Children First Canada embraced the introduction of a senate bill for a Federal Commissioner

Children First Canada welcomed the introduction of Bill S-217 in the Senate of Canada, calling for the establishment of an Office of the Commissioner for Children and Youth on June 16, 2020.

The bill was introduced by the Honourable Senator Rosemary Moodie (Independent), a pediatrician, neonatologist and child advocate.

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“The establishment of a children’s commissioner is long overdue and it’s something we have been advocating for years,” said Sara Austin, Founder and CEO of Children First Canada. “We’ve been so fortunate to have Senator Moodie in our corner, advocating along with us for the establishment of this critical role and as a real supporter for children across our country.” 

Austin recently co-authored an opinion piece with Senator Moodie on the need for a child commissioner in Canada.

“A federal children’s commissioner will provide much needed leadership and deliver better coordination for the protection of children’s rights between federal, provincial and municipal governments to ensure that no child gets left behind,” Austin reported.

In introducing the bill, Senator Moodie noted “Children and youth in Canada currently have no independent voice to represent their rights and interests in Parliament, limited opportunity to participate in political processes and no recourse to effective complaint mechanisms when their rights are violated.”

CFC has long worked with representatives in the Senate and the House of Commons to promote the idea of a children’s commissioner to directly engage children in establishing the bill.

“We have arrived at the place in time where the rights of children matter now more than ever,” said Kamil Kanji, a member of CFC’s Youth Advisory Council. “We are seeing a paradigm shift across the world in regards to the elevation of the voices of young people. Canada needs to get on board with this shift and create this federal position so that my peers and I are no longer left behind or forgotten.”

An independent commissioner for children and youth would provide a nonpartisan and evidence-based approach to improving children’s well-being and ensure their rights are protected.

Children’s commissioners have been established in close to 60 countries around the world with broad mandates to raise awareness and monitor progress in children’s issues.

Austin noted the lack of a coherent Canadian policy framework for children contributed to declines in key indicators of children’s health in the country.

Between 2007 and 2017, Canada fell from 12th to 25th place among OECD countries for child well-being.

Additionally, the leading causes of death for kids ages 1-17 in Canada are preventable injuries and accidents, followed by suicide and one-third of Canadian children experience abuse before the age of 16. (SOURCE: Raising Canada, 2019).

“These are all issues that would be prioritized by a commissioner for children and youth,” Austin said, also saying the timing of today’s announcement came at a critical moment.

"While the COVID pandemic has affected all of us, it has been especially difficult for children and the full effects have yet to be seen. For the last three months, children have been living in an unprecedented time."

Austin was concerned about the effects of the pandemic on the nation's children.“Their schooling, routines and connection with other young people has been ripped away. Children whose parents are facing increased economic pressures are dealing with even more stresses and there is no escape. It’s important now, more than ever, that we appoint a children’s commissioner and that they begin working immediately to advocate for policy changes that can support children and the unique challenges they are currently facing.”

The bill proposed the establishment of an appointed Commissioner for Children and Youth to promote, monitor and report on the implementation of Canada’s obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The Commissioner would advance the rights of children and youth in Canada, giving primary considerations to their best interests.

The bill must proceed to a second reading, a committee and report stage then a subsequent third reading. Barring any changes, the bill enters the House of Commons for additional vetting stages.

Children First Canada encouraged all organizations and movements committed to children’s well-being to actively support the passage of this bill through outreach to Parliamentarians and other important thought-leaders.

To speak to Sara Austin about the introduction of Bill S-217 issued on Tuesday, June 16, contact: Theresa Freeman, tfreeman@childrenfirstcanada.com, or call at 403-510-3505.