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Industry Minister James Moore responds to a question during Question Period on Oct. 23, 2013.

ADRIAN WYLD/THE CANADIAN PRESS

Industry Minister James Moore has apologized for saying it is not the government's responsibility to feed hungry children.

The B.C. MP told a Vancouver journalist on Friday that falling unemployment rates were evidence of less poverty in Canada.

When asked about children going to school hungry, Mr. Moore said feeding them was the responsibility of families.

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"Certainly, we want to make sure that kids go to school full-bellied, but is that always the government's job to be there to serve people their breakfast? ... Is it my job to feed my neighbour's child? I don't think so," Mr. Moore said, according to the radio interview.

The New Democrats said the minister's comments were callous.

"During the holidays many of us are looking to help our neighbours and those in need. For a Conservative minister to claim that child poverty isn't his problem is heartless," NDP social development critic Jinny Sims said in a statement.

On Monday, Mr. Moore said he deeply regretted his "insensitive comment."

"All levels of government, indeed all members of our society, have a responsibility to be compassionate and care for those in need," he said in a statement, adding: "And while more work is needed, I know the cause of fighting poverty is not helped by comments like those I made last week."

Patti Bacchus, chair of the Vancouver School Board, said "I hope James Moore's comment and subsequent apology has drawn attention to the need for all levels of government to work together on a comprehensive poverty reduction strategy."

In 1989, the House of Commons unanimously passed a motion pledging to eliminate child poverty by 2000.

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Seventeen per cent of B.C. children lived in poverty in 2010, higher than the national average of 14.5 per cent – or one in seven children, according to anti-poverty group Campaign 2000.

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