National Child Day 2020 comes in the middle of the 5th/6th review of children’s rights in Canada. The review shows the need to get serious about implementing children’s rights in Canada. It is an opportunity to make our governing systems work better for children. It is time to move beyond nice statements about children and aspirational statements about respecting their rights. It is time to act on repeated recommendations to create the conditions in which all children in Canada can realize their human rights.
Governments in Canada recently received a list of issues about the conditions of children in Canada. Some of the issues are long-standing and should have been addressed years ago. Some of them reflect growing gaps in Canada that put children at risk. They echo concerns raised by an unprecedented number of civil society groups who provided evidence to the Committee and the testimony of young people. Alternative reports were submitted by a wide range of voices, from major national bodies, such as the Canadian Bar Association, to individual persons reporting specific violations of children’s rights. For the first time alternative reports provided evidence for specific provinces, including British Columbia, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. The process was coordinated by the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC), which brings together organizations and individuals committed to full implementation of children’s rights in Canada. The list of issues also shows that Canada can no longer defend the status quo and claim Canada is a leader in protecting children’s rights.
The only option for both federal and provincial governments is to table a serious plan for making systemic improvements to end violations of children’s rights and close the gaps that prevent many children from realizing their rights. At this point in the process, the CCRC asks both federal and provincial governments to:
- Stop using excuses, delays, and obfuscations to cover lack of action on previous recommendations that would have been of benefit for children in Canada.
- Stop shifting blame to other levels of government or agencies to avoid taking action.
- Stop hiding behind platitudes and generalities as a substitute for analysis of data and problem-solving.
This point in the process is an opportunity for both federal and provincial governments to:
- Answer the questions on the list of issues honestly and completely.
- Present genuine, substantive plans for improvement to solve real-life issues in Canada.
- Engage in substantive dialogue with civil society and young people to close the gaps for children in Canada, which should be a high priority for all levels of government.
Canada lags behind other countries who take implementation of children’s rights seriously, based on evidence in the recent UNICEF report on child well-being in comparable developed countries. Taking the review process seriously is a first step to change outcomes for children in Canada. Implementing children’s rights will make both federal and provincial governance work better for children and for the rest of society.
On the thirtieth anniversary of ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by both federal and provincial governments, the 5th/6th review is time to take implementation seriously and improve outcomes for children across the country.