British Columbia

1 in 5 B.C. children living in poverty: report

Children and youth advocacy group First Call says 18.5 per cent of B.C. children live in poverty, a rate that is likely to worsen because of the pandemic.

Advocacy group First Call says the COVID-19 pandemic will likely make the poverty rate even worse

An annual child poverty report card produced by First Call B.C. says one in five B.C. children and youth live in poverty. (fasphotographic / Shutterstock)

Nearly one in five British Columbia children live in poverty, and the pandemic is likely to make the rate even worse, according to the 2020 B.C. child poverty report card published by B.C. child and youth advocacy coalition First Call.

The report says data showing that 159,570 or 18.5 per cent of the province's children and youth are poor, is "profoundly disappointing."

Although the report doesn't capture the COVID-19 pandemic, First Call says its effects have been profound. 

"The pandemic has amplified pre-existing inequities and poor children and their families have been among the worst affected.  While the data in this report does not reflect the current situation for families, it gives us a good understanding of which children were at greater risk of living in poverty before the pandemic began," it said.

B.C.'s 18.5 per cent child poverty rate is higher than the Canadian rate of 18.2 per cent.

One of the most startling data points indicates that the number of poor children in B.C. under the age of six increased by 7,240 from 2017 to 2018.

An analysis of limited data from 42 B.C. First Nation reserves put the child poverty rate on reserve at 40.7 per cent in 2018.

"The continuing legacy of colonialism is still very apparent in these numbers," said the report.

Beside Indigenous children, the report said children of immigrants and refugees, children from female lone-parent families, children in racialized families, those affected by disabilities, and youth transitioning out of government care are at greater risk of living in poverty.

The report makes 26 recommendations including raising the minimum wage, raising income assistance and disability rates, ensuring the right of all workers to sick leave and ensuring parental and maternity benefits are universally available to all parents. 

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