QUEEN'S PARK--Ontario NDP Education critic Marit Stiles will introduce a motion Tuesday to establish a Child and Youth Recovery Action plan to mitigate the pandemic's impacts on children, youth and young adults, especially those disproportionately affected by COVID-19.
If passed, the motion would create a Child and Youth Post-Pandemic Recovery Secretariat to ensure policies and programs supporting the well-being of children and youth are centered in the post-pandemic recovery.
"The pandemic has widely disrupted the social, developmental and educational lives of Ontario's children, youth and young adults, with many facing economic distress due to their or their family's loss of income--the impacts have been most pronounced for young women and girls, Black and Indigenous youth, racialized youth, LGBTQ2S+ youth, youth with disabilities and those from low-income backgrounds," Stiles said.
"Young people have been an afterthought in the Ford government's COVID-19 response. Yet experts warn that without a clear plan to mitigate the damages, there will be lasting consequences for the next generation socially and economically."
Doug Ford held back funds and allowed a piecemeal back-to-school plan that has put students and educators at risk, with students jerked between in-person and remote learning. Ford's 2019 budget cut funding for OSAP and student financial assistance by about 30 per cent, with universities forced to close and student job opportunities vanishing.
Ford’s conservatives cut $69 million from children and youth mental health services in 2019. An estimated 28,000 kids are waiting to receive mental health care thanks to years of government underfunding.
"We need a clear strategy to mitigate the damages of COVID-19 to this generation of young people," Stiles said. "We must centre the experiences of children and youth and ensure they benefit from all legislation related to the post-pandemic recovery."
The government will debate Stiles's motion Tuesday afternoon in the Legislature.
Irwin Elman, former Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth:
“In the challenge and wake of the Pandemic is found the opportunity to ensure that every act we take, we will take together, in order to improve the well being of Ontario’s children. Our children are watching.
I urge the Legislature to use this moment to demonstrate our resolve to support Ontario’s children through the development of a Post Pandemic Child And Youth Wellness Recovery Strategy. We must ensure every child not simply return to normal but return more resilient, stronger with increased opportunity to reach their full potential. They deserve nothing less. It is clear that the past year has been an intense struggle for so many children in the Province.
A Post Pandemic Child and Youth Wellness Recovery Strategy , planned and coordinated through a Secretariat reporting to the Legislature mandated with the task is a powerful statement of empathy and hope.”