Canada currently has no standard definition for poverty. This is in part a reflection of the fact that poverty is a complex social issue, and defining it is not straightforward. It is also reflective of the subjective nature of poverty. Although poverty is in the most general sense a lack of necessities, our individual understanding of what is necessary may be determined by what is possible in a given place and time, or it may be based on social consensus or past experience.
There is no standard measure of poverty either. In Canada, low income measures (see text box) are frequently used as proxies for poverty measures. Though none of these measures provide a complete picture of poverty, cumulatively they provide an understanding of the occurrence of low income in Canada over time. Additionally, they are beneficial for providing meaningful comparisons between places. However, one benefit of relying on relative definitions of poverty and diverse measures or indicators is that this allows each community the ability to define poverty at the local level and the flexibility to measure dimensions of poverty that may be more prevalent locally.