By Hannah Ruuth and Pamela Lovelace.
Oh Canada, we deserve a better and stronger future. Listen to our call to action and hear our voices by reading and acting on the recommendations in the Canadian Children's Charter. While we are thankful Canada signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Canada's inaction for the last quarter century is demoralizing. Canada lags far behind the most wealthy nations when it comes to the well-being of children, due to Canada's promises made to the most vulnerable in our society but never kept.
Last month, children and youth from across Canada between the ages of 10 to 20 gathered in Ottawa to raise their voices and call for the federal government to act on the Articles listed in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, a binding document endorsed by Canada well before those participating in the charter creation were born.
The young Canadians who created the national children's charter presented it to Member of Parliament Peter Schiefke, Parliamentary Secretary to the Prime Minister (Youth). The member of Parliament admitted to having a mandate that doesn't include children under the age of 16, but neither the prime minister nor the minister of families, children and social development were available to meet with the young Canadians to discuss the Charter.
The predominant goal is for the Government of Canada to take seriously its role and responsibility to protect and guarantee the rights of the child. It's time to improve the well-being, bridge inequality, stop the violence against children and bring justice to all of Canada's young people.
Canada's 1989 promise to end child poverty by 2000 is an international embarrassment. Poverty and homelessness among youth continue to restrict Canadians from reaching their potential and contributing to Canadian society. In a few months, Canada is required to report to the UN on how well they've been doing to meet their promises to children and youth.
Although the charter is not a legal tool, it is an urgent plea for Government, civil society organizations, the private sector and all Canadians to respect, protect, and fulfill our obligation under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. "A Canadian Children's Charter can measure the progress in improving children's well-being in Canada," says Reem Al-Ameri a youth from Ottawa.
The Canadian Children's Charter outlines recommendations to improve the well-being of Canadian children by adopting some of the United Nations Convention on Rights of the Child, which Canada has chosen not to implement. These Articles represent broken promises:
Article 12 - You have the right to give your opinion, and for adults to listen and take it seriously.
Earlier this year, Noah Irvine, 17, from Guelph, Ontario sent letters to 338 MP's. Only 40 responded. With a children's charter, Irvine's voice would be recognized and used as a pivotal point of advice when considering a National Mental Health Strategy.
Article 15 - You have the right to choose your own friends and join or set up groups, as long as it isn't harmful to others.
In Alberta, politicians recently argued about whether or not parents/guardians should be notified if their children participate in Gay Straight Alliances (GSA) at public schools. A new law would out children to their parents for exploring sexual identity. With a Children's Charter enforced, children and youth would have freedom of association with GSA's or any school group.
Article 19 – Right to Protection
One in three children in Canada have experienced some form of abuse. While a children's charter cannot stop violence against a vulnerable child, it can ensure the child is afforded all the protection required from threatening situations and provide safety. A Children's Charter will ensure that no matter where a child lives in our country we will all be treated equally under Canadian law. After all, it's still legal in Canada to hit a child. Clearly, Canada is not doing all it could to protect children from harm.
Article 42 – Knowledge of Rights
Callum Lovelace a 14-year-old youth delegate from Nova Scotia, emphasizes that rights are important "because if children don't know their rights, then they won't know when their rights are violated. We need to educate children and adults so we can prevent abuse and neglect of Canadian kids."
Currently, there is no legal requirement for educational professionals to teach Canadian children their rights. A Children's Charter would change that and the government of Canada must acknowledge their failing to meet this basic right of the child.
The children of Canada appeal to all Canadians to raise their hand and stand up for children's rights. We need support from all Canadians for the Canadian Children's Charter to be successful and provide a guarantee of fundamental rights for the next generation of leaders, parents, workers and effective citizens. We must hold our government accountable to keep their promises to kids.
Hannah Ruuth is 18 years old from Windsor, Ontario studying at the University of Guelph. She is a Youth Ambassador for Children First Canada and a passionate advocate for children's and youth rights.
Pamela Lovelace is Project Manager with Wisdom2Action (W2A), School of Social Work at Dalhousie University in Halifax, Nova Scotia. W2A is a national knowledge mobilization initiative supporting researchers, community based organizations, educators, policy makers, and others working to improve the mental health and wellbeing of vulnerable children and youth.
Follow HuffPost Canada Blogs on Facebook
Also on HuffPost: