Federal News

Towards a More Equal Canada

The final section of this report outlines several ways to combat growing income equality:

* Good jobs: changes to economic policies to promote the growth of middle-class jobs, including trade and foreign investment policies that protect labour rights and environmental standards and strong investments in child care, public education and skills training.

* Income supports: changes to the government programs targeted at low-income Canadians and those in short-term need, such as employment insurance, Old Age Security, the Canada Pension Plan, provincial welfare systems and other income supports and tax benefits targeted at low-income families with children and the working poor.

* Expanding public services: the report argues that for the majority of Canadians public services are a good deal; The value of education, health care, child care and other public services annually exceeds the taxes paid by middle-class and low-income Canadians. At the same time, some reforms are needed, it acknowledges.

* Fair taxes: changes to Canada’s tax system are necessary, it argues, pointing out Canada’s taxes as a share of national income (31 per cent) are below the average of the world’s industrialized countries (34 per cent), squeezing funding for public services. The report is critical of the government’s tax-cutting agenda, arguing instead that taxes are “the hinge that links citizens to one another and the common good.” Loopholes, including the “boutique” tax cuts found in recent federal budgets and several rounds of corporate tax cuts have failed to improve the lot of ordinary Canadians, it argues.

What is Causing the Increase in Inequality?

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Social Change
Another factor behind the growth of low incomes over the past decades has been social change. Families have become more diverse and less stable. The increasing proportion of children raised in single parent families headed by women was a significant factor behind increases in child poverty in the 1970s and 1980s – but this was not inevitable. It happened because of the lack of affordable child care, the fact that many women worked in low-paying jobs, and that child benefits were too low. We have made very modest progress in reducing child poverty, as targeted child benefits have been increased and as investments have been made in affordable child care, such as in Quebec. Similarly, the rise in the ranks of working-poor families has been closely associated with the changing face of immigration to Canada. Again, diversity is not the problem, but the lack of supports and services for newcomers struggling to gain a toehold in a more insecure job market, and a failure to confront discrimination.

What Can Be Done About Growing Inequality?
Putting good jobs first means investing in the skills of all Canadians, through quality, affordable child care and early learning; maintaining our high-quality public education system while ensuring that post-secondary education is open to all; ….

Expanding Public Services
The changing needs of families and the new realities of working life mean that we should expand child and elder care services to support employment, to balance work and family demands, to lower costs, and to improve the quality of care. We might also consider other equality-enhancing priorities such as the expansion of affordable housing programs, including co-operative housing to build thriving mixed income communities, expanding of affordable public transit to help those with modest incomes and build more sustainable communities, and developing a wide-range of community social services.

A majority of Canadians want government action on income inequality. If you’re part of this clear majority, take action:

  • 77% see income #inequality as a “serious problem” – are you part of the vast majority?
  • 73% support increasing corporate tax rates. I’m part of the majority, are you?
  • 83% support higher taxes for the richest among us. Are you in that majority?

Take action with the #EqualityProject: http://bit.ly/QMklSz

MORE at: http://www.broadbentinstitute.ca/en/project/equality-project


Turn Up The Volume
On September 26 and 27, 2012, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will ask the Canadian government questions about how well children are doing in Canada. This is part of the third review of how well Canada implements the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The dialogue will be webcast, so you can watch in Canada. The CCRC is providing commentary and background on its website and invites Canadians to join the discussion through its Facebook page. UNICEF has developed a party toolkit and suggestions for ways you can have fun and take action with this event. This is an opportunity to learn and show support for children’s rights in Canada.


Household finances: Should you stay at home or pay for child care?
Globe and Mail
Aug. 07 2012

…. It is a dilemma over which many parents wrestle: When does it make sense to put your career on hold and look after the kids versus going back to work and forking out the money for child care? Income, career development, the size of the family and the cost of care are some of the factors that play a role in this highly personal choice.

“How much money the individuals make dramatically impacts this decision, and clearly the number of kids you have makes a massive difference,” says Rick Robertson….

A family where the lowest-earning spouse has an income of $30,000 is clearly in a different financial situation than one where the lowest earner brings home $100,000, Prof. Robertson [associate professor of finance and accounting at the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business in London, Ont.] says.

Prof. Robertson provided this example: A family paying $600 a month for daycare needs to cover an annual bill of $7,200, before taxes. The arrival of a second child doubles that to more than $14,000, while a third would boost it to almost $22,000, all on a pre-tax basis. Costs vary greatly depending on where you live, but parents in big cities are likely grappling with monthly bills that are significantly higher….

Certified financial planner Alexandra Macqueen says that parents who drop out of the labour force are forfeiting not only the wages over the three, five or 10 years that they are not working, but also the time it will take them to regain that lost ground.

“If you lose out on a $10,000-a-year raise that you would have gotten by staying in the work force, over just five years that is $50,000,” she said. “When you look at that over a lifetime of earnings, that can be very financially significant.”

