Nunavut children experience the highest poverty rate in Canada: report

Seven out of 10 children in the territory live in food-insecure households

Children in Nunavut experience the highest rate of poverty in the country, according to a new report. Here, children play outside in Taloyoak. (Photo by Jonathan Nuss)

By Emma Tranter

Nunavut has the highest child poverty rate in the country, according to a new report from Campaign 2000, a pan-Canadian coalition on child and family poverty.

At 31.2 per cent, Nunavut’s child poverty rate is well above the Canadian average of 18.6 per cent for children under the age of 18, according to the Report Card on Child and Family Poverty in Canada.

For children under six in Canada, the rate of poverty is higher at 19.6 per cent, or 462,360 children.

Manitoba has the second-highest child poverty rate at 27.9 per cent. Yukon has the lowest at 11.9 per cent.

In the country as a whole, 25 per cent of Inuit children live in poverty, the report states.

The report makes several recommendations to the federal government to reduce child poverty in Canada.

It calls for a $6-billion investment in Budget 2020 through strategic investments to meet more ambitious poverty reduction targets.

Other recommendations include increasing the Canada Child Benefit to support a 50 per cent reduction in child poverty by 2025, establishing a national pharmacare plan, implementing a $15 minimum wage and enhancing the National Housing Co-Investment Fund.

This graph shows child poverty rates across Canada compared with the national rate.

It also calls on the federal government to take targeted action to reduce household food insecurity.

In Nunavut, seven out of 10 children live in food insecure households, the report states.

In 2018, the federal government announced changes to its Nutrition North program, which included a 25 per cent increase to existing subsidies on some items, like milk and infant formula.

But the Government of Nunavut says more still needs to be done.

“The Department of Family Services was pleased to learn about changes announced to the Nutrition North program such as the new Harvesters Support Grant and subsidies for items transported via sealift. However, the Department believes the program could be further improved by making changes to the program design and by improving the transparency of the program,” a spokesperson for the department said in a statement to Nunatsiaq News.

In 2019, the federal government adopted the Poverty Reduction Act. The introduction of the act also entrenched the Market Basket Measure into law as the official poverty line.

The report does not use the MBM in its analysis of poverty rates in Canada. Instead, the report uses data from the T1 Family File (T1FF) tax filer data from Statistics Canada.

“The MBM establishes a low income threshold by costing out a basket of goods and services that an individual or family would need to purchase to be considered to have a ‘modest’ and ‘basic’ standard of living. This basket includes costs for food, clothing, shelter, transportation, and a category of other essential items.” the report states.

“Baskets have been costed out for 50 different regions across the country to take into consideration local standard of living costs. Disposable income is calculated by after tax total income, which includes government transfers, and deducts certain ‘non-discretionary’ expenditures.”

If a family cannot afford the basket for their region, they are considered below the poverty line.

The report argues that the MBM has limitations. For example, it does not apply to the territories or First Nations reserves in Canada because no baskets have been costed out for those regions.

The MBM is currently under review and an updated version is expected in Feb. 2020.

Although the numbers remain high, the report states that child poverty rates went down after the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit in the 2016 federal budget.

“In 2017, there were 145,730 fewer children living in poverty than in 2015, the year prior to the introduction of the Canada Child Benefit, reflecting a 9.7% decline in the poverty rate in that time,” the report states.

In Nunavut, child poverty rates declined by 14.2 per cent from 2015 to 2017 with the introduction of the CCB.

This graph shows the impact of the Canada Child Benefit on Canada’s child poverty rate.

In 2016, the Government of Nunavut also began exempting the CCB from social assistance assessments.

In 2017, in collaboration with the Nunavut Roundtable for Poverty Reduction, Nunavut’s Department of Family Services introduced its poverty reduction plan called Makimaniq Plan II.

The plan outlines eight outcomes that, if achieved, members of the Roundtable for Poverty Reduction believe will result in a reduction of poverty, according to the minister’s 2016-17 Annual Report on Poverty Reduction. The outcomes are the following: strengthened foundation through pilirigatigiingniq (working together), increased community decision-making, strengthened local economies, strengthened support for healing and well-being, strengthened life-long learning, increased food security, a more supportive income assistance program, and increased access to housing.

