Many families with children struggling to make ends meet: report
When we think of childhood, we think that it's a time for play and a time to be carefree, but according to new research, one-third of Canadian children do not enjoy a safe and healthy childhood.
The families of many of the children who come to Family SOS struggle to make ends meet. It's a resource centre where staff are working to gather school supplies for students who need it most.
"So, it's 'do I pay my rent or my phone bill, or do I feed my kids? Do I buy their school supplies, and get them sneakers that fit them?'" said Amy Coates of Family SOS.
From nutritious snacks, to art supplies, to sports activities, the non-profit relies on donations to give many kids things they otherwise would go without.
"I lived it as a child and I look around and I can still see it, so it's not surprising," said Michelle Webb of Family SOS.
Those who work at Family SOS witness firsthand the challenges outlined in Tuesday's report from child advocacy group Children First Canada.
"We tend to think of this as being one of the best places in the world for a kid to grow up, yet that simply isn't true. We're ranked 25th out of 41 wealthy nations for children's well-being, largely because of the issues named in this report," said Sara Austin of Children First Canada.
That report, called "Raising Canada," lists the top 10 threats to childhood in the country. Among them: child poverty and, in particular, child poverty in Nova Scotia, which has increased to 17 per cent as of 2017.
"Every teacher in Nova Scotia can tell you a time when they have out of pocket, very sort of respectfully and discretely gone out of pocket, so kids are not lacking," said Nova Scotia Teachers Union president Paul Wozney.
Wozney says while teachers try to fill in the gaps, the root causes of poverty remain, and often lead to other issues listed in the report.
"So it overlaps with suicide, mental illness, depression and anxiety, it overlaps with food insecurity," said Wozney. "It overlaps with access to medical care and sort of the fallout when kids get hurt at home."
The report says accidents and preventable injuries are still the leading cause of death for Canadian children.
Seventeen per cent die in motor vehicle collisions and 15 per cent by drowning.
Kids undergo 17,500 hospital stays for injuries, and mental health is also of concern.
Suicide is the second leading cause of death for children and increased ER visits because of mental-health issues.
Child abuse is also on the list, with one third of Canadians experiencing it before the age of 16.
"These are not insurmountable problems and they can be solved," said Michael Ungar, the Canada chair in child, family, and community resilience at Dalhousie University.
One of the advocates involved in the report says we need a more focused, coordinated effort from all levels of government - working towards a common goal.
"Investments earlier in children's lives, whether that's with refugee youth, or indigenous youth, or youth who are simply marginalized, we know that there's a huge payback down the line, there's just no question about that," said Ungar.
In the end, the report calls on Canadians to make the obstacles children face a key issue in the upcoming federal election, in order to give the next generation a brighter future than the one many children face now.
Advocates involved in the report say this is really a non-partisan issue -- that all political parties should step forward when it comes to the upcoming federal election and beyond, to make changes that can actually make a difference in the lives of Canadian children.
With files from CTV Atlantic's Heidi Petracek.