National Child Day

Honourable senators, I wish to call your attention to an important anniversary. This year marks the twentieth anniversary of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Like all international conventions, it expresses the will and reflects the deeply-held beliefs of nations around the world. This convention speaks to human rights, but focuses on our youngest humans — children. Children, though they are small and young, are equal citizens of this earth with rights that must be respected. Children have the right to survive, the right to be safe, the right to develop fully without abuse and exploitation and the right to participate fully in family and society.

Canada signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, but we have only to look at our record to see that we need much more than words. We need action to ensure that these rights are respected. Canada needs to act to improve children’s access to healthy beginnings. That means addressing poverty, making communities safe and providing access to early childhood education. It means helping parents and families.

Next Monday, the Senate Chamber will be filled with children from around the National Capital Region who will be inspired by speakers and performers — children like themselves — who are making a difference right now. The program will show children that they are important and have a role to play in our society today; not only tomorrow when they are big.

Along with Senator Ethel Cochrane and Senator Terry Mercer, I wish to invite all honourable senators to make it back to Ottawa to start work on Monday in time for this event. At 9:45 a.m., we will have 300 to 400 children in this chamber. His Honour knows this event is not only inspiring, it is about what is happening in our society today with those who are intellectually and physically disabled. It is not only a show; there is tremendous meaning behind what these children do. They are coming from all parts of the country. Drop in to take a look and be with us. I guarantee that honourable senators will be moved and inspired.

The next day, Tuesday, all honourable senators have been invited to a breakfast in the Speaker’s salon where they will have a chance to meet devoted representatives from NGOs and associations, all of whom work on behalf of children — improving their lives and protecting their rights. Once again, you will be inspired by the people you meet.

Tomorrow is National Child Day — the actual day. It is a big day, honourable senators. Please help celebrate it next week with Senators Cochrane and Mercer and His Honour. Canada and her children deserve it.