The Department of Family Services also told Nunatsiaq News it has been working with the federal government in their efforts to develop poverty measurement tools and indicators to ensure any tools adopted reflect Nunavut’s context and culture.

The full report can be found here.

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(38) Comments:

  1. Posted by iThink on

    In advance of all the “shame on Canada” comments I expect will flood the comments, I’m sure most would agree there are a number of complex factors surrounding the issue of poverty. The elephant in the room, to me, is the economic non-viability of the majority of Nunavut’s communities. These will always be places reaching out for handouts in lieu of real economic opportunities. Invoking arguments based around fantasies of ‘nation building’ and fundamental economic rights ignore the reality that many of these communities are virtual prisons and economic deserts that are simply unsustainable without endless injections of government money, which will never be enough to bring true prosperity.

    • Posted by Yes, Shame on You on

      And yet Canadians want us to protect sovereignty. Forced relocation comes at a price. Economics are only important to those with money, make humanity and equality a priority.

      • Posted by iThink on

        My point, it can’t be done. Wake up.

        • Posted by Oh Ima on

          you’re a lethargic devil that say nothing can be done, there are things that can be done, recognize traditional harvesting activities, develop commercial fisheries, develop community corporations to offer services that are offered by southern companies. Just because you never experienced poverty doesn’t mean it can be dealt with!

          • Posted by Lethargic Devil on

            My point is that the vast majority of these communities are unsustainable and nonviable, and barely livable (there are a very few exceptions to this). They are prisons of despair. All these things that you say can be done, aren’t being done. And what is being done has had a marginal impact. Let’s pick up this conversation in ten years and see how true those statements turn out to be. It will be worse.

          • Posted by I Calls It As I Sees It on

            No, he’s right. Many of these communities should be wound up and shut down – virtual prisons is the correct term.

            History makes this difficult to bring up, but there is no way that a territory like Nunavut, with its minuscule population and tax base, can support 25 communities. It is insane to think otherwise.

            Those with gumption, education, ability, or grit will continue to head to Iqaluit, Rankin, Cambridge or major urban centres in the south. Nuanvut’s brain drain will only get more severe in the coming years as the population continues to outstrip opportunity.

            • Posted by Earth to Aaju on

              1 million each, how totally out of touch with reality can you get? This is not that surprising though, the “compensation” industry is a core economic model in Nunavut.

            • Posted by Marianne Zuidema on

              Greenpeace has never voluntarily compensated anyone, anywhere for any reason and it’s naïeve to believe they would start now!

          • Posted by Brian Woodford on

            Well said, at least someone understands

    • Posted by Putuguk on

      I am curious where NN got a copy of the 2016-2017 (2 years out of date) Annual Report on Poverty Reduction as required from the Government of Nunavut under the Nunavut Collaboration of Poverty Reduction Act.

      On the actual Makiliqta website, the most current Annual Report posted is for 2015/2016 (not translated), the last event and last meeting of the Nunavut Roundtable on Poverty Reduction both occurred in 2015, and the last tweeted statement on poverty reduction was made in 2014. How the GN and NTI has been able to reduce poverty is completely unclear given how the last publicly available reports are from a previous government and previous NTI Board.

      Although Section 7 the territorial legislation requires the Minister to set a definition of poverty in Nunavut, the only definition found on the website comes from the UN. And now apparently the GN is content to merely assist the feds in coming up with poverty measurement tools.

      With so much initial momentum around this whole issue within the territory starting a decade ago, it is strange now that the main progress cited in reducing poverty above is coming out of federal initiatives; new federal legislation, Nutrition North amendments, and the CCB. How the federal government was able to make so much progress is even more startling when you consider they are not even a member of the Nunavut Roundtable on Poverty Reduction in the first place.

      With much fanfare, the creation of territorial legislation on poverty reduction, establishing a Coalition, carving out the issue of food security, meetings galore (with plenty of snacks and per diems no doubt) the GN, and by extension its partner, NTI, have yet again slowly and surely dragged their feet on an issue. As a result, they have successfully kicked their problems down the road to Ottawa.

