UN Committee-Reuters: Urgent action needed for Canadian children


The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child released a report expressing serious concerns about the well-being of children in Canada, especially those of Aboriginal people.

“The Committee is deeply concerned about discrimination against marginalized and disadvantaged children,” the report released on Thursday said.

The committee cited structural discrimination against Indigenous and black children, “particularly with regard to their access to education, health care and an adequate standard of living.”

The Committee also noted that children with disabilities, immigrant children, and children of ethnic minorities have varying opportunities to obtain their rights depending on the province or territory.

This is the first time the committee has reviewed Canada’s accession to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in a decade, when an equally scathing report was released on the country’s progress.

The federal government did not immediately respond to a request for comment Thursday.

The Convention, signed by Canada in 1991, is a global treaty that outlines the comprehensive list of rights for all children up to the age of 18. Almost every country in the world has pledged to protect and promote these rights.

The treaty is based on four main principles: the right to non-discrimination, the best interests of the child, the right to life and development, and the right to participation.

UN experts, including lawyers, social workers, child care officials and a physician, have pointed out several areas where these principles are not respected in Canada,

In one example, experts said the government should provide specialized health care to children from the Anishinaabe community in Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario who have acute and chronic physical and mental health problems due to mercury contamination of water.

The report also noted the discovery of unmarked graves that were found at the sites of several former boarding schools.

British Columbia’s Tk’emlups te Secwepemc First Nation announced in May 2021 that ground-penetrating radar had discovered what are believed to be the remains of about 200 children on the grounds of a former residential entire school. Since then, other potential burial sites have been identified.

The report said that Aboriginal and black children are still over-represented in alternative forms of supervision such as foster care, often outside of their communities. They are also more likely to be abused, neglected and violent in foster care than other children in Canada.

“In addition to these specific groups of children, the committee has also called on the federal government for its failure to protect the rights of all children in our country,” said Children First Canada founder Sarah Austin.

UNICEF ranked Canada third among the 38 richest countries in terms of child well-being in 2020, ranking 30th behind Greece, Latvia and the United Kingdom.

“Most of them think he’s going to be at the top, a world leader for children,” Austin said. So there is a huge gap between perception and reality. »

Among several recommendations, the commission called on Canada to create an independent federal commissioner for children’s rights that would be able to receive, investigate and deal with children’s complaints “in a child-sensitive and child-sensitive manner”.

Other recommendations include ensuring that children’s access to public health care does not depend on their parents’ immigration status and repealing Article 43 of the Criminal Code that allows “reasonable force” to be used to discipline children.

Austin said several federal bills to ban corporal punishment of children have failed in Parliament.

The committee called for a national strategy to prevent violence against children and said Canada’s child care system continues to fail to protect Aboriginal children in particular from violence.

Austin said the report represented Canada’s failure to implement the basic rights of the country’s eight million children.

The commission originally made many of the recommendations in its last report a decade ago, but no action was taken on them.

Bill Jeffrey, executive director of the Center for Health Sciences and the Law, said in a statement Thursday that Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 and “has spent the past three decades justifying its failure to fully implement these rights at the national level.” and provincial law.

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 9, 2022.

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