Blog Series: Child and Youth Advocates

In continuing our Blog Series on human rights institutions, we are focusing this edition on Child and Youth Advocates. These are independent officers of provincial and territorial legislatures that focus on protecting and promoting the rights and dignity of children.

While at the Federal level there is no national commissioner or advocate office, the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates is an association of the government-appointed Child and Youth Advocates from nine provinces and two territories; Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, Nunavut, Ontario, Québec, Saskatchewan and Yukon.

In Prince Edward Island and Northwest Territories, there are currently no child and youth advocate offices. In Quebec, youth rights fall under the mandate of the Commission for Human Rights and Youth Rights (Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse).

The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates is mandated to give voice to young people. Their work is guided by, but not legislated to legally implement, the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). The CRC is a legal treaty intended to ensure all children are treated with dignity, and that their rights are respected and protected.  The Committee on the Rights of the Child  is a body of independent experts who monitor implementation of the CRC by States. Canada ratified the CRC in 1991.

The Government of Canada provides reports to the Committee on the Rights of the Child, with updates every five years on the status of children’s rights in Canada. The next reporting deadline is July 2018. To find the latest report on Canada, by the Committee, visit our International Human Rights and Canada Database.

Nationally, children and youth are protected under the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, which is part of the Canadian Constitution, regarding non-discrimination and the minority language rights, as well as under the Canadian Human Rights Act, also with regards to non-discrimination, and child care. There is currently no national legislation that covers the full scope of rights set out in the CRC (see CRC report on Canada). Concerns about this have been raised by the Canadian Human Rights Commission, as well as by other organizations and the United Nations.

In 2004, the Government of Canada launched the policy framework, National Plan of Action for Children: A Canada Fit for Children, following the United Nations General Assembly Special Session on Children in May 2002.  An Interdepartmental Working Group on Children’s Rights was also established, in 2007, to promote a government-wide approach to children’s rights and to encourage linkages among departments with policies that affect children. This Working Group is co-chaired by the Public Health Agency of Canada and the Department of Justice Canada.

Where there are Child and Youth Advocate offices at the provincial and territorial levels, these institutions are mandated by specific legislation. Broadly speaking, each provincial and territorial Child and Youth Advocate office is mandated to represent the rights, interests and viewpoints of children, within their jurisdictions. This includes advocating for social service provisions, and monitoring, reviewing and reporting publicly on these services. Several offices also conduct public education, and independent reviews and investigations into cases where such services are lacking and have resulted in the serious injury or death of a child.

Want to know more? Explore the relevant legislation for each Child and Youth Advocate office, with the Canadian Human Rights Institutions Interactive Map.

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