NATIONAL CHILD DAY / World CHILDREN’S DAY
November 20th, 2022
NCWC Children and Youth Update
BRIEF HISTORY OF CHILDREN’S RIGHTS:
While the history behind children’s rights goes back well before the industrial revolution, the first global attempts to prioritize children, both their rights and well-being, began in 1923 with the drafting of the very first Declaration of the Rights of the Child by an agency called the International Save the Children Union. Adopted by the League of Nations in 1924, the document carried little weight, though it formed a basis for international activism and advocacy focused on children- raising both awareness and pressure on states to make headway in developing their own social policies post WW1 and the impact of the 1918 Influenza Epidemic.
In 1948 and following WW2 when there were estimated to be over 13 million orphans to support, Save the Children again advocated for children’s rights to be prioritized. It was following the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948, that the movement pushed for the UN to reaffirm its position on children. Members of the Human Rights Commission, tasked with this work, debated what eventually manifested as a newly expanded declaration comprising a blend of general principles and enforcements provisions that eventually led to a Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959. Among the key principles included was the right of the child to an education. Interestingly, given the current limits on the rights of girls to education in Afghanistan-it was the Afghani delegation that called on governments to recognize these rights that led to the establishment of the first Universal Children’s Day.
In 1979, the UN held the International Year of the Child. Over the course of the following decade, NGOs and the Human Rights Committee of the UN worked to find common ground ending with the adoption in 1989 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Less than a year after its adoption over a hundred states, including Canada were signatories. Today the CRC has been signed by 140 countries and ratified by 195 countries.
MODERN DAY TIMES: Today November 20th has come to be directly associated with the (CRC) – during which the global community is called on to engage with and celebrate our children and youth and to reflect on each country’s commitment to upholding the rights of children.
31 YEARS ON – SO HOW IS CANADA DOING AND OUR WORK AHEAD?
Childcare in Canada Progress Towards $10 a Day
One of the most significant and positive advances related to children and youth was the Federal government’s budget announcement in April 2021 of $30B in new funding directed towards early learning and child care (including wage support and training for caregivers and educators). Each of Canada’s provinces and territories has now signed on to its respective childcare agreement with the federal government. This is excellent news for families, children and the economy.
A bit of History: In 1967, the NCWC, in collaboration with NCWC Federate, the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFWU), advocated for the need for action on this issue – which was subsequently included in the first document released by the Royal Commission on the Status of Women fifty-two years ago in 1970! As a further aside, Michael Sabia, the Deputy Finance Minister, has now finally been able to follow through on childcare – noting that it was his mother, social activist and feminist Laura Sabia OC who was herself instrumental in the creation of the document from the very beginning.
But not all the news is positive. In an early summer review by the UN Committee on Children’s Rights, Canada continues to falter on a number of fronts:
CONCERNS FOLLOWING THE REPORT ON CANADA’S COMPLIANCE IN MEETING OUR CRC OBLIGATIONS TO CANADA’S 8 MILLION CHILDREN
The Report calls for:
- an independent Federal Advocate for Children’s Rights (Children’s Commissioner)
- Canada to take action to ensure the health and well-being of Indigenous children and youth
- greater efforts to end child homelessness
- better representation from / consultation with children and youth
For the complete summary of the Report: CRC/C/CAN/CO/5-6
To find out more about issues that CHILDREN and YOUTH themselves are thinking about I suggest viewing the following short 3:49 minute video National Child Day: Understanding children’s rights in Canada.
In the video 4 main points are made: that children and youth have a RIGHT to:
#1. SURVIVAL= Healthy food, clean water, the best healthcare available and a clean environment
#2. DEVELOPMENT= the Right to Education, the right to play- and if you have a disability-extra support
#3. PROTECTION From Violence, Abuse, Harm and Exploitation
#4. PARTICIPATION = the Right to be listened to, Respect and allowed to have a say on issues that impact them
To highlight just one of these concerns check out UNICEF CANADA’S REPORT: THE FUTURE IS NOW.
Another comprehensive resource put together by youth themselves can be accessed here: YCP-YouthReportandRecommendations-2022 The key points raised overlap with the critique and recommendations made by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child to the Canadian government – notably on indigenous children’s access to clean water as well as overall concerns related to mental health, poverty, housing and food insecurity.
Finally, in keeping with NCWC’s recent focus and success in having had our resolution Protecting Children from Exposure to Online Pornography and Online Exploitation and Harms adopted by the International Council of Women – it is clear that our work to raise awareness and to advocate for legislation to protect children online must continue.
150% INCREASE* IN YOUTH BEING SEXTORTED. *BETWEEN DECEMBER 2021 AND MAY 2022 –CANADIAN CENTRE FOR CHILD PROTECTION
Cybertip.ca – an initiative of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection Report
- saw a 56% increase in sextortion (March-August 2022)
- luring a child via a computer from 511 incidents from 2010 to 1931 in 2021
- Nonconsensual distribution of intimate images from 340 incidents in 2015 to 2444 in 2021
Data source: Uniform Crime Reporting Survey, Statistics Canada
Clearly, our work on online protection as well as other pressing issues impacting Canadian children is not done.
Members and advocates are invited to share their concerns and to consider actively engaging with respective levels of government to push for positive change. NCWC policies can be accessed on the newly updated NCWC website HERE. If you are interested in joining the Committee on Children and Youth, or have suggestions or initiatives you care to share, please do not hesitate to contact me.
In the interim- I wish one and all a fruitful NATIONAL CHILD’S DAY this Sunday, November 20th.
NCWC Convenor Children and Youth