As the Anti-Poverty month of November comes to a close, amidst torrential rains and the devastating flooding of many communities within our province, we are inundated with cheerful and bright advertising and festivities for the winter season. For those of us who have the privilege of being able to enjoy leisure time with family and friends, buy gifts, and share warm, hearty meals, it is often easy to forget that not all of our students, colleagues, and neighbours are able to celebrate the season in the same way.
The BC Child Poverty Report Card was released on November 24, 2021 and indicated over 150 000, or almost 1 in 5, children in BC live in impoverished homes - a sobering rate that has not much changed over the past 4 years. The report details the child poverty rate of BC and 22 child poverty reduction recommendations for the provincial government. While Canada’s child poverty rate over the same time period was 17.7%, British Columbia had a higher rate at 18.0%. A significant finding was the substantially widening disparity between the income of the richest and poorest 10% of BC families with children, with the richest ten percent of families having an income of 24 times the poorest. This rate was 54 times the income of single parent families, which have an overall poverty rate of 49%.
The report makes 22 recommendations to all three levels of government to support poor children and their families. These include all workers in BC are paid a minimum living wage and cutting red tape for benefits available to grandparents raising children. One recommendation from the report has been recently implemented by the provincial government, beginning in January of 2022, providing workers with a minimum 5 days of paid sick leave.
Some of our most vulnerable students are often going through their education without the basic necessities, such as nutritious food or access to basic internet and technology. In “normal” years, our thoughts may have turned to how to reframe the season away from monetarily driven values. This may have includes creating care packages in shoe boxes, serving others, and perhaps even ensuring Santa gives the same level of small gift to all children, while having the more expensive presents come from family, to mitigate feelings around why Santa seems to like some children more than others.
This is unfortunately not a normal winter season however, as entire BC communities currently lack access to even essentials and safe, stable housing between summer wildfires and winter floods. In this time of such great need, consider tangible actions of support we can take in sharing resources and providing access to those of us who need it most during this holiday season. In supporting each other, just maybe we can raise our Report Card scores together.
To read the full Report Card please visit: https://still1in5.ca/
For more ideas on how to set a positive tone for the holiday season for all children:
How to Keep Your Classroom Inclusive During December
Refocusing the Holiday Conversation: More than Gifts
To support BC flood relief efforts, visit www.redcross.ca/ and click on the “B.C. Floods” icon (or call 1-800-418-1111). The federal and B.C. governments will match all individual and corporate donations until Dec. 26, 2021.