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article image20th anniversary of Canada's broken promise to end child poverty

By Lynne Melcombe     Nov 24, 2009 in World
Across Canada, individuals and groups are marking today as the 20-year anniversary of a unanimous vote in the House of Commons to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.
The all-agreement was voted in at the same time as the United Nations passed its Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada ratified in 1991.The year 2000 has come and gone, yet child poverty figures are now almost what they were in 1989.
At 9 AM in Ottawa today, a rally will be held on Parliament Hill in Ottawa to protest child poverty. Chief Shawn Atleo of the Assembly of First Nations issued a statement yesterday about poverty among First Nations in Canada. And across Canada today, Halifax film-maker Nance Ackerman is screening her documentary Four Feet Up, follows hard-working, loving Canadian families who explode stereotypes about child poverty.
Campaign 2000, a national anti-poverty coalition formed to monitor the government’s progress toward ending child poverty, released its 2009 Child Poverty Report Card. Figures show that in 2007 – a year of strong economic growth – the number of children living in poverty in Canada rose to 15% from 11% the previous year.
But the province with the highest rate of child poverty is British Columbia, for the sixth consecutive year. That rate for 2007 is 18.8% – a total of 156,000 children. This year, BC tied with Manitoba for the first time.
“When will the provincial government take action?” asked Julie Norton, chair of First Call, the BC representative for Campaign 2000. “We’ve been at the bottom year after year after year, and our elected officials still don’t take seriously the pain and suffering that poverty causes children and their families.”
Key findings released by First Call with regards to child poverty in BC include:
- The majority poor children in BC (51.6%) lived in two-parent families.
- On average, poor two-parent families lived $8,200 below the poverty line.
- On average, poor female lone-parent families lived $12,600 below the poverty line.
- Over half of children who were poor (55%) had been poor for at least four out of six years.
- Over half of poor children (55.7%) lived in families where at least one family worked full time.
- Families in the bottom 10% made no significant gains in their incomes from 1989 to 2007.
Minimum wage in BC is the lowest in Canada at $8 per hour – and only $6 per hour for the first 500 hours of work at a first job. First Call cites a higher minimum wage as an important and achievable public policy approach to reducing child poverty, along with higher child benefits, increased welfare rates, better access to high quality childcare, and new housing programs for people with low incomes.
Childhood poverty increases risk of poor health, poor academic achievement, fewer recreational opportunities, sub-standard housing, higher injury rates, teen pregnancy, gang violence, higher school drop-out rates, and poor health in adulthood. The Canadian Council on Social Development provides a wide range of statistics on poverty in Canada.
More about Child poverty, Children, Minimum wage, British columbia
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