Chronicle Herald: Canadian Children’s Charter almost finalized

Chronicle Herald: Canadian Children's Charter almost finalized

CYNTHIA MCMURRAY

Published June 25, 2018 - 12:02pm
Last Updated June 25, 2018 - 12:02pm

If asked, most people would say Canada is a wonderful place for children to grow up. We are a thriving, free and democratic country with a bounty of opportunities, after all. But the reality is we are failing in many regards when it comes to our children, according to Lisa Lachance, executive director Wisdom2Action and a key organizer of the initiative to bring awareness to children's fundamental rights.

While Canada is the fifth most prosperous country in the world, the well-being of our country's children ranks only 25th among 41 of the most affluent nations. When you consider the findings in a 2016 report (The Kids are Not Alright), which shows nearly 20 per cent of Canadian children live in poverty, 33 per cent of those in need of food assistance are children, 20 per cent of teens have seriously considered suicide in the past year and 33 per cent of our children have experienced some form of child abuse, it certainly paints a very different picture of growing up in Canada.

A big part of the issue, according to Lachance, is that most children (and adults) don't know they have specific rights. "It is really surprising that if you go from coast to coast and talk about the convention and the rights of the child, so many young people say, "I never knew I had rights." And because of that, Lachance says children also feel helpless to make changes at home or in their communities.

On National Child Day last November, Lachance joined 37 children and youth delegates from across Canada at a two-day conference in Ottawa to create a draft of the first-ever Canadian Children's Charter, a document that clearly outlines the rights of every Canadian child.

"We partnered with Children First Canada to host the national summit ... and since then we have ... been furthering the cause with respect to gathering input for the charter" says Lachance, who has been involved with the initiative since its inception.

On Wednesday, June 6, 15 young delegates who had participated in November's national summit met again in Ottawa with a number of the other delegates who joined online, as well allies from charitable organizations and government, to review the feedback and reactions to the first draft of the charter.

"... A number of classes and schools have participated in reviewing the charter [since November]. So, the forum was a chance to look back at what has transpired and how people have reacted to the charter," says Lachance.

Callum Lovelace, a 14 year old from Hammonds Plains, was one of two Nova Scotian children chosen to help draft the charter. Since then, he has spoken to his school (King's-Edgehill School) and peers about children's rights and the role of the charter.

"That is the effect that we really want to see” young people knowing their rights and talking to their peers" says Lachance.

The next step for the charter is action planning, according to Lachance. "We will work together to determine what issues we want to address in terms of lobbying and community engagement work and how that will happen," she says.

The final charter, which is expected to be completed in the next few weeks, according to Lovelace, will focus on mobilizing urgent action to address the issues children have deemed important, including: better access to mental health services and treatment and high-quality health care for all; encouraging schools, communities and governments to achieve reconciliation with First Nations, Inuit and Metis Peoples; combating discrimination and exclusion; combating all forms of violence and abuse of children; allowing children to have a voice in key decisions that affect their lives in schools, families, governments and communities and ending bullying, a key issue Lovelace says many kids face every day.

The Canadian Children's Charter will also be sent to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which regularly monitors Canada's track record in upholding its legal duties under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. For more information, visit childrenfirstcanada.com.

Published June 25, 2018 - 12:02pm
Last Updated June 25, 2018 - 12:02pm