EDITORIAL: Children have no choice

Children have no choice over whether they are poor or not

Whenever we publish anything about income inequality there are always those who argue that those at the bottom of the income gap are somehow deserving of their poorly paid fate.

They must have, the argument goes, asked for it in some fashion by making poor choices in life.

It’s largely nonsense, of course. But this argument especially disintegrates when one is talking about one particular group living in poverty in B.C.: children.

Children have no choice over whether they are poor or not.

They cannot help their parents to get an education or to get a job. They cannot raise themselves up out of welfare.

Fortunately we don’t live in a Dickensian novel where all those unfortunates could just be shipped out to work in a factory for a few cents, where they might die in the squalid conditions.

But as we reflect on National Child Day, which was celebrated earlier this week, we cannot help but think about how, as a society we are falling down on the job when it comes to offering kids a bright future.

Because how much money a family has (whether it is adequate to cover basic needs such as shelter, clothing and food) has a huge impact on the probable future a child has.

The 2017 BC Child Poverty Report Card was released Tuesday by First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition and the numbers were stark. In this province the child poverty rate is 18.3 per cent – that’s 153,300 children. That is unacceptable in any society, let alone one of the wealthiest nations on earth.

Unsurprisingly, children who are recent immigrants, off-reserve Aboriginal children, visible minorities, and those in single-parent (largely single mom) households are the worst off. It’s all predictable. And fixable. A guaranteed basic income is a good place to start, along with affordable childcare. We just need the will.

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