COMMITTEE ON THE RIGHTS OF THE CHILD
CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 44 OF THE CONVENTION
Second periodic reports of States parties due in 1999
[3 May 2001]
* For the initial report submitted by the Government of Canada, see CRC/C/11/Add.3, for its consideration by the Committee, see documents CRC/C/SR.214‑217 and CRC/C/15/Add.37.
** This document has been submitted as received without formal editing.
GE.03-40644 (E) 030403
Introduction 1 - 63
PART I:MEASURES ADOPTED BY THE GOVERNMENT
OF CANADA 7 - 5914
PART II:MEASURES ADOPTED BY THE GOVERNMENTS
OF THE PROVINCES 592 - 1487105
BRITISH COLUMBIA 592 - 693105
ALBERTA 694 - 822120
SASKATCHEWAN 823 - 894138
MANITOBA 895 - 942150
ONTARIO 943 - 1025159
QUÉBEC 1026 - 1153172
NEW BRUNSWICK 1154 - 1294196
NOVA SCOTIA 1295 - 1369224
PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND 1370 - 1400236
NEWFOUNDLAND 1401 - 1487242
PART III:MEASURES ADOPTED BY THE GOVERNMENTS
OF THE TERRITORIES 1488 - 1640260
YUKON 1488 - 1550260
NORTHWEST TERRITORIES 1551 - 1640268
Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child on December 13, 1991. This document constitutes the second report submitted by Canada under the terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The document covers, in the main, the period of January 1993 to December 1997. Occasional exceptions to the review period do occur and are identified.
Canada is a federal state comprised of ten provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Québec and Saskatchewan) and two territories (Northwest Territories and Yukon). While the ratification of international treaties is the prerogative of the Government of Canada, implementation of the treaties requires the active participation of the governments which have jurisdiction over the subject matters covered. In Canada, the responsibility for areas covered by the Convention on the Rights of the Child is shared by the Government of Canada, the provincial governments and, following a delegation of authority by the Parliament of Canada, the territorial governments.
The present report contains information on measures adopted by the Government of Canada and the provincial and territorial governments within the stated period.
Throughout the report, references to Aboriginal children include children with Indian status under the Indian Act, non-status Indian children, and Métis and Inuit children. The phrase “Aboriginal children” is used rather than “indigenous children”, because the Constitution of Canada refers to the Aboriginal peoples of Canada.
Federal, provincial and territorial ministers responsible for human rights, and their officials, maintain ongoing liaison and information exchanges with respect to the implementation of international human rights instruments, including the Convention, through a mechanism known as the (federal-provincial-territorial) Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights.
As with other human rights instruments, the Continuing Committee will keep provincial and territorial governments apprised of any comments that the Committee on the Rights of the Child may make on the scope of the rights guaranteed by the present Convention.
PART I: MEASURES ADOPTED BY THE GOVERNMENT OF CANADA
I. GENERAL MEASURES OF IMPLEMENTATION
A. Implementation by States - Article 4
The Convention on the Rights of the Child plays an important role in the development and implementation of children’s rights in Canada. From 1993 to 1997, the Government of Canada introduced numerous measures to enhance the well-being of children. During this time, the Convention influenced Government of Canada policy strategies, action plans, and initiatives. It affected judicial decisions concerning the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, relevant legislation and the common law. The Convention has been specifically considered in legislative developments in the areas of child prostitution, child sex tourism, criminal harassment and female genital mutilation, as well as in the ongoing renewal of youth justice.
In the early and mid-1990s, Canada’s public finances were threatened by budget deficits and a high national debt. This situation represented a risk to social programs and the quality of life of Canadians. The Government of Canada has undertaken measures to restore Canada’s fiscal security by reviewing public expenditures and establishing targets for the reduction of budget deficits. Through the efforts of all Canadians, the Government of Canada has achieved its deficit reduction targets, and is now able to consider and implement re-investments of public expenditures in areas of concern for Canadians. In this way, the decisions made by the government after 1997 follow the policies pursued during the 1993 to 1997 period.
Despite the difficult fiscal situation described above, the 1993 to 1997 period witnessed the development of a number of important initiatives on the part of the Government of Canada designed to assist children and families. It is expected that these initiatives as a whole, including recent measures taken by the government to consolidate Canada’s strong economic performance, will contribute to a sustained and improved quality of life for Canadian children and families. The present report provides a description of measures undertaken by the Government of Canada as well as a portrait of the progress made by Canadian children from 1993 to 1997. Many important initiatives relevant to children in Canada were adopted after 1997 and are not therefore the focus of this report.
Measures in Force
Several departments and agencies within the federal government share responsibility for measures related to children and youth. In 1995-96, federal spending on children was approximately $9.8 billion. Of this, $8.1 billion supported direct programming and services for children and $1.6 billion was for indirect activities. In addition to this $9.8 billion, a significant portion of the $29.6 billion of federal transfers to provincial and territorial governments in 1995‑96 provided income support, health services and a range of social services to children and families.
The importance of collaboration, consultation and developing new ways of working together to achieve an integrated approach to child and youth issues is recognized by federal, provincial and territorial governments. At their meeting in June 1996, Canada’s first ministers identified investment in children as a national priority. In January 1997, the National Children’s Agenda (NCA), a federal-provincial-territorial and multi-sectoral initiative, was launched to develop a shared vision and common goals to enhance the well-being of Canada’s children. In addition to input from governments, the NCA plans to involve a broad spectrum of Canadians through consultation with key stakeholders and representatives of the public.
As part of the NCA initiative, the 1997 federal budget announced the Government of Canada’s contribution to the National Child Benefit (NCB) system. The NCB is aimed at improving the well-being of Canadian children living at risk as a result of economic insecurity or poverty. The NCB also aims to address the so-called “welfare wall” problem, where the structure of benefits are such that families on social assistance were often better off than families in which parents worked in low-paying jobs, thus making it difficult for parents to join or stay in the workforce. The objectives of the NCB are to help prevent and reduce child poverty, to help parents of low-income families participate in the workforce, and to reduce overlap and duplication through closer harmonization of programs and simplified administration. The Government of Canada’s contribution to the NCB is delivered through a special supplement to the Canada Child Tax Benefit (CTB). Established in January 1993, the CTB is a broad-based federal government initiative to assist families with children. The program provides monthly tax-free benefits to low- and middle-income families on behalf of each dependent child under 18 years of age.
The first phase of the NCB was implemented in July 1998. In July 1999, the special supplement to the CTB (also referred to as the NCB supplement) was again increased. After the increases scheduled for July 2000, federal government investment in the CTB will have risen by approximately 40 percent relative to 1996. These enrichments will result in increased benefits for 1.4 million low-income families. A low-income family with two children will receive up to 48 per cent more assistance in 2000 than in 1996.
In 1997, the Prime Minister of Canada created the position of Secretary of State for Children and Youth. The Secretary of State works with Federal Ministers such as the Minister of Human Resources Development and the Minister of Health, on issues affecting the well-being of children and youth. The current Secretary of State has identified fetal alcohol syndrome, youth unemployment and youth homelessness for priority attention.
Canada’s federal, provincial and territorial governments work together to support the health and well-being of children. In 1996, a Federal-Provincial-Territorial Council of Ministers on Social Policy Renewal was established to coordinate the renewal of Canada’s social programs with support from the Health, Education, Social Services and Justice sectors. On February 4, 1999, the Social Union Framework Agreement was signed by all first ministers, with the exception of the Premier of Quebec. The Agreement provides a collaborative framework to strengthen Canada’s health and social programs to better meet the needs of Canadians. Among
its agreements, it includes commitments to work in partnership to remove social policy barriers to mobility within Canada, to strengthen accountability to Canadians, and to promote enhanced consultation, cooperation and information sharing between governments, especially in relation to major changes to a social policy or program likely to affect other governments.
Supported by research that demonstrates the importance of health and social investments during the early years of life, the Government has introduced and enhanced a number of innovative initiatives to help Canadian children develop to their full potential. Federal programs such as the Community Action Program for Children (CAPC) , the Aboriginal Head Start Program (AHS) and the Canadian Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) recognize the importance of early childhood development, parental involvement and education, cross-sectoral approaches for children’s well-being, and partnerships with other governments, non-governmental agencies and communities.
In May 1997, Bill C-27 amended the Criminal Code to allow for the Canadian prosecution of persons who engage in child sex tourism and to facilitate the apprehension and prosecution of persons who seek out the services of juveniles in Canada. The bill also included provision for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment for any person living on the avails of prostitution in relation to a person under the age of 18 and who uses violence against the person under that age and assists that person in carrying on prostitution-related activities for profit.
The Government of Canada has also taken measures to benefit children and young people of separated parents. The Federal Child Support Guidelines, introduced in 1997, make child support orders fairer, more predictable and consistent.
Investing in children and youth is a priority of the National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention. The strategy supports communities in the development of innovative, sustainable ways to prevent crime and victimization and build a safer society, including the provision of necessary supports and resources for children and families.
In 1995, Health Canada created the Childhood and Youth Division as a federal centre for expertise, leadership and coordination for issues, activities and programs concerning children and youth. Replacing the department’s Children’s Bureau, the Division delivers programs, supports policy development and undertakes strategic analysis of future trends. The Division also helps to provide policy development and coordination related to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
From 1993-1997, the Government of Canada adopted measures to enhance the well‑being of Aboriginal peoples, including Aboriginal children. The Inherent Right Policy (1995) recognizes the right of Aboriginal peoples to govern themselves in key areas of responsibility. In response to the Report of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP), Gathering Strength: Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan (January 1998) seeks to renew partnerships, strengthen Aboriginal governance, develop a new fiscal relationship between Aboriginal governments and institutions, and support communities, people and economies.
Measures announced as part of Gathering Strength include a Statement of Reconciliation by Canada, formally acknowledging and regretting historic injustices; community healing to address the effects of physical and sexual abuse in the residential schools system; an Aboriginal languages program; an on-reserve Aboriginal Head Start program; resources to increase the number of adequate housing units on reserve; and additional resources to address the inadequacies of water and sewer facilities on reserve. Other initiatives are described under the appropriate themes of this report.
The National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY), initiated in 1994, is a research program of Human Resources Development Canada and Statistics Canada that will track the health and well-being of a large sample of Canadian children over the long-term. It will provide the government with a better understanding of the factors that contribute to positive child development and will be used by governments to develop and evaluate a wide range of policies and programs targeted at children and youth.
In 1993, the federal government established Canada’s SchoolNet, a collaborative effort to connect all Canadian public schools and public libraries to the Internet by March 31, 1999. This goal was achieved, making Canada the first nation in the world to connect all its schools and libraries. The project brings together provincial and territorial governments, universities and colleges, education associations, the information technology industry and other private sector representatives. Canada’s SchoolNet enhances the access of Canadian children to information promoting their well-being and development.
The rights of children are a priority within Canada’s foreign policy. Canada has been a leader in promoting the rights of children throughout the world and in ensuring their protection from exploitation and abuse. Canada has effected change by creating and sustaining constructive bilateral relationships with other countries and through cooperative efforts with international agencies such as UNICEF.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) plays a key role in ensuring Canada meets its commitments to promote the rights and improve the lives of children in developing countries and countries in transition. Advocacy for girls’ and boys’ rights, meeting basic human needs including those in the areas of health, nutrition and education, helping to protect children from abuse and exploitation, and promoting children’s participation in decisions affecting their lives are all integral parts of CIDA’s mandate for children.
In 1996-97, CIDA supported 156 projects with a direct or indirect impact on children in the areas of child and maternal health, immunization, basic education, micro nutrient deficiencies, institutional- and capacity-building in favour of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and improved protection for children. Much of CIDA’s humanitarian assistance and food aid benefits children, and CIDA provides core funding to multilateral organizations such as UNICEF and the World Health Organization. CIDA’s Partnership Branch supports the work of many partners in non-governmental organizations who are working in the area of children’s rights. Many additional projects for children are also supported through the Canada Funds for Local Initiatives, Gender Funds and other country-specific funds.
Canada’s long involvement in peacekeeping missions, where it has seen first-hand the lasting and devastating effects of land mines on many civilians and children, led to the decision to spearhead the diplomatic campaign to negotiate an international ban on the weapons. In December 1997, Canada hosted the formal signing of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention. The Government of Canada has committed resources over the next 5 years to support the removal of the millions of mines in the ground and to provide assistance to victims and nations coping with their devastating effects.
In 1995, Canada played a leading role at the Fourth World Conference on Women held in Beijing in securing many of the major achievements for women. Canada worked toward the adoption of a strong Platform For Action (PFA). The girl child was made one of the critical areas of concern in the PFA in recognition that “discrimination and neglect in childhood can initiate a lifelong downward spiral of deprivation and exclusion from the mainstream”.
In 1996, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs appointed a Special Advisor on Children’s Rights, Senator Landon Pearson, with a mandate to provide advice on children’s issues, and liaise with non-governmental organizations, the academic community, the private sector and the public. The Special Advisor also participates actively in national and international initiatives on children’s rights and promotes awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Since the 1980’s, Canada has been a strong supporter of international immunization, efforts to contribute to universal immunization and, in particular, the eradication of polio and the elimination of measles. From 1993 to 1997, Canada has provided approximately $14 million per year in financial support for international immunization efforts.
Since 1994, Canada has supported the Girl Child Education in Africa Initiative in sub‑Saharan Africa. Supported by CIDA, UNICEF offices and Canadian non-governmental organizations, 15 countries have undertaken projects that will promote basic education for girls. These projects emphasize gender sensitivity training for teachers, development of curricula that are gender sensitive, working with communities and families to promote the value of educating their girls, and increasing the capacity of the education ministries in participating countries.
In April 1997, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced the creation of the Child Labour Challenge Fund, aimed at engaging Canada’s private sector in contributing to international efforts to eliminate exploitative child labour.
As a follow-up to the 1996 First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm, Sweden, the Government of Canada supported Out From the Shadows - An International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth, held in Victoria, British Columbia, in 1998. The conference was initiated by Senator Landon Pearson, Special Advisor to the Minister of Foreign Affairs on Children’s Rights, and Ms. Cherry Kingsley, a child advocate and former victim of sexual exploitation.
In developing countries and countries in transition, CIDA supports initiatives to increase the awareness of children’s rights, including national obligations under the Convention on the Rights of the Child, strengthen legislative frameworks for the protection of children’s rights, and build the capacity of key institutions in the public and private sectors to promote children’s rights. CIDA supports initiatives to make the voices of boys and girls heard in policy‑making fora and advocates to include children and youth in development assistance projects.
Government and NGO Cooperation
The interests and concerns of children were the focus of a national policy conference entitled Canada’s Children - Canada’s Future in November 1996. The conference’s final report, which was endorsed by conference delegates, included policy recommendations and a framework for action on economic policy, income support, social supports, health, education, child care, youth justice and Aboriginal children.
With funding from the Department of Canadian Heritage, UNICEF Canada developed a training course on the Convention for federal officials and a guide entitled The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child: A Practical Guide to its Use in Canadian Courts.
With support from the Government of Canada and other partners, the Canadian Council on Social Development (CCSD) publishes The Progress of Canada’s Children, an annual report presenting a range of health, social and economic findings related to Canadian children and their families.
During the reporting period, the Government of Canada worked in partnership with the voluntary sector on measures to support the effective implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in Canada. For example, financial assistance was provided for the monitoring of the Convention’s implementation in Canada by the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC), an organization representing more than 50 non-governmental organizations in Canada concerned with the rights of children. Measures to integrate the principles of the Convention in professional and administrative guidelines regarding services for children and youth were also developed. Examples include a training course on the Convention for federal officials developed in partnership with voluntary organizations and a guide for the effective use of the Convention in Canadian courts.
From 1992 to 1996, the Partners for Children Fund encouraged innovative partnerships between Canadian and international non-governmental organizations, resulting in 21 international projects to promote the survival, protection and development of children. Key lessons that emerged from the completion of the Fund’s initiatives centred on models for youth participation, community involvement, public awareness and education, advocacy of children’s rights, and partnerships and linkages.
B. Dissemination of the Convention - Article 42
The Human Rights Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage distributes, upon request and free of charge, copies of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Approximately 5,000 copies are distributed every year. The program also provides support to non-governmental organizations to increase awareness and knowledge of the content of the Convention and the rights it sets forth. From 1993 to 1997, many projects received funding from the Program. For instance, Human Rights Internet produced a directory of organizations involved in children and youth rights in Canada. The program also funded a youth edition of the Convention entitled Say It Right!, produced by the Youth Participation Committee of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children.
In 1993, the Government of Canada named November 20th National Child Day, as a testament to the importance of children for both the present and the future of the country. The selection of the date was inspired by the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations General Assembly on November 20, 1989. A Celebrate National Child Day Activity Guide is produced to mark the annual event, and is an important awareness building tool for use in schools and child care centres and by community groups and families across Canada.
C. Dissemination of Reports - Article 44
Canada’s Second Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child is published and distributed in both official languages. Copies are distributed by the Human Rights Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage to provincial and territorial authorities and human rights commissions, provincial child advocates, civil liberties associations, a wide variety of non‑governmental organizations concerned with children’s issues, public libraries and educational institutions, and to other regular subscribers of government publications. The Program will also distribute copies to the general public upon request. The Report is also included in the catalogue of Canadian government publications available free of charge to the public upon request. Non‑governmental and Aboriginal organizations are at liberty to reproduce and distribute copies of the Report or portions of it for their own educational purposes. The Report is available on the Internet at http://www.pch.gc.ca/ddp-hrd.
II. Definition of “Child”
In Canada, no federal statute legislates a general age of majority. Rather, each law sets age limits that are appropriate for its purposes, and these age limits may also vary by jurisdiction. The age limits outlined in Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child have not changed since that report, with the following exceptions.
In 1997, Parliament amended the Divorce Act to change the definition of “child of the marriage” from age 16 to the “age of majority.” The age of majority is set by provincial statutes. It is 18 in the provinces of Alberta, Manitoba, Prince Edward Island, Québec and Saskatchewan, and 19 in the provinces and territories of Ontario, British Columbia, Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Northwest Territories, Nunavut and the Yukon. Children who fall under this definition are entitled to support as long as they have not withdrawn themselves or been withdrawn from their parents’ charge.
Under the Immigration Act, the definitions of “dependent daughter” and “dependent son” have been extended to offspring who are over the age of 19 and either in full-time attendance at a post-secondary educational institution and substantially or wholly supported by their parents or who suffer from a physical or mental disability and are incapable of supporting themselves by reason of this disability.
The federal Tobacco Act defines “young person” as a person under 18 years of age (previously, the age limit was 16 years). The statute prohibits the sale of tobacco to young persons.
Under section 486 of the Criminal Code, safeguards exist to protect the interests of witnesses who are under 14 years of age where the accused is charged with a sexual offence or an act of violence. The court can order a support person to be with the witness while testifying. In addition, the accused would normally not be permitted to personally cross-examine the witness.
Also under section 486 of the Criminal Code, where a complainant is under the age of 18 and the accused is charged with a particular sexual offence or with corrupting a child, the court may order that the complainant testify outside the courtroom or behind a screen or other device so that he or she does not have to see the accused.
Under the Young Offenders Act, young persons of 16 and 17 years of age who are charged with murder, attempted murder, manslaughter or aggravated sexual assault are transferred to adult court, unless the court orders that the youth be proceeded against in youth court. (However, it should be noted that a proposed Youth Criminal Justice Act is currently before Parliament. Please see Theme VIII - Special Protection Measures for a more detailed description of the proposed changes.)
Formalizing a long-standing practice, the National Defence Act was amended in December 1998 and now stipulates that individuals under the age of 18 may not participate in any hostilities.
The Firearms Act defines a minor as an individual who is less than 18 years old. A minor is not eligible for a licence to acquire firearms, however, a minor’s possession licence, for those between the age of 12 and 18, permits the minor to use non-restricted firearms (such as shotguns and rifles) for the purpose of target practice, hunting, instruction in the use of firearms or to take part in organized shooting competitions. Minors under the age of 12 may obtain a minor’s licence if they hunt or trap as a way of life in order to sustain themselves and their family. All minor’s licences are subject to conditions, which might include supervision. In limited situations, the minor may be permitted to use restricted or prohibited firearms (primarily handguns) under the direct and immediate supervision of a licenced adult. The Firearms Act also allows minors without a licence to use firearms only under the direct and immediate supervision of a licenced adult. Before granting a minor’s possession licence, the minor and their parent/custodial adult are interviewed by a firearms officer. The parent or guardian must agree to the terms under which the minor may use firearms and must give their consent before a licence is issued.
III. General Principles
A. Non-discrimination - Article 2
The constitutional and statutory guarantees outlined in Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child continue to protect children. In particular, section 15 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms constitutionally guarantees that “Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination, and in particular, without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.”
Two Supreme Court of Canada decisions illustrate the application of this section of the Charter:
The parents of a child with severe disabilities argued that her placement in a special education class, contrary to their wishes, contravened the equality provisions of the Charter. The Supreme Court, after considering the school board’s policies and the child’s disabilities, concluded that there was no contravention of the Charter as the school board’s decision did not constitute the imposition of a disadvantage or burden, nor did it constitute the withholding of a benefit or advantage to the child, as the decision had been made in her best interests. (Eaton v. Brant County Board of Education  1 S.C.R. 241.)
The Supreme Court of Canada held that the provincial Medical and Health Care Services Act (now the Medicare Protection Act) and the Hospital Insurance Act, by not providing publicly-funded sign language interpretation for deaf patients, were in breach of s. 15 of the Charter. (Eldridge v. British Columbia (Attorney General)  3 S.C.R. 624.) Although the applicant in this case was not a child, it is anticipated that the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada will be of benefit to children with disabilities.
Measures in Force
The Multiculturalism Program at the Department of Canadian Heritage focuses on initiatives to achieve the following objectives:
to assist in the development of strategies that facilitate the full and active participation of ethnic, racial, religious and cultural communities in Canadiansociety;
to facilitate collective community initiatives and responses to ethnic, racial, religious and cultural conflict and hate motivated activities;
to improve the ability of public institutions to respond to ethnic, racial, religious and cultural diversity by assisting in the identification and removal of barriers to equitable access and by supporting the involvement of diverse communities in public decision‑making processes;
to encourage and assist in the development of inclusive policies, programs and practices within Federal Departments and Agencies in order that they meet their obligations under the Canadian Multiculturalism Act; and
to increase public awareness, understanding and informed public dialogue about multiculturalism, racism and cultural diversity in Canada.
The International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination is commemorated in Canada by a national public education campaign, popularly known as the “March 21 Campaign.” The campaign targets elementary and secondary school students and encourages them to participate in an ongoing dialogue about racism. Campaign tools include printed materials such as brochures and teachers’ guides, a “cyber” petition, and a national “Stop Racism” video competition.
The department’s Awards Program encourages students to explore the contributions of people of Aboriginal and diverse ethnocultural origins to the building of Canada. Its purpose is to generate mutual respect and understanding among Canadians of different cultural heritages. More than 90 percent of Canada’s 16,000 elementary and secondary schools submit essays, short stories, poems and artwork on the theme of cultural diversity and nation building. The Mathieu Da Costa Awards Program, launched in 1996 in association with the Canadian Teachers’ Federation, commemorates the official designation of February as Black History Month. Mathieu Da Costa was a black navigator who played a significant role in facilitating understanding between the Mi’kmaq First Nation and the early French explorers in Canada in the early 17th century.
Open House Canada provides financial assistance to non-profit organizations to help administer reciprocal group exchange programs and national fora within Canada. The funds allocated are to be used exclusively to cover part of the transportation costs. Target groups are aboriginal youth, youth with disabilities, visible minorities and economically disadvantaged youth.
SchoolNet, a federal government initiative to promote the effective use of information technology among Canadians by helping all schools and libraries connect to the Internet, includes key components for promotion of non-discrimination:
“E-Conflict World Encyclopedia,” part of the SchoolNet Web site, aims to “eradicate conflict around the world” by promoting international cultural awareness. The site enables students and others to discover the geography, history, people, culture and government of countries around the world.
With the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding, the Beijing Concord College of Sino-Canada is linked with SchoolNet. Through this SchoolNet connection, Chinese students from Beijing and other areas of China are now able to enroll in the same educational program as foreign students.
Industry Canada’s SchoolNet initiative is described in further detail in Theme IV of this
B. Best interests of the child - Article 3
The Government of Canada believes that Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child should be interpreted in a manner consistent with the intention of the drafters, as stated in the preparatory documents or “travaux préparatoires”. In particular, the phrase “a primary consideration” means that the best interests of the child is a vitally important consideration in the development of all legislation, programs and policies that concern children.
The nature of this consideration depends upon the context of the legislation, program or policy, as illustrated by the following examples:
The federal Divorce Act states that the best interests of the child shall be the only consideration in determining matters of custody and access. The Supreme Court of Canada has held that where a non-custodial parent applies for a variation of a custody order to prevent the custodial parent from moving to another jurisdiction with the child, there is no legal presumption in favour of the custodial parent, although the custodial parent’s views are entitled to great respect. The only test is the best interests of the child. (Gordon v. Goertz (1996), 19 R.F.L. (4th) 177,  S.C.R. 27.)
The federal Young Offenders Act, as well as the proposed juvenile justice legislation, stipulates that a court shall consider several factors in addition to the best interests of the child in determining the placement of young offenders, including the safety of other youths in a juvenile detention centre.
The Child Tax Benefit, established in January 1993, is a broad-based federal government initiative to assist children. The program provides a monthly tax‑free benefit to low- and middle‑income families on behalf of each dependent child under 18 years of age. The 1997 federal budget announced the National Child Tax Benefit, a joint federal/provincial initiative. In July 1998, the federal government announced the implementation of the new Canada Child Tax Benefit (see Theme VI, Article 26), which provides increased financial support to low- and middle-income families with children. Provinces and territories in turn will make complementary re‑investments of provincial funds to assist children in low‑income families.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Although, as previously noted, the courts decide custody and access disputes under the federal Divorce Act according to the best interests of the child, there is no consistent definition of the principle in use by the courts. The “best interests test” has therefore come under criticism as being arbitrary and unpredictable.
In 1996, the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), an independent quasi-judicial tribunal that hears and decides refugee and immigration claims in Canada, issued Guidelines on Child Refugee Claimants. Based on extensive consultation with specialists, including child psychiatrists and lawyers, as well as national and local organizations involved with child refugees, the guidelines provide procedural and evidentiary guidelines for dealing with the special needs of children appearing before the IRB. The guidelines stipulate that primary consideration be given to the “best interests of the child,” taking into account age, gender, cultural background and past experiences.
Priorities and Goals
In 1997-98, a Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Child Custody and Access studied issues relating to custody and access arrangements after separation and divorce. The mandate of the Committee was to assess the need for a more child‑centered approach to family law policies and practices that would emphasize joint parental responsibilities and child-focused parenting arrangements based on children’s needs and best interests. The Committee issued a final report and recommended changes in December 1998. At the time of writing, the Government of Canada was in the process of preparing a response to the Committee’s report.
C. The right to life, survival and development - Article 6
Measures in Force
The constitutional and statutory guarantees as outlined in Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child continue to protect children.
The current Firearms Act aims to reduce the number of firearms deaths and injuries of children (and adults). The Firearms Act was passed in December of 1995. As of December 1998, the legislation requires all gun owners to become licensed before January 1, 2001, and all firearms to be registered before January 1, 2003. The legislationalso created a new smuggling and trafficking offence, prohibited various types of handguns, and introduced new mandatory penalties for the use of firearms in the commission of a crime.
The National Defence Act was amended in December 1998 to remove the death
Since Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the Government of Canada, First Nations, Inuit and Metis communities have been working in
partnership to develop solutions and positive interventions to address the underlying issues around suicide and other mental health issues of those communities. Among numerous initiatives, an Aboriginal Suicide Prevention Workshop was held in 1995, and a manual for front‑line community workers was subsequently produced.
In February 1997, an agreement was signed between the Government of Canada, the Ontario Government and the Nishnawbe‑Aski Nation to establish a three‑year program to attempt to reduce suicides and to address other related problems. The program implemented the recommendations of Nishnawbe‑Aski’s Youth Forum, which had spent 3 years examining the suicide crisis and its causes.
In 1997, Health Canada supported a Youth and Elders Conference, attended by more than 500 participants from across the country, to discuss suicide among Aboriginal youth and other issues of concern.
D. Respect for the views of the child - Article 12
The constitutional and statutory guarantees outlined in Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child remain.
Measures in force
In divorce, custody and access proceedings, while there is no specific requirement for the child’s views to be heard, various procedures are sometimes used to elicit them for the court. These include custody and access investigation reports by social workers and psychologists; testimony of experts, such as psychologists and psychiatrists; testimony of the child, particularly an older child; and affidavit evidence. In some instances, a judge will meet directly with the child. Parents, their counsel or counsel for the child can also speak to a child’s interests or views.
The Immigration Act stipulates that a person under 18 years of age may be represented by a parent or guardian when an inquiry is held by an adjudicator to determine whether that individual should be removed from Canada. Where such a person is not represented by a parent or guardian at such an inquiry, or where, in the opinion of the adjudicator presiding at the inquiry, the child or youth is not properly represented by a parent or guardian, the inquiry must be adjourned and the adjudicator must designate some other person to represent that young person at the expense of the Minister. (Subsection 29(4) and 29(5) Immigration Act). Similarly, in proceedings before the Refugee Division regarding claims of refugee status by persons under 18 years of age, the Division may designate someone to represent a person under the age of 18. This designated person is paid an honorarium fixed by the Chairperson and such reasonable expenses as are incurred by the designated person in connection with the representation, unless the designated person is the parent.
Section 486 of the Criminal Code of Canada includes provisions in relation to respect for the views of the child:
Safeguards exist to protect the interests of witnesses who are under 14 years of age where the accused is charged with a sexual offence or an act of violence. The court can order that a support person be present with the witness while testifying. As well, the accused would normally not be permitted to personally cross-examine the witness.
Where a complainant is under the age of 18 and the accused is charged with a certain sexual offence or with corrupting children, the court may order that the complainant testify outside the courtroom or behind a screen or other device so that he or she does not have to see the accused.
The federal government, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, is currently implementing a major juvenile justice initiative. In all areas of the initiative, procedural safeguards have been included to permit the accused or young offender to express his or her opinion and views.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Although the views of the child are generally heard during divorce, access and custody proceedings, some authorities question whether it is in the best interests of a child to be involved in mediation or litigation. Those against the practice believe that the process can be difficult and emotional and that psychological damage may occur if a child is encouraged to choose one parent over another. Those in favour believe that the benefits of considering the views of the child outweigh the risks.
The views and opinions of youth were sought during a government-sponsored conference Out From the Shadows - An International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth which was held in British Columbia in 1998. The conference was initiated by Senator Landon Pearson, Canada’s Special Advisor on Children’s Rights and Cherry Kingsley, a child advocate and former victim of sexual exploitation, following their participation in the First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm in 1996. In preparation for the summit, sexually exploited children and youth in Canada were consulted on various issues. The five-day summit brought together youth as well as representatives of governments and non‑governmental organizations to examine issues related to the commercial sexual exploitation of young people and to develop strategies and initiatives. The government also supported the attendance of both Canadian and international youth at the conference.
Priorities and Goals
The respect for the views of the child were considered by the following working groups:
A Special Joint Parliamentary Committee on Custody and Access examined the Article in terms of the Divorce Act.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights studied the need for further victim legislation and related issues, with particular attention to their application in the youth justice system. Its report was submitted to Parliament in the fall of 1998.
A Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Victims of Crime also examined a variety of issues including co-ordination and delivery of victim services, the need for specialized services and the provision of information to victims.
The federal government will implement recommendations from these committees, including the establishment of a new office or policy centre for victims’ issues. This office will seek to ensure that victims’ perspectives are considered in the development of all policies and legislation and will manage, coordinate and enhance all federal initiatives relating to victims. As a federal centre of expertise, it will also focus on emerging national and international issues and trends in victim advocacy, legislation and services.
The Government of Canada has also committed itself to amending the Criminal Code to improve opportunities for victims to express how they have been affected by the crime and to require the court to consider the victim’s safety in bail decisions. The amendments will make it easier for victims to participate as witnesses in trials by providing guidelines to the courts for protecting a victim’s identity. Safeguards for young victims of sexual or violent crime will be expanded by further restricting the cross-examination by self-represented accused persons.
IV. Civil Rights and Freedoms
A. Name, nationality and parental care - Article 7
Measures in Force
Name and nationality
In Canada, the registration of children after birth is a provincial responsibility while the determination of citizenship is a federal responsibility. There have not been any changes to the legislation or policy regarding determination of citizenship since Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As a result of the Federal Court of Appeal decision in the McKenna case, (Canada (Attorney-General) v. McKenna  1 F.C. 401), Citizenship and Immigration Canada has undertaken a review of the legislative provisions governing access to citizenship for children adopted abroad by Canadian citizens. A proposed Citizenship of Canada Act, anticipated in 1999, will include provisions that would facilitate access to citizenship for these children.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
The Government of Canada has endorsed the creation of the First Nations Child and Family Service (FNCFS) agencies as a way to ensure that all First Nation children and
families receive culturally sensitive services within their First Nation community. There are 73 First Nation and Child and Family Services (FNCFS) agencies providing services to approximately 70% of the on-reserve First Nation population in Canada.
Priorities and goals
It is expected that another 36 First Nation and Child and Family Services agencies will become operational by the year 2002, bringing the on-reserve population served by FNCFS agencies to over 91 percent.
The federal, provincial and territorial governments work cooperatively in the areas of divorce, custody, access, support and juvenile justice. For example, while divorce is a federal matter, the determination of custody and access in a non-divorce situation falls to the provincial/territorial jurisdictions. The governments also work cooperatively to ensure that child support payments are paid by the non-custodial parent.
There have not been any changes in the legislation or policies regarding parental care under the Divorce Act since the writing of the First Report. A detailed description of measures in force to ensure parental financial support to children is found in Theme V (Article 27).
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
A Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Child Custody and Access has studied issues relating to custody and access arrangements after separation and divorce. The mandate of the Committee was to assess the need for a more child-centered approach to family law policies and practices that would emphasize joint parental responsibilities and child-focused parenting arrangements based on children’s needs and best interests. The Committee issued a report with recommendations in December 1998. The Government issued a response in May 1999. Further action will be highlighted in the next report.
The current Young Offenders Act sets out the rights of parents to receive notice and information regarding their child before, during and after legal proceedings. These rights have been maintained in the proposed juvenile justice initiative. For example, parents have the right to be notified of any extra-judicial measures. As well, parents of a young person charged with an offence are to be notified as soon as possible of the arrest and all requirements for appearance before the court. If possible, parents will be interviewed prior to the writing of a pre-sentence report, which is used by the court to determine the appropriate sentence for a young offender. Parents will receive notice of and explanations concerning recommendations for release from custody and can request a review if the court does not accept the recommendations.
Parents may also make an application on matters relating to their child and the court must hear these representations. Further, the courts may require a parent to attend at any stage of the proceedings in youth court. A parent who fails to attend when ordered to do so would be guilty of contempt and could be subject to arrest.
B. Preservation of identity - Article 8
With regard to the preservation of identity, there have not been any changes to the Divorce Act since the writing of the First Report.
The Government of Canada’s Inherent Right Policy allows for the negotiation of jurisdiction over civil procedures in the administration of the Divorce Act when determining Aboriginal self-government arrangements. However, to maintain national standards and consistency, jurisdiction over custody and spousal support in the context of divorce remains a federal responsibility.
There have not been any changes to the mechanisms of adoption of Aboriginal children since the First Report. However, under the Inherent Right Policy, responsibility for child welfare, including adoption, may be negotiated. A detailed description of measures relating to Aboriginal children is included in Theme VIII of this Report.
C. Freedom of expression - Article 13
There have not been any changes in the constitutional or statutory guarantees of freedom of expression since the writing of the First Report.
To commemorate the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the federal Department of Canadian Heritage created the Web site “CREDO,” and invited young people across Canada to create their own list of fundamental rights (i.e. their own credo). Posters, poetry, drawings, Web pages, rap songs and even a quilt were submitted. The Web site also provided the opportunity for young people to exchange their views with others.
Children and youth are also encouraged to express themselves through SchoolNet, an Industry Canada initiative to promote the effective use of information technology among Canadians. Examples of SchoolNet Web sites that encourage freedom of expressioninclude:
SchoolNet News Network is a monthly Internet newspaper written and produced by students from Kindergarten to Grade 12 (ages 5 to 18).
Hooked on School targets students at risk of dropping out of school or who have already quit school. The site allows young people to anonymously discuss their feelings toward school and the consequences of dropping out of school. Through this forum, many students have been encouraged to stay in school and others have returned to school.
Book Nook allows children and youth to review and recommend books aimed at their age level.
Family Treasures is geared to primary school children. It provides an on-line “show and tell” of items of archival and historical interest that may be found in the children’s homes. The Family Treasures site is linked to museums, where additional information is available.
D. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion - Article 14
The constitutional guarantees of freedom of conscience and religion and freedom of thought, belief, opinion and expression, including freedom of the press and other media of communication, have not changed since the First Report (sections 2(a) and 2(b) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
In one case, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a child’s right to life-saving medical treatment took precedence over her parents’ right to freedom of religion. The parents had refused to consent to their child receiving a blood transfusion because of their religious beliefs. (B. v. Childrens’ Aid Society of Metropolitan Toronto  1 S.C.R. 315.).
E. Freedom of association and peaceful assembly - Article 15
The constitutional guarantees of freedom of peaceful assembly and freedom of association remain. (sections 2(c) and 2(d) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms).
F. Protection of privacy - Article 16
The constitutional and statutory guarantees of protection of privacy, as outlined in the First Report, remain.
In one decision, the Supreme Court of Canada held that the publication of a youth’s image, without her consent, constituted a violation of her privacy and of her right to her image under the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, resulting in a financial award in her favour (Aubry v. Éditions Vice-Versa Inc. 1 S.C.R. 591).
In another case, the Supreme Court of Canada held that a vice-principal had not infringed a student’s constitutional right not to be subjected to unreasonable search or seizure when the vice-principal requested that the student, in the presence of a police officer, role up his pant leg. The vice-principal had reason to believe that the student was concealing drugs and had intended to sell these drugs at a school event. Drugs were found in the student’s sock, and the student was charged under the Young Offenders Act. The Court held that, in this particular case, the vice‑principal’s actions were reasonable. The Court also stated that the search of the student’s locker by the police was constitutional in this particular circumstance. (R. v. M.(M.R.)  3 S.C.R. 393.)
G. Access to appropriate information - Article 17
(a) Mass media
There have not been any amendments to the Canadian Broadcasting Act since the release of the First Report.
The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) supervises and regulates all aspects of telecommunications according to the policies set out in the Broadcasting Act. The structure and conditions of the television licence of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) have remained constant since the First Report.
The National Film Board (NFB) is a federal cultural agency that produces and distributes films that “interpret Canada to Canadians and other nations.” Extensive use of NFB films is made in Canadian elementary and secondary schools. From 1993 to 1997, the NFB released over 300 productions for children of all ages, including:
Rights from the Heart, a three‑part series of animated films based on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The Prince and I, a Web production which encourages children to learn to read and write in a playful environment.
Perspectives in Science explores a number of social and environmental issues relating to science.
Street Safe: Videos for Teens is a series of videos on issues that touch the lives of adolescents, such as sexual harassment, racism, mental illness, homelessness and addiction.
ShowPeace/AnimaPaix is a series of animated films about conflict resolution.
Le studio d’animation du Programme français continues to produce high-quality animation films, such as Mon enfant, mon terre and L'arbre mort.
