The year was 1989 — acid wash jeans, Hawaiian shirts and aviator sunglasses were all the rage; Brian Mulroney was prime minister; Princess Di and Charles were still married; The Cosby Show led the TV ratings, and Tim Burton’s Batman was the highest grossing movie of the year. We watched, mesmerized, as a young man in China stopped a tank in Tiananmen Square and the Berlin Wall came crashing down.
Against this backdrop of optimism and good times, NDP leader Ed Broadbent stood up in Canada’s House of Commons and put forth a motion to end child poverty by the year 2000. In a rare show of solidarity, the House of Commons voted unanimously to support the bill and all of Canada rejoiced.
Fast forward 25 years to 2014 and child poverty hasn’t changed.
Of Canada’s 6.9 million children, 1.2 million live in poverty. Forty per cent of the indigenous population in Canada are children living in poverty. At least 200,000 Canadians experience homelessness in a given year, and 10 per cent of those are children.
Thirty three per cent of immigrant and refugee children live in poverty. More than 6,000 kids aged 16 to 24 have nowhere to sleep on any given night in Canada.
Keep the Promise is an innovative initiative launched in 2013 to reignite public commitment to the 1989 promise and to give voice to Canada’s children and youth. A project for students, by students and with students working in collaboration with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation through its Imagineaction social justice website, this initiative provides program activities for schools across Canada. The Alberta Teachers’ Association is a proud supporter of the national Keep the Promise Summit and Town Hall, being held Nov. 18 and 19 in Ottawa, which will focus on the principles of participatory learning.
Students from every province and territory are gathering to learn about the democratic process and how it applies to the reduction of child poverty in Canada. They will share some of the preconference work from their classrooms and work toward building consensus around the challenges faced in addressing this issue.
More information about Keep the Promise is available at www.keepthepromise.ca. ❚