Historic poverty reduction summit brings thought leaders and advocates together from across Canada


In the aftermath of last night’s historic election in Alberta, in which anything seemed possible, a national summit on poverty reduction was buoyed by a sense of change and possibility in Ottawa today.

The National Poverty Reduction Summit, hosted by the Tamarack Institute and Vibrant Communities Canada, is hosting representatives from across Canada in an unparalleled gathering of thought leaders and change makers, in an effort to alight their efforts for poverty reduction.

Paul Born, president and cofounder of Tamarack, told a capacity crowd that at least 50 cities across Canada have active poverty reduction strategies and about 60 others are actively working toward this goal.

“From every province and territory, we’re here to learn from one another,” he says.

Born notes that for the 3.5 million Canadians living in poverty, “this is the beginning…where we agree to act together. We need each other, from coast to coast.”

Stressing that poverty is about an entire society, not just poor people, Born spoke passionately about making a commitment “to the way we live together.”

Chief Kirby Whiteduck, of Pikwakanagan First Nation, spoke after Born and pointed out that the Greater Ottawa Area is on unsur­ren­dered Algo­nquin ter­ri­tory, which means the Algo­nquin peo­ples never gave up, sold, traded, or trans­ferred own­er­ship of their land to Euro­pean colonists. There are cur­rently no treaties that apply to this area.

Chief Whiteduck noted that he was happy to see so many people across the country concerned about poverty and working toward reducing it, considering the troubling statistics for indigenous peoples.

Fully half of status First Nations children in Canada live in poverty, according to the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives. This figure rises to nearly two-thirds in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Chief Whiteduck, an author and historian, says indigenous people need more input and control in the way they live their lives. But he is cautiously optimistic. “It is changing. We think there is some hope and we are open to new ideas and partnerships on ways to reduce poverty.”

About 426,000 indigenous children live in Canada. Most reside in Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Alberta, B.C. and Ontario. The indigenous population is the fastest growing group in Canada.

— More stories to come from the poverty reduction summit.