The Ethical Implications of Poverty in Canada

1. Introduction

Poverty is a global problem that does not discriminate. It affects countries all over the world, no matter their level of development, and it is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed. According to the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), poverty is defined as "a human condition characterized by the sustained or chronic lack of access to resources, capabilities, choices, power and influence" In other words, poverty is more than just a lack of income or material possessions. It is a complex issue that has many dimensions, including physical and mental health, education, employment, housing, and social wellbeing. Poverty can lead to social exclusion and isolation, which can further compound the problem.

In Canada, it is estimated that 4.9 million people live in poverty That means that one in every seven Canadians is living in poverty. The official poverty line in Canada is set at $20,610 for a single adult, $29,020 for a single parent with one child under the age of 18, and $41,212 for a family of four These numbers are based on the Market Basket Measure (MBM), which was developed by Statistics Canada in collaboration with provincial and territorial governments. The MBM measures the cost of a specific basket of goods and services that are necessary for a person or family to live a basic standard of living. It includes items such as food, shelter, clothing, transportation, child care, and other essential needs.

The prevalence of poverty in Canada is higher than in many other developed countries. For instance, the most recent data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) shows that the poverty rate in Canada is 11.3%, which is higher than the OECD average of 9.3% In comparison, the poverty rate in the United States is 12.7%. However, it is important to note that there are significant variations in poverty rates between provinces and territories in Canada. For example, the poverty rate in Newfoundland and Labrador was 19% in 2016, while the rate in Alberta was only 7.8%

There are many different factors that contribute to poverty in Canada. Some of these include low incomes, high living costs (e.g., housing), job insecurity, inequality, discrimination, and underemployment But regardless of the cause, poverty has severe consequences for individuals, families, and communities. It can lead to poor physical and mental health, lower educational achievement, reduced life expectancy, social exclusion, and increased crime rates. Poverty also has a significant economic cost to society as a whole. In fact, it is estimated that poverty costs Canadian taxpayers approximately $86 billion each year.

2. Theoretical framework

In order to address the ethical implications of poverty in Canada, I will be using John Rawls' theory of justice as my theoretical framework. Rawls was an American political philosopher who is best known for his book A Theory of Justice, which was first published in 1971. In this book, Rawls argues that justice is best understood as fairness. He believes that people should make decisions about what is just or fair by imagining themselves in what he calls the "original position". This thought experiment allows people to strip away all their personal biases and consider what would be fair from an impartial perspective.
Rawls also introduces the idea of the "veil of ignorance", which is a hypothetical barrier that prevents people from knowing anything about themselves or others. This includes information such as their gender, race, ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic status, etc. The veil of ignorance is important because it forces people to think about what would be best for everyone, not just themselves or their own group.

Rawls believes that the principles of justice should be chosen in the original position behind the veil of ignorance. He argues that there are two basic principles of justice that should be followed:

1) The principle of equal liberty: This principle states that everyone should have the same basic rights and freedoms.

2) The principle of fair equality of opportunity: This principle states that everyone should have the same opportunity to achieve their goals and ambitions, regardless of their circumstances.

Rawls also believes that these two principles should be ordered in a specific way. He argues that the principle of equal liberty should be given priority over the principle of fair equality of opportunity. In other words, everyone should have the same basic rights and freedoms first, and then they should have the same opportunity to achieve their goals and ambitions.

3. Ethical analysis of poverty in Canada

When we look at poverty in Canada through the lens of Rawls' theory of justice, it is clear that there are some serious ethical implications. First and foremost, it is unfair that there are four million people living in poverty in Canada. This is a violation of the principle of equal liberty, as everyone deserves to have the same basic rights and freedoms. Second, it is also unfair that there are significant variations in poverty rates between different provinces and territories. This is a violation of the principle of fair equality of opportunity, as everyone deserves to have the same opportunity to achieve their goals and ambitions regardless of their circumstances.

So how can we address these ethical implications? One way would be to try to reduce poverty by increasing incomes and decreasing living costs. For example, we could raise the minimum wage, provide more affordable housing, or create more social assistance programs. Another way would be to try to reduce inequality by implementing policies that target specific groups who are more likely to experience poverty, such as Aboriginal peoples or recent immigrants.

4. Conclusion

Poverty is a complex issue with many dimensions. It is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed because it has severe consequences for individuals, families, and communities. When we look at poverty in Canada through the lens of John Rawls' theory of justice, it is clear that there are some serious ethical implications. In order to address these implications, we need to take action to reduce poverty and inequality in Canada.

FAQ

Poverty affects Canadians in a number of ways. It can lead to poor health, limited education and employment opportunities, and social isolation.

Some possible solutions to alleviate poverty in Canada include increasing the minimum wage, providing more affordable housing, and improving access to social services.

Ethical considerations when addressing the issue of poverty in Canada include ensuring that assistance is targeted towards those most in need, and that any programs or policies put in place do not further marginalize already vulnerable groups.