What price is too high?

Kids festooned the climbing wall while a spirited pick-up basketball game took up one half of the Whitehorse Elementary School gym.

Kids festooned the climbing wall while a spirited pick-up basketball game took up one half of the Whitehorse Elementary School gym.

The south side of the gym saw two small kids chasing a big ball around as three other kids skipped rope to the side. Another child slowly swung back and forth on a climbing rope as the littlest in the whole bunch laughed and ran between and among everyone’s legs.

The smell of baking wafted up from the kitchen in the basement.

Something tantalizing was certainly going on down there. Usually an art project to engage eager hands can be found downstairs as well and the computer room is always open for the gamers or the inquisitive amongst the gathered throng.

It was what I have come to appreciate as just another normal Wednesday evening with the Whole Child Program (www.yesnet.yk.ca/schools/wes/whole_child/newsletters.html. or 667-8676).

Parents, volunteer adults and staff kept a semblance of order, but mainly insured that all just had fun from 5:30 to 7 p.m.

Only once did I see any tears and a nearby mother quickly intervened to soothe the hurt.

Beyond the recreational program, which next Wednesday includes a free swim from 7 to 8 p.m., the Whole Child Program hosts parenting workshops and other support programs.

These include The Power to Achieve sessions continuing on Thursdays November 27th and December 4th at the Elijah Smith School for parents seeking to help their children deal with learning difficulties.

The program’s motto, “It takes a whole community to raise a child,” fits.

The future of our Yukon communities is a collective effort. It is in all our hands. If we don’t take care of the basics, like providing safe, wholesome activities for our youth and support for young families — particularly those struggling to get by on low incomes — society as a whole will bear the costs of the inaction.

Adam Spence, the executive director of the Ontario Association of Food Banks, on his recent visit to Whitehorse (www.oafb.ca) told us about a report entitled The Cost of Poverty: An Analysis of the Economic Cost of Poverty in Ontario which his organization was about to release.

It is now out. The report puts the total cost of poverty in that province at a numbing $38 billion yearly.

“The social costs alone in Ontario,” according to a TORSTAR press service story on the report, “are between $10.4 billion and $13.1 billion every year due to poverty — an amount that adds up to about $2,900 per household.” Can we assume similar per household figures for the Yukon?

“We all pay in increased costs for health care, crime and social assistance,” the TORSTAR release continues, “in the loss of tax revenue that accompanies low earnings; and in the intergenerational cycle of poor children growing up to be poor adults.”

“The cost is so large,” stated Don Drummond, a TD Bank vice-president and one of two economists who worked on the report, “that substantial efforts are warranted to fight it.”

The Whole Child Program, the Whitehorse Food Bank, Angel’s Nest and a host of other current and hoped for initiatives represent aspects of our collective struggle as a community to deal with poverty and its associated manifestations. When will our territorial government clearly articulate an anti-poverty plan?

Ontario and Manitoba are among other Canadian jurisdictions attempting to do so. Isn’t the price we are paying for poverty here already too high to tolerate any further inaction?

Michael Dougherty is co-chair of the social justice committee of Sacred Heart Cathedral of Whitehorse. Contact pazypan@yukon.net.

Namaste Notes

Sunday, November 23 — Feast of Christ the King. The suggested reading is Matthew: 25:31-46.

Monday, November 24 — The Martyrdom Guru Tegh Bahadur in 1675 is remembered by Sikhs.

Tuesday, November 25 — International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women seeks to raise awareness of this continuing crisis in our global society.

Wednesday, November 26 — The Baha’i community celebrates the Day of the Covenant when the last will and testament of Baha’u’llah was given to them.

Thursday, November 20 — US Thanksgiving.