Children First Canada welcomes today’s introduction of Bill S-217 in the Senate of Canada, calling for the establishment of an Office of the Commissioner for Children and Youth in Canada.
Today’s bill was introduced by the Honourable Senator Rosemary Moodie (Independent), who is a pediatrician and neonatologist, as well as a strong child advocate.
“The establishment of a children’s commissioner is long overdue and it’s something we have been advocating for years,” says Sara Austin, Founder and CEO of Children First Canada. “We’ve been so fortunate to have Senator Moodie in our corner, advocating along with us for the establishment of this critical role and as a real supporter for children across our country.” Austin recently co-authored an opinion piece with Senator Moodie on the need for a child commissioner.
“A federal children’s commissioner will provide much needed leadership and deliver better coordination for the protection of children’s rights between federal, provincial and municipal governments to ensure that no child gets left behind,” adds Austin.
In introducing the bill, Senator Moodie noted that “children and youth in Canada currently have no independent voice to represent their rights and interests in Parliament, limited opportunity to participate in political processes and no recourse to effective complaint mechanisms when their rights are violated.”
CFC has long worked with representatives in the Senate and the House of Commons to promote the idea of a children’s commissioner and directly engaged children themselves in the efforts to establish the bill.
“We have arrived at the place in time where the rights of children matter now more than ever,” says Kamil Kanji, a member of CFC’s Youth Advisory Council. “We are seeing a paradigm shift across the world in regards to the elevation of the voices of young people. Canada needs to get on board with this shift and create this federal position so that my peers and I are no longer left behind or forgotten.”
An independent commissioner for children and youth would provide a nonpartisan and evidence-based approach to improving children’s well-being and ensuring the protection of their rights. Children’s commissioners have been established in close to 60 countries around the world with broad mandates to raise awareness and monitor progress in children’s issues.
Austin notes that the lack of a coherent Canadian policy framework for children has contributed to a decline in key indicators of child health. Between 2007 and 2017, Canada fell from 12th to 25th place among OECD countries for child well-being. Additionally, the leading causes of death for kids ages 1 to 17 in Canada are preventable injuries and accidents, followed by suicide and one-third of Canadian children experience abuse before the age of 16. (SOURCE: Raising Canada, 2019)
“These are all issues that would be prioritized by a commissioner for children and youth,” says Austin.
She also adds that the timing of today’s announcement comes at a critical time. “While the COVID pandemic has affected all of us, it has been especially difficult for children, and the full effects have yet to be seen. For the last three months, children have been living in an unprecedented time. Their schooling, routines and connection with other young people has been ripped away. Children whose parents are facing increased economic pressures are dealing with even more stresses and there is no escape. It’s important now, more than ever, that we appoint a children’s commissioner and that they begin working immediately to advocate for policy changes that can support children and the unique challenges they are currently facing.”
Today’s bill proposes the establishment of an appointed Commissioner for Children and Youth to promote, monitor and report on the implementation of Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Commissioner would also be responsible for advancing the rights of children and youth in Canada, giving primary consideration to the best interests of the child in all actions concerning children.
The bill will have to proceed to a second reading, a committee and report stage, and a subsequent third reading. Barring any changes, it will then head to the House of Commons to go through similar stages. Children First Canada encourages all organizations and movements committed to children’s well-being to actively support the passage of this bill through outreach to Parliamentarians and other important thought-leaders.
To speak to Sara Austin about today’s introduction of Bill S-217, please contact: Theresa Freeman, firstname.lastname@example.org, 403-510-3505.