Close Gaps through Systemic Change: Implement Children’s Rights in Canada

Close Gaps through Systemic Change: CCRC Alternative Report for the 5th/6th Review of Children’s Rights in Canada

The rights of children are not protected well in Canada.  The costs of failing to do so are high.  Systemic change is necessary and would bring benefits for children, families, and governments.  That is the core message in the CCRC alternative report, which was submitted for the 5th/6th review of how well Canada fulfills its obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Report, entitled Close Gaps through Systemic Change, focuses on gaps and system failures in the way children are supported in Canada.  Governments, says the CCRC, are failing children through a refusal to take children’s rights seriously.  The Convention, if implemented, provides a coherent framework for children’s policy, but it is not implemented in Canada.

The report focuses on previous recommendations that would benefit Canada but were ignored. It suggests questions that governments need to answer as part of the review process. It makes recommendations for a systems approach to implementing children’s rights that would improve conditions for all children across the country.

The report covers a wide range of factors that affect all rights of all children. It also deals with specific themes and emerging issues, such as Access to Justice and the Right to a Healthy Environment.

This report is one of several civil society reports being submitted for a review process conducted by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  The CCRC also advocates for a more robust review process in Canada to seriously examine what works well and issues that need to be addressed.  The report proposes a systems approach to make Canadian federalism work better for children.


Analysis of General Measures to Implement Children’s Rights in Canada

Canada has a patchwork of policies for children.  The result is that some children fall through the cracks of fragmented support systems.  Children need a more coherent approach to public policies that affect their ability to develop their full potential.  The Convention on the Rights of the Child, which all governments in Canada have ratified, provides a coherent framework, but it is not being implemented to do that in Canada.

Children in Canada deserve better and the tools to do better are available.  Canada has an opportunity in the 5th/6th review of children’s rights in Canada to move from a patchwork approach to a coherent framework that would support all children in all parts of Canada to realize their rights, develop their potential, and contribute to Canadian society.

Canada can no longer say the current system works well for children.  The ruling of the Canadian Human Rights Tribunal in the case of First Nations child welfare showed violations of children’s rights that could have been identified and corrected years ago.  If children’s rights were monitored and reported as they should be under the Convention, the inequitable treatment of First Nations children would have been addressed years ago.  Instead, there are still gaps in basic reporting on children in alternative care, children in detention, children with disabilities, and other vulnerable groups. On the 30th Anniversary of the Convention, Canada needs to make systemic changes in order to claim that Canada is a leader in respect for children’s rights.

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC) is asking all levels of government to use the 5th/6th review to close the gaps for children in Canada by taking seriously previous recommendations to establish what are called General Measures of Implementation. These would help to realize all rights for all children in Canada.  Children are doing better in comparable countries that have taken steps toward a more coherent approach to public policies that affect children.  As its contribution to the review process, the CCRC is making available:

  •  General Measures: All Rights for All Children:  A Fact Sheet for distribution and public discussion of the need for improvement and four practical measures, such as: the use of Child Rights Impact Assessments before adopting new policies;   providing accurate data about children for public accountability;  senior level coordination between different levels of government; and enabling children to know their rights and have access to age-appropriate channels for giving them a voice in decisions that affect them.
  • Closing Gaps: Systemic Change is Essential for Children in Canada:  A Working Paper that analyzes how governments responded to recommendations Canada received to strengthen the systems that support all rights for all children and what the CCRC proposes as reasonable steps for Canada to take in order to improve the situation of children in Canada.


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