and clothing, plus Statistics Canada added an additional 20% margin.

Statistics Canada prefers using the after-tax LICO over the pre-tax LICO "to draw conclusions about [families] overall economic well-being";[38] however, the pre-tax measures are needed depending on the study being conducted because some sources of data, such as the census, contain only pre-tax income information. It can also be useful to know the pre-tax income profile of groups before the effects of progressive tax rates.

Low Income MeasureEdit

The Low Income Measure is a purer measure of relative income. It is defined as 50% of median income, adjusted for family size. In effect, this measure indicates the percentage or number of people in the bottom income quartile.

It is considered an especially useful measure for international comparisons, and is popular with anti-poverty groups and some foreign governments (e.g., Ireland).[39] It results in a higher measure of poverty compared to other measures. In 2017, it was estimated to be 12.9% on an after-tax basis.[37]

Gini coefficientEdit

Gini coefficient, income distribution by country.

The Gini coefficient is a measure of statistical dispersion most prominently used as a measure of inequality of income distribution or inequality of wealth distribution. It is defined as a ratio with values between 0 and 1: the numerator is the area between the Lorenz curve of the distribution and the uniform distribution line; the denominator is the area under the uniform distribution line. Thus, a low Gini coefficient indicates more equal income or wealth distribution, while a high Gini coefficient indicates more unequal distribution. 0 corresponds to perfect equality (everyone having exactly the same income) and 1 corresponds to perfect inequality (where one person has all the income, while everyone else has zero income). The Gini coefficient requires that no one have a negative net income or wealth.

Serious consideration of the Gini coefficient for public policy implications is rare in Canada. Discussion of income inequality in the Canadian media generally implies that income inequality should be continually reduced as an objective, whereas international economists evaluating Gini coefficients generally focus on the idea of targeting an optimal range for the Gini coefficient. Some researchers have suggested the optimal Gini coefficient range is about .25-.40 (Wolfgang Kitterer, 2006, More Growth through Redistribution?). As of 2004, the Gini coefficient for Canada was estimated to be 0.315 on an after-tax basis.[40]

Poverty reduction strategiesEdit

Several Canadian provinces are introducing poverty reduction strategies, following the examples set by the European Union, Ireland and the United Kingdom. Newfoundland & Labrador, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario and Manitoba are all developing provincial strategies. Quebec and Manitoba have enshrined their efforts in legislation. Newfoundland & Labrador has established a provincial ministry. Ontario has set a cabinet roundtable to address child poverty, as per the Liberals's campaign promise.

Because of these moves, each province is exploring the development of a measurement tool to track any progress made on reducing poverty, such as the use of a Deprivation Index.

As of August 2018, the Government of Canada has introduced the "Opportunity for All" which is being deemed Canada's first official poverty reduction strategy.[41]

Indigenous children in CanadaEdit

According to a left-wing think tank, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, "Based on data from the 2006 census, this study found that the average child poverty rate for all children in Canada is 17%, while the average child poverty rate for all Indigenous children is more than twice that figure, at 40%." "50% — of status First Nations children live below the poverty line. This number grows to 62% in Manitoba and 64% in Saskatchewan."[42] The study referred to used the Low Income Measure as their definition for poverty, which always shows a high rate. Nonetheless, the much higher LIM statistics for indigenous families indicates a much higher level of poverty among that demographic.

Assistance for poor people in CanadaEdit

Government transfers and interventionEdit

Reduced tax burdenEdit

The Canadian income tax system is highly progressive. This can be seen by comparing the 2005 pre-tax low-income cut-off rate of 15.3%[43] with the after-tax rate of only 10.8%.[44] It is also evident in the Gini coefficient, which was estimated to be 0.428 on a pre-tax basis but only 0.315 on an after-tax basis.[40] The Conference Board of Canada 2013 study noted the Canadian system provides relief to the poor which contributes to lowering poverty rates in Canada. Their 2013 report stated that without Canada's tax system and transfers, the poverty rate would have been 23 per cent not the current 12 per cent.[5]

Social programsEdit

The Conference Board of Canada 2013 study noted "that due to the tax system and transfers to the poor, income inequality is 27 per cent lower than it otherwise would be."[5] Canada has a wide range of government transfers to persons, which totaled $176.6 billion in 2009.[11] Some of the transfers designed to assist low-income people in Canada include Welfare and Old age security. There is also an extensive mandatory Employment Insurance program designed to assist workers who have become unemployed to lessen the chance of them falling into poverty.

In addition to government transfers, there are number of other publicly funded services and social programs that benefit those with low-incomes like Medicare, Public education for grade school; subsidized post-secondary education, Subsidized housing, and Employment equity programs, which often target various groups of people who are deemed to be susceptible to having low-incomes.

