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Editorial: Canada is too reliant on non-profits to do the heavy lifting

Canadians take pride in the country's social safety net, but the truth is that non-profits fill many big holes left by government
Harvest Project development officer Kevin Lee takes a moment in the non-profit’s thrift shop. The Harvest Project is celebrating 30 years of giving North Shore residents in need a hand up. | Paul McGrath / North Shore News

As Canadians, we tend to take pride in our social safety net. The truth, however, is that an incredible amount of the work to keep our neighbours from the misery of perpetual poverty is done not by government but by non-profits who must go tap-dancing for donations.

This year, we mark 30 years of the Harvest Project catching people before they fall through the net. They provide holistic services for everything from keeping people housed and fed in a moment of acute crisis to coaching and emotional support as clients get their lives on solid footing again. We could fill this editorial space with the names of non-profits that deserve equal recognition.

Yet only a tiny portion of their funding comes from government. It leaves us with mixed emotions. We are incredibly grateful for their staff, volunteers and donors. But we shudder to think of the consequences if their precarious funding were to disappear.

It would expose how frayed our safety net really is and, to our great shame, it would make poverty truly flourish.

The census statistics don’t lie. Our postal codes are among the wealthiest in the country. As long as that is the case, we should be first in line to open our hearts and wallets to our non-profits. But while we are at it, we should also put this issue in front of our MPs and MLAs.

Government officials are the ones who decide how wide the gaps in the social safety net should be. And if we want a system that truly makes us proud, it’s on them to fund it.

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