November 20, 2019
Today we celebrate National Child Day, a day that has been celebrated across Canada since 1993 to commemorate the United Nations’ adoption of two documents centered on children’s rights the United Nations Convention on the Rights of a Child (the UNCRC) and the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child.
The UNCRC, a human rights treaty that helped transform children’s lives around the world, has 54 articles that cover all aspects of a child’s life and sets out the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights that all children everywhere are entitled. Canada ratified the convention on December 13, 1991 and since then a number of laws, policies and practices have advanced children’s rights to protection, development and participation in decisions affecting their lives.
By signing this agreement, Convention countries agreed that governments and all adults have the responsibility to protect and ensure the healthy development of all children. Every child has the right to reach their full potential by having access to education, health care, participate in society, have access to information and much more.
In our Canadian Companion to UNICEF Report Card 14, Oh Canada! Our Kids Deserve Better, we show that Canada does comparatively well in some aspects of child and youth well-being and lags behind in others, ranking 25th out of 41 countries. We bust some myths about what it’s like to grow up in Canada: the data reveal that we are not as safe, clean and healthy as some believe.
This year, Canada saw an event that made history. UCTE wants to take the time to mark this day by reminding people of the importance of the ‘Every Child Matters’ campaign. The residential school system deprived Indigenous children of their families, their language, and their culture. This was nothing short of genocide. The lives and futures of First Nations people were altered forever.
We want to take the time today, on National Child Day, to remember the horrific legacy of Indian residential schools in this country. Generations of Canadians have lived their lives ignorant of the existence of Indian residential schools, the impact of the Indian Act, the significance and violation of treaties, and the forcible settlement of Indigenous lands. That is why, today, we need to take the time to remember that ‘Every Child Matters’. The Orange Shirt Day campaign raises awareness about the trauma the Indian residential school system inflicted on an estimated 150,000 Indigenous children in Canada – many of whom suffered from abuse and neglect at the hands of their supposed educators and caregivers, and many of whom died at these schools and never made it home to their families.
Last June, UCTE worked with one of its members, Mikelle Sasakamoose, of Local 20219, who wrote an article about her experience living in an Indigenous community with a residential school. The Red Brick Building describes Mikelle’s youth spent on the Tk’emlups te Secwepemc Indian Reserve where the Kamloops Indian Residential school still stands.
UCTE is once again committed to defending and promoting all children’s rights and to fighting bullying and racism.