Neglected resolutions by the feds result in increased child poverty in Canada

Twenty-two years ago, a resolution was passed in the House of Commons to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. The federal government neglected to follow up with this commitment by adopting any serious poverty reducing targets. Sadly, nearly 1 in 10 children are still living in poverty in Canada.

The child and family poverty rate in Canada decreased to 9.5% in 2009 from 11.9% in 1989 — a relatively small percentage change of 20% when you consider pre-recession levels of economic growth.

Low social assistance rates, an unpredictable labour market as well as the rising cost of food and housing continue to threaten the economic security of Canadian families. The longer we wait to address the systemic issues associated with child poverty, the wider the gap between rich and poor families becomes, making it harder to maintain a decent standard of living.

Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan network of national, regional and local partner organizations working to build awareness of child and family issues across Canada. Campaign 2000 has just released its 20th monitoring report entitled Revisiting Family Security in Insecure Times which explores the nature of child and family poverty in Canada. This report draws on evidence from academic, community-based and government research to illustrate how poverty reduction strategies can reduce the costs of health care, education and social assistance services. It describes child care, affordable housing and post-secondary education as essential to good health, particularly for vulnerable populations.

Some of the recommendations put forward in Campaign 2000’s report include:

  • Restored and expanded eligibility for Employment Insurance
  • A federal minimum wage of $11 per hour
  • Increased federal work tax credits of $2400 per year

Embedded in each of its ten recommendations is the need for a coordinated and collaborative approach among all levels of government (federal, provincial, territorial and First Nations) supplemented by the community and private sectors.

The Wellesley Institute strongly supports Campaign 2000’s efforts to eradicate child poverty. Our research looks at how policies rooted in a social determinants of health perspective can mitigate the negative health impacts of inequity. However, good research, as reiterated in this report, is only the beginning. Canadians need progressive political leadership and policy interventions to identify and address health inequities. An effective, action-oriented poverty reduction strategy, as proposed in this report, will establish good jobs, education, affordable housing and social services as the building blocks for ending child poverty, and improving overall population health.