November 20, 2006 14:00 ET

Leading Children's Rights Groups Join UNICEF Canada's Nigel Fisher to Release Key Reports on Violence Against Children

Call on Government of Canada to take action on violence

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Nov. 20, 2006) - Nigel Fisher, President & CEO of UNICEF Canada, Gordon Phaneuf, Director of Strategic Initiatives for the Child Welfare League of Canada and Ethan McGrath, youth representative from the Canadian Council of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates, joined forces today on National Child Day to release the World Report on Violence Against Children and the Canadian youth voices report Seen, Heard and Believed: What Youth Say About Violence. UNICEF and the Child Welfare League of Canada also officially called on the Government of Canada to implement and act upon the recommendations of the World Report.

The World Report on Violence Against Children is the result of the UN Secretary-General's Study on Violence Against Children led globally by Professor Paulo Sergio Pinheiro. It is the first comprehensive global effort to paint a detailed picture of the nature, extent and causes of violence against children, and to propose clear recommendations for action to prevent and respond to it.

The report concludes that violence against children happens within all social groups, in every country and society. Most violent acts against children are carried out by people they know and should be able to trust including parents, boyfriends, schoolmates, teachers and employers. The report also concludes that much of the violence that affects children is socially approved or condoned, sometimes allowed by national laws or rooted in cultural, economic or social practices.

"This Study represents a vital beachhead in our understanding of the breadth of the problem of violence against children and for the development of strategies to address, and ultimately prevent, this all-too-pervasive problem," said Gordon Phaneuf. "The Child Welfare League of Canada applauds all those who participated in the Study, and particularly those children and young people who added their voices to this important effort."

The report's global findings include the following:

- among boys and girls under 18 years of age, 73 million boys and 150 million girls face forced sexual intercourse and other forms of violence involving touch;

- boys face a greater risk of physical violence than girls; girls face a greater risk of sexual violence, neglect and prostitution;

- children in low- and middle-income countries are more than twice as likely to die as a result of homicide than children in high-income countries; boys aged 15-17 years and children aged 0-4 years are at greatest risk;

- children with disabilities, belonging to minority groups, living on the streets, in conflict with the law, and those who are refugees or displaced from their homes are particularly vulnerable to violence;

- each year, as many as 275 million children worldwide witness domestic violence;

- between 100 million and 140 million women and girls worldwide have undergone female genital mutilation/cutting in childhood.

As part of the global consultation, UNICEF Canada, Save the Children Canada, the Canadian Council of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates, and the Centre for Children's Rights at Cape Breton University consulted with hundreds of Canadian children and youth to solicit their opinions and recommendations. The organizations have compiled the complete statements, art and poems of the young people in a document entitled Canadian Youth and Children Condemn Violence In Society and have summarized the findings of the consultations in a report called Seen, Heard and Believed: What Youth Say About Violence. The report reflects three dominant themes expressed by the participants:

- youth are well aware of the pervasiveness of violence in their lives;

- youth are acutely aware of the negative effect of violence on their mental and physical health and development;

- youth expect adults to put an end to the violence in their daily lives, and want to be consulted and involved in research and action.

"Violence can be anywhere - it can be in your home, in your school, on the street," said Ethan McGrath, a grade 10 student from Toronto. "Emotional violence does hurt. It is not the same as physical violence, of course. Physical violence happens fast. Emotional violence takes longer. Both scar you and stay with you."

"The voices of children in these reports call us to action, and we must listen," says David Morley, President & CEO of Save the Children Canada. "On National Child Day we should support children and young people by making changes that will ensure their right to a world free of violence."

Punctuating the press conference today was a call to action to the Government of Canada to protect and support children by undertaking the following:

- endorse the Study's recommendations and respond without delay to establish a high-level focal point at the ministerial level with political and operational responsibility to comprehensively address violence against children;

- develop a national strategy that coherently addresses all forms of violence against children and takes into account the perspective of children and young people while ensuring their ongoing participation; and

- establish a commissioner for children with a clear mandate to monitor children's rights and well-being and to promote the best interests of children in federal legislation and public policy.

"Children all over the world have declared that violence against them is a key priority to be addressed," said Nigel Fisher. "Are we listening to them? Are we just too complacent in the face of this pervasive child abuse? Today, countries - Canada included - have the opportunity to adopt the recommendations of the Study, apply international child protection norms and monitor rigorously their domestic implementation. Collectively and individually, we must increase our efforts to address the devastating and pervasive violence that blights the lives of so many children every single day."

UNICEF is the world's leader for children, working in 156 countries and territories to save, protect and enhance the lives of girls and boys. The Child Welfare League of Canada plays a significant role in promoting best practices among those in the field of child welfare, children's mental health and youth justice in Canada. The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates is an alliance of Canada's five provincially-appointed children's advocates and works to ensure that children and youth are treated with dignity, tolerance, respect and equality.

Contact Information

  • UNICEF Canada
    Tilla Seh, Media Relations Officer
    (416) 482-4444, Ext. 814
    or Cell: (647) 203-9455 (Nov. 19-21)
    Email: tseh@unicef.ca