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Honourable senators, I rise in celebration of Canada’s children and National Child Day, taking place this Sunday, November 20.

National Child Day is a celebration of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which was adopted by the UN on November 20, 1989. By signing that convention, we committed here in Canada to ensuring that every child has the opportunity to reach their full potential through the respect of their rights.

Unfortunately, as we celebrate National Child Day, our pediatric healthcare system is in crisis. Rates of respiratory illness have reached crisis levels in children’s hospitals across the country, leading to cancelled surgeries, overburdened emergency rooms and ICUs being forced to operate above capacity. In my province of Ontario, ERs are seeing respiratory complaints at triple the seasonal average in kids aged 5 to 17. Simultaneously, we have a crisis on pharmacy shelves. Children’s pain and fever medications are in short supply, leaving many parents unable to manage their children’s illnesses at home.

Children are our future. If we hurt them or allow them to be hurt or fail to respond to their hurt, we hurt ourselves. At the National Child Day breakfast, which I co-hosted on Tuesday with Senator Francis, I called on attendees to be authentic in our celebrations. Authentic celebration means a commitment to work for the changes our children need and to address the issues they face. Federal, provincial and territorial leaders must work together for the good of children across Canada, not only on this file but on all files. Our children should never be jurisdictional bargaining chips.

Colleagues, this crisis is just one in which it is clear we need a strategy for children in Canada. This crisis was not created overnight. Good leaders identify and address problems long before they become critical. The best gift we could give children for National Child Day is the assurance that we will work together to ensure that they have a brighter future.

As I conclude, I want to invite all colleagues and staff to a panel discussion on Monday afternoon, co-hosted by myself and Children’s Healthcare Canada, on this crisis, how it happened and where it goes from here. It will include pediatric healthcare leaders from throughout Canada and will be moderated by The Globe and Mail columnist André Picard. We do hope you can watch. Thank you, meegwetch.

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