In 2012 Canada was specifically asked to address the high incidence of obesity in children by, among other steps, “ensuring greater regulatory controls over the production and advertisement of fast food and unhealthy foods, especially those targeted to children. (Concluding Observations, paragraph 64, CRC/C/CAN/CO/3-4, page 15) This was one recommendation among many in the last review of how Canada implements children’s rights. The CCRC welcomed the inclusion of this policy initiative in the mandate letter for the Minister of Health shortly after the election in 2015.
Two years later, news reports suggest that the policy development process is mired in conflicting pressures from food production companies and competing economic development interests. There is little evidence that the rights of children are being taken seriously, let alone being at the center for all the stakeholders in this debate. How might the Convention help?
The obligation to give priority to the Best Interests of Children (Article 3) puts impacts for children at the top, higher than impacts for business interests. How are the best interests of children being determined? If all stakeholders put that as a priority, resolution of differences would keep children at the forefront.
Children have a right to enjoy the “highest attainable standard of health” under Article 24. Minimum standards and lowest denominator approaches need to be replaced by a focus on the best possible set of policies and actions by all stakeholders. Instead of doing the least possible, we should do the most we can for the highest nutritional health of children.
Children have a right to information (Article 13), with specific provisions for the mass media “to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child” and “protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being” (Article 18). Is nutritional information youth-friendly? Are the views of young people being considered, to enable them to make well-informed decisions? How do the standards for advertising and packaging information comply with respect for the rights of children, as articulated in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all governments in Canada have ratified?
This issue is another example of how taking children’s rights seriously could improve the way governance works in Canada. Unfortunately Canada lacks a robust mechanism to ensure that the Convention is considered for every policy that affects children. The CCRC calls for the use of Children’s Rights Impact Assessments (CRIA); it would force everyone to put children at the center and come up with the best possible options.
The CCRC calls for three steps to address the concerns related to marijuana use and young people in an Open Letter to Federal and Provincial Governments:
The Open Letter includes a list of all the rights that need to be considered, as well as the specific provisions of Article 33 of the Convention.
Governments in Canada are starting to prepare for the next review of children’s rights and so is the CCRC. July 2018 is the deadline for Canada to submit an official report on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada. A key focus is action on the recommendations Canada received in 2012. Many of the recommendations reflected proposals made by the CCRC in its alternative report.
Action on the previous recommendations will be the focus of a CCRC campaign in the fall. The first step is collecting information from young people’s organizations across the country. The CCRC is looking for information and analysis that relates to all aspects of children’s rights in Canada. This will inform the fall campaign in Canada before the official report and an alternative report for use by the UN Committee when they review Canada’s record.
Read about the CCRC plans and how to become part of this process. This is the way to hold our governments accountable for progressive realization of children’s rights across Canada. Previous reports and updates are available on the Children’s Rights Monitoring Page.
2016 is the 25th Anniversary of Canada’s Ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child – time to ask about progress in implementation. Substantive progress in some areas is combined with no action in others, based on recommendations to Canada in the last review of children’s rights in 2012. The CCRC offers this sampling of progress across the full range of recommendations as a start to preparations for the next full review. Canada’s next report is due in July, 2018. The CCRC proposes improvements in the process to make and assess progress in Canada before the next international review. For distribution, discussion, and feedback: ccrc-25th-anniversary-of-ratification-flyer
Assisted Dying: Alternatives to Arbitrary Minimum Age
The government has announced that they will hold further consultations on the question of the age of eligibility in the new legal framework for assistance in dying. For now, the proposed bill includes age 18 as a minimum age requirement.
The use of arbitrary age limits in many areas of public policy raises questions under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which respects the evolving capacity of young people to participate in making decisions about their care. As pointed out in the CCRC submission to the parliamentary committee that studied assisted dying, this principle has been recognized in Canadian court rulings on health care, including recognition of the right of competent young people to decide to end treatment that may result in their death. CCRC Submission on Physician-assisted Drying.
Hopefully the consultation will be based on the Convention, which Canada has ratified, and focus on what criteria and process would be reasonable in the case of assisted dying, in place of the use of an arbitrary age limit. The CCRC will continue to be engaged on this matter, as part of its mandate to work for full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada. A CCRC-sponsored symposium on the Best Interests of the Child in 2009 suggested a review of all age-based legislation to provide clear rationales based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.