Saturday, 29 September 2012

Working toward a poverty-free NWT - by Mary Lou Cherwaty, president of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour

NNSL Photo/Graphic
Working toward a poverty-free NWT

Labour Views
Mary Lou Cherwaty

Guest columnist
Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Previous labour columns 

According to the United Nations report titled Combating Poverty and Inequality:

"The data suggest that although social transfers have reduced poverty in all high-income democracies, countries classified as social democratic (with high levels of unionization, centralized bargaining, strong party-union ties, and pacts) have been more effective in reducing poverty."

Unions do make a positive difference in people's lives!

In my first column of this year, I stated that, "It looks like 2012 could be a banner year for the Northwest Territories."

This was in reference to the Government of the Northwest Territories' commitment to developing an anti-poverty strategy for our territory.

Well, I am pleased to announce that at the end of last month, I had the opportunity to attend a round-table on poverty in Hay River with 27 other participants from across the NWT.

Participants represent municipal and territorial governments, aboriginal governments, labour, non-governmental organizations, and persons who have experienced poverty.

After three days of intense discussions, we collectively reached consensus on a draft vision and strategic priorities.

Keeping in mind our theme of a "poverty-free NWT," work also started on establishing guiding principles and overarching goals and objectives.

The group analyzed the results of the 2011 report titled What We Heard from Northerners about Poverty, the 2010 report from the No Place for Poverty workshop; as well as the strategies that exist in six provinces and Nunavut.

Presentations were made on poverty-related statistics, best practices, and the need to include a gender-based analysis to ensure that everyone benefits from the strategy.

Progress is being made in other jurisdictions to reduce poverty.

Poverty is an injustice to humanity; it is a violation of basic human rights.

Fighting poverty is not charity. As Nelson Mandela said: "like slavery and apartheid, poverty is not natural.

It is man-made and it can be overcome and eradicated by the actions of human beings."

Members of the Poverty-Free NWT steering committee and the GNWT working group, and participants in the roundtable sessions are all committed to working collaboratively with stakeholders from across the NWT as we develop a plan to eradicate poverty in the NWT.

Our efforts will focus on the issues related to poverty such as supporting children and families, improving education and life skills, addressing the housing situation, and creating jobs that provide a healthy standard of living.

Roundtable participants will meet again in the fall to continue our work on the strategy.

All NWT residents will have an opportunity to provide their input through information sessions held across the territory.

Very soon, there will also be a GNWT webpage dedicated to anti-poverty efforts and a place where residents can post comments and suggestions.

While the goal is to present a draft plan to the 17th legislative assembly before the end of this year, ensuring that full consultation and collaboration are achieved is most important.

Even if the final product takes a little longer than forecasted by the premier, 2012 may just be the "banner year" I predicted.

  • Mary Lou Cherwaty is president of the Northern Territories Federation of Labour

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