This page contains information about church statements regarding social and economic issues in Canada including housing, poverty, unemployment, economic crises, and taxation. Click below to jump to an issue.

Housing

The church supports the principle that all citizens should have access to decent housing. It recognizes that housing is a basic need, advocates for social housing, and acknowledges the role that safe and adequate housing plays in reducing poverty and influencing public health determinants (e.g. inadequate housing increases the likelihood of poor health and poor education outcomes). General Assemblies have also encouraged courts of the church to support seniors’ and public housing initiatives.

  • All citizens should have access to decent housing. (A&P 1966, pp. 279-280, 289, 75)
  • Adequate, affordable housing is a vital pillar for building communities in which all human beings can flourish according to the will of God, and a foundation for good health, employment and education. When housing is inadequate or unaffordable these things diminish. Inadequate housing contributes to poorer health, increased likelihood of preventable illness and death, and increased risk of exposure to violence (particularly among those who are homeless). Poor housing affects a child’s performance at school, which may have an impact into adulthood. (A&P 2014, pp. 373-381, 13, 20)
  • Affordable housing should be part of a comprehensive national poverty reduction strategy with regular and predictable funding and a long-term plan. (A&P 2014, pp. 373-381, 13, 20)
  • There is a need for public housing and co-operative housing in addition to private sector housing options. (A&P 1968, pp. 265-268, 280, 65-66, 75-76) Subsidized housing is an effective means of providing adequate housing to low-income households. (A&P 1966, pp. 279-280, 289, 75)
  • Provision should be made within housing projects for such necessary facilities as recreation, child day-care, etc. (A&P 1968, pp. 265-268, 280, 65-66, 75-76)
  • The Central Mortgage and Housing Corporation should give priority to meeting the housing needs of people with low incomes, operating as a social service agency, not as a profitable business. (A&P 1968, pp. 265-268, 280, 65-66, 75-76)
  • Expropriated property needs to be compensated at current market values with consideration being given also to the disruption from the community and the difficulty in acquiring equal accommodation. (A&P 1968, pp. 265-268, 280, 65-66, 75-76)
  • Residents in areas under redevelopment should be consulted and given powers in the decision-making processes that they may have a part in the shaping and restoration of their own communities. (A&P 1968, pp. 265-268, 280, 65-66, 75-76)
  • Addressing inadequate housing in Indigenous communities is a fundamental pillar to initiatives that would address health and education. (A&P 2014, pp. 373-381, 13, 20)
  • Synods and presbyteries should consider taking advantage of provincial and federal grants to purchase or build housing for senior citizens. (A&P 1961, pp. 299-300, 301, 71)
  • Addressing homelessness and the need for adequate affordable housing in Canada will involve different approaches and the cooperation of federal, provincial, territorial, municipal and First Nations levels of government. (A&P 2014, pp. 373-381, 13, 20)

Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

2014: The moderator wrote to: 1) the minister of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development inquiring about the Government of Canada’s plans to address the need for decent housing in Aboriginal communities; 2) the federal minister of Employment and Social Development commending support of the “Housing First” (a policy philosophy that separates housing and service provision where the provision of housing is not contingent upon participation in other programs or supports) initiative and plans to extend existing Affordable Housing agreements (e.g. with provinces) and recommending the development of a long term housing plan with core investment in an adequate stock of housing; 3) the relevant provincial and territorial minister recommending that they take every opportunity to collaborate with the federal government to develop long term strategies and programs to reduce homelessness and provide adequate and affordable housing. Presbyterians are encouraged to mark National Housing Day (November 22). Congregations and presbyteries were invited to consider ways of establishing or supporting affordable housing initiatives in their communities. (A&P 2014, pp. 373-381, 13, 20)

2007: The moderator wrote to the prime minister and premiers recommending the establishment of a national social housing program. (A&P 2007, p. 335)

1987: General Assembly expressed to federal and provincial governments that the lack of adequate and affordable housing had reached a national crisis, while commending such steps as had been undertaken to provide housing for the disadvantaged. It called for increased assistance for private non-profit and co-operative housing developments, mandated a task force to develop strategies through which the church could address the housing crisis, asked the Board of World Mission(BWM) to consider becoming financially involved in providing transition housing for refugees and immigrants, called on congregations and presbyteries to be active in many ways to address the housing needs in their own communities, and recommended that the Presbyterian Church Building Corporation, the BWM, and the Administrative Council review surplus properties of congregations and courts of the church to determine the worthiness and appropriateness of use by the church for housing purposes. (A&P 1987, pp. 315-321, 21)

