Ot­tawa should name a chil­dren’s ad­vo­cate

Cape Breton Post - - EDITORIAL -

In the heat of the 2015 fed­eral elec­tion cam­paign, the Trudeau Lib­er­als promised to ap­point a much-needed ad­vo­cate for chil­dren. But like many of their prom­ises, it re­mains on the back­burner.

It shouldn’t. A chil­dren’s com­mis­sioner could help en­sure that gov­ern­ment poli­cies im­prove the lives of young peo­ple and ad­vo­cate for new leg­is­la­tion and pro­grams to pro­tect and help them.

You don’t have to look far to see why Canada needs a chil­dren’s ad­vo­cate.

First, while Canada is a wealthy na­tion, ac­cord­ing to UNICEF our chil­dren are fall­ing be­hind those in other af­flu­ent coun­tries in four key ar­eas: in­come, health, ed­u­ca­tion and life sat­is­fac­tion.

And it’s get­ting worse. In 2013 UNICEF ranked Canada 17th out of 29 af­flu­ent coun­tries. In 2016 it ranked this coun­try 26th out of 35.

“The grow­ing gaps sug­gest that life is be­com­ing more dif­fi­cult for the most ex­cluded chil­dren as so­cial in­equal­ity has widened, and it is show­ing up in their phys­i­cal and men­tal health,” the re­port noted.

Sec­ond, in 1989 the House of Com­mons voted unan­i­mously to end child poverty by the year 2000. But in its lat­est re­port, Cam­paign 2000, which mea­sures child poverty an­nu­ally, found it had ac­tu­ally gone up to 18.3 per cent in 2016 from the level of 15.8 per cent it was at back in 1989.

Dis­turbingly, the study found 1.3 mil­lion chil­dren in Canada live in poverty.

Third, Canada does not have a na­tional child care pro­gram, some­thing that could re­duce in­equal­i­ties that re­sult from poverty, de­crease the num­ber of chil­dren in spe­cial ed­u­ca­tion classes by iden­ti­fy­ing prob­lems and in­ter­ven­ing ear­lier, and help women get back into the work force so they can bet­ter pro­vide for their chil­dren.

In­deed, Canada was tied for last place out of 25 states ranked by the Or­ga­ni­za­tion for Eco­nomic Co­op­er­a­tion and De­vel­op­ment in 2014 in the qual­ity and ac­ces­si­bil­ity of its child-care pro­grams.

Fourth, the Lib­eral gov­ern­ment has yet to act on its prom­ise to re­peal Sec­tion 43 of the Crim­i­nal Code, which pro­tects par­ents who spank their chil­dren, a move that would bring Canada in line with its re­spon­si­bil­i­ties un­der the United Na­tions Con­ven­tion on the Rights of the Child.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The Trudeau gov­ern­ment has shown it can in­tro­duce poli­cies that make an enormous dif­fer­ence in the lives of chil­dren.

The Canada Child Ben­e­fit that be­gan be­ing is­sued last July 1, for ex­am­ple, is ex­pected to raise 300,000 chil­dren out of poverty.

Still, there’s much work to be done by this Lib­eral gov­ern­ment to pro­tect and pro­vide for chil­dren. Prime Min­is­ter Justin Trudeau should name a chil­dren’s ad­vo­cate to help his gov­ern­ment do so.

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