Raising Canada

New Report Reveals Widespread Children’s Rights Violations During Pandemic

Child advocates demand immediate action from political leaders in run-up to federal election

Calgary, September 1, 2021 – As kids head back to school, an annual report confirms that the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated and amplified the top 10 threats to childhood in Canada. Kids are in crisis and have experienced widespread violations of their human rights. More than six million children under the age of 12 remain unvaccinated, yet several provinces have failed to put adequate mitigation plans in place to protect them, and investments in children’s mental and physical health have been woefully inadequate. Child advocates say what is most shocking is that despite the overwhelming evidence about the threats to children’s survival and development, so little has been done to intervene by governments at all levels.

Raising Canada 2021
is the fourth in an annual series of reports that track the top 10 threats to childhood. This year’s report, published by Children First Canada, paints an alarming picture of children in crisis across the country. The report is accompanied by joint calls to action signed by the Council of Champions – including leaders of children’s hospitals, charities, and research institutes across the country – calling on federal and provincial leaders to put #ChildrenAtTheHeart of Canada’s COVID-19 recovery plans.

Threats include deteriorating mental health, food insecurity and infant mortality, as well as increasing evidence of child abuse, systemic racism, poverty and more.

“Children made enormous sacrifices throughout the pandemic to protect their elders and keep our country safe, but as a society we have failed them. Their rights to an education, survival and development have been largely ignored, and the cost of social and political inaction is too high,” says Sara Austin, founder and CEO of Children First Canada.

This year’s report comes as Canadians head to the polls to elect a new federal government. Yet party platforms have largely ignored children’s issues, with the exception of child care. The Raising Canada Calls to Action and a Children’s Platform released by Children First Canada calls on all federal parties to:

  • Make a big, bold plan to improve the lives of children and make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up
  • Ensure that children’s voices are heard and that their issues are prioritized
  • Put children at the heart of Canada’s pandemic recovery plans, and invest in short-, medium- and long-term solutions for children to survive and thrive

“Kids can’t vote, but they are citizens with rights, and they need to be prioritized. We hope that Canadians both young and old will use the upcoming election to reach out to the federal leaders and their local candidates and demand action. We owe that to children,” adds Austin.

Over the past decade, Canada has fallen from 10th to 30th place among 38 affluent countries for childhood well-being (UNICEF Canada), yet there remains a persistent myth that Canada is one of the best places in the world to raise a child.

Key findings of the Raising Canada 2021 report include:

Mental Health

  • Suicide remains a leading cause of death for children and youth aged 10-19 (Statistics Canada) and several children’s hospitals saw significant spikes in admissions for suicide attempts during the pandemic.
  • In Ontario’s five pediatric hospitals, admissions for eating disorders increased by as much as 223% above capacity in June 2021, and clinicians have claimed that this increase is unlike anything they have seen before.

Food and Nutritional Insecurity

  • There has been a 39% increase in the prevalence of food insecurity in Canada during the pandemic. Households with children are more likely to face food insecurity compared to households without children. (Canadian Public Policy Journal)


  • Almost one in five children lives in poverty (Campaign 2000). While the poverty rate was decreasing in Canada prior to the pandemic, economic experts warn that the higher rates of unemployment, lack of child care and need for homeschooling will show rising numbers in upcoming national income surveys.

Child Abuse

  • Scholars and child advocates have voiced significant concerns over rising and undetected rates of child abuse during the COVID-19 pandemic.
  • In some jurisdictions, clinicians have seen twice as many infants for maltreatment-related concerns, specifically fractures and head trauma. (Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario)

Infant Mortality

  • Canada’s infant mortality rate has increased and is now the second highest among 17 OECD countries, at approximately 4.4 infant deaths/1,000 live births. This is a marked change from 1960, when Canada ranked fifth lowest. (University of Toronto Medical Journal)

Limited Physical Activity and Play

  • In all regions in Canada, parents reported that children exhibited a decrease in time spent outdoors and in outdoor play, with Ontario having experienced the greatest decline in both. (Canadian Journal of Public Health)

  • Other threats included in Raising Canada 2021’s top threats to kids include unintentional and preventable injuries, systemic racism and discrimination, vaccine-preventable illnesses, and bullying.

    “It is time for Canada to take a stand. As the country rebuilds from the pandemic, we must put children at the heart of pandemic recovery plans, and invest in the short-, medium- and long-term solutions needed for children to survive and thrive. The future of Canada depends on it,” says Austin.

    For more information or to schedule an interview, please contact:
    Andrea Chrysanthou
    Director, NATIONAL Public Relations

    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 of Canada’s children. 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.org for more information.