Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
November 30, 2009
Parliament continues to pledge end of child poverty
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
OTTAWA - The House of Commons passed a resolution to eliminate child poverty Nov. 24, calling on the federal government to develop "an immediate plan to eliminate poverty in Canada for all."
The motion - passed by the unanimous consent of the House leaders of the political parties - marked the 20th anniversary of the House's unanimous resolution in 1989 to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000.
Yet, in the annual report card by Campaign 2000, a coalition of anti-poverty and faith organizations, showed little progress has been made over the past 20 years.
The poverty level has dropped about two per cent in 20 years, in a time of unprecedented prosperity, the report card said.
"If Canada were a student, she would be on the verge of dropping out," said Campaign 2000 national coordinator Laurel Rothman at a news conference. "Progress over 20 years is extremely slight."
ONE IN 10
Almost one in 10 children still live in poverty; that's 637,000 people, roughly the population of Winnipeg, Rothman said.
She noted a recent report from food bank operators, that showed children make up 30 per cent of food bank use when they make up only 20 per cent of the population. "Hunger is a real problem in our country."
Campaign 2000 representative Sid Frankel called on the federal government to take leadership by setting a target to reduce poverty through increasing the child benefit from $3,400 to $5,400; investing in affordable housing; raising the minimum wage to $11; and instituting a national child care and early learning program.
Assembly of First Nations National Chief Shawn Atleo told the news conference child poverty among First Nations young people has grown worse over the last 20 years. The report shows one in three children of aboriginal parents live in poverty.
Addressing poverty would "breathe life into the spirit of the apology" for Indian residential schools, he said.
Atleo pointed out that there is a $2,000 disparity in the per person expenditure on education for native and non-native school children.
Former NDP leader Ed Broadbent, who spearheaded the original resolution 20 years ago, said Canada could have achieved the virtual abolition of poverty.
"The history is one of national disgrace," he said.
He said the failure of federal leadership began in the 1990s and noted that average incomes of both the middle class and the poor have remained relatively static.
The only group that has fared well have been the wealthy and they need to be taxed more, Broadbent said.
NEW SCHOOLS NEEDED
Atleo said he valued the support of civil society in addressing the challenges First Nations people face, including the need for 60 new schools and the upkeep of existing ones.
Children are going to school with empty stomachs, he said, noting it doesn't take much to put food in peoples' bellies and clothes on their backs.
"It's really important that we light a fire," he said. "We want to work closely with all groups to address the deep gap that still exists."
Campaign 2000 represents about 50 national organizations, including the Canadian Council of Churches, KAIROS and the Catholic Health Association of Canada, plus 60 provincial and community partners across Canada.
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