Canada by the numbers

Canada is a great place to live. Our country ranks among the best with regards to education (PISA 2015) and our life expectancy is among the highest globally (WHO 2016). That isn’t to say everything is sunshine and rainbows. Though we do fairly well on indicators related to education, crime, and health, we’re among the very worst when it comes to addressing climate change (CCPI 2016).

Still, for most of us living in Canada, our standard of living is quite good. The United Nations uses a composite indicator called the Human Development Index (UNDP 2016) to rank countries on a wide variety of issues, and Canada continues to position itself in the ‘very high’ portion of the list.

However, what all the above-mentioned indicators have in common is their general reliance on averages. In truth, a truer statement to make when looking at these reports would be that: On average, people who live in Canada have a relatively high standard of living. One of the major flaws of these reports is the rather simple fact that averages do not mean everyone.

Of course, it could easily be argued that every society will always have people who have it a little better than others. Still, it’s equally fair to say that countries where there is a generally higher standard of living should be able to provide even more to those who live and grow below the averages.

Put another way: Why don’t we measure societies on the extent to which they support and protect less privileged and more vulnerable populations?

It’s not a silly proposition. Countries where the average standard of living is among the highest in the world should be in a better position to support its most vulnerable peoples. It’s also not a new proposition. It could easily be said that this idea is the premise behind initiatives like the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and our recent intake of Syrian refugees.

The challenge is in getting more people to recognize the importance of this type of ideology. It isn’t uncommon to hear or read negative statements about First Nations peoples or our new immigrant neighbours. For some people, progress and prosperity comes across as a zero sum game. That is, for one person to gain, someone else needs to lose.

I don’t believe this, and I’m not alone (TED.com). Plenty of people who are far more intelligent and informed than me agree with the notion that progress and prosperity is in fact a win-win equation (World Economic Forum).

It should be enough to say that we must do our best help people because it’s the right thing to do, but that statement doesn’t seem to resonate with the folks who need to hear it most. So, I’ll opt for this one: The single best way to maintain or grow our standard of living here in Canada is to help people who are in need.

That means actively working to support First Nations communities. It means doing our best to alleviate the trauma and suffering of refugees who look to us as a beacon of hope. It means not joining the rising tide of populism that seems to be taking root in certain circles.

Yes, we have a great country. Now let’s work to make it great for everyone.


Taken from our June 2017 e-bulletin

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