Editorial: Canada must do better

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The developing world is not the only place to find poverty. Poverty affects over three million people in this country, among them 600,000 children. That is why, earlier this week, the news was disappointing that Canada is not living up to its potential or reputation.

The Conference Board of Canada announced Canada is falling down on societal issues like poverty, government and inequality. The board gave Canada a 'B' - which is a seventh place standing out of 17 developed countries - indicating the ‘middle-of-the-pack’ ranking leaves room for improvement.

Getting an 'A' at the top of the rankings were  Scandinavian nations like Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Finland, as well as the Netherlands and Austria. At the bottom stand Japan and the U.S., both getting a 'D' ranking.

Income inequality appears to be our biggest challenge. It was a major factor in Canada’s low ranking, according to the report, and earns us a ‘C’ ranking.

Over the last 30 years, many studies have pointed to the rise of income inequality in Canada. The top 10 per cent of income earners have seen their average take-home pay rise by 34 per cent, while the bottom 10 per cent have had to adjust to their earnings rising by just 11 per cent. The report says income inequality is cause for concern, especially in education.

Linked to inequality, of course, is our high poverty rate, which ranks among the worst of the 17 countries the report looks at. Canada’s child poverty rate is 15.1 per cent, which is up from 12.8 per cent in the mid-1990s. Only the U.S. ranked lower. Working-age poverty was 11.1 per cent, up from 9.4 per cent in the late 1990s – the ‘D’ ranking Canada received was the same as the U.S. and Japan.

The Conference Board calls Canada’s rate of child poverty “unacceptable,” and says action needs to be taken.

“Poor children do not eat well, do not learn well and have low chances of escaping poverty when they grow up,” the report’s author Brenda Lafleur said.

She indicated the report serves to bust open the myth of Canada as a ‘kindler, gentler nation,’ saying that self-image is “based largely on a narrow Canada-U.S. comparison,” and that the U.S. ranked dead last among the 17 countries ranked.

The report was not without a few pats on the proverbial back for Canada, however. The conference board highlighted acceptance of diversity and life satisfaction as strengths. The news is not all bad.

Our country could forge ahead with great advances if it repealed the Indian Act and helped end aboriginal poverty once and for all. Since we are falling so far behind on social issues, allowing provincial welfare systems to aid the aboriginal population might introduce more equality, as long as First Nations peoples had a say in the delivery of those services.

Certainly, a new approach that works to improve our national score on poverty is sorely needed. We find it shocking that child poverty and working poverty rates in this country are only dipping lower.

 

K-A battle few recall

 

Sunday marks the anniversary of the Battle of Grand Pré, which took place in 1747. Well-known archaeologist Jonathan Fowler was in Truro recently, speaking about the military event that turned the tide in Acadian-English relations in colonial Nova Scotia.

History dictates that on Feb. 10, a force of about 300 French and Amerindian fighters surprised a New England expeditionary force, which was billeted in Acadian homes at Grand Pré. During the middle of a blizzard, they attacked the New England troops in the middle of the night. The New Englanders were taken completely by surprise and, according to Fowler, both sides lost approximately 120 men.

The Halifax-based archeologist, who has worked at the national historic site in Grand Pré for many summers, believes that it is important to remember the battle because its relevance is often forgotten.

Fowler sees it as under-appreciated in terms of the history that led to the deportation in 1755. He believes the wintery skirmish deserves greater critical attention. And it still involves something of a mystery, because the graves of those lost in the battle have yet to be located.

 

Organizations: Conference Board of Canada, First Nations, Battle of Grand Pré

Geographic location: Canada, U.S., Japan Denmark Norway Sweden Finland Netherlands Austria New England Grand Pré Truro Nova Scotia

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