Child Rights. How’s Canada doing?

The Kid’s Rights Index is the annual global index which ranks how all UN member countries adhere to (and are equipped to improve) children’s rights.

This Index ranks all 163 countries that have ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child for which sufficient data is available.

How is Canada doing?

In 2015 we placed #57 out of 163.

In 2016 we slipped to 72.

What area are we failing in?

Child Rights Environment

Though we score relatively high in the area of ‘life‘ , which relates to mortality and life expectancy, and the area of ‘health‘, and moderately high in the area of ‘protection‘, Canada has a shockingly low score (130-135 out of 163) in the area of ‘Child Rights Environment’.

Child Rights Environment‘ includes:

  • Non-discrimination
  • Best interest of the child
  • Respect for the views of the child/child participation
  • Enabling legislation
  • Best available budget
  • Collection and analysis of disaggregate data
  • State-civil society cooperation for child rights

Vulnerability is not a Permanent State

In 2007, Canada’s Minister of Health asked Dr. K. Kellie Leitch to serve as the Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth. Dr. Leitch consulted with experts, parents, and children and youth across Canada, and developed a number of recommendations. The full report can be found here.  

The following is an excerpt from the report:

Vulnerability not permanentAs Canadians, we believe that ours is a society in which our children and youth should lead happy, healthy lives. At the time this Report was written, Canada ranked 13th out of 21 OECD countries in terms of the health and safety of our children and youth, showing that there is much room for improvement. We owe it to our children to do better.

That starts with setting bold, visionary goals. Canada has the potential and the ability to be the number one place in the world for a child to grow up in from a health perspective. We have the resources and the capabilities to reach this goal.

Canadian children and youth from all socio-economic backgrounds are vulnerable. Vulnerability is measured by key behavioural and cognitive tests measuring vocabulary, mathematics, emotional health, and violent behaviour tendencies.

Vulnerability in childhood and youth is not a permanent state~

The Canadian National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth revealed that many vulnerable children did not remain the same from one cycle to the next. The percentage of vulnerable children (28%) remained unchanged; however, in the second cycle, 16% were no longer considered vulnerable, while a new 15% of children became vulnerable. While 13% remained vulnerable throughout both cycles, the results suggest that 87% of children may experience vulnerability, but the situation is not permanent.

New Research: Vulnerability is Not Permanent

Graph indicating percentage of children experiencing levels of vulnerability from 1994 to 1996
Source: Human Resources Development Canada – Applied Research Branch (2000).

This is great news: it means that investments in best practice services and targeted initiatives can have a direct impact on improving and shaping the lives of Canadian children and youth. But to be successful, investments need to be made in the right programs and policies. These policies and programs must be built upon evidence based research, and performance-based techniques. They must also be delivered in a professional, outcome-driven way.

Early Childhood: Royal College Position Statement

The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada published it’s first position statement on Early Childhood this year.

Find the full statement here.


Early childhood or ‘the early years’ is the most important developmental phase of life in which
crucial advancements in physical, social, cognitive, emotional and language domains take place. Experiences during this time – and even before birth – influence health, education and economic prospects throughout life.

Experiences in the first six years can become biologically embedded and influence outcomes throughout the life course in a positive way but also in a negative way. Disruptions during this period can significantly impact behavior and learning as well as adult health outcomes.

Fortunately, intervening early and often can have a tremendous influence to promote
positive outcomes and minimize or mitigate the impact of adverse childhood experiences and

Research clearly shows that health promotion and disease prevention programs targeted at
adults would be more effective if investments were also made early in life on the origins of those
diseases and behaviours.

Early childhood development interventions (such as education and care, parenting support, and poverty reduction) yield benefits throughout life that are worth many times the original investment.


  1. The federal government, in collaboration with the provinces and territories, implement an early child development system with supports for families including but not limited to
    supports during pregnancy; early childhood learning opportunities; and high quality,
    universal, accessible and developmentally appropriate child care, including for Indigenous children living both on and off reserve.
  2. The federal government commit to increasing funding for early childhood development to 1% of GDP to bring Canada in line with other OECD countries.
  3. Evidence based home visiting programs such as the Nurse Family Partnership be made
    available to all vulnerable families in Canada.
  4. Governments support the expansion of community resources for parents and caregivers
    which provide parenting programs and family supports, creating a system where all families have access.
  5. Governments increase public awareness and support to optimize health and reduce potential remediable risk factors for pregnancy and before conception.
  6. Governments increase accessible prenatal care, educational programs and parental supports.
  7. The federal government work with provinces and territories to implement a pan-Canadian poverty reduction strategy, including the eradication of child poverty, with clear accountability and measurable targets.
  8. The federal government work with the provinces and territories to create a robust collection, monitoring and reporting system on early childhood to ensure proper monitoring of development and effectiveness of interventions including:
    ~the identification of data gaps related to disadvantaged populations and Indigenous
    children including Métis
    ~ongoing implementation of the Early Development Instrument (EDI) in all jurisdictions
    ~a similar tool for 18 months and middle childhood.
  9. Curriculum on early brain, biological development and early learning be incorporated,
    including education on the developmental origins of adult health and disease and the impact of the determinants of health specific to Indigenous children such as colonization and racism into all Canadian medical schools and residency programs.
  10. Continuing medical education on early brain, biological development and early learning be available to all care providers, particularly but not limited to those in primary care.
  11. All provinces and territories implement an enhanced 18-month well-baby visit strategy with appropriate compensation, access to tools, adequate electronic medical records and resource pathways to community supports.
  12. Physicians and other primary care providers integrate the enhanced 18-month visit into their regular clinical practice.
  13. Comprehensive resources be developed for primary-care providers to identify community supports and services to facilitate referral for expecting parents, parents, and children.
  14. Physicians be educated about the evidence base for the impact of early family literacy and the importance of discussing and recommending literacy promotion in routine clinical encounters with children of all ages.
  15. National and Provincial/Territorial Medical Associations work with governments and the
    non-profit sector to explore the development of a clinically based child literacy program for Canada working in collaboration with community literacy efforts .

How do we rate for Early Childhood Education?

As we begin to improve population-level outcomes for children, youth & families we are also gathering exisiting data to establish a baseline.

How Do We Rate for quality Early Childhood Education?

According to data pulled together at, we lagging as a nation & as a province.

Innocenti Report Card

Kerry McCuaig in the same article explains that the Early Childhood Education Index is a 15-point scale designed to assess governance, funding and accountability of early childhood programming by province.

ECE Index 2011

Kerry McCuaig summarizes: “In 2011, only three jurisdictions made it past the halfway mark in this first iteration (Figure 1). Yet there are reasons for optimism. In 2006, Quebec would have stood alone. At that time, only three provinces offered full-day kindergarten; today six do. Province-wide curricula anchored in learning through play were the exception instead of the norm. No province had merged oversight for education and child care; today four have a single lead ministry, and the monitoring and reporting of vulnerability in preschool-aged children is no longer a rarity. We now have many examples of good practice and the steps that jurisdictions took to achieve their results. Their experiences can serve as a guide to others. The index does not suggest that there is only one route to success. Indeed, the two leading jurisdictions (Quebec and Prince Edward Island) reached their destinations using very different methods. The index is now housed at the Atkinson Centre at the Ontario Institute for Studies in Education, University of Toronto. It will undergo additional validation before going into the field again in 2013–2014.”