Reducing Child Poverty

Supporting Families: Reducing Child Poverty

  • More than one in seven Canadian children is living in poverty – in one of the wealthiest countries in the world. Despite some initial success at reducing child poverty from the mid-1980s to the mid-1990s, the Conference Board of Canada reports that the rate increased between the mid-1990s and the late 2000s to 15.1%, ranking us 15th out of 17 peer countries (earning us a “C” grade).
  • Certain vulnerable groups continue to experience higher levels of poverty than others – Aboriginal peoples (one in four First Nations children lives in poverty), recent immigrants and racialized communities, female lone-parent families, and persons with disabilities.
  • According to the Conference Board, “income inequality in Canada has increased over the past 20 years” and “since 1990, the richest group of Canadians has increased its share of total national income, while the poorest and middle-income groups have lost share.” There is growing international recognition that income inequality can hurt the economy.
  • Poverty’s negative impact on student learning and development is well established. According to the Canadian Education Statistics Council, “family income can influence various developmental outcomes, academic results, and life transitions. For example, living in low-income circumstances may impede the school readiness of preschool children, reduce the likelihood of success in educational achievement throughout the educational trajectory, reduce the ability to afford postsecondary education, and increase the likelihood of living in low-income circumstances as an adult.”
  • The economic and social costs of not addressing poverty run into the billions of dollars annually.
  • Addressing poverty is fundamentally a human rights issue. The UN notes that a human rights-based approach to tackling poverty recognizes that in addition to a lack of economic and material resources, poverty also contributes to social exclusion and is a violation of human dignity.
  • The positive impact of government transfer payments in reducing the poverty rate is significant.
  • Some progress is being made at the provincial level in reducing poverty. Seven of ten provinces have put in place poverty reduction plans or strategies. We firmly believe the time has now come for strong federal leadership on this issue.

Recommendations

The Teachers of Canada call on the Federal Government to:
  • Commit to a comprehensive federal poverty reduction strategy for Canada that includes realistic targets and timelines developed in broad consultation with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal governments and organizations, non-governmental organizations and people living in poverty.
  • Restore and expand eligibility for Employment Insurance to better support individuals separated from their employment. This would involve easing eligibility requirements, extending benefit durations, and increasing benefit rates.
  • Increase the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CCTB) from the current maximum of $3,582 per child to $5,300 per child.
  • Develop a national strategy on housing and the elimination of homelessness, and that such a strategy reference the right to adequate housing, and have targets, timelines and accountability measures.
  • Replace the current Universal Child Care Benefit with a universal child care and education system providing dedicated funding for high quality care and early intervention and school readiness initiatives for all children.
  • Address rising income inequality and the needs of low-income families by restoring fairness to the Canadian tax system.

Immigrants and Refugees

Supporting Families: Immigrant and Refugees Families

  • The number of immigrants annually entering Canada has been identified by Statistics Canada as 270,581 in 2009/2010 and is projected to rise to 333,6001 by 2035. Funding provided for the settlement of and integration of newcomers has been forecast by Citizenship and Immigration Canada2 at $991.2M in 2011/2012 and planned to decrease to $977.6M in 2014/2015.
  • Challenges related to education and an increasingly diverse population may be categorized in two main areas – social and economic and pedagogical. Pedagogical issues are primarily a result of students in school who are not able to adequately communicate in the language of instruction but also include a need for teacher training related to addressing the specific concerns of a diverse student population.
  • On average, over 1 in 8 students were reported by their teachers as being English Language Learners (ELL) or French Language Learners (FLL). Delivery of services to ELL or FLL varies across the country. In many cases these students will have sporadic access to specialized help from itinerant ELL/FLL teachers and the burden will fall on the classroom teacher who is also addressing numerous other educational needs of her/his students.
  • Immigrant children face numerous challenges beyond adapting to a new language. They are more likely to be victims of bullying and discrimination. Refugee children are often in poverty with parents who have difficulty finding employment paying a living wage. These social problems manifest themselves in various ways in the schools and can result in an increase in the workload of already overloaded teachers.

