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May 10, 1999
(Health and Community Services)

The following statement was issued today by Joan Marie Aylward, Minister of Health and Community Services. It was also read in the House of Assembly:

On Friday, May 7, federal, provincial and territorial governments released a key discussion paper that is the first step towards developing a comprehensive, long-term strategy to improve the well-being of Canadian children.

A document entitled A National Children's Agenda Developing a Shared Vision was released along with a supplementary paper, Measuring Child Well-being and Monitoring Progress. The National Children's Agenda reflects the commitments by governments in the Social Union Framework Agreement to ensure that Canadians participate in developing social priorities and that governments share information on successful practices and programs in their jurisdictions. These documents set out for the consideration of all Canadians a common vision, values, goals and areas for action to engage all parts of society in an effort to better meet our children's needs.

The Vision document identifies four goals for a National Children's Agenda to ensure that Canada's children are:

- Healthy physically and emotionally,

- Safe and secure,

- Successful at learning, and

- Socially engaged and responsible.

The purpose of a National Children's Agenda will be to ensure that all Canadian children have the best possible opportunity to realize their full potential. The Agenda will support the critical and primary role that parents, families and communities play in the lives of children.

We have many successes in our province. Our recent Child, Youth and Family Services Act and Child Care Act as well as our National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan including funding for Family Resource Centers and Community Youth Networks all put us leaders in our approach and perspectives on prevention and early intervention.

Other provincial initiatives such as the Model for Coordination of Services to Children and Youth and the Provincial Strategy on Violence demonstrate our commitment to working across departments to provide a coordinated approach to programs and services.

Our real success is in the creation of our new Department of Health and Community Services as recommended by our front line staff and managers. This new department allows an integrated approach to service delivery. Our Strategic Social Plan released just months ago is a model for other provinces as they endeavor to prepare and release their plans. Our Strategic Social Plan is the only one in this country with a social audit component.

The Premiers' Council on Social Development was briefed on the National Children's Agenda last week.

While our province has consulted widely and admittedly is further ahead in the process through our Strategic Social Plan than other provinces, citizens of our province will be able to provide their views and input through a 1-800 number, a website and workbook.

We want to make sure that our investments are in the right areas, so we must examine existing resources in the context of emerging research on children, share best practices, and align resources to make sure that we have a coordinated approach to children's issues.

The National Children's Agenda represents a new way of governments working together and for the first time coming together to build agreements not just across jurisdictions but also across sectors.

I want to commend my colleagues from HRE, Justice and Education for their contribution to the National Children's Agenda. Ultimately, this approach will mean better ways of improving the well being of children. The discussion papers also benefitted from input by the five National Aboriginal organizations, and includes a perspective on children's issues, written in their own voice.

Because of our interest in bringing this issue forward to ministers three years ago, and in light of progress on this initiative, we will be hosting in St. John's one of the five regional stakeholder round tables in mid-June. Further details will be announced on the Atlantic round table in the near future.

I am confident that Friday's announcement was the start of a process which will lead to a common set of goals and priorities which will improve children's futures.

1999 05 10 5:00 p.m.

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