Little change in child poverty rates

Study group says more than one million Canadian children are living in poverty, despite calls by MPs in 1989 to eradicate the problem

The rate of child poverty in Canada has fallen, but it's still far from what federal politicians hoped it would be when they presented a unified front on the issue 14 years ago, an advocacy group says.

Campaign 2000 has compiled statistics annually since the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion introduced by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent in 1989. The motion said the government should try to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.

It's estimated more than one million Canadian children are living in poverty.

The group's latest report, based on the most recent figures from Statistics Canada, says the rate continues to drop, from 16.4 per cent in 2000 to 15.6 per cent in 2001.

But the latest figure is still up from a rate of 14.9 per cent in 1989.

The percentage is highest in Manitoba, where more than 22.5 per cent of children live below the poverty line.

NDP MP Bev Desjarlais blames future prime minister Paul Martin's deficit-cutting budgets for the levels of child poverty. She says Martin made tax cuts his priority instead of children.

The report says 56 per cent of First Nations families in Manitoba with children under 14 are low-income.

Sid Frankel of the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg says the province needs to increase its minimum wage, make daycare more accessible, and provide a provincial subsidy program for the working poor.

Manitoba Family Services Minister Christine Melnick says the province has increased annual funding to child care by more than 40 per cent.

Laurel Rothman, national co-ordinator of Campaign 2000, says a job is no longer a guaranteed escape from poverty.

More than half of all children living in poverty have parents who are in the paid labour force, the report says. They are part of the more than one million children in Canada below the poverty line.