TORONTO, June 2, 2021 – As leaders in children’s health, we are deeply disappointed that Ontario has not acted upon the broad consensus for a regional re-opening of in-person learning. This consensus included children’s healthcare, public health, scientific experts and teachers’ organizations.
Throughout the pandemic, children and youth have made enormous sacrifices, from missing school, to the delays of surgery and treatment. To date, there has been inadequate attention to their needs. For many kids, the decisions by government will impact their learning, development, physical and mental health not only now but for years to come.
Ontario needs a coordinated recovery plan where kids are the priority and health equity is the guiding principle. We know children from low-income families, children who are Black, Indigenous and racialized and children with disabilities are even more profoundly impacted by the pandemic.
In the past 15 months, Ontario public school students have only been in school approximately 5 months. There are few places in the world where kids have been out of school more than Ontario, and no other Canadian province has had school closures this long.
We must act now to ensure an equitable return to regular, in-person schooling for all students across the province, and to address the negative impacts of the pandemic on kids. This includes planning now to ensure timely, equitable and easy access to mental health care for those children and youth who require more intensive interventions, as well as addressing the gap in developmental and rehabilitation services that children with disabilities have faced with schools closed.
Children and youth have not been a priority in Ontario’s pandemic response. Children must be a priority in the pandemic recovery – for the sake of their future and the sake of our province’s future. We look forward to working with government and all stakeholders to develop a robust plan to address kids’ needs.
About the Children’s Health Coalition: The Children’s Health Coalition is a growing collective of children’s health organizations, including CHEO, Holland Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital, SickKids, McMaster Children’s Hospital, Children’s Hospital – London Health Sciences Centre, Children’s Mental Health Ontario and Empowered Kids Ontario.