Vital Signs gives mixed report card for Canada

Child poverty in Canada is stuck at the same level as in 1989 and immigrant family incomes are falling behind, according to Canada’s Vital Signs 2008, the annual report card on quality of life produced by Community Foundations of Canada (CFC).

Released in October, the 2008 report shows that 23 per cent of Canadian children lived in poverty in 2006, roughly the same percentage as in 1989, when Canada pledged to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. Also, while the median income of non-immigrant Canadian families increased by over 5 per cent from 2000 to 2005, immigrant families’ incomes fell by 1 per cent and recent immigrants’ (those in Canada less than five years) incomes fell by more than 3 per cent. In Canada’s largest cities, recent immigrants’ incomes were approximately half the median income of non-immigrant families.

More positively, more Canadians are finishing high school. In 2007, only 22 per cent of Canadians aged 15 and over hadn’t finished high school, down from almost 38 per cent in 1990. However, even here, the news is not unmixed. In 2006, almost 44 per cent of aboriginal people did not have a high school diploma. Lastly, Canadians are showing increasing interest in the arts, with about 41 per cent of Canadian adults attending a live arts performance in 2005, up from 38 per cent in 1998.

The findings show the range of inquiry of the Canada Vital Signs report, a synthesis of research done in 15 communities by community foundations throughout Canada, each of which produces its own local report. (Last year 11 community foundations took part and, and six in 2006.) The report cards track and grade each community’s quality of life in key areas such as the gap between rich and poor, health, housing and the environment. ‘Canadian community foundations urge our partners – business, governments, other organizations and individuals – to use our Vital Signs reports as a catalyst for action,’ says CFC’s President and CEO Monica Patten.

As a result of the Canadian initiative, one community foundation in Brazil is producing a similar report and several community foundations in Australia are working towards them.

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