Recommendations

The Teachers of Canada call on the Federal Government to:
  • Adjust the settlement funding formula to include additional resources for schools targeted at addressing the specific needs of immigrant and refugee children.
  • Establish a national agency to coordinate the delivery of services to immigrant and refugee children in Canadian schools.
  • Commit to a comprehensive federal poverty reduction strategy for Canada that includes realistic targets and timelines developed in broad consultation with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal governments and organizations, non-governmental organizations and people living in poverty.
  • Restore and expand eligibility for Employment Insurance to better support individuals separated from their employment. This would involve easing eligibility requirements, extending benefit durations, and increasing benefit rates.
  • Develop a national strategy on housing and the elimination of homelessness, and that such a strategy reference the right to adequate housing, and have targets, timelines and accountability measures.
  • Replace the current Universal Child Care Benefit with a universal child care and education system providing dedicated funding for high quality care and early intervention and school readiness initiatives for all children.

First Nation, Inuit and Métis

Supporting Families: First Nation, Inuit and Métis

  • Education has long been identified as critical to improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples and addressing long-standing inequities.
  • In 2010, CTF was engaged in a research study of the professional knowledge and experience of Aboriginal teachers in Canadian public schools.
  • According to AANDC, “The Government of Canada’s overarching goal is to provide First Nation students with quality education that provides them with the opportunity to acquire the skills needed to enter the labour market and be full participants in a strong Canadian economy.”
  • By 2020, over half of the First Nations’ population will be under 25 years old; by 2026, 600,000 Aboriginal youth will enter the labour market in Canada.
  • Aboriginal students continue to lag behind non-Aboriginal students in literacy rates, high school completion rates, and access to and completion of post-secondary education.
  • Dropout rates for Aboriginal students can be as high as 75% on-reserve and as low as 25% off-reserve however, compared to the non-Aboriginal population at 8.5%, these rates are still unacceptably high.
  • The unemployment rate for Aboriginal communities is close to 20% higher than for other Canadian communities, and the level of poverty continues to grow: an increase of 5% over the last five years.
  • Aboriginal women experience than non-Aboriginal women three times more violent victimization.
  • The Government of Canada’s Discussion Guide on a First Nation Education Act recognizes the importance of language and culture as critical components for educational achievement.
  • The UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples endorsed by Canada in July 2012, supports the provision of education in Indigenous languages, in a manner appropriate to Indigenous cultural methods of teaching and learning.
  • The Canadian Charter of Rights supports the right to distinct educational institutions and such distinct cultural institutions as are necessary for the preservation and promotion of communities.
  • The time has come for us to recognize that our past still haunts us and that many Aboriginal communities are still being referred to as “living in third world conditions” in 2013.

Recommendations

The Teachers of Canada call on the Federal Government to:
  • Commit to eradicating existing disparities in access to fundamental education, health, and child and family welfare services for Aboriginal families and communities.
  • Recognize that culture and language are critical components to the development and implementation of the proposed First Nations Education Act.
  • Commit to funding opportunities for early childhood education that is such a critical component to the health and well-being of First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and families.
  • Commit to a collaborative process, including funding, for teacher training resources and professional development, for both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal teachers. This would include in-depth information about Aboriginal people, history, culture, and spirituality.
  • Commit to maintaining and increasing support for collaborative initiatives in education that can act as models of promising practice for communities in Canada.
  • Commit to a comprehensive federal poverty reduction strategy for Canada that includes realistic targets and timelines developed in broad consultation with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal governments and organizations, non-governmental organizations and people living in poverty.

Education in Francophone Minority Settings

Supporting Families: Education in Francophone Minority Settings

  • Considering that early childhood intervention is the solution most likely to support recruitment efforts in French-language schools, the federal government, in support of the official languages, must develop a national early childhood policy that takes into account the realities of Francophone minority communities and provide programs that are consistent with this policy.
  • The CTF is concerned about how little attention is being paid to technology in the measures to support official language communities. The federal government must support efforts to increase French-language content on the Web through innovative initiatives in relation to networking, distance education, language learning and dissemination of cultural content.
  • We want to stress the importance of research for the advancement of language communities, particularly in minority settings. We strongly believe that federal investments in minority communities must be based on reliable survey data that can guarantee results. The federal government must support and develop programs that support research and dissemination of knowledge.

Recommendations

The Teachers of Canada call on the Federal Government to:
  • Develop, in support of the official languages, a national early childhood policy that takes into account the realities of Francophone minority communities, and provide programs that are consistent with this policy.
  • Support efforts to increase French-language content on the Web through innovative initiatives in relation to networking, distance education, language learning and dissemination of cultural content.
  • Restore or develop programs that support research and dissemination of knowledge through departments that collaborate with official language communities.

