I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately and wanted to share my perspective on poverty in our community.. in all communities really, especially our national one. More importantly than all the ways poverty sucks and how it’s perpetuated, I’d like to share how we rather optimistically plan to solve it.

First off, I don’t have a magic pill that makes your debt disappear or your job pay better… but I do have a few tricks up my sleeve so bear with me.

It’s not about changing one or even a dozen policies although that’s certainly part of it. It’s about changing our mindset around poverty, about what it even looks like anymore. Solving poverty is about realizing there is a drastic increase in the number of us Canadians working 50-60 hours a week only to fall further behind on basic bills, and this is due in part to the rising cost of living not being offset by a lived experience informed allocation to subsidies for families from the federal level. But I digress. As I said, It’s really not about how we look at one particular issue, it’s about how we approach the solution as a community. I would argue in this case it’s how we need to see poverty as a national community… This movement… the Mamas movement… it’s about making sure our youngest and most vulnerable citizens have a fighting chance to grow up healthy and happy and knowing that supporting the parents is the first and most crucial step in doing so. Someone who works full time should not live in poverty, and this is the case in far too many situations. A society is judged on how they treat their most vulnerable and at this, we are failing.

As we enter into a space where technology increasingly intersects with politics, we have a stronger voice than ever. We are mothers, millions of us across Canada desperately wanting some indication that we aren’t leaving our children to a damaged beyond repair earth, societal infrastructure and mindset. We rid our houses of plastic wrap and straws, eliminate bottled water and teach tolerance and kindness. As mamas, we do our best to make small changes to leave a big impact for them. So I challenge every mama, papa, foster parent, caregiver in any capacity to use your voice and your power to advocate like a mother in every arena.

We have to encourage our politicians ALL of them regardless of party, to make policy decisions based more on a shifted mindset that those in poverty should somehow have to be blamed, or shamed before being given the opportunity to rise from that situation.  For example we could strongly encourage a revisit to how federal and provincial governments fund social assistance programs to help families out of poverty and encourage a thorough review of how much the lack of prevention really costs in the short and long term. Maybe seeing in black and white how much it really costs to react to the wide breadth of poverty related issues we face as a society, they would realize the brilliance of investing in preventative supports… hospital bills for untreated issues are in the thousands versus hundreds, emergency supports for housing evictions cost thousands in bailiff and court fees rather than simply funding adequate subsidies in the hundreds, expensive foster care systems cost tens of thousands in administrative work rather than simply providing additional funding to struggling families… I could go on for days.

The bottom line is, there will never be enough money for a social issue until the mindset and priorities change. Poverty is expensive. It’s expensive for the mama having to pay reconnection fees (one of many poverty taxes) after being shut off because she chose to feed her kids over her electric bill. It’s expensive for the government who reacts only when it’s so far gone they’re taking measures to band aid the individual situation, hoping they’ll go away with their hand out. It’s only when we stop thinking about how much we can’t afford these programs that provide the basic human requirements and realize we simply can’t afford not to, that we’ll be getting somewhere. It’s about getting a hand up to those in the cycle of poverty, not a hand out. When this mentality shifts, we’ll be in business.

It is from this mentality and thirst for a change in how we throw a metaphorical band-aid issues needing surgery that Mamas for Mamas was born. We use social media to connect mamas to others nearby to help provide for their families through a sharing economy that goes far beyond material goods. We share resources that were otherwise unknown and provided a safety net to a family falling though the cracks. We share stories of hardship and triumph and offer real, tangible solutions to one another through information, opportunities and advocacy.

We all believe Children should have access to clean water, safe living conditions, healthy food at a reasonable cost but it’s not always easy knowing how to access it or ask for it.  . With that said, I’m not one to express frustrations without offering some solutions. By no means is this an exhaustive list, but it’s a strong start to the hand up the mamas and caregivers of this country need to get back on the road to economic and overall prosperity.

I’d love to start with my favourite…
1. Universal childcare as part of the education System paid through childcare benefit fund
2.  Dental care as Part of universal health care nation wide
3. women to write off childcare even if “not working” as in the case of internships- this drives me crazy!!
4. Subsidized housing available for larger families. More scattered housing sites.
5. Tuition support federally for bachelors degree or equivalent, BA is as necessary now as a government funded high school diploma was. Education should not be a debt sentence.
6. Implementing housing first strategies nation wide. Ex. See Journey Home.
7. Transportation funding support provided federally for employment/education purposes
8. Proper funding for mental health supports for parents and children of all ages. Huge contributor to cycle of poverty.

9. Adequate funding for ministry of child and family development workers to care for the families unable to care for themselves. -supervised visitation, better wages, better hours, more staffing and more highly trained mental health professionals
10. Adequate access to legal support. Ex. Legal aid strike is a violation of constitutional rights. Families in poverty have no voice.
11. Poverty taxes should be banned from utility companies.
12. Educate those on maternity/parental leave about the giant tax bill they’re likely to encounter after their leave. Not only is mat leave pay inadequate to live off of during the MOST expensive time in a persons life, they don’t remove any taxes so you go back to work only to that lovely surprise greet you at year end.
13. Funding for urban farming/community farming and sustainable living practices for families not just charities. Put the power back in the hands of the mamas, of the families. Life is always sweeter when a mama is looking after things.


Shannon Christensen