North has highest nationwide child poverty: report

Northern Manitoba and Saskatchewan have the highest rates of child poverty in Canada, according to a recently released report.

The report, issued by Campaign 2000, a Toronto-based anti-poverty organization, paints a dim picture of child poverty in the northern regions of Canada’s two central provinces.

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According to the report, 19.6 per cent of children across Canada, including 27.9 per cent of children in Manitoba, were estimated to be living in poverty in 2017. Within the area covered by the federal riding of Churchill-Keewatinook Aski – which covers the entirety of northern Manitoba, including Flin Flon – almost two-thirds of kids, 63.4 per cent, were considered to be impoverished.

The second-highest child poverty rate of any federal riding is right across the provincial border, in the northern Saskatchewan riding of Desnethé-Missinippi-Churchill River. In this riding, 59.4 per cent of children were considered to be living in poverty – more than twice the provincial average, which sits at 26.2 per cent.

The number of children in poverty is dropping across Canada, but at a slower rate in Manitoba than the national average. According to Campaign 2000, nearly 150,000 children across Canada have moved from impoverished to non-impoverished conditions from 2015 to 2017. The organization credits the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit as a leading cause for the change. The report states more than 1.35 million Canadian children were still living in poverty as of 2017.

Churchill-Keewatinook Aski MP Niki Ashton used the results of the report to take aim at the federal government, the ruling Liberal party and the opposition Conservatives.

“This report is clear. Successive Liberal and Conservative governments have ignored northern, Inuit, First Nation and Metis communities who are now living with the results. Two-thirds of kids in our riding are living in poverty. This cannot go on,” she said in a statement issued Jan. 15.

“This report is damning, but it’s no surprise. Prime Minister Trudeau’s first move after the election wasn’t to fight inequality. It wasn’t to move forward on reconciliation. t was to give the biggest tax cuts to the wealthy and push for expanded pipelines. Until we have leaders willing to do things differently, we’ll continue to see the same results and it’s our kids who will pay for it.”

The report includes a number of recommendations to eradicate child poverty across Canada, including strengthening the existing federal poverty reduction strategy, increasing the Canada Child Benefit, collaborating with First Nations and Indigenous groups, providing adequate funding for on-reserve child welfare services and creating sustainable employment. Also included are implementing a $15 an hour minimum wage, instituting a universal pharmacare program and increasing funding to the Canada Social Transfer program, the National Housing Co-investment Fund and to provinces, territories and Indigenous communities to fund child care.

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