THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
First Session, Thirty-eighth Parliament, 2004-05
Hearings: OTTAWA, Monday, June 14, 2005 - Issue No. 17 - Sixteen and Seventeenth
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 Ombudsman of New Brunswick: Bernard Richard, Ombudsman for
New Brunswick; David Kuttner, Law student; Cynthia Kirkby, Law student
Centre for Research on Youth at Risk: Dr. Susan Reid, director and Associate
Professor, Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, St. Thomas University.
Center of Excellence for Youth Engagement: Florian Bizindavyi,
Roundtable of children and youth: Ryan Bresson; Erin
Bowlen; Katie Cook; Matt Cavanaugh;
Joelle LaFargue; Matt Long;
Possesom Paul ; Jessica Richards; Emma Strople.
Partners for Youth: Leah Levac, Program Manager and Coordinator of the New
Brunswick Youth Action Network.
Government of New Brunswick:
Department of Family and Community Services: Bill MacKenzie, Director Policy
and Federal/Provincial Relations.
Department of Public Safety: Ian Walsh, Senior Policy Advisor; Jay Clifford, Manager
Policy and Planning.
Department of Education: Inga Boehler, Assistant Director of Policy and Planning.
Department of Justice: Mike Comeau, Director of Policy and Planning.
FREDERICTON, Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 9:10 a.m. to examine and report upon Canada's
international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Welcome to the Senate Standing Committee on Human Rights. We are very pleased to be in
Fredericton, particularly myself. Traversing this country to get here is not easy. I thought the bad weather was
in the winter, but apparently it is in June in Toronto, not here, I assure you.
We are very pleased that we were able to come to the Atlantic Region to examine and report on Canada's
international obligations in regard to the rights and freedoms of children. We have today the ombudsman, M.
Bernard Richard, and we are pleased to have him for an hour and a half, so that should give us a lot of time to
ask him questions on the Convention on the Rights of the Child and, I hope, human rights on a more general
Now, you have some staff with you. I would ask you to introduce them and present your opening statement.
Mr. Bernard Richard, Ombudsman for New Brunswick: Welcome to New
Brunswick, the only officially bilingual province in Canada.
I am pleased to meet you, and I would like to thank you for inviting me to address the issue of children's
rights and, in particular, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, of which Canada is a signatory.
I am accompanied by four students this morning who help us do our work during the summer months, and two of
them are with me at the table: David Kuttner, who is a Laval law student; Cynthia Kirkby, who is a UNB law
student. Sitting in the gallery are Katherine Jardine, who is a law student here at UNB; and Kerry Ross, who is
a business student at UNB here in Fredericton. I thank them for accompanying me.
I should point out early in my presentation that I will be speaking for about 10 minutes or so. I should warn
you on that, because I am a former member of the legislature, and one of my last speeches there was a response
to the budget as finance critic and it lasted for nine hours; so if I go on, please do not hesitate to cut me
I mention the students because, although I can make the presentation it is easy enough for me to do they
did most of the work and the research. Then they can answer the questions, if you have any.
My presentation will focus primarily on specific cases. I wanted to respond to your invitation by referring
to actual cases because it seems to me that we can go on at great length about human rights, children's rights,
but these rights become more real when we see how children, even in Canada and this is almost inconceivable
have a great deal of difficulty obtaining the services they need.
Our office, by definition, is not the office of the ombudsman for children, because we do not have any
ombudsman for children's advocacy in New Brunswick. We receive complaints pertaining to children and we deal
with these complaints on a regular basis.
I accepted your invitation for various reasons. I hope that your interventions and reports will be noted and
have an impact and will be used to improve the situation of children in New Brunswick and elsewhere in Canada. I
still have hope. Obviously, one is always somewhat hesitant to appear before a Senate committee.
The cynicism that exists for our politicians also exists with respect to senators, and one wonders what can
come of this. Nevertheless, I do have confidence in Canada's political system. I want to make every possible
effort to find solutions to troubling problems that I see in my office every day.
