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UNICEF Singles Out Canada on Child Poverty

UNICEF has singled out Canada as well as the U.S. for high rates of child poverty
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Just when one might have thought that Canada had had all the censure available on the international stage, along comes UNICEF.

A new report on children living in poverty around the world finds Canada squarely in the middle, ranking 18th out of 35 countries whose child-poverty rate is higher than its overall rate. When it comes to children growing up poor, Canada edges closer to Romania, which has the highest percentage of children growing up in poverty; Canada ranks 24th on that list, with 13.3 percent of its children growing up poor. Iceland heads the list with just under five percent of its children growing up in poverty, UNICEF said in the report, Measuring Child Poverty: New League Tables of Child Poverty in the World’s Rich Countries.

Moreover, data show that “being the child of a single parent, or of a migrant family, or of parents who are unemployed or of low educational level, does not have to mean deprivation,” UNICEF said. “The level of risk incurred is not a function of chance or necessity but of policy and priority.”

Not helping matters is Canada’s lack of a definition for poverty, which UNICEF said makes it harder for the country to get a handle on the issue. Thus it is that 20 years after Canada’s government announced it would eliminate child poverty by 2000, it has instead seen the rate of child poverty rate increase, UNICEF said.

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Canada ranked low-to-middle from several angles under UNICEF’s definition, which is “households with an equivalent income lower than 50 percent of the national median,” the U.N. agency said in the report, which did not single out aboriginal children.

Regarding policy, the Canadian government is already under censure on the home front over its treatment of aboriginal children, more of whom live in poverty than overall in the country. A much higher percentage of them are also in foster care. Nevertheless, the government is appealing a recent Federal Court decision that ordered the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal to a case it had previously dismissed that alleges that underfunding of First Nations child-welfare services is tantamount to discrimination.

"Our child poverty is no better evident than on our reserves," Kim Snow, an associate professor in child and youth care at Ryerson University, told the Canadian Press. "We're really robbing the next generation due to the social impacts of living in poverty."

It could have been worse. The United States ranked second-to-last, with 23.1 percent of its children living in poverty as compared to dead-last Romania, where 25.5 percent of its children do so, UNICEF said.