In 1996, the NFB established the Media Awareness Network, a Canadian non‑profit organization dedicated to media education and media issues affecting children and youth. The Network provides an Internet site in English and French for educators, students, community leaders and others interested in knowing more about the media and its influences.
Financial assistance for the production of Canadian children’s programming is provided by both the private sector and the Canadian government. In 1994, the Canadian cable industry, with the financial support of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), established the Cable Production Fund. The purpose of the fund was to provide financial resources to produce high-quality Canadian programs in under-represented categories, including children’s programs. In 1996, the Canada Television and Cable Production Fund was created when the Cable Production Fund was integrated with the broadcast production fund of Telefilm Canada (a federal cultural agency). This annual fund helps to finance quality Canadian television programs in the categories of drama, variety, children’s shows and documentaries. In 1996-97, the fund contributed toward the production of 724 hours of children’s programming.
In 1996, the CRTC awarded licenses to two new specialty services intended primarily for children: TreeHouse TV provides programming for pre-school children and TELETOON offers animated programming for children of all ages and families. Other pay and specialty services licenced by the CRTC to provide programming for children are the French-language specialty service Canal Famille, the English-language specialty services YTV and the Family Channel, and the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). The APTN is described in further detail below. Programming provided by pay and specialty services intended for children complements the children’s programming provided by conventional and provincial educational broadcasting services. All of these services must adhere to guidelines regarding sex-role stereotyping and violence in television programming.
The Government of Canada has provided $125,000 in financial support to Concerned Children’s Advertisers (CCA), a consortium of Canadian companies which market and broadcast products and services to children and families. In recent years CCA has carried out several multi-activity projects to educate children about positive, balanced, informed and healthy television viewing. This project involved the production and airing of media literacy vignettes, entitled TV and Me. These vignettes informed children and youth of issues such as life-skill education (self-esteem, decision-making, role models and substance free living); media literacy (media message, heroes, stereotypes, role models, fantasy versus reality, media violence and the technical side of television); and peer education (the role of older children in educating younger children about positive living).
In March 1997, the second Status of Women Canada Roundtable on Portrayal of Young Women in the Media took place. Participants included industry representatives, advertising agencies, publishers, fashion editors and television producers, as well as academics and representatives of MediaWatch who have expertise on the impact of the media images on young women. Among the concerns discussed were the relationship between the portrayal of women as victims and violence against women, and the sexualization of younger women. This dialogue continued in 1998-99.
Telefilm Canada, a federal cultural agency, fosters and promotes the development of the feature film and television industries in Canada. Since 1994, Telefilm Canada has provided financial support for 47 programs for children, including successful series such as Watatatow, La Maison de Ouimzie, The Adventures of Dudley the Dragon and Big Comfy Couch.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation is using the Internet to develop alternative offerings for children and youth. The CBC’s Web site includes information on children’s programming, related activities and games and information for parents and teachers on the effective use of television in the home and classroom.
SchoolNet, an Industry Canada initiative, is designed to promote the effective use of information technology among Canadians by helping all public schools and public libraries connect to the Internet. This initiative responds to the Government of Canada’s commitment to ensure the Internet is accessible to all Canadians, regardless of income level or location. The SchoolNet project aims to have 250,000 connected computers in Canadian classrooms (approximately one per classroom) by March 31, 2001.
SchoolNet’s Computers for Schools program channels surplus computer equipment from businesses, government and individuals into classrooms and public libraries across Canada. This award-winning program, a partnership effort of the Telephone Pioneers of America, governments, businesses, volunteer groups and communities, has been a contributing factor to the success of the SchoolNet initiative.
Another component of the initiative is an informational Internet site aimed primarily at students and teachers. The SchoolNet Web site fosters a culture of lifelong learners and promotes the development of the kinds of skills required to compete in the knowledge-based economy.
The site provides links to hundreds of Canadian educational and informational Web sites. All links are carefully screened by Industry Canada to ensure the content is appropriate for children. Any site that contains pornographic, sexist, discriminatory or otherwise inappropriate material is not linked to SchoolNet.
Many of the sites linked to SchoolNet are for teachers to assist them in planning and educating. Many others are geared to children, for example:
(a)D.E.A.L. - Drug Education and Awareness for Life, is designed to inform and educate youth, as well as adults, on substance abuse issues, provide problem-solving skills and promote effective ways to deal with the use of drugs.
(b)The Little Math Puzzle challenges students from grades 5 to 10 with a new mathematical puzzle every week.
(c)Healthy Teeth, designed for grades 3 to 6, uses animation, easy-to-understand text and simple classroom experiments to promote good dental health. The Canadian Dental Association, the Nova Scotia Dental Association and the Halifax County Dental Society are the site’s major sponsors.
(d)Politics by Aristotle encourages youth to read this well-known essay online and exchange their ideas and comments with other students.
(b) International cooperation
As of April 1998, Canada has signed a total of 44 film and television co-production agreements with 52 states. Canadian children’s programming is made available in other countries by a variety of means, in particular Telefilm Canada’s International Affairs division and its European office located in Paris.
SchoolNet is recognized around the world for its innovative and exciting approach to learning through technology. The Office of International Partnerships has been established by Industry Canada to provide a single point of access to Canada’s information communication technology skills and products, including SchoolNet, for any country or foreign organization seeking to build their own electronic learning network.
(c) Dissemination of books
The Book Publishing Industry Development Program provides funding to the Canadian Children’s Book Centre for its “Read About It” series of study guides on outstanding Canadian young adult fiction for use in classrooms nation-wide.
(d) Linguistic needs of minority and indigenous children
The linguistic requirements of the Broadcasting Act, as outlined in the First Report, remain. The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) continues to support the Native Broadcasting Policy, which fosters the development of Aboriginal cultures and the preservation of native languages.
In February 1999, the CRTC approved an application by Television Northern Canada Incorporated (TVNC) to operate the Aboriginal Peoples Television Network (APTN). Effective September 1, 1999, APTN will be distributed nationally, a move that meets the objectives of the Broadcasting Act. Programming will be targeted to a variety of age groups and interests, and will include children’s shows, educational, cultural and current affairs programming, drama, music, comedy, documentary features, discussion programs, political coverage, and special events, as well as programming about indigenous people around the world. Through this programming, APTN will provide social benefits by helping to preserve the cultural identity of Aboriginal peoples and by offering a cultural bridge between Aboriginal and non‑Aboriginal communities.
Industry Canada, through its SchoolNet initiative, the Assembly of First Nations, and Stentor, a private sector telecommunications company, have worked together to connect all interested First Nations schools under federal jurisdiction to the Internet. The SchoolNet Internet site provides access to First Nations curriculum resources in English, Cree and Syllabic and cultural collections of First Nations artifacts and art. Through the site, student and teachers and others are able to network with other First Nations schools and communities.
As part of Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan, an Aboriginal language program to preserve and teach Aboriginal languages is being developed by the Department of Canadian Heritage and the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (DIAND). DIAND has provided funding for language and cultural activities to First Nations elementary and secondary on-reserve schools. Financial assistance is also given to a Cultural Education Centres Program through First Nations, tribal/district councils and First Nations/Inuit non-profit corporations to preserve, develop, promote and express their cultural heritage and languages.
The Department of Canadian Heritage works with provinces and territories to ensure that minority schools offer their students an education of comparable quality to that offered to the majority (in keeping with section 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms). The Department also supports, in co-operation with provincial and territorial governments, the provision of high-quality second-language instruction at all levels.
(e) Protective guidelines
The role of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) as outlined in the First Report, remains. Since 1994, the CRTC has required all television services to comply with the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Voluntary Code Regarding Violence in Television Programming. The Code contains a section dealing specifically with children’s programming, which sets out strict limitations on the nature and amount of violence that may be included in programs directed at persons under 12 years of age. The Code stipulates that children’s programming must:
portray very little physical, verbal or emotional violence;
carefully deal with themes that could threaten children’s sense of security, or that could invite children to imitate acts they see on screen;
show, in human terms, the consequences of any realistic depiction of violence to its victims and perpetrators;
not contain realistic scenes of violence that create the impression that violence is the preferred way or the only method to resolve conflict between individuals, or that minimize or gloss over the effects of violent acts; and
not contain frightening or otherwise excessive special effects not required by the storyline.
Factors, difficulties and progress
The CRTC’s Policy on Violence in Television Programming, announced in March 1996, emphasized the need for tools for parents to use in protecting their children from the harmful effects of television violence, such as a classification system for rating violence in television programming and “V-chip technology” for blocking programs with inappropriate levels of violence.
In 1997, the CRTC approved a classification system that will help parents make informed choices. Proposed by the Action Group on Violence on Television (AGVOT), an organization representing all sectors of the Canadian broadcasting industry, the six-level classification system rates programs based on language, sexual content and violent content. Canadian broadcasters started providing on-screen ratings using the approved classification system in October 1997.
The CRTC remains committed to the implementation by broadcasters and the cable industry of an affordable V-chip compatible classification system. AGVOT is continuing its work to resolve problems surrounding V-chip technology, and will provide CRTC with regular progress reports.
H. Right not to be subjected to torture or other cruel, inhuman
or degrading treatment or punishment - Article 37 ( a)
The constitutional guarantees outlined in the First Report remain. In Canada, capital punishment is not an available punishment.
The juvenile justice system is described under the headings “children in conflict with the law” and “children deprived of their liberty” in Theme VIII.
V. Family environment and alternative care
For the most part, the provinces and territories of Canada have jurisdiction over family law, the regulation of social welfare agencies and the administration of the court. Issues of custody and visiting rights come under federal jurisdiction to the extent that they arise in the context of divorce. The federal government also has jurisdiction over immigration and criminal law.
Aboriginal people and the lands reserved to them also fall under federal jurisdiction. However, Aboriginal communities are taking more control over laws related to the family environment and alternative care through self-government agreements.
A. Parental guidance and
B. Parental responsibilities - Articles 5 & 18 (1-2)
Measures in Force
The Government of Canada spends approximately $1 billion for parental and maternity benefits under the Employment Insurance Act (EI). The Act provides 15 weeks of maternity benefits to new mothers and a total of 10 weeks of parental benefits (with 5 additional weeks for special needs) to the mother or father, or to both, who have accumulated at least 700 hours of insurable employment in the 52-week period preceding their claim for benefits. These benefits are applicable to parents of newborns or newly adopted children. Under EI, a claimant receives a weekly benefit of 55 percent of his/her insured earnings up to a maximum of $39,000 per year.
In addition, beginning in January 1997, a claimant with children whose family income is less than $25,921 and who receives the Child Tax Benefit receives a “top up” of maternity and parental benefits up to 65 percent of insured earnings. This benefit rate will increase by 5 percentage-point increments each year, to 80 percent in 2000.
The Government of Canada provides resources to the provinces and territories to help with the implementation of new Child Support Guidelines (CSG) and to support innovative measures to collect court-ordered child support payments. The federal Child Support Initiative further complements these measures with programs to reduce the level of conflict between
parents in determining and enforcing child support awards. As part of these efforts, the federal
government has worked in close cooperation with a number of provinces and territories to
develop and/or enhance parent education programs. These programs, which may be voluntary or mandatory, use a variety of delivery methods including printed materials, information sessions, videos and education curricula for children.
The Military Family Services Program, formerly the Military Family Support Program established in 1991, continues to deliver programs designed to meet the special needs of military families stemming from frequent postings and transfers. Consistent and coordinated family support are offered through services for children and youth, information referral, education and quality of life programs, crisis intervention and volunteer development. Program delivery is provided through 44 independent Military Family Resource Centres.
The Postpartum Parent Support Program, a community-based health and infant care information program, is described in detail in Theme VI.
Health Canada’s Nobody’s Perfect program targets parents with children up to age five who are young, single, low‑income, socially or geographically isolated or who have limited formal education. The program gives parents accurate, up‑to‑date information on children’s health, safety, development, behaviour and other information to increase confidence in parenting abilities. Nobody’s Perfect program materials were recently updated and revised.
In partnership with Health Canada, Family Service Canada distributes Welcome to Parenting: The First Six Years, a video that provides key information and helpful tips for parents through a creative mix of parent and child interactions, parent interviews, skits and animation.
In 1996, the Women’s Bureau of Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) issued Changing Families, Changing Workplaces. This publication is designed to publicize innovative programs and policies that social workers and organizations have used in Canadian workplaces to support workers with family responsibilities and to give them greater flexibility. While HRDC remains interested in work and family issues, this does not continue to be a specific priority of the Women’s Bureau.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
The 1996 Employment Insurance reform changed the eligibility calculation method for all benefits from one based on weeks (minimum of 20 weeks at 15 hours per week required to be eligible) to one based on hours of insurable employment (minimum of 700 hours to be eligible). Monitoring and Assessment Reports published annually have indicated that few maternity benefits claimants have been adversely affected by the change to the hours-based system. The Government will continue to assess the effects of changes to Employment Insurance regulations on maternity and parental benefits.
Government and NGO Cooperation
In partnership with the Canadian Living Foundation, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation and Invest in Kids Foundation, Health Canada developed the “Get Set for Life” campaign. This national awareness campaign, which targets families, day care facilities and communities, focuses on the development of the child during the first 5 years, with particular attention to the importance of cognitive development. Program delivery is achieved through television and radio programs, magazine articles, posters, other print pieces, mall displays, and community forums.
Health Canada, through the Population Health Fund, is increasing the involvement of young fathers in parental education and has supported projects in the area of Fathering and Teen Parenting.
Through its Partnership Branch, CIDA supports NGOs that work to strengthen family environments for children. Pueblito is a Canadian NGO which works with NGOs in Latin America to provide quality child care, to support social service projects with local governments, and to improve and develop legislation for children that meets the standards of the Convention.
C. Separation - Article 9
Measures in Force
The Divorce Act, with respect to parental contact (section 16 (10)), has not changed since Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Case law suggests that most judges and parents are of the view that there should be regular and frequent contact with both parents unless such contact poses a risk to the child. Recent court examples held that “an access parent is entitled to share his or her lifestyle with the child unless this poses a risk to the child” (Gordon v. Goertz, 19 R.F.L. (4th 177,  2 S.C.R. 27; Young v. Young 49 R.F.L. (3d) 117;  4 S.C.R.) and that the “child is to have as much contact with each parent as is consistent with the child’s best interests” (McElroy v. McElroy,  W.D.F.L. 2188 (B.C.S.C.).
Status of Women Canada has released several research papers on custody and access, as well on topics such as child care and gender and social responsibility.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
While custody and access cases continue to be decided according to the best interests of the child, there is no consistent definition of the principle. As a result, the “best interests test” continues to be criticized as being arbitrary and unpredictable.
The diversity of family structures (custodial and non-custodial parents, step-parents, members of common-law relationships, half siblings and step siblings) results in many children facing complex social relationships. The Government recognizes the links between the pressures of these relationships and ensuing pressures on other parts of children’s lives.
Priorities and Goals
A Special Joint Committee of the Senate and the House of Commons on Child Custody and Access was established in 1997 with a mandate to assess the need for a more child-centered approach to family law policies and practices. Such an approach would emphasize joint parental responsibilities and child-focused parenting arrangements based on children’s needs and interests. The Committee heard from over 500 witnesses.
Institutions and Mechanisms
Although the federal government has exclusive jurisdiction to legislate in the area of divorce, most family law initiatives depend upon federal/provincial/territorial coordination. The Federal/Provincial/Territorial Family Law Committee was established to develop law reforms and make recommendations in a coordinated, multi-level fashion that recognizes the responsibilities shared between jurisdictions.
Governments and NGO Cooperation
Family Mediation Canada, with support from Health Canada, compiled an inventory of Canadian parenting education programs and resources, entitled Families in Transition: Children of Separation and Divorce. The list includes over 140 programs in every province, as well as videos, books and other resources for parents, social service workers and others. In another Health Canada-supported initiative, Family Mediation Canada is reviewing parent education programs across Canada in order to develop a best practices model.
Status of Women Canada provides financial and technical assistance to organizations working to advance gender equality at the community, regional and national level. Support has been provided for projects on custody, access and support issues, including strategies to educate and advocate for systemic change related to custody and access disputes, particularly in cases of abuse.
Life Goes On, a popular publication for families in transition, is currently being revised and updated with funding from Health Canada.
D. Family Reunification - Article 10
See Theme VIII - Special Protection Measures.
E. Illicit transfer and non-return - Article 11
Measures in Force
The Criminal Code of Canada includes the illicit transfer and the non-return of children as offences; section 279 (1) of the code provides for a penalty of life imprisonment for kidnaping where force is used.
Canada has ratified the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, which ensures that States Parties secure the prompt return of children wrongfully removed or retained and respect of parental rights of custody and access. (Canada will be required to modify its declaration as the new territory of Nunavut prepares to have the Convention apply to its jurisdiction).
An annual workshop conference brings together the agencies involved in the Our Missing Children Program from across Canada. The 1997 conference, hosted by Citizenship and Immigration Canada, focused on the international abduction of children and missing and exploited children. Participants included non-profit organizations, police forces, law enforcement officers from around the world including INTERPOL, the FBI, and the Belgium Gendarmerie, Irish Family Law Association, and UNICEF regional groups in Canada. Delegates to the conference learned of the work of the Canadian Consular offices, and the procedures to issue passports to children.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Parental abductions of children are a serious and growing problem in Canada.
Statistics currently available do not distinguish between domestic and international
In November 1996, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), joined Revenue Canada, Citizenship and Immigration, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police as a partner in the Our Missing Children Program. As part of its Consular Awareness Program, DFAIT publishes International Child Abductions - A Manual for Parents. It also provides information on the rights and responsibilities of countries which are signatories to the Hague Convention, as well as those countries which are not signatories, on issues of abduction of, and access to, children.
Priorities and Goals
In November 1997, the Parliamentary Sub-Committee on Human Rights and International Development convened to address issues related to international child
abduction and to hear the concerns of governmental and non-governmental service
agencies working in this field. The Sub-Committee released a report in 1998 of its findings, including a discussion of Canada’s compliance with the provisions of the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction. The Government’s response to the
report was tabled in November 1998 where it endorsed or accepted eleven of fourteen recommendations, with some qualifications. It will be acted upon in the forthcoming reporting period.
F. Recovery of maintenance for the child - Article 27 (4)
Measures in Force
Child support and maintenance were identified as priority areas for attention in Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
The 1996 Federal Budget announced a child support reform package that included: child support guidelines; changes in the tax treatment of child support; redirection of the tax savings towards low income families with children; and improved measures for the enforcement of support orders.
The Federal Child Support Guidelines, which became law on May 1, 1997, were designed to protect children’s right to an appropriate level of child support; reduce conflict between parents; reduce legal and court costs; and ensure that supporting parents with the same level of income pay the same amount. The Guidelines consist of a set of rules and tables for calculating the amount of support that a paying parent should contribute toward the support of his or her children.
The Guidelines changed the manner in which child support amounts are determined under the Divorce Act. The Divorce Act amendments provided the framework for the Federal Child Support Guidelines, while the guidelines themselves have been introduced through the regulatory process. Corresponding amendments to the Income Tax Act concerning the tax treatment of child support payments came into effect at the same time.
In 1997, amendments were made to the Family Orders and Agreements Enforcement Assistance Act (FOAEA). Part I of the Act provides for the release of information from specified federal databases (including Revenue Canada, Canada’s income tax collection agency) to assist in locating a person in breach of court-ordered family support payments. The address of the support payer in arrears, as well as the name and address of the individual’s employer, are the only information provided. Part II of the Act permits the garnishment of specified federal funds to satisfy support payments.
Part III of the Act establishes a mechanism by which federal licences can be denied to, or revoked from, parents who are in arrears of child support payments. Under the Act, a Provincial Enforcement Agency may apply to the Minister of Justice to request that certain federal licences, such as passports and specific aviation and marine licenses, be denied to a debtor who is in persistent arrears. The licence denial process requires that the Provincial Enforcement Agency prove that other enforcement measures have not been successful and that the debtor has failed to meet his or her support obligations for three payment periods or has accumulated arrears of at least $3,000.
Pursuant to the May 1, 1997 amendments, the Provincial and Territorial Maintenance Enforcement Programs are now permitted to electronically access the FOAEA enforcement services.
The Garnisheed, Attachment and Pension Diversion Act (GAPDA), which permits federal public service employees’ salaries and pensions to be garnished for support enforcement purposes, was amended on May 1, 1997. It is no longer necessary to serve a notice of intention to garnish federal salaries, a change that simplifies the process and brings it into line with practices of the provinces, territories and private industry. An applicant for diversion of federal civil service pensions is no longer required to be living in Canada. The Courts have also been given authority to deal with the diversion of specific federal pension benefits in a more expedient manner. Under certain circumstances, pension diversion may occur beyond the previous maximum of 50 percent of a net pension benefit.
The Department of Justice Canada informs the public and members of the legal community about the child support laws through a toll-free information line, an Internet site, a number of publications including Federal Child Support Guidelines: A Guide to the New Approach; and A Workbook for Parents. The department also publishes a reference manual for lawyers and judges, which was recently expanded to include model case studies and additional articles by practitioners.
Factors, Difficulties, and Progress
Under the Action Plan for children, the Department of Justice Canada established a fund to provide resources to provinces and territories to improve child and spousal support enforcement programs. The financial assistance provided enhanced communications between jurisdictions, the testing of innovative projects and the implementation or updating of automated information systems. The five-year program ended March 31, 1996.
The Report of the Joint Parliamentary Committee on Custody and Access, completed in December 1998, references issues surrounding the Federal Child Support Guidelines. During its research, both Committee members and witnesses frequently commented on the Guidelines. In particular, fathers’ groups and some Committee members linked the Guidelines to custody and access issue.
The Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics (CCJS), a division of Statistics Canada, is implementing the national Maintenance Enforcement Survey. To date, the CCJS has released a preliminary report containing data from three provincial jurisdictions.
Justice Canada is planing a number of studies and analyses to provide baseline information about the broader social context of the child support guidelines and enforcement initiatives. These studies will be based on Statistics Canada and Revenue Canada databases that contain information on divorce, separation, child and spousal awards, custody and access arrangements and the Canadian family in general.
Priorities and Goals
Section 28 of the Divorce Act requires the Minister of Justice Canada to prepare a report to Parliament on the substantive and functional aspects of the Federal Child Support Guidelines by May 1, 2002. During the Parliamentary hearings regarding the Guidelines, the Minister of Justice committed to consulting with the public on the research needed to prepare the report to Parliament. A program of empirical and legal research has been set in place to monitor the extent to which the Guidelines meet their stated objectives: to protect children's right to an appropriate level of child support; ensure that payers with the same level of income pay the same amount; reduce conflict between parents; and reduce legal and court costs.
The Department of Justice Canada participated in the development of specific questions on custody, access and child support for the family and custody history section of the National Longitudinal Survey of Children and Youth (NLSCY). The report will be available in the Spring of 1999.
The Department of Justice Canada will be working with Family Mediation Canada, continuing legal education organizations, and public legal education and information organizations to develop materials and education and training programs on child support directed at lawyers, judges, mediation professionals, and special-needs parents and youth.
Institutions and Mechanisms
A Federal/Provincial/Territorial Task Force was established in 1996 to ensure effective implementation of child support reforms. The Task Force is responsible for implementing, monitoring and communicating legislative changes to Canada's child support system. This includes the introduction of federal guidelines to establish fairer and more consistent child support payments, and additional enforcement procedures to help provincial and territorial enforcement agencies ensure that family support obligations are respected.
The Funding Program component of the Child Support Guidelines Initiative contains 4 program elements: an implementation component; an enforcement component; public legal education, information and intermediary training; and professional training.
The Department of Justice Canada works with, and provides funding to, provinces and territories, non-governmental organizations and groups of professionals to assist in the implementation of child support reforms. Activities supported include: administrative changes, development, testing, monitoring and evaluation of innovative approaches; communications, public legal education and information programs; and professional development training activities. The department also helps non-governmental organizations develop and deliver professional training and public legal education and information materials. Funding provides a mechanism for gathering information on how legislation is implemented for future development of government and departmental policy, legislative and program changes.
The Department of Justice Canada established a network with the Departments of Finance and Revenue to obtain information on the tax treatment of child support and to facilitate access to information by provinces and territories. The Department of Justice Canada is also working with Human Resources Development Canada to determine how certain benefit payments will be dealt with under the Guidelines.
Government and NGO Cooperation
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of establishing partnerships with non-governmental organizations to inform and educate the general public, stakeholders and divorced and separated parents. The Department of Justice Canada has established working relationships with Public Legal Education and Information (PLEI) organizations to ensure that information on the guidelines is developed and disseminated in a manner that meets various community needs. As well, the Department works with professional organizations, using their education programs and delivery mechanisms, to ensure that a wide range of professionals involved in child support issues are informed and educated on the guidelines.
G. Children deprived of their family environment - Article 20
Provincial and territorial governments have jurisdiction over alternative care for children.
The federal government provides income support of $1,020 per child in respect of children deprived of their family environment under the Children’s Special Allowances Act. This amount will be increased by $250 per child by July 2000.
CIDA’s humanitarian assistance work includes family reunification and alternative care for children where possible. Between 1995 and 1997, CIDA supported Aide aux enfants traumatisés et non ‑accompagnés, a project based in Northern Rwanda. Project objectives were to reintegrate unaccompanied children into family environments, encourage the adoption of children by Rwandan families, identify and treat traumatized children and train and organize specialized workers to provide traumatized children with adequate and continuing services.
H. Adoption - Article 21
Adoption falls within the jurisdiction of the provinces and territories.
Measures in Force
The National Adoption Desk, on behalf of provinces and territories (except Quebec), develops and implements working arrangements with other countries to safeguard the best interests of the child. Article 21 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child provides the guiding principles for its activities.
Under self-government agreements, Aboriginal communities are assuming greater authority on family law and adoption issues. For example, under a recently negotiated self‑government agreement, the Nisga’a First Nation’s community governments will assume jurisdiction for child and family services including custody and adoption. The Nisga’a laws will be comparable to provincial standards and will include reciprocal arrangements between jurisdictions.
The Hague Convention on Intercountry Adoption, ratified December 1996 has entered into force for most provinces and territories. The Convention established a framework for cooperation between States Parties. The Convention allows each State Party to determine how it will be implemented within their jurisdiction. Implementation structures, legislation, regulations, and policies therefore vary from State to State, and Central Authorities (i.e. provinces) need to collaborate closely to ensure the objectives of the Hague Convention are met. In Canada, the Minister of Human Resources Development (HRDC) acts as the Federal Authority, and the National Adoption Desk carries out the responsibilities under the Convention.
Amendments to Canada’s immigration regulations were required to bring them in line with the Hague Convention. These amendments, which came into force on April 1, 1997, provide that in intercountry adoptions, the Central Authorities of the receiving country and the country of origin must agree to a child’s placement and that immigration requirements must be met before an immigration visa is issued.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Upon ratification of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, in consultation with national Aboriginal organizations, Canada entered a reservation to Article 21. This was done to ensure that recognition of customary forms of care among Aboriginal peoples in Canada, such as custom adoption, was not precluded by the requirement in Article 21, which states that adoptions be authorized by competent authorities, in accordance with applicable laws and procedures.
Priorities and Goals
The National Adoption Desk is giving priority to promoting the Hague Convention in Canada and abroad. It focuses on facilitating the cooperation among Central Authorities in Canada and, where required by provinces and territories, between Central Authorities in Canada and foreign Central Authorities.
I. ABUSE AND NEGLECT - ARTICLE 19
Measures in Force
In its Concluding Observations on Canada’s First Report, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child stated that further measures need to be considered to effectively prevent and combat all forms of corporal punishment and ill-treatment of children in schools or institutions where children may be placed. The Committee also referenced the existence of child abuse and violence within the family and insufficient protection afforded by existing legislation in that regard.
The Criminal Code of Canada contains several provisions to protect children and youth from all forms of sexual abuse, including: sections 151 (sexual interference), 152 (invitation to sexual touching), and 153 (sexual exploitation). Specific offenses in the Criminal Code concerning parents, guardians and householders include: sections 170 (parent or guardian procuring sexual activity), 171 (householder permitting sexual activity) and 172 (corrupting children).
The Family Violence Initiative (1991-1996) supported a wide range of activities including research, program development, demonstration projects, evaluation studies on existing programs, professional training, and public awareness and education. The current Family Violence Initiative (1997-2002) continues these activities through the funding of numerous information, training and evaluation projects.
Two components of the initiative are The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence and the Family Violence Prevention Unit. The National Clearinghouse on Family Violence provides support to front-line workers, health professionals, educators, law enforcement officials and others in the prevention and treatment of all forms of child abuse and neglect. Health Canada is the lead department on this initiative, and provides leadership in the prevention of family violence through the coordination of federal action and collaboration with voluntary and corporate sectors, national professional associations and provincial and territorial governments.
Since the 1970s, the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has financed the building or renovation of shelters for women and children fleeing domestic violence. In 1992, in partnership with the Family Violence Initiative, CMHC launched the Next Step Program to provide capital funding for non‑profit organizations to build second stage housing, provide transitional housing with more security, support services, and to permit longer stays than first stage emergency shelters for women who have left abusive domestic situations. During the five-year program, 174 second‑stage units were developed.
A national consultation hosted by CMHC in 1994 indicated a need to ensure that existing shelters are safe and secure and that they address the special needs of children, persons with disabilities and older Canadians. In addition, a lack of shelters was identified in northern and remote regions. In response, the Shelter Enhancement Initiative (SEI) was established to renovate and upgrade existing shelters and to develop a limited number of new emergency and second stage units. Between 1995 and 1997, CMHC directed the enhancement of 4,448 bed/units and the development of 61 emergency beds and 22 second stage units. Additional federal funding extended the SEI project to March 31, 1998.
The Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development (DIAND) and Health Canada provide funding for First Nations family violence prevention projects on reserves. In 1996-97, DIAND funded 321 projects in this area.
Factors, difficulties and progress
In its Concluding Observations, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child asserted that existing Canadian legislation does not adequately protect children from abuse and neglect. The Government of Canada’s view is that in addition to the protection provided in criminal legislation, all provinces and territories have child welfare legislation that permits authorities to remove a child from a home when in danger of physical or emotional abuse, including neglect. The Government of Canada has been seeking to reinforce and clarify protection under the Criminal Code.
The Criminal Code applies to actions taken against children as well as adults. However, s. 43 of the Criminal Code permits a parent, teacher or person acting in the place of parent to invoke a defence to a criminal charge where the parent, teacher or adult acting in place of the parent uses reasonable force against a child by way of correction. A non-government organization, Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law, has received funding from the government-funded Court Challenges program to apply to a Canadian court for a determination as to whether s. 43 of the Criminal Code infringes children's constitutional rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Priorities and Goals
Health Canada continues to promote research on alternative methods of punishment and also works, through various media, to increase public awareness of family violence. A current example of the latter function is the Family Violence Prevention Unit’s funding of a music video for children and adults on the subject of alternatives to corporal punishment.
Health Canada is also supporting the development of the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect (CIS), which studies the incidence of several types of abuse. Also, through the Reporting and Classification of Child Abuse in Health Care Settings Project, the department has supported research on the ways in which selected Canadian pediatric hospitals classify and report child abuse.
In June 1997, DIAND and CMHC announced they would jointly fund the capital costs of building 10 new family violence emergency shelters across the country. They expect the centres to be in operation by the end of 1999.
Government and NGO Cooperation
The Child Welfare League of Canada, with financial support from Canadian Heritage and Health Canada, has developed resources to promote healthy parenting and disseminate information on child abuse in 11 languages. The brochures were distributed to organizations that provide family services to ethnocultural communities as a way of helping parents better understand the Canadian system to protect children from abuse.
Status of Women Canada, a federal agency, provides funding assistance to organizations in support of advancing gender equality, including those which support actions and strategies that address the impact of family violence on girls. These initiatives include public education activities and the development of action plans aimed at preventing sexual abuse, workshops in schools to address issues such as dating violence and sexual harassment and protocols to improve community responses to the needs of girls. For example, the agency has provided financial support under the Family Violence Initiative to an alliance of 5 research centres on family violence and violence against women. The funding supports the alliance in its development of recommendations for a national strategy for the prevention of violence to female children.
The Government of Canada is allocating $2.75 million per year to a non-governmental group to cover legal costs associated with cases of national significance in further defining the nature and extent of constitutionally-based rights contained in the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. Cases encompass issues such as the aforementioned issue of corporal punishment of children, the right to education in a minority official language, and protection of children with disabilities, among others. The government’s objective is to contribute to an up‑to‑date body of legally-protected individual rights, with special attention being paid to traditionally disadvantaged segments of our society.
Health Canada supports a range of activities to improve understanding of child abuse and its health consequences, to identify best practices through research, data gathering and evaluation activities. Moreover, Health Canada promotes increased public and professional awareness, particularly in the health field, about the causes and consequences of child abuse. Participation in these activities is ongoing with a number of advisory groups.
VI. Basic Health and Welfare
In Canada, responsibility for services to improve the basic health and well-being of Canadians is shared between the federal, provincial and territorial governments.
Provincial and territorial governments are responsible for the delivery of Canada's health care and hospital services. In partnership with provincial and territorial governments, the Government of Canada provides national leadership to develop health policy, test ways the health care system can be improved, enforce health regulations, promote disease prevention and enhance healthy living for all Canadians. The federal government also ensures that health services are available and accessible to First Nations and Inuit communities. It also works closely with other agencies and health stakeholders to reduce health and safety risks to Canadians.
With regard to the range of social services, including income security, child and family services, employment insurance, services for disabled persons and housing services, responsibilities are shared between governments, and are described in greater detail throughout this chapter.
The federal government shares in the cost of these health and social services through annual Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) allocations. The 1996 Federal Budget introduced the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST), replacing both the Canada Assistance Plan (CAP) and Established Programs Financing (EPF). Under the CHST, federal funds which support post-secondary education, health, social services and social assistance are transferred to the provinces and territories in a block fund. Compared to previous program‑specific approaches, the CHST allows provinces and territories to allocate resources at their discretion directly into the areas which they have identified as in need. The CHST also increases provincial/territorial flexibility in the development and delivery of social programs, including child care and services for disabled children. As under the Canada Assistance Plan, the CHST continues to permit provinces and territories to establish welfare rates and eligibility criteria.
The CHST includes a five‑year funding arrangement through which fiscal transfers are maintained and then increase according to a formula tied to GDP. For 2000‑01, entitlement will grow at 2 percent less than the growth rate of GDP. The rate of entitlement growth will then accelerate in 2001‑02 and 2002-03 to 1 percent less than the growth rate of GDP. The resumption of entitlement growth is designed to first stabilize, and then restore the CHST cash component. To provide additional security, legislation has set a minimum transfer level throughout the five‑year fiscal arrangement.
Aboriginal communities are taking more control over the governance of their membership, including such matters as the design and delivery of health and welfare services and programs. The Government of Canada is facilitating this through the Inherent Right Policy described in this Report under General Measures of Implementation. In response to the recommendations of the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples and the Government’s Gathering Strength Action Plan, this policy framework is being adjusted to stress the renewal of government-to-government relationships with Aboriginal communities. Emphasis is placed on strengthening Aboriginal governance through capacity-building in the transition to self‑government.
A. Disabled Children - Article 23
Measures in Force
The Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Act (VRDP) enabled the Government of Canada, under time‑limited agreements, to contribute 50 percent of approved costs incurred by provinces and territories in providing programs to enable persons with disabilities to pursue employment. The VRDP has been replaced by a considerably enriched Employment Assistance for Persons with Disabilities (EAPD) program, funding for which was increased starting in 1998‑99.
From 1991 to 1996, the National Strategy for the Integration of Persons with Disabilities funded the identification, development and dissemination of model programs and policies to deal with the needs of children with disabilities in daycare, child care and school settings. Work is now underway on the Federal Disability Strategy, which will focus on laying the foundation for sustained action towards a vision of full participation for people with disabilities.
The federal government has announced a number of new tax-related initiatives to help disabled persons, including disabled children. First, tax assistance for the care of infirm dependents has been increased by close to 50 percent. Also, a number of new tax measures have been introduced to reflect disability costs (including those related to children). The list of expenses eligible for the medical tax credit has been broadened, the $5,000 limit on attendant care expenses has been removed, and entry of goods designed for the use of persons with disabilities will be duty free. Further, existing homeowners have been provided with tax assistance to purchase a more accessible home or a home for a disabled dependent relative, and the service of providing temporary care to a disabled person who has limited means of self supervision or self-care, will be exempt from the federal value-added tax. In addition to these tax measures, grants for students with disabilities have been introduced to better enable them to pursue their studies.
Many federally‑sponsored housing programs include special provisions for persons with disabilities. A significant proportion of non‑profit dwellings house people with physical disabilities, and many of these units incorporate special design featuresPriority is given to making shelters accessible to women with disabilities and funding units suitable for people using wheelchairs. These programs not only help those children who have disabilities, but also help to keep disabled family members within a domestic setting.
Since 1981, the Rehabilitation Residential Assistance Program (RRAP) for Persons with Disabilities has provided loans and grants to cover the cost of major home modifications or repairs that assist in independent living. This program is available to all persons with disabilities, including children. Funding for the RRAP program has been extended
Parents of children with disabilities are entitled to 4 tax credits: the disability tax credit, the medical expense tax credit, the refundable medical expense tax credit, and the child care expense deduction.
CIDA contributes to efforts to eliminate iodine deficiency disorder which is the most common nutritional disorder in the world and causes mental impairments in children. In 1996‑1997, the Asian Regional Iodine Deficiency Control Project supported programs in Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Indonesia, Laos, Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Thailand and Vietnam.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
The 1998 Federal Budget increased the Canada Study Grant for Students with Disabilities, which covers exceptional costs related to permanent disabilities, including tutors, interpreters and special equipment.
While a range of national measures exist for data collection and analysis related to
health and well-being, some of which include information on disabilities, there is no national collection, synthesis and analysis of data and information related specifically to children with disabilities.
Improved knowledge and technology has meant that more children survive chronic disabilities such as cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and cerebral palsy. The number and level of services required to address the needs of these children and their families will likely increase as they seek to improve their living conditions.
Improved knowledge of early fetal and infant development is likely to lead toward the identification of a greater number of genetic and biological links with developmental disabilities Accordingly, there is a need to set safeguards against the potential dangers of genetic screening
and genetic therapy. Possible concerns include freedom of choice of the individual and privacy. The ethical and legal aspects of confidentiality should be addressed because genetic information is both an individual and a family concern.
Priorities and Goals
In 1996, the government appointed the Federal Task Force on Disability Issues to consult with the disability community and develop recommendations for future policy directions. An initial outcome of the task force was the extension of the Vocational Rehabilitation of Disabled Persons Act (VDRP). The 1997 federal Budget further reflected 2 key findings of the task force: tax reform to better reflect the cost of a disability, as well as measures to reduce barriers to employment for people with disabilities. Many of the recommendations of the task force have been implemented (see “Progress” above).
In Unison, a federal/provincial/territorial initiative, sets out a vision and policy framework for the full participation of persons with disabilities in all aspects of Canadian society.
Institutions and Mechanisms
The Office of Disability Issues (ODI), within Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC), works to ensure the equitable access and effective participation of Canadians with disabilities in all activities within federal jurisdiction. While HRDC does not have a specific program or service mandate with respect to children with disabilities, ODI does have a mandate to look broadly at the implementation of human rights measures as they apply to all persons with disabilities, including children.
Government and NGO Cooperation
Health Canada, with the Active Living Alliance for Canadians with a Disability (ALACD) and its partner organizations, provides teachers with materials that facilitate the inclusion of students with disabilities in physical activity programs of schools. In partnership with the provincial and territorial Ministries of Education, ALACD provides classroom tools to teachers and promotes awareness of the program.
In collaboration with the Government of Canada, the Learning Disability Association of Canada developed 2 manuals of resources, materials and techniques for parents of children with learning disabilities.
