Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Canada's 'success' is not all it seems

 Canada has never been wealthier. The GDP and the stock exchanges are setting records. Life expectancy just surpassed 82 years— almost a decade longer than  in the 1970s. The most recent data shows Canada now has the highest proportion of college graduates among all OECD countries. Not surprisingly, Canadians are ranked among the world’s happiest people and only getting happier, according to an annual report released last month.

But a recent study from the Brookings Institution reveals that this new prosperity is masking another side of the country where poverty, disease, and inequality are actually getting worse, not better.

The Sustainable Development Goals, commonly called the SDGs, tracked with 169 different targets  The authors of this study, John McArthur and Krista Rasmussen, examined 78 of these which could be measured quantifiably and determined if Canada had achieved the target, was projected to do so, was lagging, or was going backwards. The results are stunning and question the very notion that Canada is thriving.

Consider poverty. The SDG goal is to cut domestic poverty in half by 2030. Currently, just over three million Canadians live in poverty, and that number is barely falling. In terms of ending hunger, we are actually going backwards. The share of the population suffering from food insecurity is rising (from 7.1 per cent in 2008 to 7.8 per cent in 2012, according to Statistics Canada), as is the rate of malnutrition.
In terms of education, one in 10 students aged 15 years old lack basic numeracy and literacy, and this is getting worse. According to this study, the implications are that between three and five million Canadians have fundamental skills gaps for the modern economy.
One of the most damning findings is that Canada has failed to achieve universal access to clean water, and the situation is only getting worse. The World Health Organization reports that as of 2015, over half a million Canadians do not have clean drinking water and 70,000 are without access to sanitation.
There are similar stories to be found across many of the SDGs. The number of Canadians who can afford housing is shrinking. Access to safe, green public spaces is falling. Income inequality is growing. The percentage of detainees who are awaiting trial has increased. Canada is lagging in gender violence, child abuse, addiction and biodiversity.
The study broke down the numbers and revealed that while the vast majority of us have never been better, Canada is leaving behind entire communities. For example, child poverty rates among First Nations, Métis and Inuit are more than double the national average and worse yet on reserves. For them, access to doctors is dramatically lower, literacy rates lag far behind and rates of violence are far higher.
Another community being left behind is immigrants. While the differences are not as extreme, new Canadians are much more likely to be going hungry, are less healthy, and lag significantly in literacy rates.

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