This page contains information about church statements regarding social and economic issues in Canada including housing, poverty, foreign aid and debt (development assistance), unemployment, economic crises, and taxation.


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). The church also encourages congregations and presbyteries 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. 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). 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. 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. 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)

Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

2022: Acknowledging factors contributing to the affordable housing crisis, the national church wrote to the Government of Canada, and encouraged congregations do the same, for an update on implementing solutions to housing insecurity. Congregations were encouraged to support and speak with appropriate elected officials in support of a housing initiative in their community.

A lack of affordable housing is a significant barrier for people seeking to leave situations of domestic violence. The church wrote to the Government of Canada encouraging:

  • increased priority access to housing for victims of domestic violence;
  • short-term financial assistance for victims of domestic violence so that they can access safe housing;
  • help for municipalities to tackle waitlists and capacity issues for affordable housing;
  • the promotion of services that are trauma-informed, victim-centred and culturally appropriate for those experiencing domestic violence, including shelters, housing, counselling and legal advice. (A&P 2022, pp. 177-80, 22)

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 advocated for a guaranteed annual income, improved social supports and a national poverty reduction strategy.

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)
  • A guaranteed annual income is a necessary component in the alleviation of poverty. (A&P 1973, pp. 274-278, 282, 40)
  • A national strategy with measurable targets and a timeline is a necessary component of poverty reduction in Canada. (A&P 2007, pp. 329-337)
  • 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)
  • Poverty (along with racism, misogyny, social and economic marginalization, gun violence) breaks down community safety, health and wellness. Social programs must proactively address these things to encourage community wellness. (A&P 2021, pp. 432-436, 38)
  • Payday loans are inordinately expensive and seem to unfairly penalize people experiencing financial distress. Lenders and borrowers should conduct financial transactions in a fair and just manner guided by principles of truthfulness, non-discrimination and ensuring that both lender and borrower are clear about the terms and conditions of borrowing. (A&P 2015, pp. 393-9, 18)
Select actions endorsed by General Assembly

2021: General Assembly invited the church to encourage the Government of Canada to meet its commitments under its poverty reduction strategy called “Opportunity for all”, and to take steps aimed at reducing and eliminating poverty in Canada. Presbyterians were encouraged to learn more about programs and policies that tackle poverty including guaranteed basic income (where all people have sufficient income to meet basic needs) and to encourage the government to meet its poverty reduction targets. (A&P 2021, pp. 427-430, 38)

2020: The church wrote to the Government of Canada expressing concern about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and advocated that a guaranteed basic income would increase social and economic equality while ensuring critical assistance for vulnerable people.

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)

Foreign Aid and Debt (Development Assistance – ODA)

Principles that General Assembly has endorsed:
  • The rich are not to profit at the expense of the poor, nor are the poor to be left without means of improving their situation. (A&P 1989, pp. 378-382, 64)
  • Humanitarian, rather than political or economic, interests should determine Canadian development aid. Eligibility for Canadian aid should not be tied to acceptance of structural adjustment programs. (A&P 1992, pp. 331-341, 41)
  • Canadian development aid should not be considered as discretionary spending. The recovery of the global economy (from recession) should not be at the expense of vulnerable people in the Global South. (A&P 2010, pp. 405-6, 17)
  • The Government of Canada should make a serious commitment to meeting the United Nations target of contributing 0.7 % of Gross Domestic Product to Overseas Development Assistance. (A&P 2003, pp. 302-304, 308, 15)
  • Countries should be expected to carry only that level of debt payment that is compatible with an ability to provide for the basic human needs of their people. Heavily indebted. The debt of the poorest countries, specifically those of sub-Saharan Africa, should be eliminated. (A&P 1989, pp. 378-382, 64)
  • International financial institutions (International Monetary Fund or IMF and World Bank) should be allowed to cancel or reschedule the debts of countries in the Global South. (A&P 1994, pp. 301-313, 36-38, 67)
  • The Government of Canada should oppose the mandatory privatization of water systems as a condition for receiving loans from the IMF and the World Bank. (A&P 2005, pp. 294-307, 14-15)
Select actions of General Assembly:

2019: General Assembly advocated with the Government of Canada requesting that the government increase its official development assistance to 0.35% of gross national income (GNI) by 2020 as a step to meet the long-established, internationally-agreed upon target of 0.7% of GNI as part of the implementation framework for the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development (the Agenda is part of the Sustainable Development Goals, which are a follow up to the Millennium Development Goals. These Goals are an international commitment to work together to address global poverty and meet human rights commitments not just in developing, but in all countries). General Assembly also advocated that the Government of Canada continue to provide the public with a breakdown of its annual contribution to the World Bank’s aid budget. Presbyterians were encouraged to participate in the “I Care” Campaign by signing and sending cards to the Government of Canada, requesting increased levels of ODA. (A&P 2019, pp. 29-30, 286-288)
2018: General Assembly advocated for a ten-year timetable of predictable increases to its foreign aid and with the target of meeting the target of 0.7 % of GNI. (A&P 2018, pp. 407, 14)

2016: General Assembly advocated that for increases to Canadian aid and encouraging that Canada’s ODA policies are consistent with the values and goals of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). General Assembly encouraged congregations to review the SDGs as a means of evaluating the conduct of Canadian development priorities. (A&P 2016, pp. 314-315, 23)

2014: General Assembly advocated that the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs hold public hearings on the future of Canadian aid. (A&P 2014, pp. 281-292, 22)

2010: General Assembly advocated that Canada’s aid target be 0.7% of GNI and that a plan be developed to reach this target by 2015, in line with the United Nations target for donors to support the Millennium Development Goals. (A&P 2010, pp. 405-6, 17)