Leaving a job in your 20s or 30s – key career-building years – can make it difficult to get rehired, Ms. Macqueen says. “I worry when a Mom or Dad … decides to stay home for 10 years and then expects to get back into their work force where they left.”

University of Toronto economics professor Michael Krashinsky, who just began a study looking at what point the cost of child care starts to tip behaviour patterns, says that while some men choose to stay at home with the kids, in the majority of cases it is still women who exit the labour market. “Even though many women now earn more than men, typically it is the woman who considers dropping out.”

Of course, staying home or returning to work are not the only two choices. It is increasingly common for parents to adjust their working lives, cobbling together free care from grandparents, a move to a part-time job or shifting their hours to provide child care themselves, Prof. Krashinsky says. “Maybe one person works nights and the other works days … so the kid is getting care from the parents but the parents are being driven over the edge.”

For those who keep working, flexibility and availability are major factors in the work-child care balancing act, Prof. Robertson says. “Certainly, one of the two spouses has to have at least some degree of flexibility. Or that flexibility has to be purchased by paying the caregiver.”…

Generational divide

Stay-at-home moms are far less common these days than a generation ago. Statistics suggest that women are more likely to quit the work force while their children are young and return to work once their kids are in school.

In 1976, 31.4 per cent of mothers with a youngest child aged 5 or younger were employed. By 2012, that number had risen to 67.2 per cent.

In 1976, 46.4 per cent of mothers with a youngest child aged 6 to 17 were employed. By 2012, that number had surged to 79.3 per cent.

Source: Statistics Canada


Income of Canadians, 2010
Statistics Canada
June 18, 2012


Groups call for apology from Prime Minister to UN Special Rapporteur on right to food: Open letter signed by CCCABC and many other organizations

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper
Prime Minister of Canada
Office of the Prime Minister 80 Wellington Street Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0A2
By fax: 613-941-6900
By email: pm@pm.gc.ca

May 30, 2012

Dear Prime Minister,

We are writing this open letter to you as individuals and representatives of organizations dedicated to strengthening the protection of human rights and food security, in Canada and around the world. We are deeply troubled by the Government of Canada’s treatment of the United Nations human rights Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Olivier De Schutter, during his recent mission to Canada.

Read more


Statistics Canada census information – 2011 Census: Age and sex

More info

Canadian census by the numbers
The Canadian Press
May 29, 2012

Highlights of a by-the-numbers look at some of the latest information from the 2011 census, released by Statistics Canada:

5,607,345: The number of children in Canada aged 14 and under, 0.5 per cent more than in 2006.

2016: The year Statistics Canada projects children under 14 will, for the first time, be outnumbered by seniors.

20.9: Percentage increase in the number of children aged four and under in Alberta between 2006 and 2011.

1.9: Percentage increase in the number of children aged four and under in the Northwest Territories between 2006 and 2011.

Census: Toddlers on the increase in B.C.
By Tara Carman and Kelly Sinoski, Vancouver Sun
May 29, 2012

…. Statistics Canada figures released Tuesday show the number of children aged four and under rose 11 per cent between 2006 and 2011, marking the highest growth rate for this group in 50 years. B.C. saw an 8.8-per-cent increase in that age bracket.

The reason? Higher fertility rates and an increase in the number of child-bearing women aged 20 to 34 — most of them the children of baby boomers, said StatsCan director-general Jane Badets. “For the first time in 50 years, we’re seeing an increase in [young children] in all provinces and territories,” she said.

In the Lower Mainland, Abbotsford-Mission and Squamish are home to the highest proportion of children 14 and under, with that demographic forming 19 per cent of the population.

Surrey had the biggest increase in Metro Vancouver. The 14-and-under demographic grew by 11 per cent, or about 9,200 children, over the last five years. Squamish showed the second-highest proportional increase in the south coast region, growing by 8.7 per cent, or 265 children, while Vancouver showed a 3.5-per-cent decline since 2006. Rural areas throughout the province, such as Central Saanich and the Comox Valley, and even smaller cities such as Nanaimo, saw double-digit declines in the proportion of youth.


Canadian poverty has ‘child’s face:’ UNICEF report finds Canada lags others
Canadian Press
Colin Perkel
May 29, 2012

TORONTO – Canadians should be doing much more for children growing up in poverty, according to a new UNICEF report that finds Canada lags many other advanced countries.

The report by the United Nations child advocacy agency ranks Canada 18th out of 35 industrialized countries when child-poverty rates are compared with overall poverty rates.

In addition, Canada is in the bottom third — at 13.3 per cent — when it comes to the percentage of kids in poverty — a slight improvement over the past five years.

“The face of poverty in Canada is a child’s face, UNICEF Canada’s executive director David Morley said Tuesday. “This is unacceptable.”

The report takes its poverty line to be half the median individual income for the relevant country.

It also uses a “deprivation index,” which looks at the percentage of children in advanced countries who lack items such as three meals a day, an Internet connection, some new clothes or proper fitting shoes.

Overall, the report ranks Iceland best, with just five per cent of its children growing up deprived. Romania is at the bottom of the list.

Other countries that do better than Canada include Scandinavian countries, Japan and Australia.

Kim Snow, an associate professor in child and youth care at Ryerson University, called it “quite sad” to see the results.

Snow said the problem is particularly acute for aboriginal children.

“Our child poverty is no better evident than on our reserves,” Snow said.

“We’re really robbing the next generation due to the social impacts of living in poverty.”

The report suggests that child poverty in the industrialized world has much to do with government policies.

While Canada does better than the United States when it comes to using taxes and transfers to help kids, it falls behind countries in Scandinavia and even Ireland.

“It is clearly time for Canada to make children a priority when planning budgets and spending our nation’s resources, even in tough economic times,” Morley said.

Among ways governments could help improve the situation, UNICEF suggests, is to increase child benefits and tax credits.

Canada invests $40.4 billion in elderly benefits — about triple the amount invested in children — with the result that the rate of low income among the elderly is half that for children, the report says.

It also urges Canada to establish a national strategy aimed at reducing poverty — particularly for children.

“There have been calls for this for years but we need to address it and take it seriously,” Snow said.

“We don’t seem to actually embrace a strategy on a national level to set targets and systematically reduce them.”

Canada has no official definition of poverty, UNICEF notes, making it difficult to come to grips with the situation or help remedy the problem.

It has also been more than 20 years since the federal government announced plans to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000.

“Yet Canada’s child poverty rate is higher today than when that target was first announced,” the report states.

“In part this is because the commitment was not backed by a compelling political and public consensus or by any firm agreement on how child poverty should be defined and monitored.”

In the House of Commons, New Democrat Jean Crowder urged the Harper government to do more to help impoverished children.

“Will the government live up to its responsibilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and act now to end child and family poverty?” Crowder asked….


Canadian family finances are still under stress — for many families in Canada, income security is an elusive dream.

In its 13th annual review of the Current State of Canadian Family Finances, the Vanier Institute of the Family says that despite signs of continued economic recovery, for many families in Canada, income security is an elusive dream.

Among other findings of the Vanier Institute report:

  • Increases in hourly earnings in 2011 did not kept pace with inflation.
  • Income inequality is increasing as the gap between the haves and have-nots continues to expand.
  • 5.3% of working Canadians hold down a second job, many of them using self-employment to supplement a wage-paying job.
  • Real estate now accounts for half of the net worth of Canadian households.

Media Advisory

13th annual review of the Current State of Canadian Family Finances, the Vanier Institute of the Family, March 2012


Alternative Federal Budget 2012 (CCPA)
A budget that favours the environment, the poor and the struggling middle class
By Karl Nerenberg
March 15, 2012

… Spending to increase jobs and decrease inequality

On the spending side, the Alternative Budget includes a great range of targeted new programs and enhancements to current programs.

These include: aboriginal education, housing and water; early childhood education and child care (with the co-operation of the provinces); an enhanced Re-Build Canada Fund, to upgrade municipal infrastructure; increased investment in arts and culture; increased employment insurance benefits; and modernizing rural broadband.

The Alternative Budget does suggest spending cuts in one federal government program area, one which has experienced rapid growth over the past few years: the defence and security establishment.

Read online

Alternative Federal Budget 2012: A Budget for the Rest of Us

The AFB is designed to:

  • tackle poverty and income inequality by investing in public programs like education, affordable housing, public pensions, universal pharmacare, and national child care;
  • get Canadians working again by creating jobs and lowering the unemployment rate;
  • close tax loopholes for the wealthy, and put an end to the federal government’s failed corporate tax cut experiment;
  • get serious about environmental leadership with a forward-looking green strategy;
  • repair our cities and build sustainable communities with a long-term physical infrastructure program.



Canada among the countries where women are left behind: Lack of national policy on child care seen as a barrier to entering business ventures
Postmedia News
March 6, 2012

While life has improved for millions of people around the world over the past century, women still seem to be getting left behind.

A recent World Bank study reports women perform 66 per cent of the world’s work, produce 50 per cent of the food, but earn 10 per cent of the income and own one per cent of the property.

The report – titled Women, Business and the Law – says that life for women is still considerably tougher than it is for men. The study looked at women in 141 countries.

The data were collected between July 2010 and July 2011 and the report was based on six specific areas that are often barriers to a woman’s ability to climb the social ladder: equal access to public institutions; ability to own, control or inherit property; restrictions on the ability to get a job; incentives to work; ability to build credit and access to courts.

