More than 119,000 children in B.C. live in poverty and the Alberni District Teachers’ Union wants something done about it.
Teachers’ union president Ken Zydyk presented a 145-signature petition to Port Alberni City Council last week calling on the provincial government to establish an anti-poverty plan. Council received the petition and voted to support the call for an initiative.
B.C. ranks near the bottom in major areas of poverty according to 2010 data, Zydyk said.
One in seven children — a total of 119,000 in B.C. — live in poverty. The rate of overall poverty has gone up in Canada, and the gap between rich and poor is growing not shrinking, Zydyk said.
In Port Alberni, teachers see evidence of poverty every day. Students often come to school hungry and lacking proper clothing, Zydyk said. As well, use of school breakfast and lunch programs is on the rise. The programs are a good stop-gap, Zydyk said. “But volunteer efforts alone can’t stop the problem.”
The province doesn’t have a comprehensive poverty reduction plan and that’s to its own detriment, Zydyk said. “It’s more costly for a community to do nothing,” he added.
Sustainable food systems, quality public child care, as well as accessible public education and training are all possible. “All that is lacking is political will,” Zydyk said.
Coun. Cindy Solda encouraged Zydyk to touch base with the local health network about the issue, and added that children aren’t the only ones impacted by poverty. “So many others are neglected like seniors, the disabled and those on social assistance,” Solda said.