The Open House Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage provides funding to NGO’s to organize reciprocal group exchanges. Special consideration is given to certain target groups, among which is “youth with disabilities”.
B. Health and Health Services - Article 6 & 24
Survival and Development - Article 6
Research on child development has shown that the well-being of a child in the first few years of life has a long-term impact on health, cognitive capacity, coping skills and socialization. Accordingly, the Government of Canada is committed to giving children a better start in life through prevention and intervention programs designed to address conditions of risk during the earliest years of a child's life.
In addition, federal, provincial and territorial governments, with the support of an active voluntary sector, provide a range of health and social services designed to provide Canadian children with optimal conditions for growth and development.
Measures in Force
The Community Action Plan for Children (CAPC) enables communities to design and develop programs to address the health and development needs of children from birth to age six. CAPC focuses on children at risk, including children living in low-income families, children living in teenage-parent families, children experiencing developmental delays, social, emotional or behaviourial problems, or abused and neglected children. More than 350 CAPC projects serve 56,000 children and their parents each week. CAPC is jointly managed by the federal, provincial and territorial governments through a series of protocols.
The impact and benefits on the health and social development of children from CAPC programs are monitored through an on-going evaluation process at the national, regional and local levels. CAPC projects are evaluated through a variety of methodologies, including observation and epidemiological studies.
The Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP) provides resources for community‑based groups to develop or enhance programs for pregnant women who are at risk due to poor health and nutrition. Projects supported by CPNP include food supplementation, nutrition education and counselling services on issues such as alcohol abuse, stress and family violence. In 1999, there were 280 projects across Canada and in 400 First Nations and Inuit communities. Additionally, the program will be expanding and the number of women served will grow from approximately 20,000 per year to 35,000.
The 1997 Federal Budget expanded the CAPC and the CPNP by providing additional funding over 3 years starting in 1997-98. In turn, the 1999 Federal Budget increased funding for the CPNP over three years. The additional funding announced in 1999 will help expand the reach and number of CPNP projects. As a part of the CPNP, the government will increase its prevention and public education efforts for Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) in cooperation with provincial and territorial governments, First Nations and Inuit communities and other NGOs and community organizations. The capacity of the Canadian
Perinatal Surveillance System (CPSS), which collects, analyzes and reports data about the health of pregnant women, mothers and infants, will also be increased as part of the ongoing evaluation of the CPNP.
In the Concluding Observations to Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child , the Committee on the Rights of the Child gave special emphasis to Aboriginal health programs. In the present reporting period, the Government of Canada has developed and supported the Aboriginal Head Start (AHS) program, an early intervention initiative that addresses the needs of Aboriginal children living in urban centres and northern communities. Early intervention typically includes parental involvement, early childhood and nutrition education and other social services for children and families. For example, resources from this program have been used to support 98 pre-school early development centres serving 3,500 First Nations, Inuit and Métis children ages 0-6. The centres focus on school readiness and include cultural and language components.
In 1995, National Guidelines for Childhood Immunization Practices were drafted by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization (NACI) following an extensive consultation process. The guidelines are an integral part of achieving Canada’s goals and targets for vaccine‑preventable diseases of infants and children. Their purpose is to achieve a standard of practice that will ensure vaccines are handled properly and delivered to all children as recommended by provincial and territorial programs.
Immunization practices have had a positive effect on child health in Canada. For example, the Hib conjugate vaccine, which since 1992 has been routinely given to infants, has reduced the incidence of infant meningitis by 85 percent. In 1996, the introduction of a two-dose measles vaccine program has significantly reduced the transmission and incidence of measles.
Health Canada has strengthened national surveillance and risk assessment; targeted research in the areas of vaccine efficacy; undertaken cost benefit studies of various prevention strategies; completed vaccine comparisons; and conducted investigations of adverse events. A national public health goal for the elimination of measles by the year 2005 has been established and a consensus conference was held on the development of computerized immunization registries.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Funded by Health Canada's Women's Health Bureau, the Adolescent Girls and Young Women Health Strategy is a research project of the British Columbia Centre of Excellence for Women's Health. The project aims to develop innovative approaches for empowering adolescent girls and young women through their participation in and direction of research that addresses their health issues. Another goal of the project is to produce a research protocol that addresses the difficult ethical and jurisdictional issues involved in researching children and youth, particularly young women.
The Government of Canada is using extensive national and international surveillance networks to create a picture of child health risks, patterns and trends across Canada. Health
Canada collects data on the identification, investigation, prevention and control of diseases
as well as health policy information from various agencies, programs and jurisdictions.
The information is used for disease prevention and control, as well as for policy
Generally speaking, children in Canada enjoy a healthy start in life. However, despite significant gains, the majority of Aboriginal children still fall below the Canadian average in a range of child health indicators. This discrepancy is a concern for the Government of Canada and is the focus of a number of initiatives for Aboriginal peoples.
The First Nations and Inuit component of the Brighter Futures Initiative (BFI) provides funds for community-based mental health and child development initiatives. The government also provides funding and technical expertise to communities through the Indian and Inuit Healthy Babies Program. Moreover, it assists in the development of community programs in the areas of parenting skills, childhood injury prevention, youth activities, community mental health programs, solvent abuse and prenatal nutrition.
The Building Healthy Communities (BHC) initiative, launched in 1994-95, continues to enhance and expand existing health programs and respond to urgent needs of First Nations and Inuit peoples. It addresses priorities in the areas of mental health, solvent abuse, and home care nursing and includes a transfer strategy to facilitate community control of health resources.
Priorities and Goals
The Government of Canada is committed to expanding the current Aboriginal Head Start Program to serve on-reserve populations. It is expected that more than 120 First Nations communities will operate Head Start programs.
The Government of Canada has established national surveillance networks to collect, analyse and disseminate health information on cancer, youth risk behaviour, perinatal health, child abuse and neglect, diabetes and asthma. The networks include the First Nations Health Information System, the National Health Surveillance System and the Canada Health Information System.
Institutions and Mechanisms
The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Development, Health Canada and Human Resources Development Canada, in partnership with First Nations, are responsible for most social and health-related programs on reserves. These 3 departments are committed to coordinated program design, delivery and communication to improve the well-being of First Nations and Inuit children and youth.
Government and NGO Cooperation
The Canadian Institute of Child Health (CICH) is a national non‑profit organization dedicated to improving the health and well‑being of children and youth in Canada. In 1997, CICH published The Canadian Girl Child: Determinants of the Health and Well-being of Girls and Women, which examines growing up female in Canada. As a follow-up activity, CICH is developing a project for a “Girl Child Electronic Network” in Canada and overseas. The network will provide an educational and informational resource for young women and health care and social service providers. Partners in this project include Health Canada's Women's Health Bureau, World Vision Canada, Save the Children Canada, Foster Parents Plan of Canada and the Christian Children's Fund of Canada.
In 1996, Health Canada and the Canadian Pediatric Society released the Joint Statement on Prevention of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) and Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAE) in Canada , the product of 19 national voluntary associations representing medical, nursing and midwifery disciplines, and Aboriginal and multi cultural groups The statement provides relevant and factual information to guide health professionals in the treatment and counselling of women, their partners and families with respect to alcohol intake during pregnancy.
In cooperation with the Aboriginal Nurses Association and under the guidance of a National First Nations Working Group, Health Canada developed It Takes a Community, a resource manual on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects (FAS/FAE) prevention strategies for community workers. The government has integrated these strategies into community-based initiatives such as the Canada Prenatal Nutrition Program, the National Native Alcohol and Drug Abuse Program and the First Nations and Inuit Component of Brighter Futures Initiative.
Health Canada, the Association of Canadian Distillers and the Brewers' Association of Canada, in partnership with the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse, provide support for a national resource centre on FAS/FAE. This service, accessible by a toll-free number, was implemented in April 1994, and provides expertise as well as information about support groups and prevention projects on FAS/FAE.
In Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child, the federal government identified prenatal nutrition as a priority area. In 1998, the Canadian Pediatric Society, Dietitians of Canada and Health Canada released Nutrition for Healthy Term Infants, a new national statement on nutrition for healthy term infants from birth to 24 months. The document summarizes the existing scientific literature on infant nutrition and presents principles and recommendations to help health care professionals promote optimal, evidence‑based nutritional care for infants in Canada.
The appropriate dosage and use of both prescription and non-prescription drugs is an important consideration for children’s safety and well-being. In 1996, Health Canada, the Canadian Pharmaceutical Association and the Canadian Pediatric Society jointly reviewed the labeling of selected drugs, resulting in revisions to the directions for use of some drugs for children.
In 1996, Health Canada and the Canadian School Boards Association produced a joint publication, Anaphylaxis: A Handbook for School Boards. This resource provides guidance to schools in developing policies to manage issues around serious allergic reactions to foods, and has been broadly promoted across Canada.
In 1995, the Canadian Institute of Child Health and Health Canada published the Survey of Routine Maternity Care and Practices in Canada. The report provides updated and expanded baseline data related to pre-natal, maternal and infant health.
In 1992, Health Canada, in conjunction with community organizations, developed the Canadian Children’s Safety Network, to help reduce the incidence of injuries to children under the age of seven, especially among disadvantaged and Aboriginal peoples. The Network strengthens existing injury prevention initiatives, enhances partnerships, provides a wider forum for the exchange of information and increases public awareness. The Network’s electronic component was developed from 1994 to 1996.
Health and Health Services - Article 24
Total health expenditures (public as well as private) in Canada represent 9.0 percent of GDP in 1997, a decrease from 9.2 percent in 1996. The latest data indicate that in 1998, this trend was reversed: 1998 expenditures as a share of the economy increased slightly to 9.1 percent. Public sector health expenditures grew 3.7 percent from 1997 to 1998, up from an increase of 1.5 percent between 1996 and 1997, and 0.2 percent between 1995 and 1996.
The Canadian health care system ensures that all residents of Canada have reasonable access to insured health care services on a prepaid basis. The system is an interlocking set of provincial and territorial health insurance plans, resulting from the constitutional assignment of most aspects of health care to the provincial/territorial level of government. The federal government assists in the financing of provincial/territorial health care services through the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST).
The Canada Health Act (CHA), passed by Parliament in 1984, is the cornerstone of the Canadian health system, affirming the federal government’s commitment to a universal, comprehensive, portable and public administered health insurance system. The CHA aims to ensure that all residents of Canada have access to necessary health care on a pre-paid basis.
The federal government is committed to increasing transfers to provinces and territories for strengthening health care for Canadians. The 1998 budget increased the amount of the transfers under the CHST by $7 billion over 5 years (1997-98 to 2002-03). In addition, the 1999 budget increased the transfers by $11.5 billion over 5 years starting in 1999‑2000, specifically for health care.
Since the mid-1980s, the Government of Canada has worked to transfer resources for community health programs and the operation of health facilities to Aboriginal community administration. There are now 107 signed transfer agreements (representing 209 communities) and over 265 First Nations communities are in the planning stages of transfer.
Measures in Force
The Hazardous Products Act empowers the Government of Canada to regulate or ban products that present a danger to the health or safety of Canadians, including children. The Product Safety Program of Health Canada regulates and provides information on the safety of toys, children’s furnishings, children’s clothing, household products, child-resistant closures on chemical products and child-resistant lighters. The program also provides public education and information programs on product safety issues. Health Canada encourages the development of voluntary industry standards for children’s products.
The Tobacco Act came into force on April 25, 1997. The Act governs the manufacture, promotion, labeling and sale of tobacco products, and reflects the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1995 ruling on tobacco advertising restrictions. A key component of the Act is to protect the health of young people by prohibiting sales of tobacco to minors.
The Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy (TDRS), initiated by the Government of Canada in 1994, specifically targeted youth for tobacco prevention, protection and cessation activities. Under the 1996 Tobacco Control Initiative (TCI), the strategy was enhanced and extended for a five year period. Key components of the initiative are legislation and regulation, enforcement, research and public education. The public education component aims to improve the overall health and quality of life of Canadians, especially young Canadians, by reducing tobacco-caused illness and death through a balance of activities focused on prevention (helping non-smokers to remain smoke-free), protection (protecting the health of non-smokers), and cessation (encouraging and helping those who want to quit).
The TDRS also supports First Nations and Inuit communities in their efforts to reduce the non-traditional use of tobacco through prevention, education, awareness and research programs.
The Canadian Environmental Assessment Act, approved in 1995, is jointly administered by Health Canada and Environment Canada. Under the Act, federal departments and agencies are required to assess the environmental implications of all their projects. The Act also ensures that decision-making is a clear and transparent process that takes into consideration environmental, health and economic factors, and public concerns.
The Government of Canada has developed several programs and initiatives to help new parents make informed decisions about breast-feeding, including the Postpartum Parent Support Program, the Social Marketing Breast-feeding Strategy, and parent resources such as 10 Great Reasons to Breast-feed and 10 Valuable Tips for Successful Breast-feeding. In 1995, the Health Canada Study of Attitudes on Breast-feeding provided an increased understanding of the attitudes, behaviours and experiences of women of childbearing age related to breast-feeding, and will guide the development of strategies to increase the initiation and duration of breast‑feeding among women in Canada.
The Postpartum Parent Support Program (PPSP) is a community-based health promotion program designed to meet the educational needs of the parents of newborn children.
The program provides clear, consistent answers to questions asked by parents, family members and health professionals. As outlined in Canada’s First Report, PPSP materials are available in 15 languages in addition to English and French.
In its efforts to prevent, control and treat HIV/AIDS, the Government of Canada actively supports the sharing of best practices among health and social service providers. It also supports a strong, Canada-wide, community-based infrastructure that responds to the changing face of HIV/AIDS, including education and prevention resources for children and youth, First Nations and Inuit communities.
The Government of Canada monitors childhood illness, injury, death and associated risk factors, such as sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) through national surveillance and assessment programs. For example, the Canadian Hospital Injury Reporting Prevention Program (CHIRPP) collects and analyzes data on injuries and poisonings from the emergency departments of 16 hospitals across Canada, both pediatric and general. Since 1990, CHIRPP has collected data on injuries sustained at sporting and leisure activities, daycare centres and the home. Surveillance data is used in public health, clinical practice, health advocacy and research settings to develop and evaluate policies and programs.
In its 1999 Budget, the Government of Canada announced that it is working with Aboriginal stakeholders to develop an Aboriginal Diabetes Strategy, which will include an emphasis on diabetes among children. The strategy will address the training of health professionals, the tailoring of services including prevention, diagnosis and treatment, and the strengthening of research in this area.
Although legislation requiring the use of child restraints for children under 20 kg in motor vehicles is a provincial and territorial responsibility, Transport Canada is responsible for the Child Seats and Restraints for Vehicles Program under the Motor Vehicle Safety Act. This program regulates child restraint systems, provides information on correct use, and issues notices of defective seats.
The Canadian Agricultural Injury Surveillance Program (CAISP) is a national program funded through the Canadian Agriculture Safety Program (CASP) of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and administered by community-based agencies within each province. The main purpose of the CAISP is to collect and interpret information on agricultural injuries from across Canada. In October 1998, the CAISP released the report entitled Fatal Farm Injuries in Canada, 1991 ‑1996 and in March 1999, released Hospitalized Farm Injuries in Canada, 1990 ‑1996.
CIDA makes a significant contribution to improving the health of children in developing countries and countries in transition in Central and Eastern Europe. Adopted in 1996, CIDA’s Strategy for Health has identified children’s health and nutrition as key objectives. It outlines initiatives to strengthen primary health care, fully immunize every girl and boy to protect against diseases such as polio and measles, reduce child malnutrition and eliminate micro nutrient deficiencies, promote reproductive health, and strengthen health promotion and education for children and adolescents through school-based programs. The Strategy for Health provides guidance for CIDA’s programs branches in designing and assessing programs and projects in the health sector, as well as in other sectors, within the context of overall strategies to support sustainable human development.
CIDA is the lead bilateral donor in the fight against micro nutrient malnutrition. This assistance is contributing to the elimination of iodine deficiency through salt iodization and vitamin A deficiency through the distribution of vitamin A capsules during national immunization days. It will also facilitate integrated child health and nutrition programming, including child health days, to ensure high cost effectiveness through development assistance. Among its initiatives to reduce micro nutrient malnutrition, CIDA has contributed to the Global Vitamin A Project, the South Asia Micro nutrient Commodities Project, the Micro nutrient Commodities Project, the Food Fortification Research and Development Project, the MICAH Project, and the Nutrition and AIDS project. CIDA works closely with multilateral institutions such as the Micro nutrient Initiative and UNICEF on these efforts.
CIDA is concerned that many countries of the world are experiencing alarmingly high rates of maternal and infant morbidity and mortality. From 1988 to 1998, through the Pan‑American Health Organisation, CIDA worked on the Perinatal Health Care Project with communities and health workers in Latin America to develop innovative tools, technologies and training in an effort to decrease maternal and infant morbidity and mortality in areas from peri‑urban slums to rural agricultural communities.
The HIV/AIDS pandemic is another crucial health issue that CIDA is addressing. For example, CIDA is supporting the Role of Nutrition in Reducing AIDS-Vitamin A Zvimbato Trial Project in Harare, Zimbabwe to determine whether a single high dose of vitamin A to the mother and/or her infant can decrease HIV transmission during breast-feeding. The project began in 1997 and is expected to be a six-year project. This research is important because it seeks to preserve breast-feeding especially in countries where women lack access to food supplements and the hygienic conditions needed for formula preparation. Balancing the rights of women and infants under these difficult circumstances is a complex process and CIDA is assisting research to better address these issues.
Beginning in 1995, phase II of the SADC AIDS Training Program is another innovative project supported by CIDA in the area of HIV/AIDS. The project aims to promote and assist community-based prevention, support, coping and care responses to the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Southern Africa. Particular attention is given to those most vulnerable to HIV/AIDS and promoting peer education, HIV prevention, psycho-social health and community care and advocacy. Phase II will be completed in 2001. The Whole Child Health Project, undertaken in Zambia in 1997, also supported poor children by aiming to reduce their vulnerability to hunger, illiteracy, HIV/AIDS and other diseases, especially orphans and to provide HIV/AIDS prevention knowledge to them.
Canada is the lead government supporting international tobacco control. This is important for children's health for the following reasons: children born of smoking mothers are
often smaller compounding the problem of low-birth weight in developing countries; children exposed to tobacco smoke have more respiratory infections; and children are being targeted aggressively by tobacco companies.
Finally, CIDA is providing high quality reproductive health services for women and girls. In Latin America, in partnership with Planned Parenthood Federation of Canada, CIDA is focusing its efforts on adolescents in a project strategy that recognizes that young people need to gain the knowledge, attitudes and skills that become the foundation for healthy adulthood. The project, Adolescent Sexuality & Reproductive Health runs from 1997-2000. It fosters innovative approaches to family planning and reproductive health, especially targeting adolescents to help them make informed decisions.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Improvements in medical treatments, living conditions, and infectious disease control have contributed to the improved overall health of Canadians, including children. According to Toward a Healthy Future: Second Report on the Health of Canadians, a joint initiative of the federal, provincial and territorial governments, Canadians today generally live longer, fewer infants die in the first year of life and death rates from certain diseases are in decline. However, this standard of health is not shared equally by all Canadians. Life expectancy is affected by level of education, income and gender. In addition, there is increased awareness that children’s health may also be threatened by emerging environmental risks such as persistent organic pollutants, pesticides, as well as airborne and waterborne pollutants.
From 1992 to 1997, Health Canada, the Department of Justice Canada, Solicitor General/Royal Canadian Mounted Police, and the Department of Canadian Heritage participated together in the Child Development Initiative (CDI). This initiative consisted of 33 programs aimed at children at risk due to poverty, poor health and nutrition, mental health problems, developmental problems, disability or injury, or abuse and neglect. A post-program evaluation showed that while the mandate and objectives of the initiative were relevant and funded activities did make a contribution to reducing the risk factors, more rigorous interdepartmental coordination would have led to clearer policy development.
During the reporting period, the Government of Canada worked with provincial and territorial health departments and NGOs to develop goals to safeguard and improve the health and well-being of all children and youth in Canada and to enhance the quality of life for children and families. The document Turning Points sets out 8 national goals for healthy child development and contains a strategic plan that necessitates cooperation among federal departments, NGOs and the private sector.
Canada maintains a partial compliance rating with the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Supplements. All Canadian jurisdictions have agreed that the Code in Canada be implemented through collaboration, education and health promotion rather than through legislation and regulation. Health Canada also initiated the development of a coalition, The Breast-feeding Committee for Canada, whose membership is composed of national health and professional organizations and associations as well as government and individual breast-feeding experts.
The overall prevalence of smoking in the Canadian population has decreased over the past 30 years. An evaluation of the Tobacco Demand Reduction Strategy (1994-1997) concluded that a wide range of factors influence and reinforce smoking by youth, and that traditional approaches to tobacco cessation and prevention among youth are not always the most effective. Subsequent prevention and cessation efforts will build on these findings by considering the influence of peers in young peoples’ decision to smoke or not and by including youth in the design and delivery of projects.
Tobacco consumption is an importantfactor affecting the health of girls and young women. The percentage of females aged 15 to 19 who smoke rose from 21 percent in 1990 to 31 percent in 1996. Research has shown that the initiation of smoking by girls and women is influenced by social pressures, the desire to lose weight or stay thin, and advertising that uses themes of sexual attractiveness and freedom. Smoking prevention and cessation programs targeted at young girls will need to consider these influences.
From 1992-97, Health Canada sponsored the Action Plan on Health and the Environment (APHE). Many of the activities, which included monitoring groups at risk and facilitating individual and community action and international liaison, had a child focus. Through APHE, the Government of Canada has identified strategic priorities in the control of toxic substances in the environment, assessment and management of bio-regional health effects, environmentally related disease surveillance and control, and community action and social marketing.
During the reporting period, the Government of Canada renewed other major programs to measure environmental impacts and protect the health of Canadians, including children. The Great Lakes 2000 Initiative has examined prenatal exposure to organochlorines and their neuro‑behaviourial effects in newborns and the impact of organochlorine exposure on reproductive health. The initiative also developed a cancer atlas for residents of the Great Lakes Basin. Key programs related to Aboriginal people include the Effects on Aboriginals from the Great Lakes Environment (EAGLE) and the Drinking Water Safety Program for Native People.
The effect of environmental contaminants in air, water, soil, food and general consumption products on children’s health is an important concern for Canadians. The International Joint Commission has noted that environmental issues are increasingly gaining public attention, scrutiny and active participation. While there is recognition that children are at special risk compared with adults, much remains to be done to improve protection of children’s health from environmental contaminants. Children are particularly vulnerable to environmental contaminants because they eat more food, drink more water and breathe more per unit of body weight than adults. Their particular development path (crawling, mouthing) also place them at greater risk of exposure from certain environmental contaminants.
The Government of Canada believes a healthy physical environment is important for children. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) provides information on technical approaches to “healthy housing” that are practical and affordable. CMHC is a leader in research about housing for the environmentally hypersensitive and publishes Building Materials for the Environmentally Hypersensitive, a guide for home builders that includes information about building materials, humidity and temperature levels.
Priorities and Goals
The National Forum on Health, launched in 1994, examined the medium‑ to long‑term issues facing Canada's health system to find innovative ways to improve the health of Canadians. The health and well-being of children and youth was given prominent attention within the Forum’s presentations and recommendations. Some of Canada’s leading experts discussed the issues of youth homelessness, childhood injuries, optimal development of youth, child sexual abuse and early childhood development.
Among the conclusions of its February 1997 report, the Forum found that improving the health and well‑being of children is one of the best investments that can be made in health care. It placed special emphasis on investments in young children, and recommended a broad and integrated strategy of initiatives for children and their families. These recommendations focused on (1) programs for pregnant women and for children from birth to age 6, including home visits, high-quality child care and family-friendly policies, and (2) income support programs, including an integrated child benefit program and taxation policies that adequately reflect the costs of raising children.
The National Forum on Health also proposed the establishment of an Aboriginal Health Institute that would focus on Aboriginal health issues, serve as a support network for Aboriginal health workers in communities, provide an evidence‑based approach to health research, and meet the needs of Aboriginal peoples through improved health information. The Institute would also share information within and outside Aboriginal communities.
The federal government continues to work in partnership with Aboriginal communities to delineate the scope and substance of the Aboriginal jurisdiction over health and to assist communities in assuming responsibility for health services.
In 1997, the Government of Canada announced its intention to create Centres of Excellence for Children’s Well-Being. The vision of the Centres of Excellence is to enhance understanding of, and responsiveness to, the physical and mental health needs of children and the critical factors for healthy child development. The Centres will be given a mandate to ensure that advanced knowledge is disseminated more broadly among families, community-based organizations, educators, health professionals, and government decision-makers, and to improve our understanding of children and what they need to develop in healthy ways.
The Canadian Environmental Protection Act (CEPA) underwent a parliamentary review in 1994-95. In 1997, Bill C-32 was tabled with a view to strengthening and modernizing CEPA for the new millennium. The Bill evaluates the potential health risks of environmental contaminants, regulates the entry into Canada of new materials that may damage health and the environment, and assesses the health risks of new substances, including those created through biotechnology. Bill C-32 is currently under consideration by Parliament.
Canada’s signing of the 1997 Declaration of the Environment Leaders of the Eight on Children’s Environmental Health affirmed that children’s environmental health is a priority. Canada is undertaking initiatives to implement the recommendations of the Declaration.
Institutions and Mechanisms
The Federal/Provincial/Territorial Committee on Population Health (ACPH) identified broad population health strategies on which the provincial, territorial and federal governments could collaborate and achieve significant results. Healthy child development is one such priority area, and as such, a framework for a National Strategy on Healthy Child Development has been developed.
The Health of Youth: A Cross-National Survey was published in 1996 based on data from the 1993-94 Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children (HBSC) Study. HBSC is a collaborative cross-national research study sponsored by the World Health Organization (WHO) and made possible by support from the Government of Canada. The goal of the study is to increase understanding of the health-related attitudes and behaviours of young people and the context in which they develop. The publication of data collected during the 1997-98 school year will be released in 1999-2000.
A number of initiatives have been taken during the reporting period to build a stronger health system that reflects the changing needs of Canadians and provides timely access to high quality health care. First, the Canadian Institute for Health Information (CIHI) was established in 1994 as an arm’s length body to improve the quality and availability of health information. Also, the federal government established the five-year Health Services Research Fund in 1996, for research on effectiveness of health services, and the three-year Health Transition Fund in 1997, to help provinces launch pilot projects to investigate new and better ways to provide health care to Canadians.
In 1997, the government put in place a new Canada Health Information System to
better meet information needs with a view to improving the delivery of health services and assessing the performance of the health system. The government has allocated funds over
a five-year period for this initiative. This allocation will serve to: (1) help CIHI (see above) build consensus on health indicators, to develop data standards, to fill key data gaps, and
to build capacity to analyse data and disseminate information; (2) build a National Health Surveillance Network to link laboratories and public health officers across the country;
(3) build the Canadian Health Network; and (4) improve health information for federal health programs.
In 1996, the intersectoral Joint Steering Committee Responsible for Development of a National Nutrition Plan for Canada released Nutrition for Health: An Agenda for Action in response to commitments from the 1992 International Conference on Nutrition. It identifies four strategic directions: reinforcement of healthy eating practices; support for nutritionally vulnerable populations; continued enhancement of the availability of foods to support healthy eating; and the support of nutrition research. These strategies include key actions related to the nutrition health of children.
The Government of Canada promotes the nutritional well-being of children through the development and broad dissemination of national nutrition guidelines, including Canada’s Food Guide to Healthy Eating and guidelines for preconception, prenatal and infant nutrition.
In partnership with provincial and territorial governments, the Government of Canada is developing new programs to better support HIV/AIDS prevention and sexuality education for young people. For example, Safer Sex Guidelines, designed for educators and counsellors involved in prevention and health promotion activities, ensure the continued relevance and accuracy of the safer sex information that Canadians receive.
Public information and education initiatives on child safety issues, such as child passenger safety and playground safety, are provided by an Interdepartmental Working Group on Childhood Injury Prevention. Membership is based on federal responsibility affecting child safety such as with Health Canada, Transport Canada, Parks Canada, Statistics Canada, Agriculture Canada and Canada Mortgage and Housing.
An inter-agency Youth at Risk Initiative, coordinated by the Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, implements and evaluates pilot projects targeting children and youth‑at‑risk across Canada. In the near future, a formative evaluation will identify which strategies and processes worked, what common learning can be drawn from the pilot projects and possible models for youth that have not traditionally participated in recreation and physical activity.
In 1995, the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) was created to centralize all federal government responsibilities for pesticide registration and to address issues concerning pesticide residues in food.
In 1995, the Auditor General Act was amended to create the Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development, and to require each federal department to prepare and table an annual Sustainable Development Strategy to Parliament. The Commissioner of the Environment and Sustainable Development reports to Parliament on matters related to the environment and sustainable development, conducts audits and special studies, receives public petitions and complaints, and monitors the implementation of the Sustainable Development Strategies prepared by federal departments.
Government and NGO Cooperation
In April 1997, Health Canada established the Population Health Fund, replacing a number of grant and contribution programs. It provides financial support to groups that address the factors influencing health through partnership and collaboration with other sectors, with particular emphasis on health issues of vulnerable populations. In 1997-98, the fund financed over 300 national, regional and community-based projects.
In June 1997, the Canadian Institute on Child Health (CICH), with support from Health Canada, hosted What on Earth?, a symposium on environmental contaminants and child health. A year later, CICH released Environmental Contaminants and the Implications for Child Health Supplement, which educates public health officials and other practitioners on the health implications for children, profiles key research findings and provides a comprehensive package of information on children's environmental health.
In partnership with the Government of Canada, CICH publishes The Health of Canada’s Children: A CICH Profile. The report presents a range of demographic, economic, behaviourial and related statistics on the health and well-being of children and youth. The third edition of this report was released in 2000.
In 1995, in partnership with medical and professional associations, clinicians and voluntary organizations, Health Canada established a National Asthma Control Task Force. The Task Force was mandated to develop a National Asthma Control Strategy for the reduction of morbidity and mortality due to asthma in Canada and to coordinate and facilitate its implementation.
The Canadian Parks and Recreation Association, in partnership with Health Canada, has developed and implemented a three-year Playground Safety Action Plan. A key element of the plan is the playground inspector certification program, which is based on the recently revised Canadian Standards Association standards for play spaces.
In partnership with non-governmental organizations, the Government of Canada has developed projects relating to the health of Aboriginal children. With the Aboriginal Nurse’s Association, the guide Healthy Children - Healthy Nations was developed for First Nations care givers who wish to focus and direct community programs toward the health needs of children from before birth to age 6. Ikajuqtigiinniq, a resource for the prevention of fetal alcohol syndrome, was developed with the Pauktuutit Inuit Women’s Association.
Campaign 2000 is a non‑partisan coalition of 25 national partners and a Canada‑wide network of 37 community partners committed to building Canadian awareness and support for the 1989 all‑party House of Commons resolution to end child poverty in Canada by the year 2000. In 1996, Campaign 2000 promoted a life-stage approach to child poverty. The life stage approach involves three components: a comprehensive child benefit; a national envelope for early child development and child care; and a youth education endowment fund. Since then, Health Canada has funded a two-year project that will engage a wide range of community leaders, individuals and Campaign 2000 partners in community consultations to develop policy options for addressing child poverty.
C. Social Security and child care services and facilities - Articles 26 & 18
Child Care Services - Article 18
Measures in Force
In Canada, the provision of child care services is the responsibility of provincial governments. The federal government provides a range of measures to support the child care needs of working parents and all Canadian families.
The 1998 Federal Budget increased the Child Care Expense Deduction (CCED) from $5,000 to $7,000 for children under age 7, and from $3,000 to $4,000 for children aged 7 to 16. This increase is intended to offset the costs of child care for the
approximately 800,000 Canadians who use the CCED. In addition, a Goods and Services Tax/Harmonized Sales Tax exemption is provided for expenses incurred in the provision of care to a person with limited means of self‑care.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
The Government of Canada, in partnership with the provinces and territories, has taken an important step to support Canada’s children with the introduction of the National Child Benefit, which will directly assist lower-income parents. Provincial and territorial governments will reinvest the money saved through this system into complementary benefits and services for children. For example, a number of provinces are reinvesting in child care, including Manitoba, Ontario, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Newfoundland and Labrador.
From 1988 to 1995, the federal government supported initiatives to enhance child care services through the Child Care Initiatives Fund (CCIF). CCIF funded 515 projects with an emphasis on staff training and professional development as well as pilot projects which tested innovative, community-based approaches to child care.
The Child Care Visions program, created in 1995, supports research and analysis of child care programs with a goal to improve the quality of child care and increase national knowledge of the adequacy, outcomes and cost-effectiveness of child care programs.
The First Nations and Inuit Child Care Initiative, launched in January 1995, commits federal funding over three years to support the creation of 4,300 new child care spaces and the improvement of approximately 1,700 existing spaces in First Nations and Inuit communities. Funding will be provided after the initial development period to sustain these newly created child care spaces.
In 1996, a joint Federal/Provincial/Territorial Working Group on Status of Women and Labour examined options for improving the integration of work and family responsibilities. The Working Group’s findings will contribute to ongoing policy development in this area.
Social Security - Article 26
In Canada, a system of federal, provincial and territorial government programs and services provide income assistance and social services to Canadians. Federal expenditures include direct income support to seniors, families, including those with children, unemployed persons, and students. Fiscal transfers and tax measures also support provincial and territorial programs and services in areas of social assistance, post‑secondary education, health care, labour‑market training, and programs in support of disabled persons.
Measures in Force
The National Child Benefit (NCB), which came into effect in July 1998, is a joint federal, provincial and territorial initiative to improve benefits and services to children in low
income families. The objectives of the NCB are to help prevent and reduce child poverty, to help parents of low income families participate in the workforce and to reduce overlap and duplication through closer harmonization of programs and simplified administration.
Under the NCB, the federal government has substantially increased the Canada Child Tax Benefit to low-income families with children. Provincial and territorial governments have in general adjusted social assistance payments for families, while ensuring at least the same overall level of income support from all governments. The provincial and territorial governments have reinvested the resulting savings into complementary programs targeted at improving work incentives, benefits and services for low income families with children. Examples of provincial and territorial reinvestment programs include child health benefits, child care investments, income support to families with children, and employment supplements.
Governments are committed to working with Aboriginal people to ensure that Aboriginal children, like all Canadian children, will benefit from the NCB initiative. The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs Development has been working in partnership with First Nations to develop mutually acceptable frameworks to guide the implementation and development of NCB reinvestment initiatives on reserves. The frameworks are flexible to address the different priorities and needs in First Nations communities. In the first year of the NCB, First Nations reinvested in community-based programs for low-income families living on reserves through income support, child care, child nutrition, parenting skills, family services, recreation, youth development, clothing outlets, training and employability skills.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
There is no official measure of poverty in Canada. Statistics Canada produces two measures of low income: Low Income Cutoffs (LICOs) and Low Income Measures (LIMs). LICOs are based on average consumption standards and are the most widely-used measure of low income in Canada. The measures adjust income thresholds according to family size and the size of the community in which the family lives.
LIMs are based on one-half the median adjusted family income. The measure adjusts incomes according to the number of adults and children in the family. There is no adjustment for the size of the community in the LIMs.
The most widely used version of the LICOs is based on pre-tax income. The version of the LIMs based on income after income taxes is the measure closest to that used in the 1998 United Nations Human Development Report for international poverty comparisons.
In November 1989, in a unanimous resolution, the House of Commons pledged to work to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000 (“child poverty” was not defined in the resolution). The incidence of low income for Canadian children under age 18 using the pre-tax LICOs declined from 21.3 percent to 19.8 percent between 1993 and 1997.
Priorities and Goals
In the 1996 Speech from the Throne, the Government of Canada acknowledged that it has an important role to play in modernizing Canada's social safety net and ensuring its sustainability.
Institutions and Mechanisms
In 1998, Human Resources Development Canada (HRDC) created the Social Development Partnerships Program (SDPP), replacing both the National Welfare Grants Program and the Disabled Persons Participation Program. SDPP is a research and development program that provides organizational support and funding for national activities of voluntary organizations involved in child and family issues. Family Service Canada, Big Brothers and Sisters of Canada, and Boys and Girls Clubs of Canada are examples of the organizations that receive support through this program for initiatives such as research on child welfare and child poverty.
Established in June 1996, the Federal/Provincial/Territorial Council on Social Policy Renewal is the principal mechanism for guiding work on the social union initiative. The Council supports and coordinates the work of sectoral ministries (including social services, labour market, post-secondary education and health) in developing concrete solutions in specific priority areas for all Canadians.
The Government of Canada and all provinces, except Quebec, signed a Social Union Framework Agreement on February 4, 1999. The Agreement outlines new principles on how governments will work in partnership in the arena of social policy. The implementation of the Social Union Framework Agreement and the continuation of work on the National Children’s Agenda are the priority areas for the Council in 1999.
Ministers Responsible for Social Services have played a major role with respect to collaborative federal/provincial/territorial efforts, particularly in the implementation of the National Child Benefit and initiatives with respect to persons with disabilities.
D. Standard of Living - Article 27
Measures in Force
The National Housing Act (NHA) promotes the construction of new homes, the repair and modernization of existing houses, and the improvement of housing and living conditions. The Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) provides a range of authorities and tools to address the housing and related needs of Canadians including market‑related housing activities, housing assistance (including social housing) and research and information transfer activities.
Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child identified the housing needs of low and moderate income Canadians. Between 1993 and 1997, CMHC continued to make housing affordable for lower‑income Canadians through its social housing programs. Working with the provincial and territorial governments, as well as community‑based, non‑profit and co‑operative housing organizations and First Nations, CMHC provided financial subsidies for some 664,000 social housing units, benefitting low‑income families, people with disabilities, seniors and Aboriginal groups.
CMHC also launched the Shelter Enhancement Initiative (SEI) to renovate and upgrade existing shelters in northern and remote regions, and to develop a limited number of new emergency and second‑stage units. Between 1995 and 1997, CMHC enhanced 4,448 bed/units and developed 61 emergency beds and 22 second stage units. Additional federal funding extended the SEI project to March 31, 1998.
The Corporation reintroduced the Rental Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program in 1994, incorporating new provisions for the improvement of rooming-houses, a common accommodation for those at risk of homelessness.
Federal government programs for the housing needs of Aboriginal peoples include the Rural and Native Housing program (RNH) and a First Nations component of the Residential Rehabilitation Assistance Program (RRAP). In April 1996, 2 new initiatives were introduced. First, the Remote Housing Initiative, which targets low-income households living in smaller remote communities, provides capital grants for home construction and requires that client households provide “sweat equity labour”. This initiative will benefit an estimated 272 households. Second, the On‑Reserve Remote Housing Initiative also provides funds for home construction through capital grants. Under this initiative, which will benefit an estimated 310 households, local First Nations bands are involved in all aspects of planning, delivery, construction and property management.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
The Government of Canada’s Program Review Process in 1994 provided CMHC with a new mandate affecting its main business areas of housing finance (mortgage insurance and guarantee), social housing, and research and international activities, including housing export support. The federal government transferred the administration of its social housing portfolio to the provinces and territories to reduce the duplication of government services. Thisis intended to provide a better link between housing and provincial/territorial social services and facilitate solutions for such issues as homelessness. All provinces and territories have the option to manage federal social housing.
The transfer of management responsibilities is an important and tangible step towards better intergovernmental cooperation and efficiency in social housing. The “one stop shopping” approach should also improve service to the public. The government also expects that these arrangements will free up funds to assist low-income households.
As part of deficit reductions and government spending restraints, the federal government capped social housing expenditures and stopped funding new housing, except for programs for on‑reserve Aboriginal people.
