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Latimer: B.C. needs to develop a poverty reduction plan

As a follow up to my recent column on empathy during the holidays, I’d like to write today about poverty and the way it is addressed at this time of year.

It is wonderful to see people’s generosity flourish during the holidays. Schools and workplaces often put on food drives or raise money for worthy causes to help those in need.

Shoe boxes are packed and shipped overseas, turkeys, toys and winter clothing are donated locally to families living in poverty right here.

All of this is excellent and should continue—yet this seasonal giving does raise some questions about what we are doing the rest of the year to deal with the root causes of poverty and want—both here and abroad.

While no one is denying the virtue of sharing or the positive impact of donating to frontline organizations, this is surely not the ultimate goal when addressing issues of injustice.

A recent message from the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition commented that even though BC is one of the most generous provinces in Canada, it has held the highest poverty rate for the last 13 years.

I agree with their assessment that we need to shift our thinking from simply providing charity to also address justice issues. We need to urge our politicians at all levels to work toward poverty reduction.

Of course there is no easy solution to the issue of poverty, but every step we take in the right direction can bring us closer to the goal of greatly reducing or eradicating poverty.

Focusing in on issues here at home—initiatives such as applying a housing first philosophy; ensuring everyone can access a living wage; dealing fairly with our First Nations communities; and giving equal access to education, health and other services can go a long way.

The B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition is urging the provincial government to implement a poverty reduction plan.

Something like this would help our leaders form a specific, evidence-based strategy for tackling poverty in our province.

We know poverty is the single biggest determinant of a person’s health.

We know growing up in poverty leads to increased incidence of mental and physical illness, worse educational and professional outcomes and myriad other negative and lifelong effects.

We all benefit when we deal with the root causes of poverty.

Not only do we reduce the burden on our health and justice systems, but even more importantly we live in a more just society filled with healthier, happier people.

Consider writing to your government representatives this holiday season and asking them to place a priority on poverty reduction in the New Year.

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