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A Question of Commitment

Children’s Rights in Canada

R. Brian Howe

Publication Year: 2007

In 1991, the Government of Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, requiring governments at all levels to ensure that Canadian laws and practices safeguard the rights of children. A Question of Commitment: Children’s Rights in Canada is the first book to assess the extent to which Canada has fulfilled this commitment.

The editors, R. Brian Howe and Katherine Covell, contend that Canada has wavered in its commitment to the rights of children and is ambivalent in the political culture about the principle of children’s rights. A Question of Commitment expands the scope of the editors’ earlier book, The Challenge of Children’s Rights for Canada, by including the voices of specialists in particular fields of children’s rights and by incorporating recent developments.

Published by: Wilfrid Laurier University Press

Series: Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada

Title Page, Copyright, Dedication

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pp. iii-v


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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix-xi

On December 11, 1991, a group of children from every province and territory surrounded Prime Minister Brian Mulroney in the Rotunda of Parliament to sign along with him a document celebrating Canada’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Poinsettias rose in tiers around the great central pillar and coloured...

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pp. xiii

The editors express their appreciation to the following child rights specialists who willingly shared their thoughts as this book was being conceived: The Honourable Landon Pearson Tara Collins Sandra Griffin Judy Finlay We also wish to thank the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful and positive comments.

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1. Introduction: A Question of Commitment

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pp. 1-19

The overarching question for this book is this: How committed are the governments of Canada to the rights of the child? There is no question about their official commitment. In 1991, with the approval of all the provinces except Alberta, the federal government ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, thereby committing all governments...

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2. Child Poverty: The Evolution and Impact of Child Benefits

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pp. 21-44

Canada is officially committed to the goal of eliminating child poverty. In 1989, as the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was being adopted by the United Nations, Canada’s House of Commons unanimously passed a resolution—endorsed by all parties—to seek an end to child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. In 1990, at the World Summit for Children, Canada...

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3. Early Learning and Child Care: Is Canada on Track?

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pp. 45-72

Shortly after the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 1989, the Canadian Council on Children and Youth (CCCY) held a consultation to discuss the Convention’s implications for Canada. In the consultation’s Proceedings (1990), Landon Pearson, chair of the CCCY, made several significant observations. Noting that the...

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4. A Right to Health: Children's Health and Health Care Through a Child Rights Lens

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pp. 73-97

The Danish philosopher Knud Logstrup reminds us that we “hold another in our hands,” and in this way we find our ethical responsibilities. He states that our existence demands that we protect the lives of those who lay themselves open to us and who place themselves in our hands.2 The health of Canadian children lies in our hands, and while it may seem a tall...

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5. Corporal Punishment: A Violation of the Rights of the Child

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pp. 99-125

In the previous chapter, Cheryl van Daalen-Smith described many of the health problems that challenge Canada’s children when their rights are infringed upon. This chapter focuses on another very real threat to children’s health and well-being: the use of corporal punishment. Section 43 of Canada’s Criminal Code states that “Every schoolteacher, parent or...

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6. Child Sexual Abuse and Exploitation: What Progress Has Canada Made?

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pp. 127-151

Sexual expression in consensual and non-exploitive relationships is a healthy or at least inescapable part of growing up, a matter for the private realm of family and community. When is it a matter for the law? All societies set limits based on age and relationship, but limits vary from culture to culture and across history. The purpose of this chapter is to...

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7. Youth Justice and Children's Rights: Transformation in Canada's Youth Justice System

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pp. 153-177

The weight is still balanced in favour of the young offender in this country. The protection of society, the protection of our children, is still outweighed by the so-called rights of violent and delinquent young Canadians. All we are asking is that the scales be evened out, that the rights of victims, the rights of our children be given priority. We ask that the protection of society outweigh the protection of violent young offenders who have...

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8. Restorative Justice: Toward a Rights-based Approach

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pp. 179-207

Restorative justice is sourced in ancient and contemporary indigenous epistemologies found the world over and is best viewed in contrast to mainstream, colonialist systems of justice found in countries such as Canada.1 Today it is a global social movement, about a quarter of a century old, that aims to transform understanding, responses to crime, and...

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9. The Participation Rights of the Child: Canada's Track Record

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pp. 209-239

The idea that children should take part in decisions about their lives is not new. For example, when developmental psychologist Diana Baumrind first discussed her classic parenting styles in 1966, she described the (ideal) authoritative parent as one who values children’s development as autonomous and independent persons and who provides opportunities...

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10. Children's Rights Education: Canada's Best-Kept Secret

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pp. 241-263

Canada is justly proud of its human rights record, its Charter of Rights, and that it ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. As a self-proclaimed world leader in human rights, it is ironic that the Convention on the Rights of the Child (hereinafter the Convention) remains Canada’s best-kept rights secret. In ratifying the Convention, Canada...

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11. Aboriginal Children's Rights: Is Canada Keeping its Promise?

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pp. 265-286

The protection of children and youth from abuse and neglect has long been a principle of Canadian public policy and law. Unfortunately, conditions for Canada’s Aboriginal children continue to be extremely deplorable. The United Nations Development Program consistently has ranked Canada as one of the best countries in the world in which to live based on...

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12. The Rights of Children in Care: Consistency in Convention?

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pp. 287-319

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) provides a conceptual framework of judgment with which to assess Canada’s treatment of children, including the treatment of especially vulnerable children. In what follows, Canada’s system of alternative care for children is assessed in relation to the Convention. Has Canada made a substantial and notable...

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13. Homeless Children and Street-Involved Children in Canada

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pp. 321-342

This chapter concerns street-involved children, here defined as children who spend all or most of their time living and/or working on the street. Other groups of homeless children are also considered. The chapter addresses the question of the extent to which Canada has met its obligations to this population of marginalized children as set out in the Convention on the...

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14. On the Rights of Refugee Children and Child Asylum Seekers

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pp. 343-371

In the previous chapter, the rights violations of homeless and street- involved children were discussed. This chapter focuses on a second group of especially vulnerable children: refugees and asylum seekers. These are children who have been put at continuing high risk in their home countries and who are attempting to escape those circumstances by seeking asylum in Canada.

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15. Implementing the Rights of Children with Disabilities

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pp. 373-394

This chapter reviews the rights of children with disabilities in Canada as specified under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Canada’s support of the Convention signals its recognition of the universal rights of all children as well as its support for the specific rights of children with disabilities. This chapter focuses on actual practices rather than laws or policies,...

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16. Conclusion: Canada's Ambivalence towards Children

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pp. 395-411

The question for this book was this: At what level is Canada’s commitment to the rights of the child, as revealed in its record of implementing the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child? The possibilities included these: (1) symbolic commitment, where words have been used as substitutes for deeds; (2) wavering commitment, where deeds have been sporadic, uneven,...


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pp. 413-434


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pp. 435-441

E-ISBN-13: 9781554581009
Print-ISBN-13: 9781554580033
Print-ISBN-10: 155458003X

Page Count: 456
Publication Year: 2007

Series Title: Studies in Childhood and Family in Canada