The majority of Canadian families live in housing that meets or exceeds standards for suitability, including number of bedrooms, adequacy (plumbing facilities) and affordability. However, a significant number of people in certain socio‑demographic groups need better housing. Dwellings with female lone parents and Aboriginal households have higher proportions of people in core need than other segments of the population. Since affordability is a main barrier to the acquisition of healthy housing, and the proportion of income directed at housing is higher for these specific groups, the relatively high cost has a negative impact upon other spending priorities.
The Government of Canada recognizes that the problem of homelessness is much broader than a lack of accommodation; rather, it requires an integrated and co‑ordinated approach including long‑term supportive housing environments. CMHC has facilitated the development and/or demonstration of a number of comprehensive “enabling” approaches undertaken by partnerships among community‑based agencies, chiefly by documenting and communicating best practices across the country.
The Department of Indian and Northern Affairs (DIAND) has reallocated funds since 1996 to accelerate repairs to on-reserve water and sewer systems. In response to the Royal Commission on Canada’s Aboriginal Peoples, the federal government allocated resources in 1998-1999 in addition to capital allocations for water and sewer projects. As of March 1997, 97 percent of houses on reserves had water supply services and 92 percent had sewage disposal facilities, as compared to 75 percent and 67 percent respectively in 1986-87.
A new on-reserve housing policy was announced in July 1996. Federal funding for on‑reserve housing was increased over 5 years, beginning in 1996-97. The total number of on‑reserve housing units has increased from 64,402 in 1990-91 to 80,443 in 1996-97. Over the same period, the number of adequate units has gone from 28, 209 (44 percent) to 41,885 (52 percent). In 1996-97, 2,487 housing units were completed and 4,222 were renovated.
While the living conditions of Aboriginal peoples has improved significantly, the Government of Canada recognizes that housing amenities are inadequate in many Aboriginal communities. Although more than 18,000 federally subsidized new houses were built for and with Aboriginal peoples between 1992 and 1997, there are problems, particularly on reserves where lack of maintenance and overcrowding contribute to a housing lifespan which is about half that of off‑reserve housing. Approximately 38,000 new on‑reserve dwelling units will need to be constructed between 1997 and 2007.
Studies on food bank use, poverty and dietary intake show that while the vast majority of Canadians are able to provide food for themselves and their families, some cannot. From 1989 to 1997, the use of food banks in Canada more than doubled. Other services provided by community groups, with limited support from provincial/territorial or municipal governments, include collective kitchens, community gardens, food buying clubs and school‑based breakfast programs.
In 1998, 42 percent of the approximately 716,000 Canadians assisted by food banks each month were children. In 1998, in response to the 1996 World Summit commitment to reduce the number of undernourished people by half by 2015, the federal government released Canada’s Action Plan for Food Security. The Alternative Northern Food Baskets and a template for provincial/regional nutritious food baskets were developed as part of this strategy to support nutritionally vulnerable populations. Nutritious food baskets provide useful indicators for monitoring food insecurity in Canadian communities.
Priorities and Goals
Sources of data to measure the incidence of child homelessness are limited, largely due to the difficulties involved in enumerating the homeless population. To better understand the situation of homeless Canadians, Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) has made homelessness a research priority. A multi‑year research program is underway to develop a system that all Canadian shelters could use to standardize the collection and management of information on the homeless.
Institutions and Mechanisms
Provincial and territorial governments play a significant role in the provision of shelter. They are responsible for the regulation of urban and rural development in most areas through planning legislation and the regulation of building and housing standards through building and health codes.
CMHC has finalized new social housing arrangements with seven provincial and territorial jurisdictions. The discussions are continuing with the remaining jurisdictions. The agreements ensure that federal funds remain available to low‑income households and that national standards are maintained.
Government and NGO Cooperation
Community, non‑profit, co‑operative and women’s organizations, along with youth groups, labour unions, and social and political advocacy groups, all play a major role in shaping policies, and identifying priorities in many areas, including housing. The Canadian Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) works with other agencies and NGOs across Canada on programs that encourage housing research, information transfer and youth participation.
In 1997, CMHC held a youth housing competition. A total of 143 organizations and individuals from communities across Canada submitted examples of inspiring, creative, and practical solutions to the housing needs of young Canadians, such as students, first‑time home buyers, young couples, single young women and men, homeless youth, and youth with disabilities. CMHC also organized a two‑day forum Gimme Shelter: Sharing Successes in Housing for Youth to celebrate and promote the accomplishments of the many organizations that work to provide housing choices for young people. The Forum, held in 1997, included urban
planners, environmentalists, housing industry representatives, members of housing agencies and co‑operatives, students, teachers, researchers, and government representatives who shared their ideas, solutions and best practices in housing to meet the needs of young people.
Recognizing that children are particularly vulnerable to environmental hazards and that most of their pre‑school age is spent in and around the home, CMHC works with other federal agencies and NGOs to research and provide information to the public on indoor air quality, lead, fire safety, home safety and children’s play spaces. For instance, CMHC, with 3 other agencies and the Paint Manufacturers’ Association, undertook an extensive public information campaign emphasizing safety concerns of renovations in homes with lead‑based paint, especially in houses with young children present.
The National Housing Research Committee (NHRC), comprised of federal, provincial, non‑governmental, industry and consumer representatives, co-ordinates research on housing with either direct or indirect benefits to children.
VII. Education, leisure and cultural activities
A. Education - Article 28
Measures in Force
Education in Canada is a provincial and territorial responsibility. The Government of Canada promotes a coordinated national approach to education, based on excellence and equality of opportunity. It has established programs and measures that focus on developing the knowledge, skills and work experience that today’s young people must have to become full participants in a changing knowledge-based economy.
In 1996-1997, there were 446 schools managed by First Nations in Canada, serving 57.3 percent of First Nations students on reserves, an increase in enrollment of 41 percent from 1991. Students not attending First Nations managed schools attended schools operated directly by either the Government of Canada or a provincial or territorial school system. As well, First Nations children are remaining in school longer, but have lower rates of completing secondary school than other students. The major focus of education reform initiatives under Gathering Strength is the improvement of retention and graduation rates for on‑reserve students.
Young Canadians are enrolling in higher education at a record rate. Almost 1 million students - nearly one in every 3 young people - were enrolled full‑time in post‑secondary education, and 430,000 were enrolled on a part‑time basis in 1996/97.
In 1997, the federal government announced a Youth Employment Strategy (YES) to help young Canadians find the critical first job that bridges the gap between school and work. YES will make investments to create approximately 280,000 work experiences over 3 years for unemployed young Canadians. Key program components are: Youth Internship Canada; Youth Service Canada; Student Summer Job Action; and information initiatives. The Federal Public Sector Youth Internship Program, a complementary youth initiative, will provide work experience for approximately 38,000 young participants over 3 years. In December 1998, the Government of Canada announced that the YES, which was to end March 31, 1999, would be made a permanent initiative. This includes a First Nations and Inuit Youth Employment Strategy to support youth living on-reserve or in recognized communities to explore career options while in school and to acquire practical work experience.
Announced in Budget 1998, the Canadian Opportunities Strategy focuses on seven key areas related to education: providing financial assistance for students; providing support for advanced research; helping individuals manage their student debt; encouraging families to save for education; helping Canadians upgrade their skills; supporting youth employment; and connecting Canadians to information and knowledge. This strategy supports post-secondary students and their families through a number of initiatives. For example, the Canada Student Loans Program helps individuals of limited means pursue their education and helps students after graduation with tax relief for interest payments on their student loans. The strategy also provides needy students with children or other dependents with grants of up to $3,120 a year; provides education credits and child care expense deductions for part-time students; and supports the efforts of working Canadians to upgrade their skills by allowing tax-free withdrawals from Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSP) to encourage lifelong learning. Through the Canada Education Saving Grant program, the strategy helps families save for their childrens education by supplementing new contributions made to Registered Education Savings plans. Another component of the Canadian Opportunities Strategy, the Canadian Millennium Scholarships Program, is described in Priorities and Goals below.
In education, CIDA supports initiatives to provide universal access to education for girls and boys, improve the quality of primary education, increase literacy and numeracy, build basic skills in health, nutrition, and environmentally friendly agricultural production through formal and non-formal education programs, promote human rights and peace building through education curricula.
Since 1994, Canada has supported the Girl Child Education in Africa Initiative (See “General Measures of Implementation”). Phase I, developed and implemented in collaboration with UNICEF, supported projects in 15 countries aimed at improving access and retention of girls in basic education programs. Results of Phase I have been impressive: 47,000 girls have been directly affected; several hundred teachers were trained in child-centred approaches, children's rights, and gender perspectives; and gender-sensitive training and learning materials were developed. Phase II, which began in 1996, builds on the lessons from Phase I in the effort to extend and institutionalize its gains. It broadens the range of participation to include over 75 percent Canadian partners in addition to UNICEF's role which is now 25 percent. Specific projects include a project in Malawi in 1996-97 to increase the capacity of the Ministry of Education and selected communities to deliver primary education with gender equity in progression, enrollment, retention and completion; a project in Zambia in 1996-99 to increase capacity at all levels - government, schools, communities and NGOs - to improve rates of
enrollment, retention, completion and achievement for girls; an initiative in Eritrea in 1995-97 to establish a pilot project of community schools in the region of Gash-Barka with emphasis on increased access and retention of girls.
In Asia, CIDA is supporting the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee's (BRAC) Non-formal Primary Education Program. CIDA has been involved in phases I and II of the program. The BRAC program aims to strengthen national education systems and improve access to cost-effective primary education to poor children, especially girls, unserved by the formal school system. The program began in 1985 and as of 1997, 34,000 schools are operating annually, with an enrollment of 1.2 million children. Overall, a 90 percent completion rate has been maintained for school children enrolled in the three-year NFPE program. CIDA expects to more than double its contribution to Phase III of the program. Seven major donors collaborate in this project and do so in ways that are models for other projects.
In the Americas, one of CIDA's larger education projects has been the Eastern Caribbean Educational Reform Project, covering the period from 1996 to 2003. This project aims to strengthen governments' capacity to plan and implement educational reform to improve educational quality and access for children.
CIDA recognizes the close links between basic education and health, nutrition, and population, as well as the importance of gaining leverage through multi-sectoral approaches to programming in basic human needs. An innovative approach is being undertaken by the Unitarian Services Committee in Bangladesh with CIDA funding. Through a process of “social immunization”, the Adolescent Development Program improves the future social and economic status of adolescent girls by providing them with literacy, numeracy, health education and income-earning skills as well as ensuring that they properly register their marriages. Boys are also included in activities so that they learn that empowered girls and women are a benefit and not a threat to their communities.
Through Canadian Partnership Branch, CIDA supports a wide range of NGOs, associations and universities in providing projects to support the basic education of street and abandoned children in all regions, in countries as diverse as India, Lesotho, Haiti, Gambia, and Nicaragua. The major partners CIDA works with through Partnership Branch include Save the Children Canada, UNICEF-Canada, Street Kids International, World Vision, Foster Parents Plan, Aga Khan Foundation Canada, and Pueblito. Although activities tend to be small scale, they are typically responsive and often very innovative, and they are most sustainable where attempts are made to build linkages into the regular education system.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Effective in 1998, individuals repaying federal or provincial student loans can claim a 17 percent federal tax credit on the interest portion of the amount paid in the current year.
The 1996 and 1997 Federal Budgets encouraged families to build Registered Education Savings Plans (RESPs) for their children’s education by raising limits for both the annual per
child and lifetime contributions. In addition, parents and other contributors can now transfer an RESP into their Registered Retirement Savings Plan should the child choose not to pursue post‑secondary education.
Beginning January 1998, the federal government Canada Education Savings Grant will top up contributions made to an RESP by 20 percent up to a yearly maximum of $400 per child, until the child reaches age 18. This will mean that, for example, a family saving $25 every two weeks in an RESP over a 15-year period will accumulate an education fund of $18,790 (based on an annual interest rate of 5 percent). Without the grant, the RESP would be worth about $3,100 less.
In April 1996, the Canada Health and Social Transfer (CHST) replaced the previous transfer funding mechanism that provided the provinces and territories with fixed allocations for health, education and social services. Under the CHST, the provinces and territories are able to apply funds to areas according to their own discretion.
Priorities and Goals
In September 1997, the Government of Canada announced the Canadian Millennium Scholarships Program, a central component of the Canadian Opportunities Strategy. Beginning in the year 2000 and continuing for 10 years, Canada Millennium Scholarships will be awarded annually to more than 100,000 students through an endowment from the federal government. Canadians of all ages, studying in publicly-funded post-secondary institutions, will be eligible. Scholarships will be awarded based on financial need and demonstrated merit. These scholarships will average $2,000 and will be awarded beginning in January 2000.
The federal government has modified the Canada Student Loans Program (CSLP) to accommodate students with family responsibilities. Effective in 1998‑99, new grants will be available to students with children or other dependents. Students will be eligible to receive up to $40 per week (for those with 1 or 2 dependents) or $60 per week (for those with 3 or more dependents).
Government and NGO Cooperation
Status of Women Canada provides financial and technical assistance to organizations working to advance gender equality at the community, regional and national level. Support has been provided for projects aimed at improving gender equality in vocational training and guidance, including activities to increase interest in science, technology and non-traditional careers among girls.
The 1998 Federal Budget, which targeted youth employment, more than doubled funding for youth at risk, principally those who have not completed high school. Through partnerships with employers’ organizations and non-profit groups, funds are available for on-the-job training, career counseling, mentoring and literacy upgrading.
B. Aims of Education - Article 29
Measures in Force
The Government of Canada is committed to helping young Canadians acquire the information technology skills they need to succeed in the knowledge-based economy. SchoolNet, an Industry Canada program, promotes the effective use of information technology by helping all Canadian public schools and public libraries connect to the Internet. On March 30, 1999, Canada became the first nation in the world to connect its schools and libraries, thanks to the SchoolNet partnership. Built on partnerships with provincial and territorial governments, communities, NGOs, information technology companies and other private sector partners, SchoolNet aims to extend connectivity from the schools to the classroom by March 31, 2001. Over 1,000 learning services and resources can be accessed on the Web site at http://www.schoolnet.ca.
The Digital Collections Program helps young Canadians develop information technology and business skills as they transfer significant Canadian content collections into digital form. The program awards contracts to Canadian firms, associations, institutions, museums, libraries, archives, educational institutions and other organizations to hire teams of people 15 to 30 years of age to digitize text, images, audio and video material and incorporate it in Web sites for display on SchoolNet. As of 1998, the Program has hired over 1,200 young Canadians on some 230 contracts in all provinces and territories, including the most remote parts of the country.
The Computers for Schools program channels surplus computer equipment from businesses, government and individuals into classrooms and public libraries across Canada. The program provides youth with access to computers in a learning environment and provides hands-on computer repair training opportunities at refurbishment centres located across the country. Computers for Schools has delivered over 51, 000 computers to Canadian schools since the beginning of the program in 1993.
The Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency (ACOA) supports an entrepreneurship development strategy which, in part, encourages the development of entrepreneurial talent among young people in Atlantic Canada. In 1998, approximately 60,000 students from kindergarten to grade 12 were enrolled in enterprise or entrepreneurship courses as a result of efforts and investments by ACOA and its provincial partners. In addition, approximately 500 students per year start businesses under ACOA‑funded programs. Teacher training and youth venture activities, such as a seed capital program, are other components of the strategy.
The Michael Smith Awardsfor Science Promotion recognize Canadian individuals, organizations and companies that have inspired a passion in youth for science, technology, engineering and mathematics outside the formal school system. These non-monetary awards raise the profile of recipients and encourage others to get involved. The awards assist in the development of skills demanded in the knowledge-based economy by encouraging and rewarding leaders in science promotion.
The Prime Minister’s Awards honour outstanding elementary and secondary school teachers from across Canada. Recipients are selected based on their ability to achieve outstanding results with students, to inspire them to learn and continue learning, and to equip them with the knowledge, attitudes, skills and abilities they will need to succeed in our rapidly changing society and knowledge-based economy. The program also shares excellent teaching practices with educators across Canada and around the world via the Internet.
In 1995, the Canadian Space Agency (CSA) launched the Young Space Scientists Program, an educational program that allows students to take on the role of “space scientists” by providing them with the opportunity to design experiments and compete for the chance to have them performed in orbit by a Canadian astronaut. Classroom resource materials are then developed about these experiments and their execution during shuttle missions. To stimulate interest in this sector of science and to promote the Young Space Scientists Program, representatives from the CSA visited 90 elementary and secondary schools, reaching about 30,000 students.
Science Culture Canada, which had its final year in 1998-99, provided resources to non‑profit groups that stimulate youth interest in science and technology, thereby developing skills and promoting related careers.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) actively supports programs to increase African girls’ access to basic education, and works with UNICEF as well as Canadian NGO partners on projects in this field. In 1996-97, CIDA participated in projects in Jordan, Egypt, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Malawi, as well as two Pan-African projects.
The Department of Canadian Heritage’s Canadian Studies Program supports the development of a variety of learning materials in content areas considered to be underdeveloped or neglected in the field of Canadian Studies. The program also published a Directory of Funding Sources for Canadian Studies and two series of booklets entitled Canadian Studies Resource Guides and About Canada.
The Youth Participation Program of the Department of Canadian Heritage provides learning opportunities for youth to increase their knowledge, appreciation and respect for the diversity of Canadian society and its institutions. Under the Open House Canada Program, it provides financial support to a number of national non-profit organizations to cover part of the travel costs of participants in reciprocal group exchanges and national fora.
The Commonwealth Youth Program (CYP) promotes the overall well-being and development of young people in the Commonwealth. The CYP works towards a society where youth are empowered to develop their potential, creativity and skills and to participate fully at every level of decision-making and development.
Recognizing the importance of developing respect for the natural environment, Environment Canada provides information materials aimed at increasing environmental literacy
in primary and secondary schools. Rescue Mission Planet Earth: Indicators for Action is an information resource that gives students the opportunity to assess the sustainability of their community and to develop and implement Agenda 21 action plans. Through their work, the students can see how social, economic and environmental issues link together. In addition, the department’s contribution to the National Youth ScienceFair recognizes youth achievements in the area of environmental science.
Environment Canada also recognizes young people aged 14-25 for their environmental achievements through the Polaris Award. The Award, presented bi-annually, celebrates youth’s respect for their natural environment through 5 categories: science and technology, creative arts and communication, environmental entrepreneurship, community service and public policy.
Through various communications activities, its Green Lane Web site and other publications, Environment Canada promotes youth awareness of environmental issues. Through the Millennium Eco-Communities Web site, the department creates opportunities for Canadian youth to learn, share and take action to protect and enhance their natural environment.
Institutions and Mechanisms
The 1995 National Graduates Survey by Statistics Canada has provided valuable insights on the links between education experience and outcomes, youth program characteristics, student finances and loans, and other information on youth. Federal and provincial governments and agencies use this data to develop policies and programs to improve access to educational opportunities, experience, training, and the labour market. Business and other private sector organizations also use the survey data to measure their long-term needs against emerging trends in the training and education of youth.
The Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) supports basic university research through research grants and research projects in partnerships with industry. NSERC supports advanced training of highly-qualified people in both areas and its terms of reference allow it to support research to improve understanding of child-related issues. During 1996-97, NSERC funded 17 projects directly related to children.
The Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) supports research and training that improves understanding of child development and also helps design more effective policies and services for children. SSHRC studies have covered the disciplines of education, health, psychology and social work and have addressed such issues as the socialization of young children in family and school, parental beliefs and child rearing outcomes, teaching and learning processes, the school-to-work transition, youth crime and violence, and impact studies on policies and services.
The Department of Canadian Heritage works with provinces and territories to help minority language school boards offer comparable quality education to that of the majority, in the spirit of section 23 ofthe Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. The department also
works to enhance the development of French-language post-secondary institutions through the use of new technologies. Moreover, it continues to offer young people the opportunity to experience linguistic duality through language exchange programs and the Young Canada Works in Both Official Languages Program, which have nearly 10,000 participants every year.
The Department of Canadian Heritage also co-ordinates the implementation of sections 41 and 42 of the Official Languages Act to strengthen the contribution of federal institutions to the development of official-language minority communities in key sectors such as information technology, culture, economic development and human resources development.
Children are a primary audience of Canada’s national museums, which have developed specialized exhibitions, educational programs and activities to assist children in understanding and learning about their heritage.
Government and NGO Cooperation
Voluntary organizations play a crucial role in the social and economic well‑being of many Canadians, including children and youth. VolNet, a joint initiative of federal, provincial, territorial governments and private sector interests, reinforces the capacity of voluntary organizations by providing them with access to computer equipment, the Internet, new information technologies, network support and training.
In 1995, the Canadian Space Agency, in partnership with non-profit and private sector organizations, launched the Canadian Space Resource Centres program in 5 Canadian cities. The Centres provide curriculum enriching-resource materials using space themes and also provide teacher training on their use. This program provides important links between the government, education and business communities.
C. Leisure, recreation and cultural activities - Article 31
Measures in Force
Section 3 of the Broadcasting Act established Canada’s broadcasting policy. The Act, which the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) administers, expressly requires that the Canadian broadcasting system (which includes public and private broadcasters) serve the needs and interests of Canadian children by providing “programming for children of all ages, including educational programs”.
Both the private sector and the Canadian government provide financial assistance for Canadian children’s programming. In 1994, the Canadian cable industry, with CRTC support, established the Cable Production Fund to fund the production of high-quality Canadian programs in under-represented categories, including children’s programs (see Public Notice CRTC 1994‑10, “the Production Fund”). In 1996, the government integrated the Cable Production Fund with the broadcast production fund of Telefilm Canada (a federal
cultural agency) to create the Canada Television and Cable Production Fund (now called the Canadian Television Fund). This annual fund helps finance quality Canadian television programs in the categories of drama, variety, children’s shows and documentaries. In 1996-97, this fund contributed to the production of 724 hours of children’s programming.
Factors, difficulties and progress
Participation in physical activity has far-reaching benefits for well-being. A 1995 survey revealed that approximately one-third of Canadian children and youth were physically active enough to meet the energy-expenditure standard for optimal health and development, while another one-fifth came close to meeting the standard and one-fourth met the minimum energy standard.
Environmental degradation can also seriously affect the ways in which children spend their leisure time. Loss of green space can impede children from experiencing nature and their physical environment, poor air and water quality can prevent children from playing outside or swimming in lakes and rivers without risks to their health.
Priorities and Goals
In 1997, the federal and provincial/territorial ministers responsible for fitness, recreation and sport developed a framework strategy for reducing the number of inactive Canadians by 10 percent by the year 2003. The strategy places emphasis on youth at risk, especially Aboriginal youth and girls, and on the needs of children and youth living in poverty.
The Canada Council for the Arts, the federal government’s primary agency for supporting the arts, has determined that First Nations peoples and culturally diverse communities merit additional investment. The Council is currently developing plans to meet these needs.
The Canada Council operates no programs specifically for children. However, young audiences have been identified as a priority area for attention and additional funds. Proposed activities include tours of theatre, dance and music productions for children, books, magazines and exhibitions.
Institutions and Mechanisms
Health Canada has responsibility for federal activities relating to active living. The work is based on partnerships that are multi-sectoral, multi-level, and multi-disciplinary. Emphasis is given to strategic leadership, knowledge development and information dissemination, building partnerships and alliances, promotion and encouragement, and life stages.
The Department of Canadian Heritage supports centres across Canada that deliver cultural and social services to urban Aboriginal peoples and supports Aboriginal and provincial/territorial organizations to develop approaches on issues that affect the well-being of communities. The department also contributes to Aboriginal broadcasters with the production and broadcasting of programming in 17 Aboriginal languages.
Governments and Non-government Organizations
Health Canada and the Canadian Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance (CAHPERD) jointly support the Quality Daily Physical Education Program. This program provides instruction for daily quality physical activity through physical education and school sports targeting children and youth in elementary and secondary schools. Gender equity is part of CAHPERD’s mandate.
The Canadian Association for the Advancement of Women in Sport (CAAWS) is a national not‑for‑profit organization founded in 1981. CAAWS works to achieve gender equity in the sport community. Health Canada has funded CAAWS to develop a youth-at-risk strategy with a focus on girls.
National organizations involved with active living are currently working together to create a formal and structured coalition for active living in Canada. The purpose of the coalition ‑ whose membership will be multi-sectoral, multi-level, and multi-disciplinary - is to share planning, information and public promotion about active living initiatives in Canada.
The YWCA is developing and pilot testing an “organizational change” model regarding equitable access to physical activity programs for girls (primarily ages 12 to 16). Four pilot projects will be undertaken in each of four sites across Canada. Resource material will be created from the pilot projects and distributed to 42 YWCA’s and YM-YWCA’s in Canada.
The Department of Canadian Heritage, through the Young Canada Works Program, in partnership with non-governmental organizations and the private sector will contribute to the federal government’s Youth Employment Strategy and provide over 2,500 young Canadians with the opportunity to develop useful skills and experience while learning more about Canada, its culture and their fellow Canadians.
The Department of Canadian Heritage builds partnerships with NGOs and community groups, including child and youth organizations, around activities and programs such as Canada Day, Celebrate Canada, Citizenship and Heritage Week, National Flag of Canada Day, National Volunteer Week, National Aboriginal Day and other special events that reinforce a sense of common purpose, pride and Canadian unity.
VIII. Special Protection Measures
A. Children in Situations of Emergency
1. Refugee children - Article 22
The federal government is primarily responsible for immigration and refugees under s. 91 Constitution Act 1867. However, under an agreement between the Government of Canada and the Government of Quebec, the latter now administers some immigration matters. Federally, the Immigration Act of Canada sets forth the criteria and procedures under which an individual may receive either landed immigrant (i.e. permanent resident) status or refugee status in Canada.
In devising its refugee determination system, Canada draws upon the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which contains many of the same principles as those in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Canada implements the relevant parts of the Declaration and the Covenant using the standards and procedures of the Immigration Act and the general legal system of Canada.
Canada’s refugee determination system also takes into account Canada’s international obligations as a signatory to the United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), in March 1998, “... the Canadian system, with its resources, expertise and humanitarian focus, is recognized as a model to be emulated”.
Resettlement from Abroad
In keeping with its humanitarian tradition, Canada continues to provide resettlement opportunities in Canada for refugees and people in refugee-like situations outside their country and for whom there is no other durable solution. Abroad, Canada works with the UNHCR, receives applications directly from refugees seeking resettlement, and processes the applications of refugees that groups in Canada have sponsored for entry into this country. In addition, two programs exist for extreme at-risk refugees:
Women at Risk Program (AWR): The Women at Risk Program (AWR) was introduced by the Government of Canada in 1988 to facilitate the settlement, in Canada, of women refugees and their children who are in critical situations and who lack the resettlement potential that the system ordinarily requires of refugees chosen abroad. The factors that may cause these women to fall short of the normal requirements include: poor education; a lack of employment or linguistic skills and a burden of responsibility for young children. Under the guidelines for the program, AWR applicants must lack the normal protection of a family unit and be in situations either of immediate peril or long-term difficulty and danger. They must also be in a situation in which local authorities (in the country of origin or in a third country) cannot ensure their safety. By the end of 1997, the federal government had resettled 1,050 women in Canada under the auspices of AWR.
Joint Assistance Sponsorship Program (JAS): This program provides an extra level of assistance for refugees who would otherwise not qualify for resettlement in Canada, either as government-assisted or privately-sponsored refugees. This category includes women-at-risk and other refugees who may have emotional problems related to trauma or torture, or who are under the threat of physical violence, either in the country of origin or the country of asylum. The program also covers people with poor resettlement potential due to a lack of education or skills; heavy family responsibilities; or mental or physical disability. Under JAS, the government provides income support for a minimum of 12 months up to a maximum of 24 months. A private sponsoring group provides emotional support and whatever extra settlement assistance may be required during that time.
In-Canada Refugee Claims
Any person, including a child, who is in Canada and who claims to be a Convention refugee may seek a determination of the claim by notifying an immigration officer. The claimant may request this determination either on arrival at the port of entry or later. If a claim is determined by an immigration officer to be eligible for hearing, it is referred to the Convention Refugee Determination Division (CRDD) of the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB), an independent, specialized tribunal, for hearing. In 1997-98, Canada received 5,772 claims from children seeking asylum. The 1996 Guidelines on Child Refugee Claimants distinguish between children accompanied by an adult relative and those who are unaccompanied. In the case of unaccompanied children, the system calls for automatic notification of provincial authorities responsible for child protection. It should be noted that a claim may be ineligible to be heard if the claimant has a criminal conviction or poses a danger to Canadian society.
Once immigration authorities have referred a claim to the CRDD, claimants have the right to apply for an employment authorization, entitling them to work in Canada, obtain social assistance and, in the case of children, generally have access to education in the publicly-run school systems. All claimants also have access to federally-funded health and emergency dental care coverage.
Claimants have a right to representation by counsel of their choice, to present evidence, to cross-examine witnesses, and to make representations. Government-funded legal aid is often available to assist claimants without money to obtain legal counsel. The government also provides interpreters free-of-charge to claimants who need them.
In 1996, the Chairperson of the Immigration and Refugee Board issued procedural and evidentiary Guidelines for the handling of child refugee cases.
The CRDD deals with cases of unaccompanied children seeking asylum on a priority basis. The process calls for a pre-conference hearing at which the panel affirms the designation of a representative for the child. On average, claims by unaccompanied children account for less than 5 percent of all refugee claims received in Canada.
Unsuccessful refugee claimants who feel that they would face an objectively identifiable risk to life, extreme sanctions or inhumane treatment if they return to their country of origin may apply under the Post Determination Refugee Claimant in Canada Class (PRDCC). A specialized Post-Claim Determination Officer will then consider any submission the individual might make, and other relevant material (such as documentary evidence of country conditions).
Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) Applications
It is a cornerstone of the Immigration Act that prior to their arrival in Canada, persons who wish to live permanently in Canada must submit an application outside Canada, qualify for and obtain an immigrant visa. Immigration legislation does provide for persons within Canada
to submit an application for permanent residence on the basis of humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Applications made on an H&C basis request an exemption from the requirement to obtain an immigrant visa before coming to Canada.
In March 1999, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration released new guidelines entitled Immigrant Applications in Canada made on Humanitarian and Compassionate (H&C) Grounds, replacing previously issued guidelines. This document provides guidance to immigration officers who evaluate the H&C applications. Generally, humanitarian and compassionate grounds exist when unusual and undeserved or disproportionate hardship would be caused to the person seeking consideration if he/she had to leave Canada. Examples of the non-exhaustive “general case types” identified are as follows:
spouses of Canadian citizens or permanent residents;
common law and same sex partners;
dependent children of Canadian citizens or permanent residents;
parents & grandparents of Canadian citizens or permanent residents;
separation of parents & dependent children;
de facto family members;
prolonged inability to leave Canada has led to establishment;
refugees who apply for landing too late;
family violence; and
former Canadian citizens.
Within the guidelines, there are explicit references to international human rights standards such as the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention Against Torture. Immigration officers across Canada are being trained in relation to these guidelines and the applicable international standards.
In the years prior to the adoption of these new guidelines, the acceptance rate of individuals making H&C applications was just over 80%.
In July 1999, the Supreme Court of Canada affirmed the importance of considering family-related interests in H&C applications. In Baker v. Canada (Minister of Citizenship and
Immigration)  2 S.C.R. 817, the Court considered the parameters of discretionary decision-making, and determined what would be reasonable. In coming to this determination, the Court looked to:
the wording of the particular legislative provisions;
the objectives of the Immigration Act, particularly the objective related to family reunification;
international law standards, such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child [notably because the values set out in international human rights instruments ratified by Canada are themselves a reflection of Canadian values]; and
the guidelines for decision-makers in place at that time.
The Court noted that:
“Immigration officers are expected to make the decision that a reasonable person would make, with special consideration of humanitarian values such as keeping connections between family members and avoiding hardship by sending people to places where they no longer have connections. The guidelines show what the Minister considers a humanitarian and compassionate decision [...]. They emphasize that the decision-maker should be alert to possible humanitarian grounds, should consider the hardship that a negative decision would impose upon the claimant or close family members, and should consider as an important factor the connections between family members.” [para. 72]
In applying the reasonableness standard to this particular set of reasons, the Court reached this conclusion:
“The above factors indicate that emphasis on the rights, interests and needs of children and special attention to childhood are important values that should be considered in reasonably interpreting the ‘humanitarian’ and ‘compassionate’ considerations that guide the exercise of the discretion. I conclude that because the reasons for this decision do not indicate that it was made in a manner which was alive, attentive, or sensitive to the interests of Ms. Baker’s children, and did not consider them as an important factor in making the decision, it was an unreasonable exercise of the power conferred by the legislation, and must, therefore, be overturned. In addition, the reasons for decision failed to give sufficient weight or consideration to the hardship that a return to Jamaica might cause Ms. Baker, given the fact that she had been in Canada for 12 years, was ill and might not be able to obtain treatment in Jamaica, and would necessarily be separated from at least some of her children.” [para. 73]
For an H&C decision where children are implicated, the Court held that “attentiveness and sensitivity to the importance of the rights of children, to their best interests, and to the hardship that may be caused to them by a negative decision is essential for an H&C decision to be made in a reasonable manner”. [para. 74].
In overturning the immigration officer’s decision, the Court concluded:
“The principles discussed above indicate that, for the exercise of the discretion to fall within the standard of reasonableness, the decision-maker should consider children’s best interests as an important factor, give them substantial weight, and be alert, alive and sensitive to them. That is not to say that children’s best interests must always outweigh other considerations, or that there will not be other reasons for denying an H&C claim even when children’s interests are given this consideration. However, where the interests of children are minimized, in a manner inconsistent with Canada’s humanitarian and compassionate tradition and the Minister’s guidelines, the decision will be unreasonable.” [para. 75]
In March 1999, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration issued a new set of guidelines for officers making decisions in relation to applications to remain in Canada made on humanitarian and compassionate grounds. Applicants are individuals who wish to be exempted from the statutory requirement of applying for and being granted an immigrant visa prior to their arrival in Canada.
An assessment of risk to a person who may face mistreatment abroad may also be carried out as part of this review. Children and adults may obtain this review on completion of an application and payment of a fee of $500 in the case of an adult or $100 in the case of a child under the age of 19.
Individuals may also seek judicial review of any decision or order under the immigration legislation before the Federal Court of Canada. Although the Court must grant leave (i.e. permission) for the judicial review, the threshold for obtaining leave is relativelylow. In the ensuing review, the Court determines if the request for review raises a serious question and whether there is an arguable case.
Some noteworthy cases of this kind have come before the Canadian judiciary. In Baker v. Government of Canada (discussed above), 2 issues were raised: the role of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in domestic litigation and the deportation of a parent, resulting in the separation of family. The Supreme Court of Canada held that the ratification by Canada of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the recognition of the importance of children’s rights and the best interests of children in other international instruments ratified by Canada are indicators of the importance of considering the interests of children when making a compassionate and humanitarian decision under the Immigration Act. In the present case, the Court held that a well-informed member of the community would not perceive the recommendation of the immigration officer as being free from a reasonable apprehension of bias. Principles of fundamental justice therefore were violated in this particular case.
Any person, including an unaccompanied minor, whom the Refugee Division of CRDD determines to be a Convention refugee may apply for landing (permission to establish residence in Canada). The individual may also include in their application for landing any dependents, provided the applicant and any dependent has satisfactory documentation related to identification and has not committed a serious crime. While immigration legislation does not specifically provide for the reunification of the child with his or her immediate family from overseas, family reunification in Canada is possible if a private group sponsors the child’s parents. In recent years, this approach has facilitated family reunification for several Vietnamese minors.
Reunification of Family
In its Concluding Observations on Canada’s First Report, the Committee expressed concern about delays in reunifying families in situations where one or more members of a family have acquired refugee status in Canada. The Government of Canada notes the Committee’s concern.
The Committee may wish to note the progressive amendments to the Immigration Act in 1993 (Bill C-86) which resulted in significant improvements in the processing of applications from Convention refugees for permanent residence in Canada. Previous to these changes a Convention refugee had to obtain permanent resident status before sponsoring dependent family members. With these amendments, Convention refugees may now apply simultaneously for permanent residence for themselves and their dependent spouses and children. Furthermore, they may do so whether the dependents are living in Canada or abroad.
A Convention refugee in Canada cannot obtain permanent resident status until all of the dependents included in his/her application have been located and have met the relevant statutory, including security, requirements. Failure to locate dependents will delay the granting of permanent residence status. When this happens, the Convention refugee applying for landing on behalf of him/herself and dependents has 2 choices. One is to delay the application pending the location of all dependents for whom the applicant is seeking landed status. The other is to remove the missing dependent(s) from the application. If the applicant chooses the latter option, the government notifies him or her in writing that there is the possibility of permanent separation, although the applicant may sponsor family members to come to Canada later. Dependents who are subsequently located may be added to an application within a prescribed period of time.
Claimants in Canada who have been found to be refugees are eligible, together with their dependents, for permanent residence in Canada regardless of their medical condition. The regulations do not require dependents to meet the definition of a Convention refugee.
Although Canada places a high priority on the reunification of refugee families, it urges families not to put children at risk by sending them forward, either alone or in the company of “couriers”, in an effort to gain their admission to Canada.
Undocumented Convention Refugees
According to Canadian immigration legislation, Convention refugees must provide a satisfactory identity document to obtain permanent residence. In recent years, it has become evident that some Convention refugees are unable to meet this requirement as a result of sustained political turmoil in their country of origin and/or the lack of a central authority that could issue identity documents. Once a Convention refugee becomes a permanent resident, he/she may apply to sponsor any remaining dependents as members of the family class.
On January 31, 1997, the federal government introduced a new classification: the Undocumented Convention Refugee Class in Canada (UCRCC). This permits citizens of designated countries (at the time of the writing of the report, Somalia and Afghanistan) to apply for permanent residence without fulfilling the requirement to provide an identity document. UCRCC applicants can apply for permanent residence five years after the acceptance of their refugee claim. Dependents in Canada obtain permanent residence at the same time as the principal applicant.
Family reunification for dependents outside of Canada will be delayed during the five‑year waiting period. After the refugee has obtained permanent residence, he/she may sponsor his/her spouse and dependent children under 19 years of age residing abroad. In addition, children of undocumented refugees who reach 19 years of age during the five-year waiting period may benefit from exceptional processing on humanitarian and compassionate grounds, provided they are still unmarried and were listed on their parent’s initial application for permanent residence. Under ordinary circumstances, children 19 years of age and over must be financially supported by their parents and in full-time study or disabled to be sponsored as dependent sons or daughters.
Canada is cognizant of the need to balance the different and important interests at stake: Canada’s interests in protecting society and regulating immigration are to be carefully weighed in relation to the interests of the individual facing removal and the impact of this removal on his/her family members.
When a permanent resident has been reported as being in Canada illegally under the Immigration Act, immigration officers usually interview the individual to determine all the circumstances of his/her case, and provide a recommendation to a senior manager as to whether the individual should be directed to inquiry, which could lead to deportation. Under the guidelines provided to officers, these considerations include family considerations. At the inquiry, there is no consideration of humanitarian or compassionate factors such as family interests as the matter relates only to the individual concerned. The permanent resident’s rights to appeal a deportation order will vary depending on the seriousness of the criminal behaviour. At the Appeal Division of the Immigration and Refugee Board, appeal rights have been determined by the UN Human Rights Committee to be an adequate method for balancing legitimate State interest vs. individual’s interests; in the “danger to the public” process,
individuals are provided with the opportunity to make written submissions to the decision-maker with respect to humanitarian and compassionate considerations such as family ties; and in the security certificate process, family ties may be considered through a humanitarian and compassionate application.
