With child poverty statistics in the North Island on the rise, the District of Port Hardy is looking to help out families who are going through hard times.
At the district’s last council meeting on Feb. 26, it was recommended in the agenda by the Parks, Recreation and Culture Committee (PRACC) to offer both swimming and ice skating for free once a month “in recognition of the fact that one in three families in Port Hardy live in poverty.”
The recommendation was amended by council to read “THAT an opportunity for free skating and swimming be offered once per month” due to some confusion over whether the one in three families in Port Hardy living in poverty statistic was accurate or not.
The PRACC was provided government statistics by Don Kattler, who is a poverty reduction community advocate living in Port Hardy.
In a phone interview, Kattler clarified that one in three children in the Mount Waddington region live in poverty, and he noted this area is “the only region on all of Vancouver Island that doesn’t have a low income recreation program” in place.
Kattler also pointed out that the Mount Waddington region had the third highest child poverty level in the province in 2017, and it went up 2.2 per cent in 2018, making the region now the second highest in the entire province.
He added the statistic is even worse if a child comes from a single parent family, rising to two out of three children living in poverty, and that the local First Nation reserves were not part of the census that created the statistics.
Kattler noted he is planning to make a presentation to council about what else can be done to help raise awareness about poverty issues affecting families in the region.
In a follow up interview, PRACC Chair Fred Robertson noted he definitely feels “child poverty is an issue here in Port Hardy” and that while the fees to use the pool and ice rink are not high, “if they are a barrier for families, then we need to work around that.”
Council decided to approve the written request from the PRACC, and free swims and ice skating once a month could potentially start up as early as next month.