I wanted to mention specifically the child advocate office in New Brunswick, because we have had for about a
year now a rare event in our legislature, unanimous approval of a bill, one creating a child advocate. I had
mentioned earlier in the year in my role as ombudsman that I really felt there was a need for a child advocate.
I feel even more strongly today that that is the case. Unfortunately, a year later, we are not much further
ahead. We still do not have a child advocate specifically tasked to look at issues involving children and youth.
In fact, we have had a bill proposing amendments that I fear will weaken the original bill in two ways.
Firstly, by limiting the definition of ``services'' in the original bill, in my view, the mandate will be
curtailed. I am concerned about that. The second amendment that concerns me limits access to information that a
child advocate would have in investigating complaints regarding children and youth. Certainly, that is the first
point that I want to make.
As I travel the country I have met with other ombudsmen, and with child and youth advocates. Those are dual
roles in some provinces, such as Nova Scotia, for instance, our sister province. Others have completely separate
offices. There is no doubt that New Brunswick needs a youth and child advocate. It needs one quickly, and there
are certainly serious issues that need to be dealt with.
I will begin by giving a couple of examples, if I can, of why we need this kind of advocate. I know one of
the arguments for having a separate child advocate is that ombudsmen traditionally are impartial and are not
advocates. They do not advocate. They receive complaints, investigate, hear both sides, and then make
recommendations. Certainly that is true of our office. I would hasten to add, though, that once we make up our
mind on a complaint, then we rapidly become advocates. If we believe that there is a lack of fairness in the
treatment of an individual, and in this case, for what concerns us today, a child, then we become advocates for
that child. It is just impossible to remain impartial once we have all of the facts and have heard all of the
parties involved, including officials of the department. If in any specific case we feel that there is an issue
of fairness, of justice, of rights, then we rapidly become advocates for that child.
I will note that I am not using names because of the confidentiality provisions in our act, although parents
often urge me to talk publicly about their cases, and I may, with their consent. To date I have hesitated to do
that, although I know that the Ontario ombudsman has been very aggressive recently and is providing names, with
the consent of the parents. It is something that I am considering here.
The first case that I would like to refer to is that of a 15-year-old girl who has been diagnosed with a
severe case of paranoid schizophrenia. The reason we became involved is that the parents have been unable to
care for her. The Minister of Family and Community Services has obtained custody of that child. In learning more
about this case, several concerns have come up. All of these cases relate to what the convention describes as
``the best interest of the child.'' I am coming at it from that perspective. What is in the best interest of the
This girl, at 15, is now virtually completely institutionalized. She spent the last year in a psychiatric
ward in one of our hospitals, and she had very few options available to her.
The frustration of the parents, and, I would add, my frustration now, is that there has been a lack of
cooperation between departments of the same government. Mental health officials have recommended a certain type
of intervention for this girl and mental health in our province is under Health and Wellness but the
Department of Family and Community Services is not following those recommendations.
We have had a medical board recommendation. They received a complaint and made a recommendation, but the
department that has custody has said, ``This board does not have jurisdiction over us so they are outside their
mandate.'' We see a classic case of government working in silos, not cooperating, not working in the best
interest of the child, and that has been very frustrating for us.
We have also noted in this particular case an inconsistency between regions. One official of a department
told us, when we found out that other regions are providing residential care outside of an institution for this
type of child, ``Well, that region is not concerned about its budget. They will go over budget. We work within
our budget.'' This is in the same province. In one region we do not provide that because it costs too much, yet
children from other regions are in residential facilities in the region where this child is in hospital. They
are sent by other regions that do not have a facility. The region has a non-profit facility caring for children
from other regions, but children from that region are not admitted because that would cause them to overspend
These are the types of issues and this is a specific case that we meet in our work that we find very
frustrating. We also find it frustrating when our recommendations are not respected.
