—— By The Canadian Press

 

A report says more than 126,000 children in British Columbia lived in poverty in 2021 despite decades of policy changes, with some of the worst situations in single-parent families and on First Nation reserves.

The First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society has been doing the reports for 27 years and notes a slight rise in the child poverty rate after a sharp decline while families were receiving the Canada Emergency Response Benefit during the pandemic.

The report makes more than two dozen recommendations, nine of them focused on raising family incomes through paying family-supporting wages or improving income supports.

It says B.C.’s child poverty rate of 14.3 per cent was lower than the national average of 15.6 per cent, but the rate on 67 First Nations reserves is about double the national rate, while for single-parent families it’s even higher at 40 per cent.

Adrienne Montani, the society’s executive director, says there’s also a growing disparity, with the highest-income families making 25 times what those in the lowest income bracket make.

Lorraine Copas of the Social Planning and Research Council of B.C. says in a news release that governments should build on the lessons of the dramatic drop in poverty rates when families were getting pandemic support.

“By enhancing policy tools already in place, such as federal and provincial child benefits for families, we can stop the return of higher child poverty rates and work toward eliminating child poverty in Canada as promised so long ago.”

The report says B.C.’s poverty position has improved in recent years, with the third lowest child poverty rate among the 13 provinces and territories, though there is still a need for renewed commitment and urgency to reduce poverty.

It says overall poverty statistics also hide the fact that some children in B.C. are at greater risk of living in poverty.

“According to the 2021 census data, child poverty rates for selected visible minority (racialized) groups were higher than the non-racialized child poverty rate of 9.8 per cent in B.C.,” the report says.

“Arab, Korean, and West Asian children had more than double or triple the risk of poverty compared to non-racialized children, followed by Chinese and Latin American children.”

Immigrant children in B.C. were also at a higher risk of poverty, with more than one in five living in poverty in 2020, it says.

It says the provincial child poverty rate in 2020 stood at 13.3 per cent in B.C. and 13.5 per cent across Canada.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 26, 2024.