Child and Youth Mental Health

Supporting Families: Child and Youth Mental Health

  • A recent survey of more than 100,000 students (Grades 7-12) in the Toronto District School Board identified stress and anxiety as the most prevalent emotional issues. Emotional challenges such as losing confidence, being under a lot of stress, and feeling nervous/anxious were particularly acute among Grade 9-12 students.
  • It is estimated that approximately 15 to 20% of children and youth suffer from some form of mental disorder – 1 in 5 students in the average classroom.
  • 70% of adults living with a mental illness indicated that the onset occurred before they were 18 years of age; 50% indicated that it started before age 14. This point cannot be emphasized strongly enough – as most mental health problems begin in adolescence or early adulthood, early identification followed by effective intervention is critically important.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 16-24 year-olds. Most people who commit suicide have a diagnosable mental illness.
  • Stigma, broadly defined as society’s negative response to people who have a mental illness, is often described as more disabling than the illness itself. It prevents individuals and families from seeking early identification and treatment for a mental illness.
  • There is a strong association between poverty and child and youth mental health problems. The odds of a child or youth from a family living in poverty having a mental health problem are three times that of a child from a family that is not living in poverty.
  • Teachers told us that mental health problems among children and youth have become a major issue in public schools. Numerous barriers exist to mental health service provision for students including an insufficient number of school-based mental health professionals; lack of adequate staff training in dealing with children’s mental illness; lack of funding for school-based mental health services; and stigma and discrimination.

Recommendations

The Teachers of Canada call on the Federal Government to:
  • Commit to a comprehensive federal poverty reduction strategy for Canada that includes realistic targets and timelines developed in broad consultation with provincial and territorial governments, Aboriginal governments and organizations, non-governmental organizations and people living in poverty.
  • Collaborate with provincial and territorial governments as well as educational and other partners (such as the Council of Ministers of Education (Canada), Canadian School Boards Association, Canadian Mental Health Association, Mental Health Commission of Canada, Canadian Teachers’ Federation, etc.) to develop and fund a national program aimed at supporting schools to both promote child and youth mental health and prevent and address mental illness that:
    • Increases human resources to support schools, families and communities.
    • Enhances opportunities for teacher professional development.
  • Provide support for the distribution and implementation of programs based on scientific research and best practice as identified by such organizations as the Mental Health Commission of Canada.
  • Work with provincial and territorial teacher certifying agencies to establish a pre-service program on child and youth mental health for aspiring teachers in Bachelor of Education programs across the country.

Sustainable Development for Developing Countries

Supporting Families: Sustainable Development for Developing Countries

  • Sustainable development is a key to global peace and security.
  • The family is the basic building block for healthy and productive citizens and communities.
  • Whatever the cultural context, economic capacity or configuration, families are formative units for values, perceptions and practices.
  • Marginalized areas of what we call poor countries, developing countries, or countries in transition face multiple barriers to growth and quality of life.
  • Addressing inequities reduces instability rooted in poverty, illiteracy, alienation and a chronic lack of basic human needs and self-worth.
  • Equitable access to quality, publicly funded education is the right of every citizen and a toolbox for reducing barriers to healthy, sustainable development.
  • Canada’s commitment to peace and prosperity can be fulfilled on a global stage through substantive international development assistance that helps states follow through on promises to provide universal primary and secondary education delivered by qualified teachers in safe and nurturing settings.

Recommendations

The Teachers of Canada call on the Federal Government to:
  • Ensure that quality education is recognized as a global priority that affects health, economics, and social benefits that foster nurturing families and peaceful community development and that as a world leader, Canada take an active role in the provision of educational resources to developing nations.
  • Return Canada to a position of leadership in the preservation of global achievements within Millennium Development Goals and “Education for All” Targets. This can be attained by increasing the present commitment to ODA from 0.31%3 to the recommended Canadian target of 0.7%.
  • Review Official Development Assistance (ODA) priorities and support civil society and education networks to assure renewed attention to quality public education.
  • Recognize that, with 67 million children still out of school world-wide, teacher organizations are natural partners to work with government in providing sustainable support to teachers, schools, families and communities in developing nations.

Footnotes:

1 Statistics Canada, Medium Growth Scenario, Table 1.4.
2 Citizenship and Immigration Canada. 2012–2013 Report on Plans and Priorities
3 According to the United Nations Statistics Division, in 2011, Canada ranked 14th of 23 countries on the OECD Development Assistance Committee OECD/DAC in Official Development Assistance (ODA) as a percentage of Gross National Income (GNI) at 0.31%. This placed Canada well behind countries like Sweden (1.02%) and Norway (1.00%) and 4th among G7 partners behind the United Kingdom (0.56%), France (0.46%) and Germany (0.40%).