Give to charities, but also advocate for justice

Trish Garner, organizer of the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition; The Province

We are very generous during the holidays. In fact, we are one of the most generous provinces in Canada if we look at the average percentage of income we donate to charity in comparison with the rest of the country. We give to food banks, we donate to charities, we volunteer at soup kitchens, we collect clothing for families in need; in short, we give our time and money because we care about those less fortunate than ourselves.

But, this holiday season, let’s seek to make a bigger difference. Let’s go upstream and advocate for real change in provincial policy. Giving to charity is necessary in a province with over 500,000 people living in poverty. But we should also seek long-term solutions to hunger and poverty‚Ķ.

The fact is our individual and collective acts of generosity are simply not enough to rise to the challenge of ending the poverty in our midst. At 12 per cent, B.C. has the highest poverty rate in Canada and charities can’t cope with the increasing demands for their services‚Ķ.

You might think it will be too expensive. But we all pay for poverty through higher health-care, policing, criminal-justice and social-service costs. Purely on economic grounds, it makes sense to tack-le poverty directly rather than to continue to pay out year after year for its long-term consequences. We need to stop mopping up the water on the floor and fix the hole in the roof.

You might think poverty is here to stay. But there’s nothing inevitable about poverty. B.C. is now one of the last provinces in Canada without a poverty reduction plan. Most other places in the country have a strategy or are in the process of developing one, and many are already seeing success. They are saving money and lives by tackling the issue of poverty head-on.

So, next time you drop off some cans at the local food bank, consider doing something that will make an even bigger difference.

Write to the premier and ask her to support the Poverty Reduction Bill and commit to a poverty reduction strategy that includes legislated targets and timelines, so that it’s dependable, effective and account-able.

If you think that sounds too political, you should recognize that giving to charity is also a political act that supports the government not doing enough, an act that says you’re OK with things the way they are.

But are you?