At least 1.3 million Canadian children were living in poverty prior to the pandemic, and that number has likely only increased, according a report released by Campaign 2000.
The organization’s Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada estimates that prior to COVID-19, one in five children were living in poverty.
“Never before have these inequities been so apparent and the need to close gaps so dire,” the report said.
“First Nations, Inuit, Métis, racialized, immigrant children, children with disabilities and children in female led lone parent families are all overrepresented in rates of poverty, while income and wealth continues to concentrate at the top.”
The report found that the national child poverty rate dropped by less than half a percentage point between 2017 and 2018. It grew in some provinces and territories, including Nunavut, Nova Scotia and Manitoba, and dropped “modestly” in others, including British Columbia, Quebec and Ontario.
The report made a series of recommendations, including improving access to federal aid for families who may have trouble accessing. It noted that the Canada Child Benefit “made an important difference” when it was introduced in 2016 but that the improvement has not remained.
Child care was another issue identified. The report stated that there are regulated childcare centre spaces for just short of 29 per cent of children up to five years old, a problem that can disproportionally affect single-parent households.
Some groups were more marginalized than others, according to the report. It found that among First Nations children who are status, 53 per cent of on-reserve First Nations children and 41 per cent of those who live off-reserve lived in poverty. In First Nations children without status cards, the poverty rate is 31 per cent. Poverty rates for Inuit and Metis children are at 25 and 22 per cent, respectively.
“The federal government has a fiscal responsibility to First Nations communities through treaties and the Indian Act but funding falls significantly short from what other Canadians receive,” the report stated. “Lack of culturally appropriate, accessible and locally delivered services remain a barrier for First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples living in urban and rural communities.”
The report recommends paying “full compensation to the First Nations children, parents and grandparents who were harmed by inequitable funding for child welfare services on reserve .”
Branching out to overall child poverty, the report made several funding recommendations to improve income inequality. The report called for a tax of one per cent on wealth over $10 million, two per cent on wealth over $100 million and three per cent on wealth over $1 billion, stating this could generate nearly $20 billion each year. Further, the report called for the government to create an inheritance tax of 45 per cent, just above the U.S.’s current tax of 40 per cent, as well as reduce preferential tax rates on capital gains and investments and close tax havens, changes it said would bring in $34 billion in savings and new funding.
Looking at the impact of COVID-19, the report recommended an “excess profit tax” that would focus on companies that made extraordinary profits during, and due to, the pandemic.
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