TORONTO, March 30, 2017 /CNW/ - The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth and young people called on an all-party legislative committee to accept their amendments to strengthen a bill that would affect every child and youth who receives or is seeking government services and programs. This includes young people connected to child welfare, youth justice, children's mental health and the special needs systems, and First Nations children and youth.
"Thousands of courageous young people have created this opportunity to push for fundamental change. They have long called on government, children's aid societies, and other decision-makers to listen to their voices and create the conditions where they can flourish, feel safe and have their individual rights respected," said Irwin Elman, Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.
Bill 89, the Child, Youth and Family Services Act 2017, was introduced last December by the Minister of Children and Youth Services to modernize the Child and Family Services Act – the province's governing legislation for all provincial services and programs for children and youth. The Standing Committee on Justice Policy is holding hearings in Toronto to hear submissions from stakeholders.
The Advocate's Office consulted extensively with young people with lived experiences in the various care systems and stakeholders to inform its submission.
The bill's preamble speaks to the principles of children's rights, equality and anti-racism with references to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC); Katelynn's Principle (a recommendation made by the Advocate's Office and adopted by the inquest jury at the Katelynn Sampson inquest); the Charter of Rights and Freedoms; and the Human Rights Code.
"Seeing proposed legislation that includes the principles of children's rights, equality and anti-racism in its preamble is a positive step forward for young people," said Ashley Ash, a Youth Amplifier with the Advocate's Office. "This bill is being lauded as child-centric and revolutionary. But when you take a closer look, it's clear that this bill fails to reflect the needs of young people. The government needs to take concrete steps to embed children's rights and their voices throughout the bill."
"This bill can be significantly improved to ensure that we create the conditions where young people can exercise their rights, and feel respected, safe and supported. But this will take tremendous courage and leadership. I urge the government and the legislative committee to accept our amendments and introduce a stronger bill that is truly grounded in children's rights," said Elman.
A summary of the Advocate Office's key concerns and recommendations are available in a backgrounder at: www.provincialadvocate.on.ca.
About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
The Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth (the Advocate's Office) reports directly to the Legislature of Ontario and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools).
The Advocate's Office can also conduct investigations and make recommendations to improve children's aid society services and services provided by residential licensees where a children's aid society is the placing agency.
The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: www.provincialadvocate.on.ca. For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on https://www.youtube.com/user/ProvincialAdvocate/featuredTwitter and Facebook.
SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth
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