On the Edge: A Journey into the Heart of Canada


182 pages
Contains Photos, Bibliography
ISBN 1-55054-126-9
DDC 305.5'69'0971





Reviewed by James S. Frideres

James S. Frideres is associate dean (research) in the Faculty of Social
Sciences at the University of Calgary and the author of A World of
Communities: Participatory Research.


Early on in this book, Lindalee Tracey provides a brief sociodemographic
profile of the poor in Canada. They are not older, single men who have
“given up.” Rather, they come from every social and economic stratum
of our society. They may be single mothers, unemployed fishers, disabled
workers, retired couples, or workers unable to find a job that lifts
them out of poverty—the working poor. Nearly three million Canadians
find themselves unable to achieve a quality of life above what most of
us consider to be typical of Third World countries.

Starting in the Maritimes, the author takes the reader across Canada,
eventually ending up in Victoria. At each stop (usually a major urban
centre), she interviews individuals who are forced to live a life of
poverty. Some have just begun their journey into poverty, while others
have spent a lifetime living without the basics. Tracey tries to focus
on the positive aspects of these individuals, recognizing their
contributions to Canadian society as good neighbors, cultural guardians,
consumers, parents, and volunteers.

She argues that the current hysteria over the national deficit has
created a public stinginess, a mean-spiritedness among Canadians. To be
sure, there are scammers and welfare cheats, but their “crimes” are
pitifully small compared to the white-collar crimes committed by major
corporations, public officials, and professionals.

This book provides an opportunity for the average Canadian to see what
poverty is like and what it does to a person’s self-esteem. As their
stories unfold, we find that many of those living in poverty today were
once proud Canadians. Whether or not they can be so again depends on the
willingness of other Canadians to right inequities in our society.


Tracey, Lindalee., “On the Edge: A Journey into the Heart of Canada,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 21, 2024, https://cbra.library.utoronto.ca/items/show/6822.