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Northwest Territories

After years of work and consultations among community stakeholders across the Northwest Territories, the government approved Building on the Strengths of Northerners: A Strategic Framework toward the Elimination of Poverty in the NWT in 2013. In 2014, the Strategic Framework gave way to a more proactive action plan with the Government of the Northwest Territories Anti-Poverty Action Plan.

The government invested $7.8 million in poverty-reduction initiatives, providing an additional $4.4 million in the 2015 budget, including a $1.75 million food allowance increase for people receiving income assistance.  Additionally, the Government of NWT Anti-Poverty Fund was established in 2014. This $500,000 fund was created to support community-based anti-poverty efforts in the NWT region.

The Government of the Northwest Territories has stated that it considers the Anti-Poverty Action Plan to be a living document that can be updated to reflect the changing realities of poverty in the territory. In March 2016, the government hosted the third annual Anti-Poverty Roundtable, where government representatives, Indigenous governments, civil society organizations, and businesses met in Yellowknife to discuss recent efforts to address poverty. After these annual roundtables, comments are implemented in the next iterations of the territorial anti-poverty action plan.

The Plan

  1. Children and family support
  2. Healthy living and reaching our potential
  3. Safe and affordable housing
  4. Sustainable communities
  5. Integrated continuum of services

Success

  • As of 2015, the NWT Government has spent $140 million on 16 different income assistance programs.
  • On June 1, 2015 the minimum wage increased significantly to $12.50/hour – the second highest in Canada.
  • The Government of NWT has increased school funding by 5% since 2011, bringing the total amount of funding for 2014-15 to $148 million.

Criticism

The No Place for Poverty Coalition maintains that the NWT Government has yet to take significant actions in areas like building more affordable housing and creating affordable childcare programs.

A report from PROOF, a research team at the University of Toronto, recently showed that the NWT had the highest rate of food insecurity since 2005, jumping from 14.2% to 24.1% in the past decade. The report called food insecurity in northern Canada a ‘state of emergency’. The head researcher of the report, Naomi Dachner, commented on their findings in an interview: “we’re talking about a very serious problem. One that’s inextricably linked to health and well-being and so many people are being afflicted. We’ve got an epidemic I’d say.”

For more detailed analysis, visit Canada Without Poverty’s Poverty Progress Profiles and the Caledon Institute’s Canada Social Report.