Montreal "poverty capital of Canada"

A study on Canadian poverty due for release on Monday names Montreal as the poverty capital of Canada in the 1990s.

The Canadian Council on Social Development says Montreal's poverty rate was 41%, the highest among the large Canadian cities.

The study was based on census data from 1996 and household income data from 1995. It looked at 47 municipalities and took the federal government's low-income cut-off as its definition of the poverty line. That's about $27,000 for a family of four in a mid-sized Canadian city and about $31,000 in a larger centre. 

Several Canadian municipalities sponsored the study.

"Poverty was high in a lot of different cities that you might not expect," says head researcher Kevin Lee. "Places like Toronto and Vancouver saw some quite high poverty rates and a lot of people might have thought that these were fairly economically healthy areas."

The study used data from the two national censuses carried out in the 1990s, and it shows that in Canada, high poverty is becoming a city-centre phenomenon.

Central Canadian cities such as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa not only had rates two or three times as high as the satellite cities around them, they also had higher rates of poverty than traditionally depressed areas such as Cape Breton and Newfoundland.

Quebec cities fared particularly badly. Forty-one percent of Montrealers were found to live below the poverty line, a jump of 10% in just five years. More than half of all Montreal children were found to be poor.

The report shows that despite government promises to eliminate child poverty by 2000, it has grown in step with adult poverty, a fact Lee doesn't find surprising.

"When you look at a child poverty rate, you're actually looking at the rate of poverty among the house that they live in," Lee says, "and families with kids can be quite vulnerable to poverty."