An article in (The Economist 2010-11-25) noted that Canada had survived the global financial crisis better than many other developed countries: Canadian banks and public finances are sound, and the economy recovered quickly and strongly from recession.” However, in the same article it was noted that “Canada ranks 22nd-worst out of the 31 countries in the OECD, in terms of child poverty. More than 3m Canadians (or one in ten) are poor; and 610,000 of them are children. (The Economist 2010-11-25).” This timeline of selected events related to child poverty in Canada attempts to trace the social history and compile reliable references on the successes and failures, progress and stagnation on the path to the eradication of child poverty in Canada.
Reverse chronological order
2012 The Innocenti Report uses Statistics Canada ‘s Survey on Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID), 2009 for the 2012 report.
“Survey on Labour and Income Dynamics (SLID) is a panel survey run by Statistics Canada. It is the country’s primary source for income data, and includes
information on family situation, education and demographic background. The survey is representative of all individuals living in Canada, excluding residents of
the Yukon, the Northwest Territories and Nunavut, as well as residents of institutions and persons living on Indian reserves. Overall, these exclusions amount to less
than 3% of Canada’s population. Report Card 10 uses data from the 2009 round of the SLID, with income poverty data referring to the year 2008. More information can be found at: http://www.statcan.gc.ca
2011-11-24 “Dream No Little Dreams Conference” co-hosted by the YWCA of Calgary and the Action to End Poverty in Alberta initiative, organized to build momentum for coordinated action to end poverty in Alberta held in Calgary, AB. This conference focuses on strategic action to create a provincial poverty reduction strategy in Alberta. See also (CBC. As child poverty spikes, conference aims for solutions.”
2011-11 Public Interest Alberta, the Alberta College of Social Workers, and the Edmonton Social Planning Council published their report entitled “In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta.” The publication contributes to the ongoingCampaign 2000 project.
2011-11-23. Armine Yalnizyan of Policy Alternatives published the report entitled “Twenty Years of Campaign 2000 – What Now?”
2010-11 Canada survived the global financial crisis better than many other developed countries: Canadian banks and public finances are sound, and the economy recovered quickly and strongly from recession (The Economist 2010-11-25).”
1990-2010 Canada has enjoyed long periods of steady growth (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2010-11 Canada ranks 22nd-worst out of the 31 countries in the OECD, in terms of child poverty. More than 3m Canadians (or one in ten) are poor; and 610,000 of them are children (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2010-11 Campaign 2000 reported that child poverty is now as bad as it was in 1990 (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2010-11 Food Banks Canada reported that 900,000 Canadians rely on food handouts, up by 9% on last year (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2010 Canada has about 300,000 homeless people (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2010 British Columbia, one of the richest Canadian provinces has one of the highest rates of child poverty (10.4%) after taxes on family income.
2010 Some Canadian provincial governments, including those of populous Ontario and Quebec, have launched poverty-reduction programmes; many include attempts to prod or help people back into work (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2010 Newfoundland financed poverty eradication programs through its royalties from oil and mining and successfully has cut its poverty rate in half (to 6.5%) (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2010 The only strategy acceptable to Stephen Harper’s Conservative administration to respond to poverty is “the sustained employment of Canadians”. (The Economist 2010-11-25).
2009-12 The Subcommittee on Cities, The Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology published a report entitled “In From the Margins: a Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness.” described as “an excellent roadmap for poverty reduction.” One of the 72 recommendations towards the eradication of child poverty was to increase the National Child Benefit to reach $5,000 by 2012 [Recommendation 34].
“Through a myriad of expert witnesses, site visits, roundtables and most importantly, testimony from those living in poverty and homelessness, we are saddened to report that far too many Canadians living in cities live below any measure of the poverty line; that too many people struggle to find and maintain affordable housing; and that an increasing number of Canadians are homeless. And despite the thoughtful efforts and many promising practices of governments‘, the private sector, and community organizations, that are helping many Canadians, the system that is intended to lift people out of poverty is substantially broken, often entraps people in poverty, and needs an overhaul . . . [We] believe that eradicating poverty and homelessness is not only the humane and decent priority of a civilized democracy, but absolutely essential to a productive and expanding economy benefitting from the strengths and abilities of all its people. (Standing Senate Committee on Social Affairs, Science and Technology. 2009-12. “In From the Margins: a Call to Action on Poverty, Housing and Homelessness.” ).”
