NEWS
11/01/2011 11:35 EDT | Updated 01/01/2012 05:12 EST

Canada lags behind industrialized nations in child well-being: report

OTTAWA - A new report says too many Canadian children still face unnecessary obstacles to safe and healthy development despite some progress in other areas.

It says children in low-income families, aboriginal children, children in government care and children with disabilities are being "left behind" in Canada.

The report is part of the first review in eight years of Canada’s progress on its commitments under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and it has been submitted to the United Nations.

Written by the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, it says Canada has strengthened laws to protect children from sexual exploitation and reached a high degree of equality in school achievement.

But it says Canada lags behind other industrialized nations in other important elements of child well-being.

For example, it says Canada ranks 17th of 24 industrialized countries in ensuring equality of basic resources and conditions necessary for child development, such as adequate family income.

Canada has also failed to establish a national children’s commissioner or to investigate policies that have a discriminatory impact on vulnerable groups of children, including aboriginal children.

The report recommends Ottawa appoint a children’s commissioner and that it more thoroughly assess the impact on child rights when considering legislative change.

"Such actions would encourage the expansion of good practices, prevent children from falling through gaps in services, and treat children equitably across the country," says a report summary.

The report and others from child-advocacy organizations come in response to the federal government’s report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child. The committee will issue a series of observations and recommendations to Canada.

UNICEF Canada’s chief advocacy adviser, Marvin Bernstein, said recognizing and realizing the rights of children and supporting them in developing their full potential is "not only the right thing to do and a legal obligation, it is also a good economic and social investment."

"Everyone in Canada, children and adults, will benefit if we make the well-being of children a higher priority," Bernstein said.

The report is based on three years of research and collaboration with more than 30 child- and youth-related organizations across the country, including UNICEF Canada.