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Better dialogue for children’s rights

CBA youth section recommends a path towards better enforcement of children’s rights in Canada.

Boy in the fog

In a letter to Minister of Canadian Heritage Pablo Rodriguez and Minister for Women and Gender Equality Marci Ien, the Child and Youth Law Section of the Canadian Bar Association says improved dialogue with civil society can improve enforcement of children’s rights in Canada. The Section’s suggestions were made on the eve of meetings of the Forum of Federal, Provincial and Territorial Ministers on Human Rights.

The Section has particular concerns over how the government consults with civil society organizations on the Concluding Observations of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child on Canada’s fifth and sixth reports.

The government had a good initial plan to collaborate with civil society organizations. Over 160 of them took part in a consultation meeting in May, demonstrating a strong desire and capacity to contribute to the issue. Unfortunately, the letter says, the process did not allow for meaningful dialogue.

Among the issues were insufficient advance consultation on the agenda and approach to the meetings, and an agenda that did not reflect best efforts to address civil society organizations and their recommendations. The CBA Section believes a better process would “start with structural recommendations to address general measures of implementation of child rights as a first priority of government.”

Given that the government had a full year to prepare, it is disappointing that there were no discussion papers addressing previous recommendations or opportunities for civil society organizations to make submissions. Most importantly, the Section says, there has been no progress in engaging children and young persons in Canada.

“Children are a particularly challenging stakeholder group to engage, because meaningful engagement with children as rights holders requires significant preparation and adapted methods, depending on the ages and stages of development of different groups of children, as well as linguistic and cultural accommodations that should be present in every human rights consultation,” the letter reads.

Finally, the CBA Section urges Canada to act in accordance with its duty under the Convention on the Rights of the Child and other human rights treaties to which it is a party and commit to a credible plan for child rights implementation. Meaningful engagement with civil society organizations is critically important to that effort.