November 24, 2014 12:23 pm
Updated: November 24, 2014 1:07 pm

‘There’s no question we failed’: MPs commitment to end poverty is 25 years old

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WATCH ABOVE: 16-year-old Dallas Harris has been relying on the free nightly meal at NightShift Ministries, in Surrey, BC’s rough neighbourhood of Whalley, for nearly a year.

The high-pitched squeak of rats is heard not far from where 16-year-old Dallas Harris sits down for supper.

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A concrete step sheltered from the rain is her dining table for tonight’s two-course meal: a ham and cheese sandwich and chicken noodle soup. Dallas has been relying on the free nightly meal at NightShift Ministries, in Surrey, BC’s rough neighbourhood of Whalley, for nearly a year.

She doesn’t have a home or any money, and now, she’s pregnant. “Scared. I am not ready to have a kid – mentally and physically,” she says.

“I don’t know if I am going to give it up for an open adoption or keep it because I don’t know what I am going to do financially. I don’t know how I am going to support it. Buy food. The father doesn’t want to be there.”

READ MORE: 25 years since Canada vowed to end child poverty, where are we now?

Dallas admits she resorts to stealing when she needs something.

Tonight, with winter on the way, she needs a jacket. Fortunately, she finds one at the free clothes truck NightShift has set up.

Dallas is one of countless kids and teens in Canada who have fallen through the cracks. These teens are living on next to nothing, in squalor, or couch-surfing – in one of the riches countries in the world.

WATCH BELOW: 16-year-old Cameron Rodriguez came to the NightShift Ministries looking for a new pair of shoes so he can work at a warehouse at night, afterschool, so he can help out his parents

Sixteen-year-old Cameron Rodriguez spent part his teens living in a motor home. Now he’s angry at those who don’t understand that situation.

“They don’t understand. They’ve never had to f***ing have their power cut off and keep the gas stove turned on to keep the house warmer.”

One in seven youths in Canada lives below the poverty line.

That is just shy of a million people.

16x9-POVERTY_GHL(36%) (2)

Graphic by Leo Kavanagh, Global News

If that number isn’t startling enough, consider the fact that 25 years ago this week, in the House of Commons, MPs agreed unanimously to try to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. Today, there are roughly the same amount of kids living below the poverty line.

“There’s no question we failed,” says Ed Broadbent, who put forward the parliamentary motion in 1989. “The desire was there for a while. But it didn’t persist, and I have my own theory about that and my own theory is that kids don’t vote. Adults vote.”

WATCH BELOW: 25 years ago, federal NDP leader, Ed Broadbent, tabled a motion in the House of Commons to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000. Today, there are roughly the same amount of kids living below the poverty line.

Broadbent points to nations like Denmark and Norway, where the child poverty rate is in the single digits, as countries who have set the bar. He says Canada could make a serious dent on this issue right away by raising the minimum wage, increasing child tax benefits and funding low-income housing.

But, at 78, he admits the probability of eradicating child poverty in his lifetime isn’t good. “It’s not in fashion,” he says.

Until that happens, a patchwork of grassroots organizations, like NightShift Ministries, will continue to help people as best they can.

“I’m not going to sleep well at night until I can get some of these kids off the street,” says founder, MaryAnne Connor.

“We should be ashamed of ourselves, quite frankly. I am tonight.”

You can watch the complete story, Generation Poor, Saturday November 29th at 7pm.

© 2014 Shaw Media

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