March 29, 2022
Prime Minister Trudeau, Premier Ford and Mayor Tory,
On behalf of the Toronto District School Board, I am writing you to express concerns about the protection and well-being of children and youth in the Greater Toronto Area, including students at the TDSB, and ask for your assistance and your partnership.
The COVID-19 pandemic has closed the doors of schools and community agencies to children and youth. This has resulted in serious consequences for many youth, including disconnecting from positive peer and caring adult relationships, extended time online, lack of access to recreational programs, decreased youth employment and medical services, and increased family poverty. In addition, the risk of child maltreatment has increased, such as physical, sexual and mental abuse, as well as neglect and exposure to family violence.
A recent report from Children First Canada said that children and youth may have suffered more than others as the result of the pandemic, and called violence against children the "hidden crisis" of the pandemic. Kids Help Phone has also reported a doubling of calls from children and youth during the pandemic, while SickKids Hospital reported a “staggering rise” in child and youth mental health issues.
In response, the TDSB’s Pandemic Recovery Plan has committed additional resources to address the urgent need in our school communities to provide counselling, support food/shelter security and work collaboratively with community partners. However, these supports are still not enough to meet the growing needs of our students and their families.
The TDSB’s own student data shows a concerning decline in mental health for all students surveyed over each of the three school years affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, coupled with an increasing use of 20 day suspensions indicating more serious incidents in schools. And while increased referrals to our support staff and social workers is a benefit to our students, the structures and funding in place simply do not support this volume of diverse struggles.
As leaders in education, and in government, we have the responsibility to do everything in our power to protect and support the well-being of our children and youth. We must work together and provide a collaborative and strategic approach that will better serve our youth and address the root of this alarming issue.
Therefore, I ask that a partnership table is created between all three levels of government, Toronto school boards and other key stakeholders, to discuss the development of a lasting structure that will:
• combine research and action to address the adverse impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, poverty and violence on children and youth in the City of Toronto;
• seek to better coordinate and improve access to existing programs for children and youth in the City of Toronto; • enhance data collection and reporting to strengthen the ability of funders to nimbly target resources to areas of urgent or critical need;
• transparently report community level data on the status of children and youth and the impacts of public services interventions;
• leverage the partnership of the Toronto District School Board to ensure the involvement of children and youth in policy-making and the decisions that directly impact their lives;
• establish consistent, continuing and greater investments into youth programming and employment; and
• provide greater investments, support and programs for the early years and children.
I hope to hear from you soon to further discuss this important request and issue at hand.
Chair, Toronto District School Board
Cc: Chairs of Toronto School Boards