Canada announced this week that a new ombudsperson will be appointed to investigate violations of human rights by Canadian businesses operating globally. This is a positive response to part of one recommendation that Canada received after the last review of children’s rights in Canada. The new office will focus first on the extractive sector, but the announcement left room for expanding to other sectors. The office will be independent and have more power to take action than the current contact office. Details will become available later.
At the same time the House of Commons Sub-committee on Human Rights is working on a report about child labour and modern slavery. Its study focused on what Canada could do to reduce violations of children’s rights in the supply chains for clothing and food sold in Canada. In a written submission, the CCRC informed the committee about Canada’s obligations under the Convention and the related recommendation received by Canada after the last review. If the committee recommends action on this recommendation and grounds action in the Convention, the outcome would be progress for children caught in poor and unsafe working conditions. It would also be one more step toward taking the Convention seriously in Canada. The committee is expected to release its report during the coming session of parliament.
The rights of children with disabilities received attention during the first review of how Canada implements the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The Concluding Observations includes recommendations relating to: inclusive education and teacher training; services for parents so disability is not a reason to put a child in care; access to services for indigenous children with disabilities; attention to disabilities in the proposed poverty reduction strategy, and others. Several recommendations are similar to those for the Convention on the Rights of Children, including: data collection; federal-provincial cooperation; and monitoring progress. For this Convention, it is recommended that the Canadian Human Rights Commission take on the role of monitoring progress. Another area of common interest are negotiations to ratify a complaints process. The CCRC advocates for a complaints process for children’s rights as well.
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 CCRC welcomes the next step in the development of a National Poverty Reduction Strategy. Ending child poverty should be a strong focus in the process and the final strategy. A discussion paper and on-line consultations invite input from across Canada. The deadline for consultation is June. Release of the strategy is expected in Fall, 2017.
The CCRC is working on a submission that will focus on children’s rights in relation to the proposed strategy. We also welcome your suggestions at firstname.lastname@example.org
The federal government has announced that it will begin discussions with provinces and territories to adopt the optional protocol that establishes a complaint mechanism under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. When Canada ratified that Convention it excluded the provision for a complaints process.
This is good news for several reasons:
1. The rights of children with disabilities are addressed in this Convention as well. The upcoming discussions will be an opportunity to discuss implementation and mechanisms to raise issues and seek redress in Canada, as well as through the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. This process could address the issues raised by the CCRC in the chapter on Children with Disabilities in the last comprehensive review of children’s rights in Canada.
2. The process and outcomes of these discussions may be useful for other aspects of implementing children’s rights in Canada.
3. The CCRC has been advocating for Canada to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Child that would provide a complaints process for children. It is on a list of international human rights advances under consideration. The government has now announced that they are moving ahead with two of the high priorities, the Convention Against Torture and the Complaints Process for the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. We hope they will consider the Optional Protocol for the Convention on the Rights of the Child soon after these.
Assisted Dying: Alternatives to Arbitrary Minimum Age
The government has announced that they will hold further consultations on the question of the age of eligibility in the new legal framework for assistance in dying. For now, the proposed bill includes age 18 as a minimum age requirement.
The use of arbitrary age limits in many areas of public policy raises questions under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which respects the evolving capacity of young people to participate in making decisions about their care. As pointed out in the CCRC submission to the parliamentary committee that studied assisted dying, this principle has been recognized in Canadian court rulings on health care, including recognition of the right of competent young people to decide to end treatment that may result in their death. CCRC Submission on Physician-assisted Drying.
Hopefully the consultation will be based on the Convention, which Canada has ratified, and focus on what criteria and process would be reasonable in the case of assisted dying, in place of the use of an arbitrary age limit. The CCRC will continue to be engaged on this matter, as part of its mandate to work for full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada. A CCRC-sponsored symposium on the Best Interests of the Child in 2009 suggested a review of all age-based legislation to provide clear rationales based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Child Rights and Physician Assistance in Death
The CCRC made a submission to the parliamentary committee that studied physician assisted death before introduction of a new law. Its recommendation that criteria be based on principles in the CRC rather than an arbitrary age criterion is reflected in the committee report. The committee recommended a two-stage legal process with the first stage applying to adults and then adding provisions for persons under age 18 after extensive consultation to determine criteria based on competency as a “mature minor.” Consultation with young people, as well as relevant experts, is recommended, in keeping with the CCRC’s focus on Article 12 of the Convention. The CCRC will continue to monitor the introduction and consideration of a new law, which needs to be completed by June. For copy of submission: CCRC Submission on Physician Assisted Death.