2009 According to the most recent data available in 2011, in Alberta there was a dramatic spike in child and family poverty. The “Alberta child poverty rate was 9.3% using LICO, compared to 12.8% using LIM. . . . (In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta.”
2009 “Disparities between families are growing. Between 1989 and 2009, after accounting for inflation, the yearly income of the poorest 10% of Alberta families with children increased by only $4,682. The yearly income of the richest 10% of families with children went
up $156,403. Average yearly family incomes went up $35,088 (In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta.”
2009 “In Alberta, the effectiveness of government income transfers in lifting children above the poverty line has increased over the years. In 1989, only about 25% of children were lifted above the poverty line. By 2009, this had increased to 44%. . . [However] In 2009, the Ontario government doubled the Ontario Child Benefit to $1100 per child, with a scheduled increase to $1310 by 2013.23 The Alberta government’s stronger financial position should allow it to introduce an Alberta Child Benefit at least equal to Ontario’s (In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta.”
2008 When Canada entered the brutal recession there were c. 3 million Canadians living in poverty using the standard measure, Statistic Canada’s after-tax low-income cut-off (LICO) (Yalnizyan 2010-06-21).
2008 Witnesses at the senate inquiry on poverty, described challenges of raising children in poverty, and of increasing earnings in the labour market without affordable care for children that also contributes to their development and preparation for school (Yalnizian, Browne, Battle, Issue 4, 28 February 2008). The same witnesses emphasized that a small universal contribution to families with young children, like the current Universal Child Care benefit, was not sufficient to purchase childcare (GC 2008-06-08).
2007 The child poverty rate in Canada was still 11.7%. Canada experienced a 50% real increase in the size of its economy from 1989 to 2007.
2007-06-14 Michèle Thibodeau-DeGuire, President and Executive Director, United Way of Greater Montreal, Evidence, SAST, 1st Session, 39th Parliament, 14 June 2007: “If people cannot have affordable housing, they will be in a horrible mess. Most of their money will go toward rent. They cannot feed themselves properly. How will they be able to help their children through school with the stress they live with?”
2007-11-26 Campaign 2000 released their national annual report card on poverty in Canada entitled “It Takes a Nation to Raise a Generation: 2007 Report Card on Child & Family Poverty in Canada.” Despite a growing economy, soaring dollar and low employment, 788,000 children (1/8 of Canadian children) live in poverty. Ontario remains the “child poverty capital,” with 345,000 children living in impoverished conditions.”
2007-11-26 Almost 30 per cent of Toronto families – approximately 93,000 households raising children – live in poverty, compared with 16 per cent in 1990. [The Mercer annual Cost of Living Survey of 143 major cities around the world measures the comparative cost of over 200 items in each location, including housing, transportation, food, clothing, household goods, and entertainment. In 2006, Toronto was ranked as the most expensive city in Canada, just slightly ahead of Vancouver.] Since 2000, the city has seen a net loss of jobs, many of them well-paying and unionized, while elsewhere job creation is on the rise. At the same time jobs have been replaced by temporary, part-time and contract work that offer no job security, benefits or eligibility for employment insurance. As a result, an alarming number of households are in deep financial trouble as seen by an increase in the number of evictions, family debt and bankruptcies since 2000, a year when the crippling recession of the 1990s had clearly eased in the rest of the country, the report says. From 1999 to 2006, landlord applications for eviction due to nonpayment of rent climbed from 19,795 to more than 25,000. Also, the number of people receiving credit counselling in Toronto has almost doubled in the past six years to an average of 4,534 per month. Not surprisingly, the number of moneylending outlets has increased almost eightfold since 1995 to more than 300, largely concentrated in the low-income neighbourhoods. United Way of Greater Toronto. 2007. Losing Ground: The Persistent Growth of Family Poverty in Canada’s Largest City, (Monsebraaten and Daly 2007-11-26 ).
2007-05-09 The former Ontario premier Bob Rae was one of four panellists at at the Toronto Star-sponsored forum on the growing income gap held at the St. Lawrence Centre and attended by 250. Rae argued that, “We now have to restore and renew our commitment to help people in difficult times [to invest] in affordable housing, child care and education” [. . .] Rae noted that Canada is the only government in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development that doesn’t have a national housing policy, and that’s reflected in the country’s poverty figures. Economist Yalnizyan, research director of the Toronto Social Planning Council remarked that “Income inequality is the second inconvenient truth in our society. [G]overnments need to act now – not only to tackle poverty, but to ensure everyone is benefiting from a healthy economy (Monsebraaten and Daly 2007).” Stop picking away at the edges of poverty, say forum speakers, and take a leaf from Ireland’s comprehensive plan.
2007-05 A study by economist Yalnizyan was released by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, showing a widening income gap in Ontario. “40 per cent of Ontario families have seen no gain in real income – and often a loss – compared with their predecessors 30 years ago. The richest 10 per cent, meanwhile, have seen their incomes soar. And even though Ontario parents are better educated, they spend more time working than the previous generation did, the study says (Monsebraaten and Daly 2007).”
2007-04 Ontario’s provincial budget “put poverty reduction on the agenda with a new Ontario child benefit for all children in low-income families – not just those on welfare. And it outlined a plan for raising the minimum wage to $10.25 by 2010, from $8 today (Monsebraaten and Daly 2007).”
2007-03 The Ontario Child Benefit, announced in the March 2007 Ontario Budget, pledged $2.1 billion over the first five years to help low-income families support their children (UWGT 2007:73).
2007 The federal government introduced a non-refundable child tax credit which provides income tax savings of up to $300 for children of all ages to tax-paying parents (Senate of Canada 2008-06-08).
2007 In 2007 Report Card on Child Well-being in Rich Countries: The most comprehensive assessment to date of the lives and well-being of children and adolescents in the economically advanced nations. builds and expands upon the analyses of Report Card No. 6 which considered relative income poverty affecting children and policies to mitigate it. Report Card 7 provides a pioneering, comprehensive picture of child well being through the consideration of six dimensions: material well-being, health and safety, education, family and peer relationships, subjective well-being, behaviours and lifestyles informed by the Convention on the rights of the child and relevant academic literature.” UNICEF. 2007. “Report Card on Child Well-being in Rich Countries.”
2007-11-12 Ligaya, Armina. 2007. “The debate over Canada’s poverty line.” CBC News On-line. http://www.cbc.ca/news/background/economy/poverty-line.html November 12. “[C]hild poverty numbers have not budged at all since 1989 when Canadian parliamentarians stood up and promised to do their best to eradicate it within a decade. Even today, 11.7 per cent of children under 18 are living below the low-income cut-off line.” There are now record numbers of tenants being evicted from their homes and a rising dependency on food banks (Shapcott cited in Ligaya 2007).
2007 “Jean Swanson, co-ordinator of the Carnegie Centre Action project in the heart of Vancouver’s Downtown Eastside, said restricting access to employment insurance and welfare only punishes the poor. The poverty activist said she has watched Canada’s homeless epidemic multiply what she says is 10-fold over the last decade (Ligaya 2007).”
2006 Newfoundland announced a strategy to become the province with the lowest poverty rate by 2016.
2006 20,900 Canadian children used food banks, double the number in 1989.
2006 The Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) was added, with payments of monthly instalments of $100 for every child under the age of 6 (regardless of parental income) (Senate of Canada 2008-06-08).
2006 The net worth of the lowest quintile fell to a negative net worth from zero while national net worth grew 2.8% in the last quarter of 2006. Less than 10% of families who hold at least 53% of total Cdn. net worth ($4.8 trillion) (Drummond and Tulk, 2006).