      Cave into unbearable social pressure about a real problem, create a brand new separate group to deal with a problem, look like you are doing lots of work for a while, slowly ignore the issue, partition off responsibility to someone else, all the while expecting Ottawa to do the heavy lifting. Rinse, repeat. This is the story of governance in Nunavut.

      • Posted by Pal on

        It was tabled in the legislature by the minister last march

  2. Posted by Simeon Tshakapesh on

    I want to learn more how can we do studying in our Community we have very similar problem about poverty.

  3. Posted by Genral Mills on

    Inuit kids are poor while Inuit organizations are rolling in cash.
    What’s wrong with this picture?

    • Posted by oh ima on

      Inuit kids are going hungry while non Inuit kids are not! What wrong with this picture?

      • Posted by I Calls It As I Sees It on

        Mmmm, look at the choices made regarding family size, the choice whether to get an education or not, and the choice to leave dying, non-viable communities.

        If the number of children were around the 1.5 or so that is the Canadian average, it would a long way, over time, towards alleviating poverty. If parents had kids at 28 instead of 17, that would go a long way towards reducing poverty.

        Frankly, it is hard to have sympathy for a couple of welfare recipients in a hamlet with zero economic opportunity, who have 8 kids and can’t feed them. I feel sorry for the kids, but why is no one shaming the parents for their incredibly poor decision making skills?

        Inuujunga called it correctly. Time to start laying the blame where much of the blame is due, irresponsible parents who have have plan for how they are going to support their children. Of course, no one will do that….

        • Posted by Nunavutmiuta on

          Bad parenting? Ur joking right? U are not an Inuk that is for sure. We Inuit are treated bad up here, we are taught English with no choice but to do so, Our culture was taken away without our consent, we were force “FORCE” to give up our own belief and given “God” the magnificent Jesus Christ, despite have survive with our own belief for hundreds and hundreds of year.
          We were colonize by force, our only form to livelihood our beloved dogs were shot. We were abuse, both physically and mentally. And people wonder why we are so screwed up.

          • Posted by excuses, excuses, excuses on

            Time to get over all those ‘reasons’, you poor people. Simply start buying healthy food useful for the mind, body and soul; make your grocery budget stretch and stop spending your hard earned money (or welfare cheques you wait for all month) on booze and tokes. Addictions are hurting the children while parents rather spend all their time trying to get high and forget to buy food and pampers. Then the children pick at each other and get jealous of those kids who have good homes and food in their stomachs. It is a reality that some kids live in poverty.

            • Posted by Liberation on

              This reply could have come from the mouth of a Nazi. I’m always astounded by people who set themselves up as authorities on other people’s situations. Inuit lifeways have largely been destroyed and for some reason many of them don’t feel much like joining with those who destroyed it. Instead of bullying, we should be talking about not only compensation, but cultural restoration and relearning traditional skills. The direction we have been going is proving to be untenable — it is past time for a major direction changer.

              • Posted by Eye in the Sky on

                Godwin’s Law in practice.
                32 comments, 3 days.
                A National Socialism comparison is made.

        • Posted by Kids on

          Inuit are not stupid.
          We know that if school did not work for you, you are unlikely to get a well paying job and unlikely to be able to leave the community, except to go to jail or to the hospital.
          Then, if you don’t have kids you will never get a house. So having kids becomes the only way to get a house and the more kids, the more the Child Tax Benefit.

  4. Posted by Charmaine on

    Nunavut think about getting their own airline plane for all the friggen expensive freight and double prices groceries someday hope my children won’t have to suggest like those do!

  5. Posted by grandmother on

    The mines are taking millions out of the land and the children are suffering? Where are the economic benefits and jobs for Nunavummiut that they talk about when they come in to our communities with their plans to mine whatever is in our land? Once they get the approval to do mining, they bring in their own workers to do the work while our children are living in poverty. Yes, something is not right.
    Once they start mining, they disturb our means of getting food for our children when the caribou change their traditional migrating route. When that happens, we have no choice but to buy meat from the stores that are over-priced that have exceeded their shelf-life in the stores.

