How well are children’s rights in education fulfilled across Canada? In a discussion paper, the CCRC reviews the recommendations Canada received during its last review of children’s rights, notes some indicators of progress, and suggests what we hope to see in the next report, which will be submitted in July 2018. In particular, Canada was asked to inform children of their rights through the education system and the use of government websites. This paper looks at provincial curriculum guides and federal government websites as indicators of progress. In addition, it highlights issues in equitable access and the kind of education described in Article 29.
This paper is part of preparing for the next review. The CCRC invites discussion and feedback from readers who have experience or interest in this area of children’s rights in Canada.
Every child has a right to an education. That is widely accepted in Canada. It leads to debates about access, equity in funding, drop-out rates, and school fees as a barrier to some essential activities. Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides principles for sound educational policy in these areas. All of these are important aspects of monitoring how well children in Canada can realize their rights to education. In the last review, Canada was asked to address each of these issues and we look forward to what the next report, due in 2018, will say about them.
Less known is Article 29, which is equally important. It articulates the goals of education to achieve the central focus of the Convention: supporting children to develop their full potential. Education, says Article 29, shall be directed to the:
The CCRC takes Article 29 seriously. It continues to focus attention on how well children learn about their rights and how to exercise them with respect for the rights of others as well. A review of official provincial curriculum guides indicates some attention to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of Canadian history and teaching rights and responsibilities of citizenship. But there is only sporadic attention to the rights of children, and even less attention to learning what the Convention on the Rights of the Child says.
Workshops with young people continue to bring out a typical response: “We’ve never really been told about our rights, we need to know what our rights are.”
Watch for a Working Paper on this matter soon.
Learning how to live in a society that respects the rights of all people goes well beyond preparing children to find good jobs, which tends to get a lot of attention in debates about education. Learning respect for the natural environment has particular relevance today and is related to a child’s right to a healthy environment, described in Article 24. As one child said, ” There should be a curriculum on being a person.”
The CCRC encourages parents, teachers, school boards, political leaders, and citizens to reflect on what a child’s right to education means and assess how well we are realizing the educational rights of all children in Canada. The upcoming review of children’s rights in Canada provides an opportunity to take steps to improve how well we fulfill children’s right to an education.
(Quotes from Final Report, Shaking the Movers III, Child Rights in Education, prepared by Ilana Lockwood, June 2009. This is one of a series of workshops with young people, designed to allow young people to explore the meaning of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, sponsored by the Landon Pearson Resource Center for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights. Available at http://www.landonpearson.ca/uploads/6/0/1/4/6014680/shaking_the_movers_iii_2009.pdf.)
A specific focus on children and the use of multiple indicators of deprivation are recommendations made by the CCRC for Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy. The CCRC also recommends short-term rolling targets to measure progress, a mix of income support and community programs, and youth participation. The submission highlights the importance of food security as a missing piece in the current patchwork of new programs, and it suggests that the coherent framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child would help to maximize benefits from the individual pieces. CCRC Submission for National Poverty Reduction Strategy.
Young people benefit from work experience, but they can also be exploited in the workplace. Knowing about the rules, their rights, and how to report unsafe working conditions or unfair treatment is essential for all young people. The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC) is asking all governments, federal and provincial, to ensure that Canada is fulfilling its duties for young people in the workplace. One step is to inform young people across the country about their rights before Canada’s ratification of International Labour Organization Convention 138 comes into effect in June 2017. High rates of workplace injuries for young people indicate a need for improvement in the area of safety. Research done by the CCRC shows that improvements are needed in all provinces to fully protect the workplace rights of young people.
A Fact sheet provides an overview of the issues and recommendations for action. A Working Paper provides analysis for each province and steps needed to fully implement the workplace-related provisions in Convention on the Rights of the Child, ILO 138, and ILO 182.
This is the first in a series of updates the CCRC is doing in 2017 to follow up on Canada’s last review under the Convention and prepare for the next review in 2018.
A new research report compares what parents contribute to the costs of early childhood education with what they contribute to post-secondary education costs. These are two non-mandatory components of preparing children for full participation in society, but both are increasingly essential for young people. The research shows that “parents with children in PSE (post-secondary education) are – in most provinces, at most levels of income – asked to contribute significantly less than parents with children in ECE (early childhood education). On average, for families earning $60,000, the gap between required ECE and PSE contributions is between $4,900 and $6,250, depending on the age of the child; for families earning $100,000, the gap is between $3,800 and $7,600.
In general, parents of young children are likely to have less income in early stages of their careers and more costs associated with starting a family. This report adds another angle to the on-going debate about how we best fulfill every child’s right to be educated.
The research,done by Higher Education Strategy Associates, is available at http://www.childcarecanada.org/documents/research-policy-practice/16/03/what-we-ask-parents-unequal-expectations-parental-contribut
Is it acceptable that a higher percentage of Canadian children live in poverty than in other countries similar to Canada?
On September 26 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will question Canada about its record on child poverty. Canada has not made substantive progress in reducing child poverty since the last review. Countries who established targets, timelines, and targeted strategies have made significant progress.
Medical research documents that the impacts of child poverty can affect children for a lifetime and we all lose through higher health care costs and lower productivity, two major concerns for the Canadian economy.
The government will claim that the number of low-income families has fallen, partly because the Universal Child Care Benefit (UCCB) raises some families about the poverty line and partly because the government now uses a different definition of poverty. The UCCB is intended for child care expenses; it is not for basic needs.
Rather than arguing about the numbers, which are too high by any poverty measure, the CCRC proposes that Canada address this issue directly by developing a national poverty reduction strategy with a specific focus on children, including measurable targets for improvement, timelines, and action plans. For more information see chapter on Children’s Right to be Free from Poverty in the section of CCRC report on Protecting Children’s Rights:Protecting Children;Protection de l’enfant.
On September 26, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child will ask Canada what is being done to reduce the number of children growing up without permanent families. They will ask about support for adolescents in care to make the transition to independent living. All children deserve a good start in life. When they don’t get it, the costs are higher. A recent BC report found that over 50% of young people in the criminal justice system had been in the child welfare system. Canada can do better on this child rights issue.
The federal government says it has no responsibility for these young people, even though they are Canadian citizens with a right to equitable treatment. Many provincial child welfare systems do not meet international standards for the treatment of children in state care. Governments at all levels need to put the best interests of these children first.
Addressing this problem is the right thing to do – and it is smart. Canada cannot afford to let so many children fall through the cracks of inadequate support systems, in light of our aging population.
Watch what government officials say about this issue on September 26-27 and add your views. For more information, read the chapter on children in care in CCRC report, section on Vulnerable Children: Paying Attention to Vulnerable Children; Accorder une attention particulière aux enfants vulnérables.