Canada's poorest children are falling further behind, according to a UNICEF report card that ranks the country in the bottom third among OECD and EU nations when it comes to inequality in the well-being of its youngest citizens.

UNICEF's Fairness for Children report card, released Thursday, ranks Canada 26 out of 35 affluent nations. The report also notes that gaps in children’s health and education have widened since 2013, when Canada ranked 17 among 29 rich countries.

"One of the troubles is, in Canada, we assume that because we're in the top 10 wealthiest countries in the world, that the wealth will translate into a better life experience for children. And it's just not good enough," UNICEF Canada's President David Morley told CTV News Channel on Thursday.

The report looked at the gap between children in middle-income households versus those that find themselves in the poorest 10 per cent of households.

Key findings:

  • In Canada, the poorest children have roughly half (53 per cent) the family income compared to the average child.
  • Nine per cent of children in Canada report very low life satisfaction, that’s above the average of seven percent among rich countries. Girls are also more likely to have low life satisfaction.
  • Canada ranks 14th out of 37 countries in education inequality.
  • The health score of children in lower income households is 29 per cent lower than children in middle income households.

The UNCIEF report notes that Canada is one of a handful of countries, along with France, Iceland and Sweden, where the inequality among children has increased "markedly" in recent years.

Morley said the report shows Canada has to take steps to make sure social services that are targeted towards low-income families reach children in need.

The UNICEF report comes on the heels of a suicide crisis in the remote northern Ontario First Nation of Attawapiskat, where several young people have attempted suicide in recent months.

Morley said indigenous and aboriginal children in Canada are "over-represented" in the areas of health, education and life satisfaction.

Meanwhile, Denmark, Finland, Norway, Switzerland and Austria are ranked among the top five countries in the report.

"The top nations do a better job of income redistribution," Morley said, noting that the new Canada child tax benefit could "start to make a difference," as it's based on household income.  

He said those countries also do a better job at curbing the marketing of sugary foods to kids, which improves health outcomes.

"Many of them do a better job of listening to young people and children than we do," he added, noting that these governments typical have a children's commissioner.