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Poverty is “the situation of people whose lack of resources forces them to live below a publicly agreed minimum standard” - Poverty and Social Exclusion [1] Getting out of poverty means being able to make choices and being able to deal with the unexpected. [2]  

How we define poverty "sets the standards by which we determine whether the incomes and living conditions of the poorest in society are acceptable or not and are key in determining issues of equity. From these definitions flow all actions aimed at helping the poorest." - Poverty and Social Exclusion [3]


Who do our systems leave most vulnerable to poverty? [4]

The following figures are representative of the definition of poverty outlined above. There is subjectivity in the definition, thus actual figures are likely to be higher than what is reported.

Disabled people

  • An estimated 15% of people with disabilities in so-called Canada live in poverty.

Racialized people

  • Indigenous peoples in so-called Canada experience the highest levels of poverty: 1 in 4 Indigenous Peoples, or 25%, are living in poverty. 4 in 10 or 40% of Indigenous children in so-called Canada live in poverty. These facts are almost entirely due to the impacts of settler colonialism.
  • 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty compared to 1 in 20 non-racialized families in so-called Canada.

  • Persons from racialized groups make up 54% of all immigrants in Canada. However, they make up 71% of all immigrants living in poverty. 
Single parents
  • 21% of single parents in so-called Canada are low income.
Young adults
  • Single young adults are often faced with precarious employment that provides little financial security and little relief from student loan debt.
  • In 2016, 36% of new immigrants and refugees were living in poverty. [5]
LGBTQIA2S+ people
  • Queer Canadians were 2x as likely to experience housing insecurity in their lifetime. [6]
  • 2 in 5 queer Canadians had a total personal income of less than $20,000 per year in 2018. [7]

How does poverty increase vulnerability to climate change?

The livelihoods of poor individuals are more likely to depend on climate-sensitive sector [8]

  • Workers who live in poverty, especially in rural contexts, tend to have livelihoods that are dependent on natural resources. Jobs in agriculture, fishery, or forestry all directly depend on the well-being of natural ecosystems.
  • Because global warming impacts those ecosystems, it also threatens resource-based livelihoods. For example, climate change is causing prolonged droughts that dry up water supplies, which puts in danger the income of farmers.
  • Workers in these industries are not responsible for climate change. It is the responsibility of governments to provide compensation, training and access to jobs as we undergo a transition.

Governments tend to put less climate mitigation efforts in poor communities

  • Poor neighborhoods and communities tend to receive less climate adaptation efforts from their local and national governments.
  • For example, studies have shown that areas affected by poverty and high social vulnerability are more likely to be abandoned in the context of sea level rising. [9]
  • Government climate initiatives are also often inaccessible to those living in poverty. For example, the liberal's promise of rebates on electric cars is not accessible if you can't afford to purchase one in the first place. [10]
  • Poverty increases vulnerability to extreme temperatures. For example, for those who are housed, while there are minimum temperature requirements for rentals there are not maximum requirements. This increases vulnerability to heat-related health effects. [11]
      • For those who are unhoused, both extreme heat and extreme cold put lives at risk. [12]

“Unchecked, climate change will push up to 130 million people into poverty over the next 10 years—unraveling hard-won development gains” [13]

Thanks to Camila Fradette for their support compiling content for this page.

If you have any suggested revisions or additional resources to share related to the above content, please email them to kenzie@lehub.ca.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.

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