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Anti-poverty group and allies highlight broken poverty promises by all levels of government

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The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has been fighting hard in recent weeks to help Ontarians fight the closing of shelters in Canada's biggest city and make politicians pay attention to broken poverty promises from all levels of the Canadian government. 

This isn't, as we would say in the activist community, OCAP's first rodeo. The anti-poverty group has been active defending the rights of Canada's poorest residents in Canada's largest and busiest city for more than a decade.

The reminder that our society has a long way to go to truly, systemically, eradicate poverty from our lives can be found in the evidence that broken promises provide.

Promises were made on municipal, provincial and federal fronts to eradicate poverty from the Canadian (and foreign) landscape.

In late 1989, all federal Canadian parties unanimously supported a resolution to end child poverty within Canadian borders by 2000 -- hence the name Campaign 2000.  

According to Campaign 2000, over 1.3 million children live in poverty in Canada today

Anita Khanna and Sid Frankel from Campaign 2000 had an op-ed published in the Toronto Star on July 21, 2015, where they provide arguments for including the eradication of poverty, especially child poverty.

Federal parties have made this pledge three times since 1989 and still we're in the beginning phases of tackling this issue.

According to Khanna and Frankel, "the latest data indicate that 19 per cent of Canadian children, nearly one in five, live in poverty. A staggering 40 per cent of Indigenous children live in poverty. A short period spent in poverty in childhood can lead to more illness throughout life, impair educational attainment and contribute to employment vulnerability."

So far in this election, "fortunately, the discussion of child benefits has caught fire. Parties must seize the opportunity to transform our national child poverty crisis into a poverty reduction success story. Canada has done it before, reducing poverty among seniors by 25 per cent through programs like the Canada Pension Plan."

Hopefully we can keep this momentum going if the media, non-profits, educational institutions and private individuals keep bringing the topic up as an election pledge.

Today in Toronto, OCAP and its allies used the blockade at the city's busiest intersection to bring attention to the lack of care the city is putting towards providing dignity to the homeless and the marginally housed in shelters.

OCAP and its allies contend that there is a housing crisis in Toronto, made worse by the City's continual refusal to abide by its own 90 per cent occupancy rate cap and the closing of two shelters -- the Hope Shelter and the Second Base Youth Shelter.

In its press release, OCAP highlighted the hopefully obvious (perhaps not to the ruling class) difficulty of retaining your dignity if, "every night, homeless people across the GTA must make a decision, deciding between sleeping in an overcrowded, decrepit and underfunded shelter system or braving the dangers of sleeping in the street. If the City took its responsibility regarding the provision of basic shelter for homeless people seriously, it is a decision no one would be forced to make."

On Friday September 18, 2015, OCAP and its allies kicked off the #ShelterForAll Campaign by occupying the rooftop of the Hope Shelter, which is set to close at the loss of 124 shelter beds.

In the Toronto shelter and housing crisis, 90,000 households are waiting for social housing, more than 1000 shelter beds were lost since the year 2000 and 740 people have died homeless on city streets since 1985. 

While OCAP's fight is within the province of Ontario, forcing federal candidates to make anti-poverty pledges part of their election platform and stick with already announced promises helps everyone get a little closer to eradicating poverty by Campaign 2015.  

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