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
The Globe and Mail reported today that the Liberals plan to honour all recommendations of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission including the recommendation to repeal s.43 of the Criminal Code. This section provides a defence to parents and teachers who use force against children for the purpose of correction. It is referred to as the corporal punishment (or spanking) defence. The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has recommended numerous times to Canada that it should get rid of this defence and ensure that children are protected in all places including their homes and schools from physical violence (Art. 19). As one of the lawyers who argued the constitutional challenge to this provision all the way to the Supreme Court, only to have the Court find that the provision neither discriminated against children nor breached their rights under section 7 of the Charter, I am heartened by this firm commitment from the government. The case is now over 12 years old and while the evidence was compelling back then that physical punishment of children caused them harm, the evidence is even more convincing now. As of this past week 48 states worldwide, with the recent addition of Peru, have prohibited the use of corporal punishment of children. You can read more about those changes at the Global Initiative to End Corporal Punishment of Children website. Regardless of whether the social science backs the repeal, it is clear that we need to respect children and acknowledge the harms that such practices can cause. It is one of the sorry legacies of the residential schools system and a practice that can no longer be supported in law for any child. I am delighted by this news for children!
Cheryl Milne, Chair of the Board
Post submitted by CCRC Board Member, Lisa Wolff of UNICEF Canada:
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights released an important report for Canada’s children Wednesday, Cyberbullying Hurts: Respect for Rights in the Digital Age. The Committee’s key message is that focus is needed on prevention, mainly through digital citizenship information and education, with less default to punitive legal sanctions – which is a rising trend across the country. Witnesses emphasized that the courts are not the best place to resolve this problem, for victims or bullies, in most circumstances, and that restorative justice approaches can help mend relationships and communities. Now we are a step closer to a common understanding and a coordinated approach among policymakers, NGOs and other key stakeholders. The discussion and six recommendations addressed the need for the federal government to work with provincial and territorial governments to establish a coordinated strategy to address cyberbullying, supporting awareness and initiatives that are proving their effectiveness. The Committee underlined the need for a national Children’s Commissioner to support coordination and effective approaches and that Child Rights Impact Assessment is a tool that should be applied to all proposed legislation and policy that may have a significant impact upon children. A variety of responses were described that can help youth, parents, educators and others to respond to cyberbullying. Among the witnesses were young people, marking the first time a Senate committee has invited their testimony, according to the Committee – a real milestone. Along with their report, the Committee created a short guide for youth and one for parents to convey their findings – another first in the Senate.
See UNICEF Canada’s press release here.