Children First Canada Responds to the 2017 Federal Budget

"It's not enough to say that children are our future. Those words mean nothing unless we invest in kids today." Sara Austin, Founder & CEO of Children First Canada

Children First Canada’s Response to Federal Budget 2017

March 22, 2017

Children First Canada is a strong, independent voice for all of our children, and it is our mandate to promote the best interests of our youngest citizens and empower them to speak for themselves.

We are mobilizing a wide range of dedicated partners that include charities, children’s hospitals, teachers, research institutes, private sector companies, along with children and youth. We have a bold and ambitious vision that together we can make Canada a world-leading country where all our kids thrive. We have a long way to go to achieve that goal. 

The majority of Canadians think that this is one of the best countries in which to grow up. That kids who live in Canada have won the lottery. That Canada takes good care of our youth. These are great statements, but sadly they’re not always true. 

While Canada is the fifth most prosperous nation in the world, we are ranked 17th out of 29 affluent nations for children’s wellbeing based on a global index by UNICEF. We place near the bottom ranks when it comes to measuring child poverty and children’s health and safety.

Leading up to the tabling of the 2017 federal budget, we have been calling for smart investments to improve the lives of all of Canada’s children. Investing in kids is the right thing to do and it makes smart economic sense today and for the future. Research shows that every dollar invested in a child’s early years saves nine dollars in future spending on health care and social services.

When the Minister of Finance, the Hon. Bill Morneau, invited students to submit their input to the federal budget, the Youth Ambassadors of Children First Canada called for urgent action to give all kids in our country a better quality of life. Their recommendations included calling on the Trudeau government to keep its promise to appoint a federal Commissioner for Children and Youth, and to implement a children’s budget that would look at how Canada’s resources impact the lives of kids.

The federal budget tabled today includes important measures to benefit at-risk communities in Canada, such as repairing 50,000 social housing units and the removal of 18 long-term boil water advisories in First Nations Communities, which will help ensure children have a safe home and clean accessible drinking water. Support for the National Housing Strategy and the increase to the number of high-quality child care spaces available across the country are also welcome additions to ensuring safe housing for all and proper child care protections. Increasing parental leave to 18 months and allowing more flexibility with EI benefits will also help parents give their kids the best start at life.

While these are all important steps, Children First Canada was hopeful that more would have been done to specifically address the protection of children’s rights and ensure their health and safety. In a country as prosperous as Canada, it’s shocking that millions of kids are falling through the cracks:

· One in five children lives in poverty – that’s more than 1 million kids

· One in three children has experienced some form of child abuse – that’s more than 2 million kids

· One child dies every nine hours from preventable injuries – that’s nearly 1000 kids per year

· One in five teens has considered suicide in the past year alone – that’s more than 1 million young people

Every single kid deserves the best we have to offer. We can and we must do better.

We are continuing to ask the government to look to other countries around the world that have been successful in improving the lives of their youngest citizens. Examples of effective strategies include: the tabling of a children’s budget which would ensure funding allocated to children is tracked and its impact is measured, teaching children their rights and responsibilities, and including them in shaping the public policies that affect their lives.  

As we have told Ottawa, steps need to be taken to honor the Liberal government’s commitment to establish a Commissioner for Children and Youth, with a mandate to promote the best interests of children and ensure that government is held accountable to our youngest citizens. It was our hope that today’s budget would put in place a new foundation from which the government, the private sector, non-profits/charities, and community leaders could build.

We also remain concerned about the grave inequities faced by First Nations children, and we reiterate the urgent need for the federal government to fully comply with the legal orders of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal.

There are more than six million children in Canada today, and this number is increasing. By implementing effective and impactful policies to protect the rights of children, and learning from the accomplishments of world leading countries where children are thriving, Canada can help ensure that all of our children prosper. In partnership with the federal government, we can all make Canada the best place in the world for kids to grow up.

We will continue to call on the government to leverage the important work being done by Children First Canada and our partners, towards developing a more robust action-oriented framework to protect children’s rights and ensure their wellbeing.  The kids are not alright, and it’s time for Canada to measure up!