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Monitoring Canada and the UNCRC

Children and Budget 2016

A Step Forward for Canada’s Children:

Budget 2016 is a big step forward for the children of Canada. The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC) agrees that investing in our children is both the right thing to do and a good economic investment.  This was emphasized in the last CCRC comprehensive report on children in Canada, entitled “Right in Principle, Right in Practice.”

The positive impact for children will be ensured and enhanced through the development of a coherent and comprehensive approach to all areas of public policy for children. This would include measures that build on elements in this budget and fill gaps, including the following:

Canada Child Benefit:  The new benefit improves the balance between a universal approach to support all parents and a progressive element to help ensure that children in less-wealthy households have access to basic resources to develop their full potential.  One additional step is ensuring that provinces do not claw back the benefit from families on social assistance or other provincial social programs.   Indexing it to the cost-of-living is another step to ensure that lower-income families do not fall behind again.  Now that a decades-long debate about basic income support for children is heading in the right direction, it is important to focus on community supports because money in the pockets of parents is only one important piece of a budget for children.

Cancelling the child fitness and art tax credits:  The CCRC advocated for re-allocating this money because it primarily benefitted children in more wealthy families.  Next steps are:

  • a child-friendly approach to infrastructure spending to enhance community facilities and programs for all children and build a long-term healthy environment for children; and
  • a focus on children in the new health accord, including preventive policies to ensure good nutrition and address the high rate of infant mortality and overweight children in Canada. Steps being taken to enhance Nutrition North would be strengthened by a strong focus on nutrition for children.

Child Impact in Outcome Measures:  A little-noticed item in the budget has the potential for real change for children in Canada. The budget’s commitment to outcome measures for all programs is a positive step.  It can include the use of Children’s Rights Impact Assessments and making adjustments to policies and programs as needed.  An integrated approach for children is as important as an integrated approach for gender.  Putting this on the agenda of a cabinet committee that reviews all programs would be consistent with the direction of the current government and a major gain for all children in Canada, who fall through the cracks without a focal point for children in the federal government.  This will require better data about children in Canada, an essential element that has been missing.

Youth Council and Youth Employment Strategy:  The focus on youth aged 16 to 24 is positive, including an advisory council of young people, combined with expertise in this field.  Complementing it with an Advisory Council for Children under the age of 16 would help to ensure children’s views and needs are heard for all policies.  A national focal point for children, such as a National Children’s Commissioner, would be a mechanism to support and sustain the new focus on young people as an integral part of our society.

Children and Ending Violence:  Increased funding for women’s shelters and a national strategy to end violence against women are positive steps.  They would be strengthened by adding a specific focus on Ending All Forms of Violence Against Children, as part of new global commitments to end violence against children in the Sustainable Development Goals and a Child-focus in the promised review of Canada’s international development program

Child Care and Early Learning:  The commitment to a national strategy opens the door to putting children at the center and developing options that address the needs of all children from age 0 to age 6, as well as meeting the needs of parents for affordable care while parents are working.   More flexible and generous leave policies for parents should be the next part of an integrated strategy.

Indigenous Children:  Closing the gap for indigenous children is a positive direction.  The broad social development approach in the budget is positive; putting the needs of children first may require advancing more funds for child welfare and ensuring that education, social housing, and other infrastructure funds are developed in ways that support equal opportunities for indigenous children to develop their full potential.

Other Vulnerable Groups of Children: The budget’s focus on indigenous children reflects urgent needs and evidence that their right to equitable treatment is not being met.  In addition to indigenous children, special focus within a comprehensive approach is also needed for:

  • Children in the immigration and refugee systems, including those in detention,
  • Children in state care across the country,
  • Children in the criminal justice system.

Office for Prevention of Radicalization:  Preventing the recruitment of young people into armed forces of all kinds is important.  It will be enhanced by incorporating respect for the rights of children in all strategies employed by police and security forces.

Children and a National Housing Strategy:  Early investments in more affordable housing will help children in lower-income households.  Including a child-lens in the promised development of a national housing strategy would have long-term impacts for both child development and a healthy economy.

Next Steps for the CCRC:

The CCRC will share further analysis of specific parts of Budget 2016 as we dig into the details and learn more about specific plans by the relevant departments.  Watch for further blogs that relate budget impacts to the recommendations Canada received to improve implementation of children’s rights.  In addition, the CCRC will continue to work toward full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a coherent framework to meet the final words of the budget speech:

“We act for our children and our children’s children.”

Children and Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

Children in Canada will benefit if Canada takes seriously the outcome of its sixth review under the International Convention on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights.  Recommendations for children repeat themes that the CCRC raised during the review of children’s rights.  Canada was asked to take action on a wide range of issues, including: the need for affordable child care; inequitable funding for indigenous child welfare;  the over-representation of African-Canadians in child welfare;  school drop-out rates, school fees, and lower educational achievement by indigenous and African-Canadian children; inadequate social assistance rates; national poverty reduction strategy; loss of indigenous languages; and others.

The CCRC will use this report to reinforce the need to make progress on children’s rights before the next review in 2018.

Over 40 Child Initiatives in Cabinet Mandates

Children’s Rights, Cabinet Mandates, and CCRC plans

The CCRC reviewed the mandate letters of new federal cabinet ministers and identified more than 40 initiatives that would contribute to the fulfillment of children’s rights.  These include very specific measures and systemic changes across a wide range of departments.  Many are positive responses to the 10 Steps that the CCRC promoted to respond to the recommendations received from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child during Canada’s last review.

The CCRC has sent letters of encouragement to individual cabinet ministers, offering support to implement the specific items in their mandate that will benefit children.  We are also reminding them about children’s rights as part of their duties. We will follow up on these letters in the coming months.  We are also alerting duty-bearers to the upcoming review in 2018, with a hope that we can report significant progress in our next review.

Watch for more specific posts on specific initiatives as we pursue them.

If you have information or want to help in the CCRC’s monitoring project, please contact Kathy Vandergrift, Coordinator.

CHILDREN CAN NOW SEEK JUSTICE FOR ABUSES THROUGH UN

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.

National Child Day: One Year Later and No Plan of Action

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.

Click here for more information about our AGM  and here to access 10 Steps for Children in Canada