Canadians misunderstand the plight of the poor: CPAN

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March 16, 2011.   By Sean Chase

A recent poll of Canadians reveals numerous misconceptions about conditions the poor endure in today’s society, say area support agencies.

The Angus Reid poll found that nearly 40 per cent of Canadians believe people who live in poverty still have it pretty good, while 41 per cent believe the poor would take advantage of any assistance and do nothing with the support provided.

However, Lyn Smith, co-ordinator of the Renfrew County Child Poverty Action Network (CPAN), dispelled these notions, insisting no one embraces such a lifestyle.

“It’s not enjoyable to be poor and lock yourself in your house for fear of creditors,” said Ms. Smith. “We have deep pockets of poverty here.”

Nearly 50 per cent of Canadians feel that a family of four could get by on between $10,000 and $30,000 a year or less. In addition, nearly half of all Canadians feel that if poor people really want to work, they can always find a job. Ninety-six per cent of Canadians, according to Angus Reid, believes that everyone deserves a sense of dignity, but only 65 per cent believe that being poor can rob you of dignity.

The poll was released in conjunction with the Dignity Project being co-ordinated by the Salvation Army, which is designed to educate and inform the public about the challenges facing society’s most vulnerable.

“We do have to do a lot of work to dismiss these misconceptions,” said Ms. Smith. “CPAN makes people aware and people understand it a lot better here but we still have a long way to go.”

She pointed out that two-thirds of Renfrew County parents of children living in poverty do hold down a job. In 2007, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) ranked Canada 12th overall for child well-being among 21 developed countries.

“We don’t take care of our most vulnerable,” she insisted. “It’s not that we don’t care. It’s that we are unaware.”

Ms. Smith hopes discussion over the poll, and child poverty in general, will enter the debate in this fall’s provincial election or a possible spring federal election.

Sean Chase is a Daily Observer multimedia journalist

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