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431-00005 (Social affairs and equality)

Petition to the House of Commons

We, the undersigned Citizens of Canada, draw the attention of the House of Commons to the following:

WHEREAS, The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is a human rights treaty which sets out the civil, political, economic, social, health and cultural rights of children; the Convention defines a child as any human being under the age of eighteen;

WHEREAS, The first paragraph of Article 3 of the UNCRC tells us that the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration in all actions concerning children.;

WHEREAS, The Government of Canada ratified the UNCRC on December 12, 1991 and has responsibilities for the care of children as outlined in the National Child Agenda and the Social Union Framework; these responsibilities further extend to initiatives with provinces and territories that set out programs such as the National Child Benefit, the Early Childhood Development Initiative and the Multilateral Framework on Early Learning and Child Care;

WHEREAS, Housing First funds are one size fits all, only fund for the adult individual, with no additional allocation for a parent with children and the amount is set at a rate per adult, which further materially deprives children;

WHEREAS, many children are excluded from receipt of the Canada Child Benefit and Child Special Allowances, as they are in informal care arrangements wherein their caregivers are ineligible to claim the tax deduction for a child, and therefore cannot establish entitlement for the monthly payment;

WHEREAS, the degree of flexibility afforded provincial and territorial governments has led to significant variances in services and programs across the country; in direct violation of Canada's obligations as a signatory of the UNCRC, certain subpopulations of children systematically derive no benefit from the above-mentioned programs;

WHEREAS, the potential of children is being lost due to relative invisibility and the lack of standards requiring they be considered and addressed;

THEREFORE, your petitioners call on the Government of Canada, having agreed to meet the standards in the UNCRC, to recognize the barriers within its own direct payments to families systems and remedy them; that the funded services like the Homelessness Partnering Initiative provide funding for client supports for children; that it provide Canada Child Benefit and Child Special Allowances for all children; that it needs to set standards within the Canada Social Transfer to ensure that all children-without discrimination in any form benefit from special protection measures and assistance and to recognize children of parents with addictions and homeless children in need of special support to enable them to achieve improved life outcomes and receive equal benefit to their rights under the UNCRC; that it reduce the level of material deprivation for children who move a lot for reasons related to homelessness, parental addiction, incarceration, or government care experience; that it reduce interprovincial and territorial disparities that exclude children living in circumstances not considered under current eligibility rules; and that it increase supports for children living with the highest level of exclusion.

Response by the Minister of Health

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Darren Fisher

In response to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), in 1992, the Government of Canada developed “Brighter Futures: Canada’s Action Plan for Children”, a comprehensive plan that identified programs aimed at promoting the health and wellbeing of children. As part of this plan, the Government of Canada established two programs aimed at encouraging healthy pregnancies, healthy early development and positive parenting, specifically amongst at risk populations: the Community Action Program for Children (CAPC) and the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP).

Launched in 1992, CAPC provides $53.4 million in annual funding to community-based groups to develop and deliver comprehensive, culturally appropriate prevention and early intervention programs for vulnerable children aged 0-6 years. CAPC reaches approximately 230,000 participants across Canada each year. CAPC participants report improved parental capacity, child physical wellbeing, social competence and overall healthy development.

Launched in 1995, CPNP provides $27.2 million in annual funding to community-based groups to improve the health of vulnerable pregnant women and their infants. CPNP serves approximately 45,000 participants across Canada each year. CPNP participation is associated with higher rates of breastfeeding, improved prenatal vitamin supplement intake, improved maternal mental health, and reduced smoking and alcohol consumption.

Through its Institute of Human Development, Child and Youth Health, the Canadian Institutes of Health Research (CIHR) is dedicated to supporting research on developmental, physical and mental well-being throughout the life cycle from a population perspective. To ensure the best outcomes for children, youth and families, as well as to provide an equitable chance at a healthy life beginning at pre-conception up to early adulthood, CIHR is investing in strategic areas of research, such as health developmental trajectories; healthy reproduction, pregnancy, childhood and youth; and healthy public policy and systems integration.

