The Canadian Context
In Canada today, there are nearly 7.9 million children between the ages of 0-19, representing 22.4% of the total population. The number of children in Canada continues to grow. As the result of immigration policies, our population is increasingly diverse. According to Statistics Canada, there were 593,725 Indigenous children (0-19yr) in 2016, representing 7.55% of the total population of children in Canada. In 2016, close to 2.2 million children under 15 were born outside of Canada (first generation) or had at least one parent born outside of Canada (second generation). This corresponds to 37.5% of the total population of Canadian children. This proportion is increasing, up 3 percentage points between 2011 and 2016.
The health of Canadian children, as evaluated based on a series of international indicators, points to several well documented areas of concern. Internationally speaking, UNICEF data tells us that Canada ranks 25th among the world’s 41 richest countries in overall child and youth well-being, a middle position that has persisted unchanged for more than a decade[i]. Canada lags farthest behind in child health, followed by levels of violence (including child homicide and bullying) and poverty, in addition to young people’s own sense of life satisfaction.
A recent national survey conducted by the Angus Reid Institute in partnership with Children First Canada found that Canadians care deeply about the wellbeing of children and believe in investing in children, with nearly nine in 10 (87%) saying that investing in children will pay off and save the need for additional expenditures in the future. This perspective is supported by a growing body of research suggesting that investing in young children has the potential to yield a big return on investment.
The 2019 federal election is an opportunity for the Pediatric Chairs of Canada and others to move the needle on child health outcomes, in particular as they relate to mental health and addictions and medication safety.
[i] UNICEF Office of Research (2017). ‘Building the Future: Children and the Sustainable Development Goals in Rich Countries’, Innocenti Report Card 14, UNICEF Office of Research – Innocenti, Florence.