1976: General Assembly adopted a plan to provide assistance with retirement housing to ministers and full-time employees of the church through the Presbyterian Church Building Corporation (PCBC), with a substantial grant for this purpose coming from the National Development Fund. (A&P 1976, pp. 404-406, 55)

1973: General Assembly urged presbyteries and congregations to become more involved with senior citizens both in the provision of housing and in meeting the social and spiritual needs of the elderly. It also recommended that the finance committee of the Administrative Council review the 1969 recommendation to invest 25 per cent of the liquid assets of The PCC in residential mortgages with a view to its implementation. (A&P 1973, pp. 279, 283, 40)

1970: The Church’s Administrative Council reported to General Assembly that $15,000 of National Development Funds had been invested in Interfaith Housing, a housing project in Calgary. $25,000 was allocated to Presbyterian and Reformed Senior Citizens Housing Society, New Westminster BC. (A&P 1970, pp. 384, 387)

1969: General Assembly urged presbyteries to establish and maintain homes for older persons and encouraged congregations which had amalgamated to use some of the money from the sale of buildings, properties and land, be made available for the care and housing of senior citizens. (A&P 1969, pp. 355, 362, 34)

1968: General Assembly adopted a statement on housing expressing concern for families living in inadequate dwellings and called on church courts to consider how to support needs for adequate housing for low-income earners, those who are unemployed, pensioners and those who are incapacitated. General Assembly endorsed the principle of fair (i.e. market-value) compensation for expropriated property, and of consultation with current residents of neighbourhoods under redevelopment. (A&P 1968, pp. 265-268, 280, 65-66, 75-76)

1966: General Assembly asked courts of the church to consider the problem of sub-standard housing and to support proposals for the provision of decent housing for all citizens. (A&P 1966, pp. 279-280, 289, 75)

1965: General Assembly asked provincial governments to study the needs regarding housing and education where it affects the poor. (A&P 1965, pp. 351, 98)

1961: General Assembly urged presbyteries to “consider seriously the possibility of establishing new housing facilities for senior citizens … in view of both the need and the provision through loans and grants on the part of the National Housing Act (NHA) of 1944 (Canada) and provincial governments.” (A&P 1961, pp. 299-300, 301, 71)

Poverty and Social Policy

Poverty is about more than material depravation. A measure of one’s well-being must include the realization of self-worth, dignity and social inclusion. A&P 2007, pp. 329-337) Recognizing this, the church advocates for social policies that address human rights and the injustices of poverty and wealth inequality. The Church has made statements that advocate for social supports and a national poverty reduction strategy, guaranteed annual income, and addressing concerns with predatory lending practices (payday loans).

Values and principles that General Assembly has endorsed:

  • Poverty is a great destroyer of human rights and one of the greatest causes of tension in Canada and the world. (A&P 1965, pp. 342, 351, 98)
  • Sessions and congregations can be catalysts in bringing together community groups to discuss ways and means of improving the lot of the poor and in enabling the poor to have a voice in determining their own destinies. (A&P 1968, pp. 269-271, 98)
  • Poverty is more than material depravation. A measure of one’s well-being must include the realization of self-worth, dignity and social inclusion. As we seek justice, we must both minister to individual citizens and advocate for policy changes which reduce poverty. (A&P 2007, pp. 329-337)
  • A national strategy with measurable targets and a timeline is a necessary component of poverty reduction in Canada. (A&P 2007, pp. 329-337)
  • Federal leadership is needed in working with the provinces and territories, the non-profit sector, faith communities, the labour movement and the business community in developing a national vision to reduce poverty. (A&P 2010, pp. 447-9, 39)
  • Levels of support should be adequate and should include opportunity for self-improvement. (A&P 1970, pp. 310, 314, 56, 101)
  • A guaranteed annual income is a necessary component in the alleviation of poverty. (A&P 1973, pp. 274-278, 282, 40)
  • Lenders and borrowers should conduct financial transactions in a fair and just manner. This includes the principles of truthfulness, non-discrimination and ensuring that both lender and borrower are clear about the terms and conditions of borrowing. Payday loans are inordinately expensive and seem to unfairly penalize people experiencing financial distress. (A&P 2015, pp. 393-9, 18)

Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

2018: The moderator wrote to the minister of Families, Children and Social Development, and members of the church were urged to meet with or write to their MPs, encouraging that the federal Poverty Reduction Strategy include specific targets, measures, and reporting timelines to reduce the levels of poverty in Canada at large as well as among specific groups identified as being at greatest risk of poverty (Indigenous people; racialized minorities; those living with a disability; newcomers to Canada). (A&P 2018, pp. 369-370, 13-4)

