Report casts a harsh light on child poverty in Toronto

Poverty and low-income rates closely connected in the city

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A report entitled The Hidden Epidemic: Child and Family Poverty in Toronto and sponsored by the Children’s Aid Society (CAS) has been released that casts the state of child poverty in Toronto in a harsh light.

Nearly a third of all children under eighteen in Toronto live in poverty, which is a stunning statistic given that the report states that “November 2014 marks the 25th anniversary of the House of Commons’ unanimous resolution to seek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000.”

Even the coalition who co-authored the report were shocked by this and other “bleak news” generated by the report.

“We were shocked just to find poverty rates or low-income rates at 29 per cent overall,” said Michael Polanyi, community worker at the CAS of Toronto and lead author of the report.

Converted from the data collected in 2012, this works out to approximately 145,890 individuals and numbers that show, that “not all children in Toronto start life on an equal footing.” It also shows where those individuals live and this report may strip many Torontonians of their illusions, revealing “a massive and growing polarization of income in the city.”

Between 40 per cent to 63 per cent of these poverty-stricken children live in one of 15 geographic pockets in the city, areas that include Regent Park, Oakridge, Thorncliffe Park and Moss Park, according to the report, drawing back the comfortable multicultural mask through which Torontonians see their city.

The 2011 National Household Survey discussed in the report how people of African and Middle Eastern backgrounds in Toronto are three times more likely to be living on low incomes than people of European backgrounds.

Breaking down these numbers further shows that 41 per cent of people with Southern and East African backgrounds live below the low income measure, while only 12 per cent of people have a British Isles background.

The analysis presented concluded that these overarching themes produced this child poverty epidemic, and “to best address child poverty, Toronto must acknowledge and resolve the institutional, structural and systemic barriers that give rise to inequities.”

Mayor John Tory has declared a willingness to meet this challenge, saying of the report, “if there ever was a wake-up call, this would be it.”

So far the federal government has stayed silent about the findings of this report.

They state that, “the decision (of the federal government) to cancel the mandatory long-form census and replace it with the voluntary National Household Survey means there is no single, reliable source of statistical data that track the situation of children in families most vulnerable to poverty. ”

The authors of this report echo the 2013 assertion of Campaign 2000 – missing data means child poverty will be underestimated.

“Tracking the experiences of marginalized groups through a mandatory census is crucial to the design of effective poverty reduction initiatives. Campaign 2000 strongly urges the federal government to reinstate the mandatory long form census or a similarly reliable data source immediately.”

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Report casts a harsh light on child poverty in Toronto