2006-11-24 CBC news summarized details from the Campaign 2000 (2006) National Annual Report on Child Poverty with the headlines “Aboriginal children are poorest in country: report: B.C. and Newfoundland have highest rates; Alberta and P.E.I. have lowest rates.” November 24, 2006. One aboriginal child in eight is disabled, double the rate of all children in Canada; Among First Nations children, 43 per cent lack basic dental care; Overcrowding among First Nations families is double the rate of that for all Canadian families; Mould contaminates almost half of all First Nations households; Almost half of aboriginal children under 15 years old residing in urban areas live with a single parent; Close to 100 First Nations communities must boil their water; Of all off-reserve aboriginal children, 40 per cent live in poverty.
1999-2005 Considerable wealth was accumulated in Canada between 1999 and 2005. In 2005 net worth increased by 41.7% to nearly $1.5 trillion (US?). The most recent Statistics Canada report revealed today that the Canadian national net worth reached $4.8 trillion by the end of the third quarter. While in terms of an economist’s algorithm this translates into an average of $146,700 per person. In reality only the a tiny number of Canadian households benefited. “The gain in net worth resulted from an increase in national wealth (economy-wide non-financial assets) as well as a sharp drop in net foreign debt. National net worth grew 2.8% in the third quarter, the largest increase in more than two years (Statistics Canada 2006)”.
2005 According to Stats Canada the disparity between the top income-earning category and the lowest was $105,400 (Shapcott cited in Ligaya 2007). Statistics Canada income figures showed 788,000 children were living in poverty in 2005, a rate of 11.7 per cent.
2005 41 per cent of all low-income children lived in families in Canada where at least one parent had a full-time job (Campion-Smith 2007).
2004 Childhood poverty in the United States is among the highest in the developed world (Rifkin ED 2004: x).”
2004 Since 2004, the 25 countries of the European Union (EU) have been developing a new statistical data source, known as Community Statistics on Income and Living Conditions (EU-SILC). EU-SILC aims to become the reference source of comparative statistics on income distribution and living conditions within the EU. A primary purpose of EU-SILC is to monitor the common indicators (the so-called Laeken Indicators) by which the EU has agreed to measure its progress towards reducing poverty and social exclusion. EU-SILC therefore replaces the European Community Household Panel (ECHP) which was the main source of such data from 1994 until 2001 (for the then 15 Member States of the EU). Designed to fill some of the acknowledged gaps and weaknesses of the ECHP, EU-SILC collects every year comparable and up-to-date cross-sectional data on income, poverty, social exclusion and other aspects of living conditions – as well as longitudinal data on income and on a limited set of non-monetary indicators of social exclusion. The first EU-SILC data for all 25 Member States of the current EU, plus Norway and Iceland, should be available by the end of 2006. The first 4-year longitudinal data on ‘those at-persistent-risk-of-poverty’ will be available by the beginning of 2010. In addition to populating these core indicators, each round of EU-SILC also gathers data on one particular theme – beginning in 2005 with data on the intergenerational transmission of poverty.
2002 Quebec introduced anti-poverty legislation. The “Province of Quebec and Ireland have tackled poverty head on, with impressive results that show poverty reduction can be achieved against planned goals (UWGT 2007:73).”
2002 Of all the world’s wealthy nations it was only in the United States that the majority (58%) claimed that cared more about personal freedom to pursue goals without government interference than play an active role in society so as to guarantee that nobody is in need? (Rifkin ED 2004:379) .”
2001 Over 653,000 Canadians were earning wages that classified them as “working poor” (and 1.5 million people were directly affected, one third of them children under the age of 18) (Senate of Canada 2008-06-08).
2001-05 The National Council on Welfare using the LICO claimed that 5 million Canadians are living in poverty.
2000-12 Laurel Rothman, the National Coordinator of Campaign 2000 wrote a Letter to the Editor entitled “Richer, poorer” to the National Post in response to their editorial dismissing Campaign 2000′s annual report card (Rothman 2000).
2000-12-06 A letter entitled “No surplus for kids” by Pedro Barata, the Ontario Coordinator of Campaign 2000, was published in the Toronto Star. Barata asked, “Why is it that Ontario was one of only two provinces where since 1996 poor families fell deeper below the poverty line?” or, “Why does Ontario have the highest monthly fees for child care in Canada?”