2015: The moderator wrote to provinces recommending that payday loan companies be required to publish annualized interest rates. The moderator wrote to chartered banks in which the church has investments asking about the availability of small, short term loans and encouraging the banks to establish these services if they do not provide them and to the Credit Union Central of Canada asking for information from its member credit unions on the availability of small loan services. (A&P 2015, pp. 393-9, 18)

2011: General Assembly recommended that low-income citizens do not disproportionately bear the burden of budget cuts in addressing the federal deficit. (A&P 2011, pp. 46-7)

2010: General Assembly endorsed the “Dignity for All Campaign”, an initiative of the Citizens for Public Justice (CPJ), a Christian research and education agency and Canada Without Poverty, an organization dedicated to the elimination of poverty. The goals of the campaign are: 1) a comprehensive, integrated federal plan for poverty reduction (this would be linked to provincial and territorial plans); 2) a federal act to eliminate poverty, promote social inclusion and strengthen social security; and 3) sufficient federal revenue to invest in social security. (A&P 2010, pp. 447-9, 39)

2007: General Assembly affirmed the need for a national strategy with measurable targets and a timeline to reduce poverty in Canada and encouraged congregations to write to their elected officials to establish such a strategy. The moderator wrote to federal, provincial and territorial governments recommending:
• a minimum wage of $10 per hour and that minimum wage should be indexed to the annual cost of living;
• the establishment of a national social housing program;
• that Employment Insurance coverage be expanded to make it more accessible and that benefit rates and the maximum benefit period be increased.
Congregations were encouraged to write to their Premiers recommending an end to the claw back (a practice where provinces withhold provincial supports to low-income households equivalent to federal benefits received by the household) to social assistance and to meet with representatives of low-income groups to learn about the challenges they face and how the church might assist them. (A&P 2007, pp. 329-337)

1992: General Assembly encouraged federal and provincial governments to ensure that efforts directed towards economic recovery should not occur in concert with the curtailment of social programs. General Assembly encouraged presbyteries and congregations to support initiatives such as the Family Nutrition Program and increase efforts to alleviate human suffering due to the current economic situation. (A&P 1992, pp. 308-309, 45)

1973: General Assembly communicated its support of a guaranteed annual income to the federal government. (A&P 1973, pp. 274-278, 282, 40)

1971: General Assembly approved involvement in the Canadian Coalition for Development as the church’s major thrust in the effort to combat poverty in Canada. To facilitate this involvement a task force on poverty was established to co-ordinate the concern and expertise of several boards in the national church. (A&P 1971, pp. 301-303, 305, 89)

1970: General Assembly asked congregations to consider involvement in government programs or to initiate programs themselves or ecumenically (e.g. day-care and drop-in centres, language, prenatal, nutrition classes, etc.). The Government of Canada was asked to mount a media education program to eliminate a condescending, sneering attitude to the poor, and to publicize the facts regarding the varying standards of living in Canada to arouse the concern of all. General Assembly commended the Government of Canada for seeking improvement in the welfare system and urged that any changes be based on a set of recommended principles. (A&P 1970, pp. 310, 314, 56, 101)

1967: The General Assembly alerted congregations to “the insidious effects of poverty” and urged congregations to do “all within their powers” to help eradicate poverty. (A&P 1967, pp. 332-333, 340, 98)

1965: The General Assembly commended the federal government for its “policy to intensify and broaden the programs directed against poverty” and urged provincial governments to undertake studies of the needs in their respective provinces with regard to housing and education where it affects the poor. (A&P 1965, pp. 342, 351, 98)

Unemployment

Values and principles that General Assembly has endorsed:

  • High levels of unemployment are a hideous social evil. (A&P 1961, pp. 299, 300, 96)
  • Government has a responsibility to provide the opportunity to secure the necessities of life through gainful employment. (A&P 1954, pp. 264, 95)
  • Labour and management, along with governments at all levels, need to co-operate in every possible way to strengthen the economy. (A&P 1962, pp. 300, 302, 56-57)

Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

1962: General Assembly called on all concerned to co-operate in combating unemployment: the unemployed by seeking employment, employers by employing the maximum number of employees, and legislative assemblies through vigorous and imaginative job creation programs. It called on labour, management and all levels of government “to co-operate in every possible way so that the Canadian economy may be strengthened rather than continually riven by conflicts between employer and employee…” (A&P 1962, pp. 300, 302, 56-57)

