I’ve been reflecting a lot on the intersection between “social justice” and “charity” in relation to poverty.
“Charity” addresses an immediate need (e.g. a charitable organization provides housing for persons without a home), whereas “social justice” is a framework to understand why the problem exists.
The two aren’t mutual exclusive though. Many charitable organizations educate the public on ways to prevent the exact problems that they are tackling (e.g. the Canadian Cancer Society runs campaigns on ways to reduce your risk of developing cancer).
When considering poverty, charitable organizations are addressing immediate needs that members in our community face. For example, food banks provide a necessary service for persons, who, for whatever reason cannot afford a meal for themselves and their loved ones. However, the deeper question: Why anyone in Canada should experience this? In a prosperous nation like Canada, there is absolutely no excuse for any form of poverty.
Social justice activists address those deeper issues and try to help alleviate present and future problems through preventive measures. Factors such as education and the economy play a role in someone being subject to poverty. Almost always, poverty is something that happens to someone because of the social systems we have in place.
We have to listen and understand the needs of our community, especially members of our community who cannot or do not voice their own concerns. In my eyes, above anything else, poverty reflects poorly on society, not on the individual. We can’t truly identify as an equal, fair and humane society when we know that men, women and children struggle each day. It’s a vicious cycle of inequality. In order to tackle this issue, there needs to be a huge societal shift in our thinking and our understanding of poverty.
On Monday, Feb. 20th, I will be co-hosting a tele-townhall with the Executive Director of Canada Without Poverty Bob Rainer and local Board Member Regena Russell. We will continue the discussion on poverty and how we can work together. I hope that you will be able to join us.
Please call 566-7772 if you want to make sure you will receive the call on that Monday.
In the mean time, I welcome your thoughts on what you see charity and social justice to be and what are the best ways of alleviating poverty in our communities.