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National Dialogue on Children’s Commissioner

For many years the CCRC has proposed establishment of a National Children’s Commissioner as a focal point for implementation of children’s rights in Canada.  The need for and benefit of such an office have been well-documented.  What we need now is a national dialogue to build consensus on the mandate and how the office would work with young people and other government agencies, such as the  provincial children’s advocates.  Organizations and individuals are asked to support and help promote a joint call to action:Joint Call to Action and Elements for Discussion re Canadian Commissioner for Children and Youth;   Appel à la concertation pour un Commissaire canadien à l’enfance et à la jeunesse.

Children’s Rights and International Assistance

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.

Katelynn’s Principle: The child must be at the centre

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.

Link to text of recommendations.

*Cheryl Milne was a witness called at the inquest to give evidence about the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Evolving Capacity, Age, and Assisted Dying

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.

Early Childhood Education Costs: a thought-provoking report

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