Child advocates welcome federal commitments to make Canada the best place to grow up!

Child advocates welcome federal commitments to make Canada the best place to grow up! 

Children First Canada responds to new mandate letters for federal cabinet ministers 

Ottawa, December 16, 2021 – Today’s release of mandate letters for federal cabinet ministers included significant commitments to improve the lives of children. Highlights include:

  • Ensuring that the voices and needs of children are represented in the Government’s agenda and working to make Canada the best place to grow up.
  • Ensuring that mental health supports are accessible to children and youth as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.
  • Developing a National School Food Policy and working toward a national school nutritious meal program. 

Children First Canada welcomes these strong commitments and looks forward to working with the government to ensure that they are actioned quickly. Many of today’s commitments respond directly to the concerns raised in our recent Raising Canada report and the Children’s Platform in our #VoteForOurFuture campaign, along with the concerns raised directly by members of the Young Canadians’ Parliament. We also welcome the government’s commitment to evaluate the analytical tools (GBA+) for policy development, and we encourage ministers to apply a child-focused policy lens, including conducting Child Rights Impact Assessments (CRIA). 

Canada’s current ranking for child wellbeing has fallen sharply from 10th to 30th place among 38 wealthy nations over the past decade, according to UNICEF, and our latest Raising Canada report revealed that the pandemic has accelerated the top 10 threats to childhood. We warmly welcome the commitments made today to improve the wellbeing of kids in Canada. Children continue to be disproportionately impacted by the pandemic and should be at the heart of Canada’s recovery plans. “Investing in kids is one of the smartest decisions a country can make,” says Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada. “We have been calling on the federal government to provide big, bold leadership for children, and we applaud today’s announcement signaling a commitment to invest in improving the health and wellbeing of children and ensure the protection of their rights.”

As the government looks to implement these commitments, we encourage the federal government to put in place six essential building blocks that will improve the lives of all 8 million kids in Canada:

  1. Appoint a federal Commissioner for Children and Youth
  2. Create a national strategy to tackle the top 10 threats to children in Canada and ensure the full protection of children’s rights
  3. Invest in children, including launching a Catalytic Investment Fund for Children and publishing a Children’s Budget to provide transparency and accountability.
  4. Measure what matters, systematically collecting disaggregated national data on the health and well-being of kids across Canada
  5. Provide equitable funding and services for First Nations, Métis and Inuit children and implement the TRC’s Calls to Action and the Spirit Bear Plan. We were pleased to see the government take a step in the right direction recently committing$40 billion in compensation to provide the funds necessary to implement long-term reform for First Nations child and family service. 
  6. Involve children in decisions that affect their lives, including consulting them in policy decisions through the Young Canadians’ Parliament and youth advisory councils. This should also include lowering the voting age in Canada, in conformance with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.

Each of the recommendations are valuable in their own right, and when combined together provide a solid foundation to put children at the heart of Canada’s pandemic recovery plans. We look forward to working with the government and all Parliamentarians to support today’s commitments and make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up! 

For more information or for an interview, please contact:
Andrea Chrysanthou
Director, NATIONAL Public Relations
achrysanthou@national.ca
416-797-8194 

About Children First Canada:
Children First Canada (CFC) is a national charitable organization with a bold and ambitious vision that together we can make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up. We are a strong, effective and independent voice for all 8 million children in Canada. CFC is harnessing the strength of many organizations that are committed to improving the lives of children in Canada, including children’s charities and hospitals, research centres, government, corporations, community leaders, and children themselves. Visit childrenfirstcanada.com for more information.

Appendix A: A summary of commitments related to children and youth in the mandate letters for ministers 

Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth Mandate Letter

  • Continue to lead the evaluation process of GBA Plus with the goal of enhancing the framing and parameters of this analytical tool and with particular attention to the intersectional analysis of race, indigeneity, rurality, disability and sexual identity, among other characteristics. You will be supported in this work by the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion, the President of the Treasury Board, the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, the Minister of Rural Economic Development, the Minister of Tourism and Associate Minister of Finance and the Minister of Employment, Workforce Development and Disability Inclusion. 

