THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
First Session, Thirty-eighth Parliament, 2004-05
Hearings: OTTAWA, Monday, June 13, 2005 - Issue No. 16 - Fourteen and Fifteenth meetings
Examine and report upon Canadas obligations in regards to the rights
and freedoms of children.
MEMBERS OF THE COMMITTEE
The Honourable A. Raynell Andreychuk, Chair
The Honourable Landon Pearson, Deputy Chair
The Honourable Senators:
*Austin, P.C., (or Rompkey, P.C.), Baker, P.C., Carstairs, P.C., Ferretti Barth, *Kinsella, (or Stratton),
LeBreton, Losier-Cool, Oliver, Poy
*Ex officio members
Office of the Child and Youth Advocate:
Jim Igloliorte, Interim Child and Youth Advocate;
Marilyn McCormack, Deputy Advocate; Roxanne Pottle, Advocacy Education
Officer; Paule (transcript error, name different below) Burt, Advocacy Assessment
Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador's Youth (FINALY): Jay McGrath, Chairperson,
Provincial Youth; Chelsea Howard, Provincial Youth Council.
Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment Centre: Kristin (
transcript error, name different below ) Sellon, Executive Director.
Government of Newfoundland and Labrador:
Department of Health and Community Services: Lynn Vivian-Book, Assistant
Department of Justice: Mary Mandville, Civil Solicitor.
Child, Youth and Family Services: Ivy Burt, Provincial Director.
Centre for Excellence for Youth Engagement:
Florian Bizindavyi, coordinator.
Roundtable of children and youth: Megan Fitzgerald; Ryan Stratton; Rachel Gardiner; Shireen Marzouk.
ST. JOHN'S, Monday, June 13, 2005 - Morning meeting
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 8:05 a.m. to examine and report upon Canada's
international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children.
Senator Landon Pearson (Deputy Chairman) in the chair.
The Deputy Chairman: Good morning witness and welcome to the Senate Standing Committee on Human
Rights. We are examining and reporting upon Canada's international obligations concerning the rights and
freedoms of children.
We are extremely happy to be here in Newfoundland and Labrador, and I am happy to welcome Jim Igloliorte,
Marilyn McCormack, Paula Burt, and Roxanne Pottle, from the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. I came here
with the Canadian Council of Provincial Child Advocates when some people were very enthusiastic about developing
a child advocate's office here in Newfoundland and Labrador. I am delighted to see that it came through. You
have challenges ahead of you, and we are very interested to hear what you are doing and will ask questions after
Mr. Jim Igloliorte, Interim Child and Youth Advocate, Office of the Child and
Youth Advocate: I appreciate the welcome, and welcome this committee to St. John's, Newfoundland. On behalf
of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate of Newfoundland and Labrador, I extend a warm welcome to the
honourable members of the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights as you continue your review respecting the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
If you visit our website at www.childandyouthadvocate.nl.ca,
you will learn that our office is an independent office of the House of Assembly of Newfoundland and Labrador.
It has the authority to represents the rights, interests, and viewpoints of children and youth who are entitled
to receive services and access programs provided by the government of this province.
The annual report for the inaugural year 2002-03 explains the history and background of the Office of Child
and Youth Advocate. The formal process began in 1996 when the Select Committee's Report on Children's Interests
expressed a keen interest for such an office.
In February 2001, the government announced its plan to move forward with advocacy legislation and assented to
the provincial statute called The Child and Youth Advocate Act, on December 13, 2001. Its proclamation occurred
on May 12, 2002. Mr. Lloyd Wicks, a retired judge of the Provincial Court of Newfoundland and Labrador became
the province's first child and youth advocate on September 16, 2002, and remained in that capacity until March
of 2005.The advocate's office reports directly to the Legislature by means of an annual report.
My appearance today is as an interim youth advocate. I have only been in this position for a month, and hence
the reason for bringing along three of my staff members who will be answering the questions as the morning goes
It is, of course, the combination of sound legislative and administrative policy, along with a dedicated
staff, that determines the success of the office, and not simply the efforts of the advocate. To that end, I
want to introduce you to the practitioners who carry on the daily work of the Office of the Child and Youth
Advocate: Marilyn McCormack, Deputy Child and Youth Advocate, Roxanne Pottle, Advocacy Education Officer, and
Paula Burt, Advocacy Assessment Officer.
We view the work of your committee as an illuminating light shining across this vast country allowing others
in the world community to share in our challenges and best practices. The Office of the Child and Youth Advocate
operates from a rights-based perspective and uses the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a basis for
its advocacy services. We acknowledge the overarching principle expressed in article 3(1) of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child, stated in these words,
In all actions concerning children, whether undertaken by public or private social welfare institutions,
courts of law, administrative authorities or legislative bodies, the best interest of the child should be a
The following principles guide the work of the office. Children and youth are our primary clients. Children
and youth have a right to information regarding government services and programs designed to meet their needs.
Children and youth have a right to speak and be heard by those who make decisions affecting their lives.
Children and youth have a right to participate in decisions which affect them. Parents, extended family, others
significant to the child or youth, and community are all the natural advocates for children and youth. Children,
youth and their families are, wherever possible, in control of the advocacy process. Actions are to be based on
empowerment. Information will be treated as strictly confidential, unless there is a risk to a child or youth.
Interventions are respectful, understanding and compassionate. There is respect for and recognition of the
diversity and importance of culture.
In your review of Canada's obligations as a state party, we will present to you our experiences in working
with children and youth, and we will use those experiences as a basis for identifying the challenges which
remain at both a national and provincial level in meeting the obligations under the convention.
There has been much advancement in our province relating to the rights of children and youth. The province
has enacted several new pieces of children's legislation, including child protection, childcare services,
adoption, education and advocacy statutes, which reflect the best practice principles in the convention. Also
relevant is federal legislation such as the Youth Criminal Justice Act and the Divorce Act. It is evident that a
dedicated group of professionals and individuals working at the governmental and community level are committed
to advancing children's rights. However, there are still many challenges facing our children and youth, and
there are areas where our province falls short in meeting its obligations under the convention. Given the time
that we have to speak today, it is these challenges that I would like to highlight and we will look at specific
articles from the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Article 12 affirms children as full citizens with equal rights to participate in decisions that affect them.
It also recognizes the responsibility of adults to promote processes which empower and enable children and youth
to influence decisions in a meaningful way. While new legislation addresses this issue, our experience is that
adults seldom hear what children have to say, and rarely include them in the decision-making process.
The government initiated the review of two significant programs related to children and youth: children and
youth with disabilities, and mental health services. In both instances, our office recommended that the
committees seek the opinions of children and youth, but this did not occur in a focused manner.
It has also been our experience that while provincial statutes speak to the rights of children and youth to
be heard in court processes; the courts are reluctant to hear directly from the child or youth.
Also of note is that while provincial policies speak to the importance of engaging children and youth in
decision- making processes, it is not a consistent occurrence. In many cases, adults refrain from empowering
children to engage in meetings with the advocacy staff.
Article 2 deals with non-discrimination, and articles 23, 28, 29, and 30 deal with education and culture. I
want to draw your attention to children and youth with disabilities, as well as to our Aboriginal children and
Children with disabilities and their families are often unable to access financial support for
disability-related needs. These children are unable to access programs and services to which they would
otherwise be entitled, and as a result, this creates additional stress for families contemplate placing their
children in care. In addition, physical accessibility to public buildings continues to be a major barrier for
these children and youth.
Educational opportunities for children with learning disabilities and behavioural challenges are lacking. We
work with many children who are not attending school on a full time basis because they are unable to access
appropriate levels of support. We also hear of many youth who have made the decision to drop out of school for
these very same reasons.
Newfoundland and Labrador's Aboriginal children and youth are not afforded the same standards of service as
their non-Aboriginal counterparts. Although the legislation and policies do not differentiate between Aboriginal
and non-Aboriginal persons, we have found significant discrepancies in the application of the policies and
Children and youth in Aboriginal communities continue to be at risk, their educational needs are not met, and
the services and programs available to them are often not culturally sensitive and suitable to their needs.
There is a significant gap in mental health and addiction services for children and youth in this province.
In some instances, the services are non-existent, in others the services do not focus on the needs of children
and youth. Where the services do exist, there is often a significant wait list.
Access to primary health care is often compromised by geography and the existence of one children's hospital
for the entire province. While the province has put a focus on primary health care sites, the lack of financial
supports available to families to access these sites remains a considerable barrier. In addition, there are some
health services which are not available in the province resulting in families having to travel to other parts of
the country to access health services needed by children and youth, and this becomes, of course, very costly to
While there have been significant advances in early childhood programs, this country still does not have a
universal system of childcare. The lack of affordable and quality childcare programs is a significant gap in
services for children in this province and throughout the country. It is also the case that funding targeted for
Aboriginal childcare initiatives has faced delays in getting the necessary allocations.
Children and youth continue to be the subject of maltreatment. It appears that little is done in the way of
prevention and early intervention initiatives in spite of the reference to their importance in provincial
We deal with overburdened and under resourced child and youth care systems. Treatment for children and youth
who are victims of abuse, neglect and exploitation are insufficient, as was previously referenced in our
discussion on mental health services.
Finally, in light of the widespread opposition by childcare giver organizations both nationally and
provincially to section 43 of the Criminal Code of Canada, it should be deemed inconsistent with these articles
We believe that governments should implement a national campaign on the harms of physical punishment as well
as the merits of positive discipline by adults in authority over the child.
Apart from these statements about the application of the convention, we have concerns about the lack of
reference to children and youth rights in provincial statutes. While it is implied in some instances, none of
the provincial statutes explicitly reference the rights of children and youth.
I would be remiss not to mention as well the number of children and youth who live in poverty in this
province and throughout the country. While there has been progress in such programs as the National Child
Benefit, they have not been able to address the total impact that living in poverty has on children and youth.
Once again to all of you, I want to thank you for this wonderful opportunity. We are pleased, and I will not
say myself personally, because I know the experience comes from around me, to provide further details and answer
any questions that you may have for us at this time.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much for your excellent presentation. It is a pleasure for all the
members of this committee to hear the Convention on the Rights of the Child so adequately and properly
referenced. We have a number of questions, and I have several too.
Senator Carstairs: I hope you are aware that our last presenters today will be children from
Newfoundland and Labrador.
Are you an officer of the Parliament or the Assembly of Newfoundland, and do you have to report through a
minister, or do you report directly?
Do you get your funding through a minister?
Ms. Marilyn McCormack, Deputy Advocate, Office of the Child and Youth
Advocate: The advocate himself is a member of the legislature. We are public servants. However, we are an
independent office of the House of Assembly. Our funding comes through government directly to our office, and we
operate that funding. We follow government financial practices and make the decisions about the expenditure. We
submit a budget on an annual basis, which is approved by the Internal Economy Commission of the House of
Senator Carstairs: When you say he is a member of the House of Assembly, do you mean he is an elected
Ms. McCormack: No, he is an officer of the Legislature.
Senator Carstairs: In terms of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, when I read through
Newfoundland's 1998 submission, there seemed to be an inconsistency between the Department of Education and who
they had to educate, and then later on their representation of refugee children.
I know that Newfoundland and Labrador does not receive a great number of refugees, but I want some sense of
whether a refugee child has the right to attend school in Newfoundland and Labrador, or if they are excluded
from that right.
Ms. McCormack: They do have the right to attend school. I think there is some work going on between
the various departments, particularly Health and Community Services and Education, and the Association for New
Canadians. We consider any child to have the same rights as a child born in the province.
Senator Carstairs: Our committee has discussed the need to have a national child advocate, because
Aboriginal children in reserve communities are entirely within the responsibility of the federal government and
it would be a useful means to coordinate policies between the provinces and the federal government. Do you have
a position on that, and if you do, could you express it to us?
Ms. McCormack: Newfoundland and Labrador is a member of the Canadian Council of Provincial Child and
Youth Advocates, and we have the benefit of working with that national body. I certainly support, and I think
this province would support a national children's advocate. We are part of the council.
Even though the provinces that have advocacy offices are a part of the Canadian council, it is still very
difficult for us to get together and actually carry out the work on a national level. This province supports a
national children's advocate.
Senator Oliver: The Standing Senate Committee on National Finance just did a study on offices of
Parliament, such as the Privacy Commissioner, Information Commissioner, and so on, and how they receive their
funding. We found there were a couple of discrepancies in that it was not arms length and independent enough.
Is there any way that the assembly here can hold back money if they do not like some of the things you are
doing, or is it automatic?
Do you get enough money to do the job you have to do for children?
Ms. McCormack: Our office is relatively new. We were established in 2002 and we submit an annual
budget to the House of Assembly. Each year we look for additional funding because we are a very small staff and
we our responsible for the entire province. We do not always get what we ask for, or what we feel that we need,
however, they can sometimes alter our budget even after its approval.
Senator Oliver: Is there one minister in charge, or is there a treasury board?
Ms. McCormack: No, we report directly to the House of Assembly. However, there is an Internal Economy
Commission which approves the annual budget for the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. Each year, usually
in the fall, we present our budget and it is approved by March 31 of the next year to be come effective April 1.
Senator Oliver: Do you have an appeal process?
Ms. McCormack: Yes, we can appeal back to the same commission. That is how we operate. As I said, we
have only been open for two years. We could use additional staff, but so far, we have not had an increase in our
Senator Oliver: You are all public servants; you are bureaucrats. Do you see the need to have an
independent stand- alone agency that hires your staff that is separate from the public service?
Ms. McCormack: There are some benefits to being part of the public service. We are different in that
we do not belong to the union; we are at the management level in terms of operations. The pension benefits are
important to the individual members. We have not had a problem or run into anything in particular.
Senator Oliver: I want to ask about section 12 ``Participation.'' Thirty-seven years ago, I taught a
course in Dalhousie Law School called Law and the Family. During the course of those studies, we focused on
``the age of intellection'', that is when a child old enough to participate in the process.
I notice that you said that the courts are often reluctant to hear from the child. Can you help me with the
concept of intellection? When is a child old enough to understand and to participate?
Ms. McCormack: Children of all ages come into our office. Sometimes their parents are overbearing and
the child is only heard when the court orders and independent assessment. In that situation, a professional
interviews the child. Some children insist that they want to talk to the judge. Some children feel they have the
right to be heard and are frustrated that nobody listens to them.
There are ways in which the court can hear the child, even without interviews, but we find that in many
instances children are not actually given the opportunity to even submit their thoughts in writing.
Senator Oliver: How do you know that the child has not been influenced by one parent or another to say
something against the other parent, and how do you know when it is free and voluntary?
Ms. McCormack: I think that is where some of the reluctance comes from the systemic agencies in terms
of hearing children. It is our opinion that all children have a right to be heard.
Senator Oliver: At any age?
Ms. McCormack: At any age. Of course, we have to think about a pre-schooler who might have some
difficulty in self-expression. From an advocacy perspective, we always promote that all children have a right to
have their opinion heard, whether that is directly or whether it is through someone else. That is our position.
Senator Oliver: Roxanne, are you of the same mind?
Ms. Roxanne Pottle, Advocacy Education Officer, Office of the Child and Youth
Advocate: I am of the same mind. I do have some background in working with children and youth through
separation and divorce. The professionals who complete the assessments or interview children in court have a
very strong background in child development, working with children, and understanding the dynamics and conflict
that originates through a separation or divorce between the parents.
My experience in that area is that children as young as eight or nine have certain very strong beliefs and
opinions about how to settle the conflict between their parents, so that the issues of custody and access can be
settled in a significant and meaningful way for them. To believe that a child even at that age does not
understand is remiss when you realize that they are right in the middle of the conflict, and have a lot of
understanding about what is going on in the family.
Older children have some very good ideas on how to settle the conflict between their parents, and they have
good ideas as to custody and access issues. The difficulty is that even though there is a family court process,
the youth experience is that their voice about what should be happening for them does not receive full weight.
For the most part, the courts do not consider the children and youth in their deliberations. That puts that
child and youth in a very difficult set of circumstances in that they lose all faith in the system. They feel
left out of the whole process that has so much to do with their future.
In my opinion, I think it is very important to listen to what they have to say about what should happen to
them. One of the issues you raise is around the alienation between the parents and children. Many indicators
show that the alienation starts with a lack of communication. Our family counsellors and professionals try to
work with these issues while supporting the rights of the child.
Senator Oliver: That was very helpful and very interesting. Thank you.
Mr. Igloliorte: I just want to add a point to your original question about our annual budget and the
size of our staff. We have seven people in total in the staff. Our report from 2002-03 indicates a budget of
Roxanne and Paula have just completed a full week in the northern part of Newfoundland and that indicates the
funding we use for travel. We go to all corners to get the educational message out to our citizens. Travelling
expenses consume a significant amount of our budget.
Senator Poy: You mentioned that pre-school children sometimes have an opinion on their circumstances.
At what age would you say is the end of childhood and the beginning of youth? Would that be between the ages of
8 years and 12 years? Do you make a distinction between the terms ``child'' and ``youth''?
Ms. Paula Burt, Advocacy Assessment Officer, Office of the Child and Youth
Advocate: Most of the provincial legislation speaks to the age of 12 as the age when a youth become involved
in the decision-making process. In some of our provincial statutes, the age of 12 seems to be the age adopted by
the province. That is from a legislative perspective. From our perspective, in terms of providing advocacy
services, we always try to given consideration to the age of the child, their level of maturity and engage them
in the advocacy process. If the child is unable to provide us with direction or does not have a natural
advocate, we will bring his or her voice to the decision-making process.
Senator Poy: If a child under the age of 12 is capable of making a phone call to your office you will
have someone visit them. Do you go directly to the child in case it is against the parents that the child wishes
Ms. Burt: Yes, that is our experience. We receive emails and telephone calls from primary and
elementary school-age children. We speak with them directly for the reason you mentioned. Sometimes they do not
have a natural advocate and other times they just wish to speak directly to someone that they see as able to
help them at that point in time.
