Human rights commission says children left behind on basic rights

Rights body urges focus on children

OTTAWA — The Canadian Human Rights Commission says more attention must be paid to the rights of children, who it says are being left behind when it comes to basic rights of dignity, safety, education and family.

The agency said it aimed to shine a light on the problems of children in its 2016 annual report to Parliament, released Wednesday.

The report looked at issues such as child welfare services on First Nations reserves, the rights of transgender children, children with disabilities and migrant children locked up in detention centres alongside their parents as the system processes their cases.

The federal government has been promising a fix for child welfare services on reserves, but First Nations groups say no real progress has been made.

The report said transgender children often report bullying and harassment. Children with disabilities reported similar problems.

It quoted a University of Toronto estimate that between 2010 and 2014, an average of 242 children in Canada were detained annually for immigration reasons. It said this number is low because it does not include children who are themselves not under formal detention orders but are accompanying parents who are.

Marie-Claude Landry, the chief commissioner, said fair treatment for children is the best way of ensuring human rights overall.

“Ensuring that children are given equal opportunities to thrive, regardless of their individual challenges, is the best way of ensuring human rights for all,” Landry said in the report. “How they are treated today, will determine, in large measure, how they will treat others tomorrow.”

She says Canada must remain a country that values human rights.

In a statement Wednesday night, the office of Justice Minister Jody Wilson-Raybould said it’s addressing the issues by introducing a child benefit aimed at lifting children out of poverty.

The statement also said the government is committed to overhauling First Nations Child and Family Services.

The report said the human rights commission received 1,488 discrimination complaints in 2016 from people seeking human rights justice, with 60 per cent related to disability. Almost half the disability complaints dealt with mental health issues.

The Canadian Press

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