Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Time for a BC and Canadian Plan to Eliminate Child & Family Poverty

"Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter."
~ Martin Luther King, Jr.

This post is dedicated to all of the Canadian children, past and present, who have grown up in poverty in one of the wealthiest nations on earth and who deserve so much better from those who came before you.


“Child and family poverty simply won’t disappear on its own,” said Adrienne Montani, provincial coordinator of First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition. “Political leaders in other provinces understand this, but in BC we are still waiting for courageous leadership on this issue.”

On November 24 1989 an All Party commitment was made by the House of Commons to end child poverty by the year 2000. The Canadian government has failed to live up to their commitment to Canada's children for twenty-one years.

The BC government's position, over the last decade, is that it is tolerable for a significant number of children, particularly First Nations children, to live in poverty, deprivation and social exclusion. No other analysis can be applied to this situation in light of the continuing failure of the BC government to create a Poverty Elimination plan as many other provinces have.

Thank you to First Call: BC Child & Youth Advocacy Coalition.
I am proud to have been a member and participant in the coalition over the last decade.

From the 2010 BC Child Poverty Report Card
& Release

Authors: First Call & the Social Planning and Research Council of BC (SPARC BC).
  • About one of every seven BC children, or 121,000 is living in poverty.
  • The poverty rate for children under age six was 19.6%, or one in five young children.
  • The child poverty rate in British Columbia dropped to 14.5 percent in 2008, according to the latest figures published by Statistics Canada.
  • Indicators such as increases in 2009 and 2010 in food bank use and families on income assistance signal this anticipated rise.
  • The risk of poverty for female lone-parent families is 31% , two and a half times greater than for children in 2-parent families, but the majority of poor children (67%) live in two-parent families.
  • The vast majority of BC’s poor children live in families with some income from paid work, with over one third having at least one adult working full-time, fullyear.
  • Inequity is growing. The gap between the incomes of the richest 10% and poorest 10% of families with children grew from a ratio of 11 to 1 in 2007 to 14 to 1 in 2008. Families in the three lowest income groups (deciles) saw an actual decline in their incomes between 1989 and 2008.
  • Seven provinces and territories have either enacted or committed themselves to
    enacting anti-poverty strategies, with one more ready to act.
  • Both the House of Commons and the Senate have recently issued reports urging Ottawa to commit to an anti-poverty strategy of its own.
  • In November 2009, the House of Commons passed a unanimous
    resolution to develop an immediate plan to eliminate poverty in Canada for all.
First Call Press Release

2010 Child Poverty Report Card

Campaign 2000 and Partners Released 2010 Report Cards on Child/Family Poverty

Join Dignity for All - The Campaign for a Poverty Free Canada

I believe that freedom from poverty is a human right.
I believe in equality among all people.
I believe we are all entitled to social and economic security.
I believe in dignity for all.
NOW is the time to end poverty in Canada.

Media & Additional Reports

Growing Up in BC - Representative for Children & Youth & Provincial Health Officer

The true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children – their health and safety, their material security, their education and socialization, and their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born.

UNICEF, Innocenti Report Card 7, 2007

A close look at poverty

Charmaine de Silva | Email news tips to

One out of every seven BC children lives in poverty. That is one of the alarming statistics revealed in the latest child poverty report card, issued by First Call BC Tuesday. But it's not all bad news:

The child poverty rate in this Province dropped in 2008 to 14-and-a-half percent. But First Call's Provincial Coordinator Adrienne Montani says its too early to celebrate. Montani says the recession didn't begin until late 2008 which means the poverty rate is almost certain to increase for 2009 and 2010.

While critics of the Provincial Government's record battling child poverty point to an absence of an official Poverty Reduction Plan, BC's Children and Families Minister says they do have a plan.

Mary Polak says the plan has been in place since 2001 and that's to improve the economy. "We now have the third highest average hourly wage in Canada at 23-dollars an hour, we have the lowest youth unemployment in British Columbia history, and we have some of the lowest unemployment rates, across all populations, in all of North America."

Polak says she's glad her Government's policies have resulted in reduced child poverty.

1 in 10 Canadian Children Living in Poverty: Report

Amy Minsky, Postmedia News, Vancouver Sun, November 24, 2010. Excerpts:

While the short-term benefits of ending poverty among the 610,000 children seem obvious — fewer children with problems affecting their physical, emotional and psychological health — government must also consider the long-term effects of childhood poverty, the report said.

"The impact of dire living conditions during childhood, such as inadequate nutrition and crowded or unsafe housing, carries far into adulthood," Monique Begin, a former minister of health under prime minister Pierre Trudeau, said in a statement. "Research has clearly demonstrated that there will be significant economic savings and better health outcomes for us all if we improve the incomes of people in poverty."

Aboriginal kids and children of recent immigrants and racial minorities are at an increased risk of living in poverty, the report said, noting those children also have a greater risk of living in persistent social and economic inequality.

The BC Poverty Elimination plan would include the following strategic actions:
  • Commit to a living wage for all citizens and ensure that all Canadians receive adequate food, nutrition and potable water;
  • Raise the minimum wage in BC and increase the rates for income and disability assistance, with supports that encourage and facilitate individuals in transitioning into the workforce;
  • Increase funding and access to affordable housing for low-income families;
  • Ensure that low income families can access special diet allowances, food vouchers and crisis grants for necessities such as food, as well as food programs for children in inner city schools;
  • Every child and family in Canada will have access to timely health and mental health care and support and to interventions that will assist in supporting their development and maximizing their health;
  • Ensure that mothers fleeing abusive relationships with their children have immediate access to safe shelter, food and necessities, including income assistance to help them stabilize and exempted from work searches;
  • Provide refugee and immigrant families with support and financial assistance to assist them in settling in Canada;
  • Increase access and subsidies for affordable early learning and child care;
  • Provide parents with access to college and university education and vocational training, apprenticeship programs and supports for transitioning into the workforce into employment that sustains families;
  • Assist low-income families with transportation costs and increase subsidies for access to activities such as sports and the arts so that children and parents can maximize their social inclusion and develop skills and talents;
  • Adjust and shift the income tax burden and re-distribute resources so that the most wealthy in Canadian society and corporations are paying their fair share to contribute to the holistic well-being of our nation;
  • All levels of government must work together to create a federal housing strategy wherein the Canadian government begins to fund provincial affordable housing infrastructure;
  • Maintain current levels of federal transfer payments to provincial, territorial, and First Nations governments for health and education;
  • Stop cutting and increase funding of the provincial and federal social safety net and the social infrastructure which supports individuals and families in their communities in times of need.
  • Create a National Poverty Elimination Commission with the goal to eliminate poverty in Canada with poverty reduction targets each year. The Commission will work with First Nations communities and leaders on specific initiatives to significantly improve conditions on reserves across Canada.

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