Advocates urge government to improve health and safety of Canadian children
Mariam Matti, CTVNews.ca Staff
Published Tuesday, September 3, 2019 8:47PM EDT
As students across Canada returned to school on Tuesday, child advocates released a report urging the government to address the top 10 threats to young people’s health and safety.
According to research conducted by the national non-profit Children First Canada, of the eight million children in the country, at least one third of them do not have what’s considered a healthy and happy childhood.
“In general, most Canadians will be surprised when they see the results,” Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada, told CTV News. “We tend to think of Canada as one of the best places in the world for children to grow up. Yet, that is simply not true. We are ranked 25th out of 41 wealthy countries for children’s wellbeing largely because of issues named in this report.”
The report – titled Raising Canada: Election 2019 – lists accidents and preventable injuries as the leading cause of death for kids. Among the most common injury-related deaths for young people are motor-vehicle collisions, drowning and threats to breathing.
The research also indicates that First Nations children are at far greater risk of death due to injury than non-Indigenous children.
Suicide is the second greatest threat to a child’s wellbeing in the country.
“One in five kids in Canada has seriously considered suicide in the past year,” said Austin. “You know it is bone chilling to think about so many of our kids facing that level of despair.”
A 2016 Kids Help Phone survey found that one in five children, aged 13 to 18, seriously considered suicide in the past 12 months. Girls are two times more likely to seriously consider suicide compared to boys.
Suicide is a major concern among First Nations communities across Canada too. According to Indigenous Services Canada, suicide rates are five to seven times higher for First Nations youth than non-Aboriginal youth. What’s more concerning is that the rate of suicide among Inuit youth is among the highest in the world, at 11 times the national average.
The rest of the list details child abuse, poverty, infant mortality, obesity, food insecurity, immunization, discrimination and bullying as threats to the wellbeing of Canadian children.
Canadian children deserve our support, says non-profit
As Canadians prepare to head to the polls in October, the non-profit is calling on voters and the federalparty leaders to seriously consider the issues highlighted in this report.
Specifically, the organization is asking the government to appoint an independent federal Commission for Children and Youth, to put in place a pan-Canadian strategy for kids led by the government in consultation with the provinces and territories, and to publish a federal children’s budget.
“We want to see what our government is spending on our children,” said Austin. “Are they in fact getting their fair share? And is that money going towards evidence-based solutions for children?”
Austin said if the government takes action on the issues, “we know that we will lift Canada from being ranked 25th to becoming a world leading country for kids.”
The report is based on a 2018 research project by the University of Calgary’s O’Brien Institute of Public Health.