UN Human Development Report cites Canadian homelessness & poverty

Tom Boland (wgcp@earthlink.net)
Mon, 26 Jul 1999 21:52:02 -0700 (PDT)

FWD  Toronto Star - July 13, 1999



     By Tim Harper  Toronto Star  Ottawa Bureau

OTTAWA - David Ross has some advice for federal Liberals crowing over
Canada's latest set of glowing reviews from the United Nations.

 ``Go ahead, bask in the glory for about a minute,'' the executive director
of the Canadian Council on Social Development said yesterday.

 ``Then turn the page and see what the U.N. says about poverty in this
country. Then roll up your sleeves and do something about child poverty and
homelessness and make this country number one for everyone, not just some

 Human Resources Minister Pierre Pettigrew met with reporters here
yesterday to cheer Canada's sixth consecutive number one rating in the
U.N.'s Human Development Report.

 ``This is an extraordinary accomplishment for all of us Canadians and we
must take this result with great pride,'' Pettigrew said.

 But Pettigrew had to deal with questions about poverty, homelessness and
Canada's treatment of its aboriginals. Some 1.4 million Canadian children
live in poverty and some 150,000 are homeless.

 Although the U.N. report keeps Canada number one, it says one in six
Canadians is illiterate, 1.3 per cent of the labour force is long-term
unemployed and inequality between rich and poor in this country is higher
than in many industrialized countries.

 The report also states that about 12 per cent of Canadians are living
below the poverty line, ranking ninth worldwide.

 Pettigrew said child poverty remains a priority of his government. He
pointed to the $1.7 billion Child Tax Credit, which aims to put more money
in the hands of low-income parents.

 ``We're working very hard to eliminate child poverty,'' Pettigrew said.
``There's a lot more to be done. As a society we must ensure that we do
more to try to eradicate poverty in this country.

 ``Claudette Bradshaw (federal minister for the homeless) is also working
very hard on the homeless front in order to understand the problem, which
is a very complex one. Our government now has the margin to manoeuvre
fiscally to address social problems.''

 The U.N. report, a staple of past Liberal election campaigns and a
favourite reference point in fundraising speeches, was hailed by Prime
Minister Jean Chrétien. He said it again showed Canadians have built
a country ``founded on tolerance, co-operation and inclusion.''

 Chrétien also acknowledged much work needs to be done, but he did
not mention hungry children or homeless citizens.

 ``Our government remains committed to working in partnership with the
provinces, the territories as well as all Canadians to improve our economy,
our environment and our health,'' he said.

 The 1.4 million Canadian children in poverty represents an increase of
about 400,000 since 1989, when the House of Commons unanimously voted to
eradicate the problem by the year 2000.

 `(Let's) make this country number one for everyone,
 not just some people.' -
 David Ross
 Canadian Council on
 Social Development

 NDP leader Alexa McDonough reminded reporters of that yesterday when she
said the Liberals are wasting their time on other millennium projects.

 ``We have a millennium project in this country,'' she said. ``It was
determined by a unanimous vote in the House of Commons 10 years ago to
eliminate child poverty. All we have done since then is increase the rate
of poverty.''

 Toronto Mayor Mel Lastman also repeated his call yesterday for Ottawa to
create a $300 million annual capital fund for new low-income housing across
the country. He has been lobbying the Liberals and Bradshaw for action on
behalf of the 150,000 Canadians who have no roof over their heads.

 Chrétien, in his statement, pointed out that Canada moved from
seventh to fourth place in the so-called Gender Empowerment Measure, which
assesses the economic and political power of women.

 In that category, Canada ranked behind Norway, Sweden and Denmark. In
Norway, women hold 36 per cent of Parliamentary seats. In Canada, that
number is 23 per cent.


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