Working income tax benefitEdit

The WITB was introduced in 2007 to encourage low income people to enter the labour force, and to provide them with increased financial support. The WITB has been expanded considerably since its introduction. As of 2012, it is worth up to $970 for a single individual, $1762 for couples and single parent families.[45] A person or couple must have at least $3,000 in employment income, and not be a student, to be eligible for WITB. Benefits increase, and then decrease, with income, and are completely clawed back at an income of $11,011 for singles, $15,205 for couples or single parents (in 2012).These credits are not taxed (see Income taxes in Canada#Income not taxed).

Child creditsEdit

Low-income Canadians are eligible for the Canada Child Tax Benefit (a federal benefit), and provincial child tax credits or benefits and Québec family allowances. For example, Ontario pays a benefit scheduled to grow to $180 per month by 2011 for a family earnings less than $20,000 with two children.[46] These credits are not taxed (see Income taxes in Canada#Income not taxed).

Minimum wage lawsEdit

Under the Constitution of Canada, the responsibility for enacting and enforcing labour laws including minimum wages in Canada rests with the ten provinces, the three territories also having been granted this power by virtue of federal legislation. This means that each province and territory has its own minimum wage. The lowest general minimum wage currently in force is that of the Nova Scotia ($10.85/hour), the highest is that of Ontario ($14.00/hour).[47] Some provinces allow lower wages to be paid to liquor servers and other tip earners, and/or to inexperienced employees

Although listed here under assistance, some theories suggest that minimum wage laws are a net detriment to low-income people as a whole, because they reduce the attractiveness of hiring low-skilled staff (see Minimum wage#Debate over consequences).


  1. ^ The Conference Board of Canada "uses the OECD's relative measure of child poverty, which calculates the proportion of children living in households where disposable income is less than 50 per cent of the median in each country." The Conference Board 2013 cautioned that Canada's high poverty rate, ranks among the worst of the 17 countries they compared. "Canada's child poverty rate was 15.1 per cent, up from 12.8 per cent in the mid-1990s. Only the United States ranked lower.

