Quebec is a rich society.
It is a society that produces and reproduces inequality; that produces and reproduces poverty.
There is no reason for this to continue.
We need to find better ways to live together, where living free and equal, in dignity and rights is made a reality for each and every person.
I aspire to live in a just society. A poverty-free society.
For a just society
I publicly support this campaign and the Collective for a Poverty-Free Quebec.
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For people living in poverty, and for defenders of social justice, the current political climate has made things very difficult. The reality is that we aren’t on the eve of this changing on its own, certainly with the promotion of ideology that calls for the state to be dismantled, pushed by the upper class. For the Collective, we must reinforce citizen power to fight for a Quebec that is free of poverty, and that is egalitarian and abundant for everyone.
Like in any other campaign, the struggle against poverty can never have too many allies or too much support! In this spirit, the Campaign for a Just Society seeks to garner as much public support as possible. To do this, we need to collect the names of people who, like the Collective, want to see a future Quebec free of poverty.
We know that a single petition or campaign with a set of demands are not enough to build a just society. To build beyond a single campaign, we need to invite individuals to publicly support a declaration that expresses our vision of the world. This declaration, promoted through our website, underlines the necessity to “invent ways to live together where liberty and equality in dignity and in rights are realized for every person.”
Why should I sign?
For two reasons: first, to reinforce the strength of the Collective and give it broader credibility; and second, when you add your name, you help to demonstrate the growing support for the campaign on the campaign’s website. With the proliferation of neoliberal ideology, many people shy away from expressing their support for social justice and many people fear that they may fall out of sync with their friends for being a hopeless idealist. But when we show that we’re among millions of Quebecers who dream of a just society and express this without being shy, maybe these people will find their way to become part of progressive movements!
Connecting words and deeds
The campaign For a Just Society offers the possibility to receive information about upcoming mobilizations: symbolic actions, email campaigns, protests etc. Through the campaign we can go beyond demonstrating moral support for the struggle against poverty, inequality and prejudices, by becoming a more active and concrete part of the struggle.
Regions and ridings
The campaign website tracks how many people have declared their supported from each of the 17 regions in Quebec and in all 125 ridings. Aide from an amicable rivalry that might arise from among the regions (!), this aspect of the website can bring together people who fight for social justice. With help from our website, groups of citizens could bring petition signatures to a local riding office to solicit support, especially outside of election time when candidates are not routinely among the people.
Length of the campaign
Unlike more traditional campaigns, For a Just Society does not have a specific end-date. Our campaign will end when we put forward a vision of the world rather than simple demand. We can put forward with demands in the short term, but a global vision for a more just society isn’t something that we’ll achieve in the blink of an eye. The promotion of the campaign will vary depending on the political context, and activists are ready to devote energy to this.
You are strongly encouraged to take a look at the campaign website and share it with people close to you. And if this vision of the world resembles your own, don’t hesitate to add your name!
In 1948, Canada ratified the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). This declaration represents an ideal that signatory societies must strive to achieve. Recognition and respect for human rights should become a reality for everybody. Quebec is bound by the Canadian ratification and should ensure that every single person is entitled to social security, to the right to a fair wage, and the right to an adequate standard of living (Articles 22, 23 and 25 from the UDHR). However, poverty is a denial of human rights. It affects the liberty, health and dignity of hundreds of thousands of Quebecers.
Here is the reason why the fight against poverty must be a government priority.
Cover basic needs
Since 2009, the Market Basket Measure (MBM) has been used in Quebec as a benchmark to gauge levels of poverty from the perspective of the coverage of basic needs. MBM is calculated by adding the costs of different needs: housing, food, clothing, transportation and others goods and services. The government and social groups agree that if the annual income of a person does not allow them to purchase the goods and services contained in this list, they do not have the necessary means to cover their basic needs. It is a situation that affects both their health and dignity.
To approximately rank yourself using the MBM, calculate your after-tax annual income (including money from governmental programs), and then compare that amount to your position in the table below.
MBM thresholds for Quebec (estimated in 2013 dollars)
|Rural areas||Cities under 30 000 inhabitants||Cities of 30 000 to 99 9999 inhabitants||Cities of 100 000 to 499 999 inhabitants||Quebec||Montreal|
|3 persons||29.463 $||$29.539||$27.855||$28.554||$28.930||$29.871|
To learn more about the Market Basket Measure: http://pauvrete.qc.ca/?-Autour-de-la-Mesure-du-panier-de
To be out of poverty
It is possible to meet one’s basic needs while still being in poverty. To date, there is no consensus regarding a threshold indicating the annual income needed to get out of poverty, that is to say, the income that would allow a person or family to have the means of choice and power necessary for the fulfillment of all their rights. To be out of poverty should also mean to be able to organize one’s personal and social life in order to meet their various aspirations. However, among the various indicators used to measure poverty, several of them converge as they mark an area of variant low-income, for 2013, between $19.774 and $22.199 (after tax).