Kathleen Lahey is a professor in the faculty of law at Queen’s University who has spent many years studying law, gender and equity issues around the world. For Lahey, this recent report represents a continuation of the status quo…

The report showed women represent 49.6 per cent of the world’s population, but only 40.8 per cent of the world’s workforce.

“When because of traditions, social taboos or simple prejudice, half of the world’s population is prevented from making its contribution to the life of a nation, the economy will suffer,” the report says. Lahey agrees.

“If any other class of people characterized were marked out in as many ways as women from participating equally in economic and political relations, people would be extremely agitated about it,” Lahey said. “But gender equality is probably one of the most challenging areas of equality and is probably one of the most deeply entrenched set of contemporary state practices.”

The framework to better the lives of women is currently in place, but making governments take action is proving to be much more difficult, said Lahey .

“For the last 35 years, there has been a growing network of international treaties that virtually all countries in the world have signed onto,” Lahey said. “All of which involve an obligation to enact constitutional and legal provisions to eliminate discrimination. The more fully countries honour these commitments the quicker women will approach a position of equality, but the figures show that it is an incredibly slow process.”..

“So, obviously, a government like Canada’s (which) has been heavily criticized by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development for not having a national child-care program is actively impeding women from being able to even think about moving into a business or that type of entrepreneurial activity.”

Read online


Canadians want more child-care funding: Poll
QMI Agency
February 8, 2012

According to a news poll, 85% of Canadians want to spend more time with their families and 60% want the Feds to enact policy changes that make it easier to raise a family.

The majority of Canadians think the feds should invest more money into making it easier for Canadians to start and raise families, according to new research from the University of British Columbia.

According to a McAllister Opinion Research poll, 85% of Canadians want to spend more time with their families and 60% want the government to enact policy changes that make it easier to raise a family.

“Despite having all the amenities of modern life, two-thirds of Canadians resist the idea that today’s families have it easier than in the past,” said UBC professor Paul Kershaw, who led the research, in a press release.

The poll found 60% of Canadians agree or somewhat agree that “compared to what is spent in other areas, Canadian governments do not do enough for families raising young kids today.”

As well, 60% said they would “vote for a politician who has publicly committed to fighting for better government policies for families with young children.”

“It is far more common that today both parents need to work in order to eke out a standard of living that is often lower than one salary could achieve a generation ago,” said Kershaw.

Sixty-two per cent support policy that would make it affordable for all parents to spend up to 18 months at home with newborns, splitting the leave between both parents.

What’s more, 66% support a subsidized $10-per-day daycare program, a controversial issue in Ottawa….

Kershaw also recommends small corporate and sales tax hikes to fund the family policies, and 44% of Canadians said this was a good idea, while 39% said it was bad. Forty-nine percent support an income tax hike to pay for it….

The poll sampled 1,325 Canadians in the fall of 2011. The margin of error is plus or minus 2.7%, 19 times out of 20….

Read online


Pediatricians: Governments need to prioritize kids
The Canadian Press/CTV News
Jan. 10, 2012

“Canada lags far behind most wealthy western nations and is ranked last in terms of support for family policy and early child development,” said CPS president Dr. Jean-Yves Frappier, citing an OECD ranking of 37 countries.

The CPS says Ottawa, along with the provincial and territorial governments, needs to implement programs aimed at reducing the economic disparities in Canada, where 700,000 of the country’s five million children live in poverty.

“And we really believe that child poverty rates should be as important an economic indicator as interest rates, inflation rates and unemployment rates,” said Lynk. “Because a lot of those kids, if we don’t help them, they’re going to be destined as adults to living on the margins as well. And that doesn’t help the economy.

“We know if you invest in those early years, it pays huge dividends in productivity, less health costs, less problems with the criminal justice system.”

The CPS is also calling on the federal government to implement a high-quality national day-care program and to appoint an independent commissioner of child and youth health, who would report directly to Parliament as the auditor-general does.

Read article


Early Years Study 3
November 22, 2011

The Early Years Study 3 details the current state of Canadian families with young children and provides the social, economic and scientific rationale for increased public investments in early childhood education. Early Years Study 3 is the third collaboration headed by the late Dr. J. Fraser Mustard …in collaboration with the Honourable Margaret Norrie McCain, and Kerry McCuaig, Senior Policy Fellow at the Atkinson Centre, Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto.

Observations from the study

The importance of early intervention
“This report emphasizes the importance of a child’s first years of life, and provides scientific evidence of this. It also states that young children need to have access to quality care and services in order to grow up happy and healthy. We need to continue on this path in Quebec and across Canada,” stated Claire Gascon Giard, General Coordinator of the Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development (Université de Montréal).

The importance of building a village around a child
According to Lyse Brunet, General Manager of Avenir d’enfants: “To ensure the overall development of young children, and especially those from underprivileged families, we need to support the local workers who interact with them. The only way to succeed is by helping them to develop more activities and initiatives aimed at children and their parents—projects that are based on a common needs assessment.

