No Change 18 Years Later – New Report Shows Child Poverty at 1989 Levels

November 27, 2007

(PDF Version)

Toronto – Eighteen years after the 1989 all-party resolution of the House of Commons to end child poverty in Canada the rate is exactly the same, says a new report from Campaign 2000. Despite a growing economy, a soaring dollar and low unemployment, Statistics Canada data shows the after-tax child poverty rate is 11.7%, exactly where it was when all federal parties decided action was urgently needed.

The 2007 National Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada shows that 788,000 children live in poverty in Canada. A startling 41% of low-income children live in families with at least one parent working full-time all year yet do not earn enough to lift their families out of poverty. The risk of living in poverty is not the same for all children. Poverty hits children in racialized, First Nations and recent immigrant communities much more often.

“The report is called It Takes a Nation to Raise a Generation because we are calling on the federal government to step up to the plate with a comprehensive Poverty Reduction Strategy,” said Ann Decter, National Coordinator of Campaign 2000, releasing the document in Ottawa today. “The federal government has the fiscal resources if they don’t give them away in general, across the board tax cuts.”

“Canadians have been polled and they’ve said clearly: Close the poverty gap, that’s the country we want to live in. That’s what we expect of our federal government. I want to know my daughter’s classmates have enough to eat, every day. I want to know that no child will go homeless in Canada this winter. I want to see all First Nations children living safely beyond the entrapping cycle of poverty,” said Ms. Decter. “That’s what poverty reduction means.”

Ms. Decter pointed to polling that shows 85% of Canadians believe that if the government takes concrete action, poverty in Canada could be drastically reduced.

“Teachers know what poverty looks like,” commented Emily Noble, President of the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, “they see children who are too hungry to settle down and learn, children who are living in homeless shelters, children who carry a burden of worry for their families. The Canadian Teachers’ Federation joins the call for political commitment to a national Poverty Reduction Strategy for Canada. Parents should be able to provide an adequate living standard for their children – working together, governments can ensure that is possible.”

“Support for poverty reduction is growing across the country,” Ms. Decter added. “Four provincial governments either have strategies in place or have committed to develop them. The federal Liberal Party has announced bold targets. Premiers of different political stripes are committing to comprehensive, long-term plans. The federal government can play a crucial role through a national Poverty Reduction Strategy.”

The report provides evidence that federal programs already in place can reduce poverty, and calls for more to be done. “We’re calling on the federal government to support poverty reduction by increasing the Canada Child Tax Benefit, increasing federal work tax credits, investing broadly in child care and affordable housing and supporting a targeted plan to address Aboriginal poverty,” said Dr. Adje Van de Sande of Carleton University.

“Federal savings from lower debt charges should be invested in poverty reduction,” said Ms. Decter. “Let’s not just get Canada out of debt, let’s get poverty out of Canada. That’s the vision of a great nation.”

Additional highlights from “It Takes a Nation to Raise a Generation”:

  • Children live in poverty across Canada. Child poverty rates are at double digit levels in all provinces except Alberta, Quebec and PEI.
  • More parents are working, but they’re still poor. No matter were you live in Canada, full-time work at minimum wage is not an escape from poverty.
  • Children in families that face systemic discrimination run a much greater risk of growing up in poverty. For children of recent immigrants, racialized communities, children with disabilities and children of single mothers, before-tax poverty rates range from 28 to 49%.
  • The First Nations population is young and growing and child poverty rates are a formidable barrier. 28% of Aboriginal children living in First Nations communities were living in poverty in 2001, as were 40% living outside First Nation communities.
  • Families still live deeply in poverty. The average low income family needs $9,000 to $11,000 more in annual income to move out of poverty.
  • Children depend on food banks to have enough to eat. 280,900 children used food banks in 2006, almost double the number in 1989.
  • Government programs make a difference. In 2005, the child poverty rate would have been a third higher without public investments.

Provincial Child Poverty Report Cards were also released today in BC, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia and a Living Wage Report was issued in Alberta. All reports are available at www.campaign2000.ca

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For further comment please contact:

National:

Ann Decter, National Coordinator, Campaign 2000 Cell: 416-706-4686
Emily Noble, President, Canadian Teachers’ Federation Tel: 613-688-4300
Dr. Adje van de Sande, School of Social Work, Carleton University (porte parole francophone) Tel: 613-520-2600 ext 6692.

For Regional Contacts:

B.C. – Michael Goldberg, First Call (604) 222-2290 or Adrienne Montani (604) 875-3629
Alberta – Bill Moore-Kilgannon, Public Interest Alberta (780) 420-0471
Manitoba – Sid Frankel, Social Planning Council of Winnipeg (204) 474-9706 or (204) 261-3749
New Brunswick – Randy Hatfield, Human Development Council (506) 636-8540
Nova Scotia – Pauline Raven, Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives (902) 542-3085