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

McCallum says Surrey LRT communication plan close to election is ‘perceived interference’

McCallum ‘gravely concerned’ Surrey and TransLink will violate election financing rules, but city says all rules will be followed

Two Surrey volleyballers set to play for Team Canada

Brianna Beamish and Kiera Van Ryk in Japan for FIVB World Championships

Surrey school trustees want to see reliance on portables reduced by 50% in five years

Board votes unanimously to request a meeting with Minister of Education

UPDATE: Police seeking witnesses to fatal Surrey hit-and-run

A pedestrian was killed Thursday night in a crash on Highway 10 near 152nd Street

Surrey woman with autism has scooter stolen from SkyTrain station

Kayla Polege purchased scooter after ‘shutdowns’ on transit

VIDEO: Neighbours fear impact of B.C. tent city residents

Greater Victoria residents opposed to campers voice concerns at provincial campground

Free vet clinic caters to pets of homeless, low income people

The first such clinic in Langley will take place later this month.

RCMP confirm death of missing BC teen Jessica Patrick

No details on cause were given. Case is under criminal investigation and police are asking for tips.

Extradition hearing set for Lower Mainland developer accused of fraud

Mark Chandler will go before the B.C. Court of Appeals early next year.

CUTENESS OVERLOAD: 2 sea otters hold hands at the Vancouver Aquarium

Holding hands is a common – and adorable – way for otters to stay safe in the water

B.C. teen with autism a talented guitarist

Farley Mifsud is gaining fans with every performance

UPDATE: Police ID man in suspicious Richmond death

A body was found in the area of Garden City and Odlin Roads in Richmond just after 8:30am Thursday

Yukon man facing new attempted murder charge in B.C. exploding mail case

Leon Nepper, 73, is now facing one charge each of aggravated assault and attempted murder

B.C. man who left hospice to run in upcoming election dies

A week after leaving hospice to go to city hall to declare his candidacy, David Hesketh has died.

Most Read