Senator Poy: Do you teach children about their rights? Do they know that they can approach you,
because some children are very mature, even by the age of 10 or 11?
Ms. Pottle: One of my main roles is education and the promotion of children's rights. When I say
``children,'' I am referring to youth as well.
We spend a fair bit of time explaining the process to children, whether it is in school, or at a community
centre. We tell them how they can contact us, what kinds of issues we deal with, and what kind of cases come to
We have various sources such as a 1-800 number, an email address, and voice mail, if they make the call after
Children and youth will often contact us on their own, or they will ask a family member or another
professional to assist on their behalf. We have received many, many calls from children and youth. However, the
education component will always be ongoing.
We have not been in every school in the province. Mr. Igloliorte mentioned we were in the northern part of
Newfoundland and along the Labrador Straits. We managed to attend every school and speak to as many children as
possible about the role and function of the office, and about their rights, in general.
Senator Poy: You state that one of your guiding principles is:
Children, youth and their families are, wherever possible, in control of the advocacy process.
Are you referring to court appearances when you make that statement?
Ms. McCormack: When people approach our office, sometimes they need information about their next step
in the process. If they are unable to access a particular service for a child, they are frustrated with the
system and they do not know where to go next. We will often inform them of what we call ``self-advocacy
assistance.'' We give them information about their options.
In some instances we become directly involved. If they have exhausted all the appeal systems and do not know
where to go from there, then the advocacy staff will act on their behalf and bring their issues forward.
Senator Poy: So, that is mainly in court.
Ms. McCormack: No, we do not go to court. This is advocating for services that they are entitled to
receive from the government.
Senator Poy: Can you give me example of discrepancies between Aboriginal children and youth and the
non- Aboriginal counterparts?
Why is there such a big discrepancy when both groups can come to you?
Ms. McCormack: We find that the legislation covers all children in the province, but when you get into
the Aboriginal communities, you find that they do not practice the same way. They are not responding,
implementing, or following through on the government policy to provide services to children and youth. I think
it is because there is often conflict between who is responsible for the provision of the service. Often we find
is that there is poor coordination between the province, band councils and the federal government.
The legislation is clear and so are the services that are available, but getting someone to follow through is
difficult. We find that the education system is insensitive to the cultures of the people, and, therefore, the
children are not attending school. This unfortunate occurrence is because the programming does not fit with
their lifestyle and their culture.
Mr. Igloliorte: We find that the communities that have the greatest degree of self-government control,
experience in social services, and some aspects of justice and community services, are the communities that have
the best handle on providing care for their children.
I think the message is for the federal and provincial governments to ensure that the land claims are
completed. In the end, it is the entire community that eventually gets the most benefit, and that certainly
extends to the children.
Senator Poy: In a case like this in Aboriginal communities, would you have to deal with the band
councils instead of with the children? Would that be an intermediate step?
Ms. McCormack: We would deal directly with the individual child and family. We might consult the band
council if they could be of assistance in solving the problem, or we would go to the persons responsible for the
service provision. For example, if it were an issue related to the need for services, whether it is income
support or a child welfare service, we would go to Health and Community Services or the Department of Human
Resources, Labour and Employment, to advocate on behalf of that individual child. We may also go to the band; it
depends on the issue.
Senator Poy: It is only if they are helpful that you would go through them; otherwise, you go directly
to the child.
Ms. McCormack: Our office provides direct service to a child. We try to work at the front line level
with the individual worker responsible for the service provision in a particular area. If that does not work, we
go to whomever we have to go to in order to resolve the problem.
Mr. Igloliorte: Our overriding model is that the child is a client, and that is our basic focus.
Senator Poy: In Newfoundland and Labrador, do you have many foreign adoptions?
Ms. McCormack: Yes, there is quite a large interest and I can speak to that from my former position as
Director for Adoptions for the province. There has certainly been an increase in the number of applicants
because there are very few children available for adoption in this province. There is a lot of interest in
The Deputy Chairman: When I was with the Canadian Council on Children and Youth, we heard from kids. I
came here with the Committee on Child Custody and Access, which I co-chaired. The former Lieutenant Governor
McGrath invited me to a conference her on child and youth care three or four years ago. There was a big
conference on the family. You may remember that conference.
It is wonderful to be back here again, and to see you. It is very exciting. One of my questions concerns the
What is your authority with respect to the educational system because I know that some of the other child
advocates do not have much authority in the education system?
Ms. McCormack: If you look at our legislation, some people would say we probably do not have any
authority. However, our first advocate was very assertive when it came to education. In fact, if you read the
legislation, we do have some authority because of how the Department of Education works in this province. The
act says that we are entitled to advocate for children who are entitled to receive programs and services offered
by the government, its boards, or its agencies.
When it comes to education, we find people coming forward because they are unable to access support services
for children in the school setting. Those decisions, while oftentimes made at the board level, many times go to
the Department of Education for approval. The Special Services Support Division in the Department of Education
is the ones that say yes or no to the services. This means that we have an automatic ``in'' to become involved
because we can go to that particular division on behalf of an individual child.
Twenty-three per cent of our referrals for the fiscal year 2003-04 related to issues in education. The issues
ranged from special transportation to the need to see teachers, to other types of educational supports. We deal
with a high number of calls.
We also would like to deal, and I am sure that we will eventually as we move along, with some of those issues
on a systemic basis because our individual cases drive our systemic files. As Mr. Igloliorte said, we are a very
small staff and trying to tackle some of the issues on a systemic basis has been a bit of a problem for us up to
the present time.
The Deputy Chairman: With respect to sexual exploitation, while you spoke about general issues of
abuse, neglect, and so on, you will recall that those cases were associated with some of the cases around Mount
Cashel. What has been your experience so far on that particular issue?
Ms. McCormack: We are not involved in actual assessment, but 32 per cent of our cases at the Office of
the Child and Youth Advocate involve child protection concerns.
In many cases, people come forward saying that they were not satisfied with the assessment, that they did not
feel that proper consideration was given to all of their information. In that case, we would advocate and go
back through the system to make sure that all the information had been considered, and that a child protection
assessment had been completed.
There are very specific guidelines under the Child Youth and Family Services Act, and through the Department
of Health and Community Services, as to how they do these assessments.
What we would do is ask for copies of the assessments, or speak to the staff around whether certain factors
had been considered, that kind of thing.
The Deputy Chairman: Do you have subpoena powers? How far can you investigate?
Ms. McCormack: Under section 21 of the Child Youth and Advocate Act, we have a right to information.
We can, therefore, request copies of information with various service providers.
The Deputy Chairman: We were very interested in an excellent presentation from Dr. Cindy Kiro,
Children's Commissioner of New Zealand, who is Maori. She is a very interesting woman.
They had been there 14 years and they had a new act about two years ago, that added something on which I
would like you to comment. She has a statutory obligation to hear from children. Technically, of course, you
promote listening, and so on, and so forth. Would a statutory obligation add to your powers?
Ms. McCormack: I think it should be in all children's legislation. That is what we advocate. In our
legislation, it says that we have a right to meet with children and youth and interview them. I think it should
be in all the children's legislation that children should be heard. I think that would be excellent.
We have issues related to custody and access, and while we do not have a legal authority, I suppose, in the
sense that the Divorce Act is federal, what we have is people coming in, and sometimes they overlap with child
protection concerns or concerns of how to access legal counsel. We hear from families where housing is an issue.
With youth services, we break out into a separate category.
I have the income support percentages. Nine per cent was custody and access; 7 per cent related to children
and youth in care; 7 per cent related to other things, such as access to medical services; 5 per cent related to
housing; 4 per cent related to youth services. The category of youth that I am speaking about is youth between
16 years and 18 years. There is a special program in our province for those youth. Four per cent to income
support; 3 per cent to community supports; 2 per cent to support enforcement issues; 2 per cent to childcare
services, and 2 per cent were legal, either inability to access legal counsel, or not satisfied with legal
Senator Carstairs: How do you do all of this with $700,000 a year?
Ms. McCormack: It is a challenge. We have over 600 cases in our office. We have very dedicated staff,
and we are always reaching out and telling people we are here. We have the responsibility to educate the public
about the role of the office. We are about to release our 2003-04 annual report, and hope it will show people
the importance of the office.
We can send a copy of that report. It is about to be filed.
Senator Oliver: In the conclusions in the presentation you made today, you said that you have concerns
about the lack of reference to children and youth rights in provincial statutes.
We are a Parliamentary committee and we propose public policy, and we are interested in legislation. This is
a provincial matter.
Do you have any general advice for us on things you would like to see us recommend with respect to your
concern about the lack of reference?
The chair just gave an example for a form of legislation in New Zealand in terms of child participation. Do
you have any other general recommendations you would like to leave with the committee, given your concerns?
Ms. McCormack: The legislation is relatively new in our province and does not actually state that a
child has a ``right to,'' and we would like to see that written in the legislation so that it is very clear. It
is not what the government thinks is best for children, but they have a ``right to'' have whatever it is that
particular service provides.
Ms. Burt: I support Marilyn's statement. Even though the legislation is in very strong principle-based
terms if they are not specifically referenced as a right, I think it is easier for people to disregard the
wording and fail to empower our children with their natural rights.
We encourage this new type of legislation. With every opportunity, we discuss the need to have rights-based
legislation and rights-based policies. You have seen it in our presentation this morning.
We are concerned with the lack of consistency of involvement with young people. I think strong rights-based
legislation would be very helpful to children and young people as they try to promote that as well.
Senator Oliver: Do you have language recommendations for the legislature?
Ms. Burt: No, we do not. Some of our challenges and concerns, as Marilyn mentioned earlier, are from a
systemic perspective. Even though we are a new organization, just two years old, we have had an opportunity over
the last two years to hear from children and young people around their challenges. We think that we can inform
We are unable, because of our small size, to take on some of the broader systemic issues. We try to do it on
an individual basis. We try to prioritize and look at some of those broader policy issues, and hope to be able
to do so in the future.
Mr. Igloliorte: The first point you made about the national advocacy office is one where a
recommendation from this committee would go a long way in assisting the other provincial offices.
Senator Poy: Can you tell me about the percentage of Aboriginal children and youth in comparison to
the percentage of the non-Aboriginal counterparts.
Can you tell me whether you have significant numbers of immigrants coming into the province, and the numbers
in children and youth?
Ms. McCormack: I take it, you are asking about the children and youth that come to our attention.
Senator Poy: Yes, I would like to hear about the general percentages, or both.
Ms. McCormack: A number of Aboriginal children and families come looking for services. We are
proactive around some of the communities because we are aware that they have some particular difficulties.
Our office has met with members of band councils, and gone out and actually had community forums and met with
groups of parents and groups of children to try to determine how we might help. We have also talked to other
people within government about how we might intervene in some of the particular problems.
I do not think I can give you an actual percentage on the number of immigrant cases.
Senator Poy: Would you say that the Aboriginal percentage is higher according to their population?
Ms. McCormack: Not really, no. The highest percentage, 69 per cent, is in the most densely populated
main urban area in St. John's.
We have equal concern for the issues that affect Aboriginal and other children in the province, which is why
we started these advocacy clinics. We visit the various parts of the province to hear from the children. They
come back to the office, and we plan a strategy to deal with some of their issues.
Senator Poy: What is the total population of Newfoundland and Labrador in comparison to children and
youth within that population?
Mr. Igloliorte: I think we should ask the media in the back. Something tells me it is in the vicinity
Senator Poy: Is that figure for the entire province?
Mr. Igloliorte: Approximately, yes. The Aboriginal youth population relative to the adults and
relative to the rest of the province's youth is quite high; 35 per cent or maybe 40 per cent of the population
is under 15 years.
Senator Poy: This is only Aboriginal children and youth.
Mr. Igloliorte: For the most part, that high percentage is in the Aboriginal communities.
Senator Poy: Is it a more adult population or are there higher numbers of young people?
Mr. Igloliorte: Senator, do you mean in the balance of the province? The demographics skewed towards
the adult age are quite a bit higher.
The Deputy Chairman: This has been a significant and helpful presentation. I have two quick questions.
You tell us that you educate the children to the work that you do in your office. I presume that at the same
time you promote the convention as well.
I always meet children who do not know about the convention. They know about human rights, they know about
the Charter, but they do not know about the convention. They do not know that they have rights.
Do you think your organization will participate in the preparation for the next Canada's report to the
Committee on the Rights of the Child?
Ms. McCormack: I think that is a very good question. Each year our office hosts an ``advocacy week,''
during which time we invite people to participate with us in advancing the rights and interests of children and
youth. We promote knowledge about the Office of Child and Youth Advocate.
As part of our Calendar Project, we send each school in the province information concerning children's
rights. ``Take Time to Listen to Me'' was this year's theme. Each school submitted artwork depicting the
children's understanding of the theme.
The first year's theme was Our Rights, Our Voices. We send materials to the teachers to present to the
children in the classroom. The ensuring discussion centres on children's rights consistent with the convention.
The children send in beautiful art and we make a difficult decision and pick 12, which we publish in our
calendar. We are in the process of choosing the artwork for the 2006 calendar.
We try to get to each region twice a year and we talk to both children and adults about children's rights. We
sometimes receive calls asking if children have the same rights as adults. We sometimes have a difficult time
explaining that indeed, children do have the same rights as adults do. Sometimes they question us as to why we
pay so much attention to children because many times the children's view may not be consistent with the parent's
view. We often have to stand up for the child.
The child is our primary client, and we advocate on behalf of children and youth.
The Deputy Chairman: Will you have a role in the preparation of Newfoundland and Labrador's report?
Ms. McCormack: Yes, I think so. We provided some feedback on the violence strategy in 2004, and
answered questions related to that particular initiative.
Mr. Igloliorte: We will attend Memorial University to speak to a class of teachers or prospective
teachers, about social workers and other professionals and their role as champions of children's rights.
Ms. Pottle: We receive requests to present to service providers, community agencies, and individual
groups within our province. Whether we have a speaking engagement with a new recruiting group with the RCMP or
RNC, or with a new group of social workers, or schoolteachers, we take the opportunity to explain our function
vis--vis children's rights.
Ms. Burt: We put a great deal of emphasis on promotion of the UN convention and we see the
community-level groups applying the same energy and emphasis on the convention. Each year at National Child Day,
we see dedicated community members promoting the same sort of agenda in terms of children's rights.
At the broad governmental level, I recommend a systematic promotional program to emphasise the UN convention.
I recommend this on a yearly basis because our annual reports are not enough. We need development of promotional
materials for the general population. We need the governments to promote the convention, and I am not quite so
sure that is happening now.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much. That has been a wonderful start to our day. It is very
exciting that in two years you have been able to define and establish and get out in your organization so well.
That promises well for the future.
Mr. Jay McGrath, Chairperson, Provincial Youth, Futures in Newfoundland and
Labrador's Youth (FINALY): I would like to start by thanking you for having us here this morning. We
certainly appreciate the invitation.
FINALY is a dynamic youth driven organization that serves to empower young people to be active participants
in decision making implementation. Our involvement in social and economic issues provides an opportunity for
youth to develop a viable future in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Our Provincial Youth Council, PYC, is comprised of 13 democratically elected youth from around the province.
We coordinate the regional and provincial movement. We oversee financial and administrative issues, and we voice
youth issues and concerns on a provincial level.
The PYC has three representatives from each of our four regions. This structure ensures a provincial focus
for our group, and the board represents our membership and governs our staff. It acts and speaks on behalf of
young people ages 15 to 29 in our province. For nearly a decade, we have played an influential role in the lives
of youth in our province.
The past twelve months has been a busy time for us, and it has certainly been a year of building momentum for
our organization. We began with new staff and in need of democratic renewal of our PYC. Since early this year,
the organization's focus has shifted from organizational renewal to taking on projects and initiatives as put
forward by the PYC.
FINALY pursued and maintained multiple priorities throughout 2004-05 and we are involved in two ongoing
projects. First, the Business Retention and Expansion Project in partnership with our provincial government is
nearing completion. The project involves conducting interviews with young entrepreneurs across the province, and
at the completion of the interview process, in collaboration with the provincial government, we will put forth
an action plan to help overcome the barriers addressed by the entrepreneurs. As of today, we have completed 90
per cent of our interviews, and formed a database of nearly 400 youth entrepreneurs in Newfoundland and
Secondly, we are running a Wild-Craft Industry Development Sessions. The concept of this project is to teach
Metis youth how to make and market crafts from natural resources. This project involves the partnership of the
Labrador Metis Nation, Metis Development Corporation, ACOA, Aboriginal Business Canada, and HRSDC. Over the
summer and fall of 2005 two courses and two weekend conferences will fulfil our objectives in this initiative.
Another program is our involvement with the Shad Valley Promotional Campaign. This project involves
collaborating with Shad Valley International to promote their educational enrichment summer program. Despite
having a reputation for delivering world-class instruction, they have historically had difficulty attracting
high school students from Newfoundland and Labrador. Promoting Shad through our extensive provincial youth
network, we solicited six rural applications from around the province, and received seven applications in total.
We scheduled a more extensive promotional campaign for next year.
In partnership with the North Atlantic Refinery, we once again ran our annual Youth of the Year Award
Program. We received 30 nominations from all around the province. The recipient received $1,000 and an award for
youth excellence in social and economic development.
We converted our Catch a Wave newsletter from a mail-out format to an electronic newsletter. The new
Catch a Wave will serve as a one-stop shop for all youth opportunities within the province. We will partner
with youth agencies across the youth service sector to promote awareness of opportunities to our growing
membership of over 500.
FINALY is involved with different national-level groups as well. Emerging Leaders is one example of the
organization's work at that level. FINALY is a standing committee member of Emerging Leaders, the national youth
wing of the Canadian Community Economic Development Network. Emerging Leaders' mandate is to engage youth in
community economic development by encouraging the grassroots development of provincially run youth
organizations. We recently attended the CCEDNet national conference in Sault St. Marie, Ontario, this past May.
