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Canada letting kids down, report says [CA]

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Monsebraaten, Laurie
Publication Date: 
20 Nov 2007

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Canada has been sluggish in upholding the rights and well-being of its children, says a new report to be released today on the 18th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Despite Canada's prominent role in helping the international community draft the Convention in 1989, there is no legal framework to ensure the rights of Canadian children, no national action plan and no national watchdog for kids, says the report by Unicef Canada.

"Compared with other industrialized countries, our children are suffering from unacceptable rates of poverty, obesity, mental illness and violence that have persisted or increased since Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991," Unicef Canada President Nigel Fisher said in a statement.

The report echoes a Senate committee report on the issue released last spring that found Canadian governments and courts too often use the Convention as a guiding principle instead of acting as if they are bound by it. In addition to calling for new legislation and government policies, the committee recommended an independent children's commissioner to monitor implementation of children's rights federally and to co-ordinate federal-provincial policies that affect kids.


Federal Social Development Minister Monte Solberg said the Conservative government has no plans to appoint a children's commissioner or any national plan for kids.

"In the last many, many months labour markets have been very strong meaning that families are employed, wages are rising and generally that's very good news for Canadian families," he said in an interview last night. "The well-being of children starts with families who have adequate incomes and good housing and decent child care and we think we are taking a fairly serious stab at helping families deal with some of those issues," he said.

Solberg pointed to the Tory government's annual $1.8 billion affordable housing initiative, $100 monthly taxable child care benefit to parents and $1 billion in annual child care support to provinces as proof of his government's commitment to families and children.

But Liberal Social Development critic Ruby Dhalla said children have little to celebrate, pointing to the Tory's cancellation of the previous Liberal government's $5 billion national child-care plan last year.

"Since coming to office, the Conservatives have not only failed Canada's children, they've turned back the clock on progress," Dhalla said.


- reprinted from the Toronto Star