Saskatchewan ranks among the worst provinces and territories when it comes to child poverty, according to the latest report card from the First Call Child and Youth Advocacy Society.
In 2020, one in five children in the province lived in poverty, according to the report, which is based on tax filing data. Only Manitoba and the Yukon ranked lower.
“I think to everyone this should be a disaster,” said Miguel Sanchez, co-author of Saskatchewan’s report and an associate professor with the faculty of social work at the University of Regina.
Child poverty rates dropped dramatically in all provinces and territories between 2019 and 2020 because of pandemic benefits, according to the report.
Sanchez said the child poverty rate in the province decreased from 26 per cent to 20 per cent.
“I think the significant change was that the federal government, because of the pandemic, stepped in with a number of income security measures that allowed families and children to mitigate the possibility of falling into poverty as a result of their job losses.”
Sanchez said it was a reversal from a 25-year trend that has seen poverty rates increase.
Without those pandemic benefits or more investments in children and families, poverty rates will likely increase again, according to the report.
“This is a blip year, but it’s a lesson year,” First Call’s Executive Director Adrienne Montani, said on CBC’s The Early Edition Tuesday morning.
“During a global pandemic, rates of child poverty in Canada were reduced by a record 40 per cent,” the report said.
Nationally, child poverty fell to 13.5 per cent in 2020, down from 17.7 per cent the previous year, the report card showed.
“That is the largest year-over-year drop since the federal government promised to end child poverty in 1989, and is largely a result of temporary pandemic benefits,” the report said.
More than 50 per cent of children in poverty live in a one-parent household.
“In Saskatchewan, we have 55,000 children living below the poverty line,” said Sanchez, adding provincial income security programs are among the lowest in the country.
“The benefits are low. Social services rates are very low,” he said.
“I would like to see an increase in the benefits, family benefits,” Sanchez said. “And to make sure that the families who need them, receive them.”
The report said marginalized communities are disproportionately affected by child and family poverty “due to historic and present colonialism, systemic racism and other systemic inequities.”
It said poverty rates among First Nations, Inuit and Métis children remain significantly higher than rates for non-Indigenous children.
The report includes more than 50 recommendations to reduce poverty in areas of inequality, income security, decent work, childcare, housing and public health.
“The pandemic, government response and significant reduction in poverty rates demonstrated that child poverty is a policy choice, not an economic inevitability,” the report concluded.
LISTEN | Miguel Sanchez, co-author of Saskatchewan’s report, speaks about child poverty:
The Afternoon Edition – Sask6:12The perennial problem of child poverty saw improvement during the pandemic
“These recommendations offer the opportunity to build on the progress of 2020 and make the choices necessary to end child and family poverty”
The report’s recommendations are being reviewed, said Mohammad Hussain, spokesperson for the federal minister of families, children and social development.
“Insights such as those contained in this report are invaluable when it comes to charting the path ahead,” Hussain said in a statement.