As part of this work, you will continue to strengthen the Department for Women and Gender Equality as a centre of expertise for advancing gender equality and supporting the application of GBA Plus across government decision-making processes.

  • Move forward with the development of a 10-year National Action Plan to End Gender-Based Violence, begin negotiations with the provinces and territories within a year, and accelerate the establishment of a dedicated Secretariat. (NOTE: our interest is in violence against children, which affects 1/3 of children in Canada) 
  • Support the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people by accelerating the implementation of the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, and to support the implementation of the 2021 MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan.
  • Create a Menstrual Equity Fund for women’s shelters, not-for-profits, charities, community-based organizations and youth-led organizations to make menstrual products available to vulnerable women.
  • Continue to implement Canada’s Youth Policy and build upon the six priority areas included in Canada’s first State of Youth Report.
  • Serve as Vice-Chair of the Prime Minister’s Youth Council and support its work so that the Prime Minister has an opportunity to draw advice from an engaged group of young Canadians.
  • Continue scaling up youth and student skills and employment programming and initiatives for Canadian youth, and create a new stream of the Youth Employment and Skills Strategy for Canadians with disabilities.
  • Continue to expand and diversify the Canada Service Corps.
  • Support the Minister of Health in their work to ensure that all Canadians have access to the sexual and reproductive health services they need, no matter where they live, by reinforcing compliance under the Canada Health Act, developing a sexual and reproductive health rights information portal, supporting the establishment of mechanisms to help families cover the costs of in vitro fertilization and supporting youth-led grassroots organizations that respond to the unique sexual and reproductive health needs of young people.
  • Continue to support the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development in advancing the creation and sustainability of a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system.
  • Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development to ensure the voices and needs of children are represented in our Government’s agenda, working to make Canada the best place to grow up.
  • Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to ensure mental health supports are accessible to children and youth as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.

Minister of Families, Children and Social Development Mandate Letter

 To realize these objectives, I ask that you achieve results for Canadians by delivering the following commitments.

  • Supported by the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, continue advancing the creation and sustainability of a Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care system, including:
    • Concluding negotiations with remaining provinces and territories and implementing agreements:
      • Reducing fees for regulated child care by 50 per cent on average by the end of 2022 everywhere outside of Quebec,
      • Reducing regulated child care fees to $10 a day on average by the end of fiscal year 2025-2026 everywhere outside of Quebec, and
      • Building 250,000 new high-quality child care spaces and hiring 40,000 more early childhood educators by the end of fiscal year 2025-2026;
    • Introducing federal child care legislation to strengthen and protect a high-quality Canada-wide child care system; 
    • Establishing a National Advisory Council on Early Learning and Child Care;
    • Continuing to advance work with provinces and territories to reduce fees for families for before and after school care; and
    • Ensuring the Federal Secretariat on Early Learning and Child Care is fully resourced and operational by early 2023.
  • Work with Indigenous partners to ensure that Indigenous children have access to a culturally appropriate Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care system that meets the needs of Indigenous families wherever they live, including ensuring more Indigenous families have access to high-quality programming, creating 3,300 new child care spaces, and continuing to support before and after school care for First Nations children on reserve.
  • Advance the implementation of the Community Services Recovery Fund to help charities and non-profits adapt and modernize as they recover from the pandemic.
  • Through the delivery of Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy and other measures, continue leading implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by the United Nations.
  • Work with the Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food and with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners and stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and to work toward a national school nutritious meal program.
  • Work with the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth to ensure the voices and needs of children are represented in our Government’s agenda, as we work to make Canada the best place to grow up.
  • Work with the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions to ensure mental health supports are accessible to children and youth as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.

 Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance Mandate Letter

  • Support the Minister of Health and the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health in advancing our renewed commitment to work in partnership with and increase funding to provinces and territories to strengthen our universal public health system, including by establishing the new Canada Mental Health Transfer.
  • Top up the Safe Return to Class Fund for ventilation improvement projects across Canada, provide funding for First Nations to improve indoor air quality in on-reserve schools, and introduce a tax credit for small businesses to make it easier for them to invest in better ventilation.
  • Increase the Eligible Educator School Supply Tax Credit to 25 per cent, expand eligibility to include tech devices, and ensure that teaching supplies purchased for employment duties are eligible no matter where those duties are performed.

Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health Mandate Letter

  • Work with the Minister of Health, and with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, to establish a permanent, ongoing Canada Mental Health Transfer to help expand the delivery of high-quality, accessible and free mental health services, including for prevention and treatment.
  • In order to support the mental health of Canadians, develop and implement a comprehensive, evidence-based plan, leveraging existing and new investments, including to:
    • Develop mental health standards, with a particular focus on health equity;
    • Sustain improved access to virtual mental health services with Wellness Together Canada;
    • Ensure timely access to perinatal mental health services;
    • Implement a three-digit suicide prevention hotline; and
    • Introduce a new fund for student mental health that will support the hiring of new mental health care counsellors, improve wait times for services, increase access overall and enable targeted supports to Black and racialized students at post-secondary institutions across Canada.
  • Support the Minister of Indigenous Services to co-develop and invest in a distinctions-based Mental Health and Wellness Strategy to meet the needs of First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation, including culturally appropriate wraparound services for addiction and trauma, suicide and life promotion and the building of treatment centres.
  • Work with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth to ensure mental health supports are accessible to children and youth as they recover from the impact of the pandemic.
  • Advance a comprehensive strategy to address problematic substance use in Canada, supporting efforts to improve public education to reduce stigma, and supporting provinces and territories and working with Indigenous communities to provide access to a full range of evidence-based treatment and harm reduction, as well as to create standards for substance use treatment programs.

 Minister of Health Mandate Letter

  • Work with the Minister of Mental Health and Addictions and Associate Minister of Health and with the support of the Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to establish a permanent, ongoing Canada Mental Health Transfer, to help expand the delivery of high-quality, accessible and free mental health services, including for prevention and treatment.
  • With the support of the Minister for Women and Gender Equality and Youth, work to ensure that all Canadians have access to the sexual and reproductive health services they need, no matter where they live, by reinforcing compliance under the Canada Health Act, developing a sexual and reproductive health rights information portal, supporting the establishment of mechanisms to help families cover the costs of in vitro fertilization, and supporting youth-led grassroots organizations that respond to the unique sexual and reproductive health needs of young people.
  • Recognizing that a healthy population is key to reducing vulnerability to health events, promote healthy eating by advancing the Healthy Eating Strategy. This includes finalizing the front-of-package labelling to promote healthy food choices and supporting restrictions on the commercial marketing of food and beverages to children.
  • In support of the Indigenous Early Learning and Child Care system, continue to invest in Aboriginal Head Start in Urban and Northern Communities Program.
  • In collaboration with provinces, territories, families and stakeholders, accelerate the development of the National Autism Strategy.

 Minister of Agriculture and Agri-Food Mandate Letter

  • In support of A Food Policy for Canada, continue to strengthen Canada’s food system by:
    • Working with the Minister of Families, Children and Social Development and with provinces, territories, municipalities, Indigenous partners and stakeholders to develop a National School Food Policy and to work toward a national school nutritious meal program; and

Minister of Indigenous Services and Minister responsible for the Federal Economic Development Agency for Northern Ontario Mandate Letter

