Child and youth advocates say Canada must improve the lives of Aboriginal children02 February 2012
TORONTO (CNB) – A national plan is urgently needed to address the single most important systemic human rights issue in the country – the health, education and safety of Aboriginal children and youth.
"Child and youth advocates across Canada are concerned that we do not have a national monitoring mechanism to report on the challenges that young Aboriginals face, and on the improvements that are needed to better protect their rights and improve their well-being," said New Brunswick's acting child and youth advocate, Christian Whalen.
The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA), of which Whalen is a member, will take that message to Geneva next Monday, as it tables a special report on Aboriginal children at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child.
The council's report, Canada Must Do Better: Today and Tomorrow, documents how Aboriginal children in Canada are disproportionately represented in the youth justice and child welfare systems. The report also identifies aboriginal children's comparatively poor health status, their significant lag in educational outcomes, high rates of sexual exploitation and violence among aboriginal youth, as well as disproportionately high rates of death and injury.
"There are significant deep-seated gaps between Aboriginal children in Canada and their non-Aboriginal peers," said CCCYA president Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond. "We believe that not only is this Canada's most important systemic human rights issue, it is this country's most neglected issue. Meeting our responsibilities to all children requires a clear, outcomes-directed, child-centred national plan."
The council's report calls for a Canada-wide plan that will measure and report on progress so that all Canadians and the Council would be able to track progress, and to bring the voices of Aboriginal children and youth to the fore.
"This report echoes many of the same recommendations made in our Hand-in-Hand report on child-welfare on New Brunswick First Nations," said Whalen."Aboriginal youth in this province need tangible support now from their governments in Fredericton and Ottawa. It is time that we develop concrete initiatives that place the rights and wellbeing of our young people above all else."
The CCCYA has also called upon the Government of Canada to sign on to the new Optional Protocol to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, adopted by the UN General Assembly in December. The protocol establishes a complaints mechanism for violations of children's rights.
"Canada led the world in ratifying the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. By signing this new Optional Protocol, and demonstrating its commitment to ratify, Canada will, once again, place itself at the international forefront of promoting and protecting child rights implementation."
The CCCYA's report can be viewed online.
● Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates