Sustainable Development Goal 1: No poverty

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG)Footnote 1 aims to eradicate poverty in all its forms, one of humanity’s greatest challenges. Poverty forces individuals to make difficult choices and can result in poor quality of life outcomes including:

  • food insecurity
  • inadequate housing
  • poor health
  • lack of access to services
  • social exclusion
  • other hardships

By 2030, SDG 1 aims to:

  • eradicate extreme poverty
  • reduce poverty by at least 50%
  • implement social protection systems
  • ensure equal rights to ownership, basic services, technology and economic resources
  • build resilience to environmental, economic and social disasters

Canadian ambition: No poverty

Canada’s ambition for this goal is to reduce poverty in Canada in all its forms. Canada’s targets, based on Canada’s Official Poverty Line, are:

  • a 20% reduction in poverty by 2020
  • a 50% reduction in poverty by 2030, relative to 2015 levels

This will lead to the lowest poverty rate in Canada’s history. The 2019 Canadian Income Survey (CIS), released on March 23, 2021, shows that between 2015 and 2019, over 1.3 million Canadians were lifted out of poverty and the poverty rate decreased by 30%.

The second indicator measures asset resilience, defined as having enough savings to maintain well-being for a specified period of time. Asset resilience can provide the security needed to be able to rebound from life's setbacks and build confidence for the future.

Canadian Indicator Framework

In collaboration with federal departments and agencies, Statistics Canada has developed the Canadian Indicator Framework (CIF) for the Sustainable Development Goals. The CIF includes 76 indicators specific to Canada, which measure progress using a set of nationally relevant, objective and comprehensive indicators. CIF indicators for SDG 1 are:

  • poverty rate, as measured by Canada’s Official Poverty Line
  • prevalence of asset resilience

What we are doing to reduce poverty in Canada

The Government of Canada released Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy in 2018. The Poverty Reduction Act, which received Royal Assent in June 2019, entrenches:

  • poverty reduction targets
  • Canada’s Official Poverty Line
  • the National Advisory Council on Poverty into law

This strategy seeks to reduce and remove systemic barriers, including for those communities that face unique barriers that can make them more vulnerable to poverty. For example:

  • single parents (80% of whom are women)
  • single people aged 45 to 64
  • persons with disabilities
  • newcomers
  • Indigenous peoples
  • individuals from Black or other racialized communities, and
  • LGBTQ2+ individuals

The targets of the Strategy are aligned with SDG 1 and aim to reduce poverty by 50% by 2030. Canada’s Official Poverty Line is based on the cost of a “basket” of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs and achieve a modest standard of living in communities across the country. Finally, the National Advisory Council on Poverty counsels the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development on poverty reduction and publicly reports the progress of poverty reduction in Canada every year.

The Canada Child Benefit (CCB) provides support for low- to middle-income families with children aged 17 and under to help them with the high cost of raising children. Because it is based on income, the CCB provides more support to those who need help the most. The CCB is indexed annually and has played a key role in reducing the number of children living in poverty, which has declined by 435,000 between 2015 and 2019.

The Canada Workers Benefit (CWB) is a refundable tax credit that supplements the earnings of low-income workers, letting them take home more money while they work. Budget 2021 expanded the CWB, beginning in the 2021 tax year, to support about one million additional Canadians in low-wage jobs, and bring the total number of CWB recipients to three million per year, both employed and self-employed. It is estimated that this enhancement to the CWB will lift 100,000 people out of poverty.

The Canada Pension Plan enhancement (CPP) will increase the maximum CPP retirement benefit by 50% over time. It will also include an increase to the maximum disability pension and survivor’s pension. Enhancing the CPP will significantly reduce the number of Canadian families at risk of not saving enough for retirement, particularly those who do not have a workplace pension plan.

The Old Age Security (OAS) pension is a monthly payment to seniors who are 65 or older. To give seniors greater financial security and put more money in their pockets as they advance in their retirement, the government is committed to increasing the OAS benefits for seniors age 75 and older.

The Guaranteed Income Supplement (GIS) provides an income tested monthly non-taxable benefit to low-income OAS pension recipients living in Canada. In 2016, to help seniors who are living in poverty or who are most at risk of living in poverty, the majority of whom are women, the Government of Canada increased the GIS for the lowest-income single seniors.

Canada is supporting eligible on-reserve residents across Canada and Status Indians in the Yukon to cover the costs of their daily living and is providing funding to access pre-employment supports through the On-reserve Income Assistance program.

The Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax (GST/HST) credit is a refundable tax credit that helps individuals and families with low and modest incomes offset all or part of the GST or the federal portion of the HST that they pay. About 10.5 million Canadians benefit from this credit each year.

The National Housing Strategy (NHS) is a 10-year, $72+ billion plan. The vision of the NHS is that all Canadians have housing that meets their needs and they can afford. Affordable housing is a cornerstone of sustainable, inclusive communities and a Canadian economy where we can prosper and thrive. The NHS focuses on priority populations including:

  • women and children fleeing domestic violence
  • seniors
  • Indigenous peoples
  • those experiencing homelessness
  • people with disabilities
  • those dealing with mental health and addiction issues
  • veterans
  • the LGBTQ+ community
  • young adults
  • racialized groups including Black Canadians, and
  • recent immigrants and refugees

Reaching Home: Canada’s Homelessness Strategy was launched in April 2019 as a component of the NHS. With enhanced funding announced in response to COVID-19, federal homelessness programming now represents a $3.1 billion investment over 10 years to support the most vulnerable Canadians in:

  • maintaining safe, stable and affordable housing
  • reducing chronic homelessness nationally by 50% by 2027-28.

More recently, the Government of Canada has announced its goal to completely eliminate chronic homelessness across the country.

Under the NHS, the Canada Housing Benefit (CHB) aims to reduce housing need for some of Canada’s most vulnerable, by providing funding directly to households in need to help them afford their housing costs. Canada and the provinces and territories (PTs) co-developed CHB programs that address the unique housing affordability challenges of each jurisdiction while also supporting federal priorities. PTs cost-match the federal CHB investment and are delivering the benefit in each of their jurisdictions.

The Government of Canada initially launched the Rapid Housing Initiative (RHI) in October 2020 as a $1-billion initiative to help address the urgent housing needs of Canadians who are vulnerable, especially in the context of COVID-19, through the rapid construction of affordable housing. The program has since been expanded with an additional $1.5 billion, to address urgent housing needs. As a result, at least 10,000 units of permanent affordable housing are expected to be created for the most vulnerable populations. Under the RHI, 33 percent of units will support women or women and their children, and over 41 percent of units will support Indigenous peoples.

The Government of Canada is working with provincial, territorial, and Indigenous partners to build a Canada-wide, community-based Early Learning and Child Care system, so all families have access to high-quality, affordable, flexible and inclusive early learning and child care no matter where they live. Investing in ELCC will:

  • enable parents, particularly mothers, to reach their full economic potential
  • improve graduation rates
  • promote lifelong well-being
  • boost lifetime earnings
  • increase social equity

With Canada’s COVID-19 Economic Response Plan, the Government has invested in targeted income support to individuals, business, key sectors, and community organizations on the frontlines of serving Canadians to help reduce social inequalities and support vulnerable groups. This includes:

The 2020 Speech from the Throne announced the Disability Inclusion Action Plan, which will include a new Canada Disability Benefit as a cornerstone of this plan. The proposed Canada Disability Benefit would help to reduce poverty amongst working age persons with disabilities.

What Canada is doing to help reduce poverty abroad

Canada’s Official Development Assistance Accountability Act requires that Canadian international assistance has a central focus on poverty reduction and is consistent with aid effectiveness principles. To support local needs and ensure that the perspectives of the poor are considered and are consistent with human rights standards, Canada engages with partner governments, civil society organisations and project participants throughout the lifecycle of its international assistance projects and programs.

In June 2017, Canada launched its Feminist International Assistance Policy, which seeks to:

  • eradicate poverty
  • build a more peaceful, more inclusive and more prosperous world

Canada firmly believes that promoting gender equality and empowering women and girls is the most effective way to achieve this goal and drive progress on all SDGs, including SDG 1. In 2019 to 2020, Canada contributed to the goal of no poverty by providing $6.6 billion in international assistance, implemented through initiatives and commitments under the Policy’s 6 action areas.

The COVID-19 pandemic has had immense socio-economic impacts around the world, particularly affecting the poorest and most vulnerable populations. In fact, the World Bank estimates that an additional 119-124 million people were pushed into extreme poverty in 2020 as a result of the pandemic, the first increase in global extreme poverty in more than 2 decades.

In response to the pandemic, the Government of Canada has committed over $2.6 billion in international assistance since February 2020. These funds have been directed, for example:

  • towards life-saving assistance and delivery of emergency health care
  • towards provision of water, sanitation and hygiene
  • to support continuity of education for children

Over half these funds – more than $1.3 billion – will help facilitate equitable access to COVID-19 medical countermeasures.

In addition, in April 2020, Canada extended a new $1 billion loan to the International Monetary Fund’s Poverty Reduction and Growth Trust (PRGT), which provides concessional financing support to low-income countries. Canada also announced a $107 million grant and an additional $877 million loan to the PRGT in October 2021. All of these investments aim to mitigate the socio-economic impacts of the pandemic, and support the achievement of SDG 1.

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