There are 8 million kids in Canada, and they all have something in common – their rights! November 20 marks National Child Day in Canada. It’s a time to celebrate the rights of children and youth and renew our commitment to upholding them.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child protects the economic, social, cultural, civil and political rights of children. Here are 12 areas of child rights that everyone should know.
Every child deserves equal treatment – regardless of their gender identity, sex, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, physical appearance, ability, socio-economic status, nationality, creed, ideology, or other personal identities.
Children with disabilities have the right to receive the accommodations they need to thrive. Refugees should also receive help and maintain the same rights as children born in the country they now live in. Children from minority, disenfranchised, and Indigenous communities have the right to practise their religion, language, culture, and customs.
Every child has the right to live with their family. The family can be of any structure, but the family should instil a sense of belonging, and provide a loving and nurturing environment. Children and youth deserve to feel an attachment to their caregivers, whomever their caregivers might be.
Children should not be separated from their parents unless one or both parents are abusive or neglectful, or their home environment is unsafe. Children whose parents do not live together should remain in contact with both parents unless contact harms the child. If a child lives in a different country from their parents, the child and parents must be allowed to travel so they can be together.
Every child has the right to be alive. Young people deserve the best possible health care, nutritious food, clothing, clean water, electricity, and safe housing. Children should learn good health and hygiene habits in their schools and homes.
Children should have their mental, psychological, emotional, and physical health checked regularly, especially if they are away from home. Governments also have a responsibility to help families who cannot afford health expenses.
4. Protection From Harm
Every child deserves freedom from abuse. Children should be free from harmful work, drugs, sexual abuse, human trafficking, corporal punishment, emotional and psychological abuse, harmful detention, war, and any other forms of exploitation.
Children have the right to seek legal and medical help if they get hurt or abused. They should be free to make complaints about abuse to a third party, and abusers of children should receive prosecution to the fullest extent of the law.
Children must be registered when they are born. The national government must recognize a child’s name and national identity, and children must be informed of their identity.
Children have a right to receive, access and transmit documents of their own identity. Official records should include their name, place and date of birth, and family relations. If documentation gets destroyed or if a child’s national identity is otherwise compromised, the government must assist the child in getting their identity back.
Every child has the right to an education. Primary education should be free. Secondary education should be accessible to every child – every child should receive the highest level of education available to them.
Education should prepare children to participate as active citizens, teaching them about responsibility and a sense of community. They should also develop their personalities, talents, skills, rights, and abilities while learning to respect others’ autonomy, rights, cultures and differences.
7. Freedom of Thought
Children have the right to speak, express and share what they learn, think and feel. They may use any means of creative expression available to them unless their expression somehow harms others.
Children can determine their thoughts, means of expression, opinions, sociopolitical ideologies, and religious and spiritual beliefs, provided that their thoughts do not infringe upon the rights of others. Parents should teach children to express themselves and respect the opinions of others.
Children have the right to join or create groups and organizations. They have the right to meet with others and advocate for change, as long as they do not harm others.
Children have the right to give their opinions on issues that affect them. Adults should take the concerns and opinions of children seriously.
8. Access to Information
Children have the right to transmit and receive information through the internet, radio, phone, television, books and other resources. Adults should ensure that the information children are transmitting and receiving is not harmful. However, they should encourage and teach ways to access and critically process information.
Governments should make access to information as free as possible. They should share information from multiple sources and in multiple languages.
Every child deserves privacy. The law must protect children’s privacy in all areas, including online. Personal documentation of children should not be published.
A child’s family, home, personal communications and reputation should be protected. Victims of abuse should not have their names, faces or information published.
10. The Arts
Every child has the right to engage in cultural and creative activities. Children from minority populations have the right to participate in activities that the majority populations of their country do not participate in.
Cultural activities and creative works should represent children of all backgrounds. Children should be free from art designed to traumatize, provoke or disturb them. However, they should receive access to and be allowed to create art that is controversial or unpopular, without fear of censorship.
If a child is victimized, traumatized, displaced, separated from their parents, or otherwise subject to harm, they should receive reparation and rehabilitation. Children have the right to receive help after enduring any type of pain, trauma or neglect, so they can regain their health, dignity and identity.
Every child has the right to receive legal help and fair treatment. Governments should provide money and resources to assist children from poor and disenfranchised communities.
12. Government Responsibility
Governments must do everything possible to ensure that children enjoy all their inalienable rights and develop in a safe and free society. Governments should prioritize child rights when considering any major policy.
If the laws of a country protect child rights better than the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, those laws take higher priority. Governments should make active efforts to inform children about their rights.
Find Resources on Child Rights
Children have the right to be treated as citizens. They deserve to grow in a society that loves, cares, respects and protects them. Children are entitled to rights just as much as adults.
You can do something to raise awareness about child rights. Take action to support child rights in Canada today.