Investing in early childhood education pays off across the board!
The return on investment from early childhood initiatives is enormous. In fact, the cost/benefit ratio of this type of investment far outstrips that of investments in primary, secondary or college education. According to economist Pierre Fortin of UQAM, who is closely involved in the EYS3: “Fundamentally, the governments make money off of Quebec’s subsidized daycare programs, which enable an additional 70,000 Quebec women to be at work. The $2 billion that the provincial government contributes annually to daycare services ultimately generates tax revenues of close to $3 billion ($2 billion for Quebec and $1 billion for the federal government) for all three levels of government.”…

Read online


Quebec’s daycare system envied by other provinces
The Montreal Gazette
November 23, 2011

Quebec’s $7-a-day subsidized day-care program is the envy of parents across the country. Quebec parents think it’s a pretty sweet deal, too, if it weren’t for that one dot on the blackboard – there still aren’t enough spaces for every family that wants in.

A national study on early child-hood education released Tuesday ranks Quebec far ahead of every other province when it comes to access, quality and affordability of preschool programs for toddlers.

And Pierre Fortin, an economist at Université du Québec à Montréal, says he’s started hearing from officials in other provinces, intrigued by recent findings that show Quebec’s daycare scheme is as good for the bottom line as it is for the long-term health and welfare of the next generation. Fortin cites research that shows Quebec and Ottawa reap $1.49 in taxes for every $1 the province spends on public daycare.

“Governments make money off of Quebec’s subsidized daycare programs, which enable an additional 70,000 Quebec women to be at work. The $2 billion that the provincial government contributes annually to daycare services ultimately generates tax revenues of close to $3 billion for all three levels of government,” Fortin said.

“Not only do low-cost public day-cares in Quebec not cost the government anything, they actually bring in money.”….


Quebec, PEI, Manitoba surge ahead on early childhood education
Kate Hammer — Education Reporter
Globe and Mail
Nov. 22, 2011

… Growing research supporting a link between quality preschool programs and later academic success has prompted governments to boost investment in early education. According to the report, annual spending is up 100 per cent, to $7.5-billion, over the past four years….

The index builds scores on a 15-point scale. They’re calculated based on governance, funding, quality, accountability and access to child-care for 2 to 5 year-olds in each province.


Few were surprised to see that Quebec, with its universal access to $7-a-day child-care, is leading the way, scoring 10 points. More surprising was that Prince Edward Island, which recently overhauled its child-care system, is close behind with a score of 9.5. Manitoba was the third province to earn a passing grade.

What these jurisdictions have in common are systems that allow near universal access to subsidized care, unlike that of provinces such as Ontario, where families must meet a low-income cut-off.

“Manitoba and PEI also gain points because they’re the only provinces that require government-funded programs to serve students with special needs,” said Jane Bertrand, the report’s research co-ordinator.


Despite the introduction of full-day kindergarten last year, British Columbia and Ontario both fell to the middle of the pack.

“Where Ontario and B.C. fall down is, although they’ve paid really good attention to kindergarten, they did it without attention to programs for younger kids,” Ms. McCuaig said.

Both provinces lost points for the way they finance early childhood education – less than two-thirds of the spending goes toward program operations – and because salaries paid to early childhood educators are low compared with those paid to teachers.


Newfoundland and Labrador earned the lowest score, and was tied with Alberta for the lowest participation rate in early childhood care.

That province was one of the few that doesn’t have an early childhood curriculum and it has some of the loosest requirements for child-care staff.

“This index is a no-place-to-hide reporting system that calls attention to areas that need improvement,” said Charles Pascal, a professor of human development and applied psychology at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education. “This will really help the provinces learn from each other.”


Newfoundland and Labrador: 1.5; Prince Edward Island: 9.5; Nova Scotia: 5; New Brunswick: 4.5; Quebec: 10; Ontario: 6.5; Manitoba: 7.5; Saskatchewan: 4.5; Alberta: 3; British Columbia: 4.5.


Good intentions go unfulfilled: Canada has failed to live up to the UN’s child rights convention
By Daphne Bramham, Vancouver Sun
November 1, 2011

More than two decades ago, Canada stated its good intentions when it passed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. But it’s not lived up to them and prospects for some Canadian children are getting worse.

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children today released a report – Right in Principle, Right in Practice – that points out some disturbing facts and trends.

Children and youth endure more violence, exploitation and abuse than adults.

Twelve per cent of children live in poverty, 13 per cent live in unhealthy housing and 38 per cent are food bank users.

Nearly 55 per cent of children with disabilities do not have access to needed aids and equipment because of cost.

Canada ranks 19th among the members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development when it comes to child poverty (with British Columbia consistently ranked last in Canada for the past decade) and 24th when it comes to infant mortality.

