Poverty, Equity, Deficits, and Differences

I’ve been doing more and more reading on the state of Manitoba’s and Canada’s children in relation to poverty and equity in education. There are so many research studies that show the powerful effects of poverty in educational outcomes (for starters, see here and here), and researchers who are focusing the need for educators not to emphasize the deficits but to ensure that we look at our students from a differences framework (for example, see here). It’s not about reinforcing a certain population’s deficit position, it’s about finding their strengths within themselves and their communities and building on those strengths to close the educational gaps.

child poverty march

But no matter how focused we are as educators, no matter how hard we try to close educational gaps based on best practices and research-based methods, we cannot do this alone. We cannot do this in a society that continues to entrench socio-economic inequities.

“Back in the day”, when I graduated from high school, the Government of Canada passed a unanimous motion that said all parties and persons committed to eradicating child poverty by the year 2000. “Back in the day”, the Government of Canada passed a unanimous motion that said all parties and persons would commit to creating a strategy for poverty reduction. A wonderful group of people were created under the banner of Campaign 2000, bringing together community groups, political parties, and peoples from key populations such as First Nations and immigrants to hold the government accountable to this goal.

That was “back in the day”. What about today, in 2014?

Some statistics from Campaign 2000’s most recent Canadian report card (2012):
1. Nearly 1 in 7 children still live in poverty;
2. Without a national anti-poverty strategy, child poverty won’t go away;
3. Canada is 24th out of 35 OECD nations for lowest % child poverty;
4. Immigrants, Aboriginals, and visible minorities have higher child poverty rates.

Some statistics from Campaign 2000’s most recent Manitoba report card (2010):
1. In 2006, MB Aboriginals off-reserve (22.4%) were more than 2x as likely to experience core housing needs as non-Aboriginals (9.8%);
2. MB has an affordable housing shortage, disproportionately affecting:
• women &children
• single parents
• Aboriginal Manitobans;
3. Aboriginal women experience almost double the incidence of low income as Aboriginal men in Manitoba;
4. In 14 out of the past 25 years, Manitoba has had either the highest or 2nd highest child poverty rate among all provinces in Canada.

Manitoba has had a Poverty Strategy Reduction Act since 2011, holding its government accountable to reducing child poverty.

Canada is still waiting for Bill C-233, An Act to Eliminate Poverty in Canada, to go through the legislative process.

Want to help keep pressure on the government to meet the goal of ending child poverty? One small step you could do is sign the Make Poverty History petition. Call your area’s Member of Parliament. Write an email. Talk to your colleagues. Talk to your parents. Keep the conversation going.

Do it for our children.


About tjthiessen

explorer, administrator, consultant, student, leader
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