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This article was published 25/11/2010 (3618 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
ALMOST three-quarters of aboriginal children aged six and under live in poverty in Manitoba.
The depressing figure affecting 68 per cent of aboriginal children six and under is one of the reasons Manitoba is ranked the child-poverty capital of Canada for the second year in a row.
The ranking is contained in the annual report card released by Campaign 2000 and the Social Planning Council of Winnipeg earlier this week, showing that about 43,000 children in the province live in poverty. Manitoba's poverty rate of 17 per cent is almost three points higher than the Canadian rate of 14.2 per cent.
Wayne Helgason, the council's executive director, said the percentage of children in poverty might be better than it was when the national report cards started being released in 1994, but the actual numbers of poor kids are increasing.
Helgason said two of the most telling statistics for Manitoba children are: The percentage of children under 18 years of age that use food banks here is 12.3 per cent, more than double the national rate of 5.2; and the child poverty rate for children age six and under is 68 per cent in the aboriginal population and 23.1 per cent in the non-aboriginal population.
And while Helgason is pleased Winnipeg Harvest's Hunger for Hope program, which feeds more than 1,600 babies each month, is getting $50,000 after Winnipeg Blue Bomber lineman Luke Fritz won the CFL Pepsi Refresh Challenge and an additional $10,000 from the Kinsmen Club of Winnipeg, he doesn't think it's the way to go.
"I think it's grotesque for us to rely upon food bank donations to provide Enfalac to infants," he said.
"To me, it should be available to all children and not through a food bank."
Sid Frankel, chairman of Campaign 2000 and an associate professor of social work at the University of Manitoba, said the release of the report card comes just one week after the provincial government claimed in its throne speech that the province has the second-lowest child-poverty rate in the country.
Frankel said the difference is his group uses pre-tax income and figures on spending for food, shelter and clothing compiled by Statistics Canada, while the province uses a different set of figures which tallies the ability to buy food, clothing and shelter.
"The measure we use takes in social inclusion and the stress of kids comparing themselves to others," he said.
"Our measure also correlates more with health and developmental outcomes for children."
Helgason and Frankel are calling on the federal government to have an $11-per-hour federal minimum wage, increase funding substantially for social housing and expand eligibility for employment insurance.
As well, they are calling on the provincial government to increase the minimum wage to $11 per hour from the current $9.50 per hour, set targets to eradicate poverty, and eliminate the $2 per child per day surcharge for child care paid by working poor families who receive the full subsidy.
Kevin Rollason is one of the more versatile reporters at the Winnipeg Free Press. Whether it is covering city hall, the law courts, or general reporting, Rollason can be counted on to not only answer the 5 Ws — Who, What, When, Where and Why — but to do it in an interesting and accessible way for readers.
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