Climate Change in Canada and Children’s Rights

Climate Strike events across Canada this week are opportunities to advocate for children’s rights.  Children’s right to health explicitly includes the right to grow up in a healthy environment, as articulated in Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.   Both federal and provincial governments have ratified the Convention and have an obligation to give high priority to this right in making decisions about climate change policies. We know that children will be more impacted than adults – and they will pay more of the human and financial costs.   Children also have a right to be heard on matters that affect them, under Article 12 of the Convention.  Listening and taking action to protect the rights of children in this area of public policy is a high priority in Canada because climate change is already having impacts on children.

So far in the federal election, children are being treated as cost-burdens for parents.  Helping parents with the costs of raising children contributes to fulfilling their rights, but children are also citizens in their own right.  Children’s rights and their voice should also be given high priority in other areas of public policy, including protection of the environment.  It is one of 10 areas of public policy for children that the CCRC highlighted for attention in this election.

Children’s right to health was the basis for CCRC interventions in the Saskatchewan and Ontario court cases on climate change.  The rulings in both cases affirmed that climate change is a matter that requires national attention.  The CCRC calls on all governments to take action to address climate change in order to protect the rights of children to grow up in a healthy environment.  Below are the arguments CCRC presented in court.

Children’s Rights and Climate Change

Children in Canada today will be faced with serious impacts of climate change in their lifetimes – and they will pay the costs.  According to scientific updates on climate change in Canada, released on April 2, 2019 by the Government of Canada, changes in Canada are already happening and will continue at double the global pace.  Children and the impacts for them need specific focus in adaptation strategies, as outlined in a report prepared by Plan International, entitled Realizing Children’s Rights in a Changing Climate. 

Climate change is a serious threat to children’s right to grow up in a healthy environment, which is part of children’s right to health under Article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Governments have a duty to protect the rights of children by taking action on climate change.  One responsible action, among many others,  is putting a price on the pollution that threatens this right.

The CCRC evidence for the court challenges was based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Four arguments are supported by international documents that analyze the impacts of climate change for children and relate those to children’s rights in the Convention, which has been ratified by both federal and provincial governments in Canada:

  1. All children are exceptionally vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change because of their age and the increasing harm to their environment over time;
  2. Respect for the rights of children requires considering the impacts of children in making decisions now and including young people in the decision-making process;
  3. Duty for current generations to act as stewards of the planet to ensure the rights of children and future generations to develop their full potential; and
  4. Duty of governments, under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, to give a high priority to the impacts for children and take all reasonable measures to protect their right to a healthy environment, including carbon pricing.

The CCRC intervened in the court challenges to help ensure that the rights of children would be considered, as well as the jurisdictional disputes between federal and provincial governments in Canada.  Children do not get to vote for either federal or provincial representatives, so the best interests of children and their voice is marginalized when the primary consideration is which government and political party has the power to make decisions.  We hope the court’s ruling gives priority to the best interests of children, something all governments in Canada should be doing.

This is part of the CCRC’s general position that implementing the Convention on the Rights of the Child would make Canadian federalism work better for children.  By doing this, the CCRC is also putting children’s rights on the agenda of climate change discussions  in Canada, similar to legal cases being launched by children’s rights groups in other countries, as part of a global effort to draw attention to the impacts for future generations.   If you would like to read the full argument presented by the CCRC and see the documents presented as evidence, send an email to info@rightsofchildren.ca.

 

 

 

 

 

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