A new report tracking child poverty rates across all 338 federal ridings in the country shows a bleak picture in both northern Saskatchewan and northern Manitoba.

The report comes from the anti-poverty advocacy group, Campaign 2000.

According to the report, the federal ridings with the highest child poverty rates in the nation were the Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River riding in Saskatchewan and the Churchill Keewatinook Aski riding in Manitoba.  Both in the northern parts of the provinces.

While Churchill Keewatinook Aski topped the list, with the report saying that 64 percent of children in the riding were experiencing poverty, Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River wasn’t far behind.

The organization hopes the data will prod the government to approve a poverty reduction strategy before next year’s federal election.

In light of this report, the Saskatchewan NDP is calling for action to address the poverty situation in the north. They were quick to blame the Sask. Party government for the poverty rates.

“Instead of making the smart investments, we need to reduce poverty, we’re seeing shortsighted cuts to supports for the vulnerable, like the rental housing supplement, that are only going to make this unacceptable problem even worse,” said NDP Social Services critic Trent Wotherspoon in a media release.

In a statement from the Saskatchewan government, they acknowledge that more work needs to be done to reduce child poverty.

“We believe that even one child living in poverty is one too many,” the statement reads.

The government pointed to investments in social programs they believe will help vulnerable children and families as ways they are working to help address the issue. This year’s social services budget was $1.18 billion, which they say is a 90 percent increase since 2007.

The Campaign 2000 report also reiterated calls for better access to mental health supports in northern communities. Those concerns were also heard from the provincial auditor and the Saskatchewan children’s advocate in recent months.

In addition, the report separated the poverty rates by ridings held by the major federal political parties. The Liberals saw about 18 percent of children in their ridings living in poverty, the NDP average was 22 percent, while the Conservatives saw a 15 percent average.

Desnethe-Missinippi-Churchill River NDP MP Georgine Jolibois says she is embarrassed a rich country like Canada would have such high child-poverty rates.  Jolibois claims both provincial and federal governments are not investing enough to reduce these rates.  She pointed to what she believes is a lack of childcare funding, a lack of funding for housing, and the cut of the Saskatchewan Transportation Company as examples.

“In Canada, the level of investment in children and youth is very minute, which is very discouraging,” Jolibois said.

Dr. James Irvine, a northern Saskatchewan medical health officer, says he wasn’t surprised by the report as he says there have been other reports indicating similar circumstances.

However, Irvine says health professionals, like himself, monitor this data closely because he says poverty can and usually does have an adverse effect on health outcomes.  He says poverty can affect almost all areas of a person’s life including food insecurity, language development, social health, which he says all lead to lowered health outcomes.

“It is very well established that socio-economic circumstances have an influence on the health of the population,” he told MBC News.

According to the latest census, 17 percent of children 17 and under were living in low income — or about 1.2 million children overall.

(PHOTO: Courtesy campaign2000.ca)