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SENATORS’ STATEMENTS — UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Honourable senators, on May 17 and 18, Canada’s performance on children’s rights was reviewed by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child, which monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This convention is an invaluable human rights treaty that secures a list of rights for all children and youth and has become the most widely ratified human rights treaty in history, with good reason. It has made a transformative impact on children’s well-being in Canada and throughout the world.

By ratifying this convention in 1991, Canada committed to protect and promote the rights of children and youth and agreed to be reviewed by a panel of independent experts on our performance every five years. This was our joint fifth and sixth. How did we do?

The committee was pleased to note some progress since 2012, including progress with national strategies on housing and poverty and progress within provinces on health care and suicide prevention. However, there were mixed reviews on Canada’s performance respecting the rights of Indigenous children.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the implementation of Jordan’s Principle are some examples of progress, but concerns about the impact of poverty on Indigenous children and the failures of the child welfare system were among the many ongoing concerns raised.

Disappointingly, Canada remains stagnant in our overall performance. Once a leader in children’s rights, we are steadily falling to the rear. Why are we doing so poorly? Colleagues, the committee noted Canada’s failure to implement the convention because of poor collaboration with the provinces. It is worth noting that Ontario did not send a delegation to participate in this review.

Another issue is that key landmark policies do not sufficiently consider the needs of children and youth. As an example, the UN suggested that the National Housing Strategy lacks proportionate resources for low-income families and lacks targets, timelines and mechanisms to ensure that they meaningfully benefit from this strategy.

Finally, Canada has failed to ratify the third optional protocol, which is a communications procedure that would give children in Canada and their allies the means to raise concerns on the rights’ violations directly to the UN. When asked why it had not been ratified, the Canadian delegate had no meaningful response.

Honourable senators, we should have been able to celebrate successes, but instead we are left focusing on areas for improvement. It is time that political leaders at all levels make the choice to work together for the good of children. Canada must retake its place on the world stage as a leader in children’s rights. Thank you to the organizations, the hundreds of volunteers and staff who prepared alternative reports for their passion and for their dedication. Thank you, meegwetch.