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Canadian teachers give failing grade to child poverty efforts

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Fitzpatrick, Meagan
Publication Date: 
20 Apr 2010

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Representatives from the Canadian Teachers' Federation were on
Parliament Hill on Tuesday meeting with MPs and senators from all
parties, urging them to develop a national poverty reduction strategy.
It is the third consecutive year that the CTF has made child poverty
its focus for its annual meetings with parliamentarians.

"It is shameful that child poverty is a tragic fact of life in a
nation as wealthy as ours," federation president Mary-Lou Donnelly said
at a news conference.

The organization, representing 200,000 teachers, issued a report
card on Canada's performance in reducing child poverty and in only one
of eight categories did the country score a "satisfactory" mark.
Donnelly said the House of Commons gets a "C" in Canadian history
because it passed a motion last fall calling on the government to adopt
a poverty elimination plan.


"It's obvious that a lot more needs to be done in the area of
child poverty and poverty itself in Canada. The report card speaks for
itself. We wouldn't give it a very good grade," Donnelly said of the
Conservative government's performance specifically.

During meetings Tuesday with three cabinet ministers and 20
Conservative MPs, CTF board members pushed the message that a poverty
reduction strategy is needed, and that it must include a robust
national child-care program.

"The federal government's cancellation of its early learning and
child-care agreements with provincial and territorial governments a few
years ago was a mammoth mistake," said Donnelly.

When the Conservatives came to power in early 2006, they
cancelled bilateral funding agreements for child care that had been
signed with the provinces by the previous Liberal government and
replaced them with a child-care benefit for families worth $100 per
month per child.

Donnelly said $100 doesn't go very far and that there's no way to know whether the cheque is even spent on child care.

In addition to a national child-care program, a poverty
reduction strategy should include an increase in the minimum wage and
investments in social housing and higher education, she said.

When children live in poverty, their academics suffer, they have
delayed cognitive development, reduced motivation to learn, less
participation in extracurricular activities, lower career aspirations,
and higher drop-out rates, she added.

Food Banks Canada reports that families with children make up
more than half of food bank recipients and, according to the CTF,
hungry children commonly arrive at school and depend on free breakfast
and lunch programs. In a poll conducted for the organization, 60 per
cent of teachers said their school had such programs and that they were
used by about 30 per cent of students.

Meal programs are only "Band-Aid solutions," and more permanent
answers are needed to lift children out of poverty, said Donnelly.

- reprinted from the Montreal Gazette

Entered Date: 
21 Apr 2010
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