Manitoba has an ongoing issue with child poverty, and advocates are calling for immediate action to remedy the growing situation.
According to the most recent data, from 2019, three of the top five federal ridings with the worst child poverty rates are in the province, and Manitoba’s overall rate is 28.4 per cent — the highest nationwide, a new report says.
The study, by the Campaign 2000 organization, paints a fairly dismal picture of the province’s current child and family poverty statistics.
Kate Kehler of the Social Planning Council told 680 CJOB the data used in the report is from before the pandemic — but it’s unlikely the next report will be any better.
“It might appear to be deceptively better next year, but now that we know the federal government is actually looking into clawing back income tax returns, GIS payments, and ending the benefits that they do have, we’re actually expecting that over a longer period of time, it’s actually going to be much worse,” Kehler said.
“In 2016, there was a substantial drop in child poverty. We had also just implemented the rent assist program here in the province of Manitoba in 2015, so it did have an impact, but unfortunately, without any real investment by the province after that, we’ve seen the rates go back up again.”
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Kehler said at the top of the list of things that need to be done is creating a livable minimum wage for single-parent households, as well as providing affordable child care on a sliding scale for families below the poverty line.
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“A single parent with one child, after working 40 hours a week for the year, is below the poverty line,” she said.
“That is simply not something we can justify in our society.”
The report is called Missed Opportunities, reflecting the lack of progress made over recent years in turning the numbers in a positive direction.
Child poverty also disproportionately affects Indigenous Manitobans, with the country’s worst-ranked federal region, Churchill-Keewatinook Aski — where six out of every 10 kids live below the poverty line — located in the riding with Canada’s highest percentage of First Nations residents.
“Each year, Campaign 2000 releases a report on poverty in Manitoba and each year the impacts of poverty for First Nations continues to be far worse,” said Cora Morgan, First Nations child and family advocate for the Assembly of Manitoba Chiefs.
“There is a direct correlation between what perpetuates inequality amongst First Nations and systemic, institutional, and colonial practices. First Nations are disproportionately over-represented in Child and Family Services, justice, health, and homelessness.
“In an era of reconciliation, we need a committed government to begin putting tangible action into the recommendations that Campaign 2000 identifies.”
Those recommendations include a provincial commitment to a timeline and a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy, as well as improving income and employment supports, and using better methods to define and measure poverty.
“We need a real commitment to providing the necessary supports to keep families together while helping parents fulfill their dreams of better education and/or meaningful employment,” said Desiree McIvor of Make Poverty History Manitoba.
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