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:
- a child-friendly approach to infrastructure spending to enhance community facilities and programs for all children and build a long-term healthy environment for children; and
- a focus on children in the new health accord, including preventive policies to ensure good nutrition and address the high rate of infant mortality and overweight children in Canada. Steps being taken to enhance Nutrition North would be strengthened by a strong focus on nutrition for children.
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:
- Children in the immigration and refugee systems, including those in detention,
- Children in state care across the country,
- Children in the criminal justice system.
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.”