Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children urges Canada to ratify new treaty so more children can access international justice for rights abuses
CANADA, January 14, 2014 – Children whose human rights have been violated will finally be able to bring their cases to the United Nations after a new international treaty was enacted today.
Until today, and despite its near universal ratification (Somalia, South Sudan, the United States, and Canada are among those who haven’t yet ratified), the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child was the only international human rights treaty that had no mechanism for victims to seek justice internationally when they could not get redress for violations of their rights nationally. Countries have simply had to provide periodic reports on how they are implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child with only recommendations from the Committee on the Rights of the Child as to how they should do better. Children whose rights have been violated through violence, abuse, discrimination and simply being ignored have, to date, not had any recourse internationally.
The new treaty, known as the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a Communications Procedure (OP3 CRC) was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly in December 2011. The treaty will become active in three months’ time after Costa Rica ratified it on January 14. Albania, Bolivia, Gabon, Germany, Montenegro, Portugal, Slovakia, Spain and Thailand previously ratified.
A State is not bound by the treaty until it ratifies it. Campaigners are urging governments around the world to ratify the new treaty so more children can access justice at the UN. Ratify OP3 CRC, an international coalition of children’s rights NGOs, says the UN will now be better equipped to address future violations of children’s rights, and more pressure will be put on countries to ensure children’s rights are respected.
Cheryl Milne, Chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children says, “This is an important step in ensuring that children’s rights are taken seriously. Canada should show its commitment to the rights of children by ratifying this protocol.”
Cases brought under this new communications procedure will be heard by the Committee on the Rights of the Child, the UN body of 18 independent experts responsible for ensuring the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. From 14 April 2014, victims of all new or ongoing violations in States who have ratified the treaty can start bringing cases to the Committee if no solution is found nationally. The treaty does not cover past violations
“The international treaty enacted by the UN today is a major human rights victory and milestone for children across the world, especially those who are routinely affected and threatened by violence, sexual abuse, trafficking and discrimination,” said Rosemary McCarney, President and CEO of Plan Canada. “When Canada and more states move to ratify this protocol, more children around the world will finally have access to the means and channels they deserve to have their rights respected and to call on their governments to take action to protect them.”
About Plan Canada
Founded in 1937, Plan is one of the world’s oldest and largest international development agencies, working in partnership with millions of people around the world to end global poverty. Not for profit, independent and inclusive of all faiths and cultures, Plan has only one agenda: to improve the lives of children. Because I am a Girl is Plan’s global initiative to end gender inequality, promote girls’ rights and lift millions of girls – and everyone around them – out of poverty. Visit www.plancanada.ca and www.becauseiamagirl.ca for more information.
In December of 2012, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released its Concluding Observations on Canada’s Third and Fourth Report to the Committee on its implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Based on that document, the Canadian Coalition developed 10 Steps for Children in Canada to suggest ways that work could begin immediately on following up on the many recommendations made by the Committee. We wrote to the Prime Minister asking that the Canadian government table a formal response to the Concluding Observations by November 20, 2013 giving them almost one year to review the recommendations and consult with officials, civil society and children on a Plan of Action.
As of today, November 20, 2013, National Child Day, no official response to the Concluding Observations has been made available. It seems unlikely that any such response will be forthcoming. The government’s response to the Universal Periodic Review which reviews Canada’s record with respect to all core human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child, suggests that they will not undertake any such Plan of Action. Read our summary of Canada’s response here.
“Sadly, the message we conveyed last November, of a call to action on children’s rights must be repeated again this National Child Day,” says Cheryl Milne, Chair Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children. “We are now taking our message to the people and organizations who work with children and care about children’s rights.”
Join us on December 3rd in Toronto at our Annual General Meeting where a panel of representatives of civil society will talk about how they implement the Convention in the work they do. Share with us your efforts and continue to call upon the federal and provincial governments to do everything they can to implement children’s rights throughout Canada.
By Lisa Wolff
Board Member, Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children
In September, the Government of Canada responded to the 162 recommendations it received to advance the human rights of Canadians, during the Human Rights Council’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in April, 2013. The UPR is a process to review, every five years, how each nation is advancing the realization of the human rights they have committed to in ratifying the core international human rights treaties, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Unlike specific treaty review processes, states are obligated to respond to the recommendations made by other states in the UPR. They may accept or reject recommendations – in part, in full, or in principle – and provide comments to justify their positions.
The Government of Canada accepted 122 of the 162 recommendations, in full, in part or in principle. However, as their response stated, the accepted recommendations are related to actions the government believes it is already implementing. There are no new actions or commitments, despite evidence of lapses in the protection of Canada’s children and clear opportunities to improve their well-being. It is also a poor example for other states which, as the Government of Canada has pointed out, have a great deal of room for improvement. The Government of Canada’s responses specifically in relation to children’s rights are distilled in this article, to inform the child-serving community in Canada of what they can expect – and not expect – to advance the rights and well-being of children.
On April 26, 2013, Canada will be appearing before the UN Human Rights Council to report on its implementation of human rights instruments in the country. The Coalition participated in the NGO consultation on Canada’s performance and had input into the NGO report that went to the UN. Advance questions from the Council ahead of the hearing include a number of specific questions related to the rights of children. Those questions are as follows:
The hearing will be live webcast from Geneva. You can link to it here: http://webtv.un.org
You can find background documents, including Canada’s report to the Council here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/CASession16.aspx
Please join us for Bringing Children in from the Margins: Symposium on Child Rights Impact Assessment. This is the first international gathering for Canadian policy makers, child-focused professionals and researchers to explore the growing use of Child Rights Impact Assessment as a process to advance child well-being.
On May 14-15 at the University of Ottawa, experts from government, Children’s Commissioners and researchers from more than eight countries will share insights about the approaches, institutional conditions, benefits and challenges for policy and legislative development and other
proposals affecting children.
Don’t miss out on this unique opportunity for learning, exchange and networking in a multidisciplinary community. Visit www.unicef.ca/childimpactsymposium for more information and updates.
The symposium is organized by UNICEF Canada, the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, the Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child and the Human Rights Research and Education Centre of the University of Ottawa, and the New Brunswick Office of the Child and Youth Advocate.
REGISTRATION OPENS MARCH 15 at www.unicef.ca/childimpactsymposium