Harper Conservatives not bothered by Third World-style child poverty in Canada

by: Obert Madondo  | Published Dec 16, 2013

Make First Nations Poverty History - Parliament Hill ProtestIn Canada today, 1 in 7 children live in poverty.  And, nearly 4,200,000 Canadians live in poverty.

These grim statistics, which you would normally associate with a developing country, do not seem to bother the Conservative government of Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

What other conclusion could be drawn from James Moore’s response over the weekend when asked by a News 1130 reporter how the Harper Conservatives plan to address growing child poverty in British Columbia?

Moore, the federal industry minister, and a potential leadership candidate, told the reporter:

Well, obviously nobody wants kids to go to school hungry. Certainly we want to make sure that kids go to school full bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Empowering families with more power and resources so that they can feed their own children is, I think, a good thing. Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.

With insensitive comments like these, is it any surprise that we have these scandalous stats?

Food is a human right. We know that. And we like to tell the rest of the world that we care. That we are a compassionate country.

We are not.

In 1989, the UN’s Convention on the Rights of The Child officially recognized children’s rights.

In 1989, the House of Commons passed a unanimous all-party motion that sought “to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000”. The motion was sponsored by NDP MP Ed Broadbent.

Today, child poverty rates stand at 979 000, up from 912 000 in 1989.

There is no federal strategy in place to eradicate poverty in Canada. According to an annual report released by Campaign 2000 on in November, Canada has so far failed to meet its promise to end child poverty.

First Nations children are hit the hardest. Half of them currently live in poverty. A report released by the Parliamentary Budget Office (PBO) in July showed the Harper Conservatives are failing BC’s First Nation children and on-reserve schools.

Canada recently ranks 17th out of 29 wealthy countries when it comes to tackling child poverty, obesity and related well-being issues, according to a new report by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the UN children’s agency.

In short, the Conservative government, which came to power in 2006, is not fulfilling its constitutional responsibility to help Canadians meet their basic human rights.

That’s why Moore’s insensitive comments drew heavy criticism from the Official Opposition, child poverty advocates and ordinary Canadians.

In a statement released Monday, NDP critic Jinny Sims called Moore’s comments “callous” and “heartless”.  She accused the Conservatives of failing to take responsibility for the Conservatives’ inaction.

“During the holidays many of us are looking to help our neighbours and those in need. For a Conservative minister to claim that child poverty isn’t his problem is heartless,” said Sims in a press release. “Child poverty has continued to grow under this government, and now they’re saying it’s not their problem. The minister should apologize for these offensive comments. In British Columbia, where Moore and his neighbours live, the situation is even worse – one in five children lives in poverty, the highest rate in Canada.”

Moore apologized earlier Monday. He now wants us to believe that:

Caring for each other is a Canadian ethic that I strongly believe in – always have and always will.  Of course poverty is an issue that concerns me, and concerns all Canadians.  All levels of government, indeed all members of our society, have a responsibility to be compassionate and care for those in need.

Great work has been done to tackle poverty and the challenges associated with poverty. And while more work is needed, I know the cause of fighting poverty is not helped by comments like those I made last week. For that, I am sorry.

Interested in taking action to urge the Harper government to fulfill its responsibility towards our children and those being left behind? I recommend an ongoing campaign by a coalition of anti-poverty and labour groups under the Campaign 2000 a banner.

Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based progressive blogger, and the founder and editor of The Canadian Progressive. Follow him on Twitter.com/Obiemad

The following two tabs change content below.

Obert Madondo

Publisher and editor
Obert Madondo is an Ottawa-based blogger, activist, photographer, digital rights enthusiast, former political aide, and former international development administrator. He's the founder and editor of these independent publications: The Canadian Progressive, a political blog dedicated to progressive Canadian journalism; The Zimbabwean Progressive, a political blog dedicated to producing fearless, progressive, adversarial, unapologetic, and activism-oriented Zimbabwean journalism; and Charity Files, a publication dedicated to journalism in the charitable public's interest. Follow Obert on Twitter: @Obiemad
  • John Guertie

    The only reasonable and honest part was this one:
    “Well, obviously nobody wants kids to go to school hungry. Certainly we want to make sure that kids go to school full bellied, but is that always the government’s job to be there to serve people their breakfast? Empowering families with more power and resources so that they can feed their own children is, I think, a good thing. Is it my job to feed my neighbour’s child? I don’t think so.”

  • i’d really love to know who pays you to write this trash. the only places with third world poverty are third world countries.