Children’s Rights in Canada

Youth Policy for Canada

The CCRC welcomes the development of a national youth policy and supports the initiative to consider the views of young people in its development.  This is one step toward realizing the rights of young people.  In a letter to the Prime Minister, who is also the Minister of Youth, the CCRC recommends two strategic directions:

  •  Use the principles of the Convention as a framework for Canada’s first youth policy, including consideration of the views of young people, respect for the right of young people to develop their full potential, and respect for the evolving capacity of young people.  Using the Convention as a framework will help to integrate all policies that affect young people and take an important step toward fuller implementation of the Convention across Canada.  The letter cites the experience of CCRC members to show that young people want to learn about their rights and how to exercise them in Canada, and highlights that the Convention addresses important issues identified in a survey of young people done by Statistics Canada.
  • Complement the new youth policy with a national policy framework for children under age 15, which is now a major gap in Canada.  Incorporating the Convention into Canadian law and policy-making would help to bridge gaps and integrate policies by all levels of government that affect children and young people.

The CCRC letter also points out that the new youth policy is an opportunity for Canada to respond to recommendations Canada received during its last review of children’s rights.

Criminal Justice Reform and Children’s Rights

Children in Canada have less protection against violence than adults do.  Current plans to reform Canada’s criminal justice system provide an opportunity to make the right of children to be free from all forms of violence, Article 19 in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, part of Canadian law.    Stated plans to transform the criminal justice system to better reflect human rights is also an opportunity to respond to recommendations Canada received in its last review to better protect the rights of children involved in the criminal justice system.  In addition, a CCRC submission supports the stated objective of expanding the use of restorative justice options within the criminal justice system.

Family Law Reform and Children’s Rights

Children are affected when their parents go through a divorce, but their rights are not well-protected in Canada’s current family laws.  The CCRC welcomes plans to modernize the law and expand the unified family court system.  Stronger protection for the rights of children should be central to this process.  It is also an opportunity for Canada to incorporate the Convention into Canadian law and decision-making processes, something Canada was asked to do in the last review of how it implements the Convention. The CCRC submission makes several recommendations.

Budget 2018 and Children’s Rights

Canada’s budget 2018, titled Equality and Growth,  adds some important pieces to the patchwork of public policies that support children but leaves gaps and missing pieces that are essential for realizing the rights of all children across the country.  Budget 2018 through a children’s rights lens. 

Change Promised for Implementation of Children’s Rights in Canada

Children’s rights in Canada may benefit from a Ministerial Meeting on Human Rights, held on December 11, 2017.  Ministers from federal, provincial, and territorial governments agreed that the current system for implementing international human rights obligations in Canada is “out-dated” and “needs modernization.”  This was the first Ministerial level meeting on human rights in Canada in 30 years.  Improving the implementation of human rights in Canada, including children’s rights, was the focus of the meeting.

One of the areas named for improvement in the final communique  was “following up on the recommendations that Canada receives from international human rights bodies.”  (English)  (French)  In 2018 Canada will report on how it implements children’s rights, including response to recommendations from previous reviews. This is a great opportunity for both federal and provincial/territorial governments to put into practice the commitments they made on December 11.

The CCRC was one of the human rights groups who participated in the Ministerial meeting.  In a brief statement, Kathy Vandergrift, Chair of the CCRC, called on all Ministers to pay attention to the review of children’s rights because “realizing children’s rights will make federalism work better.”

The CCRC worked with other human rights organizations to put forward a unified proposal for substantive reform of the way all levels of government implement human rights in Canada. (French)  We will now follow up on the specific proposals in the final communique to improve the process for the review of children’s rights that is currently underway.

The current review of how the Convention on the Rights of the Child is implemented in Canada will be a primary focus for the CCRC in 2018.