2000-06-01 Innocenti Report Card. Issue No. 1. The first Innocenti Report Card presents the most comprehensive analysis to date of child poverty in the nations of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). “Whether measured by relative or absolute poverty, the top six places in the child poverty league are occupied by the same six nations – all of which combine a high degree of economic development with a reasonable degree of equity” In the league table of relative child poverty, the bottom seven places are occupied by the Canada (15.5%), Ireland (16.8%), Turkey, United Kingdom, Italy, the United States (22.4%), and Mexico (26.2%). In the league table of absolute child poverty, the bottom four places are occupied by Spain, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland.” “The countries with the lowest child poverty rates allocate the highest proportions of GNP to social expenditures (Figure 8). Differences in tax and social expenditure policies mean that some nations reduce ‘market child poverty’ by as much as 20 percentage points and others by as little as 5 percentage points (Figure 9).”
2000-12-05 The editorial in the Toronto Star dealt with child poverty in Canada.
2000-11-24 The National Post published an editorial dismissing Campaign 2000′s Annual National Report Card on Child Poverty in Canada (Rothman 2000).
2000 Almost 1 in 5 children still living in poverty in Ontario.
2000 “In the absence of an official poverty line in Canada, Campaign 2000 ascribes to the position held by most Canadian social policy organizations studying the issue and by UNICEF. UNICEF uses a relative measure of poverty to describe those whose material, cultural and social resources are so limited as to exclude them from the minimum acceptable way of life where they live (Rothman 2000).”
2000 Table 1. shows the percentage of children living in ‘relative’ poverty, defined as households with income below 50 per cent of the national median. Using this standard of relative poverty countries at the bottom of the list included Canada (15.5%), Ireland (16.8%), Turkey, UK, Italy, USA (22.4), Mexico (26.2%), . Innocenti Report Card. Issue No. 1. (UNICEF 2000)
1990s “The recession of the 1990s generated a much bigger escalation of poverty [than the 1980s], both in magnitude and duration, because a protracted period of job loss ran into the scaling back of unemployment insurance and social assistance by federal and provincial governments [tough-love approaches] (Yalnizyan 2010-06-21).”
1990s “The growth in the number of low-income families in the City of Toronto in the 1990s was alarming, soaring from 41,670 at the start of the 1990s to 84,750 by the decade’s end. The factors that contributed to this change are well known – the deep recession in the early 1990s, corporate downsizing, the rise in precarious employment, decreased access to Employment Insurance, reduced welfare payments, and the barriers that skilled immigrants faced finding work for which they were qualified (UWGT 2007:40).”
1998 The National Child Benefit Supplement was added to the CCTB to provide increased benefits to all low-income families including those without taxable income.
1997 Senator Ermine Cohen wrote a report on child poverty in Canada, entitled “Sounding the Alarm: Poverty in Canada.”8 “It was intended to ―revisit the commitments made in the 1971 Croll Report and to evaluate progress a quarter-century later. Her report provided useful snapshots of poverty experienced by those who were working and those who were not, among over-represented groups including Aboriginal peoples, people with disabilities, youth and seniors. She considered the role of the labour market, our international obligations, and more themes that emerged again in our study. Harshly critical of our ―tax and transfer‖ system, the report called for changes, as did the Croll report before it. Too few have been implemented SSCSAST 2009-12. p. 24).”
1996 The number of Canadians living under the low-income cut-off after taxes was 11.6 per cent in 1980, according to Statistics Canada, far lower than the 1996 peak of 15.7 per cent (Yalnizyan cited in Ligaya 2007).
1995-2005 The national Irish government set firm targets, created timetables and reported annually so the public could easily see progress being made against poverty. In this way they reduced poverty from 15 per cent to 6.8 per cent (Yalnizyan in Monsebraaten and Daly 2007).
