Poverty top world issue weighing on Sask. minds – An Article of Interest

An article of interest from the Star Phoenix
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Poverty top world issue weighing on Sask. minds
By Tim Switzer, The StarPhoenix December 9, 2010

REGINA — Saskatchewan residents have long been knows for their willingness to donate their time or money to various causes. And according to a new Angus Reid poll, it turns out the most pressing international issue on their minds theses days is global poverty.

The survey, commissioned by the Saskatchewan Council for International Co-operation (SCIC), showed that 44 per cent of respondent in the province ranked global poverty — including hunger and lack of access to water — as the most pressing issue, ahead of other concerns such as trade and economic issues (38 per cent), terrorism (38 per cent) and environmental degradation (32 per cent).

“Saskatchewan is an onward looking province,” said SCIC executive director Debra-Jay Albus. “We trade around the world, given our resources. We have growing disparate communities and we’re out there recruiting.”

“I don’t have a magic answer (why poverty was No. 1), but there does seem to be a humanitarian impulse that is stronger than on the national level.”

A sampling on non-Saskatchewan residents ranked conservation (47 per cent) the top issue, followed by women’s human rights (46 per cent) and animal conservation (40 per cent), with poverty trailing at 36 per cent.

The study also showed that at least a portion of Saskatchewan residents are backing up their concerns. Fifty-seven per cent reported donating funds to help those in need internationally during the past 12 months and 10 per cent said they had volunteered at local service agencies.

“Our donations have maintained and increased in some areas, but effort is still needed,” said Karen Timoshuk, a development education co-ordinator (Prairie region) for the Canadian Co-Operative Association, which helps set up co-ops in developing countries. “When we have an economic downturn, people start to look inward and how an economic crisis is affecting ‘ME.” The reality is that economic crises affect those in marginalized countries even more.”

Only 11 per cent said they “strongly agreed” they had the information necessary to make contributions and just 16 per cent said they were aware of the Saskatchewan Matching Grants in Aid Programs.

Through the partnership with SCIC and the provincial government, any money donated to SCIC’s member organizations is matched by the provincial government. The total is then matched by the Canadian International Development Agency, meaning that every dollar donated becomes $4 toward international aid.

“We have work to do about that and we can fix that, “said Albus. “We can get it out there and make people aware that we’re one of the lucky two provinces (with Manitoba) that has a matching program.”

As well, those surveyed don’t see much point in simply sending money to assist with international development. 35 per cent said sending money government to government was not helpful, while sending Canadians to help train locals or to help build infrastructures had 81 and 74 per cent support respectively.

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