To get out of poverty, a person would have to reach a threshold around this level, depending on one’s personal situation.
More and more workers are unable to cover their basic needs. At the current hourly rate, the minimum wage does not even allow one to get out of poverty, even by working 40 hours per week.
Who is to blame?
We often accuse people living in poverty to be wholly responsible for their fate. However, factors outside the control of individuals, such as economic growth, government transfers and job creation have the greatest impact on poverty rates. Governments can mitigate these factors through laws and regulations.
In recent years, significant progress has been made to reduce poverty among families through the implementation of various fiscal measures. Governments have the means to reduce poverty and ultimately eliminate it. It is just a question of political will.
For more information:
Inequality between the rich and the poor is increasing across industrialized societies, including Quebec. However, due to progressive taxation and universal public services that were introduced in the second half of the twentieth century, inequality is growing less rapidly than elsewhere. As the "Quebec social model" is being dismantled, we must ask ourselves: for how long will this continue to be true?
One way to observe the inequalities is to divide the population into quintiles. Each group represents 20% or one fifth of the population.
Gap in income and wealth gap
An income is what a person earns. It includes incomes from work (wages), capital incomes (interest, rent, royalties, dividends, etc.) and transfer incomes (parental benefits, employment insurance, social assistance, work premium tax credit, etc.) from which are subtracted what a person pays in taxes.
Here, wealth is the economic asset of a person or a family. It is inherited or accumulated over time and may include investments, stock shares, property (houses, apartments and chalets), material possessions (furniture, cars, etc.) and cash, among other things.
Very rich people easily manage to put money aside and to accumulate through their income, while the poorest people are unable to do so. Differences in income today will widen the wealth gap of tomorrow.
Taxation, a tool that could reduce inequalities
By receiving a share of income from individuals and businesses through tax, governments can redistribute wealth and reduce inequalities. However, since 1997, Quebec has chosen to reduce its tax revenue. For instance, the tax rate on the 1% highest earners went from 35.7% in 1982 to 30.5% in 2010. During this period, the purchasing power of the 1% has increased by 86%. For the rest of the population it has only increased by 12%. In other words, governments have chosen to allow the rich to grow richer, rather than improving the conditions for the vast majority of the population and thereby reducing income disparities.
Governments have the means to reduce socioeconomic inequalities. Similar to the fight against poverty, reducing inequality is primarily a question of political will.
For more information :
Alain Noël and Myriam Fahmy (dir.), Miser sur l’égalité. L’argent, le pouvoir, le bien-être et la liberté, Montreal, Institut du Nouveau Monde (INM) and Fides, 2014.
Prejudices against people in poverty give a simplistic vision of a complicated reality. They interfere with a good understanding of the functioning of society and prevent the development of equal and meaningful social relationships. Prejudices are actually insults, often in disguise.
Ordinarily, prejudices are generalizations: from what has been observed anecdotally from a limited number of individuals ("Mr. and Mrs. so-and-so”) to become a behavior associated and extended to a wider group. Prejudices against people living in poverty reduce a group of people to a few negative traits, which are commonly: laziness, dependency and dishonesty. Prejudices are convenient, quick and used to classify people, but do not take into account the individuality of people.
The effectiveness of prejudices
Whether or not a prejudice is effective relies on this type of “shortcutting”: they are simple statements that appear to be enlightening truths. They are easy to repeat, and encourage a "parrot effect" further amplified by the media. Prejudices can be employed by groups, political parties, politicians and citizens. There are many reasons for why we fall for prejudice: ignorance, uncritically accepting myths as fact, falling for political spin or simply hearing these prejudices over and over.
The consequences of prejudice
Sometimes, people express prejudicial views to enhance their self-esteem by creating a sense of superiority. For the person who is the subject of prejudice and hears it, prejudices can produce suffering, feelings of rejection, loss of self-esteem and shame of his or her social status. Prejudices break communication and lead to exclusion. They divide society into groups of 'us' and 'them'. They have the effect of hiding the real issues of social differences.
For example, it is often said, even by parliamentarians, that we should not increase the income of welfare recipients, because a higher income could discourage them from returning to work. This view is based on multiple biases. Arguing that an individual would prefer to stay on welfare rather than go to work suggests that they are lazy, and maybe even parasitic. Yet in recent years, households where the amount of benefits were the highest are the ones where people have left social assistance to either return to school or to the labor market in the highest numbers.
See beyond prejudices
Prejudices serve the political agenda of people who want to create scapegoats to justify social problems and alleged financial difficulties of the state. By creating social policy based on prejudices, governments impede progress in the fight against poverty.
It is well known that the prejudices against people living in poverty persist but there are ways to combat them. One of them is to involve people living in poverty in the development, implementation and evaluation of measures that affect them.
It is together that we can build a just society.
For more information: