Ed Broadbent is speaking out on child poverty
Why is it that Finland, Sweden and Denmark have almost wiped out child poverty, and we have not? Why do more than 600,000 Canadian kids wake up hungry and go to school trying to read, write and think on an empty stomach?
First, we should have no illusions about where our poor children are to be found. Most are in families with two adults. Most poor adults work. Most of them have incomes so low that they can’t afford housing and can’t adequately feed or clothe their kids. If kids are members of aboriginal or immigrant Canadian families, the odds are even much greater that they will be poor.
Second, this poverty was not inevitable. Mostly it is the product of governments that have neither shared nor cared. As a Unicef report last Friday pointed out, Canadian politicians have failed our children. During the 1990s, the federal government abandoned a leadership role for Canada’s poor. It unilaterally cancelled the Canada Assistance Plan with the provinces, eliminated all low-cost housing programs, ceased to set the pattern for minimum wages and failed to bring in a national child-care program. Perhaps most serious and unbelievable of all, it exacerbated the inequality that was emerging in the marketplace by changing the income-tax system to the advantage of the richest Canadians.
I have blogged about this before but I am going to keep bringing this up because itâ€™s a big issue. I donâ€™t know if I see how a tax increase on the rich will help the situation because I donâ€™t see a plan for what the $3.7 billion can and will do. While poverty is a financial issue, itâ€™s also a bigger social issue and how does $3.7 billion do to change the impact of lives shaped by poverty.
I think the solution can be funded by churches, community groups, schools, and governments partnering together to remake neighborhoods, reserves, and communities as part of a long term process to take on the contributing factors of extreme poverty in Canada. Providing better facilities for those who struggle with mental illness, reinvest in local schools, provide help (which may include incentives) to keep kids in schools longer (there are about 1500 truant kids in Saskatoon right now according to many sources), help those in low income jobs with affordable housing and subsidized rents and help them get ahead. Poverty is a complex issue that gets oversimplified sometimes in political discussions.
- One in six Canadian children is poor.
- Canada’s child poverty rate of 15 percent is three times as high as the rates of Sweden, Norway or Finland.
- Every month, 770,000 people in Canada use food banks. Forty percent of those relying on food banks are children. These statistics point to a betrayal of Canada’s children. What makes the persistence of child poverty all the more disturbing is that Canada is a rich country, a country that ranked fourth in the world on the 2004 UN Human Development Index.
But in the midst of wealth, almost 5 million Canadians live in poverty. Poverty is increasing for youth, workers, young families and immigrant and visible minority groups. Why arenâ€™t we getting together to tackle this issue?
I am not sure Make Poverty History has the answers but sadly since 2005, the issue has disappeared off the radar when it was no longer the issue du jour. Letâ€™s move it back on the political radar.