The well-being of Canada’s children is reportedly in decline, as indicated by the recently launched sixth edition of the ‘Raising Canada’ report. This comprehensive analysis was jointly composed by distinguished researchers from the University of Calgary, McGill University, the University of Toronto, and the children’s advocacy organization, Children First Canada.
“This report underscores a disturbing reality; our children are far from okay,” expressed Sara Austin, the maverick founder and CEO of Children First Canada. The report singles out ten predominant threats to Canadian childhood, including unintentional and preventable injuries, deteriorating mental health, violence targeted at children and youth, vaccine-preventable ailments, systemic bigotry and prejudice, poverty, infant mortality rate, bullying, limited scope for physical activity and play, and the ever-looming specter of climate change.
According to leaders at Children First Canada, all elements on this disconcerting list are inextricably linked. “These concerns cannot be evaluated in isolation,” Austin emphasized, “A multifaceted understanding of the challenges faced by our children is necessary, and similarly, a comprehensive plan by our provincial and federal leaders should be devised to confront these issues.”
The researchers have also noted the mounting issue of food insecurity among Canadian youth, having observed a 29 per cent increase. Austin candidly expresses her concern: “Our children are attending school on an empty stomach. In a nation as prosperous as ours, it is distressing that our children are lagging so severely.”
As the new school year commences, Brown Bagging for Calgary’s Kids, a meal provision service, is seeing an unprecedented demand, projecting a 20 per cent surge in daily lunch provisions for about 6,500 children. Despite the daunting challenge, Bethany Ross, the organization’s Executive Director feels optimistic, “The situation is undoubtedly overwhelming, however, there is hope. Governments, and communities need to converge to address it.”
Raising Canada has asserted specific measures that federal leaders must incorporate for enhancing the quality of life for Canadian children. These include the establishment of a Federal Commissioner for children and youth, formulation of a national children and youth strategy, and a nationwide data strategy focusing on the health and well-being of young Canadians. Relational measures involve launching a special investment fund for children over the next four years, publishing an exclusive children’s budget, initiating child rights education, and providing a platform for children and youth to exercise their rights as leaders of both today and tomorrow.