It’s been 25 years since Canadian MPs set an ambitious goal: to end child poverty by the year 2000. But a quarter of a century later, the number of kids living below the poverty line remains unchanged.
Ed Broadbent, then leader of the federal New Democratic Party, put forward the motion back in 1989. Today, the 78-year-old says it’s unlikely he’ll see the end of child poverty within his lifetime.
“There’s no question we failed,” says Broadbent. “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: 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.
In the rough Whalley neighbourhood in Surrey, B.C., 16-year-old Dallas Harris sits down on a concrete step to eat her dinner: chicken noodle soup and a ham and cheese sandwich.
Harris has been relying on the free nightly meals provided by NightShift Ministries for almost a year. But her financial woes are about to get even more dire: Harris is pregnant.
“I don’t know how I am going to support it,” she said. “Buy food. The father doesn’t want to be there.”
Harris says she isn’t sure if she will keep the baby or put it up for adoption.
“Scared. I am not ready to have a kid – mentally and physically,” she says.
WATCH: 16-year-old Dallas Harris was kicked out of her home and now she’s pregnant. 16×9 caught up with her at the NightShift ministries looking for a hot meal and a new coat.
Harris is one of many Canadian kids who have slipped between the cracks – children who, despite living in one of the richest countries in the world, are stuck couch surfing, staying in shelters or sleeping on the street.
One in seven Canadian youths lives below the poverty line – that’s just under a million people.
Cameron Rodriguez, 16, is one of them. He came to NightShift Ministries looking for a pair of shoes, so he can get a job working in a warehouse after school.
Rodriguez is frustrated with people who don’t understand what it’s like spending your teen years living in a mobile home.
“They don’t understand,” he says. “They’ve never had to f***ing have their power cut off and keep the gas stove turned on to keep the house warmer.”
WATCH: 16×9 caught up with 16-year-old Cameron Rodriguez at the NightShift ministries in Surrey, B.C. Cameron needs a new pair of shoes so he can work at a warehouse at night, after school, to help out his parents.
Canada could reduce child poverty by raising the minimum wage, providing low-income housing and increasing the child tax benefit, says Broadbent.
Norway and Denmark, which have child poverty rates in the single digits, are the gold standard, he says. But, he adds, tackling this issue is “not in fashion” in Canada.
WATCH: It’s been 25 years since MP’s vowed to eradicate child poverty by the year 2000. Today, nearly a million kids are poor – a number unchanged since that 1989 promise. Carolyn Jarvis tackles the issue on this week’s episode of 16×9.