Poverty Plan: A Good Start

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC) welcomes the official release of Canada’s first Federal Poverty Reduction Strategy.  It signals clear recognition of the need for focused and coordinated attention to address the long-standing challenge of poverty, including child poverty, across Canada.  In particular, the framework is noteworthy for setting targets, using multiple indicators to assess progress toward those targets, and establishing mechanisms in law to publicly monitor and report progress.

“This is an important step,” said Kathy Vandergrift, Chair of the CCRC, “toward fulfilling Canada’s duties under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It reflects several of the recommendations made by the CCRC.  As it develops, consideration should be given to including more specific child-focused strategies, indicators for children below the age of 15, and rolling short- term targets for reducing child poverty.  Greater investment in child development is critical to meet the long-term goals. Poor children can’t wait until 2030. ”

Using a market basket measure for Canada’s official poverty line, the strategy sets targets of a 20% reduction in the total number of people below the official poverty line by 2020, and a 50% reduction by 2030.  In June the Coalition called for setting annual targets to reduce the number of children living in poverty from 1.2 million, which is over 10% of children, to less than 5% in five years, as part of the current review of how Canada implements all children’s rights.  In that report, titled “Raising the Bar for Children’s Rights in Canada”, the Coalition noted that using annual targets contributed to success in other countries, while Canada has made limited progress since 1989 when parliament first made commitments to end child poverty by 2000.

Titled Opportunity for All, the poverty reduction strategy is built on three themes that are consistent with children’s rights:  dignity; opportunity and inclusion; and resilience and security.  The stated goal of providing opportunity for every child to achieve their full potential also reflects the central principle of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Putting the commitment into law, with a requirement for regular public monitoring and reporting on progress made, using multiple indicators, will provide greater accountability.  The CCRC will work with members of parliament to pass strong legislation and with a new Advisory Council to strengthen child-focused strategies and measures of progress.

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