Nova Scotia

Cape Breton students push for help to fight child poverty

Students from Greenfield Elementary in New Waterford appeared before Cape Breton Regional Council Tuesday night to urge local government to join the fight to end child poverty.

Poverty rates are higher than the national average in Cape Breton

Students from Greenfield Elementary in New Waterford appeared before Cape Breton Regional Council Tuesday night to urge local government to join the fight to end child poverty. 

Grade 6 students Joella MacIsaac and Adam MacLean are part of a local campaign that was started by the Canadian Teachers Federation. It's urging the federal government to live up to a 1989 promise to end child poverty. 

The students went to Ottawa in November to represent Nova Scotia at the 'Keep the Promise' national summit. 

MacIsaac said her own family has experienced poverty. Her father had heart problems and her mother wasn't able to work.

"My family did struggle with it a little bit and it is pretty heartbreaking," she said. "It can be hard at times."

"Some kids that are like up there, they're not really in poverty, they're usually going to get all the new name brands and iPhones and some of us people don't have enough to even have a phone, no TV or anything."

'Alarming' statistics

Diane Lewis, the teacher–adviser for the campaign at Greenfield Elementary, says the issue is even more urgent in Cape Breton where the poverty rates are higher than the national average. 

"In Cape Breton, the statistic one in three is pretty alarming. So our involvement as educators is to try and make the public aware that we do see this every day."

CBRM council agreed to send a letter to the federal government to urge politicians to act to eliminate child poverty.

Lewis said the whole community has to come together to tackle the issue. 

"We have to say as a society that it really is unacceptable," said Lewis.

"I think people are surprised, you hear people saying in Cape Breton we look after each other, that is true but there's all kinds of hidden things that the kids see and there's a limit to how much help that people are getting."

"I don't think we can build a future if children don't have what they need to grow up healthy and well educated and secure and happy, and at the moment I don't think we can really say that." 

Lewis said the students are also planning to publish a book on child poverty and host a youth summit during Education Week in April. 

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