MONCTON (GNB) – Antonine Maillet, the celebrated Acadian author and playwright, will deliver the keynote address this evening at the opening ceremony of the inaugural International Summer Course on the Rights of the Child.

A reception will take place at 6 p.m. followed by the official opening at 7 p.m. at the Pavillon Jeanne-de-Valois on the Université de Moncton campus.

"More than 100 participants, presenters and faculty members from parts of the Americas, Europe, Asia and Africa will be on campus for this event," said Christian Whalen, acting child and youth advocate as well as director of the program. "They will share their experiences and learn together about how to better promote and protect children's rights around the world."

The 10-day bilingual summer course, the first of its kind in Canada, takes place Aug. 8-18 at the university. It will offer a thematic training on the rights of the child as guaranteed under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, with a particular focus on Article 31: the rights of the child to rest and leisure; to engage in play and recreational activities; and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts in the community.

The course will also feature a two-day workshop, A Chance to Dream, which will focus on the rights of Aboriginal and ethnic minority children to their own culture, language and religion.

Lecturers and presenters will include Claire Brisset, former French child and youth advocate and present ombudsman for the city of Paris; Philip Jaffé, director of the International Institute for Children's Rights in Sion, Switzerland; and Rama Diouf, co-ordinator of the child protection unit in Senegal. A full listing of the course schedule and presenters is online.

"We have a wonderful and diverse array of expertise and experience represented in our course lecturers and presenters,” said Whalen. "At the same time, we are thrilled to have the support of leading children's rights experts from New Brunswick to serve as faculty members."

Whalen will deliver several days of instruction in the course, joined by fellow New Brunswickers Charles Emmrys, a child and adolescent clinical psychologist, and Catalina Ferrer, professor emeritus at the faculty of education at the Université de Moncton.

The course is organized by the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate in co-operation with the Université de Moncton, and with the support of the provincial government, the Working Group on the Rights of the Child within la Francophonie, and the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates.

During the course, the Université de Moncton will host a Children's Rights Speakers Series open free of charge. Speakers will include Raffi Cavoukian, the well-known children's entertainer and founder of the Centre for Child Honouring; Najat M'jid, United Nations special rapporteur on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography; and Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, chair of the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates.

"We are pleased to invite the public to listen and interact with these leading experts in the fields of child welfare and youth development," said Whalen. "Upholding children's rights is a duty we all bear, and as such, we are glad to include the public in our discussions."