The leading cause of death for children in Canada are injuries that could have been prevented, according to a new report from a children’s welfare group.
Children First Canada published “Raising Canada: Election 2019” on Tuesday, with the aim of bringing more attention to issues affecting kids ahead of October’s federal election.
The report identified the most common threats to childhood safety, and noted the leading cause of death for children is accidents and preventable injuries, including car and bike accidents.
That’s a clear indication that there’s a problem in the way we think about child safety, according to Sara Austin, the founder of Children First Canada.
“We’re not doing enough to raise public awareness about what the threats are facing the health and safety of our children,” Austin told HuffPost Canada. “But we’re also not putting in place adequate regulations.”
For instance, kids aren’t adequately wearing bike helmets, and many parents aren’t buckling them properly into car seats and booster seats, Austin explained. She added that these safety issues are provincially regulated, and in many cases there are significant gaps across the country.
WATCH: Common mistakes parents make with car seats. Story continues below.
“We’re ranked 25th out of 41 wealthy nations for children’s wellbeing. We are far from being a world-leading country for kids,” Austin said. “And I think most Canadians will be shocked to hear that.”
The second-leading cause of death for Canadian kids is suicide. Since 2005, nearly 6,000 young people have killed themselves across the country, some as young as eight years old, according to the Toronto Star. The rates have largely remained steady in the last few years, and have even increased in some provinces. A 2016 survey conducted by Kids Help Phone found that one in five teenagers aged 13 to 18 had seriously considered suicide, and 46 per cent of those teens said they had a suicide plan.
Kids who are marginalized are more likely to consider suicide. For Indigenous youth, suicide and self-harm are the leading cause of death, according to the Public Health Agency of Canada. The suicide attempt rate among LGBTQ youth is more than four times higher than the average, Egale Canada notes.
Child abuse was the next most significant threat, followed by poverty and infant mortality. Obesity, food insecurity, lack of immunization, discrimination and bullying rounded out the list.
Austin said it’s frustrating that this list isn’t all that different from previous years. “We’re not seeing much progress in the majority of areas that we’ve highlighted,” she said.
One area that has improved slightly is in the realm of child poverty. But those improvements haven’t affected all communities equally, she said. On average, about 9 to 12 per cent of Canadian children are growing up in poverty, the new report notes, but for Indigenous children, that number rises to nearly 50 per cent.
“That’s clearly quite disturbing, and more urgent attention is needed,” she said.
Overall, one third of Canadian children aren’t experiencing healthy or safe childhoods. Austin said she hopes adults will take it on themselves to work towards fixing these problems.
“Kids represent a quarter of our population,” she said. “They don’t get a say in these issues, but it’s in the best interest of all Canadians if we make these smart investments today.”