Premiers Focus on Families

VANCOUVER, July 21, 2011 -- Premiers today lent their collective voice to emphasize the importance of families in the decisions their governments make and discussed how to address some of the many challenges Canadian families face. Premiers released a backgrounder showcasing some initiatives launched in their jurisdictions to promote wellness and stronger families.

Helping Parents and Ensuring Children have a Good Start

Providing children with a good start is key to ensuring they grow into healthy adults with the best opportunities to succeed. Providing parents with choice about how to care for their children and making quality and accessible child care both affordable and available is critical.

Provinces and territories have been active in promoting early childhood development and have pursued policies that focus on increased parental choice and improvements in the quality of child care.

Premiers agreed that governments must work together to ensure adequate support for parents – for the benefit of families and the economy. Premiers noted that on their own, the current maternity and parental benefits under the EI program for participating provinces and territories are inadequate to provide the type of support required for many Canadian families to make parental leave a viable choice.

Premiers also noted that poor mental health and mental illness are the number one causes of disability in Canada, far greater than heart disease or cancer. Most Canadians will in some way be affected by mental health or mental illness, be it personally, or within their families. In economic terms, the costs associated with poor mental health in Canada amount to over $50 billion every year. However, many negative mental health outcomes associated with mental illness can be prevented or effectively managed if addressed before adulthood. Premiers noted that mental health promotion and mental illness prevention are a priority issue and that their jurisdictions are already doing important work in this area. To build on these efforts, Manitoba will host a mental health summit of governments and key stakeholders in Winter 2011. Among the issues to be discussed will be dementia.

Premiers also agreed to work together to find opportunities to address issues related to autism spectrum disorder.