We are involved with Junior Team Canada, as well as Skills Canada. Getting back to a provincial level, we are
part of the Provincial Innovation Strategy Roundtable Discussions.
Collaborating with AMEC Earth and Environmental and the Provincial Government, FINALY facilitated the
participation of youth delegates at nine of the 11 Provincial Innovation Strategy Roundtable Discussions that
took place in the province this past year.
We facilitated a youth session at the Newfoundland and Labrador Association for Community Living, PAR Event,
with focus on inclusive communities, specifically targeting inclusion of youth and other peoples with
Lastly, this past year FINALY was a Provincial Community Economic Development Award finalist for the
Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development in a category of excellence in fostering entrepreneurship.
This past year has been certainly a very busy one for us as we continue to empower our young people in
Newfoundland. We are certain that empowerment will continue in our organization.
Ms. Chelsea Howard, Provincial Youth Council, Futures in Newfoundland and
Labrador's Youth (FINALY): Good morning, as a member of Futures in Newfoundland and Labrador Youth, and a
child under the definition of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, I would like to thank you for the
opportunity to address this committee.
I have been involved with groups and initiates like FINALY that seek to promote creativity and economic
activities that will allow young people to build their own futures. I run my own award winning business with the
help of Youth Ventures, a government funded program, and in school I am required to take economics and
enterprise education, both designed to foster the entrepreneurial spirit in youth.
I am a very member of the Youth Advisory Board with War Child Canada, an NGO dedicated to raising awareness
about children and war. I believe these experiences give me a unique perspective regarding Canada's obligations
under the UN Convention on the Rights of a Child.
The UN convention and Canada's National Plan for Action, is filled with the highest ideals, with moving
descriptions of the plight of children around the world, and clear principles and promises to make the world a
better place for children. However, without a funded implementation plan, they are only goals and ideals. The
vision exists and what Canada needs to do is take action.
We say we value children, but what do our actions and decisions reflect? Every day decisions are mode to
allocate resources, but when it comes to living up to our obligations to children under the convention, I have
to question if we truly value children the way we say we do.
One of the four fundamental principles of the UN convention, along with the right to life, survival, and
development, is the right to participate. All children have a right to a voice in matters that affect them. I
believe we can do more to allow children to make a real difference in their own lives and in the lives of
others. While progress has been made to involve children in decision making, I think children must be given the
tools to make meaningful social change.
I believe the economic, individualized, for profit focus of economic and enterprise programs and education
should be rethought to allow for a broader definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Children and young
people can be given the knowledge and skills to find solutions and take action on social programs that affect
them through social entrepreneurship. While it requires the entrepreneurial spirit of creativity, dedication,
organization and vision, it also requires concern, care, and compassion. Social entrepreneurship is motivated by
social values, not private profit.
If we are truly serious about the rights of children to be involved in matters that affect them, then it
means giving children the skills and knowledge that will allow them to effect that change.
The focus of my entrepreneurial education is profit, not surprising in a culture that values profit above
most everything else. If we believe in the principles laid down in the Charter, then we will have the encourage
to include social and ecological values to nurture and to cultivate entrepreneurs dedicated to making this world
a better place for children.
We children are born entrepreneurs, passionate innovators, creative and relentless, as our parents know too
well. We have the energy to bring to bear on the longstanding problems that often affect the problems of health,
the environment, and education. We can be a formidable creative force for change if we are allowed to develop
our skills and harness that energy, not solely for profit and personal gain, but for the well being of our
fellow human beings.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much for your presentations, both of you. We will now turn to the
Senator Carstairs: I want to put you on the spot. Chelsea and Jay, you are both obviously excellent
students, judging by your own biographies.
Chelsea, how would you change the education system in order to develop the kind of social entrepreneurship
that you bring to the table this morning?
Ms. Howard: Since it is a requirement to take enterprise education and economics courses, I would
change the curriculum or the outcomes to include values that reflect social entrepreneurship. I would encourage
the courses to use innovation, organization and creativity, and not focus on creating a business plan for your
own personal profit, but in order to implement social values and social programs like helping the homeless or
raising awareness about children of war.
I would put a bigger focus on that, and apply the characteristics traditionally associated with
entrepreneurialism to that kind of a social awareness rising in the education.
Mr. McGrath: As Chelsea mentioned, the entrepreneurial course is mandatory here in Newfoundland and
Labrador, or at least it was when I finished high school. I agree with Chelsea because I know when I took the
course when I was in grade 12, all I did for the whole year was prepare for our entrepreneur fair and create a
In my capacity as a member or FINALY, we have met with our provincial Department of Education on various
issues, including such things as changing certain curriculum. For example, I know they are implementing new
graduation requirements for this coming September, and FINALY' is involved with education departments on a
provincial level. Hopefully, our involvement will continue in that regard and maybe even grow stronger so we can
have more of a voice to make changes in certain programs.
Senator Carstairs: I know that you were in the audience when you heard some of the presentation from
the Youth Advocate's Office, which is a relatively new body in Newfoundland and Labrador.
What has been your sense of how they are functioning in the province?
Are young people aware in genuine numbers that they exist out there?
Are they seeking helping and support, and are they getting the help and support that they need from an
Mr. McGrath: Not to speak for them, but I would imagine that they would have some of the difficulties
that we have in regards to making the province more aware of what they do and who they are. The same people who
have heard of FINALY have heard of this group, and have heard of other groups. We try to reach the people who
are unaware of these groups. That is where most of the problems occur.
I know that I have heard of them. I do not know a lot about their group, and maybe, as chairperson of a
provincial youth organization, I should know more about their group, but I certainly have not had any meetings
with them, have not had any in-depth discussions. So maybe they could be a little bit better in regards to
making the province more aware, as, I guess, most youth organizations could.
Ms. Howard: Just to reiterate what Jay said, speaking from the perspective of a high school student, I
think that awareness of these types of groups is growing, although it is not quite there yet.
The information about FINALY and the group that was here is available to those who look for it, but I think
that we need to work on making it more mainstream whether you want to know about it or not. We should raise
general awareness, especially in high school populations. I think that is where a lot of the potential for the
growth of these organizations.
Senator Carstairs: Where does your financial support come from? How do you support yourself? Do you
have any paid employees, or volunteers do all the work?
Mr. McGrath: We are funded through ACOA. Seventy-five per cent of our budget comes through ACOA. The
other 25 per cent comes from the Department of Innovation, Trade and Rural Development.
At the beginning of our contract last year, we had an executive director, a communications coordinator,
business retention and expansion program coordinator, as well as a part-time bookkeeper administration person.
We also have an employee in Labrador running our Wild-Craft Project.
I hope that in the coming years we can get back to what we used to be in regards to having regional
coordinators. Last year, because of budget, we had to cut down our regional coordinators and cut down our
offices. Right now, our only office exists within St. John's.
Senator Poy: I do not think you mentioned how much funding you get. You did mention provincial
funding. From whom do you get the other funding?
Mr. McGrath: The other funding comes from the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency.
Senator Poy: What is your annual total?
Mr. McGrath: Our budget, outside of Wild-Craft and other smaller projects is $260,000 annually.
Senator Poy: You said that it does not include the other projects, such as Wild- Craft.
Mr. McGrath: When we run Wild-Craft, we get extra monies from our partners. The Shad Valley project
also receives extra funding. The funding from these programs does not come out of our budget. The $260,000 is
for our core employees et cetera.
Senator Poy: Are private corporations your partners?
Mr. McGrath: No, our partners are mostly government agencies. However, the North Atlantic Refinery,
which is a private corporation, participated in our Youth of the Year Program.
Senator Poy: Can you give me a clear definition of ``social entrepreneurship.'' I know you are not a
successful entrepreneur if you do not make money.
Ms. Howard: ``Social entrepreneurship'' means taking the values and attributes traditionally
associated with for- profit entrepreneurialism. Entrepreneurs have to be innovating, creative, driven and
determined. They have to be good communicators, and bring about social change, or put all those attributes
towards bringing about better awareness.
For example, I mentioned a homeless shelter, not-for-profit agencies and organizations like that. Instead of
putting the focus on turning a profit, the focus is on raising awareness and bringing about social change. I
guess you could measure your success by the amount of social or humanitarian change that you brought about.
Senator Poy: Therefore, the money making part is not the important part, is that what you are saying?
Ms. Howard: Yes.
Senator Poy: It would run like an NGO.
Ms. Howard: Yes. The emphasis would not be on how much profit you made, but how much awareness or
change that you brought about.
Senator Poy: Thank you.
Senator Oliver: I would like to follow up on the same line of questioning, and normally when you think
of a business or an entrepreneur enterprise, you make money and a profit. Once you get those profits, you do
many different things with them.
The doctrine of corporate social responsibility has been in existence for quite a few years now. This
doctrine indicates the corporation's responsibility to invest in the community in which it operates. For
example, let us say that you are involved in mining, and there are many toxic chemicals used in this mining
process. You do your mining, make your profit, and pour money back into the community to make sure that it is
environmentally safe. That is what ``corporate social responsibility'' means to me.
Now I do not understand that definition of ``corporate social responsibility'' when you say you want a
broader definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
How would your definition differ from what we now do in terms of corporate social responsibility of a major
Ms. Howard: I actually just attended a conference on corporate social responsibility. One of the main
points is that many major corporations are taking resources and going into third world countries. The thing is
that they are not corporately responsible. They are pouring money into making sure that the resources are mined
in a safe way, but they are taking the resources from the local farmers who have depended on a self-sustaining
way of life for so long, and they are taking their resources and using it for mass production to ship out to
countries all over the world.
I think that we need to put more emphasis on buying locally instead of buying from multi-national
corporations who are really stripping these third world countries of their resources.
What I meant by ``broadening the definition of entrepreneurialism'' is making youth more aware of a broader
definition of entrepreneurialism. The focus of the enterprise education program is how to turn a profit on one
business plan. I think that is definitely an important part of entrepreneurialism, but it has been the core of
it and the focus of it for so long.
I think it is time to open the youth's eyes to more possibilities and expand the definition a little bit to
include social programs and raising awareness and integrating that into the more traditional focus.
Senator Oliver: It seems to me that the goal is to make a profit, and if you want more social
responsibility and you do not want to do it the way the large corporations do it now, then you really should
look to something other than a profit making enterprise. Maybe you should be looking at an NGO or something else
to make this change.
When you say in your paper and it really sticks out,
I believe that the economic individualized for profit focus of economics and enterprise programming and
education should be rethought to allow for a broader definition of what it means to be an entrepreneur.
You are saying that you do not like the classical traditional way that people become entrepreneurs; they
follow the profit motive.
Are you against the profit motive?
Ms. Howard: I just think that they should focus less on turning a profit for personal gain because
that often leads to a disregard for other people involved and their resources.
I think the entrepreneurial definition needs to include working with other people to gain social awareness.
The definition of social entrepreneurship would include the need to work with people and the individualized
focus would be more inclusive.
Senator Oliver: Your youth group represents student's age 15 to 29 in Newfoundland and Labrador; is
Mr. McGrath: Yes.
Senator Oliver: How many students or youth are involved in total?
Mr. McGrath: We have a membership of over 500. The majority of our volunteer workers come from our
Provincial Youth Council. Our Provincial Youth Council, because of budget constraints, is sometimes unable to
travel all across the province, and our membership outside of our Provincial Youth Council is given the
opportunity to go to certain events, things such as this. For example, if you were holding this event probably
in Port Aux Basques, someone within our Western region would attend this event, and not the chairperson and a
Our membership is quite involved. We do put a number of tables in a number of events to voice their opinions
and concerns. As well, they avail of the opportunities that we can give them.
Senator Oliver: The positions that, Jay, you and Chelsea have made today with respect to
entrepreneurships, are those the opinions of the 500 members of your youth group or are they your personal
Mr. McGrath: Chelsea and I had the opportunity to voice our own concerns a couple of weeks back when
we heard about this. We sent our own opinions to the entire Provincial Youth Council, and to some of our general
members. They had the opportunity to voice their concerns back to us through email. They are at the core our
opinions, and some of our members have viewed them.
The Deputy Chairman: Jay, both Senator Oliver and I have encountered a number of students who have
participated in these leadership programs such as Shad Valley. A great many of those students are applying for
I think this an opportunity to explain how you will encourage that model here in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Mr. McGrath: Earlier this year, the group from Shad Valley Promotional contacted us, and,
unfortunately, the contact was a little bit late. Through our partnership, we sent out our administration person
to schools in central Newfoundland to educate and have discussions with the students in that area. Based on that
relationship we developed a more extensive partnership plan for the coming year. I hope that we can get in a
partnership faster and earlier this year so that we can work with more than just six high school students.
The Deputy Chairman: I think perhaps for the benefit of my colleagues who have not encountered Shad
Valley, could you explain the program.
Mr. McGrath: It allows high school students to travel to universities or colleges they have an
interest in attending. It allows them to visit before they make the choice of whether they will attend that
The Deputy Chairman: Our understanding is that it enabled students to spend some time studying a
university program. We understand that it does than just provide information about the university. It is
essentially a leadership program. The programs' founder invested a good deal of money to initiate the program. I
think it is useful that young people know about the initiatives that develop entrepreneurship and initiative.
Chelsea, I think what you are talking about is what we call ``social economy.'' Are you familiar with that
Ms. Howard: I have not heard that particular expression, but I think I understand ``social economy.''
It is something like social entrepreneurship, which promotes a greater awareness, and uses entrepreneurial
skills to market that awareness and social change.
The Deputy Chairman: It might interest you to know that we have a Parliamentary Secretary whose job is
to promote the social economy. She comes from Quebec and so does the concept. Among the elements of the concept
is the combination of the for-profit and not-for-profit motives. It is not an NGO idea. It is an idea to promote
community enterprises and opportunities that engage people who otherwise find difficulty getting jobs. They have
to generate enough profit to support the kind of work that they do. It is an idea that has had a lot of
attraction in Quebec. I think it fits very closely to the kind of idea you have.
Ms. Howard: Actually, I think it embodies the social entrepreneurship concept of living the
traditional entrepreneurial ideals while effecting social change. I think that is an idea or an opportunity that
we need to communicate to youth in the future education of enterprise.
The Deputy Chairman: As a committee, we are not really supposed to give you suggestions, but I think
that your group you might pursue this concept. I will give you the name afterwards. It increases the economy of
the area in which the organizations are operating, which is, I think, one of the things you are trying to do. It
is directed to entrepreneurship and to economic development and to the reduction of poverty.
My final comment now is congratulations. I hope you have a great time.
Ms. Howard: Thank you very much.
Senator Carstairs: Just to broaden the conversation with respect to Shad Valley, Memorial University
of Newfoundland is one of the locations. It provides an opportunity for grade 12 students to spend a month at
the university after graduation and before the start of the school year in September. It began at the University
of Waterloo, and has spread certainly to UBC and Memorial, and other locations as well. Students come for a
month, then go home and work for a month with someone in their specific field; it might be mathematics, it might
be geology, but one of the things they do in the Shad Valley Project is come up with a project.
I encourage you to continue your promotion. I hope there are many more students that attend Shad Valley
Projects across the country.
I want to be clear that I do not see any inconsistency between teaching both entrepreneurship and teaching
social entrepreneurship. It seems to me that, while at the same time working on projects that may be for-profit,
you can also be working on projects that may have a motivation that says if we make money from this entrepreneur
project, this is how we are going to spend it.
In my view, we have not seen enough people working in NGO's with entrepreneurship models and vice versa; we
have not had enough people in for-profit corporations with enough of a social mandate.
I would like your comments on that, Chelsea, to see if there is some way to teach both at the same time.
Ms. Howard: I think that is an excellent idea. I probably did come across as being against the
for-profit motive, but really I am not. I run my own business. Teaching both the traditional entrepreneurial
view and the development of a social conscience while running a for-profit business is exactly what we need to
integrate into the education system. I think it would play a role in turning out a new generation of
entrepreneurs. These new entrepreneurs would take at least a percentage of the profit and effect social change,
raise awareness, and put it into more humanitarian-related endeavours rather than just pouring it back into the
I think that would be an excellent course to add to the education system.
Senator Carstairs: Both Senator Poy and Senator Oliver have been genuine entrepreneurs with wonderful
social conscience, if you look at the donations that both of them have made to incredible projects in this
The Deputy Chairman: I would like to take this opportunity to welcome Senator Ethel Cochrane to our
table as representative from Newfoundland and Labrador.
Senator Cochrane: Are you people involved with various other youth organizations in the province?
Mr. McGrath: We are currently working towards a big October festival for the young people in this
province, and we are trying to collaborate with Youth Ventures. We are looking at getting the message out. We
are looking at contacting Allied Youth. We are trying to get as many of these youth serving organizations in on
our October festival as we can.
We are hoping to get as many young people around the province as we can to this festival in hopes of raising
awareness of our programs. If we can draw out a lot of our membership and new membership to this festival, it
will benefit the young people of the province.
Senator Cochrane: How long have you been in operation?
Mr. McGrath: The Provincial Youth Council started in 1996.
Senator Cochrane: Just last evening I was with a group of 14 students on the west coast of
Newfoundland. Students from Katimavik told us that their main goal is to teach social attitudes and leadership.
They teach youth to work on their own while living in less than a posh environment.
These are wonderful organizations as well. Mind you, it is not what you are doing, but they promote so many
things for young people.
You mentioned how you have someone in Gander who is going to the universities trying to find out which
children would be interested in various universities.
Mr. McGrath: Through our partnership with Shad Valley, we did for a small period of time. That was
only for the duration of the project. They went to high schools trying to get people sign up for the Shad
Senator Cochrane: Do you go to the west coast; do you go to the Northern Peninsula?
Mr. McGrath: Our organization, yes. Unfortunately, we do not have regional coordinators in place in
our four economic regions throughout the province, but we do have very dedicated volunteers. We try to get our
staff out of St. John's and to the west coast as often as it is possible.
Senator Cochrane: And the Northern Peninsula?
