Friday, January 10, 2014
Teach Your Children Well
hits kids and the working poor hard
Submitted by Trish Garner, BC Poverty Reduction
slogan of our schools is “bring your money”: How about teaching our children
to care for others through the power of democracy.
My twins started kindergarten last September. By the end of the year, they
had taken part in two food bank drives and multiple bake sales to raise
money for all sorts of good causes.
I am glad that the school is fostering a sense of social responsibility and
that my children are thinking about others. However, I am concerned that the
only solution they are learning to address issues of poverty and hunger is
to donate. The slogan of our schools has become “bring your money.”
Where are the lessons about the structural causes of these societal problems
and what our political institutions can do about them?
Almost 1-in-5 children live in poverty in BC, according to the 2013 Child
Poverty Report Card released in November by First Call: BC Child and Youth
Advocacy Coalition. That’s 153,000 children, an increase from last year that
puts us back in the number one position with the worst child poverty rate in
Canada. Not a great title to hold!
The rate is worse for children under 6, which is especially worrying because
of the damaging impact of poverty on children’s early physical, social and
The statistics are dismal but the overwhelming response provides hope.
Clearly, people are concerned about child poverty in our province and want
to take action to address it. However, just like in our schools, our
response is often to donate. In fact, BC is one of the most generous
provinces in Canada in terms of giving to charity. And yet, BC’s child
poverty rate has been the worst in Canada for nine of the last ten years.
Don’t get me wrong; giving to charity is necessary in this time of great
need in order to address the immediate needs of people living in poverty.
However, charities can only provide short-term relief that addresses the
“downstream” symptoms and we need long-term solutions that go “upstream” to
fix the root causes.
Food banks themselves are saying the same thing. In the 2013 HungerCount
report, Food Banks Canada highlights that “the root of the need is low
income.” Their recommendations look “upstream” and include government
commitments to provide affordable housing, education and training, support
for low-wage workers and increased “social assistance so that people can
build self-sufficiency instead of being trapped in poverty.”
Food banks were, in fact, initially meant to be a temporary measure but they
have now been around for over 30 years. They have become such a normal part
of society that we never question their role and the extent to which they
can address these big issues. We give year after year without wondering why
children are still going hungry in BC.
Now the holiday season’s over, perhaps we should start asking that question
and look to our government for answers.
When I talk to my children about these issues, I tell them that the
government is a group of people that has the power and responsibility to
make the “big rules” or “policies” that could really help children in
poverty. I tell them that we vote for them to represent our concerns and
they are (or should be) always interested in listening and making change for
the good of all.
So let’s match our donations with an action. Here’s an idea to take to our
provincial government. Most other places in Canada have a poverty reduction
plan and they are already saving lives and money. BC needs a comprehensive
poverty reduction plan with legislated targets and timelines to really make
a difference for families, communities and our province.
The government’s response to poverty continues to be a reliance on the BC
Jobs Plan. However, most people in poverty already have a job, and almost
1-in-3 poor children live in families with at least one adult working
Poverty is a heavy issue and we need everyone to share the weight. Giving to
charity is the community stepping up and now we need to ask government to
share the weight with us.
We are teaching our children to be charitable givers, and fostering social
service from a very young age. Let’s also teach them to be democratic
citizens and think about social justice by engaging with their government.
At the same time, let’s learn that ourselves.
Trish Garner is a parent of three young children and the Community Organizer
for the BC Poverty Reduction Coalition. Visit their website at
www.bcpovertyreduction.ca for resources and support in engaging your
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