We count on Canadian families to contribute to the economy by balancing work and family responsibilities, but we offer them few supports. Families deserve quality, affordable child care they can rely on. Yet too many families pay more for their monthly child care than they do for housing. We can do better.
“I never thought I’d have to choose between my job and my child, but that’s pretty much what happened,” said Jillann.
She chose her son.
Jillann had a good job working for the city but didn’t make enough to cover the cost of six-year old Michael’s day care.
She made too much, though, to be eligible for the help she needed to make it work.
Jillann is now back in school hoping to gain the skills she needs to get a better paying job.
But it’s a vicious circle. She is going into more debt to finance her education.
“It’s not like you can ever get ahead when you are on social assistance. Anything you earn or help you get is deducted and you’re left right where you were or a little behind.”
Jillann misses her old job and the stability of having a steady paycheque.
“It was a good job that lots of people would want. But what does it say about Canada when you can’t afford the daycare you need in order to hold down a job? Something is wrong here.”
Major cuts to social programs in the last 20 years have forced people living with disabilities into a precarious situation. Half of those with disabilities in Canada aren’t working, and face a great many barriers to joining the work force. It’s essential we have good public programs in place, especially for Canada’s most vulnerable.
Ingrid was 13 when she was diagnosed with Retinitis Pigmentosa, a hereditary eye disease.
It has left her severely visually impaired.
Despite that, she is a university and college graduate and is raising three thriving children.
But the statistics are staggering. The unemployment rate for those living with vision loss in Canada is 70 per cent.
Ingrid too has struggled to find work.
“Do you know what jobs are especially good for people living with visual impairment?” she asked “Most any job you can think of.”
So she volunteers in her community and her children’s school; she is also a public speaker and advocates for those who are marginalized.
She believes that public programs like income supports are critical threads in the fabric of Canada.
“They lift people up. Without good public programs for those who are experiencing hardship, Canada can’t have equality.”
As a result of their historical and ongoing dispossession and marginalization, First Nation women, men, and children fare worse than all other people in Canada on virtually every indicator of well-being.
“Extreme poverty looks like suicide” says Audrey about the conditions on many First Nations reserves, where housing is substandard, water contaminated and other basic infrastructure is either non-existent or has collapsed.
“People can’t pull themselves up and into better lives when they are living in terrible conditions, and are denied access to a good education and jobs.”
The Truth and Reconciliation Commission has pointed out the need for sweeping change in Canada’s relations with First Nations people, something Audrey echoes.
“We need to hit a reset button and start again, revisit everything.
Among other things, Audrey believes that there needs to be a National Public Commission of Inquiry on Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls, to be fully inclusive of families and communities.
And an immediate investment of money into education, housing and infrastructure.
First Nations Youth are the fastest growing segment of Canada’s population.
“If we fail again now, we will fail for generations. It doesn’t have to be that way. We can move forward and create a better future. But it will take political will.