The review of Canada’s international assistance program provides an opportunity to make the Convention on the Rights of the Child a comprehensive framework for policies that affect children. The benefit would be greater impact for children through coherence and integration between all aspects of program and policy. The CCRC also proposed that a Child Rights Impact Assessment tool be used to identify impacts for children in other program areas, such as economic development and sustainability. In addition to a submission to a parliamentary committee reviewing sectoral priorities, the CCRC will make similar proposals to a more comprehensive department-led review.CCRC submission for Study of Sectoral Priorities in International Assistance final.
On Friday, April 29, the jury in the Inquest into the Death of Katelynn Sampson, delivered a number of significant recommendations which are founded on the rights of children, particularly the right to be heard but also their full rights under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Katelynn was only 7 years old when she was murdered by the two people with whom she had been placed by her mother who was not able to care for her. The evidence called at the inquest documented many instances when other significant people in her life, included educators, child protection workers and police, failed to effectively inquire about the abusive circumstances in which she lived. The jury also heard evidence about how the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child establishes important human rights to protection and participation; if followed, they might have prevented the tragedy. Katelynn’s Principle endorsed by the jury is derived from the Convention:
The child must be at the centre, where they are the subject of or receiving services through the child welfare, justice and education systems.
A child is an individual with rights:
•who must always be seen
•whose voice must be heard
•who must be listened to and respected
A child’s cultural heritage must be taken into consideration and respected, particularly in blended families.
Actions must be taken to ensure the child who is capable of forming his or her own views is able to express those views freely and safely about matters affecting them.
A child’s view must be given due weight in accordance with the age and maturity of the child.
A child should be at the forefront of all service-related decision-making.
According to their age or maturity, each child should be given the opportunity to participate directly or through a support person or representative before any decisions affecting them are made.
According to their age or maturity, each child should be engaged through an honest and respectful dialogue about how/why decisions were or will be made.
Everyone who provides services to children or services that affect children are child advocates. Advocacy may potentially be a child’s lifeline. It must occur from the point of first contact and on a continual/continuous basis thereafter.
The jury also made significant recommendations to effectively implement the Convention into law, asking that the Convention be incorporated into the purpose and interpretation sections of Ontario’s Child and Family Services Act, Education Act and the Children’s Law Reform Act. Specific sections are recommended for amendment to incorporate the child’s right under Article 12 to have their views considered in all matters affecting them. The jury also recommended that the K-12 school curriculum include education about the Convention, along with information about how to report child abuse.
If taken seriously, these recommendations are ground-breaking for children’s rights in Ontario and could be a model for law reform across the country. Here’s hoping that the terrible death that Katelynn suffered could lead to greater respect for children’s voices throughout the province and the country.
*Cheryl Milne was a witness called at the inquest to give evidence about the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Assisted Dying: Alternatives to Arbitrary Minimum Age
The government has announced that they will hold further consultations on the question of the age of eligibility in the new legal framework for assistance in dying. For now, the proposed bill includes age 18 as a minimum age requirement.
The use of arbitrary age limits in many areas of public policy raises questions under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which respects the evolving capacity of young people to participate in making decisions about their care. As pointed out in the CCRC submission to the parliamentary committee that studied assisted dying, this principle has been recognized in Canadian court rulings on health care, including recognition of the right of competent young people to decide to end treatment that may result in their death. CCRC Submission on Physician-assisted Drying.
Hopefully the consultation will be based on the Convention, which Canada has ratified, and focus on what criteria and process would be reasonable in the case of assisted dying, in place of the use of an arbitrary age limit. The CCRC will continue to be engaged on this matter, as part of its mandate to work for full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada. A CCRC-sponsored symposium on the Best Interests of the Child in 2009 suggested a review of all age-based legislation to provide clear rationales based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
A new research report compares what parents contribute to the costs of early childhood education with what they contribute to post-secondary education costs. These are two non-mandatory components of preparing children for full participation in society, but both are increasingly essential for young people. The research shows that “parents with children in PSE (post-secondary education) are – in most provinces, at most levels of income – asked to contribute significantly less than parents with children in ECE (early childhood education). On average, for families earning $60,000, the gap between required ECE and PSE contributions is between $4,900 and $6,250, depending on the age of the child; for families earning $100,000, the gap is between $3,800 and $7,600.
