Kids are in crisis. We’re calling for an emergency response.

Across Canada, COVID-19 has led to devastating effects on the mental and physical health of kids. School closures, the lack of access to sports and recreational programs, and social isolation have taken a high toll on young people. The urgency to support children and youth has never been greater.

Children First Canada and its partners are declaring #codePINK – a term used for pediatric emergencies.

We’re calling for an urgent meeting of Canada’s First Ministers to take immediate action to address this crisis facing the 8 million kids in our country.

This includes safely reopening schools, camps, parks and other recreational facilities as quickly as possible. We’re also urging government leaders to scale up virtual care programs, reduce backlogs for surgeries and rehabilitation, invest in new models of mental health programs to meet the urgent and rising demands, and plan now for a safe return to school in the fall.

Threats to kids have multiplied since the pandemic.

Suicide attempt admissions have increased by 100% on average among children and youth during the pandemic (Children’s Healthcare Canada). McMaster Children’s Hospital reports a 200% increase.

Substance-use disorders have increased by 100% compared to last year and the use of potentially deadly opioids has also increased (McMaster Children’s Hospital).

Child abuse rates have risen sharply, with a 100% increase in cases of infants presenting with fractures and head trauma since September 2020 (CHEO). There have also been spikes in reported cases of nutritional neglect and starvation (BC Children’s Hospital).

62% of parents say the pandemic has exacerbated the mental health challenges of at least one of their children. (Source: Inspiring Health Futures & Abacus Data, June 2021)

Demand for children’s mental health services is likely to see a surge, if they haven’t already. 54% of parents plan to access more professional mental health services for their children. (Source: Inspiring Health Futures & Abacus Data, June 2021)


Kids are facing unprecedented challenges.

Among children aged 6 to 18, 70% report that the pandemic has harmed their mental health in at least one area, such as anxiety or attention span (Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations).

More children and youth are seeking emergency care. There has been a 61% increase in ER visits among children and youth for mental health conditions over the last decade (Canadian Institute for Health Information). SickKids reports a further 25% increase during the pandemic.

Surgical backlogs have increased by 24% compared to the same time last year (SickKids). Approximately two-thirds of these patients have been waiting longer than the recommended lengths of time for their surgeries, according to the Paediatric Canadian Access Targets for Surgery.

61% of parents expect residual effects of the pandemic on their children’s mental health – even after the pandemic is over – and 17% expect these impacts will be long term. (Source: Inspiring Health Futures & Abacus Data, June 2021)


Only a quarter of parents say they have received adequate support from all levels of government throughout the pandemic. The remaining 75% either say they’ve received some, but it hasn’t been enough (42%), or they say they haven’t received any support at all (33%). (Source: Inspiring Health Futures & Abacus Data, June 2021)

The kids are not alright. They deserve better.

Will you join us?

Here’s how you can declare  #codePINK:

Step 1: Draw an emergency cross on your hand. You can use a pink marker, paint, or even lipstick.

Step 2: Take a selfie while holding your hand up to the camera, just like in the pictures here.

Step 3: Share your photo on social media and explain why you’re declaring  #codePINK.

Here’s a sample tweet:

I’m declaring a #codePINK because kids deserve to be healthy and reach their full potential. Join the call here!

Stay informed!

Inline Newsletter

Sign up for our newsletter for the latest updates, events and information.

Learn More

Ontario’s decision not to reopen schools is a colossal failure and falsely pits children against the economy

Toronto, June 2, 2021 – The Ontario government announced today that students will not return to in-class learning before September, meanwhile plans to reopen the economy – including non-essential businesses – are still underway. Children First Canada calls upon the Ontario government to make children and youth a priority and...

Load More

The #CodePINK campaign has been organized by Children First Canada, a national charitable organization that serves as a strong, effective and independent voice for all 8 million children in Canada.

Children’s health organizations from across the country have joined this effort, including Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, Canada’s Children’s Hospital Foundations, CHEO, Children’s Healthcare Canada, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, McMaster Children’s Hospital, The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) and the Young Canadian’s Health Roundtable.