Skip to main content

The Globe and Mail

In 1989 we were at one in seven children living in poverty. Now we're at almost one in five.

Dirty, bare feet dangle over a licence plate in Prince Albert, Sask. A child plays with a lone tricycle on a cracked driveway in Winnipeg.

Those are images of some of the 1.3 million children in Canada who live in poverty, whose existence a group called PhotoSensitive is documenting in a cross-Canada exhibit.

The show was launched yesterday, in conjunction with a report on child poverty, released by Campaign 2000, that says nearly one in five children were living in poverty in 1999, compared with one in seven in 1989.

Story continues below advertisement

Campaign 2000 is a coalition of organizations formed to ensure that a 1989 House of Commons resolution to end child poverty by 2000 was implemented, a result still far from being from realized, co-ordinator Laurel Rothman said.

"We are no closer [to ending child poverty]" she said. "In 1989, we were at one in seven children living in poverty. Now we're at almost one in five."

Ms. Rothman said what is disturbing is that child poverty was prevalent even during the economic prosperity of the late 1990s.

"Governments have the option in the boom years of investing in children. Instead they took the . . . strategy of cutting taxes, and in many cases, social services."

The report says that despite a strong economy between 1998 and 1999, the child-poverty rate dropped only slightly to 18.5 per cent from 19 per cent. And with the latest economic downturn, "those numbers are going to rocket up again," Ms. Rothman said.

One positive number in the bulletin is the decrease in the depth of poverty, said Andrew Jackson, research director for the Canadian Council on Social Development, which compiled the data from several Statistics Canada studies.

In 1999, poor families saw an improvement of more than $500 in their depth of poverty over the previous year, (to $9,073 below the poverty line in 1999 from $9,597 in 1998), but the gap between the rich and the poor in Canada is still far too wide, Ms. Rothman said.

Story continues below advertisement

The report makes several recommendations to government, including the development of a national housing strategy.

And the photographs by the 24 members of PhotoSensitive remind people of the "faces behind the numbers," Andrew Stawicki, photographer and founder of PhotoSensitive, said.

On the Web:

Report an error Editorial code of conduct Licensing Options
As of December 20, 2017, we have temporarily removed commenting from our articles. We hope to have this resolved by the end of January 2018. Thank you for your patience. If you are looking to give feedback on our new site, please send it along to If you want to write a letter to the editor, please forward to