French yellow vest protesters set fires along a march route through Paris on Saturday to drive home a message to a government they see as out of touch with the problems of the poor — rebuilding the fire-ravaged Notre Dame Cathedral isn’t the only problem France needs to solve.

Like the high-visibility vests the protesters wear, the scattered small fires in Paris appeared to be a collective plea to the government to “look at me — I need help too!”

Police fired water cannon and sprayed tear gas to try to control radical elements on the margins of the largely peaceful march, one of several actions around Paris and other French cities.

In 1995, Chicago suffered a violent heat wave that resulted in the deaths of over 700 citizens. Many were seniors, African American and living in public housing. Reports out that many of the seniors who died were isolated from their family and community and that others felt imprisoned in their home, fearful of venturing out into their neighbourhood, shocked North America.

In 2003, eight years after the Chicago catastrophe, countries in western Europe experienced a heat wave that resulted in 27,000 dead: 15,000 deaths in France, between 4,000 and 8,000 in Italy, 1,300 in Portugal, and 2,000 in Britain. Many were seniors. Many were poor.

In both situations, political leadership initially denied the extent of the problem and minimized the risk to vulnerable populations…

The federal Liberals are using their omnibus budget bill to legislate a “right to housing” in Canada, a pledge advocates worry could fall short of being the historic step the government wants without a few parliamentary tweaks before summer.

The budget bill would set into law rules for the Liberals’ 10-year national housing strategy, now valued at more than $55 billion, impose those rules on future governments and create two new oversight bodies meant to make sure the spending reduces homelessness.

In Vancouver last month, more than 400 volunteers walked around, carrying clipboards and wearing bright yellow buttons that read “Homeless Count.” They were out on the streets or in shelters asking homeless people to complete brief surveys for the city’s annual Homeless Count co-ordinated by the Homelessness Services Association of B.C. (HSABC).

I spent one evening at a shelter, one block east of Main and Hastings. This intersection is at the heart of the Downtown Eastside, a neighbourhood in Vancouver that is home to a diverse group of people, many who struggle with socioeconomic and housing challenges and others affected by issues of mental health and substance use. To meet the significant need, a large number of social service agencies are concentrated in the Downtown Eastside.

Minister Shane Simpson said TogetherBC’s strategy is to assist the 557,000 people who are living in poverty, with the goal to lift 140,000 of them out of poverty.

A panel of experts is looking at whether British Columbia could provide a basic income or if the federal government would have to initiate it, says the minister responsible for the province’s poverty reduction plan.

Shane Simpson said Monday the aim of the strategy is to cut the overall poverty rate by 25 per cent and child poverty by 50 per cent within five years.

He said the three experts came together six months ago and would make recommendations next year on various issues including the question of a basic income.

Earlier this month, Statistics Canada released new data on poverty in Canada. Surprisingly, the rate of low-income in Canada had dropped dramatically — from 14 per cent in 2014 to 9.5 per cent in 2017.

What could drive this impressive decline?

First, it may be related to how we measure poverty…

Another reason for the dramatic decrease in poverty of late could be the enhanced Canada Child Benefit…

Studies and statistics have consistently shown that suicide rates among Canada’s Indigenous peoples are two to three times higher than among non-Indigenous Canadians.

The reasons are complex, of course, but a new study published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal concludes the quality and availability of foods plays a major role in the mental health of Indigenous people living off-reserve in the country, a finding that appears to confirm a study carried out in Atlantic Canada in 2017.