'Intensely urban' Toronto Centre has highest child poverty rate of all federal ridings in Ontario

·3 min read
A view of a mural in St. James Town, a neighbourhood in Toronto Centre, the federal riding with highest rate of child poverty in Ontario, according to the report. (Peter Turek/CBC - image credit)
A view of a mural in St. James Town, a neighbourhood in Toronto Centre, the federal riding with highest rate of child poverty in Ontario, according to the report. (Peter Turek/CBC - image credit)

Toronto Centre has the highest rate of child poverty of all federal ridings in Ontario, a new report has found.

The report, "Poverty in the Midst of Plenty," by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, says Toronto Centre is an "intensely urban" riding that contains more than 100,000 people within six square kilometres. The report, released on Wednesday, was written for Campaign 2000, a national coalition of 120 groups that advocate for children and families.

A total of 3,880 children were living in poverty in Toronto Centre in 2019, the report says.

According to the report, Toronto Centre's population is younger than the Ontario average. It says 50 per cent of the people are racialized and 40 per cent are immigrants. Twenty-nine per cent of its households are homeowners. Its residents are likely to be employed, but 34.6 per cent of all children there were considered low income in 2019.

"Make no mistake: there is money in this country, and the lion's share of it is right here in Ontario. But not everyone is getting a fair share," the report says.

Kenora, a riding in northwestern Ontario, has the next highest rate of child poverty in the province, according to the report. In that riding, 6,150 children were living in poverty in 2019, or 33.5 per cent of all children there. The report says 47 per cent of the population in Kenora is Indigenous.

"The contrast between these two places — the hyper-urban and the vast northern — demonstrates how pervasive child poverty is in this province," the report says.

CBC
CBC

Overall, the report found that about 500,000 children in Ontario, or 17.6 per cent of all children, were living in poverty in 2019. That compares to 1.3 million children living in poverty in Canada.

"Some of those children live in cities, others in suburbs, others in small towns and rural areas. Some are racialized, some are Indigenous, some are white, but one thing is true for all of them: at a very basic level, Ontario is failing them," the report says.

Child poverty rates dropped between 2013 and 2019

Leila Sarangi, national director of Campaign 2000, says poverty has a daily effect on children and families.

"Parents skipping meals so that the kids can eat, not paying for medication because they need to pay rent — those kinds of day-to-day decisions really are the real impact," Sarangi said.

Data shows that the child poverty rate in Ontario fell from 23.4 per cent of all children in 2013 to 17.6 per cent in 2019, mostly as a result of a strong job market and increased government transfers to families. These transfers include the Canada Child Benefit, which was introduced by the federal government in 2016.

But even so, the report says "ongoing policy interventions" are needed to eradicate the problem of child poverty in Ontario.

Shalini Konanur, executive director and a lawyer with the South Asian Legal Clinic of Ontario, said racialized and Indigenous communities suffer poor health, lower education and fewer job opportunities because of poverty.

"Canada has to consider a poverty reduction strategy for children that specifically triages the needs of these vulnerable groups," she said.

In a news release on Wednesday, Randy Robinson, Ontario director of the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, said child poverty takes a heavy toll.

"In a province as rich as Ontario, in a country as rich as Canada, we're out of excuses to end poverty," he said.

"If we've learned anything from the COVID-19 pandemic, it's that if governments dare to use the tools at their disposal, they can do big things."

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