What living in poverty is like in BC, and why it matters

…you don’t want to go there

Jacqueline McAdam, a smart woman whom I really should get to know better, posted the following question on Facebook today: “Did you know?  B.C. has the highest child poverty rate in Canada. 1 in 5 children live below the poverty line. Why do you think this is?”

The cynical answer is that the low income cut-off is relative, and kids in poverty in Canada would be considered wealthy in the world’s poorer nations. But that is a red herring – I know because I have raised three kids for several years, well below the poverty line.

Sure, we usually had enough food on the table (with a visit to the Food Bank now and then) and they had coats and shoes (thanks, Value Village and St. Vinnie’s). We even have a bunch of computers (thanks, grandparents, uncles and aunties). But in reality, it means that my kids missed out on the opportunities I had growing up. And they are potentially missing out on a promising future. All of them have tested “highly superior” in their intellect, but other disabilities have kept them back and I can’t afford tutoring. IEPs don’t get implemented and I can’t afford DragonSpeak software. I have no money put aside for their higher education. No money for my own retirement, so I guess I’ll be living in their basement.

The WHY is that Canadians don’t really believe in equality of opportunity or of access. We give lip service to it and make the poor jump through all kinds of hoops in order to access what others take for granted.

Am I resilient? You bet your ass I am. I have worked very hard to make my kids feel like they don’t miss out. But I know the truth: they DO miss out, they HAVE missed out, and I’m doing all I can to make sure that they WON’T miss out for much longer.

I’ve just surprised myself by “coming out” as a person who has lived below the poverty line for significant portions of my kids’ lives.  We look and act so darn middle class.  But don’t be fooled: we are the 1 in 5.  I think it’s time for former-middle-class Canadians like me to speak out and say WE ARE CHEATING OUR KIDS by allowing systemic poverty to continue. Not everyone is as lucky as me to have the background to experience *temporary* poverty and then get out of it again. I can’t imagine what it must be like to have it as a life-long experience. Thanks,Jacqueline (quietly steps off soapbox) 

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