We have another case of a respite care worker who has cared for a disabled child for many years under the
auspices of one government department, but when she applied to become the foster parent, she was turned down
because the department found out in their investigation that as a teenaged mother, she had faced a child
protection issue. She had gone to the department for help in dealing with a child and had received assistance.
It was about two decades later that she applied to become a foster parent. The department turned her down
because she had sought help from the same department 20 years earlier, after she had provided, to the
satisfaction of the department, care for a disabled child over several years during the intervening period.
Again, my concern is that a straight adherence to policy became the norm, rather than what is in the best
interest of the child. It has raised another concern for us as well. Our department made a recommendation that
We have had several cases dealing with autism and schizophrenia. I especially mention autism in this case
because we have referred complainants to the Human Rights Commission. In New Brunswick, the Supreme Court has
clearly decided that governments can decide which services are covered by medicare and which are not. Therefore,
it is up to government whether they want to provide autistic children with services covered by medicare. The
Government of New Brunswick has decided to provide public services to autistic children, but only up to age
five. As far as I know, there is a complaint at the level of the Human Rights Commission here in New Brunswick
dealing with that question.
So this is an issue of allegations of discrimination based on age, for an autistic child, and that applies to
Further to the Human Rights Commission decision, there have been some improvements, but, unfortunately, this
type of investigation is carried out over a long period of time and may even take years. This is no different in
New Brunwick. For children, it is absolutely essential that we provide services quickly.
The parents of a four-year-old child, for example, must wait two or three years to obtain a recommendation
and they do not know whether it will be favourable or not. When they get an answer it is often, unfortunately,
too late. Parents here, and elsewhere in Canada, have more or less set up their own agency.
Parents in the Miramichi region have set up, on an informal basis, a centre for autistic children, where
service providers from Ontario come and this service is paid for by the parents one week per month to
provide treatment for their children as well as others from the greater New Brunswick region. The parents cover
the costs. Parents do fundraising activities to cover the services, and provide the services to their children
themselves, because they feel that these services provided by the government are inadequate. This is a very
controversial issue across Canada.
On this subject, there was an important case in British Columbia and an important decision recently rendered
in Ontario. The legislation will evolve, but it is clear that this is an issue that concerns me and should
concern all parents and grandparents in Canada, in my opinion.
We have received many complaints from parents unable to secure specialty services for their special needs
children. One specific case comes to mind, where a young boy, Ryan, cannot obtain specialty services because
there are not enough services and they are made available only to the most severe and crucial cases, according
to the authorities from the department in question. Once again, are we putting the best interest of the child
first? That is a concern.
Last year, I also raised the issue of ADHD and this trend, that we see across Canada and New Brunswick, of
being too quick to diagnosis this condition and too quick to prescribe medication, particularly Ritalin for
Moreover, when I made these comments in public, other individuals more knowledgeable than I am, including
people from the medical profession, admitted that there was a growing problem with respect to ADHD diagnoses and
drug prescription in Canada. I believe that this is certainly a North American phenomenon and one that can also
be found in other countries. We have a tendency to prescribe drugs to children who are agitated instead of
trying to find out what causes the agitation. The easiest solution is to prescribe drugs without sufficient
knowledge, in my opinion, of the long-term effects of this solution.
Further to complaints filed by parents in our office, we raised the issue of teachers suggesting that a child
may be suffering from ADHD and should perhaps be prescribed Ritalin by their doctor.
Following our intervention, and the interventions and the public comments of others on this, including
Charles LeBlanc, who I know is here this morning and has been very outspoken on this issue, the Department of
Education sent a directive to all its teachers throughout New Brunswick saying that they are not medical
personnel and are not competent to and should not suggest any particular course to parents of children who may
be showing signs of ADHD. Certainly I have seen a copy of that directive and it was clear in that respect. That
is another issue in which you might be interested.
