Canada and the Best Interests of Children

    TORONTO, June 25 /CNW/ - Today the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of
Children (CCRC) released a new study on "The Best Interests of the Child:
Meaning and Application in Canada." It calls for a new approach to application
of the Best Interests of the Child, a core principle in the Convention on the
Rights of the Child. The report brings together research and the voice of
practitioners who gathered for a national, multi-disciplinary conference on
this subject at the University of Toronto on February 27 and 28, 2009. The
conference was organized by the CCRC, the Law Faculty of the University of
Toronto, the David Asper Centre for Constitutional Rights, the International
Bureau for Children's Rights, UNICEF Canada, and Justice for Children and
    The report proposes that the focus for applying the Best Interests of the
Child principle should shift from crisis response to prevention, through early
attention in the development of all policies and programs that affect
children. "This means considering the impact of proposed policies for children
before they are adopted," said Kathy Vandergrift, Chair of the CCRC.
    A second major theme is the use of a rights-based approach to application
of the principle, as part of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. "This
means paying serious attention to the views of young people," said
Vandergrift, "and giving young people a voice in matters that affect them,
such as custody lawsuits, child welfare hearings, adoption, education, and
youth justice.
    The report reviews how the principle of the Best Interests of the Child
has been interpreted in Canadian laws, policies, and programming across a
range of issues including family law, child welfare, immigration, adoption,
and others. In 2003 Canada was asked by the UN Committee on the Rights of the
Child to provide greater clarity and consistency in its application of this
principle in the Convention. This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the
Convention. "If implemented," said Vandergrift, "the suggestions in this
report would go a long way to meet the commitments made 20 years ago to
respect the rights of children in Canada." The report includes specific
indicators of progress for Canadian children that could be achieved before the
25th Anniversary of the Convention.

    Among more specific suggestions are the following:
    -   Establish a National Children's Commissioner as a focal point for
        children's issues within the federal government.
    -   Make the Convention on the Rights of the Child part of Canadian law;
    -   Implement Jordan's Principle to put the best interests of Aboriginal
        children ahead of federal-provincial jurisdictional disputes and
        apply it to other children's issues as well.

    This report appears as Canadians wait for the release of the federal
government's third report on implementation of the Convention on the Rights of
the Child. It was due in January 2009. "The bests interests of children would
be served by greater public accountability and public discussion of how well
Canada is doing in respect for the rights of children," said Vandergrift,
"before November's 20th Anniversary celebrations."
    The full report is available in English and French on the website of the
Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children,

For further information:

For further information: Kathy Vandergrift, Chair, Canadian Coalition
for the Rights of Children, (613) 820-0272,

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