Poverty in Canada

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.

reports about poverty in canada

There are many good reports and resources from federal, provincial and civil society partners that provide a picture of poverty in Canada and recommendations to address it. Listed below are a few key recommended resources.

National Status Reports

Federal Policy Reports and Initiatives

Opportunity for All: Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Plan
Employment and Social Development Canada (2018)

Federal Poverty Plan: Working in Partnership Towards Reducing Poverty in Canada
Report of the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities (2010)

In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness
The Standing Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology, Report of the Subcommittee on Cities. (2009)

Poverty in Canada (The Croll Report)
Report of the Special Senate Committee on Poverty (1971)

Provincial Reports and Initiatives

Newfoundland and Labrador
Reducing Poverty: An Action Plan for Newfoundland and Labrador

Prince Edward Island
Social Action Plan to Reduce Poverty

Nova Scotia
Preventing Poverty. Promoting Prosperity. Nova Scotia's Poverty Reduction Strategy

New Brunswick
Overcoming Poverty Together. The New Brunswick Economic and Social Inclusion Plan

The Will to Act. The Strength to Succeed. National Strategy to Combat Poverty and Social Exclusion

Realizing Our Potential: Ontario's Poverty Reduction Strategy

All Aboard: Manitoba's Poverty Reduction Strategy

Taking Action on Poverty. The Saskatchewan Poverty Reduction Strategy

Together We Raise Tomorrow: An Alberta Approach to Early Childhood Development
Poverty Costs 

British Columbia
Community Poverty Reduction Strategies: 2015 Progress Report


Additional Resources

Civil Society Initiatives

Dignity For All: A National Anti-Poverty Plan

Human Rights and Poverty Strategies: A Guide to International Human Rights Law and its Domestic Application in Poverty Reduction Strategies


Faith Resources

Nurturing the Abundant City
An Interfaith Workshop Resource for the International Day for the Eradication of Poverty
Produced by the Calgary Inter-faith Council (2014)

Living Justice: A Gospel Response to Poverty
An Ecumenical Worship and Action Guide on Poverty and Justice in Canada.
A Publication of Citizens for Public Justice (2011)

Justice for the Poor
Video and Group Discussion Guide.
A Publication of Sojourners. (2010)