I have suggested that a legislative committee look at the increase in the prescribing of Ritalin to children
suffering from ADHD and the increase in the diagnosis. I am not convinced that it is not being seen as the easy
One issue that is dear to my heart now is the issue of grandparents' rights of access to their grandchildren
in the case of separation and divorce of the parents. We have had several complaints in that regard. We are in
the process of preparing recommendations. I know that Quebec has the most progressive legislation in Canada, in
that its Civil Code provides a specific right of access to the grandparents unless it can be shown that it is
not in the best interest of the child; whereas all other provinces, to my knowledge, take the opposite approach,
that it is up to the grandparents to show why it is in the best interest of the children for them to have
access. That is a tremendous onus on some grandparents.
As a recent grandparent, I can sympathize with them and can only live in fear that the same situation could
occur. I have found their stories heart-wrenching and compelling, of not being able to gain access; of having
obtained visitation rights in New Brunswick, but then the custodial parent moves to another province, and having
to start from zero because the other province does not recognize the decision of the New Brunswick court.
That is contrary to, for instance, support payments, where we now have agreements virtually across North
America that if a court provides for support payments in New Brunswick, it will be respected in other
jurisdictions. I believe there is a need for more consistency across Canada on the issue. It is not a problem
that will go away by any means, given the divorce rate with which we are all familiar. That is something that
needs to be addressed.
There was quite a good report from a special joint committee of justice officials from all departments that
made recommendations back in November of 2002. Unfortunately, not much has been done since that time.
I have talked about the issue of autistic children. I will not repeat that. I will mention a specific case of
a too-rigid adherence to policy. Again, this is a case of parents who adopted a child in the custody of the
minister, only to find out after the adoption that the child suffered from fetal alcohol syndrome. This is a
working-class family, with not many resources available to them. They returned to the department because they
were aware that some adoptions are subsidized if the child has a condition that requires special treatment,
therapy, or medical intervention dental care, for instance not covered by medicare. The department said,
``Well, there is nothing we can do because our policy is clear. We cannot subsidize adoptions once they are
finalized.'' Although obviously, fetal alcohol syndrome is present at birth, and was present, without a doubt,
when the child was in the custody of the minister.
We spent a year on this case, and I am especially frustrated because the parents have told me that they
considered giving up custody of the child after they have had her for five or six years since they were told
that the child would receive better services, paid for by the province, if in the custody of the minister. I do
not think that is right.
There have been several such cases in Ontario. It has been a prominent issue recently, where the ombudsman
there has tabled a report and the government has promised to act. We have had a few of those admissions at our
office. It concerns me greatly that we cannot find the resources to provide services that children need when
they are in the custody of their parents, whereas we would provide those same services were the children in the
custody of the department, the minister or the government.
In this case, we have made recommendations. I have met with the deputy minister. I have met with the
minister. The final action that the act allows me to take is to file a special report with the legislature. We
have had an ombudsman since 1967. It has never been done in New Brunswick, but I will be doing it in the course
of the next several weeks because I feel that this is a case my office was created to address; my office was
created to determine whether there are exceptional cases that fall outside of the norm and deserve special
consideration. I think this is one of those cases, yet I cannot get anyone at the department to agree with me.
Therefore, we will be tabling a special report for the first time in almost 40 years, seeking the legislature's
Standing Committee on the Ombudsman's support for my recommendation.
As I said, we have had a few similar cases. I know my presentation has probably been a bit too long, but
since you have been so generous in allowing me time, I will add this case. It relates specifically to section 37
of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, where the convention states that children or youth in detention
should not be housed in facilities with adults.
Canada, as a signatory, has reserved the right to disregard this article in the convention in specific
situations, and the reservation reads like this:
The Government of Canada accepts the general principles of article 37(c) of the Convention, but
reserves the right not to detain children separately from adults where this is not appropriate or feasible.
