Port Alberni is one of three urban areas in British Columbia with the highest child poverty rate.
According to the 2016 BC Child Poverty Report Card that was released by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition on Nov. 24, Port Alberni and Prince Rupert’s child poverty rates are sitting at 30 per cent and Duncan’s at 31 per cent. The lowest rates are Fort St. John at 12 per cent, Squamish at 15 per cent and Victoria at 16 per cent.
The advocacy group uses Statistics Canada’s low-income measure (LIM) from 2014 as Canada does not have an official poverty line.
The report card highlights how growing income inequality among BC families has one in five children living in poverty.
British Columbia’s child poverty rate is 1.5 per cent higher than the Canadian average of 18.5 per cent and represents 163,260 children, which is larger than the city of Abbotsford, the province’s fourth largest city.
The child poverty rate in B.C. has dropped 0.6 per cent since last year’s report, which used 2013 figures. The number of poor B.C. children decreased by 4,550 from 2013 to 2014.
“I think we’re making a snail’s pace progress. The data in [the report] still affirms that we have real challenges in parts of British Columbia,” said Dr. Paul Hasselback, Island Health medical officer for the mid-Island.
“In the Alberni Valley we’re talking one in three children living in poverty in the whole of the Alberni-Clayoquot Regional District.”
The report notes that because child poverty rates in B.C. are higher than overall poverty rates in Canada and every province, it is clear that there is a need for systemic provincial and federal policy changes that better support families in their child-rearing years.
British Columbia is the only province in Canada not to have a poverty reduction plan.
“If we actually had a province-wide poverty reduction plan a lot of [the stats in the report] would actually get incorporated in that…but it would have some commitment by the government to move forward, which we’re lacking,” Hasselback said.
According to the report, 50 per cent of children in single family households have a much higher chance of living in poverty, compared to 12 per cent for children in couple families. Eight out of 10 of those families are female-led, leading to a recommendation from First Call B.C. to implement the $10-a-day childcare plan and increase the time and pay for maternity and parental care.
Children who are subjected to living in impoverished conditions are much more likely to be unprepared for school and have problems with success, Hasselback said.
“Almost every time we look at a health indicator if we break that down and compare those that are most advantaged with those that are most disadvantaged we’re going to find that those living in poverty are much more challenged to be successful,” Hasselback said.
“I think we need to have a firm social community commitment that poverty just isn’t acceptable in this day and age.”