Canada is home to 1.2 million children that live in poverty, according to a report from the organization Campaign 2000. That figure represents 17 per cent of children. The poverty rate for First Nations children is more than double, 37.9 per cent.
The group used 2015 income tax data to determine child poverty rates split up by federal election ridings. Saskatchewan is home to one of two ridings where a majority of children live in poverty.
Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River, a riding that extends from Meadow Lake, Sask. north to the Northwest Territory border, has a child poverty rate of 57.8 per cent. Manitoba’s Churchill-Keewatinook Aski is the only riding with greater child poverty, 64.2 per cent.
“Allow these communities to come to the table. They have solutions, they have plans, and they want to contribute,” Desnethé–Missinippi–Churchill River MP Georgina Joilbois said.
The northern Saskatchewan MP described the statistics as shameful.
Other Saskatchewan ridings in the top 30 include Battlefords-Lloydminster, Regina-Qu’Appelle, Saskatoon West and Prince Albert. All four have child poverty rates around 30 per cent.
In Saskatoon, EGADZ works with hundreds of at risk youth every day. This involves providing housing, meals and other services.
Executive director Don Meikle said he is optimistic this report may get government attention, but it’s a cautious optimism.
“I’ve been doing this job for 25 years and I’ll tell ya, not a lot has changed,” he said.
In his quarter century at EGADZ, Meilkle has seen many reports like this one from Campaign 2000. That organization takes its name from a 29-year-old all-party promise from the federal government to eliminate poverty by the year 2000.
“We’re really good at putting band aides on, but we’re not really good at a long term strategy,” Meikle said.
Both Meikle and Campaign 2000 see a long term strategy involving all levels of government as the key way to make a real change in Canadian poverty.
“Mental health is more prevalent, addictions is more prevalent, our drugs are getting stronger. It’s harder to survive as a poor person than that it used to be,” Meikle said.
He’s seen issues of mental illness and addictions compound throughout the generations in impoverished communities. To address this cycle, Meikle believes investing in these communities is key.
“As long as we graduate them to an adult welfare system people think they’ve done their due diligence. Now is a time to really look at employment, education, and take a real serious look at it and invest in it,” Meikle said.
In Ottawa, Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Jean-Yves Duclos provided the following statement:
“We are firmly committed to reducing child poverty in our country, this is why one of the first things our government did was introduce the Canada Child Benefit which lifts 300,000 children out of poverty.
We know we can still do more, which is why we are indexing the Canada Child Benefit to the cost of living, 2 years ahead of schedule, as well as working on the development of the Poverty Reduction Strategy which we will introduce soon,” Duclos said.
The Campaign 2000 report said that data from the Canadian Income Survey showed that child poverty decreased 1.2 per cent between 2015 and 2016, the year the Canada Child Benefit was introduced.