A study done in 2009 by the Caledon Institute for Social Policy – quoted in the coalition’s report – determined that the after-tax value of the Conservative government’s Universal Child Care Benefit and the Child Tax Credit is less for children in low income households than for children in higher income households.

And there’s considerable evidence that aboriginal children are even worse off.

The Federal Court will soon hear an appeal of a case dismissed by the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal for technical reasons. During the hearing, the federal auditorgeneral verified that less money is budgeted for aboriginal child welfare services than for nonaboriginal.

In 2003, the UN committee on children’s rights made 45 recommendations that would have brought Canada into compliance with the convention.

Among the recommendations was an investigation into evidence that there is discrimination against poor, disabled, aboriginal, refugee and immigrant children as well as those living in rural areas.

The federal government ignored that.

Nothing has become of a federal/provincial/territorial agreement in 2000 to track spending for children under six as well.

The coalition says there remains no effective way to track “how much or how well tax dollars are being used for the benefit of children.”

The federal transfer agreement is up for renewal in 2014, which would be a good time to include both transparency and accountability clauses.

In another breach of the convention, Canada continues to actively recruit youths under 18 for military service, although the coalition notes that the number of child soldiers is decreasing.

Among the stumbling blocks to meeting the promise of children’s rights is that Canada signed the UN convention after the Charter of Rights and Freedoms was passed, which means rights specific to children are not spelled out in it.

The federal government also ignored recommendations from both the UN committee’s recommendation and the Senate in 2007 that all existing laws, policies and programs ought to be put through the filter of their impact on children, as should all proposed laws, policies and programs.

Without that, several significant changes have been made or proposed that violate the principles and provisions of the convention.

The 2009 changes to citizenship legislation, for example, increase children’s risk of being stateless.

Children born outside Canada to Canadian parents who were also outside of Canada (and were not immigrants) will not be eligible for citizenship.

The report also mentions the Conservatives’ proposed changes to the youth justice act. Many of them, it says, are “contrary to evidence-based research into effective measures in youth justice, specific provisions in the Convention, broad public consultations, recommendations to Canada from the UN committee on the rights of the child and accepted international standards of youth justice.”

Another example not mentioned in the report is British Columbia’s outdated Family Relations Act. The proposed revisions based on putting the rights of children first would match (but not exceed) legislation in many other provinces. They were circulated more than a year ago, but have yet to be introduced in the legislature.

Rather than moving forward on children’s rights and the goal of reducing child poverty to less than 10 per cent, the coalition makes a strong case that Canada is actually moving backwards.

But the coalition’s report provides a blueprint for how to turn it around.

All it needs are people willing to champion it in communities, boardrooms, councils, legislatures and the Parliament of Canada.

Read article online

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The kids are not all right: Disadvantaged children’s health conditions have deteriorated in the last 35 years.
Straight Goods
September 13, 2011
by Elizabeth Lee Ford Jones, MD, pediatrician specializing in social pediatrics and project investigator at SickKids, and a professor in the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Toronto.

In the last quarter century there’s been an explosion in our understanding of child development. Unfortunately, all that new knowledge hasn’t translated into improved child health. The fact is, far too many of our children are not doing well — not at all well.

I never dreamed that after 35 years in medicine I would now find so many children in worse shape than when I started.

Canadian children rank embarrassingly poorly in international comparisons for many key indexes….

And so we send our medical residents out on public transit to make home visits and provide care at local clinics in parts of the city — both suburban and downtown — where parents struggle and children are disadvantaged.

The experience is transformative. One young doctor had to examine a sick child in a dim apartment because the electricity had been cut off. She said she’d never again do an assessment or write a prescription without wondering if paying for the antibiotic might mean no food on the table….

Canadian scientists have played and continue to play a leading role in research into early brain development, the interplay between genetics and the environment, and the long-term health consequences of early childhood experiences.

But in all the excitement of these findings, I believe many of us have lost sight of what’s happening to the children in our communities. We haven’t acted on what we know. Perhaps most disturbingly, the gap between rich and poor is growing in Canada and one child in 10 is living in poverty.

In my role at SickKids, I’ve been on home visits to apartment towers where, quite frankly, I have to ask, how can we expect parents to raise healthy children in the face of next-door drug dealers, constant police sirens and bed bugs?

Certainly we’ve made progress in some areas. If children have access to medical care, they no longer have to be hospitalized for croup or other vaccine-preventable diseases.

But our children have new health problems. Canadian children rank embarrassingly poorly in international comparisons for many key indexes.

Recent United Nations reports place Canada 22nd among 31 Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries for infant mortality rates, ….

Those UN reports rank the situation of all Canadian children. Obviously, children living in poverty face additional obstacles. Parents may have difficulty affording healthy foods or organized recreational activities for their children; many face challenges paying for the medicine and equipment to keep conditions such as diabetes or asthma under control.

Poor housing exacerbates asthma. Parents who are financially strapped often can only afford to give their kids symptom relievers for asthma, and these are not medications which should be used regularly. Their children often end up in the emergency ward.