Mr. McGrath: Recently our executive director went to the Labrador Straits for a conference. The name
of the conference escapes me right now. We are now planning our next face-to-face meeting, the meeting of our
Provincial Youth Council. We held the last meeting at Deer Lake on the west coast. The next one we are planning
in Labrador. We are all throughout the province.
The Deputy Chairman: I presume that in this province, like in the other provinces, you have guidance
counsellors. It seems to me that it would be a good idea to have one youth in each school to spread the
information to the other students. There should be at least one person who tells the others about programs such
as Katimavik and so on.
Mr. McGrath: In regards to having general membership, a member in each of the high schools across the
province, I cannot say for sure that we do. We do have over 500 youth, so I would imagine that we are hitting a
lot of the high schools. I know in the area that I am from, zone 18 there are FINALY members in each one of the
In regards to making that person the focal point, sometimes that can be a little bit difficult. The schools
do have information on our Youth of the Year Program and on the other opportunities that exist.
Getting one young person to be the focal point of our organization in a high school is not really our
objective. I know that some of the volunteers would be uncomfortable with that job.
The Deputy Chairman: Well, you might try to place one of your volunteers as an advisor to the school.
I am always interested in opening up new opportunities for young people to take an active role in the schools.
If there could be an advisor role for youth organizations would that be helpful.
Mr. McGrath: I did not make myself entirely clear when I mentioned that our information to guidance
counsellors and principals includes the local member's name for further information.
The Deputy Chairman: Chelsea, how did you get to know about this organization?
Ms. Howard: I heard about it from my enterprise education teacher. She let me know about a Junior Team
Canada Conference in Grand Falls and I went there when they were holding their elections. There was about 50
youth at the conference and you had to be nominated and run, and give a little speech. That is what I did, and I
was elected to FINALY.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much, both of you, for coming.
Mr. McGrath: I believe that you asked the last group about the population of youth in this province.
I recently had a discussion with the executive director of the organization Alex Chernoff. We talked about
those sorts of things and he gave me some interesting statistics.
In the past 34 years in Newfoundland and Labrador, the adult population has gone down 8 per cent, while the
population of young people has gone down over 30 per cent. Right now, there are 100,000 young people in the
province, or one-fifth of our population.
It is nice to have those statistics, but we are certainly an aging population, and I would hope that our
organization and other organizations would help in evening that out and helping with that problem.
Senator Poy: Thank you very much. What you are saying is you are losing population?
Mr. McGrath: Yes, our entire population is going down, but the population of young people is going
down at a far faster rate than the population of the older people. Whether that is through a lack of job
opportunities or just wanting to move out of the province, the statistics speak for themselves in regards to
over 30 per cent of our young people in 30 years.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you very much, both of you, for your presentations. It was very useful for
our considerations. We are very pleased to have young voices here. Thank you.
Ms. Kristen Sellon, Executive Director, Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment
Centre: Madam Chairman, senators, I am the Executive Director of the Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment
Centre, which is located in Sheshatshiu, Labrador.
We run an Aboriginal youth solvent abuse treatment centre that deals primarily with Aboriginal youth from the
entire Atlantic region. We have helped youth from across Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Nunavut. We
service youth from ages 11 to 17.
In the work I do with the Charles J. Andrew Youth Treatment Centre, it is apparent that Canada is not meeting
its responsibility to Canadian youth. There are patterns and voids that are all too commonly seen working with
our most valuable resource, the youth of Canada. The youth are the future, and, in particular, the youth of our
First Nations deserve and require better.
The youth that come to the Charles J. Andrew youth treatment centre are full of anger and despair.
Fundamentally, there is little recognition given to the cultural heritage and traditions of our Aboriginal
people, and certainly their youth. An assault on their traditional ways of life has led to a cultural collapse.
This is leading to major social dysfunction.
In Sheshatshiu, Labrador, for example, it has only been 60 years since the church settled the community.
Prior to settlement, they were a proud, self-governing nation. With low recognition of their cultural heritage,
the youth have become unsure of who they are and where they belong. This leads them to paths of self-destruction
that we see quite frequently in our centre. Youth must know where they come from to feel proud about their
heritage, to know where they want to be, and how to arrive there.
We must maintain and strengthen the culture and language of all Aboriginal peoples. The capacity of First
Nations people to develop and then implement all aspects of programs and services must become a practised
priority at all levels of interaction. Governments talk the talk, but most often do not walk the walk. First
Nations must take responsibility for themselves. They must receive all relevant financial resources,
professional mentoring, and information to deliver the programs and services to their community members.
The lack of strongly worded and enforceable legislation paralyses individuals and agencies at all levels to
address many of the acting out, self-destructive behaviours which many of the youth exhibit. We in Sheshatshiu
watched for far too long many of our youth walking the streets with gas bags to their faces. As parents we were
powerless, as were the Child Youth and Family Services, and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police to do anything.
Gas sniffing is not against the law, and no one could do anything. We need enforceable legislation that allows
others to detain a child who is danger to him or herself. If being drunk and disorderly is against the law, then
why is being high and out of control on solvents or other drugs acceptable. Youth often require a forced
intervention in order to regain some control and to appreciate that there are other options and choices.
Manitoba, for example, has recently passed legislation to enable officials to detain youth with severe drug
problems. This affords the youth, their families, and the community to keep the youth safe and then to begin a
process of addressing the issues leading to the negative behaviours.
I believe that legislation is also required for women who are pregnant and who abuse their bodies with
alcohol and drugs. They are condemning their unborn child to a life of preventable challenges.
Well developed, appropriately funded, adequately staffed programs and services are required in order to
provide necessary supports and to address the identified needs and issues. Should we know, for example, that a
child has been sexually abused, there are no professionally trained Aboriginal individuals to provide treatment
for this child in our community or in our region. We are dooming them to a life of self-destructive behaviour.
Education is another main need requiring immediate attention and change. Memorial University's Dr. David
Philpott conducted and released findings of a research project of Labrador Innu youth educational needs. The
The school system as it exists at the present is failing Innu youth. It is essential to create a school
that validates and nurtures Innu language, culture, and knowledge, in order to provide Innu youth with the
knowledge and skills they need for a wide range of career choices.
This report, after researching First Nation schools across Canada regarding their current assessment
practices and concluded,
There is no existing standard model to guide assessment for these schools. Another finding,
Most children begin falling behind as early as first grade and continue a pattern of falling further behind
grade/age expectations as they continue through school. Sixty-six per cent of 16 year olds were at least five
Only two or three Innu individuals are qualified teachers. Innu children begin school speaking their first
language, Innu-aimun. Several years ago, the Sheshatshiu Innu First Nation requested funding to implement an
access program and a teacher education program delivered by McGill University. To date, no funding has been
forwarded. What more is required? Education is an individual's fundamental right, and the government's
fundamental responsibility to provide.
First Nations language, development, and maintenance place very high as First Nations priorities, and
governments publicly supported this priority. This support needs to be actioned with sufficient financial
resources and with the required devolution of authorities.
Long term commitments from the governing bodies must be made and kept. Capacity development is a major
comprehensive undertaking. Programs such as recreation need committed financial resources to develop staff
resources and to develop a firm core foundation within each community on which to build.
Housing and water and sewer systems are prime examples of poor and limited infrastructures. Meaningful land-
based programming must be financially supported by government departments who have financial control. It is
through culturally relevant programs that we can increase the youth's self identify and work towards reaching
We must work creating hope for our youth where they can begin to visualize a future for themselves and their
people. Self confidence and self esteem are fundamental to one having dreams and goals. Our youth need to learn
and build from the past in order to be positive and healthy in the present, and then be able to build for the
It is a credit to Canada that a concentrated, coordinated effort to address the root cause of their situation
is under study. Departments and communities that are in the best position to address these needs must receive
the proper resources.
Senator Carstairs: Like you, I have genuine concern about what is happening to our young Aboriginal
children, and I am interested in the fact that you recommended a program for teacher education at McGill. I am
surprised that you did not recommend one for Memorial University of Newfoundland. The reason I say that is the
most successful teacher training program in my province is actually done by one of our smaller universities,
Brandon University, BUNTEP, the Brandon University Northern Teacher Education Program.
Why did you make the decision that McGill would be the best location rather than here in Newfoundland?
Ms. Sellon: I believe that there had been a number of proposals that were submitted, and Memorial
University was going to offer a social work access program, and McGill brought forward the best teacher access
Senator Carstairs: Do you have a Head Start program in that community?
Ms. Sellon: The Head Start program started to get going in the last year or so. The staff is not Innu
speaking and that caused some discrepancies with children whose first language is Innu-aimun. The children were
thrown into a class where they had to learn a different language. I would like to see better-qualified teachers.
Senator Carstairs: Qualified teachers are essential. How can you expect otherwise for these children?
The transition should not be immediate; it should be gradual. The children in Grade 1 and Grade 2 should learn
Innu with a gradual introduction to English.
Ms. Sellon: That was the reason behind a university coming in and doing the access program. There are
only, I think at the most, three qualified Innu speaking teachers and they are in the primary grades.
Senator Carstairs: Surely you could use elders within the community.
Ms. Sellon: The school board requires qualified teachers. We have many teachers aids but they are not
qualified teachers; they cannot run the classroom, and that is the difference.
Senators Carstairs: Do Innu people run the School Board?
Ms. Sellon: No, the Labrador School Board runs it. We hope to change that.
Senator Carstairs: In The Pas, Manitoba, they took over their own schools, and had much greater
success in both culturally appropriate and sensitive classes. The children certainly learned English, but it was
done on a gradual basis and they were able to retain them in school for a much longer period of time.
Ms. Sellon: That is what the Sheshatshui Innu First Nation has been attempting to do for a number of
years, and they have met with resistance and roadblocks in taking over the school.
Senator Carstairs: There is a centre in Winnipeg that deals with women who have been suffering from
substance abuse. We discovered that 75 per cent of those young women had, in fact, been sexually abused, and
that the sexual abuse in turn led to the abuse of alcohol, drugs, and other solvents.
You have mentioned in your presentation the need to incarcerate youth and even pregnant women in some
circumstances. I always have problems with incarceration of anybody. How do we find the balance?
It seems to me that it would be better if we treated them before rather than after the fact. Even if we take
a young woman who is pregnant and we bring her into care, and the baby is born, does she immediately fall back
into the use of substance abuse unless we have found a way to help her overcome not just her substance abuse,
but also the fundamental reasons for that substance abuse?
Ms. Sellon: I do not know if I necessarily agree with incarcerating people. I think they need safe
houses where they receive counselling and find treatment options.
The FAS rates are so high in our province and in our community. Young pregnant women are sniffing solvents
and condemning that child to a life that they have absolutely no control over any more.
I think if we put them into a safe house, we are keeping the unborn child safe and we are keeping the mother
safe from doing any more harm to herself. In the safe house, we offer counselling, and options for after the
child is born. If we get them while they are pregnant, we can get them both on to a better road. The same is
true for the youth that are using solvents.
It was just on CBC Radio concerning the recent Manitoba legislation. A few years ago, Manitoba passed
legislation making it illegal to sniff solvents. Now, they have legislation that parents can sign their children
into safe houses to detox until they can make appropriate treatment arrangements. That is what I think should
That is my personal belief across the board because our hands are tied. I can be driving down the street in
my community, or in my office, and see 12 kids sniffing gas and there is nothing that we can do. We can call the
police, but they cannot do anything.
I think that that needs to happen for pregnant mothers and for young people, if that answers your question,
Senator Carstairs: I just want to add, while the Manitoba situation is trying to do good things, it is
certainly not there yet. As a Manitoba Senator, I have to say they do not have all the solutions either.
Senator Cochrane: You talk about detox centres. We know of many youth from the Labrador region, Innu
region that have come to St. John's to be part of this detox centre. I do not know the number, but why does 30
ring a bell to me. That was a few years ago.
Has anybody tracked these youth? Have they been successful in going back to their community and
rehabilitating others, and have they been successful within their community as a social person?
Ms. Sellon: I think many of those youth that were sent out from Labrador, from Natuashish and from
Sheshatshui, there was about 30 that were sent from the community out to the Grace Hospital a couple of years
Many of those youth were not successful after their detox. They go back to a lack of cultural and
recreational programming. They do not get follow-up services, the youth go back, and there is not the motivation
I think follow-up services are critical for the youth. We can send them out to the treatment centres, but
they need follow-up in their home communities. We have to improve the infrastructure.
Senator Cochrane: So your youth treatment centre does not do the follow-up on children like this.
Ms. Sellon: We have only been open for the last five years and we were closed for a year in that
period. In the last three years, we have been offering follow-up services and we have seen a number of those
youth that came into the Grace and then came back into our centre. So they are accessing. They were taken out of
their community, put into detox, and are now going back and accessing available and existing programs. We are
working on the follow-up from our end. We are trying to implement after care programs in each of the communities
that we serve.
Senator Cochrane: Do you see any positive results?
Ms. Sellon: We are starting to. It is a slow process, but we are starting to. We have some youths that
are involved in their communities in the youth groups and becoming leaders. So we are meeting with some success.
Senator Poy: From what I gathered from your presentation, what you are saying is that the very basic
knowledge of the language and culture of the Innu people can help them later on in life.
First, you said there is no school that teaches Innu language, is that correct?
Ms. Sellon: There are three teachers in our school, Peenamin McKenzie School, that speak Innu-aimun
that are qualified teachers, and the youth start in kindergarten with joint, an English teacher and a teacher's
assistant that is Innu-aimun.
Senator Poy: You are talking about one school?
Ms. Sellon: Yes, I am talking about one school.
Senator Poy: Then they gradually learn more and more English.
Ms. Sellon: Yes.
Senator Poy: Aside from that, are they taught their cultural heritage at the same time?
Ms. Sellon: No, and we would like to see more culturally relevant programming. There is resistance,
and how do you balance the curriculum that is required by the Labrador School Board, and then fit in culturally
Senator Poy: So when you said there is resistance, do you mean there is total refusal of adopting the
Ms. Sellon: I would say there is definitely some resistance from the school board, and that is why we
would like to see First Nations schools in our community, not just for our community, but also for all of the
First Nations across Canada. We believe that if you instil that sense of fundamental pride in who they are, then
you have given them a new lease and an ability to see beyond cultural definitions.
Senator Poy: What you are saying is you only have three Innu speaking teachers.
Ms. Sellon: Yes.
Senator Poy: And these are teachers who can teach any subject?
Ms. Sellon: Yes.
Senator Poy: As Senator Carstairs just mentioned, you can also have the elders come into the school.
Do you have after school programs? Do the elders teach in after school programs? They certainly have the ability
to teach the children about their culture.
Ms. Sellon: We do not have after school programming because the board is reluctant to let us use the
school after hours.
We have asked to use the school, but it is not a band owned school, it is a school board owned school, there
is resistance even for us to go into the classrooms and offer after care programming, or for my cultural
coordinator to go in and offer cultural programming, or to do after school programming. There is resistance from
the school board.
Senator Poy: The fact that you only have three teachers who speak Innu is a very basic problem.
Ms. Sellon: Yes.
Senator Poy: Is the basic problem that not enough people who speak Innu-aimun who want to train as
Ms. Sellon: There are quite a few who would like to train as teachers, but the training is not
available in the Goose Bay area and the travel is very expensive. We would benefit from an access program. To be
away from your home community is very difficult when you have grown up in a small community.
Senator Poy: It makes a lot of sense to have training colleges close to home instead of having a
program, say, at McGill.
Ms. Sellon: The access program was going to come to our community.
Senator Poy: That did not happen.
Ms. Sellon: No, it did not. It was set up, and it just fell apart. The funding was not relinquished.
Senator Poy: It was supposed to be funded by the province?
Ms. Sellon: Yes.
Senator Poy: Thank you very much.
Senator Oliver: I wanted to ask you kind of a theoretical or a philosophical question because I was
quite taken with some of the language you used in your presentation.
You said that the youth who come to your centre are full of ``anger and despair,'' and later on in your
presentation, you talked about the youth walking along the street with the ``gas bags to their faces.'' You went
on to say that, the big problem is ``the lack of strongly worded and enforceable legislation paralyses people.''
With other people and cultural groups facing problems, sometimes the church or religion or Christianity or
the Protestant ethic has helped them have enough self-respect that they overcome some of these things.
Is there a spiritual dimension or religious dimension that can begin to turn things around from the despair
and the anger that you have seen manifested in these youth?
Ms. Sellon: I think that some of the elders in our community are trying to bring back the traditional
spirituality, the cultural spirituality. The church has played a significant role in diminishing the pride that
people feel. Just 60 years ago, the church forbid the people of Sheshatshiu to speak their language; it was
Senator Oliver: Did the church take away the language?
Ms. Sellon: Yes, the church took it away. Our people were not able to practice their beliefs. There
are documented cases of abuse that just furthered the despair of our people. Generations of our youth suffer
from despair from sexual abuse by the church. Our people do not trust the church. Churchgoing is not encouraged
by the generations abused by the priests.
Senator Oliver: Is it possible to go back to the traditional spirituality? Will it take a long time?
Will it help?
Ms. Sellon: I think it will help, I think it will take time, and I think that we are in a crisis right
now because the elders are dying and we need to learn their knowledge, to gain access to the wealth of
information that they have before the culture is lost. There certainly is a movement that you can feel of people
bringing back traditional beliefs and cultural practices.
When I talk about ``land-based programming,'' we used to have a government funded out-post program that
allowed families to return to the land to practice their traditional ways, to live on the land for months at a
time. The funding was cut. Every year the funding goes down.
I would like to see that happen again because you can see the difference in people and in the youth learning
about who their parents really are because they see them very differently in the country than they do on the
street. You see youth that were sniffing gas, walking around the community with bags on their faces, out hunting
caribou. You can see the two different people.
When I talk about land-based programming, I am talking about getting back in touch with their culture and
Senator Oliver: I was thinking more in terms of aspects of reverence for life that arises from the old
traditional spirituality of understanding mother earth and the sun, and the other essential elements. Is that
lost or can that come back?
