Coming together for our collective dignity

Open letter published in La Presse, Le Devoir, Journal Métro and The Gazette on 17 October 2017 on the occasion of the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty.

 

Coming together for our collective dignity

For International Day for the Eradication of Poverty on October 17, the Centraides of Quebec are coming together to break down taboos and prejudice and, above all, shine a light on a social problem that is all too often hidden or misunderstood.

Not everyone who is poor is unemployed. Many people experiencing poverty work for a very low income. Living in poverty means skipping trips to the grocery store to pay the rent. It means going without food so your children can eat. It means being twice as likely to drop out of high school. It means having health problems. It also means living in isolation if not being completely alone.

Poverty and social exclusion can affect anyone at any time. These things can even happen to someone you know: a family member, a neighbour, a co-worker, or even a friend. Life events like losing your job, separating from your spouse, or getting sick can hit you when you least expect it.

We must remember that poverty is anything but a choice, and it has a much greater impact than simply having to stretch your budget. Poverty directly affects childhood development and leaves a mark on individual health.

For example, while overall life expectancy in Quebec is growing, a big gap still exists between well-off neighbourhoods and disadvantaged ones. The life expectancy gap between neighbourhoods can reach as high as 11 years. This is the same gap between Bangladesh, a developing country, and Switzerland, one of the richest nations in the world. This social inequality persists in our province, and we have to tackle it right now.

To reduce inequality, Quebec's network of Centraides and the 1500 agencies they support across the province provide one in five Quebeckers with tools to break out of the cycle of poverty. They let single mothers cook affordable meals together. They help families find good housing. They run stimulation workshops to help children get ready for kindergarten. They give school supplies to primary students so they can start the school year off right. They run intergenerational activities to break seniors out of their isolation. They encourage volunteer work and bring people together to find solutions that work for everyone.

For this year's International Day for the Eradication of Poverty, I am joining the community agencies and Centraides of Quebec to remind everyone that letting poverty exist costs more than taking action to eradicate it once and for all. More than ever, we need to be committed and engaged, open to difference, and aware of inequality, poverty, and exclusion in our society. Let’s show that we are determined to act, to include, and to help so that everyone has the resources they need to develop their full potential.

On October 17, and throughout the year, let’s all do our small part to put an end to one of the biggest social problems of our time.

 

The President and Executive Director, Centraide of Greater Montreal

SignatureLili-Anna Pereša

 

 

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