Poverty Reduction Act

 
SUMMARY
This enactment provides for the development and implementation of a national strategy to reduce poverty in Canada and the appointment of an independent poverty reduction commissioner.
The enactment also amends the Canadian Human Rights Act to add social condition as a prohibited ground of discrimination.
Finally, it amends the Department of Employment and Social Development Act to establish the National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion.
BILL C-245
An Act concerning the development of a national poverty reduction strategy in Canada
 
Preamble
Whereas poverty is the condition of a human being who does not have the resources, means, choices and power necessary to acquire and maintain economic self-reliance and to facilitate their integration into and participation in society;
Whereas the federal government, through constitutional and legislative amendments, has direct involvement in the reduction of poverty and plays a central role in programs providing social protection and income security, including pensions, the Canada Social Transfer, the Old Age Security Program, child benefits and employment insurance benefits;
Whereas several provinces and some municipalities have either implemented or are developing poverty reduction strategies that are part of a growing poverty reduction movement across Canada, and those strategies are making a difference;
Whereas, in 1989, there was a unanimous resolution in the House of Commons to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000 and, in 2009, there were two unanimous motions in Parliament making it a priority to establish a poverty reduction plan, and the Senate and House of Commons have completed major poverty reduction studies;
Whereas, according to the principles set out in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, respect for the dignity of human beings, equality of women and men, and recognition of their rights and freedoms constitute the foundation of justice, liberty and peace;
Whereas the Government of Canada has signed the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and other relevant international human rights instruments, such as those concerning gender equality, children, racialized and minority groups, and persons with disabilities;
Whereas poverty and social exclusion may constitute obstacles to protecting and respecting human rights, including those guaranteed in the Canadian Human Rights Act;
Whereas poverty leads to poor health, such that individuals living in poverty suffer more health problems and have lower life expectancy than those who are not living in poverty;
Whereas the effects of poverty and social exclusion impede the economic and social development of society as a whole and threaten its cohesion and progress;
Whereas, while all people — including those living in poverty — have the primary responsibility to take care of themselves, that responsibility is inextricably linked to the social, cultural and economic development of the entire community, and attempts by those living in poverty to improve their own situation and that of their families are often frustrated by barriers in society;
Whereas the Government of Canada strives for social and economic equality for all Canadians;
Whereas the underlying factors that put some Canadians at far greater risk of poverty than others need to be addressed and resolved in order to prevent poverty;
Whereas it is imperative to address the living stand-ards and specific historical and structural circumstances of Aboriginal communities so as to empower Aboriginal people and ensure their full participation in Canadian society and the Canadian economy;
And whereas Canadians aim for a Canada without poverty and where no one is left behind, and where every Canadian lives in dignity and respect and has the opportunity to participate fully in society;
Now, therefore, Her Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Senate and House of Commons of Canada, enacts as follows:

Short Title
Short title
1This Act may be cited as the Poverty Reduction Act.

Interpretation
Definitions
2The following definitions apply in this Act.
Aboriginal community  means a community made up of Métis, Inuit or First Nations peoples, whether or not that community is situated on a reserve. (communauté autochtone)
Commissioner  means the Poverty Reduction Commissioner appointed under subsection 9(1). (commissaire)
Minister  means the Minister of Employment and Social Development. (ministre)
poverty   means the condition of a human being who does not have the resources, means, choices and power necessary to acquire and maintain economic self-reliance and to facilitate their integration into and participation in society. (pauvreté)

Purpose of Act
Purpose
3The purpose of this Act is to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion by establishing and implementing a poverty reduction strategy and creating the Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner.

