Children are citizens. They have the same social, economic, cultural, political and civil rights as any other citizen. And their rights are protected under the law.
Article 3.2 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child specifies that all actions concerning children must be in the best interests of the child.
Children’s rights are enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and other internationally endorsed declarations.
Children have the right to survive and thrive.
They have the right to enjoy an adequate standard of living.
They have the right to health, safety and security—including the right to protection from violence, abuse and neglect.
They have the right to a safe and stable home, and the right to support from their community and from trusted adults outside their home.
They have the right to play and to participate in cultural life and the arts.
They have the right to be heard.
They have the right to express their ideas and opinions freely and the right to have their views considered.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women enshrine children’s right to education—including early learning and child care—that accomplishes the following objectives.
- Children’s education develops their personality, talents and mental and physical abilities to their fullest potential.
- It develops respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
- It develops respect for the natural environment.
- It prepares children for responsible life in a free society.
- It promotes understanding, peace, tolerance, equality and friendship among all people.
- It respects the cultural identity, language and values of the child’s parents, the child’s country and other civilizations.
As citizens in their own right, children are capable, creative, resourceful and active participants in their own learning.
They have the right to be valued and respected for who they are and for the unique strengths, histories, cultural practices and traditions they bring to their communities.
They have the right to be treated with respect and to participate in the daily decisions that affect them.
Children deserve the best our society can offer.
The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that parents and families are responsible for the upbringing and development of their children. At the same time, Article 18.3 makes it clear that communities and governments share this responsibility.
Article 18.3 states that governments must “ensure that children of working parents have the right to benefit from child-care services and facilities.”
Canada ratified the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991. Three decades later, we are still a long way from giving all children our best. Raising Canada 2020 reports that a third of Canada’s children do not enjoy a safe and happy childhood. One in five children live in poverty. And one in four preschoolers are having difficulty in one or more areas of development, which means they are not ready for school.
We can do better.
In 2018, the World Health Organization outlined guiding principles for the nurturing care needed to support children’s right to survive and thrive. The first principle is that “government and society are obliged to guarantee and protect children’s rights.”
In many countries, children’s right to high-quality early learning and child care is enshrined in legislation. Norway has gone even further. Norway’s children have a statutory right to an early learning and child care space from the time they are one year old.
Alberta’s current legislation does not recognize the rights of children or the right of children and families to high-quality early learning and child care. It should.
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