The sad reality of child poverty
Well, it could always be worse, but the most recent report on the economic plight of our children is cause for concern, and shame. In Stormont-Dundas-South Glengarry, 19.9 per cent of children 17 and under live in poverty, while in Glengarry-PrescottRussell, 10.1 per cent of children live in low-income households.
The figures were released by Campaign 2000, a non-partisan national network of 120 organizations committed to working to end child and family poverty.
Over 1.2 million Canadian children, 17.4 per cent, live in poverty. There are several gauges for “poor.” According to the federal government, “low income cut-offs” are income thresholds below which a family will devote a larger share of its income on the necessities of food, shelter and clothing than the average family. A family is considered low income if it spends 20 percentage points more of its income on these necessities than the average family. You are considered poor if your income is less than half of the median income.
The federal riding with the highest child poverty rate is Churchill-Keewatinook Aski, Manitoba. Nearly two-thirds (64.2%) of children live in poverty in this northern riding, home to many First Nations. Four out of ten children in Toronto Centre live in poverty
“Some might argue that the Canada Child Benefit (CCB), introduced in July 2016 might have solved Canada’s child poverty problem,” notes Campaign 2000. “But the most recent data from the Canadian Income Survey show only a 1.2 percentage point decrease in child poverty in 2016 compared to 2015. There is still clearly a lot of work to do.”
The organization’s name gives an indication of how much remains to be accomplished.
In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Campaign 2000 began in 1991 out of concern about the lack of government progress.
“Child and family poverty knows no boundaries in Canada: it is a reality in every single riding. Poverty means there are too many children suffering hunger, ill health and stress beyond their years in communities across the country,” says Anita Khanna, Campaign 2000’s National Coordinator. “Given Canada’s wealth, no child should go to bed hungry. No parent should be forced to choose between paying rent and buying medication or miss out on work or training for lack of quality affordable childcare. With every riding affected by poverty, every riding will benefit from a strong federal strategy.”
The report calls for another legislated commitment to reduce poverty to be passed before the 2019 election.
“With every single federal riding in Canada home to significant numbers of children and families in poverty, all communities, all Members of Parliament and all political parties have a stake in the eradication of poverty in Canada,” Ms. Khanna says. “The long awaited and historic Poverty Reduction Strategy must finally harness the political will, dedication and targeted investments required to ensure no child or family lives in poverty in any corner of Canada. After decades of waiting for federal action, the first Poverty Reduction Strategy must ensure Canada stops only tallying the number of children in poverty and starts to number poverty’s days instead.” The poverty numbers are not surprising. North Glengarrians earn less than the regional and provincial averages, and almost 17 per cent of township residents are trying to get by on low incomes, according to Statistics Canada data The News published last year.
But the low income rate was lower -- 10.8 per cent -- in South Glengarry
Based on 2015 figures, the average income in North Glengarry was $30,792, below the provincial average of $33,539. In South Glengarry, the average individual earned $36,092.
When it came to households, the average income in North Glengarry was $59,456, making it the lowest in Stormont-Dundas-Glengarry, where the median was $59,526. But in South Glengarry the average was $76,702. At the low end of the scale were Cornwall ($46,564) and the Mohawk Nation at Akwesasne ($27,794). The provincial average per household was $74,287.
If the new poverty reduction strategy is to work, a concerted effort is required. Campaign 2000 stresses the need for collaboration of all levels of government, private and non-profit sectors. Here are some more depressing facts. November 24, 2009, MPs passed a resolution to “develop an immediate plan to end poverty for all in Canada,” while marking the 20th anniversary of the 1989 resolution to eliminate child poverty.
February 4, 2015, Members of Parliament again voted to eliminate child poverty in Canada.
And here we are in 2018, awaiting another pledge by politicians to take some concrete action.
But this is a huge issue. The average person can do little to effect change.
You’re right. However, that does not stop the Campaign 2000 people from trying to shake the masses out of their lethargy.
“Every person in Canada has the right and the responsibility to speak up and speak out against poverty because it affects us all,” the organization states.
We cannot turn a blind eye to an issue that affects so many people so profoundly.
Yet, this is a topic that is rarely discussed in any social or political context.
Let’s say you are sparking up the barbecue or enjoying a cold beverage at the end of a long, hard day at work. Chances are your first thoughts are not going to be economic inequality and the unfair distribution of wealth.
We are our brother’s keeper, but this is a depressing, complex subject. And it’s not all about money.
The poverty line divides. Poverty brings isolation, stigma, a definition of layers.
Don’t tell poor people that we do not have a class system, when they are looking up at those who are in a “higher snack bracket.” Those who do not experience “income insecurity” move in “good” circles, live in “better parts of town,” eat just a little better than the less fortunate.
Large sums of money have been and continue to be spent on studying, and ostensibly helping, the poor.
We are all familiar with the “vicious circle of poverty.” The common wisdom is that poverty, once started, is likely to continue unless there is outside intervention. The cycle of poverty has been defined as a phenomenon where poor families become trapped in poverty for at least three generations.
The situation for the poor will not likely improve under Ontario’s new Conservative government, whose pledges have included making life more affordable for Ontarians and scrapping plans to increase the minimum wage. Yes, we will must give the Tories a chance to right the wrongs of the Liberals.
Meanwhile, as politicians engage in finger-pointing and chest-thumping, that goal set way back in 1989, the one about poor children, will continue to be as elusive as ever.