On May 16th, Dr. Kellie Leitch, Member of Parliament for Simcoe—Grey introduced Bill C-451 in an important step toward ensuring that child health is prioritized across government. Duties of the Commissioner will include raising public awareness of child and youth health issues; advising the Minister of Health on how proposed policy and legislation will affect child and youth health; and commissioning independent or joint research initiatives. This Private Member’s Bill is the long culmination of Dr. Leitch’s 2008 report entitled Reaching for the Top: A Report by the Advisor on Healthy Children and Youth, in which a key recommendation is the creation of a national office of child and youth health. The report also led to the founding by Dr. Leitch of The Sandbox Project, a national charity dedicated to improving child and youth health outcomes through cross-sector collaboration.
The time for a Children’s Health Commissioner is now. Many Canadians would be surprised to learn that Canada ranks near the bottom on several international health indicators, with Indigenous children and children with disabilities being the most impacted.
Canada faces increasingly complex challenges when it comes to child and youth health: The need for child and youth mental health services and supports is growing. Youth play a significant role in Canada’s opioid crisis, one of the gravest public health issues in Canada's recent history. Vaccine hesitancy has been identified by the World Health Organization as one of the top 10 global health threats in 2019, and 48 cases of measles have been reported already in Canada this year.
A Children’s Health Commissioner will increase coordination at the federal level and identify trends and promising practices across the provinces, territories and nations of Canada. By bringing best practices forward, they will add value to the investments already being made. Collaborating with policy makers, government agencies, parliamentary bodies and others, the Commissioner will amplify the voices of children and youth and be a champion for and with them.
Children’s Healthcare Canada, the Paediatric Chairs of Canada and The Sandbox Project are supportive of the recent discussions across Canada’s federal parties to establish a Commissioner to ensure the best interests of children and youth are taken into account. By investing now, Canada can provide children with the support and care they need to become healthy, active, well-adjusted and contributing adults in our society.
About Children’s Healthcare Canada
For Canadian leaders in children’s healthcare, we are the only national association that enables local improvements and contributes to system-wide change by building communities across the full continuum of care. Our members deliver health services to children and youth, and include regional health authorities, children’s tertiary/quaternary and rehabilitation hospitals, community hospitals, children’s treatment centers and home/respite care providers.
About the Paediatric Chairs of Canada
The Paediatric Chairs of Canada represents the 17 Canadian university affiliated teaching hospitals in Canada and is dedicated to providing national leadership in paediatric research and education to promote the health and health care of children and youth.
About The Sandbox Project
The Sandbox Project is about one thing: making Canada the healthiest place in the world for children to grow up by supporting their health, safety, and well-being. As an umbrella organization, Sandbox provides strategic leadership, facilitates collaboration and drives innovation among like-minded, child-focused organizations within Canada’s child and youth health arena. By providing a forum in which diverse stakeholders can work together, The Sandbox Project fosters cooperation, collaboration and the sharing of best practices – helping the entire sector make real, tangible progress towards delivering on the promise of healthier children and youth.
For more information
Government Relations Specialist, Children’s Healthcare Canada
National Coordinator & Research Associate, Paediatric Chairs of Canada
Communications & Partnerships Lead, The Sandbox Project