Basic statistics about the realities of poverty faced by Canadians

20.4% of children in British Columbia live in poverty. “Poverty costs Canada as a whole between $72 billion and $84 billion annually; Ontarians pay $2,299 – $2,895 per year, while British Columbians pay over $2,100 per year.” Click here to read the full report or an excerpt below.

  • 1 in 7 (or 4.9 million) people in Canada live in poverty.
  • In Edmonton, 1 in 8 individuals are currently living in poverty.
  • Poverty costs Canada as a whole between $72 billion and $84 billion annually; Ontarians pay $2,299 – $2,895 per year, while British Columbians pay over $2,100 per year.
  • Precarious employment has increased by nearly 50% over the past two decades.
  • Between 1980 and 2005 the average earnings among the least wealthy Canadians fell by 20%.
  • Over the past 25 years, Canada’s population has increased
    by 30% and yet annual national investment in housing has decreased by 46%.

Marginalized Groups: Members of society that are especially vulnerable to poverty including persons living with disabilities, single mothers, Aboriginals, elderly individuals, and racialized communities.

Persons living with disabilities

  • People living with disabilities (both mental and physical) are twice as likely to live below the poverty line.
  • Nearly 15% of people with disabilities live in poverty, 59% of which are women.
  • Estimates place the number of homeless individuals living with a disability or mental illness as high as 45% of the overall homeless population.
  • Children with disabilities are twice as likely to live in households relying on social assistance


  • 21% of single mothers in Canada raise their children while living in poverty (7% of single fathers raise their children in poverty).
  • Women who work full-time earn about 72 cents for every dollar earned by men.
  • Women parenting on their own enter shelters at twice the rate of two-parent families.

Indigenous Peoples

  • In 2014, 64.1% of food bank users were Indigenous Persons.
  • Aboriginal peoples (including First Nations, Métis, and Inuit peoples) are overrepresented amongst the homeless population in virtually all urban centers in Canada.
  • 1 in 2 Status First Nations children lives in poverty.

Racialized groups 

  • 1 in 5 racialized families live in poverty in Canada, as opposed to 1 in 20 non-racialized families.
  • Racialized women living in poverty were almost twice as likely to work in manufacturing jobs than other women living in poverty.


  • Nearly 15% of elderly single individuals live in poverty
  • Nearly 2 million seniors receive the guaranteed Income Supplement, and live on about $17,000 per year. However, the most basic standard of living here in Canada is priced at $18,000 per year for a single person.

Food Insecurity: Not having enough food to eat or having to eat lower nutritional quality food

  • Residents in Nunavut spend twice as much on food as the rest of the country on average ($14,800 v. $7,300 annually).
  • 4 million households in Canada (including 2.4 million adults and almost 1 million children) experienced food insecurity in 2013.
  • 1 in 8 Canadian households struggle to put food on the table.
  • 62% of children living in the North are food insecure.
  • 358,963 Ontarians visited food banks in March 2015.
  • 2 out of every 5 Northern households are food insecure.
  • Food bank usage across Canada is 26% higher than it was in 2008.
  • 7 of 10 Inuit preschoolers live in food insecure households.

International Rankings: How Canada compares to other countries on poverty-related issues

Health: How poverty can affect the physical and mental wellbeing of individuals

  • 1 in 10 Canadians cannot afford to fill their medical prescriptions. Canada is the only industrialized country with a universal healthcare system but without a national pharmacare policy.
  • A McMaster University study found a 21-year difference in life expectancy between the poorest and wealthiest residents of Hamilton, Ontario.
  • Researchers have found that men in the wealthiest 20% of neighbourhoods in Canada live on average more than four years longer than men in the poorest 20% of neighbourhoods.
  • Estimates place the cost of socio-economic disparities in the health system to be 20% of all healthcare spending.
  • It has been estimated that $1 invested in the early years of a child’s life can save up to $9 in future spending in the healthcare system.
  • Food insufficient households were 80% more likely to report having diabetes, 60% more likely to report high blood pressure, and 70% more likely to report food allergies.

Housing: Statistics about homelessness and precarious housing in Canada

  • 3 million Canadian households are precariously housed (living in unaffordable, below standards, and/or overcrowded housing conditions).
  • An estimated 235,000 people in Canada experienced homelessness in 2014, with roughly 35,000 people being homeless on any given night.
  • Almost 1 in every 5 households experience serious housing affordability issues (spending over 50% of their low income on rent) which puts them at risk of homelessness.
  • The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has described the lack of a national housing and homelessness strategy in Canada as a “national emergency”.
  • Three-quarters of Yukon’s population live in Whitehorse where the average price of housing increased 80% over six years.
  • Estimates place the number of homeless individuals living with a disability or mental illness as high as 45% of the overall homeless population.
  • In Toronto, there were 5,219 people who were homeless in 2013 (the latest available data). Roughly half of the homeless population were on wait lists for affordable housing during the same period.
  • Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation predicts that its major national housing program funding will fall from $3.04 billion (2010) to $1.68 billion by 2017 — a $1.36 billion difference.
  • There are roughly 380,600 households living in severe housing need in Canada.
  • According to new research, spending $10 on housing and support for high-need chronically homeless individuals resulted in almost $22 of savings related to health care, social supports, housing, and the justice system.
  • Youth aged 16-24 make up about 20% of the homeless population

Child Poverty: The number or percentage of people under the age of 18 living in poverty

  • 546,000 children across the country live in conditions of poverty.
  • 20.4% of children in British Columbia live in poverty.
  • 1 in 5 Edmontonian children (under the age of 18) live in poverty, which increases to 1 in 3 children in single-parent families.
  • 40% of indigenous children in Canada live in poverty.
  • 8% of food bank users across Canada are children.
  • About 1 in 7 users of shelters is a child.

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