Sask. child poverty rates among highest in Canada

A new report says Saskatchewan continues to have a serious problem with child poverty, especially on First Nations.

Report says 69 per cent of children on reserves live in poverty

Saskatchewan has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country. (Getty Images)

Saskatchewan continues to have a serious problem with child poverty, according to a new report.

The study, written by professors at the University of Regina and Campaign 2000, said Saskatchewan has one of the highest child poverty rates in the country.

On reserves, the situation is really almost unbelievable.- Prof. Paul Gingrich

In 2014, the province had a child poverty rate of 24.6 per cent. That places Saskatchewan well ahead of the national average of 18.5 per cent, and just behind Manitoba and Nunavut.

The report's authors say the situation gets even more dire on First Nations.

"On reserves, the situation is really almost unbelievable," said professor Paul Gingrich. "We had a child poverty rate of 69 per cent. That's over two out of three children living on reserves."

The situation doesn't seem to be improving. In 2000, the federal government committed to radically reduce child poverty. However, Saskatchewan's rate is the same as it was in 1989.

"I think there needs to be political will to eliminate poverty," said co-author Miguel Sanchez. "And it's a political will that has been absent."

Financial aid

The authors said more programs like the federal Child Benefit should help the situation, but much more financial aid is required.

The study also advocates raising the province's minimum wage. It says single-parent families are far more likely to be affected by child poverty. 

"Four out of five single-parent families are headed by women," said Gingrich. "If you have a mother working minimum wage, that's not going to get families out of poverty."

Ultimately, the report's authors believe child poverty creates a vicious cycle that is difficult to escape.

"It's like starting a race behind," said Gingrich. "If the poverty rate on reserves was reduced from 69 per cent of children being poor down to 13 per cent — which is the level in Regina — it would make a huge difference in that child's ability to have better health, better housing and it would affect their daily life."

For a link to the report, click here.