National Child Day

Honourable senators, every November 20, Universal Children’s Day — National Child Day in Canada — recognizes the 1989 unanimous adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations General Assembly.

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child outlines the framework for enabling children to flourish and advocates for eliminating social inequities that can prevent them from doing so.

Acting in respect of children’s rights begins with a choice. While Canada made this choice when it ratified the convention in December 1991, we are not necessarily meeting our obligations to all children in this country. Notably, Aboriginal children continue to lag their peers by virtually every measure of well-being: family income, housing, access to clean drinking water, educational attainment and mental health.

Article 6 of the convention guarantees a child’s right to life: Governments must ensure that children survive and enjoy a healthy development. That is not happening for Aboriginal children in Canada.

National Child Day reminds us not only of what has been accomplished with respect to children’s rights but also the work that remains to be done — particularly when it comes to those who are more vulnerable, like Aboriginal children or those with a physical or intellectual disability.

Honourable senators, tomorrow morning, the chairs on which you are now seated, and those in the galleries above, will be filled with children from across the National Capital Region. They will be joining Senator Martin, Senator Mercer and I for our annual celebration in honour of National Child Day. I hope next year that we have an independent within our group so that we can continue in an equitable manner with this important day.

We follow in the footsteps of the great children’s rights activist, former Senator Landon Pearson, who created this event even before we were appointed to the Senate.

Every year we craft a program that embraces the values embodied by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and showcases the tremendous potential and accomplishments of Canadian youth.

Honourable senators, if you are in Ottawa tomorrow morning, join us here in the Senate Chamber at 10:00 a.m. to witness first-hand the incredible excitement and energy of this event. If you are not able to attend, I encourage you to add next week’s networking breakfast with local and national children’s groups to your calendars. That event will be held from 8 a.m. to 9 a.m. just outside, in the Senate foyer. I look forward to seeing you there.

Honourable senators, it has been said you can seek the wisdom of the ages, but always look at the world through the eyes of a child. Thank you.