1995 The World Summit for Social Development was held in Copenhagen. The Copenhagen Declaration and Programme of Action was adopted. The Copenhagen stressed the urgent need for countries to deal with social problems such as poverty, unemployment and social exclusion (Symonides 1998). This was the largest gathering ever of world leaders. The declarations, programmes included a pledge to put people at the centre of development, to conquer poverty, to ensure full employment, to foster social integration (Development 1995).
1992 United Nations Conference on Environment and Development was held in Rio de Janeiro. “At this conference it was recognized that extreme poverty and social exclusion of vulnerable groups persisted and inequalities had become increasingly dramatic in spite of economic development. At this conference the term sustainable development referred to “economic development, social development and environmental protection as interdependent and mutually reinforcing components (Symonides 1998:3).”
1991 Canada experienced a transformational recession for the labour market and began emerging from that only in 1997 (Yalnizyan cited in Ligaya 2007).
1989-11-24 The child poverty rate in Canada was 11.7%. On November 24, 1989, the House of Commons unanimously passed a resolution to seek to achieve “the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000 (Campaign 2000 ).”
1989 The Canadian Parliament unanimously supported a resolution to eliminate child poverty by 2000.
1988 The UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre, located in Florence, Italy, was established in 1988 to strengthen the research capability of the United Nations Children’s Fund and to amplify its voice as an advocate for children worldwide.
1980s and 1990s Single mothers, disabled people, aboriginal Canadians and immigrants suffered cuts in welfare payments (which are too meagre to keep someone above the country’s de facto poverty line) when governments, both federal and provincial, cut public spending to restore fiscal health (The Economist 2010-11-25).
1981-82 Canada experienced a transformational recession for the labour market and it took the country about eight years to climb out of the rut (Yalnizyan cited in Ligaya 2007).
1980 The number of Canadians living under the low-income cut-off after taxes was 11.6 per cent in 1980, according to Statistics Canada, far lower than the 1996 peak of 15.7 per cent (Yalnizyan cited in Ligaya 2007). “In 1980, the disparity between the top income-earning category and the lowest was $83,000, according to Statistics Canada. By 2005, that gap had reached $105,400 (Shapcott cited in Ligaya 2007).”
1971Senator David Arnold Croll, PC, QC published his influential “Report of the Special Senate Committee on Poverty” (Croll Report) which began with the words “the poor do not choose poverty. It is at once their affliction and our national shame. The children of the poor (and there are many) are the most helpless victims of all, and find even less hope in a society where welfare systems from the very beginning destroys their chances of a better life.” The report moved the Trudeau government to triple family allowances in 1973 and institute the Child Tax Credit in 1978. Aside from his work on poverty, he was also responsible for Senate reports on aging. In 1990 in recognition of his contributions, he was sworn into the Queen’s Privy Council for Canada, an honour usually given only to federal cabinet ministers.
1950 [In 2000] despite a doubling and redoubling of national incomes in most nations since 1950, a significant percentage of their children are still living in families so materially poor that normal health and growth are at risk. And as the tables show, a far larger proportion remain in the twilight world of relative poverty; their physical needs may be minimally catered for, but they are painfully excluded from the activities and advantages that are considered normal by their peers (UNICEF. 2001. Innocenti Report Card. Issue No. 1.).”
Note: In 2011 Canada still does not have an official poverty line although most data on poverty is presented using the uniquely Canadian Low Income Cut-off (LICO) After-Tax Measure, which is based on a complex calculation.1. The major weakness of LICO as a measurement tool is partly that since 1992, LICO has only been updated for inflation and not other changes in the expenditure pattern of Canadian families. Statistics Canada has no plans to update LICO (In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta. Campaign 2000 is considering transitioning from LICO to the Low Income Measure (LIM) (After-Tax) starting in 2012. LIM, is based on 50% of median family income, is a more easily understood measure. LIM is updated every year. LIM is used internationally while LICO is only used in Canada. As shown on Chart 1, in their report, “in the 1990s LICO poverty rates were higher than LIM rates. In the 2000s LICO rates have been consistently lower. In 2009, the Alberta child poverty rate was 9.3% using LICO, compared to 12.8% using LIM (In This Together: Ending Poverty in Alberta.”
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