The Convention on the Rights of the Child - Four practical steps to making Canada accountable
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the global community 20 years ago, in 1989. It came into force in Canada in 1991.
This Convention has been ratified by almost every country in the world – an unprecedented acceptance of the duty of governments to their most vulnerable citizens. Even in impoverished countries dealing with conflict and disaster, incredible progress has been achieved. Deaths among children under five have fallen dramatically, as has the number of children out of school.
Canada has made progress on many fronts. Breastfeeding rates are increasing; better school nutrition policies and practices are proliferating; the government has made a new commitment to improve the mental health of children and adults and most provinces have independent advocates for children.
However, compared to other affluent countries, Canada lags behind. We have a high percentage of children in the welfare and justice systems; high rates of childhood obesity and mental illness; fewer quality, assured, child care spaces; incomplete protection of children under the law and disparities between the status of Aboriginal and other Canadian children.
By taking four practical steps, Canada could begin to remedy this situation:
1. Pass enabling legislation that requires all legislation in Canada to comply with the standards in the Convention.
2. Establish a national Children’s Commissioner to place children higher on the political agenda, monitor their progress, investigate complaints and make annual reports to Canadians on the status of children.
3. Report regularly on the state of Canada’s children to tell all Canadians how well children are doing; assess the impact that policies, programmes and budgets are having on them; and give early warning of emerging challenges.
4. Establish a children’s budget to identify investments in children at the federal, provincial, and territorial levels, making children visible in public accounts.
Canada is doing many things very well for many children. It is time, however, to do more. It is time to put these building blocks in place at all levels of government, to promote the rights and well-being of Canada’s children and to ensure sustainable attention to children’s rights.
Please take the opportunity today to join other Canadians in support for Bill C-418 for a national Children’s Commissioner.