Bill 89 in Ontario, if adopted, will give the rights of children priority in child welfare and children’s services in the province. It will provide a good example of taking children’s rights seriously in legislation that affects them. It refers to the Convention on the Rights of the Child in the preamble, extends services to 16 and 17 year-olds, and puts the best interests of the child at the centre of decision-making. Advocates have suggested amendments to strengthen child rights language throughout the bill. Read commentary by two board members in our most recent newsletter.
The Senate will begin debate on Bill S-206 this week. The bill, sponsored by Senator Murray Sinclair, will repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code. It will protect the right of every child, as well as every adult, to not be hit by anyone. It is an important step in implementation of children’s right to be free from all forms of violence, as provided in Article 19 of the Convention on the Rights of Children.
The CCRC Open Letter to Senate on Bill S-206 addresses a number of the issues involved and the importance of this step for children’s rights in Canada.
The CCRC welcomes the strong focus on ending violence against women and girls. Paying attention to children’s rights is essential and beneficial for the success of proposed national strategies. That is the message in two submissions the CCRC is making.
We hope Status of Women Canada will consider Article 19 of the Convention, General Comment 13, and what has been learned in the global campaign to end violence against children. childrens-rights-and-a-national-strategy-on-gender-based-violence.
CCRC asks members of parliament who are studying violence against young women and girls to inform themselves of their responsibilities to implement commitments Canada made to children in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, including recommendations in the last review of Canada’s record. childrens-right-to-freedom-from-violence-ccrc-submission-for-parliamentary-study-on-violence-against-young-women-and-girls
On Friday, April 29, the jury in the Inquest into the Death of Katelynn Sampson, delivered a number of significant recommendations which are founded on the rights of children, particularly the right to be heard but also their full rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Katelynn was only 7 years old when she was murdered by the two people with whom she had been placed by her mother who was not able to care for her. The evidence called at the inquest documented many instances when other significant people in her life, included educators, child protection workers and police, failed to effectively inquire about the abusive circumstances in which she lived. The jury also heard evidence about how the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes important human rights to protection and participation; if followed, they might have prevented the tragedy. Katelynn’s Principle endorsed by the jury is derived from the Convention:
The child must be at the centre, where they are the subject of or receiving services through the child welfare, justice and education systems.
A child is an individual with rights:
•who must always be seen
•whose voice must be heard
•who must be listened to and respected
A child’s cultural heritage must be taken into consideration and respected, particularly in blended families.
Actions must be taken to ensure the child who is capable of forming his or her own views is able to express those views freely and safely about matters affecting them.
A child’s view must be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
A child should be at the forefront of all service-related decision-making.
According to their age or maturity, each child should be given the opportunity to participate directly or through a support person or representative before any decisions affecting them are made.
According to their age or maturity, each child should be engaged through an honest and respectful dialogue about how/why decisions were or will be made.
Everyone who provides services to children or services that affect children are child advocates. Advocacy may potentially be a child’s lifeline. It must occur from the point of first contact and on a continual/continuous basis thereafter.
The jury also made significant recommendations to effectively implement the Convention into law, asking that the Convention be incorporated into the purpose and interpretation sections of Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act, Education Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act. Specific sections are recommended for amendment to incorporate the child’s right under Article 12 to have their views considered in all matters affecting them. The jury also recommended that the K-12 school curriculum include education about the Convention, along with information about how to report child abuse.
If taken seriously, these recommendations are ground-breaking for children’s rights in Ontario and could be a model for law reform across the country. Here’s hoping that the terrible death that Katelynn suffered could lead to greater respect for children’s voices throughout the province and the country.
*Cheryl Milne was a witness called at the inquest to give evidence about the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
CHRT rules in favour of First Nations Children’s Caring Society in discrimination complaint
Posted on behalf of Christian Whalen, Board Member
On Tuesday February 26 the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal released its long awaited decision in relation to the race and ancestry discrimination complaint against Canada filed in 2007 by the First Nations Child and Family Caring Society and the Assembly of First Nations. The complaint alleged that the federal government’s funding formula for child family services to First Nations children on reserve was inadequate to meet their needs and is discriminatory.
The federal government’s policy over decades has been to fund Child and Family Service Agencies on reserve on the basis of provincial spending in relation to children off reserves in the province or territory where the band agency is situated. This formula does not allow for adequate consideration of the needs of children on reserve and within their communities.
The Tribunal held that funding alone can be a service within the meaning of section 5 of the Canadian Human Rights Act but that the department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada is involved in the provision of child and family services to First Nations children on reserve. It held further that First Nations are adversely impacted and in some cases denied services by AANDC, and that race and/or ethnic or national origin are factors in that adverse impact or denial.
The Tribunal held that not only were these adverse effects substantiated but that they “perpetuate historical disadvantages suffered by Aboriginal people’s, mainly as a result of the Residential Schools system”. The Tribunal members took the further step of acknowledging the harm occasioned: “The Panel acknowledges the suffering of those First Nations children or families who are or have been denied an equitable opportunity to remain together or to be reunited in a timely manner. We also recognize those First Nations children and families who are or have been adversely impacted by the government of Canada’s past and current child welfare practices on reserves.”
The Tribunal granted the declaratory relief sought by the complainants and reserved its decision on other remedies pending further submissions from the parties.
The decision is also of interest to child rights specialists given the Tribunal’s reliance on international law standards and obligations in reaching its conclusion. The Tribunal referenced the provisions of the UNCRC, it cited Canada’s Statement of Understanding in relation to the rights of First Nations children, it recalled the Child Rights Committee’s Concluding observations to Canada in response to Canada’s Third and Fourth reports and held that “Canada’s statements and commitments, whether expressed on the international scene or at the national level, should not be allowed to remain empty rhetoric.”
The full decision is available here: http://decisions.chrt-tcdp.gc.ca/chrt-tcdp/decisions/en/127700/1/document.do