  • Work with First Nations, Inuit and the Métis Nation and provincial and territorial governments to continue to fully implement An Act respecting First Nations, Inuit, and Métis children, youth and families, providing long-term, predictable and sustainable funding to support communities looking to implement their jurisdiction for child and family services.
  • With the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations, continue to work with First Nations partners to ensure fair and equitable compensation for those harmed by the First Nations Child and Family Services program and to ensure the long-term reform of child and family services in First Nations communities, including to help children and families stay together and providing First Nations youth who reach the age of majority the supports they need for up to two additional years.
  • Continue to make sure that Indigenous children get the care they need:
    • Continue to fully fund Jordan’s Principle;
    • Continue to fully fund the Inuit Child First Initiative; and
    • Continue to work with the Métis Nation to fund the unique needs of Métis children.
  • Support the Minister of Crown-Indigenous Relations to address violence against Indigenous women, girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ people by accelerating the implementation of the Federal Pathway to Address Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, Girls and 2SLGBTQQIA+ People, and to support the implementation of the 2021 MMIWG and 2SLGBTQQIA+ National Action Plan.

 Minister of Innovation, Science and Industry Mandate Letter

  • As the Minister responsible for Statistics Canada, continue to support the President of the Treasury Board in their work in building a whole-of-government approach for the improved collection, analysis, availability and publication of disaggregated data.

Minister of Canadian Heritage Mandate Letter

  • Continue efforts with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to develop and introduce legislation as soon as possible to combat serious forms of harmful online content to protect Canadians and hold social media platforms and other online services accountable for the content they host. This legislation should be reflective of the feedback received during the recent consultations. 
  • Increase the funding for the Court Challenges Program, which supports Canadians in legal cases of national significance that clarify official language rights and human rights.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Mandate Letter

  • Building on the passage of Bill C-4, which criminalized conversion therapy, continue to ensure that Canadian justice policy protects the dignity and equality of LGBTQ2 Canadians
  • Continue efforts with the Minister of Canadian Heritage to develop and introduce legislation as soon as possible to combat serious forms of harmful online content to protect Canadians and hold social media platforms and other online services accountable for the content they host, including by strengthening the Canadian Human Rights Act and the Criminal Code to more effectively combat online hate and reintroduce measures to strengthen hate speech provisions, including the re-enactment of the former Section 13 provision. This legislation should be reflective of the feedback received during the recent consultations.
  • Support the Minister of Housing and Diversity and Inclusion in the development of the National Action Plan on Combatting Hate, including by establishing a National Support Fund for Survivors of Hate-Motivated Crimes to help survivors.
  • Work with the Minister of Public Safety to help end gun violence by introducing “Red flag” laws to allow the immediate removal of firearms if that person is a threat to themselves or others, particularly to their spouse or partner, and increasing maximum penalties for firearms trafficking and smuggling.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Mandate Letter

  • Support colleagues across government to ensure delivery of all policy and fiscal measures outlined in our Strengthened Climate Plan, implement the Canadian Net-Zero Emissions Accountability Act, and, by the end of March 2022, bring forward an updated Emissions Reduction Plan to achieve a 40 to 45 per cent reduction in emissions by 2030 from 2005 levels. This will include continuing to engage with Canadian to better communicate the impact of climate changes. 
  • Work with all Canadians and the Net-Zero Advisory Body to identify ways to further accelerate climate action to achieve net-zero emissions as soon as possible and no later than 2050 and to pursue efforts to limit the increase in average global temperatures to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels.

Minister of Public Safety Mandate Letter

  • Continue to work to keep our cities and communities safe from gun violence by:
    • Continuing implementation of C-71 regulations for firearms licence verification and business record-keeping;
    • Making it mandatory for owners to sell banned assault weapons back to the government for destruction or have them rendered inoperable at the government’s expense;
    • Requiring the permanent alteration of long-gun magazines so that they can never hold more than five rounds;
    • Banning the sale or transfer of magazines capable of holding more than the legal number of bullets;
    • Providing financial support to provinces and territories that implement a ban on handguns across their jurisdiction;
    • Implementing the gang prevention and intervention program to provide direct funding to municipalities and Indigenous communities; and
    • Working with the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada to introduce “Red flag” laws to allow the immediate removal of firearms if that person is a threat to themselves or others, particularly to their spouse or partner, and increasing maximum penalties for firearms trafficking and smuggling.

 Full letters accessed here