Poverty Reduction Strategy

Development of Strategy
Development
4(1) The Minister must, in consultation with the provincial and territorial governments and Aboriginal communities, as well as municipal administrations and civil society organizations, develop and implement a strategy to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion.
Orientation
(2) The strategy must take into account all people living in poverty, the factors that put people at higher-than-average risk of poverty and the consequences of poverty for society at large.
Objectives
(3) The strategy, while respecting human rights, must meet the following objectives:
(a) to strengthen the social and economic safety net, that is to say, the accumulative protection provided from non-contributory transfer programs targeted to those at risk or those vulnerable to poverty, which are sometimes referred to as social assistance or social welfare programs;
(b) to promote the participation of Canadians, non-profit organizations and private-sector suppliers in poverty reduction; and
(c) to reflect the needs of local communities, including Aboriginal communities.
Draft
(4) Within one year of the day on which this Act comes into force, the Minister must develop a draft of the strategy to be used as a consultation document for the development and implementation of the strategy.
Content of Strategy
Content
5(1) The strategy is designed to reduce, and indeed eliminate, poverty and promote social inclusion through coherent and complementary measures, including:
(a) measures necessary to prevent people from falling into poverty, reduce the incidence, depth and duration of poverty and improve the situation of all people currently living in poverty, including those living in deep poverty or poverty of long duration and those who have multiple needs;
(b) measures to provide income security and access to housing;
(c) measures to promote the involvement of Canadians in developing and implementing poverty reduction solutions;
(d) measures to create acceptable tools to measure poverty in Canada;
(e) specific short-, medium- and long-term targets to eliminate poverty;
(f) measures to be taken by the Government of Canada to address the causes and consequences of poverty and social exclusion, and the departments responsible for their implementation;
(g) the terms and schedule for the implementation of the measures;
(h) the federal departments, other bodies or interested persons that are to be involved in the implementation of the strategy; and
(i) the obligation to conduct an ongoing analysis of all policies and programs — including future legislation — that may have an impact on the income and well-being of Canadians, to ensure that they contribute to poverty elimination goals.
Factors
(2) The strategy must take the following factors into account:
(a) the different realities of men and women, determined in particular through gender-based analysis;
(b) the specific needs of urban, rural and remote communities; and
(c) the factors that put some individuals at higher-than-average risk of poverty, including:
(i) Aboriginal status and history,
(ii) discrimination and racism,
(iii) child-rearing and single parenthood,
(iv) low-wage, precarious employment,
(v) immigration or refugee status,
(vi) lack of education or lack of recognition of skills and credentials,
(vii) occupational injury,
(viii) inadequate or limited access to supports and services that allow individuals to meet their own and their family’s needs and to develop their potential, and
(ix) prolonged illness and disability.

Measures
Poverty measures
6The Minister must use all relevant poverty measures to develop, monitor the administration of and report on the strategy, including measures of low income and indicators of poverty, such as the Low Income Measure, the Market Basket Measures and Statistics Canada’s low-income cutoff, and measures of social exclusion or privation such as the Canadian Index of Wellbeing and any other measure of privation.

Research and Consultations
Research
7(1) The research necessary to develop and implement the strategy, including research that is not yet compiled or cannot be used quickly and easily, particularly on social assistance, must involve the academic sector, those engaged in policy research and groups working with individuals who are experiencing poverty or social exclusion.
Purpose of research
(2) The purpose of the research is to compile, integrate and analyze objective information on poverty and social exclusion, as well as on successful and promising practices in poverty reduction and elimination, to disseminate such information to various stakeholders engaged in the campaign against poverty and social exclusion, and to promote social inclusion.
Consultations
8The Minister may consult any poverty research body if he or she considers it necessary to the development of the strategy and hold public consultations on the strategy with people who are living or have lived in poverty.

Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner

Poverty Reduction Commissioner
Appointment
9(1) The Poverty Reduction Commissioner is appointed by the Governor in Council after approval of the appointment by resolution of the Senate and House of Commons.
Tenure of office
(2) The Commissioner holds office during good behaviour for a term of six years, but may be removed for cause by the Governor in Council at any time on address of the Senate and House of Commons.
Further terms
(3) The Commissioner, on the expiration of a first term of office, is eligible to be reappointed for one further term.
Interim appointment
(4) In the event of the absence or incapacity of the Commissioner, or if that office is vacant, the Governor in Council may appoint any qualified person to hold that office in the interim for a term not exceeding six months, and that person, while holding office, is to be paid the salary or other remuneration and expenses that may be fixed by the Governor in Council.
Salary and expenses
(5) The Commissioner is to be paid a salary equal to the salary of a judge of the Federal Court, other than the Chief Justice of that Court, and is entitled to be paid reasonable travel and living expenses incurred in the per-formance of his or her duties.
Pension benefits
(6) The provisions of the Public Service Superannuation Act, other than those relating to tenure of office, apply to the Commissioner, except that a person appointed as Commissioner from outside the public service, as defined in the Public Service Superannuation Act, may, by notice in writing given to the President of the Treasury Board not more than 60 days after the date of appointment, elect to participate in the pension plan provided in the Diplomatic Service (Special) Superannuation Act, in which case the provisions of that Act, other than those relating to tenure of office, apply to the Commissioner from the date of appointment and the provisions of the Public Service Superannuation Act do not apply.
Federal public administration
(7) The Commissioner is deemed to be employed in the federal public administration for the purposes of the Government Employees Compensation Act and any regulations made under section 9 of the Aeronautics Act.
Duties and responsibilities
10The Commissioner must, in the performance of his or her duties,
(a) review and provide recommendations on the draft of the strategy;
(b) develop a monitoring system to assess the progress in implementing the strategy;
(c) identify factors that, because of evolving economic and social conditions, may create new risks of falling into poverty;
(d) monitor progress toward and provide advice on reaching the goal to eliminate poverty in Canada;
(e) prepare a report on the progress made in the reduction of poverty in Canada;
(f) forward his or her report to the Parliamentary Budget Officer and Auditor General and work with them to better monitor the implementation of the strategy;
(g) meet with the Minister at least twice a year and advise him or her with respect to the administration of this Act;
(h) work with the Minister on the development of a monitoring and reporting system and on the gathering and release of poverty data;
(i) help educate the public and make it aware of the strategy, including its human rights component; and
(j) no later than two years after the first strategy is tabled in Parliament, study the appropriateness of establishing an entity to accept and address people’s complaints about the efficiency of the programs intended to reduce and eliminate poverty, formulate recommendations to the Minister and investigate whether the complaints reflect widespread problems or patterns.