With respect to non-permanent residents, usually those who have had no legal status in Canada, or who had temporary status at one time (visitor, for example), family interests can be considered through a humanitarian and compassionate application or an application for a Minister’s permit.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
Delays in the Refugee Determination System
Canada faces the challenge of balancing fairness with effectiveness by protecting those who need protection, while dealing efficiently with those who apply for refugee status for reasons not related to protection. While the system for determining refugee status is widely respected as a result, it can involve delays in reaching final disposition of cases.
The resulting delays in the determination of a claim can harm those in need of protection and undermine the integrity of the system. Children, in particular, suffer because of the insecurity this delay brings into their lives. The delays often interrupt schooling for weeks and children find it difficult to establish themselves.
In January 1999, the Minister of Citizenship and Immigration announced a number of future directions for the immigration and refugee programs. These announcements include proposals to consolidate and streamline the refugee determination process. The government hopes that implementation of these proposals will speed up the process so that refugee claimants, including children, can get on with their lives as quickly as possible. Another proposal would reduce the waiting period for the Undocumented Convention Refugee Class in Canada from 5 years to 3. This would hasten both stability and family reunification for those who are unable to obtain documentation due to conditions in their home countries.
The Urgent Protection Program (UPP) for refugees requiring resettlement on an urgent basis for reasons related to immediate threat to life, liberty or personal danger was introduced by Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) in 1999. While all refugees in immediate need for protection are eligible under the UPP, a pilot project will be implemented in 1999 that will focus on Women at Risk (AWR), with the objective, where possible, of assessing cases within 48-72 hours.
Reunification of family - International Context
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has supported the work of family reunification in developing countries. For example, CIDA’s Rwanda program has been supporting efforts to reunify children with their families since 1995.
CIDA supports family reunification through several international agencies. These include the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and Canadian non‑governmental organizations such as Centre canadien d`etudes et de coopération internationale (CECI).
2. Children in armed conflict - Article 38, including physical
and psychological recovery and social reintegration
Paragraph 1: Respect for international humanitarian laws
In accordance with the provisions of the 1949 Geneva Convention and the 1977 Additional Protocol, Canada continues to educate members of the Canadian Armed Forces about international humanitarian laws regarding combatants, prisoners of war and civilians, including children.
Paragraphs 2 and 3: Participation in armed conflict
Canada is actively participating in the negotiation of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child which would deal with children in armed conflict. The Government of Canada supports the early adoption of a strong text to raise the minimum age for participation in hostilities and for recruitment into the armed forces.
Formalizing a long-standing practice, Canada is in the process of codifying its practiceof not sending anyone under the age of 18 to hostilities, and is in the process of examining current legislation on the recruitment of individuals who are under 18 years of age. The intent is to bring Canadian laws into line with the expected terms of the Optional Protocol.
Canada also strongly supports the UN Special Representative on Children and Armed Conflict (SRSG) as an advocate on behalf of children in situations of conflict. To this end, Canada will be part of a coalition of countries who will act as “Friends of the SRSG”. The Government of Canada has financially supported this coalition of like-minded governments and NGOs who are seeking to raise the age of deployment and recruitment.
Canada is committed to assisting in the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers into civil society. In March 1998, the federal government convened an International Roundtable on Child Soldiers to examine a role for Canada in addressing the issue of children and armed conflict. NGOs and experts attended the session.
In addition, the federal government has supported a project in the Democratic Republic of Congo to help the national and provincial authorities demobilize 1,500 child soldiers (aged 9 to 16 years) and reintegrate them into their families and civil society. The project also seeks to support their primary school education and skills training. The government has also contributed to a Canada-Norway initiative in Algeria to train local health care and social work professionals to assist children suffering from trauma as a result of the conflict there.
The Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT) seconded Visiting UN Fellow Nigel Fisher, former UNICEF Director for Emergency Programs, to advise the department and the Minister on children and armed conflict. Mr. Fisher assisted in drafting a policy framework for Canada on war-affected children.
Paragraph 4:Protection and care of children
Canada continues to take part in peacekeeping activities or other actions of a military nature in accordance with the United Nations Charter. Since 1994, these operations have included peacekeeping missions on several continents. As a matter of policy, Canadian armed forces involved in these operations take special measures to protect and provide for non‑combatants, including children.
Through international humanitarian assistance, the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has provided substantial support to children affected by armed conflict. CIDA works with UN agencies such as UNHCR and UNICEF, as well as Canadian and international NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières, the Red Cross and World Vision. These projects have focused on the following areas:
basic human needs (including food, water, sanitation and health services) to children and their families;
the rebuilding of physical infrastructures destroyed by conflict (including schools, hospitals and orphanages);
education and the development of rehabilitative facilities for children and youth;
family reunification and assistance for internally displaced and unaccompanied children;
shelter and counselling services for children psychologically affected by war (including physically and sexually abused girls);
the demobilization and reintegration of child soldiers;
demining and land mines awareness-raising campaigns; and
direct support to Ministries of Youth, Health, Sport and Education.
One example of the kind of work CIDA has supported for children affected by armed conflict is in Croatia, where the International Children’s Institute (ICI) cares for children who are struggling with trauma and stress by helping them develop the emotional coping skills they need for their total well-being. Working with teams of experts in psychology, education,
communication and health and with children and parents, the ICI develops community and school based programs focused on developing children’s emotional coping and resiliency skills. Since the fall of 1993, the ICI has been working with mental health, education and communications professionals in Dubrovnik, Croatia to implement their building bridges program.
See programs listed under Articles 34, 37 and 40 and provincial/territorial sections.
B. Children involved with the system of administration of juvenile justice
This section deals with the issue of juvenile justice and in particular with Canada’s proposed youth justice system. Although the system was announced in the Spring of 1998 (and therefore technically falls outside this reporting period), it is included here because of the significance of the changes.
In particular, this section elaborates on proposed changes to the Young Offenders Act which have occurred since Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child . The Bill, entitled the Youth Criminal Justice Act was introduced in Parliament in March, 1999.
Division of Power
The Government of Canada and the provincial governments share constitutional responsibility for matters relating to children in conflict with the law. The federal government has jurisdiction over criminal law, including criminal procedure. Provincial and territorial governments have jurisdiction over the administration of juvenile justice, including the provision of custodial and health facilities and services for young people in conflict with the law.
This sharing of responsibility of the juvenile justice system between 2 levels of governments and several jurisdictions requires an integrated approach to law-making. How this approach functions is described in detail below, under the heading “Comprehensive Review of Youth Justice System”.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
While the federal government consults the provinces and territories on the development of, and modifications to, the youth justice legislation, it also provides them with financial assistance in their administration of the legislation and delivery of programs and services for young people in conflict with the law.
When the Young Offenders Act was proclaimed in 1984, the federal government entered into new financial agreements with the provinces and territories. These arrangements expanded the scope of the federal assistance which, until then, had been limited to custodial services and some after-care programs. These agreements extended financial assistance to alternative measures, bail supervision programs, post-adjudication detention, and the preparation of pre‑sentence reports and other specialized assessments. New financial arrangements are now being negotiated with the provinces and territories with a view to promoting in a more direct fashion the policy objectives of the upcoming new legislation.
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms - Legislative Guarantees
The rights set out in Article 40 (a) and (b, i, ii, iii, iv, and vi) of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are guaranteed under sections 7 (right to life, liberty, security of the person), 11 (legal rights) and 14 (right to an interpreter) of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
Legislation in Canada provides for the right of appeal, as stated in Article 40 (b) (v) of the Convention. As well, the privacy of most accused youth and young offenders is respected throughout legal proceedings and after a verdict is rendered. Except for certain circumstances, publication bans are a statutory requirement. This area is covered in further detail below.
The rights protecting children deprived of their liberty (Article 37 (a), (b) and (d)), are guaranteed in sections 12, 9, and 10 of the Charter, respectively. Section 12 guarantees “the right not to be subjected to any cruel and unusual treatment or punishment”. It should also be noted that capital punishment is not permitted in Canada. Section 9 guarantees “the right not to be arbitrarily detained or imprisoned”. Section 10 guarantees “the right on arrest or detention to retain or instruct counsel without delay, and to have the validity of the detention determined by way of habeas corpus”.
Upon ratification of the Convention, Canada entered a reservation with regard to Article 37 (c), to ensure that in determining the custodial arrangements for a young offender, the well-being of other young offenders and the safety of the public may be taken into account.
Where an accused young offender is convicted and sent to imprisonment, the (current) Young Offenders Act requires the court, after affording the young person, the parents of the young person, the Attorney General, the provincial director and representatives of the provincial and federal correctional systems an opportunity to be heard, order the young person to serve any portion of the imprisonment in either (a) a place of custody for young persons separate and apart from any adult who is detained or held in custody; (b) a provincial correctional facility for adults; or c) where the sentence is for 2 years or more, a penitentiary. In making such an order, the Court shall take into account
(a)the safety of the young person;
(b)the safety of the public;
(c)the young person’s accessibility to family;
(d)the safety of other young persons if the young person were to be held in custody in a place of custody for young persons;
(e)whether the young person would have a detrimental influence on other young persons if the young person were to be held in custody in a place of custody for young persons;
(f)the young person’s level of maturity;
(g)the availability of suitable treatment, educational and other resources that would be provided to the young person in a place of custody for young persons and in a place of custody for adults;
(h)the young person’s prior experiences and behaviour while in detention or custody;
(i)the recommendations of the provincial director and representatives of the provincial and federal correctional facilities; and
(j)any other factor the court considers relevant.
(Young Offenders Act, R.S.C. 1985, c. Y-1, s. 16.2)
1. Administration of Juvenile Justice System - Article 40
Comprehensive Review of Youth Justice System
Following amendments to the Young Offenders Act in June 1994, the Minister of Justice directed the Standing Committee on Justice and Legal Affairs to undertake a thorough, open‑minded and critical examination of the Act.
At that time, the federal government also established a Federal-Provincial-Territorial (FPT) Task Force on Youth Justice. The mandate of the task force was to conduct a comprehensive review of the Act. The Task Force’s Report on Youth Justice, completed in August 1996, contained recommendations on key elements of the youth justice system, such as age jurisdiction, serious offenders, alternatives to the courts, transfers to adult court, improvements to the administration of justice, and sentencing. The report was referred to the Standing Committee for its consideration.
In April 1997, following extensive consultations with organizations and governments across Canada and the consideration of numerous briefs and reports, including that of the FPT Task Force, the Standing Committee released its 13th report, Renewing Youth Justice. (See Appendix B for Committee’s recommendations).
In May 1998, the Government responded by issuing “A Strategy for the Renewal of Youth Justice”. The strategy is based on three key directions: prevention; meaningful consequences for youth crime; and intensified rehabilitation and reintegration for serious and violent young offenders. The renewal strategy is discussed in detail below as it pertains to the various Articles of the Convention.
Article 40 (2, vii): Right to privacy
The Young Offender Act permits the media to report on youth court proceedings provided the identity or information leading to the identification of the young offender is not revealed. There are a few exceptions to this prohibition:
The identification of a young offender transferred to adult court can be revealed.
The youth court may authorize the release of the name of a young accused if the youth is at large, a danger to others, and the publication is necessary to assist in his or her apprehension.
A young person can apply to the youth court to have his or her name released to the public and the youth court may grant the application if it is deemed not to be contrary to the youth’s best interests.
The youth court may also, on application from the Crown or a peace officer, authorize the release of information to designated persons in order to avoid serious harm, if the young person has been found guilty of an offence involving serious personal harm, or if the young person poses a risk of serious personal harm.
Information may be shared with school officials about a young offender where such a step is required to ensure the safety of staff, students and others.
The Standing Committee recommended that the Young Offenders Act be amended to provide youth court judges with the discretion to allow general publication of the name of a young offender in circumstances where people are at risk of serious harm and where, for safety reasons, the public interest requires that publication be done.
Under the current system, as noted above, the name of a young person transferredto the adult system can be made public. The federal government proposes that the namesbe made public in cases where the young offender is convicted and given an adult sentence.
The federal government also proposes an approach that permits publication in certain defined circumstances after the individual has received a youth sentence. For example, the name of a young offender 14 years of age or older who has been convicted of one of the five presumptive offences (murder, attempted murder, manslaughter, aggravated sexual assault, or an offence which forms part of a pattern of serious violent offences) could be published, even if he or she does not receive an adult sentence. However, the judge would have the discretion to order that the name not be made public.
Article 40 (3) (a): Minimum age
The minimum age for an individual to become involved in the youth justice system is 12 and will remain at 12.
The Standing Committee had recommended that, in exceptional circumstances, 10 and 11 year old youth suspected of committing extremely violent offences should be subject to the youth justice system. The Standing Committee further recommended that this be done at the consent of the provincial Attorney General and that the court’s authority would include placing the child in the care of child welfare authorities if required.
However, the federal government, after careful consideration of the recommendation, concluded that referral to the appropriate provincial/territorial social and mental health services would provide a better response to the needs of these youth. The Government of Canada believes that these services are more age-appropriate, family-oriented and therapeutic than those available through the criminal justice system for children of this age.
In Canada, very few children under the age of 12 are involved in serious, violent behaviour. Recent experience indicates that if the juvenile justice legislation had been extended to children 10 to 12 years old, fewer than 3 or 4 children within that age group would be charged with a presumptive offence in Canada each year.
Article 40 (3) (b): Alternative measures to judicial proceedings
Crime Prevention Initiative
The National Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention is designed to help Canadians create safer communities by supporting community-based crime prevention efforts, enhancing communities’ knowledge and experience with respect to crime prevention and fostering partnerships and collaboration. Phase I of the Strategy was launched in 1994. This phase provided a framework for federal efforts to support community safety and crime prevention. It encouraged federal, provincial and territorial cooperation and emphasized the mobilization of Canadians to take action at the community level to prevent crime. As part of Phase I, the federal government created the National Crime Prevention Council (1994-1997), which was composed of 25 individuals with various backgrounds and expertise.
Phase II of this strategy was launched in 1998 and consists of 3 funds: the Investment Fund, the Partnership Fund and the Community Mobilisation Programs. Examples of initiatives created by Phase II will be outlined in the next report.
Other Child-oriented Programs
The National Children’s Agenda and the Aboriginal Healing Strategy are 2 examples of federal government programs that aim to improve the lives of children and, among many other benefits, reduce the number of young people who commit criminal acts. These and other government initiatives are discussed throughout this report.
Specific Alternatives to Judicial Processes
Alternatives to the formal youth justice system are an important component of Canada’s youth justice strategy. The Government of Canada recognizes that the majority of youth crime is of a temporary and minor nature and that the involvement of communities, offenders, victims, families and others in responding to the wrongdoing generally leads to more enduring solutions.
The police play a key role in promoting the use of alternatives to the justice system, screening youth into alternative programs, and developing informal and effective resolutions for delinquent behaviour. Consistent with the recommendations of the Standing Committee, the new legislation will give the police appropriate flexibility to exercise their discretion in support of effective alternatives to formal judicial procedures. In addition, the government will ensure that the youth justice system encourages alternatives to youth court proceedings, such as diversion programs, family group conferencing and other alternative measures or programs.
The Community and Youth Justice Committee approach is an example of an effective alternative measure. These committees develop responses and programs that are tailored to the needs of individual young people and their communities.
Article 40 (4): Variety of dispositions
Community-based sentences provide effective alternatives to custody for many young offenders. They encourage family members and the larger community to participate in resolving conflicts and developing solutions to youth crimes. Community-based sentencing provides greater and more meaningful assistance to young offenders, without sacrificing public safety.
Community-based measures can also be used as the basis for reintegration and after-care programs. These programs help provide a structured transition back to the community for youths who have been in custody, thereby reducing the chances of reoffending. The Youth After-Care Program in St. John’s, Newfoundland, for example, provides young offenders with education programs, job training and individual counselling to assist in their reintegration.
The proposed youth justice legislation provides for increased re-integration measures which assist a young person in successfully reintegrating back into the community after a period of custody.
Due to the large number of Aboriginal youth in custody there is a special need to examine community based alternatives for Aboriginal youth. The Aboriginal justice inquiries in Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba found disproportionately high pre-trial detention and custodial rates for Aboriginal youth. The Manitoba inquiry recommended resources for Aboriginal communities to develop community-based alternatives to detention.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
The development and implementation of community-based sentencing programs will require financial resources. The Standing Committee recommended a significant shift in resources from custodial institutions to community-based services and the negotiation of new federal/provincial/territorial financial agreements to reflect this objective.
To this end, the development of a wide range of alternatives to courts and incarceration are a priority for the Government of Canada, and will be reflected in the negotiation of new federal/provincial/territorial cost-sharing arrangements. Initially, programs will require
start-up funds, and these will vary with the unique needs of each jurisdiction. The savings resulting from reduced incarceration will provide ongoing funding for alternative programs
and for improved treatment of the more serious offenders who receive custodial
Federal, provincial and territorial cooperation is essential to achieving the shared objectives of the renewal of youth justice. Alternatives and community-based sentences should help reduce administrative costs for the provinces and provide a youth justice system with more choices available to judges. This, in turn, will assist in the availability of custodial resources for violent and serious young offenders.
2. Children deprived of their liberty - Article 37
Paragraph (b): Arbitrary detention
The constitutional and statutory guarantees outlined in the First Report remain.
For the vast majority of offences, non-custodial sentences are imposed. When custody is imposed, an annual judicial review, including a full reassessment of the young offender’s sentence, is available to the young person. Furthermore, young offenders who are transferred to a more secure level of custody may request either an administrative review by an independent review board or judicial review of the decision.
Paragraph (c): Separate detention of young offenders
The vast majority of young offenders who are detained are in custody in youth custody facilities. However, upon ratification, Canada entered a reservation with regard to
Article 37 (c) to ensure that, in determining the custodial arrangements for a young offender,
the well-being of other young offenders and the safety of the public may be taken into
According to the proposed legislation, all youth under 18, even those serving an adult sentence, are presumed to be placed in youth custody facilities.
With regard to detention prior to sentencing, the proposed legislation will stipulate that a young person detained prior to sentencing shall be held separate and apart from any adult who is detained or in custody unless:
a youth justice court judge or a justice is satisfied that it is in the best interests of the young person and the young person cannot, having regard to either his own safety or the safety of others, be detained in a place of detention for young persons; or
no place of detention for the young person is available within a reasonable distance.
As well, the proposed legislation states that following arrest, a young person who is detained shall be transferred to a place of temporary detention separate from adults as soon as practicable and in no case later than the first reasonable opportunity after the appearance of the young person before a youth justice court judge or justice.
Correctional Services Canada has conducted an internal review of young offenders sentenced to federal custody to ensure that the safety, well-being and programming needs of the offender are appropriately met.
As of September, 1999, there were 8 young offenders held in adult penitentiaries. A majority of these offenders are Aboriginal. Correctional Services Canada is currently exploring the possibility of transferring some of the Aboriginal young offenders to Aboriginal healing lodges to best meet their needs.
Paragraph (c): Separate detention in immigration context
Children may arrive in Canada with or without a parent or guardian. In all cases, the rights of the child remain paramount. The deprivation of the liberty of children for purposes of immigration security is used only as a measure of last resort.
The Immigration Act provides that an immigration officer may detain for two reasons:
there are reasonable grounds to believe the person poses a danger to the public;
there are reasonable grounds to believe the person would not or is not likely to appear for an examination, an inquiry or removal from Canada.
As noted, the decision to detain a person is not made lightly and immigration officers are instructed to consider other options, such as cash or performance bonds or promises to appear, whenever possible. In situations involving families, it is often only the head of family who is detained.
The rights of the person detained are protected by the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms and, more specifically, the Immigration Act. The Act provides for detention reviews to ensure that the person is detained with cause and that he or she may speak on their own behalf. Everyone who is detained is advised of their right to retain and instruct counsel.
A detention review must occur before an adjudicator of the Immigration and Refugee Board after the first 48 hours of a person’s detention. Further reviews are conducted after 7 days and every 30 days thereafter. The adjudicator reviews the reasons for continued detention on each occasion. Should the adjudicator find that reasons for continued detention do not exist, he or she may order that the person be released.
Citizenship and Immigration Canada operates two holding centres. These are minimum security establishments which detain people considered to be low risk. These centres are not jails. In contrast, criminals, terrorists and danger cases are detained in jails operated by provincial governments. Low risk individuals and families who must be detained in a community distant from a holding centre are typically accompanied by security personnel to a local hotel or motel. This is usually done to ensure and facilitate removal of a family that has a history of not cooperating.
Operational guidelines for immigration officers provide that in cases involving minors, especially unaccompanied minors, “the decision to detain/release should also be guided by Article 3 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child,” which provides that in all actions concerning children undertaken by administrative authorities, the best interests of the child shall be a primary consideration.
In cases where children arrive accompanied by a parent or guardian and the parent or guardian is detained, any request to keep the family together is assessed and efforts are made to allow the children to stay with the parents. Where the parents are held in an immigration holding centre, the family is generally segregated from the general population of the facility, often with separate sleeping facilities for the women and children. At the detention facility in Laval, the minor is kept with the mother and the father’s room is in the men’s building but he may come over during the day and stay with the family. In Mississauga, the family is kept together in a room which is separate from the men’s and women’s facilities.
In cases where children arrive in Canada without a parent or guardian, officials attempt to locate relatives already in Canada wherever possible. Provincial and municipal child welfare authorities are also notified. Detention of an unaccompanied child at an immigration facility for more than a brief period, the time required to ensure that the child will receive proper care elsewhere, is unusual. Detained children are always held apart from the rest of the incarcerated population. They are closely monitored and have access to common areas where toys, games, television, books and outdoor recreation activities are made available. There is also on-site medical staff available.
Certain non-governmental organizations have full access to immigration holding centres while other organizations have access to visit and provide support to a person in a holding centre. The Department of Citizenship and Immigration works closely with these organizations to improve conditions for detained persons and to resolve problems which may arise.
The National Standards and Monitoring Strategy for immigration holding centres, which were developed in cooperation with non-governmental organizations, include a section under “Special Measures” for both unaccompanied and accompanied minors which includes: physical
placement, access to education and recreational programs and monitoring with respect to health and psychiatric care. For example, the strategy recommends that minors detained for more than 7 days have access to education.
Paragraph (d): Legal assistance
Young persons under the current Young Offenders legislation and under the proposed Bill have the right to counsel at any stage of the proceedings. A court can order the Attorney General to have counsel appointed for the young person.
C. Children in situations of exploitation, including physical and psychological recovery and social integration
1. Economic exploitation - Article 32
The statutory protections as outlined in the First Report remain.
The Government of Canada is committed to reducing the economic exploitation of children internationally as well as domestically.
In October 1997, Canada hosted a trilateral conference in Ottawa with its NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) partners, the United States and Mexico. The purpose of the conference was to discuss trends in this area and to consider measures that various sectors of society could adopt to reduce inappropriate child labour. Items on the agenda included legal protection afforded to children, education programs, access to social services and child care, and adequate safeguards for the safety and health of working children and youth.
In April 1997, the Minister of Foreign Affairs announced the creation of the Child Labour Challenge Fund, aimed at engaging Canada’s private sector in contributing to international efforts to eliminate exploitative child labour. The fund ended in March 1999.
The federal government, through the Canadian Centre for Foreign Policy Development (CCFPD), has supported a number of public initiatives to combat exploitative child labour. These initiatives have included roundtables, youth education programs, awareness raising and workshops. The results of these projects and proceedings are widely disseminated through the Centre’s publications and Web site and through its growing policy community network across Canada.
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) has also addressed the issue of child labour, through poverty alleviation and an integrated set of activities including investments in primary education, creating alternate employment opportunities for adults, especially women, and projects specifically targeted at child labourers. CIDA is working to address the immediate needs of child labourers by supporting their right to education, health care, and to a safe childhood. CIDA also believes that children’s participation should be an integral part of any intervention.
An example of CIDA’s approach to integrating child protection into project activities is the Small and Micro Development in Upper Egypt (SMEDUP) project, which began in 1996. Delivered by the Foundation for InternationalTraining, the project helps Egyptian people create small businesses and jobs in order to improve their qualityof life. Child protection has become an increasingly important theme in the project which works with the new enterprises to ensure that any children employed in the firms are not exploited, work in a safe environment and receive access to training and education that will serve them in the future. The project also promotes better practices in protecting working children amongst the small business sector through its involvement in the Egyptian Small and Medium Enterprise Associations’ group on Children and Work.
In 1996, Canada contributed $700,000 to the ILO’s International Program for the Elimination of Child Labour (IPEC) and, in 1997, participated in both the Amsterdam (February) and Oslo (October) Child Labour Conferences. The purpose of these conferences was to
build momentum for the adoption in 1999 of a new ILO Convention dealing with the most extreme forms of child labour. Canada is committed to the elaboration of such a Convention and has made its negotiation the focus of our multilateral efforts on the issue of exploitative child labour.
In April 1998, in response to a 1997 report by the House of Commons Sub-Committee on Sustainable Human Development, the Government of Canada tabled Ending Child Labour Exploitation: A Canadian Agenda for Action on Global Challenges. The report outlined the government’s ongoing efforts and new actions in this area, including work with key multilateral organizations. New initiatives included a study on child and youth labour in Canada and a contribution of $500,000 to support the work of the ILO’s Statistical Information and Monitoring Program on Child Labour (SIMPOC).
2. Drug abuse - Article 33
Measures in Force
In 1997, Canada’s new Controlled Drugs and Substances Act came into force. The Act, which modernized and consolidated the existing drugs and narcotics legislation, provides mechanisms to ensure that the export, import, production, distribution, possession, and use
of internationally regulated substances are confined to medical, scientific and industrial purposes.
Priorities and Goals
Addressing the needs of youth is a priority of Canada’s Drug Strategy, which aims to reduce the harm associated with alcohol and other drugs to individuals, families and communities. Strategy initiatives include research on the risk factors and root causes of substance abuse, the analysis and dissemination of information about best practices for
prevention, and the development of resources for those who work with youth in this area. A number of federal departments work closely with provincial/territorial governments and a variety of other stakeholders on four fronts to:
prevent the use of drugs by those not currently using them;
reduce the harm to those who do use them;
enhance treatment and rehabilitation for those affected by substance abuse; and
cooperate at the international level to address the global drug problem.
Institutions and Mechanisms
The Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) was established by an Act of Parliament in 1988 and is funded by the Canadian government. The centre operates as a national clearinghouse for the collection, analysis and dissemination of knowledge on substance abuse, addiction and related health information. For example, CCSA provides information for youth on its Web site and operates a Resource Centre on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome/Fetal Alcohol Effects. CCSA has been working with the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP) to establish a virtual clearinghouse on substance abuse.
The Government of Canada recognizes the importance of education and prevention in reducing substance abuse and has developed a number of educational programs for a range of ages and needs. For example, Just for Me, which promotes a holistic approach to substance abuse prevention within schools and communities, is targeted to children 7, 8 and 9 years old. This program includes six 15-minute videos, a comprehensive teachers’ guide and a peer-helper handbook. The program also includes a parent/home component with videos for parents, a parent’s guide, and a parent workshop leader’s manual.
Your Choice. . .Our Chance is aimed at children in grades 5 and 6. The program brings together schools, families, and communities in a working partnership to prevent the early use and abuse of alcohol, tobacco, and other drugs by young people. The program consists of 2 components: one for use in schools and one for use in the community. The school component includes teacher’s and facilitator’s guides and 10 15-minute videos that show young people in realistic situations and which focus on behaviour, development and skills-building. The community component contains a community handbook and 3 30-minute videos illustrating successful community programs.
Canada’s Drug Strategy collaborated with the National AIDS Strategy to coordinate a public awareness and education tour which used music and comedy to address the links between alcohol use and HIV infection among post-secondary students.
Health Canada and provincial territorial governments have collaborated in the Community Development Project for Youth-At-Risk in Montreal, Halifax, several communities in Manitoba and Saskatchewan, and Whitehorse. The project developed community activities
and tools to address substance abuse issues facing at-risk youth. The project also provided valuable experience in the development of successful youth-based community programs, which was used to produce a model for community development and a booklet of tips for service providers.
Horizons III - Young Canadians’ Alcohol and Other Drug Use: Increasing Our Understanding, the third of three key publications on at-risk populations, summarizes some of the most significant and interesting results about young peoples’ alcohol and other drug use from recent Canadian surveys. It also identifies gaps in current knowledge and suggests methods to correct these deficiencies.
The project Peer Helper Initiatives for Out-of-the-Mainstream Youth focuses on the types of peer helper initiatives which have proved to be successful in working with youth-at-risk and the challenges that are present when developing or maintaining peer helper initiatives. The project developed a report and compendium of projects based on site visits in selected communities, interviews and focus group discussions with at-risk youth and with people providing them with services.
Canada’s Alcohol and Other Drugs Survey 1994: A Discussion of the Findings looked at Canadians’ behaviours and attitudes as they relate to alcohol and other drugs. The results of this survey are useful to people working in substance abuse and related health and social fields and also provide valuable information to policy makers, scientists and treatment and program specialists.
The Alcohol and Drug Treatment Program (ADTR) supports the provinces and territories in increasing and expanding innovative treatment and rehabilitation programs related to alcohol and other drugs. Youth is the prime target group for services funded under ADTR; other populations at risk, such as women, are also targeted.
Various social marketing initiatives have also been developed to address substance use issues among youth, including development of themes and scripts for popular television programs, collaboration with the private sector, continued partnership with Concerned Children’s Advertisers, and the use of shopping malls to provide programs to youth. “Social marketing” uses marketing techniques to generate discussion and promote information, attitudes and values, thereby creating a climate conducive to social and behaviourial change.
In 1998, in collaboration with the United Nations International Drug Control Program (UNDCP), Canada hosted an international event on youth and drugs. Organized by the Alberta alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC), the Canadian Centre on Substance Abuse (CCSA) and several federal government departments, the event was attended by more than 150 young people from approximately 22 countries, including 75 youth from across Canada. Participants had the opportunity to discuss relevant issues, share ideas and information, and explore innovative approaches to addressing the global problem. A report containing recommendations from the youth was submitted to the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Drugs in June 1998.
Health Canada, in collaboration with provincial/territorial governments and community groups, has participated in two phases of the World Health Organization (WHO) International Street Children Project. The first phase developed an international methodology to assist local communities to become involved in street children issues. The second phase of the project tested WHO-created resource materials and provided feedback for future revisions. A third phase, in which Health Canada will also participate, will focus on the dissemination of the information and the establishment of model programs, training centres, and research centres in participating countries.
3. Sexual abuse and sexual exploitation - Article 34
Measures in Force
Section 163.1 of the Criminal Code entered into force in August 1993. It prohibits the production, publication, importation, distribution, sale or possession of child pornography in order to protect children from child pornography, sexual exploitation and harm. Under the Criminal Code, child pornography includes photographic, film, video or other visual representations showing a person who is or is depicted as being under the age of 18 and is engaged in or depicted as engaged in explicit sexual activity. It also includes such visual representations where the dominant characteristic is the depiction, for a sexual purpose, of the sexual organ or anal region of a person under the age of 18. Further, any written material or visual representation that advocates or counsels sexual activity with a person under the age of 18 that would be an offence under the Criminal Code is also included in the definition of child pornography and is therefore prohibited.
The offences of production, importation, distribution and sale of child pornography, and possession for such purposes, carry maximum sentences of 10 years in prison; the offence of simple possession of such materials is subject to a maximum term of 5 years in prison.
In recent years, a number of cases before the courts have addressed concerns about the availability of child pornography on the Internet. In many Canadian provinces (e.g., Newfoundland, Nova Scotia, Quebec, Ontario, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia), systems operators and individuals have been charged and convicted with either distribution or possession of child pornography under section 163.1 of the Criminal Code.
In a recent case, the British Columbia Supreme Court held that these provisions in the Criminal Code were unconstitutional, as the criminality of possessing child pornography infringed the accused’s freedoms and rights under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms . The court held that the detrimental intrusion into the freedom of expression and to the right of privacy by making it an offence to simply possess pornography substantially outweighed the salutary effect of combating practices that put children at risk. The British Columbia Court of Appeal upheld the lower court’s findings. The Crown has appealed the decision to the Supreme Court of Canada (R. v. Sharpe (1999) 136 C.C.C. (3d) 97).
The child sexual abuse provisions of the Criminal Code were amended by Bill C-15 in January, 1988. The bill required that a Committee of the House of Commons review these new provisions after four years in operation. Accordingly, in 1993, the Standing Committee on Justice and the Solicitor General reviewed Bill C-15 and reported its findings in Four Year Review of the Child Sexual Abuse Provisions of the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act (Formerly Bill C-15). The federal government supported this review with research in a number of Canadian jurisdictions to assess the impact of the new legislation. Researchers also examined the impact of the 1988 amendments by reviewing the outcomes of child sexual abuse cases that were reported to the police and/or child welfare agencies in five Canadian cities. These research reports have been publicly released and widely disseminated.
In August 1993, Bill C-126 further amended the Criminal Code to provide increased protection to children from sexual abuse and to facilitate the giving of evidence by a child victim/witness. In particular, Bill C-126:
created a new prohibition whereby a court may now make an order, for up to life, prohibiting a convicted sex offender from attending a public park or swimming area, or a school ground or playground, and from being an employee or volunteer in a position of trust over a child under the age of 14 years (section 161 of the Criminal Code);
allows a person to obtain a peace bond (protective order), lasting up to 12 months, if he or she fears that another person will commit a sexual offence against a child. A condition of the peace bond may be that the defendant be prohibited from engaging in any activity involving contact with children under 14 years, and from attending a public park or public swimming area, or a daycare centre, school ground, playground, or community centre (section 810.1 of the Criminal Code);
abrogated any requirement that a court warn the jury about convicting an accused on the evidence of a child (section 659 of the Criminal Code);
permits a judge to prohibit the accused from personally cross-examining the child and to appoint counsel for the purpose of conducting the cross‑examination (subsection 486 (2.3) of the Criminal Code);
permits a support person to accompany the child while testifying and allows the judge to order that the support person and the witness not communicate with each other during the witness’ testimony (subsection 486(2.1) of the Criminal Code);
provides for the exclusion of the public while a child is testifying in a case involving sexual abuse or violence (subsection 486(1.1) of the Criminal Code); and
prohibits anyone from doing anything in Canada for the purpose of removing a child, who is ordinarily resident in Canada, with the intention of committing one of the enumerated assault and sexual offences against a child, which if committed in Canada, would be an offence (section 273.3 of the Criminal Code).
During the Summer of 1994, federal departments consulted with provincial/territorial officials, police agencies and non-governmental organizations to assess support for improved measures to keep sex offenders away from children and for a registry of offenders. While participants did not support the establishment of a registry, there was support for measures to help NGOs screen out sex offenders from child-sensitive positions. The National Information Systems on Child Sex Offenders and the National Education Campaign were announced by the Solicitor General of Canada based on the consultation findings.
Accordingly, enhancements to the existing Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) database to provide more and better information regarding sex offenders were announced. CPIC, which is accessible to all police agencies in Canada, now includes data on all convicted sex offenders (summary and indictable convictions), prohibition orders and peace bonds relating to sex offenders, age and sex of child victims of sexual abuse, and fingerprint information on persons accused of hybrid offences. Any organization that offers services to children and other vulnerable people can request that job applicants/volunteers obtain a CPIC criminal record check through their local police as a condition of employment or volunteer work.
The National Education Campaign, in partnership with the Canadian Association of Volunteer Bureaux and Centres, produced a comprehensive training manual on screening out sex offenders, a series of fact sheets and a video called Duty of Care. These materials have been used in over 200 communities across Canada, more than 2,500 manuals have been distributed, and training has been taken by more than 2,000 non-profit organizations and more than 500 palliative care organizations. This initiative was renewed in November 1997 for an additional two years.
The government is currently reviewing the effectiveness and adequacy of these initiatives with a view to strengthening the protection of children against sexual exploitation.
In May 1997, Bill C-27 amended the Criminal Code to allow for the Canadian prosecution of persons who engage in child sex tourism and to facilitate the apprehension and prosecution of persons who seek out the services of juvenile prostitutes in Canada. The bill also included provision for the mandatory minimum sentence of 5 years imprisonment for any person living on the avails of prostitution in relation to a person under the age of 18 and who uses violence against the person under that age and assists that person in carrying on prostitution‑related activities for profit.
Parliament also amended the Criminal Code to specifically characterize female genital mutilation as a form of aggravated assault. Community representatives identified and supported the need for such an amendment to support ongoing educational efforts to halt this practice.
Status of Women Canada convened two roundtables to address the issue of child exploitation, and in particular, exploitation of girls and young women. In December 1996, the Roundtable on Child Sex Tourism brought representatives of the travel and tourism industry together with groups such as Street Kids International and End Child Prostitution in Asian Tourism (ECPAT) to look at ways in which Canadians can contribute to solving the problem of child sex tourism. The second roundtable, in March 1998, produced a draft action plan for a national education campaign against the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The
campaign, called Stolen Innocence, brings together representatives of the Canadian travel and tourism industry, NGOs and governments to coordinate efforts to address the problem here and abroad.
Through its Women’s Program, Status of Women Canada provides financial and technical assistance to organizations working to advance gender equality at the community, regional and national level. Support has been provided for the production and distribution of a culturally-sensitive workshop module for use by communities in which female genital mutilation is a traditional practice. The Women’s Program has also supported projects to provide cross‑cultural sensitivity training for social workers, to improve communication between the government and agencies dealing with Aboriginal children, and to adopt a model of risk assessment designed by and for Aboriginal child welfare professionals. In addition, support has been provided for projects addressing the commercial sexual exploitation of children including research and development of a coordinated community action plan to address the sexual exploitation of children in Saskatoon.
The Government of Canada, through the work of a federal interdepartmental committee, is developing and promoting a Canadian strategy in line with the principles set out in the Report of the Rapporteur-General, prepared by Professor Vitit Muntarbhorn, former UN Special Rapporteur on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography. The strategy includes child participation, prevention, protection, recovery/reintegration, information collection and dissemination, international cooperation and follow-up. In 1997, the committee issued a list of federal government activities intended to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children. The list is currently being revised.
In 1998 in Victoria, British Columbia, the Government of Canada hosted Out From the Shadows - An International Summit of Sexually Exploited Youth. The conference was initiated by Senator Pearson, Canada’s Senator for Children’s Rights, and Cherry Kingsley, a child advocate and former victim of sexual exploitation, following their participation in the First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children in Stockholm in 1996. In preparation for the Summit, sexually exploited children and youth in Canada were consulted on various issues. The five-day Summit brought together youth as well as representatives of governments and non-governmental organizations to examine issues related to the commercial sexual exploitation of young people and to develop strategies and initiatives. The Government also supported the attendance of both Canadian and international youth at the conference. Participants at the Summit developed a Declaration and Action Plan. Canada is now exploring ways to develop support mechanisms for youth returning to their communities, in areas of rehabilitation and counselling, education and training, and reintegration into the community and labour force.
Internationally, much of the work of the Canadian International Development Agency has a direct or indirect impact on the sexual exploitation of children. In particular, CIDA supports initiatives with street children, working children, sexually exploited/trafficked children,
children affected by HIV/AIDS, and children affected by armed conflict to respond to the
immediate needs of these girls and boys, reduce the vulnerability of all children to abuse, exploitation and violence, and support advocacy aimed at governments, civil society and children themselves to raise awareness of and change attitudes toward children that have been victims of violence and exploitation.
Internationally, much of the work of the Canadian International Development Agency benefits children who are vulnerable to sexual exploitation. For example, CIDA has provided support for women and children to increase their access to basic social services such as health care and education, and funding to non-governmental organizations such as StreetKids International who work directly with children vulnerable to sexual exploitation.
