A report released by Children First Canada on September 3, has revealed that suicide constitutes the second greatest threat to children under 18, while accidents and preventable injuries ranked number one.
“The majority of Canadians rank this as a top 5 or top 10 country to raise a child, but the reality is that Canada ranks 25th out of 41 OECD countries for children’s wellbeing,” says Sara Austin, Founder and Lead Director of Children First Canada. “As a society, we have largely ignored the harsh realities that affect our most vulnerable, and that needs to change. As Canadians prepare to head to the polls, now is the time to demand that these challenges can be tackled.”
The report is called Raising Canada — Election 2019: A vote for children is a vote for Canada and aggregates data from sources ranging from UNICEF to the various government institutions to Kids Help Phone. In all, they use 38 credible sources filled with statistics to give an overall view of the threats facing the roughly eight million Canadian children in the country, today. They are also very open with their agenda behind publishing the report, this being to influence voters and affect voting patterns with the goal of helping Canadian children in the end.
On a more critical note, however, the report does not include many probable causes of the threats themselves and is not particularly elaborative. For instance, correlations between something like excessive social media use and suicide or depression is not included; nor is a possible correlation between obesity (one of the top ten threats) and depression proposed; nor is the overlap between food scarcity and poverty pointed out; nor poverty and obesity due to poor nutritional choices. Though, the report does include bullying and discriminations as contributing factors for anxiety, depression, and suicide. As such, it would be better to characterize the report as a ‘broad-strokes’ look at what is negatively affecting children in Canada, rather than as an in-depth, cross-referential study.
According to data from the Canadian Pediatric Society, accidents and preventable injuries are the leading cause of death for children in the country. Specifically, motor-vehicle collisions at 17 percent, drowning and 11 percent, and threats to breathing, with the former two causes of death seemingly linked to adult negligence. Furthermore, it appears that accidents and preventable injuries disproportionally affect indigenous children, with 26% percent of First Nations’ child deaths coming from injuries, while the rest of the child population only suffers at a rate of six percent.
The report found that suicide is the second leading cause of death of children in Canada. According to a 2016 survey conducted by Kids Help Phone, one in five teens aged 13-18 had considered suicide over the year, with nearly half claiming to have a plan. In 2015, Canada was found to be in the top five countries with the highest teen suicide rates, over 10 per 100,000 children.
“Over the last decade (2007-08 to 2016-17) there has been a 66% increase in emergency department visits, and a 55% increase in hospitalizations of children and youth (age 5-24 years) due to mental health concerns,” Children First Canada reports. “Approximately 2,500 children (10-17 years of age) are hospitalized every year due to self-harm injuries, with girls making up 80% of those children. Self-harm hospitalizations increased 90% between 2009-2014.”
The third greatest threat to children in Canada is reportedly child abuse and the fourth is poverty, specifically the poverty found in Nova Scotia and First Nations’ communities.
According to the report, one-third of Canadians experience some form of child abuse before 16. 26 percent have been physically abused, 10 percent have been sexually abused, and 8 percent were exposed to intimate partner violence. In 2016, there were reportedly 54,900 child victims of violence, and researchers have estimated that the overall cost of child abuse cases costs taxpayers $23 billion annually. Roughly three out of ten victims say they were abused by a family member.
Infant mortality ranked fifth as a threat to children, with roughly 5 per 1,000 live births resulting in death — this number has remained fairly consistent since 2006; though, some progress has been made. However, it is possible that this number is significantly due to significantly higher rates of infant mortality in the northern territories, likely due to a lack of medical professionals.
Obesity and inactivity were the sixth greatest threat to children in Canada, while, conversely, food scarcity was the seventh.
Obesity, much like poverty, was seen more in the Atlantic provinces than the mainland, but child obesity rates have been steadily rising throughout the country. Obesity or being overweight for those age 12-17 went from 26.8 percent to 27.9 percent between 2016-2017, and only 35 percent of 17-year-olds met the ParticipACTION (a national non-profit organization) guideline for the minimum recommended physical activity.
Lack of immunization for children was cited as the eighth greatest threat to children; however, the report failed to outline how many preventable deaths occurred due to this lacking.
Finally, discrimination and bully were ninth and tenth in the report, with their being contributors to threats such as depression being highlighted. The increasing frequency of cyber-bullying was also emphasized, as was racism’s effect on “health equity.”