Fields of Intervention:
DCI-Canada was created in Canada in order to promote and defend children’s rights. Therefore, several actions are undertaken in the following priority issues:
- Juvenile Justice
- Child participation
- Education and promotion of Human Rights, especially Child Rights
Current Activities and Projects/Programmes:
In recent years, DCI-Canada has carried out inter alia the following projects:
- “The Law and Youth” Programme
“The Law and Youth” is a public legal education programme spear-headed by Toronto lawyer Jeffery Wilson, and presented in partnership with DCI-Canada and Covenant House Toronto. At present, the programme is being piloted in Toronto. It provides young people up to the age of 19 with information about the law and their rights. Through a series of interactive workshops, youth participants learn and discuss rights and legal questions relevant to their own lives, including:
- What are your rights regarding medical care and consent?
- If you are in the care of a children’s aid society, when can you leave care?
- How to deal with unfair treatment due to race, sexual orientation, or mental or physical condition?
- What are your rights as a youth offender, or as a victim of crime?
- Lowery Lecture on Children’s Rights
Every spring, DCI-Canada hosts a lecture in honour of Grant Lowery to share Grant’s passion for young people through the experiences and insights of Canada’s most talented and accomplished advocates for children’s rights.
First, it provides a gathering place for those interested in child rights. Each year’s audience represents a Who’s Who of the child rights community and provides this community with an opportunity to share ideas and stay connected.
Second, it provides a forum for new ideas in the field of child rights. Experts like Betty Makoni, founder of the Zimbabwe Girl Child Network, Hon. James Bartleman, former Lieutenant Governor of Ontario, and Senator Romeo Dallaire have provided a preview of issues and problems in the field of children’s rights that have yet to break into mainstream discussion.
Our Annual lecture for 2015 was held on May 5. The focus was on the rights of First Nations children. We began the programme with two young speakers from the Feathers of Hope project. In spite of the many problems in First Nations communities (extreme poverty, high suicide rate for youth) they spoke positively about the steps they were taking to engage young people and make positive changes in their community. The lecturer this year was the Honourable Bob Rae who spoke on the topic of “Building Hope for First Nations Children”. Mr. Rae is a former Premier of Ontario, a former member of the Canadian Parliament, and a strong advocate for aboriginal rights.
At our lecture we also presented the first Les Horne “Rights in Action” award to a group from Georges Vanier Secondary School. The group had already accomplished a number of successful initiatives within the school including Stomp out Stigma (mental health awareness), a Girls Empowerment Summit, and a programme on challenging gender stereotypes. These were just a few of their activities. They plan to use the award of $1000 to take their initiatives out to the community beginning with a series of focus groups to determine community needs and an expansion of their group to include other young people from the community. The intent is to incorporate as a non-for-profit organization to continue the work in an ongoing way.
There was a practise by the police in Toronto of “carding” young people by stopping them without cause, asking for information about their activities and friends. We wrote to the media and the attached letter was published in the Toronto Star. The practise of carding has been suspended and will be reviewed by the police oversight committee.
In Saskatchewan, one of the provinces in Canada, we learned about a plan to move an open custody programme for young offenders into a secure building housing secure custody youth. We wrote to the Minister and Opposition leader quoting the UN Convention (copy attached). The letter was tabled in the Saskatchewan legislature. The move was put on hold but we don’t yet know if there has been a formal change of plans.
In Canada there are cases where Canadian –born children are forced to leave Canada when their parents fail in an attempt to seek refugee status. These cases often take years to be finalized and sometimes families are deported before the court process is complete. We have been successful at supporting the right of children born in Canada to remain in this country as citizens but parents are then given the option of taking their young children with them as they are deported or leaving them in Canada in the care of child welfare. We have been working with one case where the mother and children are finally being permitted to stay. Attached is the letter which was presented to the Court in this case. The Judge took into account the “best interests” of the children.
Much of the work of DCI-Canada is accomplished in partnership with other groups. As the DCI representative on the Canadian Coalition on the Rights of Children, we have taken leadership on issues relating to youth involved in the Youth Justice system including preparing youth justice issues for a parallel or shadow report presented to the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child when Canada is required to make a presentation. In this way it is possible to provide a more accurate picture to the Committee.
DCI also co-chairs the Youth Justice sub-committee of CCRC which will be working on the Global Study of Children Deprived of Liberty.
- “Children Have Rights Too!” This is a colourful booklet which was published in English and French and discusses the rights of children in child-friendly terms.
- “It’s Time to Break the Silence”. The main author of this booklet was Matthew Geigen-Miller, a DCI board member. The document was a clear and strong argument for the position of an independent child advocate in the province of Ontario. When legislation was passed the President of DCI-Canada became the first independent Child Advocate on an interim basis until an all-party committee could hire a Child Advocate.
- Right in Principle, Right in Practise was published by CCRC with input from DCI-Canada on Youth Justice issues.