Mr. Speaker, the great Irish poet W.B. Yeats once said of poverty:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams beneath your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.
For millions of Canadians the reality of poverty is not a dream but a daily hardship they face with growing disenchantment. It is a chain that anchors them to lives that cannot possibly realize their fullest potential. It is a woeful destroyer of youthful dreams and once hopeful ambitions.
Recently, on April 29, 2010, the Senate of Canada unanimously approved its report on poverty, In From the Margins: A Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness.
This report confirmed yet again what we all know. Poverty is a real and growing problem here in Canada, one of the world's most prosperous nations. The report went on to make recommendations on how to address poverty and homelessness across Canada.
I implore the government to reconsider its decision to reject the recommendations made in the Senate report and to take action on the meaningful and wise suggestions put forward in the study.
We know that statistics can at times seem to be mere numbers on a page, but they also tell a story that cries out for a voice. In my home province of Ontario, for example, there are 357,000 people who receive social assistance and live below the poverty line. Food banks have experienced a 15% increase in demand in this year alone.
The same food banks also report that so desperate are some of their clients that 28% of them have had to use credit cards or lines of credit just to pay for food and shelter.
These are Canadians not unlike any other person we know. They are hard-working people caught up in difficult economic times who simply want to provide for their families and live decent and dignified lives. They are not looking for a hand out, but a step up.
Many of those who daily face the torment of poverty are society's most vulnerable: children, people with disabilities and senior citizens.
All too often in the midst of hurried lives and demanding schedules these are people who are invisible to many Canadians who do not know the burden of poverty. But the truth is, more than ever, that they are not invisible, they are unnoticed. It is not the same thing.
In many respects their lives are uncomfortable reminders to us all that we too are vulnerable. We owe it to them and to our country's future to see that we hear them, see them and do whatever we can to help them from the painful reality of poverty that can so often be cloaked with indifference.
We must remember that we all Canadians. All children deserve the same chance. All older people deserve the same dignity. All of us share this same vast and blessed land. We belong to it as to each other.
Mother Teresa once said:
If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.
I ask the government once again, will it reconsider its decision with respect to the Senate's report on poverty and homelessness and take decisive and desperately needed action on these issues?