CHILD AND YOUTH HEALTH IN CANADA
THEIR CHARTER — OUR CHALLENGE
“There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way it treats its children.”
“One generation plants the trees; another gets the shade.”
Children and youth have always been a priority for the doctors of Canada — the Child and
Youth Health Initiative of the Canadian Medical Association, the Canadian Paediatric
Society and the College of Family Physicians of Canada is evidence of that. We three
organizations joined together in November 2006 to launch the Child and Youth Health
In September 2004, Canada’s first ministers committed to “improving the health status of Canadians through a collaborative process.” This led to an agreement on health goals for Canada. The first of them is “Our children reach their full potential, growing up happy, healthy, confident and secure.” At the international level, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child sets out the wider rights of all children and young people, including the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. We now owe it to our children and youth to develop tangible health goals and targets.
From the outset of the partnership, we were acutely aware that only a broad societal
coalition could achieve the overarching goal of excellence in child and youth health in
Canada. Making the health of children and youth a national priority requires a coalition of
child and youth health champions, including governments, parents, health providers,
businesses, schools, teachers and communities.
To start that process, we created Canada’s Child and Youth Health Charter. An action
framework was then developed called Canada’s Child and Youth Health Challenge because a charter alone will not deliver on the vision of the children and youth of Canada being among the healthiest in the world. Together, we believe they will help to build a coalition of child and youth health champions because they give the people who can make a difference in children and youth health a rallying point.
The credibility and success of the Charter and the Challenge require broad, inclusive
consultation and a commitment to child and youth health from society at large. The Child
and Youth Health Summit, held April 25-26, 2007, was about consultation and commitment
to making a difference to the health and well-being of children and youth.
This document contains Canada’s Child and Youth Health Charter, which was one of the
focuses of the summit. Canada’s Child and Youth Health Challenge and Canada’s Child and Youth Health Declaration, are the other components of our commitment and promise to take action for the children of Canada. These documents can be found at www.ourchildren.ca.
Canada’s Child and Youth Health Charter
In 2005, Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments created pan-Canadian
health goals. The first of them is “Canada is a country where: Our children reach their full
potential, growing up happy, healthy, confident and secure.”
To reach their potential, children and youth need to grow up in a place where they can thrive
— spiritually, emotionally, mentally, physically and intellectually — and get high-quality
health care when they need it. That place must have three fundamental elements: a safe and
secure environment; good health and development; and a full range of health resources
available to all. Children and youth of distinct populations in Canada, including First Nations, Inuit and Métis, must be offered equal opportunities as other Canadian children
and youth through culturally relevant resources.
Canada must become:
1. A place with a safe and secure environment:
a) Clean water, air and soil;
b) Protection from injury, exploitation and discrimination; and
c) Healthy family, homes and communities.
2. A place where children and youth can have good health and development:
a) Prenatal and maternal care for the best possible health at birth;
b) Nutrition for proper growth, development and long-term health;
c) Early learning opportunities and high-quality care, at home and in the community;
d) Opportunities and encouragement for physical activity;
e) High-quality primary and secondary education;
f) Affordable and available post-secondary education; and
g) A commitment to social well-being and mental health.
3. A place where a full range of health resources is available:
a) Basic health care including immunization, drugs and dental health;
b) Mental health care and early help programs for children and youth;
c) Timely access to specialty diagnostic and health services;
d) Measurement and tracking the health of children and youth;
e) Research that focuses on the needs of children and youth; and
f) Uninterrupted care as youth move to adult health services and between acute,
chronic and community care, as well as between jurisdictions.
1. The principles of this charter apply to all children and youth in Canada regardless of
race, ethnicity, creed, language, gender, physical ability, mental ability, cultural history, or
2. Principles enshrined in all the goal statements include:
a. Universality: The charter applies equally to all children and youth residing in
Canada and covers all children and youth from 0-18 years of age.
b. Without financial burden: All children and youth in Canada should have access
to required health care, health services and drugs regardless of ability to pay.
c. Barrier-free access: All children and youth, regardless of ability or circumstance
should have appropriate access to optimal health care and health services.
d. Measurement and monitoring: Appropriate resources will be available for
adequate ongoing collection of data on issues that affect child and youth health
e. Safe and secure communities: Communities in Canada must create an
environment for children and youth to grow that is safe and secure.
