UNICEF Canada Urges Party Leaders and Candidates to Make Children a Priority

- All Candidates Asked to Sign UNICEF Charter for Children -

TORONTO, April 15 /CNW/ - Children make up nearly one quarter of Canada's population, but their voices are rarely heard in national politics, especially during an election. UNICEF Canada is urging all Canadian party leaders and political candidates to make the rights and well-being of children a priority issue during this election campaign -- and as Members of Parliament when making policy decisions post-election.

A newly created UNICEF Canada Charter for Children outlining key priorities that will advance the well-being of Canada's children was sent to all party leaders and every federal election candidate, asking for their formal support. UNICEF Canada is also asking Canadians to urge their local candidates to make children a central election issue. The Charter for Children and responses from party leaders and local candidates can be found at www.unicef.ca/vote2011.

Included in the UNICEF Canada Charter for Children is the request to appoint an independent National Children's Commissioner who can advocate for children. "Currently, there is no one in the federal government with the primary responsibility to consider the well-being of Canada's children," says David Morley, UNICEF Canada President and CEO. "There is no Minister for children, no children's Commissioner, no parliamentary children's caucus or committee to ensure the impacts on children are considered in legislation, policy and services." Many countries such as Scotland, England and Sweden have an independent National Children's Commissioner who is helping ensure decisions are made in the best interests of children.

There are six priorities outlined in UNICEF Canada's Charter for Children:

  1. Pay attention to issues affecting children. Canada's children have no mandated National Children's Advocate or Commissioner in the federal government. Champion the appointment of an independent or Parliamentary voice for children.
  2. Give children the best start. Canada has one of the largest income gaps between have- and have-not children among industrialized countries. Champion closing the child poverty gap in Canada.
  3. Close the gap in life chances for Aboriginal children. Jordan's Principle, a private members' motion passed in 2007, says that when a jurisdictional dispute arises around government services for a First Nations child, the needs of the child must come first. The government of first contact should pay the bill and jurisdictional issues are resolved later. Champion the full implementation of Jordan's Principle.
  4. Tell us what you spend on children. It's not clear what federal and provincial governments spend on children, or if it's sufficient or effective. Champion a clear and transparent means of publishing federal and provincial expenditures for children.
  5. Do our fair share for children in developing countries. Despite our relatively robust economy, Canada is not meeting its commitment to provide 0.7 % of its Gross National Income. In 2010, Canada invested an estimated 0.33 % of GNI. Champion efforts to reach the 0.7 % target by 2015.
  6. Save lives. Achieve the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). At last year's G8 Summit, world leaders pledged increased investment for maternal, newborn, and child health. Champion this critical global effort to save lives.

Throughout the federal election, UNICEF Canada and our supporters across the country will continue to reach out to candidates and Canadians, asking them to become champions for Canada's children and keep our promises to them. Visit www.unicef.ca/vote2011 regularly for responses by party leaders and candidates as they are received as well as views from Canadians.

About UNICEF

UNICEF is the world's leading child-focused humanitarian and development agency. Through innovative programs and advocacy work, we save children's lives and secure their rights in virtually every country. Our global reach, unparalleled influence on policymakers, and diverse partnerships make us an instrumental force in shaping a world in which no child dies of a preventable cause. UNICEF is entirely supported by voluntary donations and helps all children, regardless of race, religion or politics. For more information about UNICEF, please visit www.unicef.ca.

SOURCE UNICEF Canada

For further information:

For English media: Kathleen Powderley, Communications Specialist, UNICEF Canada, 416-803-5597, kpowderley@unicef.ca 

For French media: Nancy Radford, UNICEF Canada, Manager, Communications Quebec, Tel: 514 288 5134 x8425; Cell 514 232 4510, nradford@unicef.ca


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