Dignity Project debunks poverty myths
Canadians care about poor but don't know enough about them
By Robert White | Tuesday, April 12, 2011
TORONTO, ON - Most Canadians care about the poor - they just don't know a whole lot about them reveals a new Salvation Army study.
Released in March, The Dignity Project reveals four myths Canadians believe about poverty. The survey, conducted by Angus Reid for the Army, also shows 89 per cent of respondents feel people in poverty deserve a helping hand.
"The Salvation Army believes basic human dignity is a fundamental right for everybody," says Gary Brown, public relations director for The Salvation Army's Ontario Great Lakes Division. "If the Dignity Project survey can do anything, it would be to get Canadians to look at people living in poverty as individuals, instead of looking at people in stereotypical categories."
Myths many believe about the poor include:
Poverty is a choice and the poor are the problem - with 49 per cent of Canadians believing "if the poor really want to work, they can always find a job" and 43 per cent believing "a good work ethic is all you need to escape poverty."
"When you're talking about an unemployment rate of seven or eight per cent, it's very, very difficult to do," says Brown.
More than half the respondents believed a family of four is able to live off of $10,000 to $30,000 a year. And people in Canada who are living in poverty still have it pretty good (37 per cent).
"It's a startling attitude," says Brown. "I was really quite surprised to see 40 per cent of Canadians believe people who live in poverty still have it pretty good.
"These are the stereotypes of people who abuse the system, or live off the system - that's not typical."
A final myth the Dignity Project study explodes is that Canadians are apathetic about poverty - respondents ranked poverty as the third most important issue facing the country today.
"Canadians do care," says Brown. "I think if we can educate Canadians and overcome stereotypes we can make a lot of progress."
The Dignity Project survey was only the starting point for The Salvation Army's continuing war on poverty. A web site and online events will be used to continue the education. Brown also says the Army is encouraging local communities to "come up with some type of Dignity Project initiative.
"It's a project that's going to grow and evolve," says Brown.