Toward a shared definition of poverty

July 5, 2021 •  By Cristina Roque

I have just begun my new role at Centraide of Greater Montreal. As I start my duties, I feel a great deal of determination along with a sense of humility given this organization’s many talented employees, volunteers and donors, given my colleagues’ expertise in social development and philanthropy, and especially given the relevance of everything Centraide does to fight poverty and social exclusion. 

I too am bringing a wealth of professional experience to this position, but I am also deeply aware of the benefits of a collaborative approach, which I applied for the past eight years at the Mirella and Lino Saputo Foundation. This approach long advocated by Centraide of Greater Montreal is also at the heart of the Collective Impact Project,* which brings together citizens, community agencies, philanthropists, government representatives, and associations around common issues and goals in specific neighbourhoods. This innovative approach has shown to have a lasting impact in our communities and is in line with my strong belief in collective action.  

What also brought me to Centraide is a desire to make a difference thanks to community agencies—which are vital resources in neighbourhoods—by helping them meet their aspirations and by supporting them in their goals to make an impact in the daily lives of the people they serve. Indeed, who better to help people in need than those who work with them in the field?  

If the past year has taught me anything, it is that people across Quebec have deep wells of generosity. It was as though we all rediscovered a sense of community, although this rediscovery has not been without its share of problems and challenges. In a crisis, our main task is to make sure that no one is left behind. However, our actions must be analyzed and evaluated once the crisis is over. Although the effects of the pandemic are still with us, we have come to a point when we can take stock and learn. We need a unifying vision of an inclusive and fair Greater Montreal. We must re-evaluate the “who does what and how” and, above all, discuss this together at the same table.  

My mandate is to stay the course but with fresh eyes. Over the next two months, I will be meeting with all members of the Centraide family and its partners, and this will be my priority for the summer. I will be listening to clearly understand the strategies in place and ask questions to explore opportunities that will bring Centraide closer to its vision of building an inclusive, poverty-free community throughout our Greater Montreal.  

I want to understand our definition of poverty and social exclusion. In this case, I am talking about the definition we could all share as a society that is concerned about people who don’t have the same chances in life and who find themselves in vulnerable situations. This definition would help us set ambitious goals for social transformation, adjust our targets, measure our progress, and accept that this process will raise important questions about how we approach collective issues. Based on collaboration and innovation, this conversation must be had with all stakeholders at the table: citizens, community agencies, their collective bodies and platforms, the business community, institutions, cities, and governments.  

No single organization, including Centraide of Greater Montreal, can claim to have the solution. By pushing our collaborative efforts further and by learning from the amazing work done over the past few years and particularly over the past fifteen months, we will build an inclusive society that embraces diversity and allows everyone to fully realize their potential. 

Claude Pinard 

President and Executive Director 
Centraide of Greater Montreal 

*Collective Impact Project (CIP): In spring 2016, 17 Montreal neighbourhoods were chosen to receive support of $23 million over six years from nine major foundations.