In November 24, 1989, Member of Parliament Ed Broadbent stood up in the House of Commons made a monumental speech; to make child poverty a relic of the past. A historic resolution was made that day across party lines but sadly 25 years later the problem still exists. In 1989 when the promise was made, 1 million children were living in poverty and by 2012 the number had only grown and now sits at 1.3 million.
Anita Khanna, National Coordinator, Campaign 2000, says they have seen movement in this issue through improved income support for families with children, but these are small gains. Nothing has sustained the kind of decrease or eradication of child poverty that a generation of children have been waiting for. Campaign 2000 is a non-partisan and public education movement geared to the issue of child and family poverty. They are calling for federal leadership against poverty. It is a crucial missing element right now and we need a federal action plan that contains targets and timelines to address this issue. The issue is not complex or a mystery and after 25 years of research the solutions and tools are clear but the will of the Canadian government to make an active plan is absent. Priority is not being given to this issue and so ‘Campaign 2000' wants to keep it at the top of the public and political agenda. They know that when a country focuses on the issue they gain results. Denmark, for example is a success story with their poverty rate sinking below 7%. Canada however is inching past 19% and we need to influence change. Khanna says that when Canadians raise their voices and take action, we can have an impact.
One person fighting this fight is Todd Bender, Founder and CEO, City Kidz. He says that until we as a country and as a people say this is wrong and we all rise up and try to do something about it - government officials have their hands tied. City Kidz was founded 20 years ago, they reach out to 23 hundred kids each week in Hamilton alone with operations now in Ottawa and Regina as well. They provide home visits and Saturday morning programming geared to inner city youth. Their focus is reaching out with a loving hand to those who live in poverty. Many kids come from some pretty tough backgrounds and it is great for them to just come and have a place to have fun and just be a kid.
The work City Kidz does, doesn't always produce immediate results but in order to eliminate this growing problem the government needs to look at investing in long term programs not just short term solutions. Bender says that when he started he had no grand ideas of eradicating poverty. He just wanted to come to these kids living in the inner city needed him and love them. Now they have seen how they can effect kid's live, moving kids out of poverty because they have gone to post-secondary programs and got degrees and are now chasing after their dreams. They know now that something they are doing is making a difference and ending poverty. It is so easy to say that it isn't our responsibility to look after someone else's children but until that mentality changes and we see each other as a family and push for change, change won't happen. The tide is rising and the movements we have seen across Canada is moving this agenda forward and it is going to take the will of a massive amount of people to say enough is enough. We need to take responsibility, this is not just the government's problem, and we need to help do something about it.
Hunger can be reduced and eradicated, we could see a reduction in the number of food banks, and we could see more families in stable affordable housing instead of shelters. We need better public policies that support families and we need better labour market opportunities and we will see great impact. We will give better opportunities for our children, better economic benefits to Canada as well.