1961: General Assembly expressed its deep concern over continuing unemployment and, while commending steps already taken by the Government of Canada, urged it to “bring all its power to bear upon this issue.” (A&P 1961, pp. 299, 300, 96)

1954: General Assembly affirmed that it is a responsibility of the state to provide the opportunity to secure the necessities of life through gainful employment and encouraged the Government of Canada in all efforts to alleviate the causes and hardships of unemployment. The church sent a resolution to the prime minister and minister of labour asking that the federal government study means to overcome the hardships created by seasonal employment and pointing to the inadequacy of the current level of Unemployment Insurance benefits. (A&P 1954, pp. 264, 95)

Economic Crisis

Values and principles that General Assembly has endorsed

  • Social welfare and economic development and progress, rather than being competing elements, are intimately related and interdependent. Governments should not seek to secure recovery from economic crisis through the neglect of those very citizens and communities for whom they exist. (A&P 1982, pp 318-319, 77)
  • In times of economic crisis, it falls to the ministry of the church to relieve human suffering wherever it may be found. (A&P 1982, pp 318-319, 77)
  • As Canada begins to emerge from the 2008-2009 recession, the church’s concern should be about neighbours who have absorbed the brunt of the recession. Government spending and tax decisions should take into account the impact of these decisions on citizens living in poverty. (A&P 2010, pp. 447-9, 39)

Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

1992: General Assembly urged federal and provincial governments to examine means other than curtailing social programs as more appropriate ways of stimulating economic recovery, for example: tax reform, energy conservation and conversion of military expenditure. (1992, pp. 308-309, 45)

1987: General Assembly urged the federal and provincial governments to study the economic crisis in family farming with a view to preserving the family farm and maintaining prime agricultural land for agricultural purposes, and to find ways and means for farmers to receive a fairer share of the overall price of food products. It also encouraged presbyteries and congregations to educate members about the economic crisis in agriculture and to promote dialogue between farmers and consumers. (A&P 1987, pp. 326-328, 51)

1984: General Assembly adopted a report and provided a list of denominational and ecumenical resources for congregations about the ethical aspects of economic concerns in the wake of a statement on the subject by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. (A&P 1984, pp. 368-369, 46)

1982: General Assembly adopted two statements on the economic crisis: one calling for action by the courts of the church and another on government cutbacks in social programs which was sent to federal and provincial political leaders. (A&P 1982, pp 318-319, 77)

Taxation

Values and principles that General Assembly has endorsed:

  • Taxation is a moral issue. Churches have the duty to question the government about the effect of taxation on society as a whole, groups within society, and individuals. (A&P 1987, pp. 322-325, 22)
  • Those whose income places them below the poverty line should not be required to pay income tax. (A&P 1989, pp. 348-349, 62)

Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

1995: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to review the tax system to eliminate unfair tax exemptions and deferrals so that all Canadians contribute fairly to the costs of maintaining public services. (A&P 1995, pp. 297-304, 30-31)

1990: General Assembly expressed concern over the effects of a regressive tax (all income earners pay the same amount of tax) such as the proposed Goods and Services Tax (GST), and requested a thorough review of the whole tax system, including substantive discussion of a wealth tax, a capital gains tax, restoration of more progressivity (systems using a sliding scale of taxation at which higher income earners are taxed at a higher rate) to personal income tax, effective collection of corporate tax, reform of the existing manufacturer’s tax, reducing loopholes, preferences and special arrangements in the income tax system. (A&P 1990, pp. 396-370, 51)

1989: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to adopt the principle that Canadians whose incomes place them below the poverty line should not be required to pay income tax and to direct future changes in the tax system toward making this principle a reality. (A&P 1989, pp. 348-9, 62)

1987: General Assembly called on the federal Finance minister to ensure a fair and equitable tax system, to establish a national standard for federal sales tax relief, taking into consideration regional disparities in income and living conditions, and not to replace lower personal income tax with increased or more comprehensive sales taxes. (A&P 1987 322-25, 22)

1982: General Assembly approved support for the proposal of the National Voluntary Organizations Coalition that the $100 standard deduction for charitable donations be replaced with a tax credit to be deducted from tax payable. This would not only place charitable donations on an equitable basis with donations to political parties; it would also remove the regressive nature of charitable tax deductions which made the cost of a charitable donation more expensive for low income households than for higher income households. (A&P 1982, pp. 208-9)

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