Thursday, May 3

Still too many children living with poverty

Child poverty in Canada is a national disgrace that shames us on the world stage and offends our international legal obligations. That was a central message put forward last week by Canadian senators and physicians who are lobbying Ottawa to take the rights and needs of children far more seriously than it has in the past.

In a report called Children: The Silenced Citizens, the Senate human rights committee faulted Ottawa for failing miserably to live up to its obligations to protect the rights and freedoms of children. One of its key recommendations calls for a federal strategy to combat child poverty with clear goals and timetables, including preventive measures for high-risk families and a coherent housing strategy.

In addition to calling on Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s Conservative government to address poverty and housing issues directly, the all-party Senate committee urged Ottawa to work with the provinces to establish standards and guidelines for improving early childhood development programs and child care, matched with adequate funding. Child care has fallen off the federal agenda since the Conservatives cancelled a federal-provincial agreement.

How little does Canada care about children, despite Parliament’s unanimous vote in 1989 to end child poverty by 2000? Today, 18 years later, among 26 wealthy nations we rank 22nd in terms of children living in relative poverty. By any standard, these are dismal statistics.

As Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the Child Commissioner for England, put it at the health summit: “The badge of honour of a civilized society is to protect its most vulnerable.”

We are nowhere close. – The Toronto Star

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