Nearly one in five children in Canada lived in poverty in 2019, a new report has found.
The report, published Wednesday by Campaign 200 — a non-partisan, pan-Canadian network of 120 national, provincial and community partner organizations working to end child and family poverty — found that in 2019, 1.3 million children, or 17.7 percent, were living below the Census Family Low Income Tax Measure After Tax (CFLIM-AT).
What’s more, the research found child poverty rates were even higher among children across Canada under the age of six at 18.5 percent.
“The higher poverty rate for children at this important age of development is of critical concern given the life-long impact poverty has on educational and occupational attainment,” the report, titled ‘No One Left Behind: Strategies for an Inclusive Recovery,’ reads.
According to the report, the child poverty rate declined by only half a percentage point between 2018 and 2019.
“Our year-over-year analysis shows that only 24,000 kids were lifted out of poverty in 2019,” Leila Sarangi, national director of Campaign 2000, said in a press release. “At this rate, it would take another 54 years to end child poverty.”
Children are now also living in deeper poverty in Canada.
The report found the average single-family with two children living in low income was $13.262 away from the CFLIM-AT in 2019. This marks a significant increase from the $9,612 in 2015.
“This highlights a concerning trend,” the report reads. “The families and children that remain in poverty are further from the poverty line than in previous years.”
The report suggests a parent making $15 an hour living below the poverty line would need to work another 5.5 months full-time, without taxes or reductions in order to reach it.
While child poverty remains an issue across Canada, the rate was highest in Nunavut at 34.4 percent.
Meanwhile, Manitoba recorded the highest child poverty rate among the country’s provinces, at 28.4 percent.
According to the report, only Quebec, Alberta, Ontario and Yukon recorded child poverty rates below the national average.
Shalini Konanur is a lawyer and Executive Director of the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario and Steering Committee Member of the Colour of Poverty – Colour of Change.
Konanur said the report “critically highlights the circumstances of low-income immigrants, refugees and non-status people, a majority of whom are racialized.”
“These communities have been hard hit by the impact of COVID-19 with higher rates of unemployment, poverty, gender-based violence, and poor health outcomes,” Konanur said in the press release.
The report said 2016 census data suggests child poverty rates were much higher than the national average among racialized and immigrant communities.
According to the report, 25.5 percent of racialized children and 35 percent of immigrant children were living in poverty.
Konanur said priority must be given to “reducing the barriers created by racism and discrimination to universalize access to income supports for all people in Canada, tackling barriers to better labour market outcomes for racialized people and concretely addressing the increasing racialization of poverty in Canada.”
Rabia Khedr, National Director of Disability Without Poverty, said over 41 percent of people living in poverty are disabled.
“People with disabilities were facing financial hardship prior to the pandemic and are faced with even more disadvantages now,” Khedr, who is also the Founder of DEEN Support Services and Race and Disability Canada, said in the press release.
“They are wondering whether they will even be included in any recovery plans. Some people with disabilities are considering the end of life because they cannot afford to live,” Khedr continued.
WHAT ABOUT THE CANADA CHILD BENEFIT?
The Canada Child Benefit is a tax-free monthly payment sent to families to help cover some of the costs associated with raising children.
However, the report said the poverty reduction from the benefit will “continue to stall” because it cannot help move families living in “deep poverty” out of it.
The report said the maximum CCB allocation is $6,639 for each child under the age of six. That number drops to $5,602 for children six to 17-years-old.
The authors call for the federal government to increase CCB allocations in the 2022 budget so “all families with low incomes below the CFLIM-AT can access CCB pandemic top-up amounts, no matter the age of their children.”
They also say investments should be made “substantially” to the base amount of the CCB, to “ensure that it supports an interim target of a 50 percent reduction in child poverty by 2025 according to the CFLIM-AT calculated using tax filer data.”
In the speech from the throne on Tuesday, Canada’s Governor General Mary Simon touted the Canada Child Benefit, saying it has “already helped lift hundreds of thousands of children out of poverty,” adding it will “continue increasing to keep up with the cost of living.”
Included in the report are a host of recommendations the authors say will help with poverty reduction across the country.
The 60 recommendations cover a variety of topics such as housing, income security, childcare, healthcare and worker wages, and include strategies to address systemic inequalities.
The report recommends plans be developed to prevent, reduce and eradicate poverty in collaboration with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis governments, and organizations, including women’s and 2SLGBQQIA+ organizations.
The authors also urge “immediate action” on the government’s commitment to ending homelessness in accordance with Canada’s international human rights obligations. They also called for the definition of “chronic homelessness” to be reassessed.
Worker wages must be adequate, and at minimum up to CFLIM-AT, the report notes, with the authors calling for equal pay and benefits for all workers to be legislated.
Further, the report suggests work must be done with provinces and territories to implement “operational funding” of childcare programs based on a sliding scale from $0 to $10 daily.
In the press release, Sarangi said there are “lots of opportunities right now with the start of a new mandate of a minority government.”
“We’ve reflected on what we have learnt through the pandemic, and we need to apply those lessons and start closing the gaps on inequality for good,” Sarangi said.
“The potential for a resilient, connected future where the norm is that everyone thrives is in our reach,” she continued. “We now need the political will and action.”
The report’s authors say they are urging the government to take “immediate and bold action to eradicate child poverty.”
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