CIDA also supports projects which are targeted specifically at helping sexually exploited children. Through the Southeast Asia Fund for Institutional and Legal Development, CIDA supported the preparation of regional and country reports on the trafficking of women and children in the Mekong Region. At the regional Conference in Bangkok in 1997, delegates from each country shared views on cross-border issues, agreed to a working definition of trafficking, and reached some tentative decisions on cross-border protocols to protect and assist victims.
Programs that indirectly affect the sexual exploitation of children include innovative basic education projects, support of organizations working with street children and improving access to basic health services.
The Government of Canada strongly supports the early adoption of an Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Pornography and Child Prostitution. Canada has been very active in the negotiations to ensure that the text would obligate states to criminalize these practices and put in place measures for the protection of child victims.
Factors, Difficulties and Progress
The Government of Canada, in cooperation with the provinces and territories, is developing a two-component project to increase the protection of children and youth against abuse and neglect, including sexual exploitation. The first component will assess the need for amendments to the Criminal Code and the Canada Evidence Act regarding children’s testimony (including competency, hearsay evidence, and videotaping), age of consent to sexual activity (including close-in-age exceptions), the definition of specific offences against children (physical and emotional abuse, neglect, child homicide), and sentencing to provide better protection of children. The second component will examine the early warning, prevention and enforcement stages of child protection as they relate to the Criminal Code. Working closely with provincial and territorial child welfare/protection officers, the project will develop intersectoral and interdisciplinary approaches (social services, criminal justice personnel, coroners, health professionals and educators) to increase protection to children.
4. Prevention of Sale - Article 35
In December 1996, Canada ratified the Convention on Protection of Children and Co ‑operation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Convention is in force in most provinces and territories. The Convention will assist in preventing the abduction, sale or trafficking of children.
5. Other forms of exploitation - Article 36
Minefields kill or maim an estimated 25,000 people a year, mostly civilians, and many of them children. Canada’s long involvement in peacekeeping missions, where it has seen first‑hand the lasting and devastating effects of land mines, was a major factor in Canada’s decision to spearhead the diplomatic campaign to negotiate an international ban on the weapons. In December 1997, Canada hosted the formal signing of the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on their Destruction, commonly known as the Ottawa Convention. The Government of Canada has pledged $100 million over the next five years to support the removal of the millions of mines in the ground and to provide assistance to victims and nations coping with their devastating effects. As well, the Government of Canada has worked closely with the UN Mine Action service and UNICEF on demining activities, awareness-raising and education around landmines.
Parental child abductions, another form of exploitation, are a source of growing concern to the Government of Canada. Parental child abduction occurs when a child is taken by one parent without the permission or legal authority of the other parent who has lawful custody of the child. It usually arises in the context of a custody dispute. Canada’s law enforcement agencies and the Criminal Code provide measures for expedient location of abducted children and the punishment of the abducting parent. Parental child abductions were discussed in further detail in Theme V, Article 11 of this report.
Priorities and Goals
The House of Commons Sub-Committee on Human Rights and International Development released its Report on International Child Abduction. The report included recommendations to:
examine, with the provinces and territories, ways to formally encourage other states to become signatories to the Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction;
develop consistent data on domestic and international parental abductions;
establish a joint federal/provincial/territorial cost-sharing fund for expenses related to travel and legal services to assist parents in need whose children have been abducted from Canada; and
organize an annual conference in Canada with international key players to share information and search for solutions to international child abductions.
Eleven of the 14 recommendations were endorsed, with some qualification, by the Government of Canada. As well, guidelines to assist in the uniform application of the Criminal Code provisions are currently being revised by a federal/provincial/territorial working group of officials.
International child abductions were discussed in further detail in Theme V, Article 11 of this report.
D. Children in Minorities and Indigenous Children - Article 30
Subsection 91(24) of the Constitution Act 1867 stipulates that the subject matter of “Indians, and Lands reserved for Indians” falls within the exclusive jurisdiction of the Parliament of Canada. Thus, the federal government is responsible for providing many services, such as health care and education, for Aboriginal people that would otherwise be within the jurisdiction of the provinces.
Section 35 of the Constitution Act 1982 stipulates that “the existing Aboriginal and treaty rights of the Aboriginal peoples of Canada are hereby recognized and affirmed.” Under the Act, the term “Aboriginal peoples of Canada” includes the Indian, Inuit and Métis peoples of Canada.
The statistics that follow demonstrate that overall, Aboriginal people in Canada fare less well than other Canadians, and the Government of Canada recognizes that, for some Aboriginal people, the situation is dire. The Government has been working with the First Nations on strong efforts to improve the lives of Aboriginal peoples in Canada, including children. Since Canada’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child , the Government has made several major policy pronouncements on Aboriginal issues. Some of the major pronouncements are described below.
In August 1995, the Government of Canada released its Inherent Right Policy on Aboriginal self-government. The policy is based on the view that Aboriginal people have a right to govern themselves in relation to matters internal to their communities, integral to their unique cultures, identities, traditions, languages and institutions, and with respect to their special relationship to their lands and resources. Negotiations are taking place with over half of the First Nations and Inuit communities, and encompass such matters as governance, the administration of justice, the preservation and promotion of Aboriginal languages and cultures and the provision of educational, health and social services and child welfare.
In January 1998, the federal government also unveiled Gathering Strength: Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan, in response to the report by the Royal Commission on Aboriginal Peoples (RCAP). The objectives of the plan are to:
renew the partnerships between Aboriginal people, organizations and governments;
strengthen Aboriginal governance;
develop a new fiscal relationship; and
support strong communities, people and economies.
The Action Plan calls for a Statement of Reconciliation by Canada, formally acknowledging and regretting historic injustices; community healing to address the effects of physical and sexual abuse in the residential schools system; an Aboriginal languages program; an on-reserve Aboriginal Head Start program; resources to increase the number of adequate houses on reserves; and additional resources to improve water and sewer facilities on reserves.
The Inherent Right Policy and Canada’s Aboriginal Action Plan are broad-based initiatives aimed at improving the lives of Aboriginal peoples. Specific programs and other initiatives directed toward Aboriginal peoples are described throughout this report, in relation to the specific Articleofthe Convention on the Rights of the Child that they support.
Federal spending on Aboriginal programs totaled approximately $6.0 billion in 1997-98 and involved 13 departments.
Aboriginal programs represented 5.7 percent of total federal program spending in the fiscal year.
The Department of Canadian Heritage is exploring methods to help Aboriginal peoples establish a network of urban Aboriginal youth centres to improve the situation facing Aboriginal youth in educational attainment, labour force activity, health practices and suicide prevention.
The Canadian International Development Agency is committed to promoting the rights of minority children including indigenous children. An example of CIDA programming targeting ethnic minorities is the Yunnan Maternal and Child Health Project. This project aims to improve the health and welfare of pregnant women and infants in poor ethnic minority populations of Yunnan province in China by training doctors and midwives.
The constitutional and statutory guarantees outlined in the First Report remain.
Part VII of the Official Languages Act, dealing with the advancement of English and French within Canadian society, includes measures to promote and encourage federal-provincial‑territorial cooperation in this area, notably with respect to minority language and second language education.
In August 1994, the Government of Canada approved the establishment of a framework to implement Part VII of the Act. In order to comply with this framework, 28 federal government institutions must now adopt annual action plans and announce the various measures they will develop to realize the federal government’s commitment under Part VII of this statute.
In March 1998, the federal government announced the renewal of federal-provincial agreements on official languages, for a further 5 years.
The constitutional guarantees outlined in the First Report remain.
The application of the constitutional right of minority language education under s. 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms is a provincial responsibility, as education falls primarily within the provincial domain. Several provinces have adopted or modified their education laws to comply with this Charter provision and with judicial decisions. However, certain minority language communities view these provincial measures as being insufficient and have turned to the courts to determine more precisely the extent of their rights and the provincial/territorial obligations.
In the past few years, several provinces have made major modifications to their educational system to take into account economic, social and demographic changes. These changes have caused several minority language groups to consider whether the changes contravene their constitutional rights. For example, in the case Hogan v. Newfoundland,  N.J. no. 210, the appellants argued that modifications away from a denominationally-based school system are unconstitutional. In the case Larouche v. Quebec,  A.Q. no 3804, the appellants argued that changes to permit a school system based upon language, rather than religion, is unconstitutional.
In Adler v. Ontario, ( 3 S.C.R. 609) the appellants sought a declaration that the existing scheme of funding Catholic schools in Ontario, but not other religions, was unconstitutional. The Court held that section 93(1) of the Constitution Act 1867 is the product of a historical compromise crucial to Confederation and forms a comprehensive code with respect to denominational schools rights, such as s. 23 of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms with respect to minority language education rights as outlined in the decision Mahé v. Alberta,  1 S.C.R. 342. As a result, s. 2 (a) and s. 15 of the Charter cannot be used to enlarge this comprehensive code.
The Supreme Court of Canada granted leave to appeal in the case Arsenault-Cameron v. Prince Edward Island ( P.E.I.J. no. 7). The parents had obtained a declaration from the Supreme Court of Prince Edward Island that the provincial government had an obligation under s. 23 of the Charter to provide French-language education in facilities located in the Summerside area. The Court of Appeal overturned this decision, ruling that French-language education was properly provided in an existing French first-language school located in another community and that the provision of bus transportation to that school was an acceptable accommodation, taking into account the needs of the children.
PART II:MEASURES ADOPTED BY THE GOVERNMENTS
OF THE PROVINCES*
This report covers the period from July 14, 1993 to December 1997, a period during which British Columbia introduced a wide range of legislation, policies, programs, and practices that support the goals of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The report contains summaries of initiatives. The information provided here is supplementary to that provided in previous reports, so changes made prior to July 14, 1993 are not outlined in this document. Additional resource material is attached to this report to provide details on many of the provincial initiatives that are described herein.
I. General Measures of Implementation
The reporting period has been a time of significant legislative change in British Columbia. Many of these changes advanced the rights and protection of children and youth. The following legislative changes made during the period support the goals of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Child, Family and Community Service Act
The Child, Family and Community Service Act (see Appendix A) was proclaimed on January 29, 1996. The Act identifies the safety and well- being of children as being paramount. The Act is child-centred legislation, that mandates that families and children be informed about and encouraged to participate in all decisions that directly affect them. The Act recognizes the role of the community in the protection and support of children and families and in particular recognizes the role of aboriginal communities in the protection of Aboriginal children. In addition, it addresses the need for timeliness in making decisions about children.
Children’s Commission Act
Another significant development in British Columbia’s legislative approach to children was the proclamation of the Children’s Commission Act (see Appendix B) and the creation of the Children’s Commission in September 1996. The purpose of the commission is to ensure that key aspects of the child-serving systems of government are monitored and that the quality of its work is assessed and reported on publicly. The commission is responsible for reviewing all child deaths in the province, investigating those that warrant close attention and making systemic and specific recommendations as required.
Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act
In addition to a Children’s Commission, there is now a Child, Youth and Family Advocate established through the Child, Youth and Family Advocacy Act (see Appendix C). The advocate’s role is to help children, youth and their families who are involved with the Ministry of Children and Families to ensure that they receive the services they are entitled to and to ensure that proper processes are followed in the delivery of those services.
BC Benefits Acts
In 1996, the B.C. government passed four BC Benefits Acts: the BC Benefits (Income Assistance) Act, BC Benefits (Youth Works) Act, BC Benefits (Child Care) Act and BC Benefits (Appeals) Act (see Appendix D). These Acts enabled the introduction of the BC Benefits and Healthy Kids programs. These programs sought to reduce the impact of child poverty by providing income security and basic dental and vision care benefits to children who live in low‑income families.
Infants Act (amendments)
Important changes were made in 1996 to the Infants Act (see Appendix E), giving children the right to consent to health care without the necessity of obtaining their parents’ or guardians’ consent, provided the child has the capacity to consent to such health care. TheActalso provides for involvement by the Public Trustee and, in some cases, the courts to ensure that the rights of children are protected when they are involved in property issues, contracts, leases and litigation.
II. Definition of the child
British Columbia’s age of attainment of majority and legal minimum ages for various purposes are as follows:
(a)legal or medical counselling without parental consent - age depends on capacity;
(b)end of compulsory education - 16;
(c)part-time employment - 15;
(d)full-time employment - 15;
(e)hazardous employment - 15;
(f)sexual consent (with other minors) - 14;
(g)marriage - 16;
(h)voluntarily giving testimony in court - subject to ability;
(i)criminal liability - 12;
(j)civil liability - subject to capacity;
(k)deprivation of liberty (youth detention centres) - 12;
(l)imprisonment (as a rule) - 18;
(m)imprisonment (exceptionally, for very serious offences) - 14;
(n)consumption of alcohol - 19;
(o)eligibility to vote in provincial and municipal elections - 18.
III. General Principles
Non-Discrimination (Article 2)
The British Columbia Human Rights Code (see Appendix F) is the main legal tool that is available to all citizens of the province, including children and youth, for dealing with issues of alleged discrimination. The Code prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, colour, ancestry, place of origin, religion, marital status, family status, physical or mental disability, sex, sexual orientation or age. Protection against age discrimination is provided to those between 19 and 65. With the exception of age discrimination, the Code provides children with the same protection that it provides to adults.
The Multiculturalism Act, which B.C. passed in 1993 (see Appendix G), recognized British Columbia’s diversity with regard to race, cultural heritage, religion, ethnicity, ancestry and place of origin, and is consistent with the Human Rights Code. Diversity is viewed as a fundamental characteristic of the province that enriches the lives of all British Columbians.
In the area of income assistance, labour market training and related social programs, B.C. Benefits policy requires that staff administering these programs are to treat applicants and recipients in a manner that is free from any consideration of race, gender, colour, creed, or political affiliation. Furthermore, to assist families who have a limited comprehension of English, the B.C. Benefits application form is available in French, Chinese, Vietnamese, Russian, Czechoslovakian, Spanish, Punjabi, Hindi and Tagalog. In addition, various pamphlets regarding these programs are available in most of these languages.
In keeping with the convention guidelines concerning minority indigenous groups, the Child, Family, and Community Service Act seeks to preserve the cultural identity of aboriginal children.
Best Interest of the Child (Article 3)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act requires that the best interests of the child must be considered in the administration and interpretation of the Act. Determining the child’s best interests includes factors such as:
1.the child’s safety;
2.the child’s physical and emotional needs and level of development;
3.the importance of continuity in the child’s care;
4.the quality of the relationship the child has with a parent or other person and the effect of maintaining that relationship;
5.the child’s cultural, racial, linguistic and religious heritage;
6.the child’s views;
7.the effect on the child if there is a delay in making a decision.
According to the Child, Family and Community Service Act, if the child is an aboriginal child, the importance of preserving the child’s cultural identity must be considered in determining the child’s best interests. When placing an aboriginal child anywhere outside that child’s immediate family home, priority must be given to placing that child with the child’s extended family, within the child’s aboriginal cultural community, or with another aboriginal family.
The importance of the best interests of the child is explicitly stated in the Children’s Commission Act as a guiding principle of that office.
Similarly, a new Adoption Act (see Appendix H) came into force in November 1996, giving paramount consideration to the child’s best interests. Whenever possible, every effort must be made to place children with families of the same ethnic heritage.
The Right to Life, Survival and Development (Article 6)
Under the Child, Family and Community Service Act, a director designated by the Minister for Children and Families, may make a written agreement with a parent to provide, or to assist the parent to purchase, services to support and assist a family to care for a child. Under the Act, a child may be found in need of protection and taken into care if, for example:
the child has been, or is likely to be, physically harmed because of neglect by the child’s parent;
the child is deprived of necessary health care;
the child’s development is likely to be seriously impaired by a treatable condition and the child’s parent refuses to provide or consent to treatment; or
the child is or has been absent from home in circumstances that endanger the child’s safety or well-being.
The Children’s Commission is responsible for investigating all cases of child deaths in the province and through this process provides recommendations in many areas, including measures to ensure that the rights of children to life, survival and development are protected.
Respect for the Views of the Child (Article 12)
A guiding principle of the Child, Family and Community Service Act is that the child’s view should be taken into account when decisions are made about the child and when determining the child’s best interest. TheActdefines the rights of children in care including the right to be consulted and to express their views about significant decisions that affect them.
The Children’s Commission, Tribunal Division, has the power to review complaints from people who feel they have been treated unfairly by the Ministry for Children and Families, once the ministry’s internal complaints process has been exhausted.
IV. Civil Rights and Freedoms
Name and Nationality (Article 7)
With respect to name, children are registered at birth with British Columbia’s Vital Statistics Agency. Change of name resulting from adoption, marriage or application is covered by the Name Act (see Appendix I), and requires registration with the Director of Vital Statistics.
Preservation of Identity (Article 8)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act requires that kinship ties and a child’s attachment to the extended family be preserved if possible and that cultural identity of aboriginal children be preserved. The Adoption Act also embraces these principles.
Social and medical information is preserved and kept available for the child’s future access. To ensure that children are not disconnected from their cultural identity, or permanently disconnected from their biological families or heritage, the Act provides for openness agreements, which involve ongoing contact between birth and adoptive families.
Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion (Article 14)
The BC Human Rights Code protects all British Columbia residents, including children and youth, from discrimination on the basis of religion.
Protection of Privacy (Article 16)
The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (see Appendix J) is intended to make public bodies more accountable to the public and to protect personal privacy. The Act applies to the collection, protection and retention of personal information about children who are in contact with government.
The Child, Family and Community Service Act is exempt from the provisions of the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, but includes its own provisions covering privacy and access to information. Under section 70 of theAct, children in care have the right to “reasonable privacy and to possession of their personal belongings.” Children in care are also entitled to privacy in discussions with family members, lawyers, the Ombudsman and the Child Advocate.
Access to Appropriate Information (Article 17)
Regulation of telecommunications is a federal responsibility, however the province has a film classification system that provides appropriate warnings about the content of films and restricts the access of children and youth to mature content where that is appropriate.
Government also makes use of the mass media to provide information and material of social and cultural benefit to children. Examples include:
Connections Mentor Program which encourages young women to explore their options for the future;
Money Smarts, which is an informational package to empower young women to establish a secure financial foundation;
public awareness campaigns about drugs, alcohol, and tobacco;
Multiculturalism and Immigration BC conducted seminars on cultural diversity in the Department of Journalism at Langara College, in order to encourage mass media to focus attention on the needs of indigenous or minority children.
The Right Not to be Subjected to Torture or Other Cruel, Inhuman,
or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (Article 37 (a))
The Child, Family and Community Service Act defines child abuse andspecifies circumstances under which the director investigates the possibility of child abuse. These are outlined in section 13(1)(2) of the Act, which is included as Appendix A.
In secure custody facilities, it is sometimes necessary to place a young offender under some form of physical restraint. Such restraints are routinely used to ensure safe escorts of high security residents outside secure areas of the institution and in the community. They may also be used in certain situations for purposes of internal security. However, this measure is subject to strict regulation and control. Physical restraints are not used on residents held in open custody.
Complaints can be directed to the Quality Assurance Manager in each Ministry for Children and Families region. If these are not resolved satisfactorily, they can then be taken to the Children’s Commission or the Investigation, Inspection and Standards Office, an independent office established under the Correction Act (see Appendix K), that has the authority to receive and investigate complaints from a young person held in a youth containment centre. Complaints that remain unresolved can be taken to the provincial Ombudsman.
Children and youth receiving care in government-licensed facilities also have recourse to the medical health officer. The officer must investigate any complaints.
V. Family Environment and Alternative Care
Parental Guidance (Article 5)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act recognizes the rights and responsibilities of parents in guiding their children but does not place parental rights ahead of the protection of the child.
Parental Responsibilities (Article 18, paragraphs 1-2)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act states that, “a family is the preferred environment for the care and upbringing of children and the responsibility for the protection of children rests primarily with the parents”.
Under the Family Relations Act (see Appendix L), parents have an obligation to support their children up to the age of 19.
Separation From Parents (Article 9)
Under the Child, Family and Community Service Act, removal of a child from his or her parent(s) for longer than seven days requires a court hearing to justify continued care of the child by the Ministry for Children and Families. The parents are informed when a child is taken into care, are given notice of the protection hearing and are made a party to the proceedings. Even after a child is placed in care, parents can maintain access to the child unless in the opinion of a director appointed by the Minister for Children and Families, it is not in the child’s best interests.
Adoption is often a positive alternative for children permanently separated from their parents.
Illicit Transfer and Non-Return (Article 11)
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), in its role as the provincial police force, cooperates with the RCMP Missing Children’s Registry, which is established in Ottawa, Ontario. Provincial and municipal authorities participate in the enforcement of criminal laws that protect children from being abducted or trafficked across national borders. The province continues to monitor allegations of child abduction throughout the province, in order to combat the illicit transfer and non-return of children abroad.
The B.C. government has worked with other Canadian provinces to develop national parental child abduction charging guidelines to assist in the enforcement of criminal sanctions relating to parental abduction of children.
Recovery of Maintenance for the Child (Article 27, paragraph 4)
The Family Relations Act creates an obligation for parents to support their children. The Act provides for child support to be included in an agreement or a court order and outlines measures for enforcement of maintenance orders. The Family Maintenance Enforcement Act (see Appendix M) authorizes the Director of Maintenance Enforcement to enforce court-ordered maintenance and filed maintenance agreements.
Recipients of income assistance who are eligible for maintenance must assign their maintenance rights to government, which then acts on the client’s behalf to obtain, vary, defend or enforce maintenance orders for children.
Children Deprived of their Family Environment (Article 20)
The Director of Children and Families becomes the sole guardian of orphaned children and may consent to the adoption of the child. Children in state care must be placed in a manner that respects their cultural identity and heritage. In placing an aboriginal child, the director must consider relatives or an extended family in an Aboriginal community.
British Columbia’s standards for foster homes encourage foster parents to provide opportunities for children in care to participate in appropriate leisure activities according to their abilities and interests in order to promote the child’s development and socialization.
The Public Trustee becomes the sole guardian of the estate of an orphaned child, including responsibility for managing the child’s property and for protecting the child’s legal interests.
Adoption (Article 21)
Adoption services are carried out under the legislative authority of the Adoption Act. A new Adoption Act came into force in November 1996.
Before birth parents consent to the adoption of their child, the Act requires that alternatives to adoption be discussed with the parents. The Post-Adoption Assistance program provides financial support either to meet the child’s basic needs or to purchase services in response to the child’s special needs. The Adoption Act also requires preservation of all social and medical information that is available at the time of the child’s placement, to enable their future access.
To further ensure that children are not disconnected from their cultural identity or permanently disconnected from their biological families or heritage, the Adoption Act provides for openness agreements (ongoing contact between birth and adoptive families), access to records, disclosure of information and assistance with reunification.
In April 1997, the Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-country Adoption (Hague Convention) came into force in British Columbia. Section 51 of B.C.’s Adoption Act gives the Hague Convention the force of law in B.C. While the terms of the Hague Convention can only be imposed on adoptions involving countries that are signatories to the convention, B.C.’s Acthas many more safeguards than existed in previous legislation.
Periodic Review of Placement (Article 25)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act contains strict time limits on temporary care orders so that a child must be returned to a parent or to a court for a renewed order relatively quickly. In addition, under the Act, a tribunal of the Children’s Commission can review the status of children in continuing custody and can enforce the rights of children in care that are defined in the Act.
Abuse and Neglect (Article 19), Including Physical and Psychological
Recovery and Social Reintegration (Article 39)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act is British Columbia’s primary child protection legislation. The Act makes child safety a paramount principle and outlines detailed criteria for when children need protection. TheAct also gives children in care the right to be free from corporal punishment.
Many initiatives support the B.C. government’s commitment to prevent child abuse and neglect:
a program called A Safer Future for B.C. Women was established in 1996 to provide funding for violence prevention projects;
funding has been provided to transition houses, second stage houses and safe homes for women and their children who have left abusive relationships;
government managed several Children Who Witness Abuse programs;
in 1997, the B.C. government set conditions for the employment of children in the entertainment and film industry, including hours of work, education, workplace safety and protection of income.
VI. Basic Health and Welfare
Disabled Children (Article 23)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act allows for flexible special needs agreements between the Ministry for Children and Families and the parents of a child with a disability. Under this agreement, parents do not need to give up guardianship rights in order to get special care for their child.
A monitoring and self-assessment tool has been developed to assist child development centres providing services to children and youth with disabilities to periodically evaluate specific aspects of their programs. A systematic and thorough external review process also exists.
Disabled children who are 18 years of age (the age of majority in B.C. is 19 years) have the right to apply for and receive the disability designation under the Disability Benefits Program Act (see Appendix N). Under the BC Benefits (Child Care) Act, younger disabled children also receive support for attending child care centres providing specialized services and care, services to families caring for a disabled child in their own home, ancillary health benefits, and transportation costs.
A computer-based information system, the Developmental and Rehabilitation Information System (DRIS), was created to help guide evidence-based practices in the field of early intervention for children with disabilities and their families. The system documents service needs, services delivered and service program outcomes.
A 1995 Ministerial Order stated that parents of special needs students must be consulted in their child’s educational program placement unless the student’s needs indicate otherwise. The emphasis is on inclusion and integration.
The province funds approximately 50 programs referred to as Provincial Resource Programs for students whose unique educational needs or circumstances are such that they cannot simply enrol in their home community schools. In each case, individual school boards “host” and manage these programs on behalf of the province.
The province also continues to play a role in providing services such as a provincial lending library of learning resources in alternate formats and requisite technologies to support students’ access to classrooms and curricula, to school boards on behalf of students who are visually impaired.
Health and Health Services (Article 24)
Introduced in 1996 and expanded in 1997, the Healthy Kids program provides basic dental and vision care benefits for all children in low-income working families.
The Child, Family and Community Service Act assures children in care that they have the right “to receive medical and dental care when required.”
The Pregnancy Outreach Program provides food supplements, vitamin/mineral supplements, individual counselling, group sessions and agency referrals for women. The Nobody’s Perfect Parenting Program, a joint federal-provincial project, provides parenting skills to young, single, low-income parents who may be isolated and lack formal education and nurturing skills.
Multiculturalism BC has worked with health care institutions to promote the delivery of responsive services to a culturally diverse community, including families and children. The Multicultural Change in Health Services Delivery Project, a two-year project that ran from 1995 to 1996, was undertaken to improve the ability of participating health care agencies to better respond to the health needs of British Columbia’s diverse communities.
The BC Immigrant Settlement Program allows settlement workers to collaborate with health care professionals and family workers to provide guidance to immigrant and refugee parents in child health and nutrition, preventive health care and parenting skills.
Social Security and Child Care Services and Facilities
(Article 26 and Article 18, paragraph 3)
British Columbia’s BC Benefits legislation provides income assistance, health and other benefits to families with children to assist them in maintaining an adequate standard of living.
The province’s child care subsidy program assists low and modest income families to return to school or enter the labour market by offsetting the costs of child care. Eligibility is based on monthly family income, number of dependent children and social needs.
Standard of Living (Article 27, paragraphs 1-3)
BC Benefits legislation provides income assistance, health and other benefits to families with children to assist them in maintaining an adequate standard of living. B.C.’s income assistance rates for support and shelter allowance increase based on the size of the family.
In July 1996, the BC Family Bonus was introduced to provide an income-tested benefit to children in low-income families. It replaced needs-tested welfare payments that were provided under previous legislation. The BC Family Bonus program was the model for the development of the federal National Child Benefit Supplement, which was launched shortly after the end of the reporting period.
VII. Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities
Educational, Including Vocational Training and Guidance (Article 28)
The School Act states that a person who is of school age, and who is resident in a school district is entitled to enrol in an educational program provided by the board of that district.
Several provincial stay-in-school initiatives are part of the Safe Schools Initiatives and are geared to dealing with the issues of keeping kids in school, bullying behaviour and harassment in school communities. To ensure that school discipline is administered in a manner consistent with each child’s human dignity, a manual entitled Safe School Communities: An Information and Policy Guide for the Prevention of Violence was published in 1994.
The province funds 50 Provincial Resource Programs, including nine Centres for Special Education Technology. Students with very special learning needs may be placed in programs that range from minor adaptations to those with extensive modifications.
The B.C. Immigrant Settlement Program makes educational information and guidance available to immigrant and refugee children and youth through the support of family and youth counselling programs and youth outreach projects aimed at helping students deal with the challenges of a new school system.
Aims of Education
In 1995, the B.C. Ombudsman released a Fair Schools report (see Appendix O), intended to promote children’s dignity and respect, participation of students in a democratic institution, learning through appropriate questioning of authority and full participation in their school community.
The Special Education Policy Framework for British Columbia, June 1995, states:
The primary goal for the British Columbia school system is to support the intellectual development of students, with the support of families and the community. Enabling students to achieve the goals of human and social development and career development is the responsibility shared by schools, families and the community. These goals apply to all students, including students with special needs.
Leisure, Recreation and Cultural Activities (Article 31)
British Columbia is well served by a wide variety of leisure, recreation and cultural opportunities. Considerable effort has been made to make sure these opportunities are available to all B.C. children. For example, the province’s Standards for Foster Homes encourage foster parents to provide opportunities for children in care to participate in appropriate leisure activities according to their abilities and interests in order to promote the child’s development and socialization.
VIII. Special Protection Measures
Refugee Children (Article 22)
The B.C. Immigrant Settlement Program works through government-funded non-profit settlement agencies to assist refugee and refugee claimant children with the immigration process. Services range from information and referrals, crisis intervention and post-traumatic stress counselling to employment assistance, material assistance, advocacy and reuniting children with their families.
The Administration of Juvenile Justice (Article 40)
British Columbia continues to refine prosecutorial policies to take into account the special needs of young people. This includes policies regarding alternative measures, screening procedures and transfers to adult court.
Alternative measures include measures designed to:
keep young offenders, especially first time offenders and charges of a minor nature, out of the judicial system whenever possible and divert them into programs designed to give quick, constructive consequences;
deal with young offenders’ needs in ways that the judicial system cannot;
reintegrate young offenders into their communities;
recognize the different policy considerations involved in dealing with young offenders as opposed to adult offenders.
Measures have also been taken to support young people who have been in trouble with the law to move into more constructive roles. For example, the Vietnamese Integration Project - New Direction Centre (1993-1995) provided therapeutic support, literacy, language skills, education and vocational training to enable Vietnamese male gang members between 15 and 19 years of age to reintegrate into society.
The Sentencing of Children, With Particular Reference to the Prohibition of
Capital Punishment and Life Imprisonment (Article 37 (a))
Canada’s federal government sets penalties for youth who are convicted of crimes. There is no capital punishment in Canada.
British Columbia continues to press the federal government to ensure that young offenders are subject to penalties that reflect both the gravity of the offence and the special needs of the young person.
Children Deprived of Their Liberty, Including Any Form of Detention,
Imprisonment or Placement in Custodial Settings (Article 37 (b)-(d))
During the reporting period, responsibility for youth correctional services was shifted from the Ministry of Attorney General to the Ministry for Children and Families.
Youth Correctional Program Regulations guarantee the right of young people who are in custody to maintain contact with family members.
The government, in collaboration with school districts, provides young offenders with education through provincial resources programs. Distance education programs are also available.
Despite Canada’s reservation on Article 37 (c), the convention has been cited in both the civil and criminal courts of British Columbia, and changes have been made to ensure reasonable treatment of alleged young offenders, including the establishment of separate holding facilities for youth at the new Vancouver police station.
In June 1994, British Columbia’s Ombudsman released a report entitled Building Respect: A Review of Youth Custody Centres in British Columbia (see Appendix P). This report made recommendations consistent with the convention to address the importance of providing safe and appropriate services to youth who are confined to custody centres.
Physical and Psychological Recovery and Social Reintegration
of the Child (Article 39)
The BC Immigrant Settlement Program supports a project that facilitates the therapeutic recovery of refugees and immigrants, including children, who have survived torture.
Children in situations of exploitation, including physical and
Psychological recovery and social reintegration
Economic Exploitation of Children, Including Child Labour (Article 32)
Child labour is prohibited in British Columbia except under the special authority of a permit issued by the Director of Employment Standards. In 1997, the province set conditions for the employment of children under the age of 15 who work in the film, television and radio commercial industries. These conditions cover hours of work, education, workplace safety and protection of income.
In 1997/98, the B.C. government developed and distributed Money Smarts, an information package to empower young women to establish a secure financial foundation and take charge of their economic security.
Drug Abuse (Article 33)
The B.C. government provides alcohol and drug services for youth, ranging from prevention through early intervention and treatment. These services include:
prevention and outpatient services;
youth-specific counselling programs in most parts of the province;
supportive recovery beds for youth in Vancouver and Victoria;
residential treatment for alcohol and drug-involved youth.
British Columbia’s public education system includes programming designed to protect children from the illicit use of drugs. Personal planning programs include a section on substance abuse prevention and there are provincial resource programs for drug addiction education.
In addition, health promotion initiatives such as the “Kidzone” television program focus on substance misuse prevention and resiliency skill development for children and youth. A similar focus is found in the work of the Provincial Interministry Committee on Youth Crime and Violence.
Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse (Article 34)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act protects children from sexual exploitation and abuse by including those concepts within its definition of situations that are grounds for “needing protection”.
The Province established a Provincial Prostitution Unit and Assistant Deputy Ministers’ Committee on Prostitution in 1996. The Provincial Prostitution Unit assists in developing strategies to prevent the sexual exploitation and abuse of children and to prosecute those who do so.
The B.C. government has funded an employment training/exiting program for prostitutes and has been working with the federal government to encourage stronger federal legislation and policies relating to sexual exploitation and abuse of children.
Sale, Trafficking and Abduction (Article 35)
A full-time social worker was added to the Provincial Prostitution Unit in 1997 to assist with law enforcement efforts against pimps and johns, as well as to provide services and guidance to line social workers dealing with exploited youth. The government also worked with service providers and stakeholders to begin developing an integrated policy position for exploited youth, including witness relocation and safe-housing policy.
Other Forms of Exploitation (Article 36)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act established that the safety and well‑being of children is the paramount concern in all decisions involving them. The Act contains detailed guidelines describing what constitutes a child’s best interests.
The Ministry for Children and Families introduced a B.C. Risk Assessment Model to enable professional staff involved in child protection work to assess child protection concerns. The publication Practice Standards for Child Protection brings together in one document the standards, policy and procedures that direct child protection in B.C.
Children Belonging to a Minority or an Indigenous Group (Article 30)
The Child, Family and Community Service Act states that the cultural identity of aboriginal children should be preserved. The Act’s service delivery principles state that aboriginal people should be involved in the planning and delivery of services to aboriginal families and their children, and that services should be sensitive to the cultural, racial and religious heritage of those receiving them.
The Ministry for Children and Families introduced a Strategic Plan for Aboriginal Services to strengthen the ability of aboriginal communities to deliver child and family-related services to their own children and families and to strengthen the province’s ability to deliver culturally appropriate services.
In 1993, the B.C. government passed the Multiculturalism Act of BC. In support of
provincial multiculturalism policy, government ministries responsible for child welfare and protection have undertaken substantial initiatives in providing personnel with training and resources to better serve the diversity of youth and families in the province.
In order to encourage the mass media to focus attention on the needs of children who belong to minority groups, the B.C. Anti-Racism and Multiculturalism Program supports community organizations and groups to work with the media to address stereotypes and promote positive messaging.
During 1995-1996, the B.C. government held an anti-racism video contest for youth. The winner, “Don’t be blinded by colours,” was released as a television public service announcement, adapted into a transit bus campaign and further developed into posters and bookmarks distributed to secondary schools across British Columbia.
In the first report submitted in June 1994, it is noted that Alberta did not formally support Canada’s ratification of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Alberta’s position on the Convention remains unchanged in 1998. It is confident, however, that its policy, programs and legislation meet and, in many instances, exceed the Convention’s expectations.
Alberta’s focus on the three areas of people, preservation and prosperity in its annual business planning ensures that continual improvements are made to benefit children and their families.
This second report builds on the information contained in the June 1994 report and highlights major initiatives that have been undertaken in Alberta during the reporting period from January 1, 1993 to December 31, 1997. As Alberta does not officially endorse the Convention, the federal government prepared this report with input from Alberta government officials.
I. General measures of implementation
In the first report in 1994 on Alberta, it was noted that a Commissioner for Children and Families had been appointed to review the structure of children’s services.
The government subsequently announced in 1994 a new direction for children’s services in Alberta that would involve redesigning services based on a regional model. This new
direction was based on the Commissioner’s extensive consultations with communities and their expressed desire to design and plan their own services in ways that are more responsive and appropriate to the needs of local children.
Seventeen child and family regions were initially designated across the province, and community steering committees and working groups established to develop local service plans. These regions were co-terminus with the 17 regional health authorities (RHAs) across the province to enhance planning for children and families (See the section on “Health and health services” for information on RHAs).
Another child and family region was added in 1997 to provide coverage for Metis settlements, bringing the total number of regions to 18.
The local service plans are to cover the full range of services to children and focus on 4 key principles: community-based service delivery, early intervention, improved aboriginal services and better integration between local services. All regions are expected to submit their final service plans for approval by April 1998.
Enabling legislation was passed in 1996 that allows for the establishment of Child and Family Services Authorities (CFSAs). The CFSAs will oversee the future planning and delivery of services, and develop business plans to implement the regional service plans. The first CFSA is expected to be operational by the summer of 1998.
To support the major redesign initiative, in 1995, the Alberta government established a funding program for community organizations undertaking early intervention programming. The Early Intervention Program provides funding for community-based and culturally sensitive services that help local children and families before a crisis occurs. Fifty million dollars were initially allocated to this program and, by 1997, 260 programs across Alberta had received $27 million in funding. Total expenditures are expected to reach $53.4 million by 1998/99.
Early intervention programs are addressing a broad range of issues such as anti-social behaviour, teen pregnancy, school attendance and performance, family violence, addictions and substance abuse, literacy and parenting and life skills. They also are focusing on special needs areas such as aboriginal, low income, immigrant and disabled children.
Overall, the redesign of services for children and families is proceeding with confidence on a priority basis. A recent review conducted by external consultants confirms the direction chosen for this redesign initiative is the right one for Alberta. The government will be ensuring high quality services by implementing a monitoring and evaluation program, and an accountability framework that includes standards for child and family services.
The Government’s commitment to the major redesign initiative and, generally, to providing early intervention programming and quality child welfare services is reflected in its annual funding increases. Alberta Family and Social Services, the lead department in these areas anticipates its spending will reach approximately $362 million by 1998/99.
Another important program that focuses on prevention is the Family and Community Support Services (FCSS) program. It is a cost shared program (province 80 percent and municipalities 20 percent) that distributes grants for the purchase or provision of preventive social services. Since the establishment of FCSS in 1981, children have been the beneficiaries of many FCSS‑funded services in communities across the province. In 1996/97, FCSS under went a review to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of communities in an efficient and effective manner.
III. General Principles
A. Non-discrimination (Article 2)
A major goal of Alberta’s Department of Community Development is to reduce discrimination and foster equality so all Albertans, including children, can have the opportunity to participate fully in the social, economic and cultural life of the province. Performance measures with targets have been developed to annually monitor the progress in achieving this goal. While these measures continue to show positive results, the Government recognizes that more work needs to be done.
Between 1993 and 1994, public reviews were conducted on Alberta’s human rights legislation and multiculturalism programs. Following from these reviews, in 1996, the new Alberta Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Act was proclaimed to strengthen human rights legislation in Alberta and to provide new and expanded grounds for protection. The new grounds include family status and source of income. Expanded protection has been afforded under the grounds of marital status and religious belief. Religious belief is now recognized to include native spirituality.
The Act states “as a fundamental principle and as a matter of public policy, all persons are equal in: dignity, rights and responsibilities without regard to race, religious beliefs, colour, gender, physical disability, mental disability, age, ancestry, place of origin, marital status, source of income or family status”.
