About Poverty

The Canadian Poverty Institute understands poverty to be multi-dimensional involving material, social and spiritual poverty.


  • Material poverty exists where people lack access to, or the skills to acquire, sufficient material and financial resources to thrive.
  • Social poverty exists where people are isolated and lack the formal and informal supports necessary to be resilient in times of crisis and change.
  • Spiritual poverty exists where people lack meaning in their lives and connection to a faith community that sustains them.


Considering Canada's wealth and resources, a disproportionate number of Canadians are living in poverty. Poverty affects millions of Canadians. Income inequality is growing and recent estimates indicate over 14% of Canadians suffer from low income. Many more live precariously from paycheque to paycheque and are at risk of falling into poverty. Child poverty rates are not declining and food security is an issue for far too many. It is estimated that over 150,000 Canadians are homeless on any given day. The Canadian Poverty Institute exists to seek solutions to these pressing issues.


A Few Facts


  • In 2011,  Canada ranked 21st out of 27 OECD countries in terms of poverty levels, with 1 in 7 or 4.9 million people living in poverty, including 1.34 million children. 


  • Indigenous peoples in Canada experience the highest levels of poverty: A shocking 1 in 4 Indigenous peoples (Aboriginal, Métis and Inuit) or 25% are living in poverty and 4 in 10 or 40% of Canada’s Indigenous children live in poverty.


  • Close to 15% of people with disabilities are living in poverty, 59% of whom are women.


  • Female lone-parent families are significantly poorer than all other household types in Canada. 21% of all single mothers are low income compared to just 5.5% of married couples. Women are also more likely to be poor, and generally earn less than men. 


  • Racialized communities face high levels of poverty. The 2006 census (the most recent data available) showed that the overall poverty rate for racialized persons was 22% – double the rate of non-racialized persons. In two of Canada’s largest cities, far more than half of all persons living in poverty were from racialized groups: 58% in Vancouver; and 62% in Toronto. 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty compared to 1 in 20 non-racialized families.