National Child Day, a date that commemorates Canada’s adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), is more than just a day of recognition — it’s a reminder of the role we all have to play in protecting the rights of children.
As B.C.’s Representative for Children and Youth, the work of my Office is based on these rights and upholding the underlying values: that children have a right to be protected and kept safe, that families are the best environment for raising a child, that parents and extended family have the primary responsibility for a child, and that children should have input into decisions made about them.
We have a particular responsibility in this province. B.C. continues to have a staggering level of child poverty (and these estimates under-report poverty levels for children), which impacts their health and development, and limits their potential to grow and succeed with their peers. Approximately 12 percent of children live in poverty in B.C. — enough to fill BC Place almost twice over. Nearly half of First Nations children and youth on reserves live in poverty.
It is the single biggest risk factor for limited opportunities to achieve their full potential, and yet we continue to lack a plan to support those children living in poverty and to improve their health, education and safety. Equal opportunity and human rights remind us of the need to focus on giving these children a fighting chance in life.
For National Child Day 2013, let us all take a moment to raise awareness of these intrinsic rights of children, enshrined in the UNCRC. Read more at www.unicef.org/crc. Share the word on social media. Make it part of your daily conversations.
But let’s also take the next step – turning those conversations into action. Upholding these rights is fundamental to improving outcomes for vulnerable children and youth in British Columbia and across the globe. A better future for all children and youth depends on our ability to listen to their voices and learn from what we hear.
Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond
Representative for Children and Youth, British Columbia