Urgent action needed for Canadian children: UN committee
The United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child has released a report expressing serious concerns about the well-being of children in Canada, especially those who are Indigenous.
« The committee is deeply concerned about discrimination against children in marginalized and disadvantaged circumstances, » said the report, released Thursday.
The committee cited structural discrimination against indigenous and black children, « particularly in relation to their access to education, health care and an adequate standard of living ».
The committee also noted that children with disabilities, migrant children and ethnic minority children had disparate access to their rights depending on the province or territory.
It 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, which Canada signed in 1991, is a global treaty that sets out a 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 welfare administrators and a doctor, have pointed to several areas where these principles are not respected in Canada,
In one example, experts said the government must provide specialized health care to children from the Anishinaabe community of Grassy Narrows First Nation in Ontario who suffer from severe and chronic physical and mental health issues due to mercury contamination in water.
The report also noted the discovery of unmarked graves 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 detected what are believed to be the remains of some 200 children on the grounds of the former residential school. of Kamloops. Since then, other potential burial sites have been located.
Indigenous and Black children are still overrepresented in alternative forms of supervision like foster care, often outside of their communities, the report said. They are also at higher risk of abuse, neglect and violence in alternative care than other children in Canada.
« In addition to these specific groups of children, the committee also called out the federal government for failing to protect the rights of all children in our country, » said Children First Canada founder Sara Austin.
UNICEF ranked Canada in the bottom third of 38 wealthy countries in terms of child wellbeing in 2020, placing the country 30th behind Greece, Latvia and the United Kingdom.
« Most think it would be at the top, a world-leading country for kids, » Austin said. “So there is a big gap between perception and reality.”
Among several recommendations, the committee called on Canada to establish an independent federal commissioner for the rights of the child who is able to receive, investigate and address complaints from children « in a child-friendly and responsive manner to children ».
Other recommendations include ensuring that children’s access to public health care is not dependent on their parents’ immigration status and repealing section 43 of the Criminal Code which allows the use of a « reasonable force » to discipline children.
Several federal bills to ban corporal punishment of children have failed Parliament, Austin said.
The committee called for a national strategy to prevent violence against children and said Canada’s child welfare system continues to fail to protect Indigenous children from violence in particular.
Austin said the report represents Canada’s failure to implement the basic rights of the country’s eight million children.
Many of the recommendations were originally made by the committee in its last report a decade ago, but have not been acted upon.
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 justifying its failure to fully implement implement these rights at the national level ». and provincial law.
This report from The Canadian Press was first published on June 9, 2022.