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Child advocates calls for urgent action as Canadian kids go back to school

As children return to school, a new study has tracked the top 10 threats to childhood putting 8 million children in Canada at risk.

School bus, Ontario. Built by Lion Electric Company/ La Compagnie Électrique Lion, founded in Quebec. Image by Brian Snelson - Flickr: School bus, CC BY 2.0
School bus, Ontario. Built by Lion Electric Company/ La Compagnie Électrique Lion, founded in Quebec. Image by Brian Snelson - Flickr: School bus, CC BY 2.0

As children return to school, a new study has tracked the top 10 threats to childhood putting 8 million children in Canada at risk. The report has compiled all the threats to Canada’s children, including poor mental health, food insecurity, systemic racism and child abuse.

The ‘Raising Canada’ report is the fifth in an annual series of reports released by the national charity, Children First Canada. With World Suicide Prevention Day this week, the report also sheds light on the alarming need for mental health support.

The report tracks the top 10 threats to childhood – including poor mental health, food insecurity, systemic racism, child abuse and climate change – underscoring children are in crisis across the country. In particular, threats to children’s mental and physical health have been exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, the rising cost of living and school closures.

Canada has one of the highest rates of youth suicide among the OECD countries. The report calls on all levels of government to take bold action and make Canadian children a priority.

In addition, one-third of children in Canada are not experiencing a safe and healthy childhood. The report finds chronic underinvestment in young people. The report calls on all levels of government to take bold action and provides recommendations to make Canadian children a priority.

The main threats are:

  • Indigenous children are 12.4 times more likely to be taken out of their homes and placed in foster care than non-Indigenous children.
  • Transgender adolescents (aged 15-17) are 7.6 times as likely to have attempted suicide compared to their peers.
  • There has been a 28 percent increase in children attending emergency departments in the past decade, many of which are due to preventable injuries.
  • Suicide is the second leading cause of death for youth ages 15-24, and third for children ages 10-14.
  • More than half of youth (aged 12-18) in Canada experience depression, and 39 percent face anxiety.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 Canadians report experiencing some form of child abuse by the age of 15.
  • Among students in Canada, 1 in 4 children surveyed experienced sexual harassment or assault in schools by Grade 7.
  • Canada has the second highest infant mortality rate (4 per 1000 births) among OECD countries.
  • Approximately 1 in 3 Canadian youth report being bullied, with prevalence being relatively consistent over the past 12 years.
  • Over the pandemic, incidents of anti-Asian racism among children 18 years or younger increased by 286% for Asian Canadian youth.

According to Sara Austin, CEO of Children First Canada: “Kids thrive in environments that are safe, structured and nurturing, yet sadly many Canadian children do not make it to their eighteenth birthday.”

Austin adds: “Canada has higher rates of infant mortality than most other wealthy nations, and the leading causes of childhood deaths include preventable injuries, suicide and homicide. These devastating statistics are too alarming to be ignored.” To redress these issues, Austin seeks to establish an independent Commissioner for Children and Youth dedicated to protecting the rights of children, as well as creating transparency and accountability on federal expenditures related to children and youth by publishing a Children’s Budget. There is also a call for a national Plan of Action to improve the lives of children.

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Written By

Dr. Tim Sandle is Digital Journal's Editor-at-Large for science news. Tim specializes in science, technology, environmental, business, and health journalism. He is additionally a practising microbiologist; and an author. He is also interested in history, politics and current affairs.

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