A private member’s bill to establish a national advocate for children, Bill C-420, was debated for one hour this week. The next hour of debate is scheduled for November 5. It is surprising to hear members of parliament say it is not necessary to have a national advocate for children one week after the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child pointed out many gaps in Canada’s policies for children that are under federal jurisdiction. These include policies for aboriginal children, children involved in the immigration and refugee sytem, and youth criminal justice.
In addition, the federal government is responsible to ensure that the rights of all children are implemented in Canada, by working with the provinces, not by using provinces as an excuse to avoid its responsibility. The need for a focal point for children at the national level was clearly established in the Third Review of Canada’s implementation of the Convention.
Most important, children across Canada would benefit from such an office. It should have a strong mandate to ensure that the best interests of children are the top priority in all government decisions that affect children. As the CCRC showed during the Third Review, too many children in Canada fall through the cracks of fragmented support systems, with no one focused on putting their best interests first.
Instead of putting up obstacles, the government could make bill C-420 a government bill and ensure it is adopted. That would show leadership for Canada’s children. Now is a good time to ask your MP to speak up for the establishment of a national advocate for children.