Poverty at play in 21 child deaths: report: B.C.’s independent children’s representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond is calling on the province to do more to fight child poverty.

CTV/The Canadian Press

The sad, short lives of 21 B.C. children who all died before their second birthday has the province’s independent children’s representative calling on the government to do more to fight child poverty.

Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond also demanded the 12 candidates vying to replace the leaders of the provincial Liberals and NDP develop strategies to reduce British Columbia’s child poverty rate.

“Any person who is putting their hat forward to be a leader of any party in this province needs to have a well-formulated position on this issue because it’s with us and it’s not going away,” she said after releasing a report Thursday

The province has had the worst rate in Canada for several years in a row and poverty is directly related to poor outcomes for children, said the report.

Her 76-page document, Fragile Lives, Fragmented Systems: Strengthening Supports for Vulnerable Infants, called on Premier Gordon Campbell’s office to play a lead role in developing a child-poverty plan.

“Despite a drop in British Columbia’s overall child poverty rate between 2007 and 2008, British Columbia continues to have the worst child poverty record in the country for the sixth year in a row based on after-tax measures,” said her report, quoting Statistics Canada.

“Provincially, the rate of child poverty is 10.4 per cent, higher than the national average of 9.1 per cent. The Canadian Pediatric Society rated British Columbia ‘poor’ in addressing child poverty in their 2009 report,” said Turpel-Lafond’s report.

Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and the Northwest Territories have provincial child poverty reduction plans. Nunavut announced a public process last fall that could lead to a child poverty strategy.

“British Columbia does not have a provincial plan to reduce poverty,” the report said….

“What we’re doing isn’t working,” she said. “If you’re looking at some of the cases of these infants, you’re talking about third-generation families on subsistence, with ongoing shocks, not only just living in deep poverty. What are we going to do to change that?”

Turpel-Lafond said 15 of the 21 dead children were aboriginal and nine of the 15 were from Vancouver Island….

“Many children in B.C. do well,” Turpel-Lafond said. “Far, far too many do not. There’s deep poverty and deep inequality in British Columbia.”

She called on the premier’s office to deliver a progress report on its child poverty-reduction actions by April….

Opposition New Democrat children’s critic Maurine Karagianis said she is perplexed about why the government continues to resist calls to fight child poverty….