B.C. child poverty rate rises again

British Columbia’s child poverty rate rose again for the eighth consecutive year with no anti-poverty plan in sight.

British Columbia’s child poverty rate rose again for the eighth consecutive year with no anti-poverty plan in sight.

BC Campaign 2000 published a report card of child poverty that pointed to rising numbers, where child poverty rose from 14.5 per cent in 2008 to 16.4 per cent in 2009.

The data used was from Statistics Canada’s low-income cut-offs before, as a measure of poverty.

In comparison, the after-tax rate revealed a rise from 10.4 per cent in 2008 to 12 percent in 2009, which was the highest rate in any province.

Before and after-tax rate refers to an individual or company’s income before or after taxes have been deducted.

As a part of a national network since 1989, BC Campaign 2000 marks November as the anniversary of a pledge by the House of Commons to work to end child poverty by the year 2000.

Leda Leander, executive director of Boundary Family and Individual Services Society pointed out in order to help children and families, the economy has to improve as well by people buying locally.

“I know a lot of retail stores make a lot of money in the season that we’re in now,” she said. “We need to improve our local economy so that families can have jobs. Nobody wants to be poor. So many families here are struggling just because the economy is so poor and there just isn’t the job market locally.”

The report also revealed that nearly half of poor children within B.C. lived in families with at least one working adult with a full-time job, year round. This indicates an issue of low paying jobs, states the report.

“The other thing that’s important is to not stigmatize poor people,” Leander stated. “Sometimes that subconsciously happens when people who don’t have the resources and children may not have the nice clothes. We have to teach our children not to discriminate against other children based on how they may dress or look.”

Grand Forks, compared to big metropolitan areas like Vancouver or even Kelowna, is also limited on resources.

Inequality is also an issue raised in the report.

“I think in the urban communities there may be more resources available to use.” Leander added, “But I know something that is really special that the smaller communities, the more rural communities, like ours has is that we know each other as citizens. People help out in ways that are really amazing.

“Some of the really small communities have some of the strongest community spirit. That’s a real asset for us, but at the same time there’s definitely a lot less resources for people who are suffering the effects of poverty.”

In order to bring poor families, especially those with children, up to the poverty line, B.C. Campaign 2000 estimates an investment of $900 million would be required.

Leander believes that all levels of government need to work together.

“I think the local government knows what’s needed in a community and it’s hard for the local government to access the resources that provincial and federal governments may have that can bring to bear in terms of local issues,” clarified Leander. “It’s really important that all levels of government act together and that we have family-friendly policies that support families to raise safe, happy and resilient children.”

Opportunities need to be provided to children, including education, stated Leander.

“We have free primary, elementary and high school education, but day care still has significant costs,” she said. “If the government says, ‘Oh we’re not going to fund education anymore, you’re going to have to pay to have your kids go to school,’ everybody would be up in arms.”

British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan are the only provinces without a formal poverty reduction strategy. Alberta’s current premier, Alison Redford, is currently working on a collective approach, which leaves B.C. among the last provinces to conceive of a plan for anti-poverty.

The report was compiled by First Call: B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. (SPARC BC) with help from the Affiliation of Multicultural Societies and Service Agencies of B.C.