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Back to School: The Aims of Education

Every child has a right to an education.  That is widely accepted in Canada.   It leads to debates about access, equity in funding, drop-out rates, and school fees as a barrier to some essential activities.  Article 28 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides principles for sound educational policy in these areas.  All of these are important aspects of monitoring how well children in Canada can realize their rights to education. In the last review, Canada was asked to address each of these issues and we look forward to what the next report, due in 2018, will say about them.

Less known is Article 29, which is equally important.  It articulates the goals of education to achieve the central focus of the Convention: supporting children to develop their full potential. Education, says Article 29, shall be directed to the:

  • development of respect for  the human rights and fundamental freedoms of every person;
  • development of respect for a child’s parents, his or her cultural identity, language, and values;
  • development of respect for the national values of Canada, of countries from which the children may come, and for civilizations different from their own;
  • preparation for responsible life in a free society, in the spirit of understanding, peace, tolerance, equality of sexes, and friendship among all peoples; and
  • development of respect for the natural environment.

The CCRC takes Article 29 seriously.  It continues to focus attention on how well children learn about their rights and how to exercise them with respect for the rights of others as well.  A review of official provincial curriculum guides indicates some attention to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms as part of Canadian history and teaching rights and responsibilities of citizenship.  But there is only sporadic attention to the rights of children, and even less attention to learning what the Convention on the Rights of the Child says.

Workshops with young people continue to bring out a typical response:  “We’ve never really been told about our rights, we need to know what our rights are.”

Watch for a Working Paper on this matter soon.

Learning how to live in a society that respects the rights of all people goes well beyond preparing children to find good jobs, which tends to get a lot of attention in debates about education. Learning respect for  the natural environment has particular relevance today and is related to a child’s right to a healthy environment, described in Article 24.   As one child said, ” There should be a curriculum on being a person.”

The CCRC encourages parents, teachers, school boards, political leaders, and citizens to reflect on what a  child’s right to education means and assess how well we are realizing the educational rights of all children in Canada.  The upcoming review of children’s rights in Canada provides an opportunity to take steps to improve how well we fulfill children’s right to an education.

(Quotes from Final Report, Shaking the Movers III, Child Rights in Education, prepared by Ilana Lockwood, June 2009.  This is one of a series of workshops with young people, designed to allow young people to explore the meaning of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, sponsored by the Landon Pearson Resource Center for the Study of Childhood and Children’s Rights.  Available at http://www.landonpearson.ca/uploads/6/0/1/4/6014680/shaking_the_movers_iii_2009.pdf.)

Omar Khadr: A Lesson in Children’s Rights

The case of Omar Khadr shows the importance of recognizing and protecting the rights of every child.  Early recognition of Khadr’s rights as a child could have prevented harm to him and the need for redress and financial compensation now.  In a public statement the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Child (CCRC) explains the role of children’s rights in this issue from early days through the Supreme Court case to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.  Judicial rulings in this case, along with cases in refugee determination and indigenous child welfare, highlight the need for the federal government to reform the mechanisms it uses to identify and protect the rights of children early in its decision-making processes.

Children with Disabilities: Recommendations for Canada

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.

Upcoming Review of Children’s Rights in Canada

Governments in Canada are starting to prepare for the next review of children’s rights and so is the CCRC.  July 2018 is the deadline for Canada to submit an official report on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada.  A key focus is action on the recommendations Canada received in 2012.  Many of the recommendations reflected proposals made by the CCRC in its alternative report.

Action on the previous recommendations will be the focus of a CCRC campaign in the fall.   The first step is collecting information from young people’s organizations across the country.  The CCRC is looking for information and analysis that relates to all aspects of children’s rights in Canada. This will inform the fall campaign in Canada before the official report and an alternative report for use by the UN Committee when they review Canada’s record.

Read about the CCRC plans and how to become part of this process.  This is the way to hold our governments accountable for progressive realization of children’s rights across Canada.  Previous reports and updates are available on the  Children’s Rights Monitoring Page.

Children and Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy

A specific focus on children and the use of multiple indicators of deprivation are recommendations made by the CCRC for Canada’s Poverty Reduction Strategy.  The CCRC also recommends short-term rolling targets to measure progress, a mix of income support and community programs, and youth participation.  The submission highlights the importance of food security as a missing piece in the current patchwork of new programs, and it  suggests that the coherent framework of the Convention on the Rights of the Child would help to maximize benefits from the individual pieces. CCRC Submission for National Poverty Reduction Strategy.