Media Advisory - We Need Better Cities for our children

OTTAWA, Oct. 27 /CNW Telbec/ - Two studies released today by The Vanier Institute of the Family say Canadian cities, in many ways, are failing to meet the needs of their youngest citizens. The reports raise critical questions about the impact of urban design and development on the health and safety of children and youth.

With 80% of Canadians now living in urban centres, cities are home to a growing proportion of children in Canada, many of whom are growing up in communities that are decidedly unfriendly to children and youth, and that encroach on their ability to just be kids.

As our cities are planned mostly for adults with motor vehicles, it means Canadian youngsters are coping with everything from dense traffic, inadequate transportation, hazardous surroundings, social fears, and violence, all of which combine to make their environment less than welcoming. Furthermore, this urbanisation is placing new pressures on the delicate balance between giving children time to play on their own and participate in organized activities.

Two new papers from The Vanier Institute of the Family dig deeper into this relationship between children and urbanization, and recommend changing the lens, to start looking at these issues through children's eyes.

Juan Torres from the Université de Montréal's Institut d'urbanisme looks at the ways in which urban planning has evolved to accommodate the needs of the automobile and the negative impact that has on healthy child development and the evolution of vibrant, user-friendly communities.

Belinda Boekhoven of Carleton University adds to the dialogue by asking important questions about children's access to free playtime and outdoor space in cities. Her study finds that young people today are much more likely to be involved in organized activities than in the past. And while structured participation in activities has been shown to be beneficial for child development, there are also risks if children and adolescents don't have enough free time and safe spaces to exercise their imaginations and develop traits such as self-motivation and self-reliance.

According to Katherine Scott, the Institute's Director of Programs, "These papers are a wake-up call, and should make us take a step back to consider our communities and everyday family life from the perspective of our children. The case can be made that we would all benefit if children and youth figured more prominently in the urban planning process".

Scott points out that there are good models already in place such as the Child Friendly Cities movement in cities such as Ottawa, Calgary and Saskatoon. There is also the Growing Up in Cities initiative in a number of cities around the world. Each provides practical measures, based on experience, on how to make cities and their governments work better for children.


For further information: For further information: For interviews and more information on these reports, which are freely available for downloading at, please contact: Katherine Scott, Director of Programs, The Vanier Institute of the Family, (613) 228-8500 x219,; Juan Torres, PhD., Institut d'urbanisme, Université de Montréal, (514) 343-5982 or (514) 276-8131,; Belinda Boekhoven, Department of Psychology, Carleton University, (613) 818-1745,

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