British Columbia

B.C. must make eliminating child poverty a priority, UNICEF CEO says

UNICEF's Canadian CEO David Morley says a poverty reduction plan can help prevent B.C. children in poverty from falling further behind.

UNICEF Canada CEO David Morley says focusing on the economy is important, but not enough.

UNICEF Canada says Canada's poorest children are falling behind because of income inequality. (iStockphoto)

UNICEF's Canadian CEO is adding his voice to efforts to persuade the B.C. government to adopt a poverty reduction plan.

B.C. has the second-highest poverty rate in Canada and is currently the only province without a legislated poverty reduction plan.

But Minister of Children and Families Stephanie Cadieux has said the government doesn't think a formal plan is necessary as the province focuses on job creation and targeted supports for individuals.

UNICEF Canada CEO David Morley said focusing on the economy is important but not enough.

"The Canadian economy has grown faster than child well-being has been growing," he said. "Governments need to make child poverty and child well-being a priority."

A plan, he said, would bring together politicians, wealthy patrons and other experts to create a framework for making the province's response better.

Income inequality a big issue

According to Morley, income inequality is one of the biggest issues affecting Canadian children.

He points to UNICEF's 2016 Fairness for Children report, which described the country as one of the most unequal societies for children and youth, and ranked Canada 26 out of 35 rich countries.

The report compared the poorest 10 per cent of children with the average child in Canada and determined it was harder for poorer children in Canada to reach the middle class than the United States, the United Kingdom or Australia.

Poorer children are less likely to eat well, less likely to be involved in healthy activities and have less life satisfaction, the report found.

"[There are] increased levels of stress compared with other places and other countries [and] anxiety about how am I going to get ahead in the world," said Morley.

Income inequality doesn't just affect the poorest Canadian children but all children, he notes.

"We're seeing a weaker sense of community, of everybody working together," he said. "If that's starting to break down a little bit, that's going to make things worse for all people."

Solutions

Two solutions Morley suggests include investing more in early childhood education and daycare. Single-parent families are especially vulnerable to poverty and policies should be in place to support them, Morley added.

More generally, governments should better understand child well-being through better monitoring and better data to make sure the best investments are being made.

Morley is speaking tonight in a panel discussion on poverty held by the B.C. Poverty Reduction Coalition which takes place at the Morris J. Wosk Centre for Dialogue in Vancouver at 7 p.m. PT.

With files from The Early Edition


To listen to the interview, click on the link labelled UNICEF Canada president on child poverty

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