April 26, 2007 16:45 ET

UNICEF Canada Welcomes Today's Senate Committee Report on Children's Rights but Calls for the Government of Canada to go Further

TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - April 26, 2007) - UNICEF Canada welcomes the recommendations articulated in the Final Report of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights entitled Children: The Silenced Citizens, Effective Implementation of Canada's International Obligations With Respect To The Rights Of Children, released today. The Report finds that Canada's compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child has shortcomings and calls upon the federal government to take immediate steps to comply with its obligations to children under the Convention. At the same time, UNICEF Canada calls for the Government of Canada to go further.

While the Report discusses the lack of legislation that incorporates the terms of the Convention into domestic law, it makes no recommendation to the federal government to enact such legislation. UNICEF Canada is calling for this legislation, noting that the country has what UNICEF terms an "invisible child" constitution - a national constitution that makes no significant reference to the rights of children. Legislation would help ensure that children's rights are addressed comprehensively across Canadian laws and that new or amended legislation is systematically referenced to the Convention. UNICEF Canada stresses that legal force for the Convention is fundamental as the law objectifies the issues and provides recourse for seeking justice.

The Report's findings demonstrate that Canada's legal and institutional arrangements, as a protective and enabling framework for the rights of children, have gaps through which too many Canadian children fall. The 1990 Canadian ratification of the Convention has not been adequately reinforced by implementing measures, including enabling legislation, a strong national commissioner for children, and the full commitment of the federal and provincial governments, to enable Canada to meet its obligations.

UNICEF Canada considers the independent children's commissioner recommended by the Senate Report as crucial in focusing national accountability for the implementation of the Convention in Canada's federal system, to lend cohesion to national legislation and policy, engage civil society - particularly children and young people - and protect the rights of children from changing political priorities.

In support of the Senate Report's recommendation regarding the establishment of a Federal Interdepartmental Implementation Working Group For Children, UNICEF Canada reinforces that the coordination mechanisms of this body must transcend jurisdictional barriers. Effective coordinating mechanisms will ensure an integrated agenda for the realization of children's rights. UNICEF Canada emphasizes the importance of having a national plan for children that is shared by all parties and adopted by Parliament.

This year, the Convention on the Rights of the Child turns 18, meaning that the first generation of children who have lived from birth with universal rights matures into adulthood. "There is no better time for the Government of Canada to commit to Canadian children and youth that their rights will be better protected with institutional and legal reforms, and that children's rights will become a visible reference in Canadian society," says Nigel Fisher, President & CEO of UNICEF Canada.

The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights was authorized to examine Canada's obligations under the 1989 United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and whether Canada is fulfilling them. The Senate Committee report drew on testimony from hundreds of domestic and international witnesses, including UNICEF Canada. The Report was released today by Senator Raynell Andreychuk, Chair of the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights.

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. UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, promotes quality basic education, protects children from violence, exploitation and AIDS, and is the world's largest provider of vaccines for developing nations. A global leader in emergencies with six decades of on-the-ground experience, UNICEF saves and rebuilds children's lives in natural disasters and conflict. UNICEF is funded entirely by voluntary contributions from individuals, businesses, foundations, schools, associations and governments.

Contact Information

  • UNICEF Canada
    Michael Bociurkiw
    Media Relations Officer
    (416) 482-4444, ext. 831
    Email: mbociurkiw@unicef.ca