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Growing unequal? Income distribution and poverty in OECD countries". Paris, France: Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). 2008. Missing or empty |url= (help)
  2. ^ Canada, Employment and Social Development (2018-08-21). "Canada's First Poverty Reduction Strategy". aem. Retrieved 2019-07-22.
  3. ^ Dennis Raphael Foreword by Rob Rainer and Jack Layton (13 April 2007). Poverty in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life (1st ed.). Canadian Scholars Press. ISBN 155130323X. Archived from the original on 6 April 2012.
  4. ^ Dennis Raphael Foreword by Rob Rainer and Jack Layton (2011). Poverty in Canada: Implications for Health and Quality of Life (1st ed.). Canadian Scholars Press. Archived from the original on 2012-04-06.
  5. ^ a b c "Child Poverty". Ottawa, ON: Conference Board of Canada. 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-06-04.
  6. ^ Raphael, Dennis (June 2009). "Poverty, Human Development, and Health in Canada: Research, Practice, and Advocacy Dilemmas". Canadian Journal of Nursing Research. 41 (2): 7–18.
  7. ^ Child poverty in rich nations: Report card no. 6 (Report). Innocenti Research Centre. 2005.
  8. ^ Human development report: Capacity development: Empowering people and institutions (Report). Geneva: United Nations Development Program. 2008.
  9. ^ "Canada falling behind on poverty, inequality, says report of Canada ranked 7th out of 17 developed countries". CBC. February 2013. Archived from the original on 2013-06-19.
  10. ^ "Poverty Measure in Canada Analysis". CBC. Archived from the original on 2 January 2007. Retrieved 4 January 2007.
  11. ^ a b Government transfer payments to persons Archived 2008-11-04 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, 8 November 2007, URL accessed 4 December 2007
  12. ^ Innocenti Report Card (PDF) (Report). UNICEF. 2001. Archived (PDF) from the original on 2012-06-17.
  13. ^ The rise in low-income rates among immigrants in Canada Archived 2013-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, Analytical Studies Branch research paper series, Statistics Canada, June 2003, URL accessed 20 September 2006
  14. ^ Chronic Low Income and Low-income Dynamics Among Recent Immigrants Archived 2009-10-01 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, January 2007, URL accessed 30 January 2007
  15. ^ Poverty - A short history Archived 2011-10-27 at the Wayback Machine, Tristat Resources, URL accessed 2 December 2007
  16. ^ Poverty and Pauperism Archived 2006-06-14 at the Wayback Machine, Catholic Encyclopedia, URL accessed 2 December 2007
  17. ^ Brown, Craig (1 October 2012). "Illustrated History of Canada". McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP. Retrieved 9 May 2018 – via Google Books.
  18. ^ The Canadian economy: problems and policies by G. C. Ruggeri
  19. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2012-08-12. Retrieved 2012-08-12.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  20. ^ Daniel Drache; Duncan Cameron, Royal Commission on the Economic Union and Development Prospects for Canada (1985). The Other MacDonald Report: The Consensus on Canada's Future That the MacDonald Commission Left Out. James Lorimer & Company. p. 64. ISBN 978-0-88862-900-5.CS1 maint: Uses authors parameter (link)
  21. ^ Annual Report, United Church of Canada. Board of Evangelism and Social Service, 1970
  22. ^ Woodsworth, J. S. (James Shaver) ([1909]). Strangers within our gates : or, coming Canadians. Robarts - University of Toronto. Toronto : F.C. Stephenson. Check date values in: |date= (help)CS1 maint: Date and year (link)
  23. ^ Canada, Government of Canada; Indigenous and Northern Affairs (2015-12-14). "Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada". Retrieved 2019-07-18.
  24. ^ "Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada", Wikipedia, 2019-05-15, retrieved 2019-07-18
  25. ^ a b On poverty and low income Archived 2007-09-16 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, 1997, URL accessed 2 December 2007
  26. ^ Low Income in Canada: 2000-2006 Using the Market Basket Measure - October 2008 Archived 2009-06-22 at the Wayback Machine, Human Resources and Skills Development Canada
  27. ^ a b c Standing Committee on Human Resources, Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities Archived 2009-06-24 at the Wayback Machine, 17 April 2008
  28. ^ "Archived copy" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-27. Retrieved 2009-03-10.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  29. ^ "What do we Mean by Poverty?". 1999-01-15. Archived from the original on 2011-02-01. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  30. ^ "Market Basket Measure Report now available". 2005-03-07. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  31. ^ "Low Income Incidence / Financial Security / Indicators of Well-being in Canada". Archived from the original on 2011-07-06. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  32. ^ Canada, Government of Canada, Statistics. "Measuring low income and Canada's Official Poverty Line". Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  33. ^ Poverty Measure in Canada Analysis Archived 2007-01-02 at the Wayback Machine, CBC, URL accessed 4 January 2007
  34. ^ Population below poverty line Archived 2015-11-09 at the Wayback Machine, The World Factbook, CIA, updated on March 20, 2008.
  35. ^ What's behind a poverty line? Archived 2007-12-14 at the Wayback Machine, Canadian Council on Social Development, 9 June 2000, URL accessed 2 December 2007
  36. ^ Low Income Cut-offs for 2005 and Low Income Measures for 2004 Archived 2007-03-20 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, 2006, URL accessed 2 December 2007
  37. ^ a b "Persons in low income, by economic family type". 2013-06-27. Archived from the original on 2016-01-22. Retrieved 2015-10-12.
  38. ^ Low income definitions Archived 2007-03-05 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, 2005, URL accessed 2 December 2007
  39. ^ "LICOs - Absolute or relative poverty measure??". 2008-06-04. Archived from the original on 2011-07-17. Retrieved 2011-02-28.
  40. ^ a b Income Inequality and Redistribution in Canada: 1976 to 2004 Archived 2007-12-02 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, 11 May 2007, URL accessed 2 December 2007
  41. ^ Canada, Employment and Social Development. "Poverty Reduction Strategy -". Retrieved 2018-10-18.
  42. ^ Macdonald, David; Wilson, Daniel (June 2013). Poverty or Prosperity Indigenous Children in Canada (PDF) (Report). Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. Archived (PDF) from the original on 4 March 2016. Retrieved 19 June 2013.
  43. ^ Persons in low income before tax, by prevalence in percent Archived 2007-12-21 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, 1 May 2007, URL accessed 4 December 2007
  44. ^ Persons in low income after tax, by prevalence in percent Archived 2007-11-23 at the Wayback Machine, Statistics Canada, 1 May 2007, URL accessed 4 December 2007
  45. ^ Woolley, Frances. "Five Years of the Working Income Tax Benefit". Archived from the original on November 6, 2012. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  46. ^ Making It A Little Easier For Low-Income Ontario Families Archived 2009-06-21 at the Wayback Machine, Government of Ontario press release, 22 February 2008, URL accessed 22 February 2008
  47. ^ "Minimum Wage by Province". Retail Council of Canada. November 2017. Archived from the original on 25 December 2017. Retrieved 24 December 2017.

Further readingEdit

External linksEdit