Children First Canada rallies thousands of students and calls on government to make children a priority
November 15, 2022, Calgary, AB – More than 20,000 kids are gathering across the country today to rally for their rights ahead of National Child Day on November 20. This comes as a new survey reveals(1) that six in ten Canadians believe children and adolescents are worse off now than they were a year ago. Equally concerning, sixty percent of Canadians do not believe that young people in Canada will have a prosperous future; the economy is ranked as the first of several factors hindering their success. The survey was conducted amidst a growing pediatric crisis exacerbated by the triple threat of increased rates of RSV, the flu and COVID-19.
Children First Canada (CFC), a national charity that serves as an independent voice for all 8 million children in Canada, is mobilizing action. Today CFC will host what is expected to be the largest National Child Day event ever, with students rallying for their rights and calling on government to make life better for their generation. They’ll be joined by teachers, parents, and leaders in government, the private sector, and civil society organizations who share a commitment to protect children’s rights.
“Children and youth make up a nearly quarter of Canada’s population, and today we’re making history,” said 16-year-old Jayden Paquet-Noiseux from Quebec, a member of the Young Canadians’ Parliament. “Adults like to call us future leaders, but we’re leading right now by standing up for our rights. Our lives are on the line and we’re calling on our government to work with us to find solutions.”
The survey revealed that Canadians’ number one concern for children and adolescents is the impact of the cost of living – namely the ability to provide kids with food and housing due to inflation. Other top concerns include children’s mental health (such as wait times and the cost of mental health care) and children’s physical health (including delays for routine checkups and long wait times in emergency departments), along with protecting children from violence and abuse.
“One year ago, kids were facing the fallout from school closures and pandemic lockdowns, yet the majority of Canadians think children and adolescents are even worse off today,” said Sara Austin, Founder and CEO of Children First Canada. “Kids are in crisis and the situation is rapidly deteriorating. Children’s hospitals are overwhelmed, and experts are warning that the crisis will continue to escalate as RSV, influenza, and COVID-19 cases surge. Schools are reporting unprecedented levels of absenteeism due to illness, and parents can’t get access to medications to care for their children. The good news is that 95% of Canadians want the government to make children a priority by devoting funds and leadership to make life better for kids. It’s time for them to step up.”
Canada’s lack of action to protect the rights of children drew international attention earlier this year when the United Nation’s Committee on the Rights of the Child expressed grave concerns and issued recommendations for urgent action to improve the welfare of children in Canada, particularly Indigenous children. This latest review followed a scathing report a decade ago, with the Committee noting that many recommendations from that report remain unaddressed.
Children First Canada is calling on the Prime Minister and Premiers to make children a priority and work together with a sense of urgency to address the pediatric crisis, and for the federal government to:
- Appoint a Children’s Commissioner/Ombudsperson with a mandate to protect the rights of children and make life better for kids;
- Implement a National Action Plan to improve the lives of children in Canada; and
- Invest in the potential of children and youth by enabling them to be active and engaged citizens.
National Child Day is an important occasion to reflect on progress made in implementing the rights of children in Canada, identify the challenges that remain, and build collective will to make life better for every child.
Today’s National Child Day event will include special appearances from:
- Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada
- Hon. Marci Ien, Minister of Women, Gender Equality and Youth
- Sara Austin, Founder and CEO, Children First Canada
- Kayla Alexander, Professional WNBA basketball player, Olympian and National Team member
- Carey Newman, Indigenous Artist, Master Carver, and Creator of the Witness Blanket
- Adelyn Newman-Ting, 12-year-old student and award-winning Indigenous Child Author
- Jill Schnarr, Chief Communications Officer, TELUS
- Student activists, changemakers and more.
National Child Day event sponsors include: TELUS, SureCall, the Alberta Children’s Hospital Research Institute, SickKids, CHEO, McMaster Children’s Hospital, and Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital.
For more information about the National Child Day event, or for an interview with Sara Austin or a youth participant, please contact:
Manager, 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 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.org for more information.
About National Child Day:
National Child Day honours Canada’s commitment to upholding the rights of children and youth; it is celebrated globally as World Children’s Day. This year’s theme is #8MillionRising in recognition of 8 million children in Canada who make up the next generation of business leaders, teachers, doctors, activists, and politicians. But they’re not just future leaders – they are leaders right now – in their schools, communities and even at a national level. Visit nationalchildday.org for more information.
(1) Maru Public Opinion surveyed 1,793 randomly selected Canadian adults who are Maru/Blue Voice Canada online panelists November 4th-6th 2022, with results to be representative of the entire adult population with an estimated margin of error of +/- 2.3%, 19 times out of 20.