Ms. Sellon: That is coming back. The Innu, in particular, worship the land and the animal spirits.
When they go out and practice the land-based activities, and go back and live off the land, they get in touch
with their spirituality and with the reverence of animals. They come back and you can see it for awhile, but the
conditions in the communities, and when I talk to even youth from Nunavut, from New Brunswick, from Nova Scotia,
they are dealing with similar things as well. It is the despair within the communities and the need to get back
to their traditional ways.
I see land-based programming as a positive approach. I think that if the elders could teach the culturally
relevant programming in the schools that we could turn this situation around. I do not think it is too late.
Senator Oliver: It may well be that a form of spirituality might be the first thing required to bring
about change, rather than a new law. In terms of anger and despair, you need a grassroots beginning to help your
people. We can help to bring about new laws regarding sniffing solvents but you are in need of a new
Ms. Sellon: I think that is true, and we can look for them to find their culture, but often people who
are addicted do not see that.
It is not until after going through a process of healing that you find spirituality. That is the whole nature
of addiction. If it is illegal for the kids to be sniffing gas, because they are hurting themselves, then we can
put them on a path to healing and introduce spirituality.
In terms of the phases of addiction, usually 9 times out of 10 they do not connect spiritually until they
have let go of the substance.
Senator Cochrane: Kristin, you seem to be a very calm and collected person. I think you are an asset
to those people because I think they need a listener, they need a calm person like yourself. It is wonderful to
have you here, and it is wonderful to know that you are within this treatment centre. I commend you for that.
Were you born in Sheshatshui?
Ms. Sellon: No, I was born in London, Ontario, and I have been moving back and forth to Sheshatshui
since I was five years of age. My mother worked with Frontier College, I believe, and went up to teach. I have
been living there full time for the last 16 years.
Senator Cochrane: So you live right in Sheshatshui?
Ms. Sellon: Yes, I live right in the community.
Senator Cochrane: I have been there as well.
Ms. Sellon: I live there and so do my children.
Senator Cochrane: Madam Chair, I am new to this committee. May I ask some personal things?
The Deputy Chairman: That is fine.
Senator Cochrane: About how many Innu people are in Sheshatshui alone and how many non-Innu are there?
Ms. Sellon: I do not know the exact demographics. I think there are about 1,500 people in Sheshatshui,
Senator Cochrane: Does that include North West River?
Ms. Sellon: No, just the community of Sheshatshui. If you gave me 10 minutes, I could go house by
house and figure out exactly how many non-Innu people there are, but there may be 25 at the most.
Senator Cochrane: Okay, so there are only 25. That is not very many.
Ms. Sellon: No. Senator Poy asked the question about the number of youth and the witness said that the
number of youth is much smaller than the adult population. For us, it is the opposite; 60 per cent of our
population is under the age of 18.
Our numbers are quite significant when we are talking about youth programs. This opportunity to come and
speak before the Senate Committee about the rights of a child is significant for me as well.
Senator Cochrane: I am just a little bit annoyed at the school board from what you said because in my
teaching career there were three components within an education system: the school, the church, and the
community. They were three, and they formed this sort of circle and without the three, there were few
Why does the school board prohibit after school programs?
Ms. Sellon: I am not sure. I have pondered the same question myself. They were offering the use of the
gym to the band, but there is resistance, and I cannot understand it myself; therefore, I cannot explain it.
We offered homework services in preparation for exams; they told us the course was unnecessary. We have been
asking to go in and offer substance abuse programming, but we encounter the ``Don't talk about it rule,'' ``If
you do don't talk about it, the kids won't do it.'' Well, the kids are doing it, so it is better to talk about
Two of my children attend that particular school. There is resistance by the teachers, maybe it comes from
lack of knowledge and lack of understanding that these kids are in crisis, these kids are hurting, and they
present the hurt, the anger, and the despair in many different ways. Some of them act out, and show violence,
and some fall into an addiction. The teachers do not know how to deal with those problems; they do not have the
proper education to deal with those issues. That is when we encounter the ``Don't talk about it rule.''
Senator Cochrane: Has the school building been broken into, beaten up, windows broken?
Ms. Sellon: Many times. There is resistance from community members to go into that particular school,
because teachers abused the students in that facility as well. The sexual abuse has come from the church as well
as from the school, so there is resistance to work within that school.
The community has been actively pursuing their own school and their own school system for a number of years;
it looks like it will take at least two years to build the building.
Senator Cochrane: Do you have any Innu people in your organization that might set up leadership groups
to try to do something with the children?
Ms. Sellon: I have a youth case manager on staff, and she is from the community. She goes out will
take other workers or bring in youth that have completed our program to go out and do smoking cessation
programs, to do cultural programs, any type of after care including suicide intervention.
She is a trained facilitator for suicide intervention, so she will go out and deliver that program to the
youth. We have a very high rate of suicide in our community. She delivers that as an extra-curricular program
and we use some of the other band buildings to deliver that service.
Senator Cochrane: Do you see it working?
Ms. Sellon: I think it is. It is a very slow process but the numbers are increasing.
Senator Cochrane: How many of the young people would be able to further their education, become
teachers and return to the community?
Ms. Sellon: We would need to put in an interim year to bring us up to standard because their education
is not on par with the rest of the schools in the province. Dr. Philpott stated that most of the kids are about
five years behind the Newfoundland and Labrador standard, so we would need a transition year for students, but I
know that there is an interest.
Senator Cochrane: I understand from some of the teachers that have been there that there is a concern
getting the kids to come to school.
Ms. Sellon: Yes.
Senator Cochrane: In many cases, the parents are not behind their children coming to school.
Ms. Sellon: When we talk about legislation, it is not just about the sniffing, it is making existing
legislation enforceable. Truancy is not enforced in our community. In the community of North West River, which
is right across the river, truancy is enforced; if the youth are not in school, they are looking for the youth.
In our community, if my son does not go to school, I may get a call; I may not. He is not expected to go to
school, if fact, it is almost easier for the teachers if the kids do not go to school.
Senator Cochrane: There are problems with the parents because, in some cases, they do not enforce
Ms. Sellon: Yes.
Senator Cochrane: Do you think that the media showing images of these children sniffing gas, do you
think that is a positive thing or a negative thing?
Ms. Sellon: I think there are two sides to that coin. I think that it certainly gets people interested
and wanting to help. I am not sure that it is useful for the youth. I am speaking very personally, and I do not
know what would be the politically correct thing to say, but very personally, I remember that as a teenager I
was an attention seeker. I do not know if putting a child on The National with a bag on his or her face
is good when the child may be happy and think that it makes them famous. The attention may be counter-productive
to our program.
I think that the media does not show the positive things that are happening in our community. My son walked
578 miles across the country on snowshoes with his grandmother, and that positive story did not make the news.
I think that if we built up the positive things it might be more helpful to the children. The positive
stories can motive the other children to be like the success stories. We have children that attend hockey
schools, and kids that have gold medals for figure skating; we have to focus on the good things that we do. That
is my personal belief.
The Deputy Chairman: With respect to Senator Oliver, the mothers here feel these are practical
questions we love to discuss while sitting around the kitchen table. I get the sense from what you are saying,
and I know this, of course, from my experience on other reserves, as Senator Carstairs has had and so on, that
the impediments are partly because of the jurisdictional issues.
You are discussing the rights of your children, and it is very clearly a rights-based analysis. You have seen
the abuse of their rights culture, identity, education, and the best possible health services.
I am glad that you are seeing a little progress here and a little progress there. I do think that there are
some new understandings between Ottawa and the people here about the need to work together rather than to work
at cross- purposes.
I am particularly interested in the early childhood connections and bonding. I hope that some of the new
funding will be helpful in re-establishing and reconnecting the natural connections among family members. That
is vital to the good health and the future of the children.
I think the practical description you give of a sense of unease with the existing school building makes a lot
of sense. I can understand where that is coming from, and how important it is to have your own building and your
own school board.
I do think that we should be working, all of us, not only for school boards for your particular schools, but
maybe there should be an overall national Aboriginal school board that would make the kinds of priorities that
you have been setting.
My specific question has to do with something called the ``hook and hub model.'' It is a model from British
Columbia. The model relates to the training of child and youth care workers through an access model; you bring
it to the students rather than bringing the student there, except for the occasional month to go wherever the
setting is that the program is in development.
The idea focuses on early childhood, and because everybody cares about small children, that is the ``hook.''
Around the hook, you build a ``hub'' of services that includes the community in pre-natal nutrition programs,
cultural aspects, FAS programs, et cetera. I know all those particular services are inadequate.
I am hopeful that this particular model is spreading. I would be happy to send you a copy of the model. It is
not prospective. Some communities in the northern part of British Columbia are having great success with that
model. I would be very happy to share that with you.
You have clearly seen where some of the needs are, and we are clearly recording what you are saying. We are
extremely happy that you have been here. Thank you very much indeed.
Senator Poy: I would just like to add a comment about what you said, Ms. Sellon, regarding the media
showing pictures of children sniffing instead of showing the positive aspects of the children's lives.
Exactly the same thing happens with visible minority groups in Canada. So I can understand that very well.
Not enough good news is in the papers or on TV. It is always the bad news. Unfortunately, bad news sells papers
and makes money.
Maybe not enough people want to see good things happening with First Nations youth, winning awards, etc, and
I think the media has a lot of responsibility in that by spreading good news so that the youth can look at them
as model to follow instead of constantly seeing bad news. I just want to make that comment, and thank you for
bringing that up.
The Deputy Chairman: I thank the witnesses for presenting to us today.
Senators, we welcome to our table the next panel of witnesses.
As you know, our mandate is to study Canada's international obligations in regard to the rights and freedoms
of children. What we mean by that is the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Ms. Mary Mandville, Civil Solicitor, Department of Justice, Government of
Newfoundland and Labrador: Honourable senators, thank you for the invitation to appear today, and we welcome
you to Newfoundland and Labrador.
I am a solicitor with the Civil Division of the Department of Justice, and I have with me Lynn Vivian-Book,
who is the Assistant Deputy Minister of Community Programs and Wellness, and Ivy Burt, who is the Provincial
Director of Child Youth and Family Services, Community Programs and Wellness Branch of the Department of Health
and Community Services.
As you stated, the mandate of the committee is to examine Canada's obligations under the Convention on the
Rights of the Child, and to look at whether Canada's legislation as it applies to children meets our obligations
under the convention.
I am the official representative for this province on the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights.
This committee regularly discusses issues that relate to all international covenants to which Canada is a
signatory, including the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
My work with that committee in the sharing of information and best practices between provinces, territories,
and the federal government, assists in ensuring proper implementation of the convention.
For the preparation of the Newfoundland and Labrador portion of the reports that are filed under this
convention, we have an ad hoc committee consisting of representatives from appropriate departments, including
the Department of Health and Community Services, the Department of Education, the Women's Policy Office, and the
Department of Human Resources, and Labour and Employment.
Generally, the committee meets before preparation begins and identifies the kind of information that is
necessary and develops a method for the collection of that information. The departmental representatives prepare
and provide this information and the report is forwarded to the federal government.
As you are no doubt aware, prior to appearances before the UN committee, there are often questions that may
come up that will require more specific or recent information. We make contact with appropriate persons on our
ad hoc committee and forward the information to the federal government.
Some federal funding has allowed provinces to attend the presentation before the UN Committee. This excellent
initiative has allowed Newfoundland and Labrador to participate the presentation to the UN Committee on the
Rights of the Child led by Senator Pearson.
The continuing committee discusses the concluding observations received from the UN committee. The provincial
ad hoc committee receives the concluding observations. If there is an issue in the concluding observations that
is of concern for the province, discussions and follow-up with the relevant departments take place.
The Office of the Legislative Counsel is familiar with the requirements of the convention. To ensure
compliance with the convention when new legislation is developed, the office will flag an issue for review and
consultation should one arise. This review may result in a recommendation for an amendment to ensure compliance
with the convention.
We must continue raising awareness of the convention. Copies of the Convention on the Rights of the Child are
available at the Human Rights Commission, the Public Legal Information Association, and at the Office of the
Child and Youth Advocate. A simplified version is available on the website of the Child and Youth Advocate.
As well, there are content-related concepts taught in the social studies curriculum for all grades. There are
specific references to the convention in the curriculum guides from kindergarten to grade 6, and high school
level courses as well.
We wonder if we should distribute copies of the convention in the schools, and I intend to follow up with
Canadian Heritage and the Department of Education in that regard.
The Department of Education implemented the Safe amd Caring School Provincial Action Plan in the fall of
2001. In May 2002, the department sponsored a provincial forum on school bullying. The follow-up consultations
on that forum resulted in a province-wide commitment to the Safe & Caring School Action Plan. Anti-bullying and
healthy relationships programs are now part of the schools programming. The department also provides six
behavioural support specialists throughout the province to provide teachers with training and support through a
model that ensures positive school wide support for all children, and intensive individual support for children
with challenging behaviours.
The implementation of the action plan is monitored by the Safe & Caring Schools Advisory Group, which is made
up of key community and education partners.
In May, 2005, government announced that the Minister of Human Resources, Labour and Employment would lead the
development of a strategic plan to address poverty in this province. The plan will be developed in collaboration
with other government departments and with input from community organizations and advocacy groups. The committee
will develop a comprehensive integrated approach to address the connections between poverty and gender,
education, housing, employment, health, social and financial supports, and tax measures, as well as the link
between women's poverty and their increased vulnerability to violence. The committee is to provide options in
time for consideration for the 2006-07 budget process.
In March 2005, the government announced a new program to provide victim services to children. This program
will fill gaps within the system by providing court preparation services to help children who testify in
criminal proceedings. The new program will provide information services regarding the criminal justice system,
pre-court preparation, and counselling.
The recently established Justice Minister's Committee on Violence Against Women will help identify and
establish approaches to improve the justice response to women in situations of violence. One of the major
focuses of this committee will be to address the need for new family violence legislation.
Government has developed a collaborative approach to sexual abuse investigations. Police forces, health and
community services, and health care boards work in consultation with the university to provide joint training to
social workers and police officers, who then work together in completing investigations of reported cases of
Ms. Ivy Burt, Provincial Director, Child Youth and Family Services, Government of
Newfoundland and Labrador: Honourable senators, I am pleased to have the opportunity to speak to the
Over the past five years the Department of Health and Community Services has placed significant focus on
legislation relating to children's programs and services including Child, Youth and Family Services, adoption,
and childcare services.
The Department of Health and Community Services replaced its Child Welfare Act in 2000 with the Child, Youth
and Family Services Act. This legislation is child focused and incorporates best practices in the area of child
protection, prevention, early intervention, and services to youth.
The act, unlike its predecessor legislation, articulates principles for interpreting and administering the
act. Some of its principles and provisions, we believe, will be of interest to you.
The principles of the Child, Youth and Family Services Act state:
(a) the overriding and paramount consideration in any decision made under this Act shall be the best
interests of the child;
(b) every child is entitled to be assured of personal safety, health and well-being;
(c) the family is the basic unit of society responsible for the safety, health and well-being of the child;
(d) the community has a responsibility to support the safety, health and well-being of a child and may
require assistance in fulfilling this responsibility;
(e) prevention activities are integral to the promotion of the safety, health and well-being of a child;
(f) kinship ties are integral to a child's self-development and growth and if a child's safety, health and
well-being cannot be assured in the context of the family, the extended family shall be encouraged to care for
the child provided that a director can be assured that the child's safety, health and well-being will not be
(g) the cultural heritage of a child shall be respected and connections with a child's cultural heritage
shall be preserved; and
(h) in the absence of evidence to the contrary, there shall be a presumption that a child 12 years of age
or over is capable of forming and expressing an opinion regarding his or her care and custody.
The act provides for family services for children and their families on a voluntary basis. Preventative and
early intervention services aim to protect the health, safety, and well-being of children.
Under the act, children who are at risk of harm from their parents are defined as being in need of protective
intervention. This includes the risk of physical and emotional harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, refusal to
provide medical treatment, abandonment, no available parent to care for the child, and domestic violence.
According to the provisions of the act, all persons have a duty to report child maltreatment. The act
specifically emphasizes the responsibility of professionals who have official duties in relation to children.
The act provides for supporting families in the least intrusive manner possible and engaging them, along with
the child, depending on the child's age and level of development, in planning, providing, and evaluating the
services that are available.
In addition to recognizing a child over 12 as capable of providing and expressing an opinion, the act
stipulates the following points. Children cannot be removed from their parent or caregiver without a warrant,
which a social worker must obtain from a judge.
Children 12 years of age and over must be served notice of any court hearings under the act in relation to
them and they are entitled to full disclosure of the file kept in relation to their situation by our departments
A child who is the subject of a court hearing may participate in court to make his or her views or wishes
known to a judge either through a meeting, testimony, writing, or in some other way that is ``appropriate for
Time limits for court and the length of orders in respect to a child are set down in the act with a focus on
timely decisions that allow for permanency planning for children.
In section 62 (1) the act states:
62.(1) The placement of a child shall be conducted in a manner which is least disruptive to a child and
recognizes the importance of placement with siblings and contact with family or other persons who are
significant to the child.
A child is to be interviewed in private where that is deemed appropriate.
In section 75, the legislation provides two new significant accountability mechanisms. It provides for the
appointment of the minister's advisory committee, appointed by the minister. The committee reports on the
operation of the act and whether its principles and purposes are being achieved. The advisory committee's report
is near completion for presentation to the Minister of Health and Community Services.
Secondly, custody review committees conduct annual reviews on the care of all children in the continuous
custody of the director of Child Youth and Family Services.
The act extends voluntary services to youth ages 16 to 18 deemed at risk and who prior to their 16th
birthday, were not in the care of a director. This is a new provision in the act that provides residential
and non-residential services to these particular youth.
