children playing

Toronto slammed for child-poverty rate [CA-ON]

Printer-friendly versionSend by emailPDF version
Dunfield, Allison
Publication Date: 
30 Jun 2003

See text below.


One in three Toronto children is living in poverty, and a coalition seeking to eradicate the problem says the situation has worsened.

Child poverty in Toronto now stands at 33.5 per cent, says Toronto Campaign 2000, a group of advocates seeking implementation of the federal resolution to get rid of child poverty by 2000. The group studies the problem of child poverty in Ontario and releases a report card each year.

According to the coalition, the number of poor children in the city has grown to 174,000 in 2000 from 152,200 in 1995. Most of the growth was among very young children - preschoolers or younger.

This has happened, the group says, despite strong economic growth and more jobs in Toronto and Ontario during that period.

"What is clear by the year 2000 is that economic growth alone has not been enough to have the desired effect of substantially reducing child poverty," said Bruce Rivers, executive director of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto.

Colin Hughes, a community worker with the CAS, says one factor affecting child poverty is that the minimum wage has not increased in Ontario since 1995 while has risen 20 per cent.

Another is that the total median income of poor families declined since 1995 in both Toronto and Ontario, he said during a press conference in the city Monday.

The median yearly income of poor single-parent families fell to $13,000 in Toronto, while the median income of poor two-parent families fell to $14,040.

Nearly one in three families in Toronto is a lone-parent family, compared with one in four for Ontario and Canada, the group says.

The advocacy group also found that while the number of people in Toronto on social assistance dropped since 1995, only half are better off financially.

Many get part-time jobs in unstable areas of the labour market and are more vulnerable to layoffs, the group said. They said 20 per cent who get off welfare are back on it within a year.

Although they found the greatest economic disparity in downtown Toronto, (for example, in the riding of Toronto Centre-Rosedale, the rate of child poverty was 49 per cent) they said that people living in the outside regions of Durham and Peel, as well as other suburban areas, also increasingly live in poverty.

They also found that because the city is often a gateway for immigrants coming to Canada (about half the population of Toronto is made up of immigrants), the result is more poor children.

The group proposes solutions including quality child care to allow parents to work and "provide children with a good start in life."

Toronto Campaign 2000 also applauds the federal government's commitments to child poverty in its February budget. Ottawa will boost the child tax benefit by up to $3,243 by 2007. The federal government has also begun funding the Early Childhood Development Initiative and announced a national child-care program.

While initiatives such as the child tax benefit are helpful, the group says, the rates need to be raised at a faster rate, Mr. Hughes said.

"What we do or fail to do now will affect the lives of generations to come. It's time to end child poverty and give children what they need to secure the future of our children in the process."

-Reprinted from the Globe and Mail