Attention disorders among children are rising at a disturbing rate and far too many children are simply not getting enough sleep for healthy child development.

At SickKids, many parents fail to bring their children for follow-up appointments at daytime clinics because they work irregular hours or jeopardize their jobs if they have to take time off.

Meanwhile, in the evening, large numbers of parents camp out overnight in the emergency department. They’ve brought their children in for medical attention, but because they can’t afford cars or taxis, they’re waiting for the 6 am start of the subway to carry them many miles back to their homes.

The health and well-being of Canadian children growing up in poverty has to become a priority. Health care has to move back out into the community.

We can’t turn back the clock, but it is time to reintroduce some of the common-sense preventive health programs that used to be standard in many Canadian schools — dentists to screen for children with dental problems, vision screening and regular nurse visits in public schools.

Of course, restoring these health initiatives can’t remedy poor living conditions or close the income gap, but here are some examples of what can be done.

A joint public/private initiative at inner city Toronto schools, where poverty rates are high, provided vision tests to 16,000 children last year. About 2,000 were found to need glasses, which were provided at no charge. Hearing tests are also being introduced in schools through this program.

At least two Toronto public school have set up their own medical clinics, staffed by nurse practitioners, so that children can be seen on-site. This spares parents, many of whom are new to Canada and face language and financial barriers, a confusing and often long trip to the hospital. At other schools, visiting nurses work in coordination with local health services….

But disturbing questions linger. Why, when Canadian researchers have been so instrumental in developing the scientific evidence of the importance of early childhood development, have we not developed comprehensive initiatives to improve the well-being of our children?….


Child care advocates confront minister in Barrhaven park; ‘We can’t afford’ national daycare: Conservative MP
Nevil Hunt
Aug 10, 2011

BARRHAVEN, OTTAWA – South Nepean Park became the backdrop for a political rumble on Aug. 10, with the federal minister of Human Resources and Skills Development taken to task by supporters of a national child care program.

Minister Diane Finley arrived at the park to mark the fifth anniversary of the federal government’s universal child care benefit…

Child care advocates have called for a federal program to provide government-funded care for children across the country. They criticize the current system, saying the money is of little use to parents who can’t find a daycare space for their children.

… She insisted the issue is choice for parents, and that national daycare would remove that choice. Finley did not address the issue of the cost of a federal program when answering a question about ways to finance a national system.

Carleton-Mississippi Mills MP Gordon O’Connor, who was on hand to introduce Finley, provided a frank response to a question after the press conference. He said cost is a critical factor in the government’s decision.

“I hope I’m not contradicting what Minister Finley said, but we’ve calculated the cost of a national program to be $16 billion a year,” he said. “That’s $16 billion every year.

“We can’t afford that. Governments can’t meet every need, everywhere. It’s parents that decide to have children, not the government.”

In addition to the mixed message about why the Harper government has declined to create a federal child care program, Finley also had to deal with some vocal critics.

As Finley began to speak inside a small tent set up for the occasion, at least five people arrived wearing T-shirts bearing the website name ivotechildcare.ca – a grassroots movement to maintain child care spaces for children under the age of five.

Decked out in one of the brilliant yellow shirts, Diane O’Neill – who says she has worked for more than 30 years in child care – managed to speak to Finley before she left the tent.

“I’m really surprised that you would come here to Barrhaven,” O’Neill said, adding that many Barrhaven parents can’t find daycare space for their children. “There are more and more people waiting for child care in this community.”

O’Neill added that “the only daycare spaces being created are for-profit,” which she said affects the quality of care, and asked why the federal government won’t create a national system.

In response to O’Neill’s question, Finley said the federal government knows there is a shortage of child care space.

“That’s why we have given an additional $250 million to the provinces; because we’re trying to help,” the minister said….

Some of the people wearing ivotechildcare.ca T-shirts attempted to stand behind Finley to ensure their message was picked up by news cameras, while members of Finley’s staff took up positions next to the minister in an effort to block the cameras’ view.

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Income of Canadians
Statistics Canada, June 15, 2011


“Here for all Canadians”…except families and children who need good child care
Code Blue for Child Care
June 7, 2011


2011 Federal Election Results

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The morning after: Where are we and where do we go from here?
By Judy Rebick, RABBLE, May 3, 2011


Educated, Employed and Equal: The Economic Prosperity Case for National Child Care
YWCA Canada
March 2011


Why the Tories’ $100-a-month child-care plan isn’t enough
By Kevin Philipupillai
This magazine
February 9, 2011: Economics, Government, January-February 2011

Advocates have long argued that a publicly funded universal daycare system would support low-income families, single parents, and working mothers. Support for variants of universal child care was a hallmark of the Mulroney, Chrétien, and Martin election platforms—but none of them made it happen….


