Children are living in poverty all around us
By Karla Bernard, MLA Charlottetown-Victoria Park
Official Opposition Critic for Education and Lifelong Learning
What does living in poverty look like? It can look like a lot of things. It can look quite normal on the outside. It can look like a mom walking her kids to school. It can look like a teen learning algebra in class. It can look like a baby being rocked to sleep under the light of a Christmas tree.
Hiding in plain sight
Poverty doesn’t always look like what we see on TV. Poverty can hide in plain sight. This is what’s happening on PEI. One in five children are living in poverty. And unfortunately, that number is growing.
Think about the last time you were at a park, or saw a picture of a classroom. Groups of 20 children playing and laughing. In that group there are probably four children living in poverty, but you may not be able to easily recognize that.
Poverty is not always visible. Sometimes it is hidden. However, for what it lacks in sight, it more than makes up for in feelings. What does poverty feel like? Poverty feels like hunger. Poverty feels like fear and shame. Poverty feels like drowning in a sea where the waves just won’t stop coming.
These are big feelings, even for adults. Now imagine those feelings for a teenager, a child, a toddler. Imagine the feelings of hunger, fear and shame while trying desperately to just be a kid. On PEI, one in every five children we see is living in this reality.
We can fix this
We have done some incredible things here on PEI. Just look at our COVID response. Islanders genuinely care for each other and will do what is necessary to ensure that we are all safe together. When Dr. Morrison and Premier King told Islanders just how important it was to act, they acted! Just this week when our young people were asked to pitch in, they lined up in the thousands for hours to do their part!
But COVID is not the only problem we are facing, and Islanders need leadership that tackles all issues that are impacting those who call this Island home.There is good news too. We can fix this problem. The solutions are clear. We must provide livable wages and a basic income guarantee that allows people to live with dignity and security. We also need to provide access to appropriate and affordable housing and a provincial child benefit.
We just need to do it
We need definitive action to stop the growing trend of poverty on PEI and we’ll get it, if we have brave and bold leadership that asks for it. We need to understand that one in five is too many. In fact, we need to realize that even one is too many. We need to stop this growing trend right now. Government has the tools and the ability, it just seems to lack the courage.
Our children are drowning. The waves are getting bigger and we’re almost out of time. I call on government to remember its promise. It’s about people. All the people. Especially the youngest ones who cannot advocate for themselves.