3. The purpose of this charter is to facilitate development of specific goals, objectives,
actions and advocacy that will measurably improve child and youth health throughout
4. Success will be identified as simple, measurable, achievable, and timely goals and
objectives for each of the 16 statements in this charter.
5. The initial draft of this charter has been developed by Canada’s physicians focusing on
what they can best do to improve child and youth health; however, the support and
participation of all individuals and groups interested in child and youth health is
encouraged and desired.
6. The primary audience for actions and advocacy arising from this charter will be
governments, agencies or individuals who, by virtue of legislation, regulation or policy
have the ability to effect change for children and youth.
7. This charter is not a legal document; it represents a commitment by champions of child
and youth health in Canada to the health and well-being of all children and youth in
The following organizations have endorsed the Child and Youth Health Charter, as of
October 9, 2007.
Association of Canadian Academic Healthcare Organizations
Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada
Breakfast for Learning
Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres
Canadian Child and Youth Health Coalition
Canadian Healthcare Association
Canadian Institute of Child Health
Canadian Medical Association
Canadian Paediatric Society
Canadian Pharmacists Association
Canadian Psychological Association
Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development
Centre for Science in the Public Interest
College of Family Physicians of Canada
Landon Pearson Resource Centre for the Study of Childhood and Children's Rights
National Alliance for Children and Youth
National Anti-Poverty Organization
Newfoundland and Labrador Medical Association
Paediatric Chairs of Canada
Safe Kids Canada, The National Injury Prevention Program of The Hospital for Sick Children
Silken's ActiveKids Movement and Silken and Company Productions
The Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
Note: These Guidelines are not intended to encourage people who choose to abstain for cultural, spiritual or other reasons to drink, nor are they intended to encourage people to commence drinking to achieve health benefits. People of low bodyweight or who are not accustomed to alcohol are advised to consume below these maximum limits.
Do not drink in these situations:
When operating any kind of vehicle, tools or machinery; using medications or other drugs that interact with alcohol; engaging in sports or other potentially dangerous physical activities; working; making important decisions; if pregnant or planning to be pregnant; before breastfeeding; while responsible for the care or supervision of others; if suffering from serious physical illness,
mental illness or alcohol dependence.
If you drink, reduce long- term health risks by staying within these average levels:
0–2 standard drinks* per day
0–3 standard drinks* per day
No more than 10 standard drinks
No more than 15 standard
drinks per week
Always have some non-drinking days per week to minimize tolerance and habit formation. Do not increase drinking to the
upper limits as health benefits are greatest at up to one drink per day. Do not exceed the daily limits specified in Guideline 3.
If you drink, reduce short- term risks by choosing safe situations and restricting your alcohol intake:
Risk of injury increases with each additional drink in many situations. For both health and safety reasons, it is important not to drink more than:
Three standard drinks* in one day for a woman
Four standard drinks* in one day for a man
Drinking at these upper levels should only happen occasionally and always be consistent with the weekly limits specified in Guideline 2. It is especially important on these occasions to drink with meals and not on an empty stomach; to have no more than two standard drinks in any three-hour period; to alternate with caffeine-free, non-alcoholic drinks; and to avoid risky situations and activities. Individuals with reduced tolerance, whether due to
low bodyweight, being under the age of 25 or over 65 years old, are advised to never exceed Guideline 2 upper levels.
When pregnant or planning to be pregnant:
The safest option during pregnancy or when planning to become pregnant is to not drink alcohol at all. Alcohol in the mother's bloodstream can harm the developing fetus. While the risk from light consumption during pregnancy appears very low, there is no threshold of alcohol use in pregnancy that has been
definitively proven to be safe.
Alcohol and young people:
Alcohol can harm healthy physical and mental development of children and adolescents. Uptake of drinking by youth should be delayed at least until the late teens and be consistent with local legal drinking age laws. Once a decision to start drinking is made, drinking should occur in a safe environment, under parental guidance and at low levels (i.e., one or two standard drinks* once or twice per week). From legal drinking age to 24 years, it is
recommended women never exceed two drinks per day and men never exceed three drinks in one day.
Approved by the CMA Board in March 2011
Last reviewed and approved by the CMA Board in March 2019.
The above is excerpted from the report, Alcohol and Health in Canada: A Summary of Evidence and Guidelines for Low-Risk Drinking Available: https://www.ccsa.ca/sites/default/files/2019-04/2011-Summary-of-Evidence-and-Guidelines-for-Low-Risk%20Drinking-en.pdf (accessed 2019 March 01).