The Act also provides for the establishment of the Human Rights, Citizenship and Multiculturalism Education Fund. The Fund provides resources for individual, organizational and community initiatives that will:
help to eliminate discrimination and racism,
increase understanding and acceptance of diversity, and
educate Albertans about their rights and responsibilities under Alberta’s human rights laws.
Another very important way that Alberta continues to address human rights issues is through the education system. A key aim is to help all young people become responsible and caring citizens who understand and respect fundamental human rights.
Alberta’s Department of Education has prepared a report entitled “Promotion of Human Rights in Alberta Schools”, which reflects the very strong commitment and support for education about human rights. The report outlines: provincial government directions and policies that support education about human rights; programs of study, curriculum support documents, and student learning resources on these topics; and training workshops and materials that help teachers promote human rights and respect for people from diverse cultures. The programs and policies do not focus on the rights of the child but rather on the promotion of respect for all individuals.
A basic education, as defined in Alberta, includes the requirement that students are provided with opportunities to increase their cultural awareness. It allows students to respect cultural diversity and the common values of Canada.
B. Best interests of the child (Article 3)
The best interests of the child continue to be the central premise of Alberta’s Child Welfare Act, and the main consideration in any legislative, policy or program changes impacting children. A recent example that demonstrates Alberta’s continuing commitment in this area can be seen in the 1997 legislation enacted regarding child access and grandparents.
Following divorce or the death of a child’s parent, some grandparents may find they are denied access to their grandchildren. The 1997 legislation is primarily intended to address these situations by providing grandparents legal recourse through the courts. The legislation also allows children 16 years of age and younger to apply for access to their grandparents. The primary consideration for the courts in determining access is to be the best interests of the child. The courts also will consider the nature and extent of the child’s past associations with the grandparent, and the child’s views and wishes, if these can reasonably be ascertained.
With regard to the requirements of the Convention on standards of care, Alberta continues to review and monitor all standards in place pertaining to the care or protection of children. Several new initiatives during the reporting period ensure continual improvements are being made in this area.
Alberta’s Day Care Program sets and monitors standards for day cares, nursery schools, drop-in centres and family day homes to ensure the health, safety and well-being of preschool children.
All day care centres across the province are regularly inspected. The Social Care Facilities Licensing Act and Day Care Regulation outline a wide range of standards of care for these facilities. Those standards seen to be critical to a child’s health and well being are defined to include staff qualifications, staff/child ratios, supervision, child management and developmental needs.
A funding agreement with day care operators implemented in 1995/96 requires them to meet critical standards in order to receive the Operating Allowance and Child Care Subsidy paid by government. Enforcement of day care standards was further strengthened in 1996/97 with the full implementation of the Compliance Management System. This system provides licensing staff with tools to better track day care performance.
The Alberta government has set targets on compliance to day care standards. In 1993/94, 64 percent of day care centres were meeting critical standards. The rate of compliance for 1997/98 is 93 percent. The government’s target for 1999/2000 is 100% compliance.
IV. Civil rights and freedoms
D. Freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 14)
The Alberta Government guarantees freedom of conscience and religion and recognizes the parents’ right and responsibility to guide their children’s moral and ethical development. Schools support the efforts of parents, families, churches and other community groups that are responsible for children’s moral, ethical and spiritual development.
Alberta’s School Act gives school boards the right to provide religious instruction and prayers. School boards also may offer religious studies courses, but these courses are not compulsory for students. Twenty percent of the content of locally developed religious studies courses offered for credit in senior high school must relate specifically to a comparative study of major world religions.
Also under the School Act, school boards have the authority to establish alternative programs that emphasize a particular language, culture or religion. These programs must be open to any student in the school system and usually are established with community support and involvement.
The Alberta Government provides some support to private schools including many that present a particular religious perspective in school programs and activities. Parents decide if their child will participate in an alternative program or attend a private school.
A provincial policy on controversial issues guides teachers in handling discussions about sensitive topics in the classroom. This policy requires schools to respect students’ personal and family values. It allows students to present views that are consistent with these values. The policy also requires that schools follow parental decisions on controversial issues with respect and sensitivity.
F. Protection of privacy (Article 16)
In 1994, the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act (FOIP) was passed in Alberta. This Act formalizes the right of all Albertans to access government records, and recognizes privacy rights by regulating the collection, use and disclosure of personal information.
In the two and a half years following the proclamation of the FOIP Act, Alberta’s Department of Family and Social Services received 50 percent of all requests for information. Most of the requests to the department (65 percent) were from persons wanting access to information from their child welfare or adoption files.
Subsequent amendments to the FOIP Act in 1997 extended coverage to schools, health care bodies, post-secondary institutions and local government bodies. The Act will become effective in these sectors as follows: school boards (September 1, 1998), health care bodies (October 1, 1998), post-secondary institutions (January 1, 1999) and municipalities and other local government bodies (October 1, 1999).
The extension of FOIP to cover schools and other local public bodies was recommended in the 1993 report of the all-party committee on Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy. The intention to extend FOIP was announced at the time of the passage of FOIP in 1994.
Future plans are to conduct broad-based consultations with Albertans on legislation to better protect personal health information. The legislation is expected to address the unique and complex arrangements involved in the use and sharing of personal health information in both the private and public sectors. It is scheduled for introduction in 1999.
G. Access to appropriate information (Article 17)
The Alberta Government views and rates all films before they are screened for the public. Effective December 1, 1997, a new film classification system was established to better assist families in making informed viewing choices for themselves and their children. This new system has six categories to indicate a film’s suitability for viewing by children and young adults based on the intensity, frequency or explicitness of the sexual, violent, coarse language or disturbing/horror content.
V. Family environment and alternate care
A. Parental guidance (Article 5) and B. Parental responsibilities
(Article 18, paras. 1-2)
The Alberta Government continues to provide education, assessment, family mediation, negotiation, referral and counseling services through its Family Mediation and Court Services. In 1996, a pilot project was conducted in Edmonton that required divorcing or separating spouses with children to participate in the “Parenting After Separation” Seminar. This six-hour information and orientation seminar encourages and supports parents to work together to lessen the impact of separation or divorce on their children, and focus on their children’s best interests.
In 1997, the Alberta Government, in partnership with the federal government made this seminar available province-wide. Notably, Alberta was the first province in Canada to make parenting education mandatory for divorcing parents.
Alberta continues to support parents who are working or studying by expanding the range of child care options available to them. Legislative amendments in 1994 are expected to increase the availability of private babysitting services. The amendments allow the operators of these services to provide care for up to 6 children under 12 years of age, without requiring a license.
C. Separation from parents (Article 9)
The Government continues to believe that the best environment for a child to grow and flourish is in his or her family home. However, if it is necessary to remove a child from that environment, the Government is committed to ensuring the child is receiving satisfactory care that meets his or her safety and security needs. The Government target for 1997/98 is that 100 percent of children in care are free from abuse or neglect. The actual figure for 1996/97 was 98.5 percent. Improved training for child welfare workers and foster parents are some of the initiatives being implemented in this area. Standards, certification and accreditation guidelines have been developed in partnership with the Alberta Association of Services for Children and Families.
F. Recovery of maintenance for the child (Article 27, para. 4)
The Maintenance Enforcement Program continues to be the major vehicle for the recovery of maintenance payments for child support in Alberta. Its main objectives are to ensure that children are being provided for and that parents are living up to their financial responsibilities. The program maintains approximately 42,000 files that impact close to 57,000 children. Several initiatives have been undertaken since 1993 to ensure this program remains responsive to the needs of children and their parents.
In 1994, the Maintenance Enforcement Act was revised to provide several new enforcement tools to program staff. One of these tools is the withholding of driver’s licenses, motor vehicle registrations and other motor vehicle and registry services in the event that a debtor spouse fails to pay court-ordered maintenance, or make suitable payment arrangements with the Maintenance Enforcement Program. At the time of these legislative amendments, Alberta appeared to have the broadest range of enforcement tools of any province in Canada.
The Government recognizes that continual improvements to this program will make it more efficient and effective. In 1997, an internal review of the Maintenance Enforcement Program and child access issues was launched. The resulting recommendations are currently being considered for implementation. In addition, new performance measures are being developed to better monitor the program’s effectiveness.
As noted in the first report on Alberta, the Government assists single parents receiving welfare to make applications for parentage and maintenance. The Government’s target for 1999/2000 is 65% of single parents with orders or agreements. The installment in 1998 of a new family maintenance information system is one of the initiatives being undertaken to reach this target.
H. Adoption (Article 21)
Private and government adoption programs continue to be regulated under Alberta’s Child Welfare Act. Amendments made in 1994 to this Act serve to streamline the private adoption process and better protect children, birth parents and adoptive parents.
In 1997, Alberta’s Child Welfare Act was amended to bring The Hague Convention on intercountry adoptions into effect in Alberta. The Hague Convention provides safeguards for children and adopting parents and streamlines the process of intercountry adoption.
Also in 1997, the Adoption Regulation was amended to provide adopting parents involved in a private adoption with a new option for obtaining consent from the guardians of the child. The amendment allows lawyers to complete the consent.
J. Abuse and neglect (Article19), including physical and psychological
recovery and social reintegration (Article 39)
Alberta continues to enhance its efforts to address the problems related to violence. Alberta’s Department of Education coordinates the Safe and Caring Schools Initiative to improve student conduct and reduce violence in schools, including all forms of violence associated with racism. Characteristics of a safe and caring school include respect for cultural diversity and individual differences. Other departments, including Alberta Justice, support this initiative.
Alberta’s Office for the Prevention of Family Violence, the first office of its kind in Canada in 1984, implements women’s shelter standards and policies, tracks the use of women’s shelter services, distributes educational material and provides training to government staff and the community on the dynamics of family violence.
Currently, there are 19 women’s shelters, two second stage housing facilities and eight rural family violence prevention centres. These facilities provide shelter and other support services to battered women and their children. During 1997, 5,212 women and 6,232 children were accommodated in these facilities.
In 1996, Alberta passed its Victims of Crime Act. This legislation provides victims with access to information, financial benefits for injuries suffered as a result of a crime and funding to community groups to establish programs that assist victims of crime.
Additional plans for 1998 will see the introduction of legislation to provide new legal remedies for victims of family violence and their children. The remedies include emergency protection orders that can specify no contact between an offender and victim, as well as grant the victim exclusive possession of the family home.
VI. Basic health and welfare
A. Disabled children (Article 23)
The first report on Alberta described the supports provided to disabled children and their families under the Handicapped Children’s Services program. In 1995/96, the program’s policy was updated and clarified to further strengthen its family support focus. The goals are to sustain the child within the family, to facilitate the child’s developmental growth and participation in community life and to retain family involvement if a child requires out-of-home support. In 1996/97, approximately 96 percent of all children served were residing at home with their family.
Children with special needs are eligible for home care services. Children who are technology dependent or medically fragile can receive intensive in-home supports that are coordinated with other programs and services.
In the school system in Alberta, a new policy was introduced in 1993 that formally recognizes the preference to integrate special needs students into regular classrooms in their neighborhoods. Also, funding has increased to provide children with severe disabilities with more resources in the classroom, including teachers, teachers aides and special technology.
Through regional health authorities, the Provincial Mental Health Advisory Board, school boards and the Department of Family and Social Services, a broad range of supports is currently available to families with special needs children, from personal counseling and psychiatry/psychology services to speech language and occupational therapy.
Continual improvements in the coordination of services for special needs children and their families will be one of the outcomes of the major redesign initiative in Alberta (See the section on “General measures of implementation” for a description of this initiative).
B. Health and health services (Article 24)
Since the first report in 1994, Alberta has embarked on major restructuring of its health system. In April 1995, 17 regional health authorities (RHAs) replaced over 140 health facility and health unit boards and assumed responsibility for the delivery of most health services. A number of health services also are delivered by two provincial authorities: the Alberta Cancer Board and the Provincial Mental Health Advisory Board.
The RHAs have more decision-making responsibilities than health boards of the past, but still must operate within a provincial framework of policy, legislation, standards and strategic directions. The Government works with RHAs to ensure the delivery of quality health services to all Albertans and to develop strategies for addressing priority health concerns.
The Government’s vision for the health system is healthy Albertans in a healthy Alberta. This vision embodies three characteristics:
Albertans who are sick have access to quality health care services;
individual health and the health of all Albertans is actively promoted and protected; and
healthy social, economic and physical environments exist and contribute to improved health.
The Alberta Government Business Plan for 1998-2001 includes a goal that government will “support communities in developing integrated or collaborative approaches to meeting the needs of children and introduce health strategies to address priority health issues”. The Department of Health Business Plan includes a strategy to work with other ministries and organizations to improve the health of Albertans, with children identified as a key target population.
(a)Child and infant mortality
The Government’s overriding goal is that Albertans will be healthy. Life expectancy and infant mortality are monitored annually to measure progress towards this goal. Albertans have among the highest life expectancies in the world, and infant mortality rates have generally decreased over the past 20 years.
The 1996/97 Business Plan set a target of 6 deaths per 1,000 live births by 1998. In 1997, Alberta’s rate was 4.9 deaths per 1,000 live births, which bettered the target earlier than planned by one year. The Government’s ongoing monitoring of infant mortality rates ensures a continuing focus on this area.
(b)Primary health care
Twenty-five projects across the province have been selected as part of the major new project called “Advancing Primary Health Care in Alberta.” These projects will test primary health care principles and programs to help develop new and better approaches for use across Alberta and Canada.
A number of the projects specifically target children. For example, the COPE (Community Outreach in Pediatric/Psychiatry and Education) project proposes early identification and subsequent assessment of children with emotional and behavioral problems. Linkages will be made to existing services and on-site cross consultations at elementary schools will occur between pediatricians and psychiatrists on more complex cases.
Two projects are aimed at high risk families in the first year of their children’s life. These projects will be implemented based on the Healthy Families America Program. Alberta will be the first Canadian province to attempt to replicate this program.
(d)Appropriate pre-natal and post-natal health care for mothers
Another key performance measure used by the Alberta Government to monitor health outcomes is the percentage of low birth weight newborns. Low birth weight (i.e. less than 2,500 grams) is understood to be associated with lifelong health problems.
Data shows that low birth weight is one of the problems associated with births to mothers under the age of 18 and over the age of 35. In 1995/96, 6 percent of live births were below 2,500 grams. The target set for 1999 is 5.5 percent.
Alberta’s Department of Health continues to work with RHAs to address this problem through the identification of modifiable risk factors and the development of strategies. Excellent information materials have been developed on topics such as healthy eating and lifestyle choices during pregnancy.
(f)Promotion, prevention and protection
The Alberta Government recognizes the importance of a proactive and wellness-based approach to health, and works together with RHAs, health practitioners and other sectors to ensure that increasing emphasis is placed on programs in this area.
One of Alberta’s key child health initiatives is the childhood immunization program. Immunization is routinely offered for all children against nine potentially life-threatening diseases: diphtheria, whooping cough, tetanus, polio, Haemophilus influenza b (Hib) (meningitis), measles, mumps, rubella and Hepatitis B. Public health nurses across Alberta administer childhood vaccinations, which are provided at no cost to families. In 1996, the rate of immunization among two-year old children was 89 percent. The target set for 1998 is 95 percent. The Government’s ongoing monitoring will ensure continued focus on this area in the future.
Mental health services for children are delivered by the Alberta Mental Health Board and the RHAs. The goal of these services is to provide early identification, assessment, consultation and treatment for children with mental health needs. The Department of Health funds: specialized inpatient beds for children in Edmonton and Calgary; permanent and traveling mental health clinics in over 80 communities in Alberta; and a variety of contracted services throughout the province. All mental health programs provided through the health sector are available to all Albertans without a fee. There also are significant expenditures for children with mental health needs in the education, child welfare and justice systems.
There are several innovative programs being undertaken in Alberta. One example is the two‑year health promotion program called “You’re Amazing”, which was launched in 1997. The program is designed to educate parents aged 18 to 30 years about the factors influencing health and well being, and encourage them to make healthy choices for themselves and their children.
Another example is the “Think Think Again” program, which is designed to increase the proper and consistent use of safety seats and seat belts for children. The first program of its kind in Canada, it combines awareness, enforcement and education in its approach to child safety. This program is being undertaken by a variety of community and government partners.
There also have been a number of traffic safety initiatives undertaken in recent years that target children who are going to and from school.
Another important area receiving Government attention is the problem of teen pregnancies. The birth rate for females under 18 years of age dropped by 28 percent between 1991 and 1996. The pregnancy rate for this group dropped approximately 14 percent from 1993/94 to 1995/96. A target has been set for year 2005: reduce the rate of births among teen mothers to below or equal to the national average in Canada. Several strategies are being undertaken to accomplish this target, key of which is the major redesign of children’s services with its focus on prevention and early intervention. In addition, the Government will be targeting research on children’s health and take specific action to meet children’s health needs.
Work also is being undertaken to address Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS). The Government is providing money and partnering with key stakeholders to implement short-term and long‑term strategies for the prevention and management of FAS.
Overall, the Government remains committed to ensuring that Albertans are well‑informed about promotion, prevention and protection. It continues to develop and make available materials on topics such as sexual health, childhood vaccinations, healthy eating for toddlers and preschoolers, feeding babies during their first year and the benefits of breast feeding.
C. Social security and child care services and facilities
(Article 26 and para. 3 of Article 18)
In 1993, major reforms to Alberta’s social welfare system were initiated to promote self‑reliance and financial independence through employment. Today in Alberta, the welfare program provides income support, as well as training, education and career counseling to help people who can work get back into the workforce. Those who can’t work have longer-term income support available to them. Between 1993 and 1997, the welfare caseloads declined by almost 60 percent.
An evaluation study conducted in 1996 revealed that over two-thirds of former welfare recipients were working in full- or part-time jobs. The majority of these former recipients felt that the quality of life improved for themselves and their children after leaving welfare.
The Government continues to monitor the impact of welfare reforms on children and their families. Recent initiatives to help low and middle income families in Alberta are highlighted in the next section.
D. Standard of living (Article 27, paras. 1-3)
The Alberta Government has taken action in the following areas.
Full or partial subsidy is available to low-income Albertans towards their health care premiums.
Continuing improvements to the Maintenance Enforcement Program ensure that single parents are able to collect the child support payments owed them.
In 1997, the Government introduced the Alberta Family Employment Tax Credit program. The program’s objectives are twofold: to support children in low and middle income families, and provide an incentive for the parents of these children to be employed. The maximum credit per child is $250; the maximum per family is $500. These maximum amounts will double in 1998. Families earning up to the maximum of $50,000 per year will be able to benefit from this tax credit.
Also in 1997, the Alberta Government announced increases to its Child Care Subsidy rates. The family income levels to qualify for the Child Care Subsidy also will increase. The Child Care Subsidy program is designed to provide financial assistance to families who need help paying for the care of their pre-school children in either licensed day care centres or approved family day homes. Over the next two years, the monthly subsidy rate per child will increase, on average, by $100. By 1998, the maximum subsidy level per child for pre-school children will be $380 per month and for infants it will be $475 per month. In 1998, monthly family income levels to qualify for the Child Care Subsidy will increase, on average, by $330.
The Alberta Government also is a partner with the federal government in the implementation of the new National Child Benefit program, which is a major initiative to address child poverty in Canada and encourage families to participate in the workforce. Approximately 126,000 Alberta families are expected to benefit from this program.
Alberta will be reinvesting in several areas as part of its participation in the National Child Benefit program. A key reinvestment planned for 1998 will be in a new Alberta Child Health Benefit program. This program will offer full coverage of children’s dental, optical, prescription drug and emergency ambulance services. Families with net annual incomes up to $20,921 will be eligible for these benefits.
Low-income families in Alberta also will benefit from the new supplement to the Canada Child Tax Benefit introduced as part of the National Child Benefit program.
VII. Education, leisure and cultural activities
A. Education, including vocational training and guidance
(Article 28) and B. Aims of education (Article 29)
Alberta’s vision for education, inclusive of Early Childhood Services to Grade 12 is that its young people are the best educated in the country, able to achieve their individual potential, create a positive future for themselves, their families and communities and contribute to Alberta’s prosperity and superior quality of life. Many new initiatives have been undertaken to help Alberta realize this vision.
Beginning in 1993, a major restructuring of the school system was initiated under the leadership of Alberta’s Department of Education. The key principles guiding this restructuring were to: focus resources in the classroom, give more authority to schools and parents for decision‑making in the school system, reduce administrative costs and institute a fairer funding system for schools across the province.
A key goal of the restructured system is to focus on what students need to learn. The Government has defined “basic” education and its expected learning outcomes for students. A basic education must provide learning opportunities in the core subject areas of language arts, mathematics, science and social studies, as well as opportunities for students’ personal growth and development.
A basic education goes beyond the fundamental requirement that students learn to read, write and understand the world around them. Students also must develop a respect for cultural diversity, desirable personal characteristics such as fairness and honesty, critical and creative thinking skills and a range of other positive skills and attitudes to ensure they are well-rounded individuals prepared for life after high school.
The Alberta Government closely monitors students’ achievement scores to see how well they are doing in the core subject areas. In general, Alberta students consistently perform well on provincial, national, and international tests, often ranking high in comparison to their Canadian and international counterparts.
In 1997, the percentage of Grade 9 students achieving the acceptable standard on the language arts (i.e. literacy) test was above the provincial target of 85 percent. The comparable result on the mathematics test, however, did not meet the Government’s target of 85 percent. Improving student achievement in mathematics has been identified as a priority area in Government’s planning for 1998/99 to 2000/01.
Student achievement tests assist in identifying areas for improvement in school curricula. Alberta continues to work with the other western provinces and two territories to develop common curricula under the Western Canadian Protocol initiative. This work has included the development of curricula for the francophone minority as well as curricula to meet the special needs of Aboriginal children.
In 1997, Alberta established the first teaching quality standard in Canada to ensure continual improvements in the quality of education in the province. This standard: focuses teaching on optimum learning by students; outlines the knowledge, skills and attributes that teachers should possess and practice; guides teachers’ career-long professional development; and, provides the foundation for teacher evaluation throughout the province.
The Government recognizes that a high school education is critical to a student’s future success in the job market. Alberta’s target set for 1996/97 was 75 percent of Grade 9 students completing high school within 6 years. The actual percentage attained was 69 percent. Future initiatives focus on helping students achieve success early in their school careers in key skills such as reading/literacy.
Improving student access to information technology has also been identified as a priority area. In 1997, the “Learner Outcomes in Technology Framework” was developed to ensure that Alberta students become knowledgeable technology users and have the technology‑related skills to compete in future job markets. To complement these efforts, funding has increased for technology upgrading in schools.
The Career and Technology Studies program, recently expanded to all junior and high schools across the province, focuses on the knowledge and technology skills required in various career areas. It is designed to encourage students to explore the range of career options and prepare for both post-secondary education and employment.
Alberta’s Department of Advanced Education and Career Development has introduced the Registered Apprenticeship Program for High School Students (RAP). RAP is a modified apprenticeship program that permits a high school student to become an apprentice while attending school. A RAP apprentice accumulates hours of on-the-job training as credit toward his or her apprenticeship, and credit toward a high school diploma or a certificate of achievement. RAP allows students to stay in school while learning a career, and provides an opportunity for them to “earn while they learn”. An apprentice gets a realistic view of the work world and learns marketable skills.
Recent surveys show that 89% of parents and 97% of students are satisfied with the quality of education in Alberta. Increases in Government spending will bring its total expenditures in this area to $3.2 billion in 1998/99. These dollars go towards high quality programs for over 560,000 students, as well as for the upgrading, modernization and construction of school facilities. In addition to these dollars, by 1998/99, Government spending on the adult learning system, inclusive of universities, colleges and technical institutes will reach $1.3 billion.
C. Leisure, recreation and cultural activities (Article 31)
Alberta’s Department of Community Development continues to work together with communities, other levels of government, business and the non-profit sector to promote activities which enhance the quality of life in Alberta. The range goes from developing and maintaining
libraries, archives, historic sites and museums to promoting recreational, sport, cultural and artistic activities. The main beneficiaries of many of these efforts are the children of Alberta and their families.
VIII. Special protection measures
B. Children involved with the system of administration of juvenile justice
1. The administration of juvenile justice (Article 40)
In 1994, the Alberta Government launched a series of public consultations on the federal Young Offenders Act. A task force was established to obtain suggestions for addressing youth crime and rehabilitating young offenders. The outcome of the task force’s work was a series of recommendations for both the provincial and federal governments.
Alberta continues to see the reform of the federal Young Offenders Act as a priority issue, and will be working closely with the federal government and its provincial counterparts across Canada to resolve concerns in this area.
Following from the recommendations of the 1994 task force, Alberta’s Department of Justice continues to encourage local communities to establish Youth Justice Committees. Some committees have chosen to administer alternative measures programs that divert youth out of the criminal justice system, while others have opted to provide innovative sentencing recommendations to Youth Courts. As of December 31, 1997, there were 63 of these committees operating in communities across Alberta.
Alberta continues to support the Young Offenders Alternative Measures Program, which provides an alternative to formal court proceedings for young people accused of committing specified criminal offences. In 1996/97, this program was expanded to allow second time offenders an opportunity to participate if they are considered a low risk to the community.
The Alberta Government continues to ensure that youths have appropriate and prompt legal representation. In 1993, a pilot project was launched to hire Government lawyers to work at Legal Aid offices. A key component of this initiative was the establishment of special Legal Aid Youth Offices in Calgary and Edmonton. In 1996/97, based on the success of this pilot, the decision was made to make these offices permanent.
In 1997, Alberta’s Department of Justice and the Department of Education signed the Young Offender Information Sharing Protocol. One of the main objectives of this protocol is to support a coordinated and case management approach to the rehabilitation of students with young offender status.
Overall, the Alberta Government’s goal is to make the province a safe place to live and raise families. Key performance measures monitored annually are the rates of violent youth crime and youth property crime. While the rates have been declining in both areas in recent years, Alberta’s rates are above the national averages. The targets for year 2000 are to reduce Alberta’s rates below the national averages.
2. Children deprived of their liberty, including any form of detention,
imprisonment or placement in custodial settings (Article 37 (b)-(d))
In 1997, Alberta opened several innovative camps for youths under custody dispositions, including a unique wilderness camp in southern Alberta and a camp for Aboriginal offenders in northern Alberta. These camps generally provide a range of educational, counseling and work programs to help rehabilitate and reintegrate youths into their communities.
Children in situations of exploitation, including physical and
psychological recovery and social reintegration
1. Economic exploitation of children, including child labour (Article 32)
As mentioned in the first report in 1994 on Alberta, children under the age of 15 are generally not allowed to work; however, some exceptions exist. Under the Employment Standards Act, a person may be employed at age 15 to work from 6 a.m. to midnight without the consent of the parents, but younger persons require parental consent to perform any kind of work. Children who work also are subject to the Occupational Health and Safety Act, which applies to all workers in industries under provincial jurisdiction.
In 1997, the Alberta Government made a clear commitment to youth in its report titled People and Prosperity: A Human Resource Development Strategy. The Department of Advanced Education and Career Development has developed an Alberta Youth Employment Strategy in order to act on this commitment.
The vision of this strategy is to work with other partners to ensure Alberta youth are able to participate in the social and economic opportunities of the 21st Century. The following four goals outline the broad-based directions the Department will take to reach this vision:
to create opportunities for all youth to develop the skills and knowledge needed for work,
to increase work opportunities for youth,
to help youth respond to the changing nature of work, and
to address the cultural and social barriers that may prevent youth from working.
A variety of initiatives are planned or underway to attain the vision and goals.
As part of the Alberta Youth Employment Strategy, for example, in 1997, the Department of Advanced Education and Career Development launched a three-year pilot project, “Youth Connections: Learning Transitions for Youth,” to help youth aged 16 to 24 years in Edmonton and Calgary improve their employment prospects. The target clients are youth who
have not continued to post-secondary education. The project will assist them in assessing their skills and interests, building a career path and connecting to further learning, job training, work experience and employment. The potential for expansion to other centres across Alberta will be considered following an evaluation of the pilot.
In 1998, Alberta will be working with other jurisdictions in Canada to develop a new Federal/Provincial/Territorial Partnership on Youth Employment, which will make youth employment a national priority. This partnership will commit the federal and provincial/territorial governments to new bilateral arrangements and multilateral projects.
Also in 1998, plans are to increase the minimum wage in Alberta. The adjustment of the minimum wage will include the removal of the student wage differential. The minimum wage for students under 18 is currently $0.50 less than the minimum wage for those over 18. Effective October 1, 1998, Alberta will have one minimum wage for all workers. This change is expected to be of particular benefit to students who are working and contributing towards the costs of their post‑secondary education. They will be paid the same rate as workers with comparable skills.
2. Substance Abuse (Article 33)
As reported in the first report in 1994 on Alberta, the Alberta Alcohol and Drug Abuse Commission (AADAC) and its funded agencies provide a full range of specialized treatment and prevention programs for youths and their families, from community counseling services, support groups and outreach programs to residential treatment programs. It also funds programs and services to address alcohol and drug problems among Aboriginal peoples, including Aboriginal youth.
AADAC’s goal is to assist Albertans in achieving freedom from the abuse of alcohol, other drugs and gambling. A 1996 study on gambling and youth aged 12 to 17 years identified 8 percent as “problem gamblers” and 15 percent who could be considered “at risk” for problem gambling. Actions taken to address gambling issues among young people include the development of curriculum materials and educational outreach for schools, recognition/referral training for educators and information resources for parents. Future plans include the development of specialized Web‑site content for youth on gambling and improved treatment tools for identifying gambling issues among youth.
Addiction issues among Alberta youth have been a long‑standing concern of AADAC and it has a history of innovative programming and support to schools, educators, parents and youth on these issues. Since 1989, AADAC and its funded agencies have offered specialized adolescent treatment services across Alberta. In 1996/97, there were 2,717 adolescent admissions, an increase from 1995/96.
In support of the major redesign of children’s services in Alberta, and the Government’s priority on children, AADAC will continue to collaborate and partner with the Department of Community Development and other ministries, regional authorities and communities to strengthen its collective efforts to support children and youth. AADAC’s activities include, for
example: coordinating Fetal Alcohol Syndrome (FAS) initiatives; partnering in the establishment of the Alberta Tobacco Reduction Alliance (ATRA), and developing renewed prevention programs that focus on resiliency and positive outcomes; and planning and delivering an international youth conference in Calgary with funding from the United Nations Drug Control Program (UNDCP).
3. Sexual exploitation and sexual abuse (Article 34)
In 1996, Alberta established the Children Involved in Prostitution Task Force with membership from government, schools, police services and community agencies. The Task Force’s report was released in 1997 with a series of recommendations.
Following from the work of the Task Force, in June, 1997, Alberta’s Child Welfare Act was amended to acknowledge that children under the age of 18 years involved in prostitution are victims of sexual abuse, and those who exploit these children are subject to being charged with the provincial offence of causing a child to be in need of protection.
Plans for 1998 include the introduction of further legislation to provide parents, police and child welfare workers with broader powers to address the problem of child prostitution. This legislation also will provide for the establishment of programs to assist children in ending their involvement in prostitution, and to prevent others from getting involved in prostitution. The Act is expected to increase penalties for placing a child in a position of needing protection or for interfering with protective services.
D. Children belonging to a minority or an indigenous group (Article 30)
The consideration of the special issues faced by aboriginal children continues to be an integral part of the work done by Government ministries. These efforts are reflected throughout this report.
The Governments of Canada and Alberta continue to work together with First Nations and Metis peoples towards their attainment of self‑government, which includes the transfer of responsibility for programs and services such as child and family services.
This will update, to August, 1998, the information contained in Saskatchewan’s contribution to Canada’s Initial Report on the Convention.
Saskatchewan’s Action Plan for Children
The Saskatchewan government’s Action Plan for Children is a broad, interdepartmental strategy to enhance the well‑being of Saskatchewan’s children. It is a policy framework and a multi‑year strategy through which community and government programs for children are
implemented. The policy framework sets forth a common vision as well as a set of shared principles and goals which focus on children in the context of their family and community. The Action Plan acknowledges the importance of strong support for children in their early years, promotes the development of prevention and early intervention services and encourages collaborative approaches between communities and government to address the needs of children.
Begun in 1993, the Action Plan represents the cooperative efforts of eight government departments and secretariats, as well as hundreds of other Saskatchewan communities, agencies and organizations. Action Plan priorities include reducing child poverty, strengthening early childhood development, supporting vulnerable children and families, and helping youth at risk. Currently, the government’s contributions to new or enhanced programs and services for children and families exceeds $53 million annually, including $18 million towards the Saskatchewan Child Benefit and the Saskatchewan Employment Supplement Programs to address child and family poverty. Recently, the Action Plan received national recognition at the “Canada’s Children ... Canada’s Future” conference in Ottawa through the presentation of the “Champion for Children” award to Premier Roy Romanow for the Province of Saskatchewan.
In 1994, the Action Plan established the Saskatchewan Council on Children. Members of the Council are volunteers from diverse service sectors and geographical areas of the province. The 25‑member Council provides a forum for discussion and advises the Government in areas of health, justice, education, recreation, housing, social services and other areas affecting the well‑being of Saskatchewan children.
The establishment of the Children’s Advocate Office, in November of 1995, was a significant step toward ensuring that children’s rights, particularly to the right to a “voice”, are more fully realized. Saskatchewan’s Children’s Advocate is an officer of the Legislative Assembly and reports directly to that body. The Office provides assistance to children under the age of 18 years in their dealings with government. The Children’s Advocate has the authority to review and investigate any matter, from any source. The Office also provides public education on the needs of children and youth, helps resolve disputes, conducts investigations and advises the government on how best to meet the needs of Saskatchewan children and youth. The full realization of rights for children is an on‑going advocacy role of the Children’s Advocate Office, and the Advocate regularly identifies for government departments and agencies specific circumstances where, in her opinion, children’s rights have been violated. Annual reports from the office are public documents and clearly reflect the rights‑based issues that the Advocate and her staff have identified. It is reflected in those annual reports that, while Saskatchewan protects children’s rights in a variety of ways, there continues to be significant work to do to ensure that all children equally enjoy the rights articulated in the Convention of the Rights of the Child.
First Nations Bands and Tribal Councils have set as a high priority the development of child and family services controlled by First Nations. The Department of Social Services has been working with First Nations to enter into agreements to delegate appropriate authorities under The Child and Family Services Act to First Nations Child and Family Service Agencies.
Article 2: Equality
In June 1998, the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission made a written submission to the Balancing Work and Family Task Force. The submission outlined the protections of The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code against discrimination on the basis of family status, and discussed the obligations of employers to accommodate their employees’ family needs.
Article 9: Child Protection
The protection of children is part of the mandate of the Department of Social Services. A new family‑centred case management approach was developed in 1992, which seeks to reduce the risk of harm to children, while building on family strengths. It requires the active involvement of the family in completing an assessment and engages them in the treatment process. Central to the model is the importance of identifying clear goals, providing time‑limited service, and conducting regular reviews to update case plans.
Article 12: Giving Children a Voice in Matters that Affect Them
The Children’s Advocate Office promotes the rights of children and young people to a “voice” in matters that affect them. In 1998, the Children’s Advocate Office sponsored a youth participation roundtable. This roundtable resulted in the formation of a provincial youth delegation which includes 25 Saskatchewan young people who actively promote increased recognition of, and respect for, children’s rights in Saskatchewan. This delegation is particularly concerned about promoting the voice of youth in decision‑making and planning.
Article 18: Parents’ Responsibilities
Parenting education is a preventive strategy that helps families nurture and care for their children. In 1997‑98, the Department of Social Services supported a range of provincial and community parenting education activities across Saskatchewan.
The Provincial Parenting Education Network is an ad hoc group of individuals, agencies and government departments interested in promoting the value of parenting, promoting positive perceptions about parenting education, and enhancing the knowledge and skills of care givers.
Parenting Education Saskatchewan, a project of Family Services Saskatchewan, provides information, support and consultation about parenting education to community members and groups. The project is jointly funded through the Departments of Social Services and Health.
The Parenting Education Saskatchewan Directory has been distributed throughout the province. The directory provides information as to where families may find parenting education programs, the types of programs that are available and the location of parenting resources. The project also supports the delivery of community‑based parenting education activities through group skills development workshops, a provincial parenting education conference and the distribution of the Parenting Education Newsletter.
The Parenting Education Program, “Nobody’s Perfect” is coordinated by the Saskatchewan Institute on Prevention of Handicaps with the support of the Department of Social Services. The program offers training and support to parents of children up to five years of age, who are young, single, socially, culturally or geographically isolated, and have low incomes. In 1997‑98, a total of 60 facilitators were trained to offer the program in communities throughout Saskatchewan.
The Teen and Young Parent program is a voluntary program targeted at young parents. The program is delivered by social workers located in regional offices and by non‑government agencies. The program encompasses four components: Pregnancy Counselling, Parenting Support, Life Skills Management, and Education Counselling and Support.
The licensed Child Day Care Program offers child care services for children who require alternate care while their parents work or study, as well as for families or children with special needs. Since 1992‑93, over $4 Million has been spent on increasing the number of licensed child care spaces available to working parents, improving the affordability of care, improving the conditions of care and the earnings of care givers, and the testing of new models of care to better meet the needs for non‑traditional work schedules.
In 1998‑99 the Department of Health is contributing $2 million through the Family Health Benefits Program to help families on social assistance enter the work force without losing child health benefits (including dental services, eyeglasses, medical supplies and appliances, prescription drugs and ambulance services) and to assist lower income working families to ensure they do not need to resort to social assistance because of their children’s health needs.
Article 20: State and Foster Care
Saskatchewan has a fully developed foster care system. Foster families are screened prior to approval through questionnaires, interviews, reference checks, and training. After approval, foster families must complete additional training. Foster homes are reviewed annually by the department.
As much as possible, children are matched with the foster family. The majority of placements in foster care are for short periods of time until it is safe for the children to return to their families. In some instances, where it is determined that the family will be unable to provide safe care, children may be made permanent or long term wards. Where adoption is not possible or appropriate, these children may remain with their foster family until they reach the age for independent living. Connections with the child’s family and cultural community are maintained as much as is appropriate and in some instances the child may be placed and supported with extended family.
Foster care families receive monthly payments to meet the basic needs of the child including food, clothing, education, recreation and other basic requirements. In addition, funding is available for the foster family, or the child, to meet any special needs the child may have.
Article 21: Adoption
The Adoption Act ensures safeguards and standards for child adoption. In April 1997, Saskatchewan ratified the Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. The Intercountry Adoption (Hague Convention) Implementation Act became effective the same date. Adoption is recognized as an alternative means of providing a permanent family for a child after all appropriate measures have been taken to ensure, if possible, that a child can remain in his or her family of origin, extended family, or be suitably cared for in their country of origin. Policy and practice are guided by the best interests of the child and recognition and respect for the rights of all the parties to an adoption. In intercountry adoption every effort is made to abide by and promote the standards and principles of the Convention regardless of whether the other country is a party to the Convention.
The Department of Social Services has entered into a bilateral agreement with an accredited Romanian adoption agency to facilitate Romanian adoptions. This Memorandum of Understanding ensures that the process contained in the Hague Convention is implemented for all adoptions facilitated under the agreement.
Article 23: Children With Disabilities
The Community Living Division of the Department of Social Services provides support to individuals of all ages with intellectual disabilities. Services centre around the family unit and its pivotal role in meeting and supporting the needs of children. The Division assists families in assessing their children’s support needs and in coordinating contact with the appropriate service providers. The Division also provides families with funding support of up to 60 days of respite per child per year. Families with children with more substantial support needs have access to services contracts for specialized services, often in partnership with health and education programs.
