A response to Coyne’s article (February 27), National Post

Andrew Coyne: Maybe now we can finally say it out loud — poverty is in decline

Maybe now we can finally say it out loud — social class matters; poverty shapes an entire life


February 28, 2019

Elaine Laberge

PhD student (Sociology, University of Victoria), Vanier Scholar (2018–2021)


Put aside, for the moment, statistics and claims about declining rates of poverty in Canada. Poverty becomes part of individual and collective embodied beings. I know this because I come from generational poverty. Through writing and studying sociology, I have spent years trying to understand how poverty shapes lived experiences and the structural reasons for persistent poverty. Statistics and poverty measurements do not capture this “data.” Canada has no “amazing success” stories regarding poverty reduction, as Coyne suggests. Canada has a history it has yet to contend with. Canada is colonized based upon British notions of social class hierarchies wrapped in the American Dream fallacy. Canada is rare in refusing to acknowledge we have a social caste system. Legislators continue to refuse to enact and enforce discrimination laws based on poverty (“social condition”). Consequences include relentless social exclusion: a lack of access to decent housing, healthcare, healthy food, dignity—and, higher education. By excluding social class in Federal laws and legislation, taxpayer-funded universities fail in a key area of their civic and social responsibilities. They do not implement policies and practices to increase access, participation, and retention of “poverty-class” students. Given that access to higher education is crucial to mitigate (generation) poverty, perhaps maybe we can finally say it out loud — social class matters; poverty shapes an entire life. Put another way, poverty measurements shape statistics not lives.