UNICEF Canada position statement regarding Bill C-420 vote results
UNICEF Canada is disappointed that Bill C-420, The Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act, did not pass second reading on December 5, 2012. The Bill called for the creation of an independent Commissioner to advocate for children and youth when government decisions affect their lives.
Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on December 13, 1991 and in doing so, it accepted the responsibility to ensure that every child grows up healthy, educated and protected. Our country also accepted the companion obligation to establish an independent national Commissioner for Children and Young Persons. Almost 21 years have passed since ratification – representing an entire generation of children – and yet the responsibility to establish a Commissioner has not been met.
In Canada, some children whose lives are affected by laws, policies and other decisions under federal jurisdiction are falling further behind such as our Aboriginal and immigrant children, as well as those living in poverty and involved in the youth criminal justice system.
The failure of Bill C-420 to pass second reading represents a missed opportunity to establish a Commissioner for Children and Young Persons – a position that could champion the basic human rights, views and well-being of all children and young people in Canada. More than 200 independent human rights institutions for children have been established to independently monitor, promote and protect children’s rights in over 70 countries globally.
Most provincial and territorial governments have already established independent Child and Youth Advocates who put children higher on the political agenda. However, with no national independent human rights institution for children and no minister or parliamentary body charged with a focus on promoting children’s well-being and rights at the national level, the impacts of federal laws, policies and services on children are sometimes overlooked.
If Bill C-420 had passed second reading and been referred to Committee, a thorough examination of the Bill could have provided parliamentarians from various parties with the opportunity to hear from international experts, provincial and territorial Child and Youth Advocates, child-serving organizations, and most importantly, directly from children and young people themselves. Ideally, the amended Bill could have then proceeded through both Houses with the very best collective input. The Government of Canada still has the opportunity to fulfill its international obligations by introducing its own Bill to establish a national Children’s Commissioner, as was recently done in Australia.
UNICEF Canada is committed to working with parliamentarians, children and young people, and all concerned Canadians to achieve legislation that will provide the necessary framework for the creation of a national Advocate for Children and Young People.