Response by the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Adam Vaughan

The Government of Canada takes the protection of children’s rights and well-being very seriously, and is committed to reducing poverty and improving the economic well-being of Canadian families and children. Several existing and recently introduced initiatives and programs are helping increase the economic and social security of Canadians, including children. These include, for example, the Poverty Reduction Strategy, the Canada Child Benefit, the Multilateral Early Learning and Childcare Framework, the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework and the National Housing Strategy. Between 2015 and 2017 the number of children living in poverty was reduced by almost 300,000.

Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy was released on August 21, 2018. It reflects principles that include universality, non-discrimination and equality, participation of those living in poverty, accountability, and working together. The Government of Canada took an approach to the development of the Strategy that is consistent with a human rights-based approach by engaging broadly with Canadians, including people with lived experience of poverty. In keeping with Canada’s commitment to reconciliation with Indigenous peoples, targeted engagement was also undertaken with First Nations, Inuit, and Métis across Canada.

Opportunity for All – Canada’s First Poverty Reduction Strategy establishes, for the first time in Canada’s history, an official measure of poverty: Canada’s Official Poverty Line, based on the cost of a basket of goods and services that individuals and families require to meet their basic needs and achieve an adequate standard of living in communities across the country. The Strategy sets targets of a 20 percent reduction in poverty by 2020 and a 50 percent reduction in poverty by 2030, which align with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals. In the Strategy, the Government also commits to improving poverty measurement, and to establishing a National Advisory Council on Poverty to report annually on the progress made towards meeting the targets. As part of the Strategy, the Government introduced poverty reduction legislation to ensure that poverty reduction remains a lasting priority well into the future. On June 21, 2019, the Poverty Reduction Act received Royal Assent and entrenches Canada’s Official Poverty Line, the targets and the National Advisory Council on Poverty into law.

Based on 2017 Canadian Income Survey data, Canada’s poverty rate decreased from 12.1% in 2015 to 9.5% in 2017. These results confirm that investments are lifting people out of poverty and helping Canadian families.

Ensuring that every child gets the best possible start in life is a priority for the Government of Canada. The Government is therefore committed to giving families more money to help with the high costs of raising their children and to making a real difference in the lives of children in Canada. To this end, it introduced the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) in July 2016.

Because the CCB is tax-free and based on income, it provides more support to families who need help the most. The CCB helps almost 3.7 million families and about 6.5 million children, putting nearly $24 billion annually, tax-free, in the hands of families. Based on the 2017 Canadian Income Survey data released in February 2019, the CCB is having a significant positive impact on the income of families. The CCB resulted in higher incomes for families with children. Couples with children saw their median child benefits increase by $1,200 and single-parent families received an extra $1,300 in 2017 compared to 2016, contributing to a positive start for Canadian children. Between 2015 and 2017 the number of children living in poverty was reduced by almost 300,000.

To ensure that the CCB continues to help Canadian families over the long term, since July 2018, the CCB has been indexed to keep pace with the cost of living. Indexing the CCB provides an additional $5.6 billion in support to Canadian families over the 2018-2019 to 2022-2023 period. That means Canadian families have more money to help pay for things like healthy food, sports programs and music lessons. With this increase, in the 2019-2020 benefit year, the maximum annual benefit is $6,639 per child under 6 years of age, and $5,602 per child aged 6 through 17. Families with less than $31,120 in adjusted family net income receive the maximum benefit.

In addition, beginning in summer 2020, the Government has committed to increasing the CCB by 15% for children under the age of 1. This added financial boost will help families when the costs of raising kids are highest.

To ensure all eligible families receive the CCB they are entitled to, Budget 2018 provided $17.3 million over three years, starting in 2018-2019, to improve access to the CCB and other benefits, to expand outreach efforts to Indigenous communities, and to conduct pilot outreach activities for urban Indigenous communities.

The Government has also committed to develop a Guaranteed Paid Family Leave program that will provide a guaranteed income to families during the first year of a child’s life.   

