Toronto’s child poverty rate among the highest in Canada: report

WATCH ABOVE: Minna Rhee reports on the 1 in 3 children in Toronto who live in poverty. 

TORONTO – Toronto’s anti-poverty groups are sounding the alarm over a new study released Friday indicating the city has the highest child poverty rate compared to all major cities in Canada.

The report titled “The Hidden Epidemic: A Report on Child and Family Poverty in Toronto” reveals 29 per cent of Toronto children (145,890 of 507,810) are part of low-income families — an increase of over 10,000 between 2010 and 2012.

The statistics also show 15 Toronto neighbourhoods have child poverty rates of 40 per cent or more, which includes Regent Park, Moss Park, Thorncliffe Park and Oakridge.

“Despite being home to five of the 10 richest neighbourhoods in Canada, Toronto has the shameful record of leading all major cities in Canada when it comes to child poverty,” the report read.

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READ MORE: Ontario fails to meet child poverty reduction target; blames Ottawa

The report also concludes poverty varies significantly in Toronto by race and ethnicity.

People of African and Middle Eastern backgrounds are about three times more likely to be living on low incomes than are people of European backgrounds.

The authors of the report say the “hidden epidemic” is a wake-up call to municipal and upper levels of government for the immediate support to reduce child poverty.

In April of this year, Toronto City Council voted unanimously to develop a poverty reduction strategy for the city.

“We propose that such a plan should address the key policy avenues for poverty reduction, including equitable access to good jobs, income supports, housing and shelter, public transit and community services,” said the report.

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The report also suggests a strategy must include implementing “fair and sustainable taxation at the municipal level.”

In September, the Ontario government admitted it had failed to meet a five-year target of reducing child poverty by 25 per cent beginning in 2008.

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The governing Liberals then said it did its part to reduce those numbers but then laid the blame on the federal government.

“We did everything we said we would do when we released that strategy in 2008 and had the other elements of the strategy, particularly the responsibilities we believe lie with the federal government, had the federal government done its part we would have come very close, if not had achieved, our goal of a 25-per-cent reduction in child poverty,” deputy premier Deb Matthews said on Sept. 4.

In 2008, Ontario had asked the federal government to increase both the amount of the Working Income Tax Benefit and the National Child Benefit Supplement.

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Though the target was not met, the province said it had made “extraordinary progress,” pointing to an increase in the minimum wage and the Ontario Child Benefit, as well as breakfast programs and health services for children and youth in low-income families.

The authors of Toronto’s poverty report hope the new numbers will help spark public discussion and increase recognition across Toronto of the importance of poverty reduction.

The report was co-authored by the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto, Alliance for Poverty-Free Toronto, Social Planning Toronto, Family Service Toronto, and Colour of Poverty.

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Read the full report below.

With a file from The Canadian Press