Related articles:

Guilting parents out of child care
By Trish Hennessy
February 11, 2011

In the crass world of Canadian right-wing politics, there is a surefire way to diffuse voters’ earnest desire for affordable, high quality child care and early learning options: play the guilt card.

Human Resources Minister Diane Finley did it just last week in response to a federal Liberal promise to revive the national child-care program Paul Martin said he would implement before losing grip of his fledgling minority government five years ago.

Finley reportedly said: “It’s the Liberals who wanted to ensure that parents are forced to have other people raise their children. We do not believe in that.”

Her comments caused a firestorm, revealing the left-right framing divide on this issue.

Liberal MP Bob Rae responded in outrage: “For decades we’ve realized that women are working, men are working and the second thing we’ve realized is that there’s a great benefit to children from working and playing with others and learning with others. The notion somehow that child care is some form of alien abduction is just completely preposterous.”

NDP MP Olivia Chow did too: “Finley insulted all teachers, all early childhood educators, child-care workers, organizers of parents’ resource centres and even babysitters. She is trying to inflict guilt on all working parents — a truly shameful, divisive behaviour.”

Child care expert Martha Friendly spoke for working parents when she noted Finley’s remarks are out of sync with modern day reality.

“I’m stunned to hear a government official say this in the 21st century,” said Friendly, who is executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit. “The view that women who work ‘give their kids to someone else to be raised’ is an astonishing one. I’m sure that hardworking mothers and fathers who are employed believe they’re raising their own children and are just hoping for some support to help them do so.”

So why do Conservatives deploy a frame that seems at odds with the majority of working families today? And how do they get away with it?….

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Daycare: the plot to steal your child’s mind
Gerald Caplan
Globe and Mail Update
February 11, 2011

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Politicians squabble like kids over child care: “The notion somehow that child care is some form of alien abduction is just completely preposterous.”
February 3, 2011
AM 1150 NEWS/The Canadian Press

OTTAWA – What is it about child care that makes politicians squabble like children?

They were at it again Thursday, the fifth anniversary of the Harper government’s decision to scrap the previous Liberal regime’s nascent national child-care program…

In the House of Commons, Human Resources Minister Diane Finley raised eyebrows with her assertion that Liberals “wanted to ensure that parents were forced to have other people raise their children.”

“We do not believe in that. We are the ones who support whatever kind of child care parents choose to have,” she said.

“If they want to stay at home and look after them … if they want to take advantage of formal day care outside the home … if they want to rely on a family member or a close friend or neighbour to help raise their children, we support that.”

Liberal MP Bob Rae was dumbstruck by Finley’s suggestion that promoting more child-care spaces amounts to forcing parents to abandon their children to strangers.

“That really is the most bizarre comment I’ve ever heard,” the veteran politician said.

“The notion somehow that child care is some form of alien abduction is just completely preposterous.”…

He noted that Finley once suggested people could use their vacation time to help care for ill or dying loved ones.

“Does she also think families should raise infants only on vacation time and weekends?”

Minister draws fire over comment on child care
Toronto Star
Susan Delacourt
February 3, 2011

OTTAWA—Human Resources Minister Diane Finley has accused the Liberals of wanting to revive a national child-care program so that parents don’t have to raise their own children.

“It’s the Liberals who wanted to ensure that parents are forced to have other people raise their children. We do not believe in that,” Finley said in the Commons Thursday, the same day that Liberals were promising to revive the national program scrapped by the Conservatives five years ago this week.

Liberals are calling Finley’s remark an insult to working Canadian mothers and fathers and a clear declaration of bias in favour of stay-at-home parents — a rarity in Canada, where most mothers with children work.

“For decades we’ve realized that women are working, men are working and the second thing we’ve realized is that there’s a great benefit to children from working and playing with others and learning with others,” said Liberal MP Bob Rae. “The notion somehow that child care is some form of alien abduction is just completely preposterous.”

New Democrats, who have put forward their own national child-care legislation in the Commons, were also outraged by Finley’s characterization of child-care programs.

“Finley insulted all teachers, all early childhood educators, child-care workers, organizers of parents’ resource centres and even babysitters. She is trying to inflict guilt on all working parents — a truly shameful, divisive behaviour,” said NDP MP Olivia Chow.

According to Statistics Canada’s 2007 labour-force review, 69 per cent of mothers with children under 2 are in the workforce. That figure rises to 84 per cent for mothers with children between 6 and 15 years of age.

Child-care expert Martha Friendly said Finley’s remarks reflect a view out of sync with modern-day reality. “I’m stunned to hear a government official say this in the 21st century,” said Friendly, who is executive director of the Childcare Resource and Research Unit. “The view that women who work ‘give their kids to someone else to be raised’ is an astonishing one. I’m sure that hardworking mothers and fathers who are employed believe they’re raising their own children and are just hoping for some support to help them do so.”….

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