Some youth tell us that because of their life challenges, they are not ready to be independent at age 18. We
have negotiated with the Department of Human Resources, Labour and Employment to transfer youth at 18 years to
their services. This department provides financial assistance, and employment and vocational counselling and
Those in the care of a director of Child Youth and Family Services at age 16 may voluntarily choose to enter
service agreements to receive services until their 21st birthday.
Finally, the act provides for the financial support of children in a director's care.
A second piece of legislation that I will speak to today is the Adoption Act, of 2003.
It, too, is child focused and incorporates best practices aimed at providing new and permanent family ties
for a child through adoption. The act states that of paramount consideration is the best interest of a child and
the relevant principles in determining ``best interest'' as it relates to adoption includes the child's safety
and developmental needs and stability and continuity of care. It includes the importance of having a positive
relationship with a parent, and the need to be a secure member of a family. It takes into account the child's
cultural heritage, and the views, and the wishes of the child.
Department policy provides that all children receive counselling in accordance with their age and
developmental stage, and that their views and wishes be considered when making a plan for their adoption.
Children 12 years of age and over must give their written consent before an adoption occurs.
There is an increasing interest in intercountry adoption. This province became a signatory to the Convention
on Protection of Children and Co-operation in Respect to Intercountry Adoption with the proclamation of the
current Adoption Act.
This province works with federal departments and other provinces and territories in sharing information in
the area of intercountry adoption. The province recognizes that intercountry adoptions must be in the best
interest of the child and respect his or her fundamental rights.
Other features of the new Adoption Act include the provision for openness in adoption where parties in the
adoption agree to some form of contact. There is a provision for disclosure of birth records when an adopted
person reaches age 19. All adoptions finalized in this province after 2003 will be open records when the child
turns 19 years.
The act provides for a subsidy to provide financial support to an adoptive family when a child has special
needs. This allows some children to be adopted who otherwise might not have the opportunity of a permanent home.
In some cases they are adopted by foster parents or relatives who are already caring for them. This provides
stability and continuity of care for the child.
This province also has a small number of Aboriginal children perhaps in comparison to other jurisdictions.
These include the Innu and Inuit of Labrador and the Mi'kmaq of Conne River.
The province is very concerned about the health, safety and well-being of these children and the challenges
facing their communities.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador has collaborated with federal government departments and the Innu
of Labrador to help improve health and social conditions in the communities of Sheshatshui and Natuashish
through the Labrador Innu Comprehensive Healing Strategy.
The province has explored devolution of services with the Innu bands. As a first step, the Regional
Integrated Health Authority responsible for services to the Innu communities has hired a director of Child Youth
and Family Services for the two communities. The goal is to develop and provide culturally appropriate services
and build community capacity to meet the needs of Innu children and families. The province, along with its
federal partners, is supporting the Innu in their effort to promote cultural healing and change from within
The Inuit of Labrador are moving towards self-government. The province currently provides services to this
group through the local Regional Integrated Health Authority.
The Government of Newfoundland and Labrador provided additional staffing resources for Innu and Inuit
communities within the past two years in the area of child protection and services to families.
The Mi'kmaq of Conne River enjoy good health and well-being. They plan to move to self-government, however,
currently have service arrangements with their local Regional Integrated Health Authority for services relating
Finally, I would like to speak to you about an initiative of the Government of Newfoundland and Labrador in
establishing a Youth Advisory Committee consisting of representatives of youth age 15 years to 29 years of age.
The Youth Advisory Committee has gained notoriety as a key organizational structure by offering meaningful
advice to ministers and government departments on youth policies and programs.
The group focuses on youth issues, and makes recommendations to government through an annual report. Their
2004-05 report identified three priority areas for youth: alternate education, support of services, and healthy
Government departments are currently in the process of responding to these recommendations.
In terms of legislation, the Department of Health and Community Services was instrumental in bringing forward
the legislation for the establishment of the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate in this province.
Part of the mandate of the office is to ensure that rights and interests of children and youth are advanced
and their views are heard and considered.
Ms. Lynn Vivian-Book, Assistant Deputy Minister, Department of Health and
Community Services, Government of Newfoundland and Labrador: Honourable Senators, I too wish to thank you
for the opportunity to appear before you this morning.
Since 1998, our government has brought together the vast majority of children's services under Department of
Health and Community Services. The new department contains all of the components of public health, social
services, including child protection and childcare, community youth corrections, adoption, early intervention
services, and supports with persons with disabilities.
All programs outside a hospital setting are within my array of programs and services. Over the last
five-to-seven years, we have been able to make significant enhancements to the programs and services for
children and youth in this province, particularly children under the age of six years. I give credit to federal
government initiatives such as the National Child Benefit, the Early Childhood Development Initiative, and the
Early Learning and Childcare Agreement. We hope the budget passes because we want the second phase of that early
learning and childcare dollars.
That second phase would actually provide $75,000,000 to this province over five years and would allow us to
double our budget in the area of childcare. That is very significant for us.
I would like to highlight some of the initiatives that we have been able to advance through those dollars,
and one of them is our new childcare services legislation. Due to these investments we have put in place a new
Childcare Services Act, which expands the range of childcare options for families, including family home
childcare, childcare for children under two, enhancements to quality and training, and staff/child ratios.
With the childcare enhancements, we have enhanced our childcare subsidy program, and our grants to childcare
centres. We have certificate and training programs, educational supplements for childcare workers, and a strong
focus on supporting special needs children in childcare. All of these initiatives are still growing and we
further wish to enhance them as we move forward with the new early learning and childcare dollars.
We have enhanced early intervention autism services for children in this province. Sixty-one children have
received this diagnosis over the last five years and to date we have serviced over 200 children with this
We have also significantly enhanced family resource programs. We would certainly like to enhance further, so
if you have any ability to flick a switch to provide any additional dollars, we would appreciate it. We offer
healthy baby club programs that follow a holistic approach to supporting pregnant women, both during pregnancy
and after the birth of their child. These programs are family and community driven and provide positive support
to early childhood development throughout the province. We have a mother/baby nutrition supplement, early
literacy grants, and a kinder start program as an enhancement to orientation prior to kindergarten.
Through the National Child Benefit Reinvestment Plan, we have community youth networks, and enhanced
residential supports in mental health for youth.
We report annually and publicly on all of these initiatives. I have copies of three of our recent reports
that I will share with you if you wish. Each of the reports speaks to all of these initiatives in more detail
and reports on our progress from both a program indicator perspective, and a child outcome perspective. That is
not to say that we do not have a long way to go, but these investments have given us a good start.
Having been the parent/child health consultant for the province for a number of years, I would be remiss if I
did not speak to the contribution of public health nurses, and the work of parent/child health programs in
providing supports to a wide range of health promotion and prevention programs. These programs include
childbirth education, child health clinics, immunization, breast feeding support, pre-school health checks and
school health programs.
Our Healthy Beginnings program is a universal multifactorial screening tool applied to families at the time
of the birth of a newborn baby. This early assessment program helps us to identify families who could benefit
from long-term follow-up and home visits from public health nurses and other supports right to school entry.
The model for coordination of services for children and youth in this province has been in place for eight
years, and the partner departments include the Department of Education, Health and Community Services, the
Department of Justice, and Human Resources, Labour and Employment. We still have a long way to go, but it is an
excellent model and we would like to replicate it for adults.
Another cross-government initiative is the violence prevention initiative, which again has multiple
governmental departments as well as community partnerships around all aspects of violence.
A recent initiative of this government is the establishment of a Ministerial Council on Early Childhood
Learning. This initiative was a throne speech commitment of the new government and it looks at coordinating
policy and strategic direction around early learning. The Minister of Education is the chair of the council and
the Minister of Health and Community Services sits on the council.
Government also established a Ministerial Council on Aging and Seniors.
Our future strategic directions include the strengthening of public health capacity and in addition, a broad
approach to public health and population health. The very significant issue of childhood obesity and a focus on
nutrition and physical inactivity are important issues to this government. We have the highest numbers in the
country and we do not want to hold that distinction. We have a great focus on wellness, and for the first time
this budget focuses on investment in wellness, which I am very pleased to see.
The last area of challenge is in the creation of access to mental health and addiction services. You have
probably heard of our OxyContin addictions and other issues, particularly not just youth, but also certainly a
major focus with youth.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you, all three of you, for very clear presentations. I thank you on behalf
of our researcher as well for the wealth of information that you have given us. We are impressed with the
advancements you have made and the direction that you are following.
Senator Carstairs: I have some specific questions. Ms. Burt, on page 3 you referred to: A child who is
the subject of a court hearing may participate in court to make his or her views or wishes known to the judge.
Does that only pertain if they are over the age of 12, or could any child who is the subject of a court
Ms. Burt: The act says a ``child.'' The definition of child is up to age 16 years. So any child,
depending on their developmental ability and stages, and I think the actual wording in my presentation says a
meeting, testimony, writing, or some other form or some other way. I think that is to accommodate children of
all ages. It is a decision based on the social worker working with the child.
Senator Carstairs: My second question has to do with the National Child Benefit. Did you claw it back
from welfare recipients?
Ms. Vivian-Book: No, we did not. We passed through the benefit to all income support families, and
then we invested approximately $10,800,000 into the reinvestment plan. We did not claw back.
Senator Carstairs: That is incredible; you are one of the very few provinces in the country that does
not claw back. As you know, Manitoba partially claws back.
My third question has to do with Aboriginal children and the previous witness clearly has some genuine
concerns about the way the education system deals with Aboriginal people.
In your presentations, and particularly in yours, Ms. Mandville, you talked about the need to be culturally
sensitive, but it would appear from the description of the Innu schools that they are not particularly
culturally sensitive. We understand that these children arrive speaking Innu, yet their education process begins
in English, and by age 16, according to a recent study, they are five years behind the provincial standards.
Can you give me any indications of how you hope to make progress in that particular field?
Ms. Mandville: I cannot speak specifically to it because I am not with the Department of Education,
and I do not have that specific information. I know that the concluding observations on the rights of the child
report focused on issues around culturally sensitive education. When I spoke to the Department of Education at
that time, I was given some information on the policy with respect to culturally sensitive education. However,
it does not seem like it fits that well with the policy.
I wonder if it would be appropriate for me to follow up with the Department of Education and kind of get more
specific information because what I have is what the policy is meant to do, but it sounds like it is not
actually put into practice. I really would like to get a little more information on that and follow up with the
Senator Carstairs: That would be terrific. Just so that you understand, it is not a unique situation.
I think we find this situation right across the country. There is a lack of teachers with Aboriginal background
to speak the language that the children speak. It is not unique to the Province of Newfoundland and Labrador; I
want you to recognize that. We need to make progress in this field.
Ms. Mandville: I will follow up and get back to you with any information I can on how that works.
Ms. Burt: Senator, I cannot speak to education, but I do know that the Innu of Labrador has the
greatest use of their language. We have a model whereby the community service worker, teamed with a social
worker, speak in the Innu language when delivering services. It is a very challenging area, but we certainly do
recognize that the Innu of Labrador, in terms of their culture, have been able to preserve their language and we
need to respect that in delivering services.
Senator Oliver: I am interested in the definition in section (h) of the age of 12 and the
presumption. Normally, when a person goes to court to give evidence, they just give vive voce evidence
and the questions are asked. Then there is cross-examination, and that evidence is given weight along with all
the other people, unless you are an expert. If you are an expert, you may give opinion evidence and opinion
evidence is higher than the ordinary vive voce evidence, and the judge really listens to the opinion
In your definition under (h), you say, ``In the absence of evidence to the contrary, there shall be a
presumption''. It is a presumption that a child 12 years of age or older is capable of forming and expressing an
Does that mean that the judge must give the child's opinion more weight than the evidence of the parent?
I am curious about the use of the word ``opinion,'' given what opinion evidence has meant for several hundred
Ms. Mandville: I am not sure that it is linked with opinion as in ``opinion'' in the legal sense. They
can give their opinion as to what is in their best interest, and the judge will consider it.
Senator Oliver: Does it have higher weight than a parent's opinion?
Ms. Mandville: I think it would have the same weight as the parent because it is the child's opinion
on what they think is in their best interest. It does not mean that the judge has to do what the child suggests.
It means that the judge has to consider the opinion. He has to weigh that in all of his deliberations, but he
has to take into consideration in making his determination the opinion that the child has given as to what they
feel is in their best interest.
Senator Oliver: To your knowledge, have there been any cases that have dealt with this issue
here in Newfoundland and Labrador?
Ms. Mandville: I am not aware of any cases that have looked at that particular test.
Ms. Burt: Our regional directors would know the answer to that question; we could report their
findings back to you.
I think the intent of our legislation is to recognize that children should have the opportunity to voice
their opinions in decisions that are made in relation to them. I think Mary's interpretation of it be given
equal weight is one of the things that a judge is asked to take into consideration, and we specifically wanted
our act to include that children do have that right to be heard.
Senator Oliver: Senator Carstairs first question probably raised this issue, but we have all heard of
precocious children, some who can sit down at age six and seven and play Mozart and Chopin.
What happens under this definition in (h) if there is a very precocious child of 10 years? Does that
mean that that child is not deemed or presumed to be capable of expressing an opinion?
Why did you choose 12 years, why not 10 years?
Ms. Mandville: I do not know if I can speak to why 12 years and not 10 years of age. The age will take
into consideration a child at any age but a child at the age of 12 years or older must be heard. That is the
law. It is up to the judge's discretion to accept information from a child less than 12 years of age.
I assume that research on the subject indicated that at 12 years of age most children are ready to voice
their opinion. However, I am sure there are exceptions both ways.
Ms. Burt: I cannot speak specifically to the determination of age, but in the two acts that I
mentioned the age of 12 is noted in each. I think the age of 12 is recognized sometimes in literature and in
practice as being the age when a child can articulate his or her feelings well enough to be understood in a
court of law.
Although the legislation is not specific, our policy speaks to the level of the child's understanding and
development. The discretion of the social workers, the lawyers, and then at the discretion of the judge,
determines the weight of the child's statement.
The act makes the provision that the child be heard, and I think that was the intent. The act believes that
children should participate in decisions that affect them.
Senator Oliver: With the internet and all the other things that make it so much easier to learn more
quickly today, I would have thought that they would have considered reducing the age. The age of 12 years has
been in use in many jurisdictions for a very long time.
Do you think we should reduce the age?
Ms. Burt: No, I do not think we should reduce the age, not without specific research on the subject.
However, as we move through and look at our legislation, there may be opportunity to do that research and see
what age other jurisdictions use.
The Deputy Chairman: I have a very specific question. I am particularly interested to speak to Ms.
Book about the public health system of which I think very highly.
You mentioned your Healthy Beginnings program and post-natal screening. I am interested in the meconium
testing. I understand that a new post-natal test can determine whether the mother was involved in substance
abuse during her pregnancy.
There is a debate to determine if that test interferes with the right of the mother to some kind of privacy,
or is it for the purposes of the right of the child to discover if the mother is in involved in substance abuse.
I am interested to know if you have an opinion on that debate.
Ms. Vivian-Book: Yes, it is on the table. For a number of years there has been a progression in terms
of neonatal screening, the expansion of neonatal screening, and then screening in pregnancy which identifies the
likelihood of Downs Syndrome and other anomalies and the different implications, both for the child and the
That has yet to be brought forward in our jurisdiction, but I know it is a national debate, and the Canadian
Paediatric Society and many others are involved in that debate.
I believe our whole goal is a very broad support to both families and children. I would like to see us go a
little further on the support front and see an extension of those kinds of issues.
I can see that debate continuing. I am not aware if any jurisdiction at this point has moved in that
direction. I know the research is certainly pointing to the ability to do that, but I am not aware of any
jurisdiction yet that has embraced it.
The Deputy Chairman: I think the issue is testing a child's hearing at birth, which they have new
technology for too, and do you do that here?
Ms. Vivian-Book: We do in some regions of the province. Our goal is to do that universally, but we do
not do it universally at this point.
The Deputy Chairman: That testing is strictly related to the baby. The other is a more complicated
issue, and I agree with you that support is the main goal.
I think the significance of childbirth as an experience and where that takes place and so on is very
How is this province dealing with the services of midwives?
I ask this question in relation to Aboriginal women who are removed from their place of residence to give
birth in a hospital location. With the use of midwives, these women would have the opportunity to have their
babies in their own community.
Ms. Vivian-Book: Historically, midwifery was certainly a core part of childbirth in this province, but
not professional midwifery. What we call the ``granny midwives'' were very traditional in this province.
In terms of professional midwifery, we have a long-time agreement with the Medical Board and the Nurse's
Association, particularly for nurses working in the North. We have had midwives working in Labrador, and in St.
Anthony, and those areas, as long as the Grenfell Association and its history goes with it.
The rest of the province has not had the benefit of that experience. At least two committees seek legislation
to allow for the regulation of midwifery in this province. We still have not been able to bring that forward as
You will see midwifery all across the country as far as Quebec. Saskatchewan still has not proclaimed the
act, but in most other jurisdictions, there are midwives.
In our province, we have fewer than 5,000 births per year, and we have a very, very small number of midwives
and our committees did not want to go the route of nurse midwives; they wanted direct entry midwives. You could
be a nutritionist that then trains as a midwife versus a nurse, and many other jurisdictions train in that way.
Our agreement did not want to go with expanding the role of the Nurse's Act to allow for midwifery. It was to
allow for that broader scope. Because of the small number and the self regulatory nature of professions, there
has been too small a number to really be able to allow for a disciplinary process.
What we are trying to do is put in place a broader canopy act that a few smaller professional groups, like
acupuncturists, or a few others that are seeking professional designation, could come together as a group.
At this point, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, PEI, Saskatchewan, the Territories, are faced with the challenge
of how to regulate midwifery. The Northwest Territories has reached an agreement with Alberta and we are
watching to see how that works out.
I think the best direction for midwifery is in the area of primary health care, and trying to move with
midwifery and embed it in primary health care as we move along. Much to the frustration of our local interest
group, we have been unable to move that into the primary care system.
The Deputy Chairman: I think it is a very interesting question because I think the understanding is
that huge expenses are involved in medical evacuations to bring women to give birth away from their families. It
may not be quite so huge in your health system.