Staff
Staff
11(1) Any officers and employees that are necessary to enable the Commissioner to perform his or her duties must be appointed in accordance with the Public Service Employment Act.
Technical assistance
(2) The Commissioner may engage, on a temporary basis, the services of persons having technical or specialized knowledge to assist in the performance of his or her duties and may, subject to Treasury Board approval, fix their remuneration and expenses.

General

Opting out
Quebec
12The Government of Quebec may choose to opt out of the application of any program providing public funds to the provinces to take measures to eliminate poverty and is to receive a monetary contribution equivalent to the amount it would have received through the program.

Reports to Parliament
Report to Parliament
13(1) The Minister must cause a report setting out the strategy and the progress made in attaining the poverty elimination and social inclusion objectives before each House of Parliament within a year after the day on which this Act comes into force.
Publication of report
(2) The Minister must publish the report on the departmental website within 30 days of its tabling in Parliament.
Deemed referred to appropriate committee
(3) The strategy that is tabled in a House of Parliament is deemed to be referred to the standing committee of that House that normally considers matters relating to poverty and social inclusion or to any other committee that the House may designate for the purposes of this section.
Strategy progress report
14(1) Four years following the tabling in Parliament of the report referred to in section 13, and every four years after that, the Commissioner must report to the Minister on the progress made in implementing the strategy.
Consultations
(2) During the preparation of the report, the Commissioner must consult with the following in order to obtain their observations on the implementation of the strategy:
(a) the National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion established by section 74 of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act;
(b) organizations with a social mission that adopt market-based strategies to attain social, cultural, community, economic or environmental results; and
(c) the public, including people who are living or have lived in poverty and their defenders.
Strategy review
15Within six months of the receipt of the Commissioner’s report, the Minister must review the strategy, taking into account the progress made and the observations formulated under subsection 14(2).
Tabling
16Within six months of the strategy review under section 15, the Minister must cause to be tabled before each House of Parliament the new version of the strategy, the Commissioner’s progress report and the observations formulated under subsection 14(2).
Report to Parliament
17The Commissioner must, within three months after the end of each financial year, submit an annual report to Parliament on the activities of the Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner during that financial year.
Transmission of reports
18(1) Every report to Parliament made by the Commissioner under section 17 is to be transmitted to the Speaker of the Senate and to the Speaker of the House of Commons for tabling in those Houses.
Reference to Parliamentary committee
(2) Every report referred to in subsection (1) must, after it is tabled in accordance with that subsection, be referred to the committee designated or established by Parliament for that purpose.

General Agreements
Power to enter into arrangements or agreements
19The Minister may enter into agreements or arrangements
(a) with any department, board or agency of the Government of Canada or any public or private organization or agency to assist in carrying out the purposes and provisions of this Act; and
(b) with the approval of the Governor in Council, with any provincial, territorial, municipal or Aboriginal government
(i) to facilitate the administration or implementation of this Act, and
(ii) to harmonize and administer federal or provincial financial assistance programs.
Regulations
Regulations
20The Governor in Council may make regulations that he or she deems necessary for carrying out and giving effect to the provisions of this Act.
R.‍S.‍, c. H-6