In instances where a child is placed in care outside the parental home, the Government provides Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) payments to the provincial department, agency, or institution that supports the child. The CSA is a tax-free monthly payment provided by the federal government to child protection agencies and institutions to help offset the costs related to supporting a child in care. The monthly CSA payment is equal to the maximum CCB payment.

Recognizing that a number of provinces and territories offer kinship and close-relationship care programs (referred to as kinship care programs), as alternatives to foster care (or other formal care by the state), Budget 2019 amended the Income Tax Act to ensure that care providers are eligible to receive financial supports. These amendments were made to the Income Tax Act to clarify that financial assistance payments received by care providers under a kinship care program are neither taxable, nor included in income for the purposes of determining entitlement to income-tested benefits and credits.

In addition, Budget 2019 amended the Income Tax Act to clarify that an individual may be considered to be the parent of a child in their care for the purpose of the Canada Workers Benefit, regardless of whether they receive financial assistance from a government under a kinship care program. The Canada Workers Benefit is a refundable tax credit that is intended to supplement the earnings of low income workers and improves work incentives for low-income Canadians. With these amendments, Kinship care providers are now eligible for the Canada Workers Benefit amount available for families, provided all other eligibility requirements are met. These amendments help to ensure that children and their care providers are not excluded from financial benefits because of the nature of their informal care arrangement.

Supporting early child development can have long-term benefits that can extend throughout children's lives. Research shows that there are positive relationships between quality early learning and child care, parental labour market participation and child development outcomes. The Government of Canada has committed to supporting more accessible and less costly child care that will help all children get a better start in life, help parents who wish to work or return to work, and support families by reducing the burden of child care costs. To this end, the federal, provincial and territorial governments reached a historic agreement on a Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework on June 12, 2017. This Framework sets the foundation for governments to work toward a shared long-term vision, where all children across Canada can experience the enriching environment of quality early learning and child care. The federal government invested $1.2 billion in three-year (2017-18 to 2019-20) bilateral agreements with each province and territory that outline the unique early learning and child care needs to be addressed within their respective jurisdiction.

In addition, on September 17, 2018 the Assembly of First Nations, Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, the Métis National Council and the Government of Canada jointly released a new, co-developed Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework. The Framework reflects the unique cultures, aspirations and needs of First Nations, Inuit and Métis children across Canada. This Framework provides a guide for communities, program administrators, service providers, policy makers and governments to work in partnership towards achieving a shared vision that all Indigenous children have the opportunity to experience high-quality, culturally strong early learning and child care. In support of this Framework, the Government has committed $1.7 billion over 10 years in new funding. The Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care Framework complements the Multilateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework.

Canadians need and deserve housing that is safe, adequate and affordable. Affordable housing is a cornerstone of inclusive communities as it helps to strengthen the middle class and grow the economy. This is why we launched Canada’s first ever National Housing Strategy in November 2017. Thanks to new investments proposed in Budget 2019, Canada's National Housing Strategy is a 10-year, $55+ billion plan that will give more Canadians a place to call home. To help more Canadians access housing that meets their needs and they can afford, the Strategy sets out to achieve bold outcomes by investing into new programs that will create over 125,000 new housing units, repair and renew another 300,000 units and will help remove or reduce housing need for as many as 530,000 households.

As part of the National Housing Strategy, the Government committed to expand and extend its support to tackle homelessness. Reaching Home, the redesigned federal homelessness program that replaced the Homelessness Partnering Strategy, was launched on April 1, 2019 with an investment of $2.1 billion over nine years (2019-20 to 2027-28). 

Reaching Home maintains a community-based approach, delivering funding directly to communities and local service providers. Reaching Home supports the goals of the National Housing Strategy, in particular, the reduction of chronic homelessness nationally by 50 percent by 2027–28.

