Last Updated:Friday - 09/24/2010
May 3, 2004
Society rejects children's joy
Canadians, it seems, were far from shocked by the news April 19 that the birth rate in our country for 2002 was 10.5 live births for every 1,000 people, the lowest rate since the federal government began keep such statistics in 1921.The fertility rate - the number of children a woman between 15 and 49 will have in her lifetime - now sits at 1.5. For Canada to maintain its current population level, the fertility rate should be at least 2.1.
Canada has a growing population. But that growth is mainly because of immigration, not births. Unless we want to face a future with a falling population, we need to have more babies or to maintain current immigration levels. If we rely mainly on immigration, our population will still get steadily older and the number of people in the workforce will decline. Canadians will either have to work until later in life or face a declining standard of living.
Canadians do not seem disturbed by the declining birth rate. A Globe and Mail Internet poll asked, "Canada's birth rate has fallen to a record low. What do you feel is our best course of action?" Almost 20,000 people responded. Twenty-one per cent said, "increase immigration;" 30 per cent said, "offer substantial government rewards for bearing children;" and 49 per cent said, "do nothing. We don't need more people."
Well, we may not need more people, but if we allow the population to drop, we become a civilization in decline. Giving government grants to people to have babies also seems to miss the point. While we should have a fairer tax system which recognizes the enormous cost to families of raising children, it seems unlikely that many couples could be induced to have more babies by a financial reward.
Left-wing author Murray Dobbin makes a similar point in an article published in the April 22 Globe. He maintains that "The conditions of work in this country have become so onerous and stressful, and the economic security of families so tenuous, that many couples are deciding not to have children at all, or are delaying the decision for as long as possible."
Dobbin makes a good point. We are in a culture of over-work and burnout. In many lower-income households, both husband and wife must work to make ends meet. At the other end of the income scale, professionals and managers are being forced to work such long hours that their quality of life is also undermined.
This sort of analysis helps to explain why the birth rate is falling. But the analysis should not stop there. The pro-life movement has pointed out that while there were 333,744 births in Canada in 2001, there were also 106,418 abortions. If all the aborted children had been allowed to live, Canada's fertility rate would climb back to the replacement level of 2.1 births per woman.
Further, a recent interchange of opinion in The Edmonton Journal pointed deeper into the issue. What started as one woman's letter to the editor complaining about a restaurant that will no longer allow young children grew into a revealing controversy.
Columnist Paula Simons wrote that the restaurant's decision might symbolize society's coolness to funding schools and recreation facilities. She was besieged by angry letters.
"Letter after letter (came) from people who dislike children, who don't want to be near them, who resent every tax dollar spent on them and their needs."
At heart, what we have in Canada is a love crisis. More and more people are seeing children as "a lifestyle choice." They fail to realize that children are good for us all, especially parents. Children draw us away from our lifestyle choices and give us someone to love. Indeed, they force us to love them, if we have any capacity for love at all.
It may sound simplistic, but it's true: Canada's declining birth rate is a sign of a society turning away from love and turning towards self.
To become a better society, we need a national healing of the heart, a national conversion. We need to respect people as more important than things.
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