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CBA hails first step toward creating national commissioner for children and youth

Bar association has repeatedly urged federal government to establish the office

CBA hails first step toward creating national commissioner for children and youth

The Canadian Bar Association has expressed approval for the initiative to table a bill seeking to create the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Youth in Canada.

Senator Rosemary Moodie has sponsored bill S-217, which had first reading on June 16. The CBA called this initiative the first step toward meeting the obligations and responsibilities that Canada owes to its children and youth.

The CBA has repeatedly called upon the federal government to establish a National Commissioner for Children and Youth, an independent officer of Parliament who can safeguard the human rights under federal jurisdiction of children and youth, including immigrant and refugee children. In 2018, the CBA passed a resolution to this effect.

A May 2018 letter urged Prime Minister Justin Trudeau to push for the establishment of this office and to include consultation with Indigenous communities in this process so that the rights and interests of Indigenous children and youth would be vigorously protected and promoted.

“Children and youth (under 18) make up a quarter of Canada’s population, yet have no independent voice to represent their rights and interests in Parliament, limited opportunity to participate in political processes and no effective complaint mechanism when their rights are violated,” wrote Kerry L. Simmons, who was the CBA national president in 2018 and who is currently executive director of CBA’s British Columbia branch, in a news release following the announcement of the proposed federal bill.

Canada has an obligation to establish such an office as a general implementation measure of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which it ratified in 1991, Simmons said. This office would be able to address important issues such as immigration, citizenship and youth criminal justice, she wrote.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child has also thrice reiterated the necessity for Canada to create an independent human rights institution to protect and monitor the implementation of children’s rights.

In its Alternative Report to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child published this February, the CBA outlined the impact of the absence of this office, such as limitations in national standards for treatment; challenges in obtaining information regarding the state of children and their budgetary needs; a lack of regard for the best interests of children in the formulation of laws, policies and programs; and an absence of specific targets or strategies to monitor the progress of government efforts relating to children and youth.

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