Canadians are fortunate to live in one of the world’s better countries, but we delude ourselves when we claim to be living in the best — or even one of the best.

Not when more than a million Canadian children — 15.1 per cent or one in seven of them — are living in poverty, many thousands bereft of adequate nutrition and health care.

Not when the OECD ranks Canada 15th– third last — among the 17 leading industrialized countries in the extent of its child poverty. (The OECD gives Canada a C grade, not much lower than the D grade given the last nation on the list, the United States.)

Not when children in millions of Canadian households are living in sub-standard, crowded, poorly furnished housing conditions.

Not when 21 per cent of single Canadian mothers have to raise their children while living in poverty.

Not when Canada still lacks the national, accessible, affordable, high-quality child-care system that prevails in most European countries.

Over the past few Ramadans, fasting from before sunrise to sunset, with no food or drink each day for a month, I have become increasingly attuned to the plight of my patients and those in our community who are suffering with profound poverty and hunger.

A group of Hamilton area Pakistani physicians conducted a Ramadan food basket distribution out of the Hamilton Downtown Mosque recently. One-hundred boxes of food — rice, lentils, oil, dates and pasta — were distributed to 100 families in the neighbourhood, regardless of religion, gender or creed. We didn’t want to ask questions or demand identification but instead relied on the knowledgeable local members of the mosque to ensure the distribution was as fair as possible.

Of course, we ran out of boxes.

Poverty is hard to measure. There are many aspects besides living on low income, including having disabilities or costly health problems, not being able to find decent housing, not being able to understand and communicate in an environment with increasing technological and legal complexity and being unable to find nutritious food at reasonable prices.

Still, the federal government has embarked on formulating a major poverty-reduction strategy and it would presumably like to have meaningful ways of measuring and monitoring progress toward the goal of reducing poverty in Canada – what Social Development Minister Jean-Yves Duclos has called the 3Ms.

It’s time the federal government established an official poverty line – a dollar amount of income below which a person or family would be deemed to be “poor.”

Tent cities are not the ultimate solution to a housing crisis but play an extremely important role, says a Vancouver lawyer who has fought on behalf of homeless people in that city.

A homeless camp allows vulnerable people to be together for emotional support and safety, provides community and makes it easier for social service agencies to find and help them, said Anna Cooper, with Vancouver-based Pivot Legal Society, which works alongside marginalized communities.

“Tent cities are also playing an extremely important role in harm reduction right now, while we’re in the midst of a national overdose crisis,” she said.

Canada may be a wealthy country, but 20 per cent of its children and youth live in poverty, says UNICEF Canada, and it is asking Canadians to help.

Children are suffering from a growing inequality in Canada, says David Morley.

“It’s something which is shocking for a country as wealthy as ours and it’s a situation that just isn’t improving,” says David Morley, president and CEO of UNICEF Canada. This United Nations’ humanitarian organization ranks Canada 25th out of the world’s 41 richest countries for the well-being of children and youth.

PRESCOT, England — A walk through this modest town in the northwest of England amounts to a tour of the casualties of Britain’s age of austerity.

The old library building has been sold and refashioned into a glass-fronted luxury home. The leisure center has been razed, eliminating the public swimming pool. The local museum has receded into town history. The police station has been shuttered.

Now, as the local government desperately seeks to turn assets into cash, Browns Field, a lush park in the center of town, may be doomed, too. At a meeting in November, the council included it on a list of 17 parks to sell to developers.

What we’ve learned from history is that income security programs are the way to go — the older adult population is a key case in point. By providing financial stability to older adults through various income security programs (e.g., old age security, the guaranteed income supplement), we, at one point, virtually eliminated poverty for this population.

Findings, too, from the Mincome study, documented by Evelyn Forget at the University of Manitoba, showed that by providing people with a basic income in Dauphin, Man., there was a reduction in the hospitalization rate of almost 10 per cent in just four years. That amounts to significant savings in health care dollars.

Charity as the solution? Think again. Food and meal programs have never been able to solve food insecurity because they don’t address the root of the problem: a lack of financial resources.