Monday, June 25, 2007

4. Newspaper Announces Senate Report

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Senator's Report Slams Gov.-No Children's Rights in Canada

Canada Ignores Children's Rights, Senators Say: Government Slammed for Not Living Up to UN Charter

By STEPHEN THORNE The Canadian Press

Halifax Chronicle Herald and Toronto Star
2007-April-26, Canada

OTTAWA — Canada is failing to live up to its international obligations by denying children their right to influence government decisions, the Senate human rights committee says in a report critical of the lackadaisical manner in which international treaties are implemented.

Released Thursday, the report from the all-party committee calls on the federal government to appoint a children's commissioner to stand up for what it describes as a voiceless segment of Canadian society. It also says Ottawa should take steps to eliminate spanking and other forms of corporal punishment of children.

``Children's voices rarely inform government decisions, yet they are one of the groups most affected by government action or inaction,'' says the committee's 296-page report, entitled Children: The Silenced Citizens. ``Children are not merely underrepresented; they are almost not represented at all.''

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Canada ratified in 1992, puts children at the centre of family, community and culture, but the senators say there is a gap between ``the rhetoric and the reality'' of children's lives in Canada.

``Children must be in the room,'' Liberal Senator Jim Munson told a news conference. ``Children must be at the table. "

``Too often we dictate ... to children and it's just not right.''

The committee, which made 24 recommendations on the rights and freedoms of children, says many Canadians continue to resist full implementation of the UN convention on the subject.

It calls Ottawa's commitment to children's rights inadequate due to ``jurisdictional complexities, the absence of effective institutions, an uncertain approach to human rights law, and lack of transparency and political involvement.''

The senators say compliance with children's rights undertakings needs better accountability, increased parliamentary and public input [this includes us], and ``a more open approach that promotes transparency and enhanced political will.''

``The Convention on the Rights of the Child is not solidly embedded in Canadian law, in policy, or in the national psyche,'' says the report.

``Canadians are too often unaware of the rights enshrined in the convention, while governments and courts use it only as a strongly worded guiding principle with which they attempt to ensure that laws conform, rather than acting as if they are bound by it.

``Also, no body is in charge of ensuring that the convention is effectively implemented in Canada, and the political will is lacking. Implementation is key to making the convention work, and for Canada to claim that it fully respects the rights and freedoms of its children, it should improve its level of actual compliance.''

Ottawa doesn't have effective mechanisms in place to ensure compliance with its international human rights treaty obligations, the report says.

``Canada possesses no modern, transparent, and democratic international human rights treaty implementation process,'' it says. ``Further, no institution has ultimate responsibility for ensuring that international human rights conventions are effectively implemented.''

It calls for a formalized system to monitor implementation of international conventions and treaties, including — in the case of child rights — a group to co-ordinate and monitor federal legislation and policy along with an independent children's commissioner to monitor progress and meet with provincial child advocates. [this includes us!]