Residents in Kitimat see a higher minimum wage and income assistance as some of the clearest ways to creating healthier environments for the town’s children, according to a report released by Northern Health in January.

During a public meeting held on May 30, 2016, 14 Kitimat participants engaged with Northern Health officials, and discussed what growing up healthy meant to them, as well as learning what services in the community work to support children and youth to grow up healthy. They also discussed what kind of improvements can be made to further support youth and children.

Kitimat participants in the discussion believed that growing up healthy means having a good foundation, being resilient, and having a chance to live life to its fullest potential, according to the report.

The Liberal government must end discriminatory practices and increase funding for First Nations child welfare services in the upcoming federal budget, prominent First Nations advocates said Thursday as they marked 10 years since filing a human rights complaint on the issue.

Assembly of First Nations National Chief Perry Bellegarde and Cindy Blackstock, executive director of the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society, said the government has failed to comply with landmark findings from the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

“The very lives of those kids are on the line,” Blackstock said at a news conference, pointing to two compliance orders issued by the tribunal following its original findings last year.

“There is no excuse for this type of incompetence within the government when it comes to the well-being of 163,000 children … I expect far better, we all expect far better and God help us; let’s do it for these kids in Canada’s 150th birthday.”

In January 2016, the quasi-judicial tribunal found the federal government discriminates against First Nations children and families in the delivery of services on reserve.

When I first read about Canada spending $500,000,000 (yes, that’s millions) my first thought was please tell me this is not for real.

$500,000,000 to hold a year of partying to celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary. Where are the intelligent people we voted for to rule our country and to make sure there was justice for all people?

How can we possibly think we should spend that kind of money on partying and celebrating when reports tell us that 1 out of 5 children in Canada are living in poverty?

Truly, can we be proud of a country that puts celebrating before feeding the poor? Where is the justice in that?

André Gorz and the importance of refusing work

Twenty years ago the French philosopher André Gorz warned of the crucial difference between a basic income that enabled its recipients to refuse work and one designed to prompt them to take any on offer.

The idea, said Gorz, was ‘to enable employment to become intermittent, and [it] may even encourage such intermittent employment’.

But a ‘sufficient’ unconditional basic income had precisely the opposite logic. “The aim,” he wrote in 1997’s Reclaiming Work, “is not to force the recipients to accept any kind of work on any terms whatsoever, but to free them from the constraints of the labour market. The basic social income must enable them to refuse work [my italics] and reject ‘inhuman’ working conditions.”

February 20th is the UN’s World Day for Social Justice, and this year, we’re reminded that despite extraordinary global strides towards eliminating poverty, equitable distribution of income and access to greater opportunities, we still have a long way to go.

In Canada, 1 in 7 people lives in poverty. For every seven people you walk by on the street, at least one struggles to put food on the table. At least one worries about having a roof over their heads during harsh Canadian winters. At least one is concerned that they might not be able to afford their prescription, or daycare for their children, or their monthly phone bill. And people aren’t equally vulnerable: gender, age, religious, culture, ethnicity, disability can all make people more susceptible to social injustices.

Such inequalities are fundamentally unacceptable in Canada and around the world. Recognition of such issues is the first step in redressing them, and Canada has an obligation to play its part. The reality of social inequalities in Canada do not match the values of those who live here. If even one person lives with social injustices and their basic needs are not being met, then their human rights are denied and that reflects upon us all.

When he got the letter after Christmas saying he was entitled to an unconditional income of €560 (£478) a month, Mika Ruusunen couldn’t believe his luck. “At first I thought it was a joke. I had to read it many times. I looked for any evidence it might be false.”

But the father of two was not the victim of a scam. He has been selected to take part in an experiment being run by the Finnish government, in which 2,000 unemployed people between the ages of 25 and 58 will receive a guaranteed sum – a “basic income” – of €560 a month for two years. It replaces their unemployment benefit, but they will continue to receive it whether or not they find work. The government hopes it will encourage the unemployed to take on part-time work without worrying about losing their benefits.

Today, the Finnish economy continues to struggle in the wake of the financial crisis, which hit just as communications giant Nokia’s star was starting to wane. This left Ruusunen, who lost his job as a baker two years ago, struggling to find work. He was unemployed when participants for the basic income pilot were randomly selected, but had started a paid IT apprenticeship by the time he got the letter.

“For me, it’s like free money on top of my earnings – it’s a bonus,” he tells me. But he thinks the basic income will make a big difference to others who are unemployed, especially those who are entrepreneurially minded. “If someone wants to start their own business, you don’t get unemployment benefits even if you don’t have any income for six months. You have to have savings, otherwise it’s not possible.”

After two decades of tax cut orthodoxy, some governments in Canada have begun to revisit how we tax the rich.

Effective in the 2016 tax year, both Alberta and the federal government increased tax rates for high income earners. The federal government also cancelled the regressive family income splitting measure and it reduced the limit for Tax Free Savings Accounts, both of which primarily benefited high-income earners.

We know that the tax system is a powerful tool to decrease income inequality, but recently available data from Statistics Canada help us understand the impact of making Ontario’s income tax system a little more progressive.

In the 2012 budget, spurred on by the provincial NDP, former Premier Dalton McGuinty temporarily increased the income tax rate by two percentage points, to 13.6 per cent, on taxable incomes above $500,000.

The successive Kathleen Wynne government went a step further: in the 2014 budget, it increased personal income tax rates on the top two per cent of Ontario taxpayers. It also lowered the taxable income threshold for the top tax rate from $514,090 to $220,000 and it added a new tax rate of 12.16 per cent on taxable income between $150,000 and $220,000.