The CBA Child Rights Toolkit is available online, and was put together with input from 110 Canadian lawyers and 50 judges.
“It was inspired by the need to improve children’s access to justice in Canada,” says Caterina Tempesta, Toronto-based counsel with the Office of the Children’s Lawyer, with the Ontario Ministry of the Attorney General.
“It’s intended for professionals who work in legal and administrative decision-making, who want to better understand and implement a child rights’ based approach in practice, and strengthen, basically, their advocacy for children.”
The toolkit is a product of the Children’s Law Committee of the Canadian Bar Association. Tempesta is co-chairperson of the CBA Child Rights Toolkit Steering Committee, which was also co-chaired by Donna Martinson, a retired justice of the Supreme Court of British Columbia. The toolkit has been developed over the course of more than three years, says Tempesta.
The toolkit includes fundamentals about child rights in Canada. It explains which independent human rights institutions for children exist in Canada, as well as information about what a child rights impact assessment is.
It also breaks down four steps to implement child rights, which begins with using the Convention on the Rights of the Child as a framework.
Tempesta says the toolkit was needed because “there is a lack of understanding of children’s rights in all spheres,” including amongst lawyers, judges, government and policymakers, service providers, parents and those who work with children on the ground.
She noted a report card done by the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, which is “the UN body that’s responsible for monitoring and reporting on country’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
Tempesta says the December 2012 report card “basically said that there is this lack of knowledge about the Convention and that because of the absence of comprehensive legislation incorporating the Convention in Canada, there are inconsistencies in implementing child rights across the country.”
Knowledge of child rights is important in different legal areas.
“It covers all areas of law. . .everything from family law to youth criminal justice, immigration and refugee law, civil justice, any issue that would impact on an adult similarly impacts on children, in terms of law,” she says.
The toolkit was funded by the CBA Law for the Future Fund, and spearheaded by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child Subcommittee of the Children’s Law Committee.
Tempesta noted Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child — “the most universally accepted human rights instrument in the world” — on December 13, 1991. It’s also the 35th anniversary of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedom, she says.
“It’s a good time to be thinking about child rights and implementing them in a way that support children’s well-being and participation in matters that effect them,” she says.