Urgent measures needed for Canadian children: UN committee


The United Nations Commission on the Rights of the Child has released a report expressing serious concerns about the well-being of children in Canada, especially indigenous children.

“The commission is deeply concerned about discrimination against children in marginalized and disadvantaged situations,” said the report, made public on Thursday.

The commission 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, migrant children and children of ethnic minorities have unequal access to their rights depending on the province or area.

It is the first time in a decade that the commission has examined Canada’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, when a similarly damning report was issued on the country’s progress.

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

The treaty, which Canada signed in 1991, is a global treaty that contains the full 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 Convention 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.

The UN experts, including lawyers, social workers, child protection officers and a doctor, pointed to several areas where these principles are not being followed in Canada,

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

The report also noted the discovery of unmarked graves discovered at the sites of several former residential schools.

The BC First Nation Tk’emlups of Secwepemc announced in May 2021 that a ground radar had detected what are believed to be the remains of some 200 children on the site of the former Kamloops Indian Residential School. Since then, more potential graves have been found.

Indigenous and black children are still overrepresented in alternative forms of supervision, such as foster care, often outside their communities, the report said. They are also at greater risk of abuse, neglect and violence in alternative care than other children in Canada.

“In addition to these specific groups of children, the commission also called on the federal government for failing to protect the rights of all children in our country,” said Sara Austin, founder of Children First Canada.

UNICEF ranked Canada in the bottom one-third of 38 rich countries in terms of child welfare in 2020, placing the country in 30th place behind Greece, Latvia and the United Kingdom.

“Most think it would be at the top, a country that is a world leader for children,” Austin said. “So there’s a big gap between perception and reality.”

In addition to several recommendations, the commission called on Canada to establish a federal, independent children’s rights commissioner to receive, investigate and deal with complaints from children “in a child-friendly and child-friendly manner.”

Other recommendations include ensuring children’s access to public health care is not dependent on their parents’ immigration status, and repealing Section 43 of the Criminal Code that allows the use of “reasonable force” in punishing children. .

Several federal bills banning corporal punishment for children have failed in parliament, Austin said.

The committee called for a national strategy to prevent violence against children, saying that Canada’s child welfare system still fails to protect indigenous children from violence in particular.

Austin said the report indicates Canada has failed to implement basic rights for all eight million children in the country.

Some of the recommendations were initially made by the commission in its last report about ten years ago, but have not been followed up.

Bill Jeffery, executive director of the Center for Health Science and 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 rationalizing its failure to protect those rights.” to be fully implemented in national and provincial legislation.”

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

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