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‘Great coup for Cape Breton’: Group expresses child poverty concerns to Trudeau
SYDNEY, N.S. -- A group trying to fight the high child poverty rate in Cape Breton has returned from Ottawa buoyed with confidence that their work is going to make a difference.
The trio, who represents the United Way of Cape Breton, met with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to voice their concerns about statistics that show nearly one in three children on the island live below the poverty line.
“That wasn’t just a perfunctory meeting,” said Steve van Nostrand, campaign co-chair of the island’s United Way chapter. “He was engaged, interested, and genuine.”
“I was excited. I was honoured,” said second co-chair Katherine van Nostrand. “I think it was a great coup for Cape Breton to have us there, to allow us to voice our concerns.”
The United Way of Cape Breton has adopted the cause as its fundraising campaign for 2016.
Representatives were granted meetings with Prime Minister Trudeau and Jean-Yves Duclos, Minister of Families, Children, and Social Development, who will be heading a national child poverty reduction strategy.
The group has asked Trudeau to come to Cape Breton to meet with other local leaders in the fight against child poverty, an invitation they say he has accepted – although there is no word yet on a date.
“We want to make sure we have a local strategy that’s aligned to that strategy,” said Lynne McCarron, executive director of the United Way of Cape Breton. “We want to make sure we’re on the same page and working collaboratively to make sure we actually make an impact on these numbers.”
In the meantime, the group plans on taking their concerns to the provincial government
“To really keep the momentum going, said Katherine van Nostrand. “We really feel like we stirred something up in Ottawa.”
The United Way’s short-term goal is to reduce child poverty by 5% over the next five years. In the long run, they want to develop an anti-poverty model in Cape Breton that can be used across the country.
“Not that we’re trying to reinvent the wheel – the best legacy would be the continual reduction of child poverty,” said Steve van Nostrand.
Lofty goals, but the group says they are confident they are off to good start.
With files from CTV Atlantic’s Ryan MacDonald.