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'Not alright': children's advocate says new report reveals worsening living standards for Canadian kids

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Quality of life for Canadian kids is getting worse by some counts, according to the sixth annual 'Raising Canada' report.

The 2022 report was authored by researchers from the University of Calgary, McGill University and the University of Toronto, as well as the children's advocacy group Children First Canada.

"One of the overarching messages of the report is that the kids are not alright," said Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada.

It identified the following as the top 10 threats to childhood in Canada:

  1. Unintentional and preventable injuries;
  2. Poor mental health;
  3. Violence against children and youth;
  4. Vaccine-preventable illnesses;
  5. Systemic racism and discrimination;
  6. Poverty;
  7. Infant mortality;
  8. Bullying;
  9. Limited physical activity and play; and
  10. Climate change.

Leaders with Children First Canada say all of the items on the list are interconnected.

"We cannot look at these things in isolation," said Austin. "It requires a holistic view of what is happening in the lives our children and we need to see a holistic plan by our province and our federal leaders to tackle these issues."

FOOD INSECURITY

Access to food is an increasing concern with food insecurity among young people rising by 29 per cent.

"Kids are going to school hungry and that means they are not able to learn and achieve their full potential. It's concerning that in a country and a province as prosperous and wealthy as we are, that are kids are falling so far behind," said Austin.

Leaders with Brown Bagging for Calgary's Kids say they are in high demand to provide meals for Calgary students with the return of the school year, saying they are on track to provide lunches for 6,500 kids every school day, up 20 per cent from last school year.

"It's easy for that to feel so overwhelming, so I want to feel hope about that. I want to feel like this is something that we can do something about -- that governments and community can all come together," said Bethany Ross, executive director for the organization. 

Ross also says awareness is important, especially as the issue faces more and more Canadian children.

CALLS TO ACTION

A news release sent Tuesday outlines specific calls to action, that were "endorsed by Children First Canada's Council of Champions, and developed with the input of children and youth from the Young Canadians' Parliament."

It suggests federal leaders do the following to improve quality of life for Canadian Children:

  1. Lead for and with kids: Establish a federal commissioner for children and youth, develop a national strategy for children and youth, and develop a national data strategy on the health and well-being of young Canadians.
  2. Invest in kids: Launch a catalytic investment fund for children over the next four years and publish a children's budget.
  3. Raise them with rights: Support child rights education and provide children and youth with a platform to exercise their rights as leaders of today and tomorrow.

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