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UN Committee encourages Canada to raise the bar for children’s rights

2012-10-09

TORONTO, October 9, 2012 – Canada received a formal evaluation of its child rights record on Monday following a review by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in Geneva, Switzerland. The evaluation outlines the Government’s progress and challenges in advancing the rights of Canada’s children and youth under age 18 as outlined in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The UN Committee’s recommendations took into account the government’s assessment of its initiatives for children and the knowledge and advice of dozens of Canadian organizations, from professionals in health, child protection, early childhood and family programs, and economics to children themselves.

While recognizing progress since Canada’s last review in 2003, including strengthening laws to protect children from sexual exploitation and providing new programs and services, the UN Committee highlighted the importance of improving governance processes for children such as better coordination of federal and provincial/territorial laws and services, and monitoring how governments’ efforts are actually making a difference in their health, education, protection and other outcomes. Recommendations addressed concerns across a range of conditions affecting how children grow up in Canada, including that Canada’s child poverty rate has not improved in a generation, Canada’s children are not fully or equitably protected when they work, and new challenges such as mental illness and unhealthy weight have emerged without adequate responses.

“All Canadian children have the right to be healthy, safe and protected,” said David Morley, UNICEF Canada’s President and CEO.  “Canada is an affluent nation that provides for the majority of its seven million children, but some children are left out and falling behind. We know what to do to reach these children – and now is the time to act.”

Feasible and simple steps include screening new laws, policies and significant budget decisions for their potential impact on children; and establishing an independent national Children’s Ombudsman.

“We believe that Canada should have a national Children’s Commissioner or Ombudsman,” said Mr. Morley. “We need a federal office that recognizes children as a priority.”

The review also found that Canada lacks a clear accounting of how much is invested in children by different government departments and levels, and if a reasonable and fair share of resources is allocated to support their safe and healthy development. Government data and other organizations’ reports reviewed by the Committee demonstrated that children are not always protected from budget cutting as a priority consideration, that the child poverty rate of 14 per cent that is even higher than the average national poverty rate of 12 per cent, and that investment in the protection and education of First Nations children is inequitable.

The UN Committee recommends that Canada “establish a budgeting process which adequately takes into account children’s needs at the national, provincial and territorial levels, with clear allocations to children in the relevant sectors and agencies, specific indicators and a tracking system” and that Canada “establish mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the efficacy, adequacy and equitability of the distribution of resources…”

Making progress for children is right in principle and right in practice. The UN review highlights the fact that as one of the most affluent nations in the world, Canada can take feasible and affordable steps to continue its progress to create the best possible conditions for our children.

For more information on the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child’s review, visit www.unicef.ca/turnupthevolume. Canadians can also join the Twitter conversation with the #CdnUNCRC hashtag.

Canada’s reports on children’s rights

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About UNICEF
UNICEF has saved more children’s lives than any other humanitarian organization. We work tirelessly to help children and their families, doing whatever it takes to ensure children survive. We provide children with healthcare and immunization, clean water, and food security, education, emergency relief and more.

UNICEF is supported entirely by voluntary donations and helps children regardless of race, religion or politics. As part of the UN, we are active in over 190 countries – more than any other organization. Our determination and our reach are unparalleled. Because nowhere is too far to go to help a child survive.

For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook or visit unicef.ca.

For further information:

Stefanie Carmichael, Communications Specialist, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8866; Cell: (647) 500-4230, scarmichael@unicef.ca.
Tiffany Baggetta, Director, Communications and Brand, (416) 482-6552 ext. 8892; Cell: (647) 308-4806, tbaggetta@unicef.ca.