Canada Doubles Down on Investing in Our Greatest Natural Resource: Kids

Advocates Celebrate Budget 2024 Commitments for School Food, Youth Mental Health, Online Safety, Safety in Sport, and Equitable Treatment for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit Children

April 16, 2024, Ottawa, ON – Today, Deputy Prime Minister Chrystia Freeland tabled Budget 2024: Fairness for Every Generation, making landmark commitments to invest Canada’s greatest natural resource – children and youth. The budget marks a significant commitment to improve the lives of young Canadians and was urgently needed. Canada is among the world’s 10 top wealthiest countries yet ranks 81st on the Global Kids Rights Index.

Children, youth, and their advocates warmly welcomed today’s announcement. Budget 2024 includes several transformational commitments to improve life for children and youth, including:

  • $1 billion over five years for a new National School Food Program, to help ensure that 400,000 more children receive healthy, nutritious meals each day;
  • $500 million to establish a new Youth Mental Health Fund to help community organizations provide more care;
  • $1 billion in loans along with $60 million in grants to build or renovate child-care centre, along with $48 million to extend student loan forgiveness for early childhood educators;
  • $52 million over five years to protect children, and all Canadians, from online harms; the government will also establish a Digital Safety Ombudsperson to be a resource and advocate for users and victims of online harm;
  • $10.6 million over two years to support the operations of the Future of Sport in Canada Commission for a thorough review of sports in Canada to protect young Canadians and ensure they can safely participate in, and enjoy, their favourite sports;
  • Investments that will advance the health and well-being of Indigenous children, youth, families, and communities; and
  • Additional investments have been made in a wide range of measures targeted at children and their families, including affordable housing, pharmacare, and childcare.

“We applaud the government’s commitment to invest in kids. It’s not only the right thing to do, but it also makes good economic sense,” says Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada. “There is a strong return on investment for ensuring that children have a healthy start in life. School food programs yield returns of up to seven times, and every $1 investing in treating and supporting common mental health issues results in a return of $4. When children thrive, Canada thrives.”

Children First Canada (CFC) is a national charity that serves as an independent voice for all 8 million children in Canada and led the cross-country consultations with children and youth for the national school food policy, along with supporting direct dialogue for young Canadians with policy makers for Budget 2024.

Members of the Young Canadians’ Parliament had the opportunity to shape the federal budget commitments through meetings with members of Cabinet, including Ministers Jenna Sudds, Karina Gould, Marci Ien, and Marie-Claude Bibeau, to discuss the National School Food Program, Youth Mental Health, the Online Safety Act, and other youth-driven priorities.

“Nutrition is essential for learning, so it’s very inspiring to see that the government is focusing on this area. This is a real need for students across the country and I’m extremely glad that steps are being taken to address it,” says Roman Wolfli, Vice Chair of CFC’s Youth Advisory Council, and member of the Young Canadians’ Parliament.

CFC and its Council of Champions has long urged the government to make significant funding commitments earmarked for child and youth mental health and funding for a new National School Food Program to ensure the 5-million school aged kids across the country have access to a healthy, nutritious meal each day. Other key policy recommendations were outlined in the annual Raising Canada report on the state of the nation’s children.

CFC commends the government on taking significant steps forward to make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up and continues to urge the federal government to appoint a Commissioner for Children and Youth and establish a National Strategy for Children and Youth.

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Andrea Chrysanthou


About Children First Canada

Children First Canada is a national charity that aspires to create a country where children can grow up free from the barriers that prevent them from achieving their full potential – starting with the protection of their most basic rights to childhood. As a charity that’s uniquely focused on the rights of children in Canada, we aim to raise awareness of the issues through research and campaigns, we equip young Canadians as the leaders of today and tomorrow, and we unite our country around a shared vision and plan to make this the best place in the world for kids to grow up!