    Come on Inuit organizations! Open your eyes and look around and see your own people suffer. Look low enough to get your eyes off those elaborate infrastructures and esteemed positions that are nationally and internationally recognized.
    I can go on, but I will shut up before I get nasty.

    • Posted by Putuguk on

      If Inuit harvesting is being affected by development, Inuit have the right to wildlife compensation. If Inuit are not now receiving large amounts of wildlife compensation from developers, it could mean that harvesting is actually not being affected, The evidence of this is that where in Nunavut caribou are declining or have declined, they have done so before new development or where there is no new development. And oppositely, where there is plenty of caribou, new development has occurred.

      In 2017/18, around $52M in Canada Child Benefits were paid out in Nunavut in addition to the tens of millions in new wages from our resource economy. That money goes directly to reducing poverty in Nunavut and did not appear from nowhere. It came from things like resource extraction, personal income taxes, corporate taxes and the GST.

      -Southern worker gets a job, pays income tax, tax gets spent on things like CCB.
      -Southern company gets Nunavut contract, pays corporate tax, tax gets spent on things like CCB.
      -Southern and Inuit companies and workers buy things, pay GST, tax gets spent on things like CCB.
      -Inuit worker gets a job, no longer lives in poverty, pays income tax, tax gets spent on things like CCB which is doubly good.
      -Inuit company gets Nunavut contract, pays corporate tax, tax gets spent on things like CCB, invests more in home community/region, which again is doubly good.

      None of these things cause Inuit to become poorer. In fact If these things were not happening, Inuit would be poorer. Canada would have a much harder time paying for new benefits like the CCB without growth in the economy.

      The evidence of this is that poverty has been reduced by 14% as stated in the story. I see the suffering everyday. I shudder to think how bad it would be if child poverty was at 43% which it could very well be without economic development and wise use of tax revenues.

  6. Posted by Inuujunga on

    Kids are having kids.
    Kids that have kids can’t feed their kids because they don’t go back to school to get an education.
    These kids having kids are still immature and spend their money on dope, booze, snuff, smokes, gambling. so they have no money for food.
    These kids with kids grow up to be adults who complain about the french, Filipinos, whites, blacks all taking their jobs. when in reality they did not get an education.
    I’m Inuk, I’ve lived here my whole life, I had a child at the age of 16, i got my education, i got a degree, I work hard to feed my kids so that they don’t become another statistic.
    Point is, if I can do it, any one can. Stop blaming Inuit orgs, mines, gov’t, and take a good look at yourself and your actions. Stop making excuses.

    • Posted by Inuujungattauq on

      My question to you, Inuujunga is this:

      Yes you were a young mother, you have established that. Honestly, and please be honest. Were you privileged? Did you have both sets of parents helping you financially, have no hard time getting babysitters while you were pursuing your education? How about help with your children from extended family? At any point were you and your children hungry? If not, you were privileged and only needed to focus on your education as all of your needs were met.

      Others are not so lucky. They can be born in a town where there is no economy. Live a life of abuse at home. Have an abusive spouse who doesn’t allow them to get out of the house. Have lots of children because they are scared and are not keen on aborting. When these basic human rights are not met, there is a lot of room for abuse, illness, mental illness and lack of education are met.

      Maybe you are the exception. And good for you. But we need people like to you to be encouraging instead of looking down at those who are not as successful as you

  7. Posted by David on

    I am shocked when I read these numbers, I expected poverty rates to be a lot higher.
    Of course the child poverty rate is higher, it has to be. 5% of southern Canada depends on Welfare to survive each month, while 40% of Nunavut does. What else can you expect?

    It doesn’t matter where you live, if you are on Welfare, you live below the poverty rate. It really is that simple and will never change.

  8. Posted by Colin on

    General Mills has it right about Inuit kids being poor while Inuit organizations are rolling in cash. Between what ITK and the Inuit Trust Fund are hoarding for their own selfish benefit, there’s $75,000 for every man woman and child Inuk.