Canadian Human Rights Act
21Section 2 of the Canadian Human Rights Act is replaced by the following:
Purpose
2The purpose of this Act is to extend the laws in Canada to give effect, within the purview of matters coming within the legislative authority of Parliament, to the principle that all individuals should have an opportunity equal with other individuals to make for themselves the lives that they are able and wish to have and to have their needs accommodated, consistent with their duties and obligations as members of society, without being hindered in or prevented from doing so by discriminatory practices based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, social condition, disability or conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.
22Subsection 3(1) of the Act is replaced by the following:
Prohibited grounds of discrimination
3(1) For all purposes of this Act, the prohibited grounds of discrimination are race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, age, sex, sexual orientation, marital status, family status, social condition, disability and conviction for an offence for which a pardon has been granted or in respect of which a record suspension has been ordered.
2005, c. 34; 2013, c. 40, s. 205

Department of Employment and Social Development Act
23Section 2 of the Department of Employment and Social Development Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:
Council  means the National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion established in section 74. (Conseil)
24The Act is amended by adding the following after section 73:
PART 7
National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion
National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion
74(1) There is established a council to be known as the National Council on Poverty Elimination and Social Inclusion, consisting of a maximum of 16 members appointed by the Governor in Council.
Mandate
(2) The members hold office for one or more terms not exceeding six years each and the terms of office are staggered so that, to the extent possible, no more than half the members’ terms expire in the same year.
Chairperson
(3) The Governor in Council must designate one of the members of the Council to hold office as Chairperson.
Duties
(4) The Chairperson performs his or her duties on a full-time basis and the other members on a part-time basis.
Interim appointment
(5) If the Chairperson is absent or unable to act or the office of the Chairperson is vacant, the Minister may au-thorize another member of the Council to exercise all the powers and perform all the duties and functions of the Chairperson.
Remuneration
75(1) Each member is paid the remuneration fixed by the Governor in Council.
Expenses — Chairperson
(2) The Chairperson is entitled to be paid reasonable travel and living expenses incurred by them while absent from their ordinary place of work in the course of performing their duties under this Act.
Expenses — part-time members
(3) Each part-time member of the Council is entitled to be paid reasonable travel and living expenses incurred by them while absent from their ordinary place of residence in the course of performing their duties under this Act.
Federal public administration
(4) Members of the Council are deemed to be employed in the federal public administration for the purposes of the Government Employees Compensation Act and any regulations made under section 9 of the Aeronautics Act.
Not employed in the public service
(5) Unless the Governor in Council otherwise orders in a class of cases, members of the Council are deemed not to be employed in the public service for the purposes of the Public Service Superannuation Act.
Mission
76(1) The Council must advise the Minister on questions related to poverty and social inclusion that the Minister submits for its review or that the Council deems appropriate to raise.
Strategy to reduce poverty and promote social inclusion
(2) The Council may carry out activities to raise awareness and understanding of the strategy developed under the Poverty Reduction Act.
Meetings
77The Minister must set the date, time and location of Council meetings.
Staff
78(1) The officers and employees necessary for the proper conduct of the business of the Council are to be employees of the Department.
Management and supervision
(2) The officers and employees thus provided are under the general management and direct supervision of the Council.

Consequential Amendments
R.‍S.‍, c. A-1

Access to Information Act
25Schedule I to the Access to Information Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order under the heading “Other Government Institutions”:
Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner
Commissariat à la réduction de la pauvreté
R.‍S.‍, c. F-11

Financial Administration Act
26Schedule I.‍1 to the Financial Administration Act is amended by adding, in alphabetical order in column I, a reference to
Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner
Commissariat à la réduction de la pauvreté
and a corresponding reference in column II to the “Minister of Employment and Social Development”.
27Schedule IV to the Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order:
Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner
Commissariat à la réduction de la pauvreté
28Part III of Schedule VI to the Act is amended by adding, in alphabetical order in column I, a reference to
Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner
Commissariat à la réduction de la pauvreté
and a corresponding reference in column II to the “Poverty Reduction Commissioner”.
R.‍S.‍, c. P-21

Privacy Act
29The schedule to the Privacy Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order under the heading “Other Government Institutions”:
Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner
Commissariat à la réduction de la pauvreté
R.‍S.‍, c. 31 (4th Supp.‍)

Official Languages Act
30Subsection 24(3) of the Official Languages Act is amended by striking out “and” at the end of paragraph (e), by adding “and” at the end of paragraph (f) and by adding the following after paragraph (f):
(g) the Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner.
1991, c. 30

Public Sector Compensation Act
31Schedule I to the Public Sector Compensation Act is amended by adding the following in alphabetical order under the heading “Other Portions of the Public Service”:
Office of the Poverty Reduction Commissioner
Commissariat à la réduction de la pauvreté
2013, c. 36

Language Skills Act
32Section 2 of the Languages Skills Act is amended by adding the following after paragraph (j):
(k) the Poverty Reduction Commissioner, appointed under subsection 9(1) of the Poverty Reduction Act.