The Division also assists in the provision of out‑of‑home supports. In these situations, the first priority is to have the child reside in a family home environment in which the family of origin retains as much involvement as possible, given their ability and willingness to remain involved. If the child’s needs dictate that specialized medical care is required, community‑based residential programs are considered while attempting to encourage and retain a strong tie to the family.
The Community Living Division promotes early intervention by providing grants to 16 non‑profit Early Childhood Intervention programs that operate throughout the province. These programs address the developmental needs of children with developmental challenges by providing in‑home support and training to parents.
The Division works with a number of organizations that advance the training and support needs and human rights issues of persons with intellectual challenges. These organizations include: the National Association of Dual Diagnosis, the Roeher Institute of Toronto, and the Saskatchewan and Canadian Associations of Community Living.
School boards are required to provide students with disabilities with appropriate special education programs and services without cost to those pupils or their parents or guardians. In keeping with the philosophy to enable students with disabilities to function in the regular classroom as much as possible, school divisions provide a range of programming and services for students depending on their individual needs. The Government assists school boards with the additional expense of educating students with disabilities by providing conditional funding specifically intended to meet the goals of access to the curriculum and appropriate programs.
Article 24: Health
The Department of Health funds specialized projects that address children’s needs: annual core funding to health districts, which allocate funds to services such as immunization clinics; support to independent agencies such as the Saskatchewan Institute for the Prevention of Handicaps; payment of physician services used by children and parents; and payment of prescription drug costs incurred in the health care of children.
The Department of Health funds and otherwise assists several programs initiated by the Action Plan for Children, including the Prevention and Support Grants Program, the Family Health Benefits Program, the Early Skills Development Program, the Successful Mothers Support Program, the Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Strategy, the Hepatitis A Immunization Program, the Coordinated Behaviour Management Initiative, the Provincial Parenting Education Project, the Enhanced Measles Immunization Program, the Treatment Services for Adolescent Offenders Pilot Project, Health Improvement Initiatives, integrated school‑linked services to children at risk of failure in school or life, youth wellness centre projects, and community‑based youth gambling prevention and education initiatives.
In 1997‑98, the Department of Health assisted the Saskatchewan Institute on Prevention of Handicaps in producing and distributing Critical Issues in Health for Saskatchewan Children, a two‑part report on challenges to the health of children - one part covering birth to age 9, and another from 10 to 19 years of age. The documents provide valuable information for First Nation, Metis and non‑aboriginal communities to prevent hospitalizations and deaths and to promote the health and well‑being of Saskatchewan children.
Health education is provided in Saskatchewan schools to students from kindergarten to grade 12, with the goal of allowing students to acquire and evaluate health‑related information, to make and apply decisions to improve their own physical, mental and social well‑being and that of their peers, families and communities. Services such as immunization, screening, assessment, emergency services and counselling are also provided.
The provincial Department of Environment and Resource Management is responsible for monitoring all municipal water treatment systems, and all private systems over a certain size. Water samples from many swimming areas, such as public beaches, are also analysed. If results indicate a health problem, the Health Department and the appropriate local authorities are notified. Similarly, air quality in the 2 major cities is continually monitored. Industries monitor
and submit reports of their operations and the possible impacts on the environment. The effects of hazardous spills on air, water and land are also monitored. Canada‑wide standards are used as a guide to the provincial assessment of air and water quality. Standards take into consideration the health of people and of other ecosystem components.
Article 26: Social Assistance
Saskatchewan has taken a leadership role in the development of a National Child Benefit program to reduce child poverty and encourage participation of parents in the labour market. Income security programs have been restructured to reduce barriers to leaving assistance and increasing incentives for low income parents to work. Through the Building Independence ‑ Investing in Families initiative, the government provides opportunities and assistance to vulnerable families to help them remain independent or to leave social assistance.
Three new programs were introduced in 1998 to build on existing programs. The Saskatchewan Child Benefit provides a monthly allowance to assist lower income families with the cost of raising children. The Saskatchewan Employment Supplement is a monthly payment which supplements income earned by lower income parents from wages, self employment, and child/spousal maintenance to assist with the child‑related costs of working. Family Health Benefits are provided to lower income families to ensure they do not fall onto social assistance because of the health needs of their children.
Saskatchewan has implemented changes to student financial assistance programs, in response to the National Child Benefit initiative. Both the Student Loans program and the Provincial Training Allowance have introduced adjustment policies and processes to accommodate students who, for whatever reason, may not be in receipt of an appropriate level of child benefit payment.
Article 27: Standard of Living
The Child Nutrition and Development Program responds to the issue of child hunger and poverty within the province. It emphasizes a preventative approach by encouraging communities to find local solutions to local problems. In 1997‑98, funding for the Child Nutrition and Development Program supported 49 agencies and school divisions throughout the province, including 25 new programs. The budget for the program increased to $1.2 million beginning in 1997‑98. An additional one‑time allocation of $500,000 was made available to support self‑sufficiency projects as part of the transition package to the National Child Benefit. Projects include child feeding programs, community nutrition projects, youth and family support projects, and self‑sufficiency projects.
In 1994‑95, $250,000 was provided to Legal Aid to assist low income people in family law matters including obtaining child maintenance payments. That amount was raised in 1997 to $500,000 annually. In Saskatchewan, more than half of all single parent families qualify for welfare at some point in a given year. Fewer than 25 percent of single parents on welfare receive maintenance. The Saskatchewan Employment Supplement provides a financial incentive for single parents to acquire or increase maintenance income to better meet the needs of their children.
Articles 28 and 29: Education
The Saskatchewan Human Rights Code states that every person shall enjoy the right to education in any school, college, university or other place of learning without discrimination because of race, creed, religion, colour, sex, sexual orientation, family status, marital status, disability, nationality, ancestry, place of origin or receipt of public assistance.
The development of the child’s full potential is the goal of Saskatchewan’s Core Curriculum. In addition to the specific areas of study, a major component of the Core is the “Common Essential Learnings”, which emphasizes general skills, values and attitudes in all areas of endeavour. The Common Essential Learnings include communication, numeracy, technological knowledge, independent learning, personal and social values and skills, and creative and critical thinking.
Curriculum renewal is currently being undertaken in the Practical and Applied Arts area to ensure that the basic education available to all Saskatchewan students includes practical and applied learning opportunities.
Career guidance information and counselling is available in all Saskatchewan schools. Career guidance materials produced by a variety of organizations are regularly distributed to high schools. As well, a computerized information system, developed for use in student counselling, is available to schools and school divisions.
Saskatchewan’s post‑secondary education and training system is developing in response to new skill requirements by employers and the trend for jobs to require higher education, specialized qualifications, and knowledge. A new training strategy is being implemented that provides Saskatchewan people with quality training opportunities which respond to their needs and those of the labour market. The apprenticeship training system is being reviewed and re‑designed. The province is in the process of developing an integrated, coordinated approach to providing employment services to help people connect, or re‑connect, to the labour market.
Governments, training institutions, industry and the community are working together to better coordinate labour market and training services to ensure youth have access to the education and training they require for employment. In addition, new training and employment initiatives are available for youth who face significant barriers to training and employment, including Aboriginal youth, to help them develop the skills they require to participate in the workforce.
The Provincial Training Allowance, grants, bursaries and loans provide financial support for students who face financial barriers that prevent them from accessing post‑secondary education and labour market services.
Saskatchewan has implemented a Youth Futures pilot program to provide career, employment and training services for youth on social assistance to help them develop the skills necessary to obtain employment. Options to expand the program are being developed.
The Youth Employment Action Plan focuses on labour market, education and economic issues facing youth. A toll‑free telephone hot‑line career information service is now in service.
Saskatchewan is in the process of implementing the Saskatchewan Training Strategy and the Canada‑Saskatchewan Labour Market Development Agreement. Both the Training Strategy and the Agreement place high priority on making timely, relevant career and employment information services available and accessible to the public.
Initiatives to encourage students to stay in school are under way, on a provincial level and in cooperation with the federal government and other initiatives. The Department of Education recognizes that children who are not attending school often have a complex range of needs and problems and actively works with other government agencies and community organizations to address these challenges. The Community Schools Program and the Indian and Métis Education Development Program support school divisions to improve retention and completion rates for Aboriginal and northern students.
The Education Act requires that school divisions develop policies regarding discipline within their schools. Schools teach students to respect themselves and others and this reinforces non‑violent behaviour initiatives. Although corporal punishment is not prohibited by law, school divisions are encouraged to eliminate or minimize its use. Many school divisions have already discontinued corporal punishment in their student discipline policies and practices.
To promote and encourage national and international cooperation to facilitate access to knowledge, Saskatchewan’s Core Curriculum has been provided on the Internet. This service increases the availability of quality curriculum documents to educators and students around the world.
The Community Schools Program funds 26 inner‑city schools throughout the province and emphasizes a comprehensive, holistic approach to educating children at risk. The focus is on a relevant learning program, parent and community involvement, the integration of support services, and community development. A Pre‑Kindergarten Program for three and four year old children has been established in Community Schools to emphasize prevention and early intervention. Research and experience demonstrate that intervention in the first years of life can provide a solid foundation and reduce the likelihood of educational problems arising later.
The Northern Community School Program is in the developmental phase. Prekindergarten programming is a part of it. Schools participating as development sites focus on a culturally‑affirming learning program, enhancing family and community involvement, integrating services and community development.
The Department of Education currently has a number of initiatives in place to address the needs of Indian and Métis students and improve student success. These include aboriginal Teacher Education Programs, a major curriculum overhaul to incorporate Indian and Métis content in curriculum, in‑service education to assist teachers to teach Aboriginal curriculum
content, Community School and Early Intervention Prekindergarten Programs and the Indian and Métis Education Development Program, which funds locally developed and collaborative solutions to assist students in their learning.
Saskatchewan is working with the federal, First Nations and Métis governments to develop and coordinate specific initiatives for Aboriginal youth within the Youth Employment Action Plan, the Urban Aboriginal Strategy and the Bilateral Agreement on Youth Programming. The province is also working with First Nations and Métis post‑secondary education institutions to strengthen and support their role in delivering education and training to students, especially youth.
Integrated School‑Linked Services is a major initiative that addresses the growing number of children coming to school with complex social, emotional, health and developmental problems that make it difficult for children to do well in school and in life. Integrated School‑Linked Services uses a holistic, inter‑agency approach that brings schools, families, human service agencies and communities together to improve and integrate services for school‑aged children, youth and their families.
Saskatchewan is taking a collaborative and community‑based approach to education equity intended to ensure that all people have equitable opportunity and benefit within our education system. Since 1994, the Equity in Education Forum, a provincial coordinating body of educational partners, has been working to develop a shared policy framework on equity in education. As of March 31, 1998, there were 18 K‑12 education equity plans approved and monitored by the Saskatchewan Human Rights Commission.
To date, education equity plans at the K‑12 level have been designed to meet the needs of Aboriginal students only. In its 1997 monitoring of education equity plans, the Commission urged school divisions with approved plans to build on what they have already accomplished by expanding their equity programs to include all children.
The Department of Environment and Resource Management provides educational material on ecosystem‑related topics, such as fish, birds, wildlife and forests. “Wildlife in your Backyard” and “Helping the Environment” are materials that are distributed on request to school teachers and school libraries. Presentations to classrooms and youth groups are provided on wildlife, habitat, and forests. The “Clean Cat” mascot travels to schools to inform students and teachers about the 4 R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle, recover).
Article 31: Recreation and Leisure
Net profits from the sale of lottery tickets by the Western Canada Lottery Corporation are transferred to a trust, which distributes those monies to sporting, cultural and recreational groups. The goals of the trust fund include providing accessible and equitable program opportunities, particularly for vulnerable children, youth and families, Aboriginal persons, residents of northern Saskatchewan, older adults, women and disabled persons.
Revenue permitting, Sask Sport Inc., Sask. Culture and the Saskatchewan Parks and Recreation Association work to address priorities that include the development of community youth centres, and enhancement of northern community school programming, enhanced multicultural funding, team development and high performance training for the Canada Games being hosted in Saskatchewan in 2005.
Saskatchewan’s park system is made up of 34 provincial parks, including 4 wilderness, 10 recreation, 11 natural environment and 9 historic parks, plus an additional 137 recreation sites, 8 historic sites and 23 protected areas. Park entry fees and camping fees are kept as low as reasonably possible. Student and youth groups, families and individuals participate in park programs and use self‑guided interpretive trails, auto tours and interpretive displays. Programs in natural environment and recreational parks range from water safety demonstrations and guided nature hikes to evening campfire presentations. Cultural educational programs are also offered in some parks, including partnering with local Aboriginal groups to provide cultural awareness.
Article 34: Protection from Sexual Exploitation
The Departments of Social Services and Justice are leading a strategy to address the issue of children and youth involved in prostitution. Integral to the strategy is a commitment to working with communities as they identify their needs in their approach to this complex problem.
The strategy includes the following 5 points: a public information campaign with the message that child prostitution is child abuse, a strict law enforcement policy aimed at those who sexually exploit children, targeted outreach services through community agencies to connect with and serve children involved in prostitution, creation of a tracking and monitoring system to enhance the detection and prosecution of perpetrators and to facilitate services to victims within Saskatchewan and across the country, and a review of existing provincial and federal laws to ensure they assist and do not set up unreasonable barriers to the successful prosecution of those who sexually exploit children or to the delivery of services for children and youth involved in prostitution. Funds have been allocated to jointly support community‑led initiatives as they have been developed.
Articles 37 and 40: Young Offenders
Young offenders in open custody may be placed in the Community Homes Program, located throughout the province to provide care and custody services for youth who would otherwise be placed in custody facilities. This program allows the youth to remain closer to home, have access to community‑based services and schools, and benefit from the relationships and activities of a healthy family environment. This program is currently under review so as to ensure appropriate placement of youth and the safety of the community.
The Paul Dojack Youth Centre is offering a specialized sex‑offender treatment program to youth sentenced to closed custody. A psychologist has been added to the facility. Other provincial facilities have access to psychologists through connections with health district human
services personnel. Ongoing efforts are being made to ensure that custody youth have support services available to them through their community health districts upon their release. The use of community‑based health services is incorporated in the case plan developed when a youth is sentenced to custody.
Saskatchewan has emphasized approaches to hold young offenders accountable that reduce the system’s reliance on the use of custody. Emphasis has been placed on the introduction of child welfare programs that are accessible to young offenders such as the Support Services Program to 16 and 17 year‑old youth and the interdepartmental Strategy on Child Prostitution.
Within the context of young offender programs the Department of Social Services provides community‑based services such as Alternative Measures, Pre‑Disposition Services, Judicial Interim Release Services, Probation, Intensive Community‑Based Services, Intensive Supervision and Support, and Day Programs. Emphasis has been placed on the delivery of alternative measures by First Nations and Métis agencies. Plans to introduce and support Community Justice Committees are underway.
Where alcohol or drugs have been a significant factor in the commission of an offense by a sentenced youth, an assessment of dependency on alcohol and drugs is offered. Services within the custody facility with community‑based addictions personnel are provided.
Officials responsible for custody facilities continue consultations with First Nations and Métis communities to develop and implement culturally sensitive programs in addition to the current services offered to young offenders. In August of 1997, a standards development process was implemented for the Young Offender Program relating to custody facilities. Standards are to be congruent with the United Nation Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty.
Youth are protected by policy that provides for limited and monitored use of physical restraints and confinement and the behaviour management techniques that are congruent with the Saskatchewan Youth Model of custody. Under the Model, improved case management practices and the hiring of human service personnel knowledgeable in youth developmental and rehabilitative needs help to ensure that youth are treated with humanity and dignity, in a manner which takes into account the needs of persons of their age. Youth are kept separate from adults and communication with family is assured. The policy is scrutinized by the Children’s Advocate, youth workers and a newly initiated self‑evaluation process.
To ensure youth have prompt access to legal and other appropriate assistance, staff of the Young Offenders Program inform youth of their rights, assist youth to complete contacts within reasonable time frames, and post information for young offenders about the services of Legal Aid and the Children’s Advocate.
Article 42: Dissemination
Since its inception in 1994, the Office of the Children’s Advocate has been publishing brochures summarizing the rights of the child as declared in the Convention as well as offering copies of the Convention itself to the public. In addition, the Children’s Advocate and her staff speak, on average, to 70 community groups each year. Children’s rights are an integral component of these presentations.
This report is intended to update the information provided in Manitoba’s 1st Report through to September, 1999.
General Measures of Implementation
The Manitoba government continues the province‑wide commitment to children, youth and their families. In keeping with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, Manitoba children and youth will have first call on resources they need to develop into productive and healthy adults. As part of its commitment, the government has given the Manitoba Children & Youth Secretariat the mandate to coordinate the implementation of the CHILDRENFIRST strategy. The Secretariat works across government sectors to co‑ordinate services and facilitate change in the current service delivery system.
There are 4 major areas of policy direction in the CHILDRENFIRST plan:
providing a good start by focusing on the early years of a child’s life;
strengthening families and communities;
recognizing and respecting Aboriginal culture; and
reducing barriers to co‑ordinated outcome‑based services for children and youth.
The Children & Youth Secretariat develops joint working arrangements among government, non‑government organizations, agencies, community and private sector interest groups. Amongst its current initiatives are:
BabyFirst, which addresses the needs of families and children who are at risk (conception to 3 years old) through home visitors promoting positive parenting in the prevention of child abuse and neglect. It is based on the highly successful Hawaii Healthy Start Program and is delivered through Regional Health Authorities throughout the Province.
Early Start, which provides focused early intervention with children aged 2‑5 years to increase school readiness and decrease the need for costly education/health/social services intervention in the future. It is modeled on the Perry Preschool and Head Start best practice models and is delivered through child care centres.
Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Strategy, which includes short and longer‑term initiatives designed to reduce the number of children born who are affected by FAS/FAE and to assist care‑givers and service providers of FAS/FAE affected children and youth. A partnership has been formed with the other prairie provinces and northern territories to join forces on this issue.
The Children & Youth Secretariat evaluates all their initiatives within the context of four inter‑dependent outcomes: healthy child development, secure attachments and identity, learning readiness across the lifespan, and social engagement and competences. These outcomes are consistent with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and are fundamental to building capacity and resilience for children, youth, families and community.
In addition, the Office of the Children’s Advocate, which had been created in 1992, has been significantly changed and enhanced. On 17 February, 1999, it became an independent office of the Manitoba Legislative Assembly. As such, it is now independent from the executive arm of government. Although it is still mandated under the Child and Family Services Act, it also holds responsibility under the province’s new Adoptions Act. The role of the Children’s Advocate is to:
1.advise the Minister (Family Services & Housing) on matters relative to welfare and interests of children who receive or are entitled to receive services under both Acts, and the services provided and available under both Acts;
2.in response to a complaint, act as an advocate to represent, other than as legal counsel, the rights, interests and viewpoints of children receiving or entitled to receive services under the Child and Family Services Act and Adoptions Act;
3.accept, review and investigate complaints made by children on their behalf regarding services received or relating to services provided or available under both Acts;
4.provide reports with respect to matters investigated and provide recommendations to address the needs of children, as the Advocate deems appropriate;
5.accept referrals from the Minister and/or the Standing Committee of the Assembly on Privileges and Elections to review, investigate or report on matters relating to the welfare and interests of children receiving or who are entitled to receive services and in relation to services provided or available under the Child and Family Services Act, and to report back as the Advocate deems appropriate, subject to any special direction of the referral source;
6.prepares and submits an annual report to the Speaker of the Assembly respecting the performance and duties and the exercise of the powers of the Children’s Advocate;
7.the Office of the Children’s Advocate is mandated to provide services to children (ages 0‑18) across the entire Province;
8.while not specified within the legislation, there are other implicit activities of the Advocate. These include empowering children by sharing information about how the system operates; supporting and enabling children to speak for themselves; educating children and others regarding the rights and entitlements of children under the relevant Manitoba legislation and under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child; promoting self and natural advocacy for both children, their families and communities; reviewing and assessing potential and real impacts of existing or proposed legislation and policies; providing information and referral services on matters that are not within the scope of the Children’s Advocate’s mandate; developing effective partnerships with child, youth and their families and community agencies and organizations;
9.in May, 1999, additional resources were provided by the Legislative Assembly to expand the office of the Children’s Advocate. It now includes the provincial Children’s Advocate, four line Advocates and two support staff.
Article 2: Non‑Discrimination
Manitoba Education and Training strengthened its efforts to deal with issues of discrimination within the educational system and the school curriculum by making a commitment in 1995 to develop curriculum that is inclusive and challenges racism and discrimination directly. In the policy document, A Foundation for Excellence (1995), it made a commitment that all new curricula developed or approved by Manitoba Education and Training would need to be developed from an anti‑racism and anti‑bias perspective and be gender‑fair. Similarly, learning resources reviews for curricula will ensure that resources are screened for biases and stereotypes.
Schools are supported in their efforts to implement anti‑racism/anti‑bias policies and practices by the provision of a Multi cultural Education Specialist who is available to work the school division and school teams to develop effective strategies, plan for and implement anti‑racism/anti‑bias education.
Articles 3, 6, 9 and 12: Best Interests of the Child, the Right to Life,
Survival and Development and Respect for the Views of the Child
The best interests of the child is a governing principle in determining custody of, and access to children pursuant to Manitoba’s Family Maintenance Act.
When ordered to do so by the Court, Family Conciliation (within Manitoba’s Department of Family Services) has family evaluators prepare custody and access assessment reports.
Through these reports, which make recommendations as to the custody or access arrangements the evaluator feels are in the child’s best interests, the views of the child can be expressed to the Court.
In addition, Legal Aid Manitoba has agreed, at least in the short term, with the Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division) to cover the cost of appointment of legal counsel as amicus curiae (to advise of the judge as a friend of the Court, in private custody and access disputes). Depending on the role played by the amicus in a given case, the views of the child may or may not be expressed to the Court.
Legal Aid Manitoba has designated a Child Protection Office with three lawyers and a paralegal operating almost exclusively within the realm of child welfare legislation. It is this office which now devotes a significant portion of the time of one lawyer to the amicus role identified above. The number of amicus representations paid for by Legal Aid Manitoba has increased rapidly, and Legal Aid Manitoba is proposing that a cross‑system committee be struck consisting of the private bar, the judiciary, staff lawyers and child welfare workers to establish protocols and standards for amicus representation.
Civil rights and freedoms
Articles 12‑14: The Child’s Opinion, Freedom of Expression,
Freedom of Thought, Conscience and Religion
The child’s right to self expression is celebrated in Manitoba’s education curriculum especially with respect to English Language Arts. The first general student learning outcome of the new curricula (Kindergarten to Senior 4) is: “students will listen, read, write, view and represent to explore thoughts, ideas, feelings and experiences.”
Amendments have been made to regulations regarding religious exercises and observances in school to ensure that public schools respect students’ rights with respect to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.
Guidelines regarding the treatment of controversial subjects in school curricula and classrooms ensure that all aspects and perspectives of a particular issue or event are presented and explored.
Article 16: Protection of Privacy
As previously stated, health records, adoption records and school records are confidential documents and access to them is limited. The relevant legislation is now The Privacy Act, The Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act, The Personal Health Information Act, The Child and Family Services Act, The Adoption Act and The Public Schools Act.
Manitoba Education and Training reviews on a periodic basis its policies and procedures regarding student files and data to ensure they conform to legislation protecting a children’s right to privacy.
Article 17: Access to Appropriate Information
Family conciliation, through Manitoba’s Department of Family Services, offers a free children’s program to help children between ages 8 and 12 cope with separation or divorce.
The Manitoba Department of Justice publishes community legal education materials, including a free booklet entitled Family Law in Manitoba, 1999.
Manitoba Education encourages the implementation of teaching approaches and the provision of learning experiences that expose students to a variety of resources. “Resource‑based” education approaches stress the use of a variety of media. In addition, access to and the appropriate use of technology in the classroom is a priority in Manitoba. Additional resources have been put into the educational system over a number of years to assist schools in ensuring all students in the province have an adequate access to technology and that technology education is an important component of all subject area experiences. The support ranges from additional funding for the wiring of schools to pilot projects in computer‑guided instruction.
Manitoba’s commitment to develop curricula that is more inclusive recognizes that students need to become more aware and appreciative of all aspects of human diversity. In addition to its policy on multi cultural education (1992), it made a commitment in the 1995 A Foundation for Excellence document to develop new curricula through a multi cultural “lens” that emphasizes the portrayal of human diversity and perspectives in the curricula. This is especially true of the English Language Arts curricula being implemented and the Social Studies curricula currently under development.
The importance of media literacy is recognized by Manitoba Education and Training. For example, general outcome 2 of the English Language Arts curricula is “students will listen, speak, read, write, view and represent to comprehend and respond personally and critically to oral, literary and media texts”. Through Manitoba’s learning resources reviews, the Instructional Resource Unit, and the Manitoba Textbook Bureau a variety of initiatives seek to ensure that students and teachers have access to current and appropriate resources drawn from a broad‑cross section of national and international publishers.
Family environment and Alternative Care
Article 19: Protection from Abuse and Neglect
Teachers are required to report any cases of suspected abuse or neglect of children by staff, parents or other care givers. Initiatives have also been undertaken to assist schools in developing policies and practices dealing with violence, such as non‑violent conflict intervention strategies. From 1994‑1998, Manitoba Education and Training provided the services of a Violence‑Prevention Specialist that worked with schools developing violence prevention programs and strategies and assisted in the professional development of school teams.
Article 21: Adoption
In addition to the provisions previously referenced in The Child and Family Services Act, Manitoba has now enacted The Adoption Act. Introduced in 1999, the purpose of the new Act is to provide new and permanent family ties through adoption, giving paramount consideration in every respect to the child’s best interests. Both agency and non‑agency adoption are based on the best interests test and must be according to criteria and procedures set out in legislation and policy. The same criteria and procedures also apply to inter‑country adoption where applicable or enforceable.
Manitoba has recognized through legislation such as The Adoption Act, and through administrative standards, the right of Aboriginal children to be placed with extended family and in communities of origin where these are in the best interests of the child. Priority has been given in legislation to placing Manitoba children for adoption in Manitoba. Manitoba also strongly supports The Hague Convention on Inter ‑Country Adoption.
Manitoba’s Department of Family Services offers a free parent education program, For the Sake of the Children, focusing on child‑related issues at the time of separation and divorce. The program consists of 2 three‑hour seminars. Material covered includes new partner issues, communications between parents, communications with children and the effect of conflict on children. As well, legal and economic material is covered. The program aims to help parents and their children cope with the impact of separation and divorce.
Basic health and welfare
Articles 6, 24 and 27: Survival and Development, Standard of Living
On June 1, 1998, amendments and a Regulation to The Family Maintenance Act came into force establishing a Child Support Guideline system for determining the quantum of child support. The Guidelines are aimed at ensuring that support orders are predictable and reasonable in light of the supporting parents’ financial circumstances.
Significant amendments have been made to the portions of The Family Maintenance Act governing Manitoba’s Maintenance Enforcement Program’s operation. New maintenance enforcement mechanisms include the ability to suspend a defaulting payor’s driver’s license privileges, increased periods of incarceration and fines for maintenance payment default, reporting defaulting creditors to the Credit Bureau, increased ability to garnish funds owing to a defaulting payor and the ability to garnish pension benefits’ credits. There have also been computer and other system enhancements to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the Maintenance Enforcement Program in collecting child and spousal support.
October 27, 1999, a new Mental Health Act was proclaimed. Section 2 provides that in the absence of evidence to the contrary, a person shall be presumed to be mentally competent to make medical treatment decisions and to consent to treatment for the purposes of The Mental Health Act (which deals with treatment in psychiatric facilities) if the person is 16 years of age or older, rather than the age of majority.
Article 18, Para 3: Child Care and Health Care Services and Facilities
Manitoba’s licensed child care system has expanded since the legislation was enacted in 1983. Between 1994/95 and 1998/99 actual expenditures have increased approximately 20 percent. The number of licensed spaces has increased from 18,886 in 1994/95 to 21,369 in 1998/99. As of March 31, 1999, there were 522 day‑care centres with 17,729 spaces plus 544 family day‑care homes with 3,646 spaces.
Article 23: Disabled Children
Special funding is provided to support educational programming of children with special needs. Schools are required to ensure that individual or personal educational plans are developed and implemented in a collaborative process that respects the rights of the parents and of children. Inclusive educational practices are favoured that ensure the access of all children to adequate public education facilities and programming. Specialized supports are provided for blind and hard of hearing children for material development and other services. Manitoba Education and Training operates the Manitoba School for the Deaf for parents and children that prefer that form of programming and learning environment.
In an effort to improve its educational policies and practices for special needs education, the Manitoba Special Education Review was announced in 1995 and the external reviewers published their final report in December of 1998. The report has been broadly disseminated in the educational system. The Minister of Education has made a commitment to implement the cost‑neutral recommendations immediately, and to consider and respond to other recommendations over time.
A variety of other initiatives and supports are provided for in the educational system that respond to the needs of diverse children. These range from the provision of speech‑language pathologists and specialist clinicians to funding support for programming for emotional and behaviourial disorders in classroom‑based initiatives such as Success for All Learners (1996). Success for All Learners is an initiative intended to assist teachers in identifying and implementing teaching strategies and approaches that respond to the diversity of learners in classrooms and their needs. Differentiated instruction ensures that classrooms are more welcoming of student diversity.
Manitoba recognizes the need for a centralized unified intake system for diagnosis and referral so that high quality initial assessments can be done.
Article 26: Social Security
Under the authority of The Employment and Income Assistance Act people in financial need in Manitoba are provided with those things and services that are essential to health and well‑being, including a basic living allowance for shelter, essential health services, and a funeral upon death. The Act and Regulation specify the test for financial need and set out the rights and obligations of applicants and recipients. The assistance programs are delivered by the
Government of Manitoba, as well as municipalities outside the City of Winnipeg, according to the terms set out in the legislation. In total, the Government of Manitoba and the municipalities spent approximately $328.7 million in assistance costs provided to 36,850 families including 28,285 children in 1998/99. This is down from 1994/95 when Manitoba and the municipalities spent approximately $372 million serving 48,169 families including 31,872 children.
The Social Services Administration Act provides authority for the Child‑Related Income Supplement Program. This Program provides for supplemental financial assistance for the cost of raising children to working families. This Program is administered by the Government of Manitoba and served 1,888 families, including 4,006 children at a cost of $1.4 million in 1998/99. In 1994/95, this program served 6,526 families, including 14,699 children, at a cost of $5 million.
Education, Leisure and Cultural Activities
Articles 28 and 29: Education, Aims of Education, etc.
While Manitoba’s public education system is committed to ensuring equality of access and opportunity for quality education for all learners, there is recognition that certain groups of children face systemic barriers or require specific interventions to ensure equity (also note response to Article 23). In that light, Manitoba Education and Training has developed and is implementing a special initiative, Aboriginal Education and Training Strategy (1998), which is intended to improve the graduation rates of Aboriginal students and to ensure their full participation and representation in the workplace and in post‑secondary education and training. The Native Education Directorate, formed in 1998, plays an important role in co‑ordinating this initiative as well as in the general policy development and implementation activities of the Department.
In 1995, Manitoba made a commitment to make a curriculum more inclusive in the previously mentioned document, A Foundation for Excellence. Part of that commitment was to make all provincial curriculum reflective of Aboriginal perspectives and experiences for the benefit of all children. In addition, specific teacher support documents have been developed to assist teachers in integrating Aboriginal perspectives. A series of curriculum support documents on native students (K‑4, 5‑8 and Senior 1‑4) have been developed by a team of Aboriginal educators and distributed to all schools in the province. A new project is underway that seeks to develop a specific conceptual framework and approach to integrating Aboriginal perspectives that will guide Department staff and resource people in curriculum development and implementation‑related activities. Finally, Manitoba has participated in a Western Canadian Protocol initiative to develop a Common Curriculum Framework for Aboriginal Languages and Cultures. This Framework will provide a common basis for developing a new curricula for Aboriginal languages and cultures by the ministry or at the local level.
Manitoba was one of the first provinces to embrace a multi cultural education approach and to develop a formal policy on multi cultural education (see Article 2). While English and
French are the official languages of instruction, provisions have been made to provide for instructions in Heritage/International languages, including bilingual programming (German‑English, Hebrew‑English and Ukrainian‑English). The Heritage Language Support Grant provides, on an annual basis, additional support for the purchasing of learning resources or other programming elements. Courses or programming in Aboriginal languages in the public schools are also eligible for this support. Under the Special Language Credit Option, students are able to challenge for Senior Years Credits for proficiency in a heritage or international language. Each year, students are successful in obtaining credits in over 50 different languages, including several Aboriginal languages. English as a Second Language support is available for newcomers to Manitoba or for Canadian citizens whose primary language is not English, including children in Hutterian schools. Each year, approximately 1,400 to 1,800 students are eligible for support. In 1996, changes were introduced to the Senior Years (secondary or high schools) program that provides teachers greater flexibility in adapting provincial curricula for ESL purposes and allowing students to obtain Senior Years credits (ESL or “E” designated courses). A number of supports exist within Manitoba Education and Training for French language education and training. There are parallel structures in the Department which provide for policy development, curriculum development and implementation, and other school programming activities. The Division Scolaire Franco‑Manitobaine, a school division that encompasses all French schools in the province, was established in 1996.
Manitoba also recognizes that there is a need to combine economic and non‑economic strategies to address the issue of children living in poverty.
Special Protection Measures
Article 30: Children Belonging to a Minority or an Indigenous Group
Ongoing issues in the delivery of Aboriginal Child and Family Services include the governance of First Nations agencies, services to status Indians off reserve, services to non‑status Indians and Metis, and services to Aboriginal children in urban settings. There continues to be a disproportionate number of Aboriginal children receiving services or in the care of agencies. Anecdotal estimates are that 49.7 percent of Manitobans served by Child and Family Services agencies are aboriginal.
Articles 31 and 33: Leisure, Recreation and Cultural Activities, and Drug Abuse
A new curriculum is being developed for Physical Education and Health that emphasizes lifelong learning and the development of healthy lifestyles. Dance and other elements of the arts are incorporated into the curriculum. Physical Education is a compulsory subject for all children from Kindergarten through Senior 2 (Grade 10). Issues relating to sexuality, drug abuse and other addictions, and other aspects of the general health and well‑being of students are explored in the curriculum.
The Arts are an integral part of the school curriculum and compulsory until Grade 8.
Article 34: Sexual Exploitation and Sexual Abuse
In 1996, amendments to Manitoba’s provincial legislation were passed to further strengthen and clarify provisions relating to the reporting and investigation of child abuse cases. In 1999, a number of changes were introduced to The Child and Family Services Act to enhance the protection and investigation functions.
Article 35: Sale Trafficking and Abduction
The Child Custody Enforcement Act implements The Hague Convention on Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction and provides civil means by which to enforce custody or access rights, and to prevent or remedy a child abduction situation.
The Hague Convention on the Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter ‑Country Adoption became law in Manitoba on April 1, 1997, being implemented through the Inter ‑Country Adoption (Hague Convention) Act. Within the Court of Queen’s Bench (Family Division), a case management pilot project commenced in 1995. Under this program, new separation and divorce cases are randomly selected each month to be managed and expedited through the justice system to reduce unnecessary delay and expense by promoting early and fair settlements.
Family conciliation, within the Department of Family Services, offers free mediation services to parents and others regarding child custody and child access issues.
The Domestic Violence and Stalking Prevention, Protection and Compensation Act came into force on September 30, 1999. It provides persons subjected to stalking and domestic violence with the ability to seek a wide range of civil remedies to address their individual needs. Persons can apply for orders of protection on behalf of a minor (or mentally incompetent individual) who is being stalked or subjected to domestic violence. The Act creates 2 different types of orders: Protection Orders, obtained from a designated Justice of the Peace of the Provincial Court of Manitoba, and Prevention Orders, obtained from the Court of Queen’s Bench.
The following is an update to Ontario’s First Report on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. This report covers the period from January 1993 to December 1997.
Children are a priority for this government. In 1997, for the first time, the government appointed a Minister Responsible for Children and established a Children’s Secretariat. The Minister is an advocate, advisor and “voice” for Ontario’s children. With the assistance of the
Secretariat, the Minister assesses the effects of current and new government policy on children and promotes a co‑ordinated approach to policy/program planning and service delivery for children and families.
In 1997, the government established the Office of Integrated Services for Children, which has as its purpose the design and implementation of strategies for the integration of service delivery for children and families at risk.
Ontario has taken a number of steps to promote the health, protection and education of children, including the following:
The government undertook a comprehensive reform of Ontario’s child protection system to ensure that the best interests of children come first. Reforms included amendments to the Child and Family Services Act to provide stronger tools for the courts, professionals and front‑line workers to do their jobs; and a new approach to funding children’s aid societies that better reflects workload and service needs.
The mandatory Healthy Babies Healthy Children program was launched in 1997 as part of the Province’s commitment to healthy child development and to developing an integrated system of effective services for families and young children. The funding provides prenatal and universal screening at birth and universal postpartum follow up within 48 hours by Public Health Nurses with the offer of a home visit. Information and support for healthy child development are provided at birth and through the early years with screening available for children 18 months to 3 years. Families are linked to community services and for those requiring additional supports, home visiting and service coordination are provided.
Definition of a child
Minimum age requirements are maintained in certain areas to protect children from harm or abuse. These areas include driving, purchasing alcohol and tobacco, admission to adult entertainment facilities, purchasing or using a weapon, the age of consent and the legal working age.
Non‑discrimination (Article 2)
The Ontario Human Rights Code protects children from discrimination because of race, ancestry, and place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, family status or handicap. A special provision protects 16 and 17 year olds from discrimination in seeking accommodation if they have withdrawn from parental control.
In accordance with subsection 2 of Article 2, the Code protects against discrimination because of a relationship with a person or persons identified by a prohibited ground of discrimination. This would include a child’s parents, legal guardians or family members.
Best interests of the child (Article 3)
The Revised Standards for Investigation and Management of Child Abuse Cases (described in paragraph 696 of the First Report) were revised to include all child protection cases. These standards provide direction to Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario. These authorities are also required to use a new standardized Risk Assessment Model.
The Ministry of Education developed a Violence Free Schools Policy (1994), which requires schools to work towards ensuring that the school environment is physically and socially safe, and that achievement and wellness are fostered for all students.
Right to life, survival and development (Article 6)
Respect for views of the child (Article 12)
The Office of the Chief Coroner has established the Pediatric Review Committee to monitor the deaths of children where there are questions regarding possible criminal activity or the quality of medical or life care received.
The Health Care Consent Act, 1996 (replacing the Consent to Treatment Act, 1992), establishes the right of people in Ontario to make informed decisions about their own health treatment and admission to regulated care facilities, if mentally capable of doing so, regardless of age. The rights of children under the age of 16 with respect to admission to secure treatment facilities or administration of psychotropic drugs are outlined in the Child and Family Services Act.
Regulation 461/97 under the Education Act ensures that students have an opportunity to influence decisions that affect them by stipulating that every school board has one (or more) pupil representatives.
Under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, a young person in custody has the right to express views on significant decisions, including changes to their individualized Plan of Care, medical treatment, education, religion, training or work programs and transfer to another place of detention or custody.
Children may make complaints of discrimination and harassment to the Ontario Human Rights Commission through an appropriate representative.
Civil rights and freedoms
Freedom of thought, conscience and religion (Article 14)
Under the Ministry of Correctional Services Act, young persons in custody have the right to receive religious instruction and participate in religious activities of their choice, subject to any rights that parents may have to direct the young person’s religious upbringing.
The Human Rights Code prohibits discrimination against children on the basis of creed. Children cannot be forced to accept or comply with religious beliefs or practices and measures may be requir