"All wars are waged against children"
Eglantyne Jebb, Save the Children, England, 1919
Eglantyne Jebb assisted when the League of Nations drafted and adopted the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1924, the first of a series of efforts to establish universal protection for children.
In 1959 the UN Declaration of Rights of the Child was adopted. For ten years through the 1980's, representatives of the world's nations struggled towards an agreement that they could all support which would establish the fact that every child is a person entitled to individual human rights. When in 1989, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child received unanimous approval, it was the culmination of decades of intensive negotiation and the work of many great people who dedicated their lives to the well-being of children.
It was a remarkable document. Nation after nation rallied behind it. It received all-party support in the Ontario Legislature in 1990, and was ratified by the Government of Canada in 1991. We committed ourselves to a document that says: "States Parties shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind..." and " In all actions concerning children.... the best interests of the child shall be of primary consideration."
But a new war broke out across the country, an economic war, a battle against national and provincial deficits, struggles between multi-national corporations. It developed a climate in which individual rights were threatened by majority interests. "All wars are waged against children."
Seven years ago the House of Commons passed a Resolution "to seek to achieve the goal of eliminating poverty among Canadian children by the year 2000". Report Card 1996: Child Poverty in Canada produced by Campaign 2000 states that on the 7th anniversary of this Resolution, 1,362,000 children in Canada are poor, 428,000 more poor children than in 1989. The national Report Card highlights that since 1989, on almost all counts, our most fragile members of society, Canada's children, are falling further behind:
The most fragile sector of our community needs every protection that we can offer but the protections that were in place have been weakened or dismantled. Canada promised to respect and ensure Convention rights for children; the Province of Ontario established the Office of Child and Family Services Advocacy and Halton supported a Children's Council to speak up for the young people of the Region. The Convention is still not recognized in Canadian law; the Advocacy Office report on the abuse of children in a provincial institution is buried by the Ontario Government and the Children's Council was eliminated by decision of the Ministry of Community and Social Services.
The question that has to be asked is whether we are willing to leave our children vulnerable and exposed to political decisions in which their best interests are not "a primary consideration" and their rights are ignored or denied.
As a community partner of Campaign 2000, Halton Social Planning Council releases: Report Card 1996 which highlights some of the disturbing facts about Child Poverty in Halton:
Through no fault or choice of their own, people, families and children are poor. Income security and poverty are determined by the earning capacity and incomes of the family unit. Children do not choose to be poor...
Poverty affects the life chances of children. Poor housing quality, overcrowding, stress, inadequate food, poor health, lack of child care, inadequate clothing, low levels of education, social segregation, and economic constraints are but a few of the disadvantages poor children face.
Poverty means the inability to provide many of the common opportunities that most Canadian families offer to their children. Some children describe poverty as:
When poor children become adults they are less likely to find well paying jobs and suffer later disadvantages in life. This is a loss to themselves in potential income as well as to the country as a whole in tax revenue.
Produced by the Community Development Halton
860 Harrington Court
Burlington, Ontario L7N 3N4
(905) 632-1975, (905) 878-0955; Fax: (905) 632-0778; E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org