Ms. Vivian-Book: It is quite a geographical issue.
The Deputy Chairman: And from all kinds of points of view, if it is possible, it would be better if
babies are born near their families.
Senator Cochrane: First of all I might begin by saying you certainly have a broad mandate within your
working field. Would you expand on the obesity program please?
Ms. Vivian-Book: We have a Provincial Wellness Council that is appointed by the minister, which has
about 25 different organizations. The Wellness Council has brought forward recommendations to the minister
around wellness, and our first priority is the whole area of childhood obesity, nutrition, as well as physical
Our approach is through the Healthy Baby Clubs and focusing from prenatal and into birth, and in terms of
nutrition through childcare, family resource programs, and the school system.
We will soon introduce new school food guidelines and enhancements to physical education. I mentioned there
was an investment in the budget and we received $2,400,000 this year to invest in community-level enhancements
to support wellness.
We have wellness coalitions in all regions, and there are varying programs that they will be able to enhance
now through community grants, through the guidelines.
It is very expensive to do the advertising and many of the social marketing aspects, so we are also looking
to collaborate with our Atlantic colleagues, and also Health Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada
around some of those pieces.
You have to come at it from many directions and it is long term, and we have to continue to see that moving.
Senator Cochrane: Do we have a large number of obese children? What is the number? I know our rate is
Ms. Vivian-Book: Yes, our rate is terrible. I do have the numbers with me. Our rate of obesity is the
highest of all the provinces. Our percentage of overweight and obese is 57.2 per cent, with Canada at 46 per
cent, and younger children is about one-third.
We need to start early and work in a supportive way on many fronts. Our physical inactivity is the highest at
53.3 per cent of our population compared to 46 per cent in the Canadian population.
Senator Cochrane: You were talking about bringing in programs within the school system and you
mentioned physical education programs.
It seems to me that a few years ago I heard that some of our physical education programs were cut back. Is
Ms. Vivian-Book: I think across Canada over the last several years there was a move towards math and
science directions, and where you saw the cutbacks, and that is accurate, it was in physical education, music,
and arts programs. We never seem to get the pendulum right. We always seem to go too far one way or the other.
This year's budget put a strong emphasis on music and culture, and certainly, our rich Newfoundland heritage
can drive that emphasis. We also enriched our focus on physical activity and physical education.
Physical activity in the school can be integrated into all aspects of the curriculum. I would really like to
see us move more towards, particularly in rural Newfoundland, and in urban centres, is the community use of
schools, to get more from schools. There is a lot more we can do to focus around physical activity.
Senator Cochrane: Well, I must tell you seniors are very active in Newfoundland. Whether it is
physical activity, whether it is socializing, whatever, and it is wonderful. I would sort of like to see that
within the school system. I would really like to see an emphasis on physical activity because I think the
children really need it.
Ms. Vivian-Book: From a healthy child development perspective, it is a core pillar of healthy child
Senator Cochrane: It is so strange that you mentioned physical education and other programs after
school hours. Is that what you meant?
Ms. Vivian-Book: Yes, I was referring to after-school programs.
Senator Cochrane: Well, we just heard from the lady from Labrador saying that they were not allowed to
use the school after three o'clock.
Ms. Vivian-Book: We must move in that direction. There are legal issues but from our perspective in
many instances, the schools are the only buildings that are available for such programs. In some Aboriginal
communities, the only facility that cold accommodate such programs is the local school building. We must make
good use of these buildings.
We really need to move in the direction of enhancing community use of schools for literacy or physical
education et cetera.
In conjunction with the use of the schools for after school activities, we must deal with the issue of school
buses for those that need transportation home. This is always a problem in that the school buses leave the
school at a pre-set time and thus leaves the children without a way home. We funded a couple of projects through
the Strategic Social Plan Committees in the regions which are now the Rural Secretariat Committees, so that
children in very rural areas can participate in after-school programs because the bus return to pick them up
after the activity.
The St. John's Parks and Recreation Program, provides funding for children that cannot access through their
own means, enrolment in music in whatever activity they wish to pursue.
We are trying to bring down the barriers that stop children and their parents from participating more
actively in their communities.
Senator Cochrane: I am referring to a government policy that states that the schools cannot be used
after three o'clock.
Ms. Vivian-Book: I think you will find different things happening in different parts of the province.
We have different boards and different approaches.
Senator Cochrane: Is it a board decision to keep the school closed after hours?
Ms. Vivian-Book: Yes, overall, it is the board's decision, but I think government, through the
Department of Education, can take a more active approach in the decision.
Senator Carstairs: Pedometer use in the schools has developed into a wonderful way to get children
active. I have seen schools in Prince Edward Island where, in fact, they have had school sets and each grade
challenges the other grade. The kids wear them for a week, and they accumulate the number of hours. Then the
next grade gets them. Of course, they work harder to accumulate the same number of hours as the class before.
These came from the Department of Health, even though they were used in the schools. I would just lend it to you
as an idea.
Ms. Vivian-Book: A similar idea is the walking school bus where children get off the bus further from
the school walk the rest of the way.
Your idea is a good one and illustrates the partnerships involved in wellness campaigns. We must have a
strong link between health and education.
The Deputy Chairman: Ms. Mandville I am pleased to hear about the increase in education around the
We have heard from children in the Senate chamber and very few of them were familiar with the convention.
You will be glad to hear that C-2 is in the Senate, so that maybe sooner rather than later we will have some
of those new protections for children as witnesses, as well as other things that are in the bill.
This has been a very good session. Thank you so much for coming. On behalf of all the committee, thank you
very much indeed, and good continuation is what we wish for all of you.
The committee adjourned.
ST. JOHN'S, Monday, June 13, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 1:10 p.m. to examine and report upon Canada's
international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children.
Senator Landon Pearson (Deputy Chairman) in the chair.
The Deputy Chairman: Welcome to our roundtable. I will first ask Florian Bizindavyi to introduce the
young people here, and then we will hear from them.
Mr. Florian Bizindavyi, Coordinator, Centre of Excellence for Youth
Engagement: Good afternoon, honourable senators. The Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, which is a
nation-wide collaboration of partners, is led by the Students Commission of Canada. It is through the Centre of
Excellence for Youth Engagement that we found some young people who would be willing to attend before you to
express some views and opinions.
I will leave a document that explains the work of the centre.
In Newfoundland, I was able to find some amazing young people. With me is Shireen, Megan, Ryan and Rachel. We
also have here some observers.
Ms. Megan Fitzgerald: Thank you very much, Florian. Because this is an informal meeting, I am not
going to talk very imperatively.
On behalf of us all, let me say that this is kind of a bittersweet opportunity, because article 12 of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child states that we should be able to express our view. I am 18 today, and this
is my first time opportunity to do that. It is kind of bittersweet for all of us. We are so excited to be here
and express our views to such important people, people who can actually make a difference in Canada. It has
taken me 18 years to get to this point and there are so many other youth here in St. John's who will never get
this opportunity. That is just my opening preamble.
Ryan and I are a team Team E and we are going to talk about education and empowerment and how they apply
to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I will start with empowerment. Florian called me about a week ago and asked me to come here. I said okay. He
told me I would have to read the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I was, like, well, what is that, because
I had never heard of it before. I felt badly admitting that because I am an elitist in my school. I am very
involved in the school, I maintain high marks, and I try to be involved in the community. Yet, someone like me
who knows so much about what is going on, at least in my community, knew nothing about my rights, as set out in
the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
That is a big part of education and empowering youth. How can we feel motivated and empowered to implement
our rights into our own lives if we do not even know them? That is something that we have to work on together
us as youth and you guys as the big shots. We have to work on that, so that we can be empowered to put them into
place in our own lives.
Even the little things. When I was on the telephone a conference call with Florian, and we were reading
the rights, I was thinking that the rights are such an idealistic view of a society and how a child should live,
and then there is reality, of course.
Article 16 talks about privacy and how a child has the right to his or her own privacy and the right to
express himself, through any forum, as long as it does not harm other people, of course.
Even in our everyday lives, at school we cannot even write notes without teachers picking them up. Violations
of our rights every day, little tiny bits of our rights, include things such as teachers checking our lockers,
parents going through our drawers, these things. Although we are told that these actions are for our own good
``I am just making sure nothing is going on'' they are a violation of our rights as children. How can we put
our rights into play and into our lives if we do not even know them? That is an important thing.
Certainly, it is very idealistic of me to think that every right will be abided by in our everyday lives. If
I was writing notes to somebody all day during class, something would have to be done, but confiscating and
reading the notes is crossing the line. That is one of the big things.
The second thing about empowering us to recognize and to implement our rights is to motivate kids to read the
convention and find out what their rights are. It is also important to motivate people by having good laws. Who
are you protecting really? When I talked about this at my house, my dad said something powerful to me. He said,
``You know, Meg, I can go out on a boat right now and take a teenager with me, someone who is 14 years old, and
have sex with that person, because it is the legal age of consent, and that would be fine. However, if I went
out the next week and took a cod up over the side of the boat, my licence would be gone, my boat would be gone,
and I would be out of a job.'' Really, it makes you think about our legal system and who we are protecting. We
need the motivation to say these rights are good, they are what we need in our lives, so let us push them so
that people can make them part of their everyday lives.
That is my spiel on empowerment, and now the other part of Team E, Ryan, is going to talk about education.
Mr. Ryan Stratton: I would like to back up some of Megan's points, and I would like to start by
talking about article 29, which basically states that in order for children to develop respect for things like
parents, environment, human rights, and so on, children have to know their rights. That is a good plan, that is
what we would like to have happen, but we need to reinforce this. It is a good plan for children to know their
rights, to be able to develop respect for everything around them, to even be able to mature at a younger age and
know their rights, and have some kind of a justice system towards them.
On our telephone call, we agreed that if we introduced all these children's rights to junior and high school
students, it might cause a bit of madness. They could abuse these rights, use them to their own advantage. If
you start between kindergarten and grade 6 teaching children their rights, they will develop respect for
everything around them and they will mature at a younger age and they will be able to be civilized and get
Article 29 is a very good point. It is a goal that we want to get to, but we need to reinforce it somehow. It
is written on paper, but what is really being done. Article 42 backs that up it says that everyone, children
and adults, should know the children's rights. Again, that is a very good plan, a very realistic goal, but as
Megan said, and I am going to back her up, we did not know our rights as children. There needs to be more public
awareness and more education on these rights.
As I was reading article 42, it mentioned that some schools have taken it upon themselves to teach human
rights in health education classes, and that is a good first step. The opportunity we have here today is a
perfect place to tell you that the problem is that we do not know our rights. Even those of us who are so
involved, even we do not know our rights, and everybody should know them. That is what article 42 is pointing
The government owns the CBC television and radio. Why not take advantage of that? There are educational
shows, cartoons and original series. If the writers of these shows knew the rights of the child, they could
incorporate them with the lessons of learning, sharing, fair play and caring for others. You can work in human
rights there and really use the CBC to your own advantage.
I think that would be a great first step, along with many other ways, to have everyone know their human
Ms. Rachel Gardiner: What I want to talk about today is basically how Canada, which is such an
industrialized nation, is a nation that really does take care of its children. We really do have a nation that
is recognized as such a great place to live by the United Nations, but the fact is that we do fall down on some
parts of it.
Survival and development of the children to the maximum extend possible is assured under the Convention on
the Rights of the Child. What shocks me when I think about this is the number of children living in poverty
today in Canada. Governments have not been blind to this. In 1980s, the party in power promised to eradicate
child poverty by 2000; in 1980, one in seven children was living in poverty. In 1999, one in five children was
living in poverty a drastic increase.
Obviously, poverty is not the environment for optimum development. The government says that it is trying to
achieve the goals of this convention. If we are letting one in seven children live in poverty, then really we
are not helping them achieve the best that they can.
Article 4 states as follows:
States Parties shall undertake all appropriate legislative, administrative, and other measures for the
implementation of the rights recognized in the present Convention. With regard to economic, social and
cultural rights, States Parties shall undertake such measures to the maximum extent of their available
Canada, an industrialized nation and a nation that is regarded as one of the wealthier nations, is not using
its resources to the best of its abilities to help these children attain optimum development and move on with
their lives so they can get out of poverty. We all know that poverty is a very harsh cycle. It is difficult for
children to get out of poverty once they have started living in it, because they often do not have the chance to
go on to post-secondary education, because their families cannot support them.
This is something Canada needs to look at. There are various to direct more resources toward children,
through child care programs, through more scholarships for post-secondary education, through more affordable
housing for families that are in poverty. This is something Canada must do, to help these children attain
optimum development and thus the best chance at life. The best way to help these children is to invest in them
at a young age. It will benefit all of us, not just the children. Canada must fulfil its obligations under this
convention, to really help those children who are suffering.
Ms. Shireen Marzouk: Today, I have chosen to speak about the inability of a child to secure
reunification with parents, referring to refugees and immigrants especially.
I attended a refugee advisory council annual meeting last Friday. Some of the stories of what is going on in
Canada a country that stands up for human rights and the protection of children were very sad.
There is no avenue today by which refugee children in Canada can be reunited with their parents or siblings
outside of Canada. Adult refugees can do this, yet minors do not have the right to do so. Minors today only have
the right to apply for permanent residence for themselves, and it cannot include parents and siblings.
My question is this: What good is it for a child to live without his or her parent? At the meeting I
attended, a 16 year old boy from Sudan spoke. He came to Canada with his mom, and a week later she was deported
back to Sudan. The boy is now being treated for post-traumatic stress and depression. Why are children separated
from their parents?
Section 7 of the Charter, a child has a right to life, liberty and security. A 16 year old, under the
convention, is still a child every human being below the age of 18 is considered a child. Article 9 of the
convention states, in part, the following: ``States Parties shall ensure that a child shall not be separated
from his or her parents against their will...''
It is ironic that a country that is very committed to refugee protection, to the rights of children and to
principles of family reunification has a law failing to allow refugee children to reunite with their parents and
siblings. Just as Rachel said before, we are trying to get our youth to become more educated, to give them that
opportunity. It was very important for me to have my parents in my life, to guide me become the person I am
today. The 16 year old boy from Sudan is now in Canada, while his mother is in Sudan, half way across the world.
A developing child still needs that psychological support from the parents, guardians, or siblings, whoever is
to take care of them.
There are many things that can be done. First of all, allow refugee children to include the name of the
parent or sibling on the permanent resident application, or remove the bar on sponsorship of social assistance.
Also, allow children of individuals recognized as Canadian refugees to be brought to Canada. There are cases
where a child is left in a particular country and the parent comes to Canada.
For example, a man who lived in Ghana he had seven children there told us his story. His village in Ghana
was burned down, and he had been fleeing from village to village for two years. He visited the Canadian
immigration office in Ghana, and they told him they had four spots. He told them he had seven children. He was
told, ``We have four spots take it or leave it.'' He thought to himself, ``Maybe I could take three children
now, and bring my other four children over later.'' So he told the immigration office he would take the four
spots. He is now here in Canada with his three sons. It was so sad to hear him describe how he might never see
his four remaining children again.
He said that the process is taking a long time, plus there are DNA tests to prove that the four children are
his. They are children. We are trying to get them away from these sorts of things. Canada is not taking any
steps towards becoming a better nation for this cause.
The Deputy Chairman: I want to thank all four of you for your comments.
Before we begin, I just want to make one brief comment to Megan, to reassure her and her father, that once
Bill C-2 is passed, all children under the age of 18 will be protected from sexual exploitation. Age and consent
will be irrelevant under 18 year of age. That is good news for you to take back. Hopefully, it will pass soon.
Everything that all of you have said is extremely interesting. I am particularly struck by the issue on
privacy, because, among the many examples of the right to privacy I had heard, that was one I had not thought
about. I remember locker searches and those kinds of things. As you say, however, it is one thing to take away a
note, but it is quite another to read it. That is something I am going to stuff away in my mind as something we
can work on.
The education issue is a huge issue, and the role of the media in education is extremely important. We heard
good news this morning about new materials being made available, so hopefully no one will be graduating from
grade 12 in Newfoundland in the future without having been exposed to the convention.
I think the issues around immigration are very important. We had the Minister of Immigration in front of us
last week. Those are very complex issues. The right of a child not to be separated against his or her will is a
very important one. It is not an easy one to resolve. You do not want to expose children to possible
exploitation by being sent here in order to get all the others out here. It is a delicate and challenging issue,
which is why talking about rights is important because then you can look at the issues in all their complexity.
If you do not talk about it from a rights point of view, you do not get that kind of dimension to it.
I think what you are talking about, Rachel, is what they call the principle of first call, which, according
to the embedded principle in the Convention on the Rights of a Child, states that children should have first
call on a nation's resources.
Senator Carstairs: Until 1984, I was a high school teacher. I do remember confiscating notes, but I
have to say that I did not read them. I did not think that I had a right to read them, but I sure had a right to
confiscate. I had a real discomfort level with checking kids' lockers, even when we had serious indications that
there might be drugs, but I became horrified to discover the amount of pornography in people's lockers which
made me wonder whether I should be checking lockers more regularly.
What touched me in all your stories and your interpretations is the bad job we have done in letting you know
your rights. I remember back in 1982 making all of my high school students read the Charter of Rights and
Freedoms. Every one of them had to read every single line. They thought I was nuts. ``Why is she making us read
this Charter?'' I thought it was critical for them to understand their rights as Canadians.
The one article that you did not touch on, which is dear to my heart, is the corporal punishment of children.
I am very opposed to corporal punishment of children, whether it is the strap in school, the stick or wooden
spoon at home, or whatever, because to me it is dehumanizing and it also teaches violence.
I would really like to hear from you your views about the fact that our law in Canada still allows for the
corporal punishment of children.
Ms. Fitzgerald: You know, they kind of made fun of me before we came here. It was, like, you are going
to talk for 25 minutes. I am trying not to, but they are looking, so I have no other choice in this matter.