    How about helping people who want to move from remote settlements to Iqaluit or the South so that next generations can get a life? Like Dr K, the full-fledged surgeon at the Ottawa Heart Institute.

    If anything, things are worse today than half a century ago—at least by comparison with the mainstream Canadian society, especially as measured by crime and suicide numbers. In the preface to the 1972 edition of People of the Deer, Farley Mowat wrote:

    Here [Eskimos] exist for the most part on welfare payments of one kind or another … Effectively, they live in unguarded concentration camps. … We have salved our national conscience by ensuring that they do not die any more of outright starvation …

    • Posted by No truer words on

      “unguarded concentration camps” . I think that’s the best description i’ve ever heard. Will be using that!

  9. Posted by Lorna Gee on

    An increase in the child tax benefit and income support will help a lot but it will not solve the problem completely.
    In the community that I live in so many people on income support lack some basic life skills. I see so many people on child tax day buying junk food and processed food. Those foods have the highest mark up on price. For the amount you spend on a 12 pack of pop alone you can buy a couple of healthy meals. A lot of people need to be taught that it is very important to buy and eat healthy. Also, tobacco products is another issue. People are spending income support on tobacco products before they buy food.

    • Posted by Arctic Circle on

      I live here too, they also play poker, bingo cards, nevada, buy smokes, weed and alcohol as well. Very sad, but true.

  10. Posted by Helen Klengenberg on

    On child tax credit day, we hear how big the ‘Pot’ was! Gambling away what should have fed the children is a very real issue in Nunavut. It should not be ignored when taking surveys.

  11. Posted by Melissa on

    Stop foreign aid and we will be fine. My husband is from Latvia and I will tell you it’s a small little country and they live great

    In Latvia they don’t have any foreign aid everybody lives great. Minimum wage can buy you a house and you can support a family of four.

    I should mention they also don’t have social assistance as well. All the tax money basically goes into the economy. If our child was able to move we would definitely move there . Canada can learn a lot from Europe

    • Posted by Hmmmm on

      Melissa you’re correct that Canada can learn from Europe in many ways. But Latvia does have foreign aid (all eu countries do). They do have social assistance. And they run a deficit, albeit small, and rely on the stronger economies of the eu to balance that budget. You might need to read an article or 2 before spreading misinformation. Or better yet go live there and see for yourself.

  12. Posted by R.P. DWYER ( GJOA HAVEN RESIDENT SINCE 1973 ) on

    There are a lot of hard working people in Gjoa Haven , and
    have been for many years.
    They work in GN, Federal government, Hamlet, Education, and
    Health, Elders care centre, Coop & Northern retail stores.
    Also traditional work, such as hunting, fishing, and sewing.
    A lot of people have made good and reasonable lives for
    It is not perfect, very few places or people are in our world.
    Colin :
    I met Farley Mowatt in 1972 in the Western Arctic, and he
    said ” I will write what I like, if people don’t like it they can
    write their own story. ”
    Although I think referring to Northern settlements as
    concentration camps is going overboard.
    I am still in contact with people in Scotland, and they have
    exactly the same problems there that we have here in
    Nunavut & the rest of Canada.
    That is life folks, like the knickontheknackofaknocker.

  13. Posted by A on

    It’s fine to criticize studies and equally fine to criticize each other. Beats indifference. There isn’t any likelihood that the causes of poverty are at odds with those for most violence, whether it be manifested in damage to others or to oneself.

    Hopelessness is the emotional killer, alcoholism and other addictions are the spiritual killer and incapcity for learning is the root of most mental deficiency.

    When those three conditions are woven together in communities and families over generations the outcomes are inevitable. This is the fact of Nunavut and many other impoverished jurisdictions.

    To be an individual mired in such a culture and to be offered solutions based on lost history is worse than indifference. It is also a form of violence.

    In modern Inuit society, nothing is less important than ancestry.

    • Posted by WTF? on

      This looks like an interesting comment, but an inability to write clearly leaves it hopelessly obscure.

      • Posted by What? on

        I know, eh? Too much beating around the bush. Makes you forget the meaning

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