The kids are not alright: New non-profit aims to take on child poverty in Canada

By: Gilbert Ngabo Metro Published on  Tue Nov 15 2016

As a new report paints yet another gloomy picture for child poverty in the city, a Toronto woman is leading a national movement to protect and empower children everywhere.

Children First Canada, a non-profit launching this week, takes aim at dispelling what founder Sara Austin calls the general misconception that Canadian children are thriving because they live in one of the most prosperous nations on Earth.

“They are not all right and the statistics are pretty jarring,” Austin said.

From lacking adequate food and proper healthcare to facing issues of child abuse and bullying, Canada is ranked 17th out of 29 affluent nations for children’s wellbeing, according to UNICEF’s global index. Most vulnerable are Indigenous children, kids in single parent homes, youth in foster care and refugee children, the report says.

It echoes the findings of a report released Monday by a coalition of social agencies, showing 27 per cent of Toronto’s children live in poverty and reclaiming the city’s title as “child poverty capital” of Canada.

“As a mother and a citizen, these things makes me angry. I don’t know why there isn’t more outrage,” said Austin, who has worked in the non-profit sector for more than 20 years.

Children First Canada’s mission is to be a champion for children’s interests, engaging government and the private sector to address many issues affecting kids’ ability to succeed in their life. Those challenges include access to education, mental health, increasing levels of obesity and access to proper housing, said Austin.

By bringing together the efforts of community organizations and children ambassadors, the charity hopes to be a loud voice in holding municipal, provincial and federal governments more accountable to children’s cause.

First among demands the charity will be fronting is the appointment of a children’s commissioner, an independent officer of the federal government charged solely with establishing policies that make children’s life better.

The charity will also be calling for a children’s budget, detailing how much the country invests in children and evaluating the impact of the spending. Another demand will be the establishment of a platform to involve children in public policymaking.

“Children are experts in their own lives,” said Austin. “ We can and must do better in fighting poverty and ensuring the welfare of our children.”