I am guilty I will say it up front of not reading the convention in its entirety. When we were talking to
Florian on the phone, he told us to read up to article 16. However, now that I know corporal punishment is
allowed, I am disgusted. I really am. In my house it was, if I ever did anything wrong my mom never said
anything, never laid a hand on us. Dad never laid a hand on us. No one ever laid a hand on us. However, if I did
something wrong, I would hear, ``Wait until your father gets home,'' but he would not even do anything. He would
crack the belt and I would go off apologizing, mom, I am sorry. He never touched us. I do not even know why I
was so scared. I knew he was not going to hurt us. I knew he would never do that, but he would crack the belt
and it scared me so much, and I can see how it almost works.
Violence is not the answer to anything, I do not think. I am totally disgusted. I am dumbfounded that the law
allows for corporal punishment of children. I am going to do my best this summer to work on that and to see how
far I can get talking to you guys because it is gross. I cannot say anything else. That is disgusting. I do not
know how the other senators feel about this, but I am with her on this. We are going to be buddies on this
In school, that really is the worst part for me. What happens in the home, I think, is almost a little
different, because this is where you have to learn your values, your responsibilities as a child, and what you
want to be when you grow up. In the home is where you learn that. In school, you get educated to use your math,
your science, and your social skills, but corporal punishment in school to me is just honestly an awful idea.
Why should teachers, people who know us for all of nine months of our lives, have the right to use violence
against us if we are chatting in class, socializing, or what have you. Under no circumstances do I believe that
teachers, these people who hardly know us, should be given the right to use corporal punishment. I think it is
absolutely disgusting. That is all I have to say.
The Deputy Chairman: Thank you, Megan. That was a pretty powerful statement. I am glad to say that in
schools corporal punishment is no longer permissible, but that is only very, very recent.
Mr. Stratton: I would like to chip in a quick two cents here. There has to be a thin line between
corporal punishment and child abuse. If you take that to court you were corporally punishing him, or were you
hitting him? If corporal punishment was taken right out, then there would not be those thin lines, and trying to
get out of that child abuse situation.
Violence does not help at all because parents are supposed to help you make the right decisions. They are
supposed to help you out. If you are afraid of your parents, if you are afraid that they will physically hurt
you, you will not open up to them, you will not talk to them and you will not have a good relationship with
If children miss out on a good relationship with their parents, then they miss a lot of that guidance. They
miss out on a lot of information that parents can give to children to make wise decisions. If you are afraid of
your parents, then you will not go to them. You will not to friends with them. You will not trust them. You will
not share with them because you will be afraid. That is my two cents on that.
Ms. Gardiner: What Ryan and Meg have said really sums it up for me as well. What Ryan said about child
abuse is totally true. He raises a good point when he says if corporal punishment is illegal, then there are no
thin lines between corporal punishment and child abuse, between something that is allowed and something that is
illegal, and can be severely punished.
There are so many other ways to teach children what is right and what is wrong, that it should not be
allowed, because it is not the only option to teach children. There are so many other ways that people know
about. It is not a big secret.
Ms. Marzouk: I think that Rachel touched on a good point. It was used a long time ago in schools for
discipline, and it worked, but it is a wrong way to do it. Rachel said that there are other ways to teach
children what is right and what is wrong. It obviously comes under what Ryan said earlier about child abuse.
When you are exposed to that stuff when you are young, it traumatizes you as a child too, because it exposes
you to violence. Schools do not need more violence. There is already enough violence going on in schools. There
are many issues going on today in schools, and students do not need this extra pressure of having to go to
school and teachers hitting you. It is not right.
I do not know about you guys, but my school does not use that kind of punishment. There are other ways, like
detention, that you can use to discipline a child, which I think are much more effective and a better way of
teaching the child that what they are doing is wrong.
Senator Poy: I want the four of you to think about bullying in school. Do you think that is an
extension of corporal punishment both in the homes and in the schools that extends to, ``I am bigger, I am
stronger.'' The whole thing about corporal punishment is that parents or teachers can hit children who are
younger and often smaller not always, but often. Bullying is an extension of that because those who are
physically stronger will bully those who are weaker. I would like you to express something on that.
Megan, you talk about privacy. You mention letters at home being read by parents. I am a parent and I was
very careful when I raised my children to respect their privacy. If their doors were closed, I would always
knock. I would never enter unless I am invited. I would never read anything they write in their desk, or even on
their desk. Do you think it is right for parents to read letters of children? Are they protecting them, or is
that an invasion of privacy? To me, that is an invasion of privacy. Maybe you can answer that and we can go on
Ms. Fitzgerald: I am on both sides. I certainly think it is an invasion of privacy. It is personal
stuff. Even though, as a child, you are living under your parents' roof, and you are certainly not paying for
your own room, it is given to you, you are provided with that, so parents need to have some kind of knowledge of
what is going on with your life. If you do not talk to your parents, how will they know if they do not read, but
I do not think it is right? It is certainly an invasion of your privacy, but on the other hand, Internet
journals are very popular now. I know a story of a young girl who is about 13, I think, and she had written in
her journal on the Internet that she did not want to live any more, and she wanted to kill herself.
Her journal was a private journal, so not everyone could see it, but she had left her page open on the
computer and her mom read it. Her mom found out that this is what was going on, and it was the only way that she
knew. It was the only way she found out there were such issues with this child. In that case, if the mother had
not read the journal, I know that the people surrounding the issue fully believe that the girl would have killed
herself. In some cases, it is helpful to know what is going on in your child's life, but it is an invasion of
their privacy. I think it needs to be something that you talk about in the family and not just as part of
Canadian rights, or the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It needs to be something that you are comfortable
with in your own family.
If something is that private, if you do not want something to be found, in my opinion, it will not be found.
I have good hiding places for stuff that I really do not want to be found. It is hard to say if it is right or
not, but certainly on both sides of the issue I am for and against. I know that is the worse kind of answer you
could ever get.
Senator Poy: That child who left the page on the computer, I think the child wanted it to be read. As
you said, you know all the hiding places, so you would not leave it on the computer. I think that it was a
message there. Whenever people who need help and they do not want to talk about it, somehow there is always that
message asking for help, and that may be part of it too.
I want to mention something Ryan said about using the CBC to teach Canadians, and even cartoons for little
children to learn about their rights. I think it is a great idea, and Ryan will be in the right program. He is
going to Ryerson in Radio and Television Arts, so he will be in the right field.
The Deputy Chairman: Ryan, there is a wonderful series but it is outdated, so it is now time for you
to do them again. It was done by the National Film Board called Rights from the Heart, and it is for all
age groups. They have a set for the three main age groups. If you take this on as a project, look them up and
you will see where other people have been. It will give you some ideas. It is all a graphic work. It is
Senator Oliver: Megan began her talk by saying that this was a bittersweet experience. I think that it
is for us a sweet experience because of all the dozens and dozens of witnesses that we have heard. This
particular session is one of the most revealing and one of the most interesting. We, the people of Canada, and
the senators, are lucky that you students have agreed to come and share with us some of your views on the
covenant. It is a sweet event for us.
I have two questions. Two presenters said we must know what our rights are, and we fail unless we know what
our rights are. I practised law for 32 years and I had a lot of clients come and see me. Frankly, most Canadians
have no idea what their rights are. In the olden days they used to pay me money to tell them what their rights
I am being facetious, but my serious question is, I do not know what rights you want to know. Do you want to
know the rights under the UN charter? Do you want to know the rights under the provincial and federal Human
Rights Act? Do you want to know the rights under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, and how many others, Right
to Privacy? What rights do you need to know?
My second question, which is a philosophical question, is there are so many things that every citizen and
person in Canada has a right to have, and we cannot have them all. How do we prioritize them? For instance,
Rachel made me think of this when she talked about poverty. Every Canadian certainly has a right not to starve
and to have food, but also every Canadian has a right to have a house and a home and not sleep out in the
street. Everyone has a right to an education, everyone has a right to health care and so on, but the fact is, 25
per cent of Canadians cannot read or write. That is just a fact.
What do we choose? Should we put all our efforts into making sure that every child has a right to read and
write, and forget about whether they have a house? Which of these things should be a priority? I would like to
hear the four of you comment on that, if you do not mind.
Ms. Gardiner: What you talked about with a right to housing, a right to food, and a right to
education, I think food and the shelter should take precedence because when a child has this kind of environment
in which to grow, education comes along with it. If we give someone an education without an environment in which
to grow, in which they are loved, and in which they are safe, then this education does not go anywhere. It does
not have an effect on them as much as if they are in an environment where they feel comfortable, safe and
If a child is able to get an education, but does not have anywhere to go with it, then it is useless for
them. Sure they are getting some sort of education, but they do not have an environment in which to use their
education, or an environment where they can further their education.
What they need first is to have food and shelter, and to have the opportunity to have optimal development.
When that happens, that is when education is key, and that is when education will have the biggest impact on
Ms. Marzouk: I did a psychology exam a couple of days ago when we were studying about child
development, and there was one pyramid called Maslow's hierarchy of needs for a child; physiological and safety.
The two things that are most important are for a child to feel secure and for a child to be provided with food.
Education will come after that, but education will come when these two needs are met. If they do not feel
secure, how are they supposed to concentrate on education when their basic needs are not met?
They are children. They are capable of so much. Like Rachel said, you want them to prosper and grow as
people, but if they lack these two things in the beginning, then how are they supposed to carry on.
Senator Oliver: What about the tens of thousands of children who die every year from malaria, AIDS and
Ms. Marzouk: Are you referring to the health care system in Canada?
Senator Oliver: I was thinking of the world, but I realize this is Canada.
Ms. Marzouk: What can we do about that? I do not really understand the question.
Senator Oliver: Globally, health care has to be a component of it; that is all I was saying.
Ms. Marzouk: Yes, definitely. It comes under physiological. If a person is dying of a disease, why
would they care about education? If they are suffering and they cannot get out of bed, why would they care about
education? Good point.
Mr. Stratton: I would like to back everybody up by saying, if I am home sick in bed, then I will not
do my homework and I will not worry about studying for a test. As long as you have food in you, a place to live
and you feel comfortable, then you can take care of education without feeling hungry, without feeling cold. I
think that is the basis, your physical needs are met, and then you go on to educate yourself.
Your first question was, what rights should we know about? As children, to read every detail on every right
will be impossible. Growing up in school, if we are exposed to a general summary of rights here are some of
your rights concerning this, concerning that and all different topics that skim the surface if that piques
your interest, if you want to know more about your rights, if you want to know in-depth what exactly these
rights mean, then you will research it yourself.
In school, they can talk about smoking, they can talk about sex education and they can talk about math, but
if you want to learn more, then you can take it upon yourself. I think if we are exposed to all kinds of
different rights that are general summaries, if we are interested, we will find out more. I think it should be
given to everybody, at least a summary, so people know exactly what is going on and where they can find more
Ms. Fitzgerald: I am glad I do not have your job.
The Deputy Chairman: I was going to suggest you all should become one of us.
Ms. Fitzgerald: Senator Oliver, it is so hard to sit here as youth and as children and talk and act
like we know it all. Then you ask us questions, and, wow, we do not know much at all.
I have grown up with the understanding that I knew everything. I got that once I hit 17. I am pretty much a
know-it- all, but these questions come up, and it is hard to know the answers, especially the question you
raised about which rights we should know. At the risk of sounding repetitive, it is hard to distinguish what
kind of an education we should provide for any children. Why should math be any more important than a health
class, but, of course, math is mandatory in our education system?
It is hard, always, to decipher which pieces of our lives should be taught in school. That applies to which
rights we should learn. Certainly, as Ryan said, we should learn just enough to know. I had no inkling what
these rights were until I read them last week because they were never brought up in school; they were never
brought up in my social studies classes, global development classes, history, or whatever. If it was at least
talked about, then we could provide some kind of motivation to learn more. As I know of right now, it is not in
any curriculum in school. Maybe in some of the bigger schools in different courses and stuff, you can do a whole
course on human rights. However, in elementary school when you learn that smoking is bad and marijuana is not
going to help you through life, you never learn that your teachers are not supposed to read your notes. You
never learn that your parents are not supposed to hit you.
You know that violence is bad, but you are never taught those basic rights. I am not saying they are not
important right now immigration laws, immigration rights and rights of separation are so important in our
lives as Canadians, and what is going on socially right now but for me to learn about that today would not
help me. It needs to be the basic rights of privacy, the right to speak and the right to be heard. Those kinds
of rights will spark the interest of youth and children.
The Deputy Chairman: I think you make an extremely good point. You have given us a great deal. The
most fundamental thing about human rights is respect, and the smallest child deserves to be respected. That is
essential, in my view. Senator Oliver has done a lot of work on human rights, but that is my sense. There is
something in the Vienna convention that all human rights are inherent, universal, interdependent, and
It is not like the hierarchy of needs that Maslow talks about. However, it means that you cannot study well
if you are hungry, but that does not mean you do not have the right to education if you are hungry. You still
have the right to education. It means that you may not be able to benefit adequately from it. I just want to
leave that little message there.
Senator Cochrane: I would like to commend you all because I think you are wonderful. You are an asset
to the province. You have given us some great thoughts. Senator Carstairs has taken the wind from my sails
because I wanted to know from every single one of you how we can get more young people like yourselves involved
in the political system, in making legislation, and in seeing it accomplished. How can we do that? Young people
are not entering the political arena.
Mr. Stratton: I will start with that one. I do not mean offence to anybody here, but when older people
want young people to get involved, they need to have a middleman. If anyone here, no offence, came to me and
said, we want you to be involved, I would think, what exactly is going on here? Are they just going to sit down
and look at notes all day?
If you have organizations like the students' commission, like what Florian does here, if you know that he is
your resource for youth, then you should keep in close contact with youth groups like that.
He will come all excited. He will take notes and learn what it is all about. Then, he will summarize it for
us, get us excited, get us hyped up and we will want to be involved because he lets us know that it might be a
dream to us. However, when we bring it to you older people, then you can make it reality because you have that
power. If there is a bridge between what you guys are doing with politics and youth, and it is important to us,
and we are excited about it, then I think youth will get involved.
This was no big public thing. It was not on the news and it was not on TV. There is not a big rally for it.
Definitely I would say there are not many youth who know that the Senate committee is here right now. If they
knew the Senate Committee was here right now, do you think that a lot of youth would be outside fighting for
causes, they would be lobbying, and they would want to talk to you?
If you provide youth with the opportunity, if you let them know that the opportunities are there, and you get
someone who is there as a middleman to get them excited, then you can get youth involved in anything because we
want to get involved; we are looking for stuff to do. We are sick of sitting home saying this place is boring, I
am going for a walk. We want something to do and if the opportunity comes up, we are really excited.
Ms. Marzouk: I honestly think that the responsibility is not only on people involved in youth groups,
but the responsibility is on us, the youth that are involved and active in our community, to educate those
people around us that we are doing this.
As Ryan said, it is more appealing to people our age to have the younger generation I am not saying that
you guys are old. They are more energetic and more appealing to young people because we are involved, and
basically you stand as the role model for children.
One thing is the lack of communication and education amongst the youth today, and this can all start with our
basic student bodies at schools. They succeed at getting youth involved. In my school, we have a number of
societies and a number of clubs, and the more youth that are involved, the more youth get involved. I found that
today it is really our responsibility to go out there.
I will give you an example. I am on the Muslim Student Executive and a gentleman approached older members and
told us that they wanted someone to give a presentation at our school. The president, a professor of
engineering, said, ``I will give the presentation.'' I said, ``They are junior high school students and they are
not going to listen to you, I will tell you that.''
Honestly, having someone like that, say, ``These are Muslims, this is what they do;'' junior high students do
not care about that. They want someone who is energetic. One of my friends and I went to the school. It was a
great turnout. It was amazing. They stood for us and clapped. One girl asked for my autograph. You feel that you
are making a difference. It is our responsibility as youth to motivate people that are out there to become
educated, to become more involved in the communities, and to open their minds and get involved in many things.
Ms. Gardiner: I want to echo that education is important because youth do not understand what is going
on in politics. When it is on the news, it really does not make sense to them. I think people become more
involved when they understand. If youth understood how different things in the political system affected them,
then they would become more involved. I think that what Shireen says is true, that youth who understand and
understand how it affects them, can educate other youth as to how it affects youth as a whole so that everyone
can get involved and everyone can make a difference.
If youth understood how they could make a difference, I think they probably would get more involved, so
education is the key.
Ms. Fitzgerald: If I was a big shot, I would lower the age to vote. Before Belinda Stronach crossed
the floor and there was a little love story, I did not care one bit about politics. It took that for me, and I
got so interested, it was like a TV soap opera. I was so excited, I stayed up. Now I sleep a lot. I stayed awake
to watch CTV. That is a big step in my life.
Before this came along, it was the whole budget issue, and I knew that I will be 18, and that means I have to
vote. If I have to vote, that means I have to learn everything. I was in this big panic last month to try to
learn everything that ever happened in politics. I was lucky she crossed the floor because it got me a little
As youth, we have so much on the go that we will not do anything unless we have to. For some of us, we will
not do it unless we have to. By lowering the age to vote, you provide the opportunity to have to learn about
this stuff, to have to make the decisions, and to inform yourself about what is going on. You have to be 18 to
vote. Where are we learning our information? It is not in high school any more because once you are 18 you are
almost out of Grade 12. You do not learn about politics in high school. You are just starting university and you
have to get used to a whole new life in university. You cannot start teaching everybody politics then.
I think if you lower the age to vote, it would be one of those things to think about because if I knew that I
had to vote at 16, then at 15, I probably would have been a little more interested and tried to get involved. I
know that is a big issue, and, of course, Megan, you cannot sit here and say lower the age to vote, and you guys
will go back and do it.
The Deputy Chairman: That is a great way to end. Thank you very much for coming. I hope you have
enjoyed it as much as we have. This has been reported. It is part of our official record and it is really
meaningful. Thank you so much.
The committee adjourned.