Is it acceptable that a higher percentage of Canadian children live in poverty than in other countries similar to Canada?
On September 26 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will question Canada about its record on child poverty. Canada has not made substantive progress in reducing child poverty since the last review. Countries who established targets, timelines, and targeted strategies have made significant progress.
Medical research documents that the impacts of child poverty can affect children for a lifetime and we all lose through higher health care costs and lower productivity, two major concerns for the Canadian economy.
The government will claim that the number of low-income families has fallen, partly because the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) raises some families about the poverty line and partly because the government now uses a different definition of poverty. The UCCB is intended for child care expenses; it is not for basic needs.
Rather than arguing about the numbers, which are too high by any poverty measure, the CCRC proposes that Canada address this issue directly by developing a national poverty reduction strategy with a specific focus on children, including measurable targets for improvement, timelines, and action plans. For more information see chapter on Children’s Right to be Free from Poverty in the section of CCRC report on Protecting Children’s Rights:Protecting Children;Protection de l’enfant.
On September 26, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will ask Canada what is being done to reduce the number of children growing up without permanent families. They will ask about support for adolescents in care to make the transition to independent living. All children deserve a good start in life. When they don’t get it, the costs are higher. A recent BC report found that over 50% of young people in the criminal justice system had been in the child welfare system. Canada can do better on this child rights issue.
The federal government says it has no responsibility for these young people, even though they are Canadian citizens with a right to equitable treatment. Many provincial child welfare systems do not meet international standards for the treatment of children in state care. Governments at all levels need to put the best interests of these children first.
Addressing this problem is the right thing to do – and it is smart. Canada cannot afford to let so many children fall through the cracks of inadequate support systems, in light of our aging population.
Watch what government officials say about this issue on September 26-27 and add your views. For more information, read the chapter on children in care in CCRC report, section on Vulnerable Children: Paying Attention to Vulnerable Children; Accorder une attention particulière aux enfants vulnérables.