I mention it because we have now a situation in New Brunswick where adult males are being detained in the
same facility that was built for youth, which has been the object of some controversy in New Brunswick. I want
to be clear that I can see occasions where it may be feasible to house some adults, particularly female adults,
with youth, because there was an issue in New Brunswick with females being housed in prisons. It is one of my
responsibilities as ombudsman to receive and investigate inmate complaints about institutions where female
inmates are housed with male inmates, obviously in different sections. I can see where it might be possible to
house low-risk female inmates with youth in a separate section of this prison that has been specially designed.
I do have a concern over the housing of male adult inmates with youth inmates, especially when the convention is
so clear on this issue. Although Canada has put forth its reservations, I think it is something that we need to
Essentially, that is what I had to present to you. I have been a bit long-winded. I did warn you in advance,
I have to say, Madam Chairman. However, I will be pleased to respond to your questions, and hope that it will
help you in your deliberations as well.
The Chairman: Thank you, and certainly I think the time was well spent on the examples, as they are
troubling examples as well as helpful to our study.
Before I turn to the other senators, you did mention the Convention on the Rights of the Child. To what
extent do you use the Convention on the Rights of the Child, and to what extent do you believe that the civil
service and the legislature here in New Brunswick feel bound by that convention? In other words, do they use it?
Do they know about it? How often do you refer to it in your work?
Mr. Richard: I would say rarely, if ever, and I was a member of the legislature for about 13 years. I
do not know that I ever heard it mentioned in those years. Certainly we do not use it at our office. We do not
refer to the convention. We refer to our statutes and laws and rights, our Charter of Rights and the legislation
here in New Brunswick. In my view, it is not used at all and not considered specifically.
Your coming to Fredericton has allowed me to become more familiar with the convention and to do some reading
and thinking about it. The rights contained in the convention are not unknown to Canada. Providing services that
are in the best interests of the child is a concept that we know very well in Canada, and we use it. Those words
are contained in our own legislation. I would say the general rights are known, and I would be hesitant to
overdramatize even those cases that I think are dramatic.
By that I mean this is an international convention that would see many more violations in some countries than
in Canada. However, I am concerned that with the resources we have available, we do not pay close attention to
those rights. Sometimes we will say that we would love to do something, but the resources are limited. You will
hear from elected officials, and from other officials, that we cannot do everything. We cannot be everything to
everyone. The resources are limited. Yet it is not uncommon to see tremendously rich corporations receiving tax
incentives, rebates, that sort of thing, and a balance is needed. In my everyday work as the ombudsman, I have
seen some cases where there is insistence on not creating precedent, on not recognizing exceptions, on not
reacting to situations that cry out for help, based on the fact that we do not want to step outside the policy.
That really concerns me. I think that even in New Brunswick, which could not be described as the richest
province in Canada, we have resources to address those issues, and we are not doing it.
Your invitation to me to come here has certainly helped me become more aware of the convention, and it may be
that our practice will change over the coming months and we will refer to the convention in dealing with some of
these cases, because I think it is an important tool that we have not been using in New Brunswick.
The Chairman: That was to be my follow-up question. You have given us certain examples related to the
convention, certainly the last one, about facilities and adults. Have you ever in your reports or your studies
used the convention as one of the supporting reasons, if not the essential reason, for why you believe services
should be provided, or attitudes, policies or laws changed?
Mr. Richard: Well, ``ever'' is a long time, and we have had an ombudsman for 38 years. I have been the
ombudsman for almost a year and a half now. I have not used it. Clearly, I have not used it.
However, as I say, having become more familiar with it, I think it is something that will be very useful to
me. I am thinking of the specific case of our annual report. The tradition in New Brunswick has been to produce
an annual report that is essentially a statistical compilation of the numbers of complaints, the types of
complaints, the departments concerned, all of that, but without recommendations. For the first time, this year
we have produced a report with recommendations, although not dealing with children's issues specifically. For
the first time, we will be tabling a special report dealing with children's issues in which this convention may
be cited. In fact, I can pretty much guarantee it at this point.
