National Child Day

Honourable senators, I too join Senator Andreychuk in noting tomorrow’s being a very special day. Your words are wise words, and you and I have worked together on a lot of these issues when it comes to children.

Indeed, tomorrow is National Child Day. In fact, it’s the twenty-fifth anniversary, as Senator Andreychuk mentioned, of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, from which National Child Day was born. It is important for us to take a moment to act and reflect on the intention and purpose of these rights.

Here are some interesting words: “The way a child is treated by society is an indication of what that society is all about.”

This wise statement comes from a young person. I don’t have his age or her name, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be in this particular statement, but I’m grateful to have found his or her insight preserved in the records of the Landon Pearson Resource Centre.

Chances are, whoever made this statement is doing well, having had the benefit of what most children in our society enjoy in Canada: access to education, health care, good homes and safe communities.

This is not necessarily the case, though. The truth within this statement would be just as meaningful to a young person shut out from the advantages and hope so prevalent in mainstream society — an Aboriginal child or youth, a child or youth with a disability or living in poverty. Children are attuned to the connection between how they are treated and what kind of a society they live in. They are born vulnerable, dependent on adults for all they need to survive and develop into independent adults.

The most vulnerable children in our society are those with the greatest needs. Aboriginal children, for instance, trail the rest of Canada’s children on virtually every aspect of well-being: family income, educational attainment, poor water quality, infant mortality, suicide and homelessness. This, in my view, is a human rights violation, a children’s rights violation. Rather than addressing the hardships endured by these and any children as though we are being charitable, we must instead live up to our responsibilities — as human beings and as citizens of a country that should be promoting and ensuring the rights of the child.

All children have the same rights. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, as mentioned by Senator Andreychuk, provides an invaluable framework for enabling children to live, grow and flourish. Eliminating social inequities that hinder and harm them, and acting in respect of children’s rights begins with the choice to do so. It is an easy beginning to the greatest commitment our society can make.

Children and youth should always be celebrated. They are capable of great thoughts and great actions. They remind me of the worth we all possess, children and adults alike.

In closing, honourable senators, I would like to invite you all to an event tomorrow morning. We have a breakfast here that a few of our senators, including Senator Martin, Senator Mercer and myself, have hosted over the last few years and to which a lot of children’s advocacy groups come. It will be between 8:00 and 9:00. We have a special guest tomorrow, the person who hauled me into the Senate 11 years ago now, Senator Landon Pearson. She’s our special guest and she will have fascinating things to say about her children’s resource centre at Carleton University on this twenty-fifth anniversary.