Canada’s children have high rates of suicide, child abuse, infant mortality:report

Poverty rates paint a troubling picture of child welfare in Canada

Canada’s global reputation as a healthy place to raise children is belied by statistics showing strikingly high rates of suicide, child abuse and struggles with mental health, a new report suggested Tuesday.

Health markers covering everything from infant mortality to obesity and poverty rates paint a troubling picture of child welfare in Canada, according to the report compiled by Children First Canada and the O’Brien Institute for Public Health.

The study, which analyzes data from major research organizations including Statistics Canada and the Canadian Institute of Health Information, said all orders of government need to do more to ensure that children benefit from the country’s overall wealth and prosperity.

“Whether we’re talking infant mortality or accidents or mental health concerns, all these statistics are deeply disturbing,” said Sara Austin, lead director of Children First. “Canada’s ranked the fifth-most prosperous nation in the world, yet when it comes to the well-being of children, we fall far behind,” she said. “There’s a big disconnect between the well-being of our children and the well-being of our nation.”

Austin said this disconnect has been acknowledged in some international circles, pointing to a UNICEF ranking of 41 Organization of Economic Co-Operation and Development countries that placed Canada 25th on the list when assessing for children’s well-being.

The various research agencies included in the latest report have documented many troubling markers of kids health over the years, Austin said, with mental health emerging as an area of increasing urgency.

The report found the number of mental health-related hospitalizations among people aged five to 24 had soared 66 per cent over the last decade, while the number of hospitalizations jumped 55 per cent over the same period.

Austin said there were few stats focusing specifically on those 18 or under, which she highlighted as one of many shortcomings in Canada’s efforts to keep tabs on children’s health.

Ontario recorded by far the highest number of mental health-related emergency room visits and hospitalizations, the report found. In 2016 alone, for instance, 16,291 children were hospitalized, more than double the number recorded in Quebec, which ranked second.

Austin said kids are increasingly seeking help in hospitals due to lack of other options in their communities.

But the numbers show that a growing number are ultimately resorting to suicide. Austin said suicide is the second-most common cause of death among children, adding that Canada’s child suicide rate is among the top five in the world.

“These issues are all interconnected,” she said. “…(they) all tie back to lots of related causes around poverty, around abuse, and the systemic underinvestment in the health and well-being of our children.”

Austin said child abuse figures are particularly striking — one in three Canadians report suffering some form of child abuse before turning 16 — calling them a “public health crisis.”

Canada’s data on infant mortality also sounded alarm bells for Austin, who said the country’s performance put it in the bottom third of developed nations.

The national average of five deaths per 1,000 people placed Canada 30th in a ranking of 44 OECD countries, she said.

That average is unevenly distributed across the country, she said, adding the low rate of 3.5 per 1,000 in British Columbia is more than offset by the rate of 17.7 per 1,000 documented in Nunavut.

Austin said the report is calling on the federal government to take three steps to address the system’s shortcomings: set up a children’s commission, disclose all children-related spending to the public, and establish a children’s charter of rights.

Michelle McQuigge, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

UPDATE: ‘Spontaneous combustion’ likely cause of fire at mushroom composting facility on Lougheed Highway

First responders were at the blaze near the Skawahlook First Nation Tuesday

Approval for AirBnB-style rentals in Kent delayed after public hearing

Staff will be taking the bylaw amendments back for a closer look before final adoption

Trial dates set for three men accused of 2017 killing near Hope

Lawyers for the accused appeared in Kelowna at B.C. Supreme Court on Monday

Abbotsford council OKs bus-to-SkyTrain plan

Fraser Valley Express would begin running to Lougheed Station by start of 2021

Wildfire threatens weekend campers at Chehalis Lake

The fire started on the north side of Chehalis Lake Saturday

VIDEO: Killer whale steals fisherman’s catch off North Coast

Fishing duel results in eager orca snagging salmon in Prince Rupert

Fate of accused in Canadian couple’s 1987 killings in jury’s hands

William Talbott’s lawyer says DNA doesn’t prove murder

Child killed after being hit in driveway on Vancouver Island

The driver of the vehicle remained at the crash scene and is fully cooperating

Eating sandwiches, putting on makeup behind the wheel could land you a fine

RCMP say if you cause an accident while eating you could be penalized

Cat badly hurt in animal trap was likely stuck for days, B.C. owner says

Blu, a three-year-old house cat, suffered severe damage to his hind leg after being stuck in trap for days

40 cats surrendered in apparent hoarding at B.C. home

Officers found the cats living among piles of garbage and feces, suffering from fleas

Vancouver Aquarium drops cetacean ban lawsuit in new lease agreement

Ocean Wise CEO Lasse Gustavsson called the updated lease an exciting new chapter for the aquarium

Plane veers off runway, into ditch at Langley Airport

Fire, ambulance, and police are on scene

Okanagan RCMP bike patrol rolls up on alleged stolen vehicle from Burnaby

The driver, a 30-year-old Kelowna man, has been held in custody and is facing possible charges of possession of stolen property and obstructing a police officer

Most Read