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Child poverty in Maritimes shows little improvement, report reveals
SYDNEY, N.S. -- The latest numbers are in and they are concerning when it comes to child poverty in the Maritimes.
All three provinces are at or above the national average.
The good news is, there are plenty of efforts on the ground to change all of that, but it continues to be a difficult battle.
A lot has changed over the last 30 years, but one thing that hasn't changed enough is Canada's still-staggering number of children living below the poverty line.
"It's just so disheartening to see how little has changed for the circumstances of young families," said Lesley Frank, an associate professor at Acadia University, and the primary author of the Nova Scotia report, which bears the headline "Three decades lost."
The latest report card from Campaign 2000 says nearly 1 in 5 Canadian children -- 18.6 per cent -- live in poverty.
Prince Edward Island is tied with the national average, but the other two Maritime provinces are above it. The rate is 21.7 per cent for New Brunswick and 24.2 per cent for Nova Scotia -- that's nearly one in four.
"We've actually had an increase in child poverty over the last couple of years," Frank said. "Where we would have expected to see a fairly significant decrease because of the federal investment in the Canada Child Benefit."
Lynne McCarron of the United Way Of Cape Breton has been trying to enact change since a report five years ago showed 1 in 3 children on the island were living in poverty.
That figure hasn't changed much since, but she says the latest numbers aren't telling the whole story.
"It's important to realize that this 2019 report is based on 2017 data," McCarron said. "Our gala started in 2016, where we really profiled and highlighted the need for doing work around poverty reduction."
"Shockingly" higher, says the report, are poverty rates among Indigenous children, including 53 per cent for Status First Nation children on reserves.
"If you look at the report, it says very specifically, they don't even have a word for 'poverty,' so they're thinking more spiritually and culturally," McCarron said.
There is some good news in the report, too.
All three Maritime provinces' rates have gone down since the 2018 report card, though not by much.
Frank says for Nova Scotia, at least, more needs to be done at the provincial level to help people attain livable incomes.
"These are children we're talking about," Frank said. "And often, we waste way too much time arguing about poverty statistics and what the way to measure them is, and these are children's lives that can't wait for us to do that anymore."
Frank says the data shows there are higher poverty rates among the youngest children, and in Nova Scotia alone, that represents 7,000 infants living in low-income circumstances.