Canada Coalition for the Rights of Children

Photo by Unsplash user:  Blake Barlow

Photo by Unsplash user: Blake Barlow

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children (CCRC) is a network of Canadian organizations and individuals who promote respect for the rights of children.  Its purpose is to exchange information, provide public education materials about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, monitor implementation of the Convention in Canada, and engage in dialogue with government officials on child rights issues.  Their most recent report notes that “the right to health in the convention on the Rights of the Child, Article 24, can help Canada because it focuses on the conditions for growing up healthy across the country.  This is a helpful corrective to the over-emphasis on clinical health care in federal and provincial health care policy…. A new national poverty plan, a housing strategy, a new framework for early childhood, and an emerging food strategy are all important policies for children.”  They express concern, however, that there is no child-centered mechanism to ensure the pieces add up for children in real life.  The CCRC reports that a Working Paper on Social Determinants in Children's Health summarizes helpful research on children's health in Canada, noting that “Canada's report for the 5th/6th review is weak in data analysis, especially for vulnerable groups, and it fails to seriously respond to recommendations in the last review, which highlighted inequitable access to the basic conditions for healthy child development in Canada.”

  • The CCRC reports on substantive progress on a number of fronts that have been priorities in their advocacy work during the current parliamentary session, including:  Family Law and Children's Rights: Considering views of the child will soon be mandatory in family courts. This is the first time Article 12 is explicitly required in a federal law

  • Housing Strategy with Rights-based Tools: The new national housing strategy includes some rights-based tools that can be used for children and create a precedent in Canada.

  • Accessibility Legislation with Rights-based Tools: Children with disabilities will benefit from this new policy, while advocating for additional pieces. It also includes some rights-based elements that will show the benefits of using children's rights to make Canada work better.

  • Emerging National Food Policy: Access to nutritious food is the goal for a just-announced national food policy, not just commercial agriculture; and school lunch programs are among the early initiatives.

  • Indigenous Child Welfare System: Bill C-92 includes several rights-based elements and makes systemic changes that are consistent with the Convention.

  • Framework for Early Childhood Development and Care: While it lacks a foundation in children's rights, it provides a more consistent approach that can be built on to advance child-centered development, equitable access, considering views of children, etc.

At the same time, the CCRC published a Fact Sheet (Fact Sheet #3, June 2019) Healthy Conditions for Growing Up, developed with Professor Donna Koller, PhD, and Ellie Murphy, RECE, Early Childhood Studies, Ryerson University. 

The factsheet address children’s right to health, articulated in article 24 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), looking particularly at the impact of poverty on child health in Canada.  “Poverty is a key child health indicator. Research shows that growing up in poverty affects a child’s risk of disease, growth, learning, and sense of wellbeing.  It has lifelong consequences. The federal Poverty Reduction strategy provides an opportunity to integrate income support, child care, housing, nutrition, community health services, and other social determinants of health for children. A robust, coordinated focus on children will lead to better outcomes.

Research also shows that giving children a voice in health care decisions that affect them has positive benefits. Canadian children are often excluded from health care decisions; requiring consideration of the views of the child in all areas of health care would lead to better outcomes.

Canada’s report recognizes the existence of vulnerable groups, such as Indigenous children, refugee children, visible minorities, and children with disabilities, but it fails to provide data about their health. Analysis of the data is needed to address the major issues identified in existing research on the Social Determinants of Children’s Health.” 

The priority actions identified by the Fact Sheet include:

  • Robust focus on children in Federal Poverty Reduction Strategy

  • Use Equity Analysis to close gaps in access to health care.  Specifically, recommends disaggregated data, analysis, and specific actions to remedy disparities for First Nations, Metis, and Inuit children; refugee children; visible minorities; and children with disabilities.

Listening to children and community voices when making health care decisions. Specifically, states that children have the capacity and right to have their views considered in individual health care decisions and in health policy decisions.

Nelli Agbulos