CALGARY – All children are not good.
Youth lawyers in Calgary urge policy makers and private companies to support disadvantaged Canadian children and young people.
Their call to action is in response to a recent report that found that many children in the country come across dismal realities, including high rates of poverty, obesity, abuse and mental health struggles.
"(My) generation really wants change and they are not silent about it", said Arielle Lok, a 17-year-old juvenile lawyer who is associated with Children First Canada, a group that supports Canadian children.
"We know what's going on and we slowly reduce the stigma around standing up for yourself."
The report, Raising Canada: a report on children in Canada, their health and well-being, released by the University of Calgary for Children First Canada, combines data from a number of datasets and studies, including the Canadian census and the Public Health Agency of Canada & # 39; s national vaccination report.
"One thing that is really brought up is that one in three children lives in poverty," Lok said. "I really did not expect … Canada is considered a world of the first world, but many of our children do not have a good place to live."
Examples of the findings of the report include the fact that between 10 and 20 percent of Canadian children can develop a mental disorder; one in five Canadian children and young people has experienced cyberbullying or cyberstalking; and more than 25 percent of adolescents are overweight or obese.
"The fact that I did not even know about 80 percent of these statistics, it's crazy," Lok said. "More people need to know this."
Lok's journey as a lawyer began when she joined her student wellness advocacy team, or SWAT.
"I thought it sounded really cool, I became a member because of the name, I did not know what I started," Lok said jokingly.
Lok said that she has seen her friends and sister fight mental health problems, so she appreciates that she can argue on behalf of her peers.
Politically active Roman Wolfli, 11, wants to give the Canadian youth a voice. He said the Raising Canada report did not shock him.
"Nothing surprised me, but the most disappointing and shocking statistics are absolutely the statistics on suicide among young people," Wolfli said.
According to the report, suicide was the second leading cause of death among girls and boys aged 1 to 17 years. In 2015, Canada was one of the five OECD countries with the highest suicide rate for teenagers.
The study also showed that 14 percent of young people aged 15 to 24 said they had experienced suicidal thoughts during their lifetime.
"It shows that people are more isolated than they used to be," Wolfli said. "It is very sad, I believe that children have to get up and help others who are in a bad situation."
The youth-based appeal to action by Children First Canada lists three specific recommendations for Ottawa: there must be a national commission for children and young people; the government should allocate funds "to ensure a fair distribution of resources" for children, including First Nations, Métis and Inuit youth; and Canada must fully implement the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The youth also said that they would like Ottawa to include the children's charter of Children First Canada, which was published earlier this year.
Wolfli said he would like all levels of government to involve young people directly.
"Municipal, provincial and federal levels must have groups of all ages to give feedback to the government, so that people of the government not only see the statistics, but also see the faces behind the statistics," Wolfli said.
He added that Canadians have a responsibility to go online and read about the reality in which young people live.
"People have to go online or go to shelters and talk to children," Wolfli said. "That's what I want Canadians to do, the Raising Canada report is on the internet, so read it and see what's most important to you."
Anya Zoledziowski is a reporter / photographer for StarMetro Calgary. Follow her on Twitter: @anyazoledz