Ottawa neglects its mission to eradicate child poverty, warns new report

A national coalition advocating for children and families says Canada’s mission to eliminate child poverty stalled during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the group calls on the new federal government to take bolder and more decisive action to protect children .

A new report from the Campaign 2000 group showed that more than 1.3 million Canadian children, or 17.7 percent, live below a poverty line used by Statistics Canada.

“It’s a pretty significant number of children who suffer from the harms and effects of missing meals, do not have the right kind of clothes and parents who work really many hours,” said Leila Sarnagi, Campaign 2000 national director.

The coalition, which has more than 120 members, takes its name from a 1989 resolution by the House of Commons to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000.

The report released Wednesday also found that low-income single parents are now further from the poverty line than at any time since 2012. The average family with two children is $ 13,262 from reaching the poverty line. The difference was $ 9,612 in 2015.

The poverty line used in the report is known as Low income tax Measure after tax, which Statistics Canada defines as 50 percent of the median income of Canadian households.

The report is based on the latest available tax data, which is from 2019.

Leila Sarnagi, Campaign 2000’s national director, said there was a need for a significant increase in Canada’s child benefit for families living in poverty. (Leila Sarnagi / Posted)

Sarnagi said the economic disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic probably means that child poverty has worsened since then.

“We think it will get worse, that it will show us worse results and higher poverty rates in the pandemic,” she said.

The highest child poverty in Canada is in Nunavut with 34.4 percent. Manitoba, at a rate of 28.4 percent, was the highest of any province.

Reducing child poverty has ‘stalled’

Sarnagi says policies introduced during the Trudeau government’s first year – primarily Canada’s child benefit – had a significant positive impact on child poverty levels.

These gains are now waning, she says, because the government has not expanded the benefit programs sufficiently, nor has it made it easier for parents to access the programs.

“Families who are in deeper poverty, the Canadian child benefit does not reach them, it does not bring them up and above that low-income target,” Sarnagi said. “The reduction has stalled.”

The report notes that at the current pace of lifting children out of poverty – 24,200 children moved across the poverty line in 2019 – it will take Canada another 54 years to completely eradicate child poverty.

Among more than 60 recommendations in the report, Campaign 2000 calls on the federal government to significantly increase Canada’s child benefit in its next budget, even though Ottawa has not signaled a plan to do so.

Neesha Rao, executive director of the Yellowknife Women’s Society, also urged the federal government to create new financial support for families, possibly including a guaranteed income program.

“It’s time for us as a country to really look at a form of nationally guaranteed income for people, because it ultimately ends up benefiting children,” said Rao, who was not involved in the Coalition 2000 report.

“Much of the pandemic response that we saw from Ottawa was focused on what the Trudeau government calls the middle class, and I think we really need to see more for those who are close to the poverty line.”

GG: child allowance will ‘keep pace with the cost of living’

In her speech from the throne on Tuesday, Governor-General Mary Simon mentioned the benefit directly and suggested that it would increase with the inflation rate.

“Canada’s child benefit has already helped lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty and will continue to rise to keep pace with the cost of living,” Simon said.

Governor-General Mary Simon credited Canada Child Benefit in her speech from the throne on Tuesday, suggesting it will rise with inflation. (Sean Kilpatrick / The Canadian Press)

The current maximum annual payment from the benefit is $ 6,833 for each child under six and $ 5,765 for each child aged six to 17 years.

The Liberal government introduced Canada’s first national poverty reduction strategy in 2018.

“Lifting children out of poverty is a top priority. Evidence shows that children growing up in poverty are more likely to remain poor as they get older,” the report notes.

Sarnagi said Ottawa’s recent lack of action and urgency does not suggest that it really considers child poverty a top priority.

“We do not see it in what they deliver to people,” she said.

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