Reaching Home’s design was informed by the Advisory Committee on Homelessness, chaired by the Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development, which undertook cross-country engagement throughout 2017. During this process, the Committee  heard that imposing investment targets for the Housing First approach – which focuses on placing homeless individuals in housing without any preconditions, and then providing them with the wrap around supports needed to address their challenges – on communities, and specifically targeting this to the chronically homeless, inhibited their flexibility to meet the needs of vulnerable populations such as young people, LGBTQ2 communities, women fleeing violence, and Indigenous peoples.

Under Reaching Home, the Housing First approach continues to be supported as it is a proven approach to tackling homelessness, including chronic homelessness, which remains an important priority. However, as of April 1, 2019, all mandatory Housing First investment targets have been removed. 

Under Reaching Home, the Government will work with communities to develop and deliver data driven system plans with clear outcomes. The new outcomes-based approach will give communities greater flexibility to address local priorities, including homelessness prevention, and programming designed to meet the needs of vulnerable populations (for example, youth, women and children fleeing violence, and Indigenous peoples).

The Reaching Home Directives include eligible activities and guidance on increasing supports for children such as: services directed towards individuals and families to help them access income benefits, including child benefits; and discharge planning services for individuals being released from public systems (for example, health, corrections, and child welfare). 

Representation from youth and youth serving organizations including Child Welfare agencies on decision-making bodies within the program, namely Community Advisory Boards, is encouraged. The Reaching Home Directives also list the number of children and a woman’s pregnancy as factors that can be taken into consideration when prioritizing individuals and families for access to homelessness services. 

The Government of Canada will continue to explore and assess new opportunities to make progress on issues concerning children and families, recognizing that all children in Canada deserve an equal and a fair chance to succeed.  

Response by the Minister of Finance

Signed by (Minister or Parliamentary Secretary): Mr. Sean Fraser

The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of supporting families with children, and provides assistance in a number of ways.

Federal Child Benefit System

In 2016, the Government of Canada introduced the Canada Child Benefit (CCB) to give low- and middle-income families more money each month, tax-free, to help with the cost of raising children. Compared to the old system of child benefits, the CCB is simpler, more generous and better targeted to those who need it most. Nine out of 10 families get more under the CCB than they did under the old system of child benefits, and families benefitting are receiving on average about $7,000 in annual benefits; an amount that will continue to rise with the cost of living. About 3.4 million families receive the CCB, at a total federal cost of about $24 billion per year. By 2017, the CCB has helped lift nearly 300,000 children out of poverty compared to 2015.

The Government of Canada believes that all families who qualify for the CCB should receive it, including those with children living under the care of a grandparent, extended family member or family friend. That is why, in 2018, the Government modified the tax rules to confirm that individuals caring for a child under a kinship program in provinces/territories across the country, are eligible for the CCB regardless of whether they receive financial assistance under such a program (provided they meet all other CCB eligibility criteria).

The Government of Canada also provides a special allowance in respect of children who are in the care of, and maintained by a federal, provincial/territorial or First Nations agency/institution that cares for children (child protection agency). The Children’s Special Allowance (CSA) is equivalent to the maximum (unreduced) CCB amount available for a child of the same age. For the 2018-19 benefit year, the Government provided about $340 million in respect of close to 55,000 children in care under the CSA.

Canada Social Transfer

The Canada Social Transfer (CST) provides long-term, predictable funding for post-secondary education, social assistance and services, and early childhood development and childcare. It is allocated to provinces and territories on an equal per capita cash basis, and is legislated to grow by three per cent annually.  

The CST is provided on a largely unconditional basis – the provinces and territories are not required to report on how CST funds are disbursed, with the exception that it prohibits minimum residency requirements in the provision of social assistance. The CST will transfer $15.0 billion to provinces and territories in 2020-21.

Continued Work to Support Children

The Government recognizes that more should be done to support children. The Government continues to make investments in support for children, to work with the provinces and territories to improve current programs, and to explore new ways to further this common goal.

Presented to the House of Commons
Peter Julian (New Westminster—Burnaby)
December 6, 2019 (Petition No. 431-00005)
Government response tabled
January 27, 2020
Photo - Peter Julian
New Westminster—Burnaby
New Democratic Party Caucus
British Columbia

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