National Children’s Commissioner Could Make Canadian Kids More Resilient

Research tells us that when we change the world around our children, resilience follows, regardless of their individual capacity to cope with adversity.

Each year on Nov. 20, Canada recognizes National Child Day, a day to celebrate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada ratified in 1991. Yet, it was only five years ago that a private member’s bill put forth by MP Marc Garneau was defeated in the House of Commons to install a national children’s commissioner. The Act called for an independent office to oversee government decisions that impacted the lives of Canadian children. Still today, the voices of Canada’s children are not heard or considered in policies that have direct implications for their lives. Most industrialized countries have an independent federal advocate for children.

Our research at the Resilience Research Centre at Dalhousie University in Halifax shows that the resilience of each of us as individuals depends more on the resilience of our family, school, workplace, economy and political system than it does on any individual thought or behaviour. It even depends on the quality of the natural environment in which we live. It’s for this reason that a national commissioner for children could provide a much-needed layer of oversight to ensure social, economic and environmental policies are designed to make children’s lives better. Research tells us that when we change the world around our children, resilience follows, regardless of a child’s individual capacity to cope with adversity.

While we have laws that protect children, at a federal level, we don’t have the means to vet all social policies through a child-focused lens. It’s one thing to talk about the impact on an entire community of a pipeline or a change to tax laws for small businesses. It’s quite another to consider children’s unique experiences of the fallout from these social policies. Through our research, we have many examples, which explain our support for including a children’s rights lens in policy development.