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City of Vancouver’s Proclamation on the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty and Raise the Rates Week

city-of-vancouver-proclamationWHEREAS The International Day for the Eradication of Poverty has been observed throughout the world every day since 1993, when the United Nations General Assembly designated this day to promote awareness of the need to eradicate poverty;

AND WHEREAS Poverty is a violation of human rights and the United Nations new Sustainable Development Goals have the primary goal to “end poverty in all its forms everywhere”;

AND WHEREAS Through its Healthy City Strategy, the City of Vancouver is committed to two aspirational targets – reduce the city’s poverty rate by 75 percent and increase the median income by at least three percent every year;

AND WHEREAS The rate of working poverty in Metro Vancouver is second highest in the country, and in response the City of Vancouver is adopting the Living Wage for all its employees and contractors;

AND WHEREAS The poverty rate in British Columbia continues to be among the highest in Canada and one in five children live in poverty in Vancouver and across our province;

AND WHEREAS Income assistance has been frozen at the deeply inadequate level of $610 per month since 2007;

AND WHEREAS British Columbia is the only province in Canada to not have a poverty reduction strategy with targets and timelines;

AND WHEREAS The Raise the Rates campaign is holding its annual Welfare Food Challenge from October 16th to 23rd, 2016:

NOW, THEREFORE, I, Gregor Robertson, Mayor of the City of Vancouver, DO HEREBY PROCLAIM the day of October 17th, 2016 as

“INTERNATIONAL DAY FOR THE ERADICATION OF POVERTY”

And the Week of October 16th to 22nd, 2016 as

“RAISE THE RATES WEEK”

in the City of Vancouver.

Acceptance speech by Trish Garner (and Fraser Doke, Raise the Rates)

I would like to thank Mayor Robertson and Council for making this proclamation today. And I would like to thank City staff who worked behind the scenes to bring this proclamation forward.

What does this proclamation actually mean?

Well, it is important to mark these days – Monday, October 17th was the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty – and important to reflect on that for a moment…the eradication, the elimination of poverty. Let’s think about what that would mean for the 451,000 people living in poverty in BC – it is possible to eradicate poverty in BC.

And it is important to mark this week as Raise the Rates Week. Let’s think for a moment of the 200 people taking the Welfare Food Challenge this week – some are here with us today…thanks Councillor Reimer and Mary Clare Zak. But let’s remember those for whom the challenge doesn’t end after a week – the 185,000 people on deeply inadequate welfare and disability benefits week after week.

Today we heard from Fraser Doke who is on disability benefits about that reality.

But this proclamation means more than that, more than one day or one week.

It’s an expression of ongoing work that the City has committed to through their Healthy City Strategy. Recognizing that poverty is the critical determinant of health, the City has committed to reducing poverty and has set targets and timelines, and we are now working with them to develop a plan.

There are two key pieces to this work.

First, what can the City do within its jurisdiction; and becoming a living wage employer is a significant step here.

And second, how can the City advocate to the provincial government to urge them to share the weight and develop a poverty reduction plan. Recent announcements from the City in calling for an increase to welfare rates are a significant step here.

Most of the issues facing people now – increasing rent, childcare fees, MSP premiums, food costs, hydro rates – are provincial responsibilities and need action at that level. The cry of unaffordability is thick in the air but it’s really a symptom of a social safety net that’s been pulled out from under our feet.

BC has one of the highest poverty rates in Canada yet it is now the only province without a poverty reduction strategy.

Hard to believe I still have to say this but poverty is bad. For all of us. Homeless people die half a lifetime younger. Children are not growing up happy and healthy. The health of all of us is negatively impacted by living in such an unequal society. And we’re down 8 to 9 billion dollars per year paying for the consequences of poverty.

A poverty reduction plan is a good plan for all of us.

So this proclamation today marks one step in this journey and I’m excited to continue our work with the city in direct policy change and advocacy to the provincial government for a poverty reduction plan.