In general, parents of young children are likely to have less income in early stages of their careers and more costs associated with starting a family. This report adds another angle to the on-going debate about how we best fulfill every child’s right to be educated.
The research,done by Higher Education Strategy Associates, is available at http://www.childcarecanada.org/documents/research-policy-practice/16/03/what-we-ask-parents-unequal-expectations-parental-contribut
A Step Forward for Canada’s Children:
Budget 2016 is a big step forward for the children of Canada. The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC) agrees that investing in our children is both the right thing to do and a good economic investment. This was emphasized in the last CCRC comprehensive report on children in Canada, entitled “Right in Principle, Right in Practice.”
The positive impact for children will be ensured and enhanced through the development of a coherent and comprehensive approach to all areas of public policy for children. This would include measures that build on elements in this budget and fill gaps, including the following:
Canada Child Benefit: The new benefit improves the balance between a universal approach to support all parents and a progressive element to help ensure that children in less-wealthy households have access to basic resources to develop their full potential. One additional step is ensuring that provinces do not claw back the benefit from families on social assistance or other provincial social programs. Indexing it to the cost-of-living is another step to ensure that lower-income families do not fall behind again. Now that a decades-long debate about basic income support for children is heading in the right direction, it is important to focus on community supports because money in the pockets of parents is only one important piece of a budget for children.
Cancelling the child fitness and art tax credits: The CCRC advocated for re-allocating this money because it primarily benefitted children in more wealthy families. Next steps are:
Child Impact in Outcome Measures: A little-noticed item in the budget has the potential for real change for children in Canada. The budget’s commitment to outcome measures for all programs is a positive step. It can include the use of Children’s Rights Impact Assessments and making adjustments to policies and programs as needed. An integrated approach for children is as important as an integrated approach for gender. Putting this on the agenda of a cabinet committee that reviews all programs would be consistent with the direction of the current government and a major gain for all children in Canada, who fall through the cracks without a focal point for children in the federal government. This will require better data about children in Canada, an essential element that has been missing.
Youth Council and Youth Employment Strategy: The focus on youth aged 16 to 24 is positive, including an advisory council of young people, combined with expertise in this field. Complementing it with an Advisory Council for Children under the age of 16 would help to ensure children’s views and needs are heard for all policies. A national focal point for children, such as a National Children’s Commissioner, would be a mechanism to support and sustain the new focus on young people as an integral part of our society.
Children and Ending Violence: Increased funding for women’s shelters and a national strategy to end violence against women are positive steps. They would be strengthened by adding a specific focus on Ending All Forms of Violence Against Children, as part of new global commitments to end violence against children in the Sustainable Development Goals and a Child-focus in the promised review of Canada’s international development program
Child Care and Early Learning: The commitment to a national strategy opens the door to putting children at the center and developing options that address the needs of all children from age 0 to age 6, as well as meeting the needs of parents for affordable care while parents are working. More flexible and generous leave policies for parents should be the next part of an integrated strategy.
Indigenous Children: Closing the gap for indigenous children is a positive direction. The broad social development approach in the budget is positive; putting the needs of children first may require advancing more funds for child welfare and ensuring that education, social housing, and other infrastructure funds are developed in ways that support equal opportunities for indigenous children to develop their full potential.
Other Vulnerable Groups of Children: The budget’s focus on indigenous children reflects urgent needs and evidence that their right to equitable treatment is not being met. In addition to indigenous children, special focus within a comprehensive approach is also needed for:
Office for Prevention of Radicalization: Preventing the recruitment of young people into armed forces of all kinds is important. It will be enhanced by incorporating respect for the rights of children in all strategies employed by police and security forces.
Children and a National Housing Strategy: Early investments in more affordable housing will help children in lower-income households. Including a child-lens in the promised development of a national housing strategy would have long-term impacts for both child development and a healthy economy.
Next Steps for the CCRC:
The CCRC will share further analysis of specific parts of Budget 2016 as we dig into the details and learn more about specific plans by the relevant departments. Watch for further blogs that relate budget impacts to the recommendations Canada received to improve implementation of children’s rights. In addition, the CCRC will continue to work toward full implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a coherent framework to meet the final words of the budget speech:
“We act for our children and our children’s children.”