The CCRC drew attention to the issue of tasers and children through letters to members of the House of Commons Public Safety Committee. In an earlier presentation the RCMP stated that they use tasers on teenagers as young as 13 years old and they do not have specific policies or training for the use of tasers with adolescents. They also acknowledged publicly that use of this device poses high risks for the life and health of some targets, especially persons who are agitated.
The CCRC asked MPs to clarify RCMP policy and practice with regard to the situations in which the deployment of tasers is permissible with young people and eligible subjects in terms of level of risk for injury or death. Young people are still undergoing physical and psychological development, and therefore warrant consideration apart from adults.
As a government agency, the RCMP needs to ensure that it complies with the Convention on the Rights of the Child, particularly article 37 which prohibits cruel and inhuman treatment and article 19, which protects children from all forms of violence and injury.
These rights extend to situations involving use of force by police during arrest and detention.
The gap between Canada’s signature on human rights agreements and implementation in Canada was a common theme of over 50 Canadian groups who sent submissions for review of Canada’s record by the UN Human Rights Council. This is a main issue for children’s rights, and the CCRC is a partner in the efforts to fix the system for all rights.
As a result of the review, Canada received over 80 recommendations from other states. Most call on Canada to close the gap by putting in place better mechanisms in Canada – mechanisms that will allow Canadian citizens to exercise their rights under international agreements Canada has signed. In June Canada needs to say which recommendations it intends to implement; four years from not there will be another review.
The most important benefit of this process may be to alert both federal and provincial governments about their obligations. It also pressed home the point that Canada lags behind other states in many areas of human rights. Canada has four years to make major reforms in structures and policies.
This is an opportunity for children’s rights as well. The CCRC has been advocating for basic mechanisms to implement the Convention in Canada. In 2007 the Senate Human Rights Committee joined the call. Will we see any action now?
Governments need to hear that Canadians care about this. You can register your views by responding to a survey on the Canadian Heritage website.
The CCRC presented a different option for the case of Omar Khadr – one that upholds new international norms to end the use of child soldiers and the principles in the Convention on the Rights of the Child. For more information, read a joint letter to Prime Minister Harper and a statement made to the House of Commons Sub-committee on Human Rights.
This year Canada is undergoing a general review for all international human rights. As part of the process the CCRC prepared an overview of major concerns in the area of children’s rights. Our submission to the UN Human Rights Council provides an overview of key issues for Canada.
CCRC Chair Kathy Vandergrift was awarded the 2008 Aldo Farina Award for Child Rights Advocacy. The award is a global, biannual recognition of outstanding contribution in child rights advocacy or education for development, sponsored by UNICEF national committees. Kathy was recognized for her work on children’s rights in Canada and globally for children threatened by armed conflict. Accepting the award, Kathy stated that she is motivated by a conviction that “how well a country or community respects the rights of children is a barometer of the health and future of the whole society.”