Nearly 20 per cent of British Columbia children under the age of six live in poverty, according to an annual report released yesterday by First Call B.C.
Adrienne Montani, spokesperson for the B.C. Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition, said B.C. has had the worst child poverty rate in the country for seven years in a row, when looking at parents’ after-tax income.
“We have an ongoing child-poverty problem in B.C. that’s probably going to go up because we’re using 2008 data (taken before the recession),” Montani said.
“There are solutions,” she said, adding the government needs to raise minimum wage, increase welfare rates and create affordable childcare.
Montani said children living in poverty — even those with loving, involved parents — often fall behind in school, grow up without proper nutrition and develop self-esteem issues.
“We’re saying, in effect, some people (don’t matter) and we’re entrenching inequality, and that’s not the kind of society we want,” Montani said.
Carole James, leader of the B.C. NDP, called the report “shameful,” given the wealth of the province.
“It’s only through addressing the root causes of poverty that we’ll be able to meaningfully address this record,” she said.
Children’s Minister Mary Polak said that the province needs to “exercise some caution” in raising wages as a means of addressing the issue.
“There are other things to consider, and we want to be careful that we help those very people that we intend to,” she said.