2006: General Assembly called on the Government of Canada to promote public health measures (e.g. immunization programs, sewage systems, programs to assure clean air and water, social programs to promote health and wellbeing) as a necessary component for achieving the Millennium Development Goals and to direct its development branch, now called Global Affairs Canada, to support projects that strengthen the public health sector. (A&P 2006, pp. 273, 15)

2005: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to oppose mandatory privatization of water systems as a condition for receiving loans from the IMF and the World Bank. (A&P 2005, pp. 294-307, 14-15)

Background Information: In the latter half of the 1900s, poor countries borrowed huge amounts of money from international creditors (e.g. developed countries as well as the IMF and World Bank) to accelerate industrialization processes. By the 1980s the debt owed had ballooned beyond the earning capacity of many indebted nations. There were international campaigns and calls for debt forgiveness and processes to renegotiate the terms of debts for poor countries. Structural adjustment programs refer to a set of economic reforms favoring lower government spending (in the indebted nation) and free trade policies as a part of loan criteria. The church participated in this international call for debt forgiveness throughout the 1990s.

2004: General Assembly advocated with the federal government to re-evaluate the Heavily Indebted Poor Country process to assure more timely and adequate debt relief and take a leadership role in establishing an international debt arbitration tribunal with authority to investigate claims that repaying debt at current levels would violate the rights of citizens in the debtor nation (because, for example, a country cannot afford to pay for both its debt and essential services) and mandate a reduction or cancellation of debt, and support the development of measures to adjudicate appeals for the cancellation of other types of odious debt. (Odious debt refers to debt incurred by a despotic regime to strengthen its power and repress opposition rather than for the general benefit of all its citizens. Some expert legal opinion holds that such debt falls with the regime and is not a national obligation for the government which succeeds it.) (A&P 2004, p. 318)

2000: General Assembly advocated for government and church support of the Jubilee Initiate (a campaign advocating for debt forgiveness). (A&P 2000, pp. 290-291, 19)

1999: General Assembly sent a message of prayer and support to partners in Malawi and encouraged Presbyterians to meet with their federal MPs and advocate for debt cancellation for the 50 poorest countries. (A&P 1999, pp. 278-282, 45)

1995: General Assembly wrote to global ecumenical partners conveying prayers and support for their faith and work in the face of economic crisis and called on the government not to make further aid or debt remission conditional on the adoption of structural adjustment programs by severely indebted low-income nations and advocate for similar policies by international lenders. General Assembly called on the Canadian government to support continued reform of the World Bank to ensure that its projects become more participatory, accountable, ecologically sensitive and relevant to the needs of local populations. (A&P 1995, pp. 250-262, 33)

1992: General Assembly urged the Government of Canada to reverse foreign policies trending toward decreasing foreign aid and that participation in structural adjustment programs not be a pre-condition for receiving Canadian governmental aid. (A&P 1992, pp. 331-341, 41)

1989: General Assembly affirmed the necessity of reducing and eliminating the debts of heavily indebted countries and made specific recommendations to the Government of Canada about how this might be done. (A&P 1989, pp. 378-382, 64)

1986: General Assembly advocated to the Government of Canada to seek means of overcoming the overwhelming financial indebtedness of Latin American nations. (A&P 1986, pp. 370-373, 56).

1985: General Assembly commended the federal and provincial governments which had responded to the African famine crisis and thanked Presbyterians who responded to PWS&D’s African famine appeal. Congregations and presbyteries were urged to study food aid issues in the context of our responsibility to share the world’s resources with all people. General Assembly asked the Government of Canada, as it developed policies on foreign aid, international trade and domestic agricultural policies, to consider the needs of citizens, as well as governments, to be self-sufficient in food production. (A&P 1985, pp. 346-347, 33, 406-410, 25-26)

1984: General Assembly called for government support of humanitarian aid programs to Vietnam, noting that in the decade following the end of the war, the country’s efforts to rebuild were further hampered by severe natural disasters including cyclones and floods. Churches and other humanitarian agencies had been assisting, but there was little government assistance. (A&P 1984, pp. 390, 39)

1985: General Assembly asked the Government of Canada, as it developed policies on foreign aid, international trade and domestic agricultural policies to consider the needs of citizens, as well as governments, to be self-sufficient in food production, and to reconsider its decision to postpone achieving the goal of raising overseas development assistance to 0.7% of the Gross National Product. (A&P 1985, pp. 346-347, 33, 406-410, 25-26)

1974: General Assembly asked that Canadian bilateral aid to Sudan be renewed to assist in post-war development (following the end of a 17-year civil war during which time aid was channeled through non-governmental organizations). (A&P 1974, p. 284, 285, 45)

1972: General Assembly commended the Government for its rehabilitation program in Bangladesh. (A&P 1972, p. 61)

1971: General Assembly recorded its “profound dismay at the vast man-made disaster in East Pakistan” and advocated for relief efforts and political efforts to resolve the situation. (Until 1971 Bangladesh was East Pakistan even though it was separated from West Pakistan culturally, linguistically and physically by the nation of India. East Pakistan’s movement for independence brought a swift and brutal response from the government in which thousands were killed and hundreds of thousands became refugees). (A&P 1971, p. 57)

1958: General Assembly recommended all political parties be informed “of the fact that our Christian conscience is disturbed by the presence in this land of surplus grain and the lack of food in other areas of the world; and that we urge them to take whatever steps are possible to remedy this situation.” (A&P 1958, pp. 260, 75)

1953: General Assembly encouraged the federal government to increase financial support to assist underdeveloped areas of the world to achieve a higher standard of living. (A&P 1953, p. 67)

Economic Crisis

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)
Select actions of the church

2020: The church wrote the Government of Canada advocating that guaranteed basic income would increase economic equality while providing crucial assistance to vulnerable people and mitigating some of the devastating economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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)


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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