Statement by UNICEF Canada on Budget 2021
Toronto, 20 April 2020 –Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, children and youth in Canada and around the world have faced devastating setbacks to their rights. To address this, Canada's 2021 federal budget needed to demonstrate a plan that puts children and youth at the center of Canada's economic and social recovery. Budget 2021: A Recovery Plan for Jobs, Growth and Resilience goes a long way towards ensuring a swift and inclusive recovery for children in Canada, while taking some promising initial steps for children internationally.
Children in Canada have made tremendous sacrifices over the past year to keep the vulnerable among us safe. They need their government to put forward a plan that will let them be kids again. More than that, they need a plan that would fulfill this government's commitment to build back better: Canada's kids were already falling behind, ranking 30th out of 38 peer countries in UNICEF's most recent report card on child and youth well-being.
This budget takes some historic steps in that direction. Chief among them is a coherent plan for a national early learning and child care program; a promise UNICEF Canada and many other advocates have been pushing for decades. Early years are the foundational building blocks of a child's life, creating more equitable childhoods, and investments in our youngest children will echo across their lifespans. At the other end of childhood, we welcome increased supports for students and those just starting out their careers, including the commitment to a $15/hour federal minimum wage. This will also have positive impacts on the health and hopes of younger children, who can plan and reach for a good future.
Internationally, we welcome the commitment to invest an additional $1.4 billion in international assistance, including a $375 million investment in Canada’s international COVID-19 response. By contributing to the global effort to provide equitable access to vaccines, treatment and tests, Canada can help stop the spread of COVID-19. Ending the pandemic will also help stop the catastrophic rollback in progress towards children’s rights to education, health, nutrition, protection, and non-discrimination.
COVID-19 has exacerbated global inequalities and compounded existing humanitarian crises. Canada’s international response must reflect the multiple simultaneous crises children now face: a growing food crisis, unprecedented disruption to children’s learning, decreased access to life-saving health and nutrition services, and increased violence and discrimination. Children facing intersecting forms of discrimination based on gender, race, disability and legal status, and those in conflict and displacement, are particularly at risk. As such, we welcome Canada’s GBA+ responsive approach, and share Canada's commitment to eliminating barriers to equality.
With the additional $165 million in funding for humanitarian assistance, and allocation of funds to some of the world’s worst crises such as the Rohingya crisis, Venezuela and the Middle East, Canada has demonstrated willingness to prioritize the most vulnerable and build on achievements to date, including ensuring access to quality education for Syrian refugees.
While these are important initial steps towards ending the COVID-19 everywhere, for many children around the world, the impact will be life-long. Minister Freeland stated today that we are a country that believes in investing in our future and our children. This belief should not end within our own borders. Moving forward, we hope to see increased commitment from Canada for the world’s most vulnerable children, including much-needed investments in education, nutrition and survival.
As leaders gather at the G7 Leaders Summit in June, Canada must lead by example. Recognizing that COVID-19 is a universal child rights crisis, and building on Canada’s historic leadership in education, health and nutrition, Canada must work with G7 leaders ensure children are the center of an inclusive, equitable recovery of our societies and economies.