Written by Kate Butler, November 2023

I’m writing this as the outgoing chair of the CCRC. It has been a honour to be part of this organization for the last 6 years, including the last 3 as Co-Chair and Chair. Working with our wonderful partners, members, and supporters from across the country has made me realize that the collective push for children’s rights is only possible with so many strong advocates who wake up each morning, determined to make children’s rights a reality in this country.

The 5th/6th UN Review has occupied a lot of the CCRC’s time over the last few years, and it’s been an interesting journey to see where the momentum is now, and where it is going. Here are a few areas that I’m hopeful about:

  • Child Rights Impact Assessments: Justice Canada’s embrace of the CRIA is a wonderful example of a government department taking the UN Concluding Recommendations (from numerous reviews) and making a positive change. I’m hopeful that the course launched by Justice Canada, as well as the commitment to use CRIAs in their work, will be a long-lasting and meaningful moment of change. Let’s hope that other departments and civil servants also take up the CRIA as best practice.
  • Corporal Punishment: With 2 excellent bills before Parliament, I believe this is the moment we will see repeal of section 43 of the Criminal Code. Both Senator Kutcher’s bill in the Senate, and MP Julien’s bill in the House would do a lot to protect children from harm. Furthermore, TRC Call to Action 6 also calls for the repeal of section 43, noting how much harm Indigenous children have suffered from physical abuse by those in positions of authority in Canada’s history.
  • Mental health: we seem to be increasingly aware of the huge increase in mental illness amongst children and young people. I am hopeful that provinces and the federal government will keep up their commitments in a post-pandemic world to support children and young people as they navigate times of transition and change.

All is not rosy, however, for those working on children’s rights in Canada. Here’s what keeps me up at night these days:

  • The vitriol and anger facing transgender young people and their advocates: provincial governments in New Brunswick, Saskatchewan and now Alberta have announced that they will force educators to disclose children’s pronoun preferences in a transparent copy of the right-wing ‘parents’ rights’ movement out of the USA. Young people who are using different pronouns have the right to be protected by educators in schools. This is a clear and extremely upsetting infringement on the rights of children.
  • Climate change: we talk about the rights of children to have access to a healthy environment. Increasingly, it appears that there is no commitment to this in reality: children and young people will bear the brunt of this generation’s environmentally destructive policies.
  • Child poverty: more needs to be done to ensure that fewer Canadian children grow up in poverty. Poverty affects children’s rights to education, health, privacy, and more. As a wealthy country, it is discouraging that we can’t make more progress on this file, especially for groups that have historically experienced discrimination including Indigenous children on and off reserve, Black and racialized children, and children with disabilities.

I will continue to advocate for the rights of children and youth in Canada. Please keep in touch and don’t hesitate to reach out to our wonderful new co-chairs, Hala & Terence (info@rightsofchildren.ca).

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