Senator Oliver: At the beginning of your remarks you indicated that you were a little cynical about a
Senate committee coming here to talk about this and that you did not know what effect it might have. I wanted to
say that a number of the questions that you have raised today, about the child who is suffering from paranoid
schizophrenia and so on, are now being studied by another Senate committee led by Senator Kirby, and it will
produce a landmark report that will ultimately resolve a lot of the issues.
You should also know that the same Kirby-LeBreton committee produced the major report on health care in
Canada. There was a decision of the Supreme Court of Canada last week, and when you read the decision carefully
in conjunction with the Kirby Senate reports, you will find that the Supreme Court decision that will
restructure health care delivery in Canada is based largely upon the Senate report, and not the Romanow report
that cost $15 million.
The Senate does in fact have a major role to play, not just in human rights but in many other issues, and I
wish more Canadians knew that. Thank you for giving me the opportunity to make that statement. A lot of good
work is done by the Senate of Canada and this committee. If you look around, Senator Pearson, Senator Andreychuk
and Senator Poy are examples of the kinds of people who do a lot of that good work.
My question deals with the difficulty of this subject because of the jurisdictional arrangements in the
Constitution of Canada. The federal government has certain jurisdictional powers, as do the provinces. I realize
that you spent many years as a Liberal member of the provincial house, but your first cabinet position was as
intergovernmental affairs minister. That is why I want to put that question to you, because that was your first
area of expertise. Because of our federal framework, provincial governments have exclusive jurisdiction over
some aspects of the law, whereas the federal government ratifies international instruments like this one on the
rights of the child. One of the first things you said today is that you are the ombudsman for the province, but
there is no child and youth advocate. I would like to know, given this federal/provincial dichotomy in this
entire area, what would be the best way to create an office of a child and youth advocate in New Brunswick? How
should it be funded? Who should be there? What should be the mandate, the powers? Should it have lawyers, social
workers, psychologists and so on? How should it be structured so that it will help us to adequately implement
this covenant that has been ratified by the federal government?
Mr. Richard: Yes. Well, thank you for setting me straight on the usefulness of the Senate. I apologize
for probably repeating comments that you hear from the general public. I know that you are aware of that, and
the Gomery commission has not helped the level of cynicism with regard to public institutions, but I should know
better than to repeat those kinds of things.
I have already expressed my views on the need for a child and youth advocate in New Brunswick, and having
been a cabinet minister, I am mindful that there are costs to establishing those kinds of offices. Therefore, I
have indicated that in a province like New Brunswick, where the number of cases, because of the population, will
be limited, we should look at the model in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia has recently asked its ombudsman to take on
the responsibility for child and youth advocacy issues.
I think that is the most efficient way of doing it, whereby you do not have to duplicate administrative and
technological resources. We have a case-management system that allows us to track complaints in our office. You
would not have to re-create that in a separate office, with perhaps three or four people.
As a former social worker, I would say that it is important to have social workers in this job. As a lawyer,
I would say it is important to have lawyers as well, and I have access to lawyers in my office. However, we deal
more with administrative-type issues, and that would be expanded or slightly different with the added
responsibilities of a child advocate, or in a separate office for a child advocate. I do think that it would be
important to have officials with knowledge of child welfare issues, social work techniques and policies, so that
they in investigating complaints, they would know whether procedures are being followed and appropriate services
provided. I have access to a legal adviser in my office, and it is an invaluable service because we have to
always look at not only policies and programs, but also legislation and regulations and their interpretation. I
do not think you would need a separate legal adviser if you had a combined office.
Certainly that would be a saving in terms of efficiency in my view as well, and you would not need a
separate, highly paid perhaps too highly paid administrator such as me in a separate office if those
services were combined. I have already stated publicly before a legislative committee that given that a bill was
approved unanimously almost a year ago, in late June last year, it can be up and running within a matter of
Senator Oliver: What kind of budget would be required to cover the entire province of New Brunswick?
Mr. Richard: The province has set aside in its budget this year about $400,000.
Senator Oliver: Would that be enough?
Mr. Richard: Yes, I think it would be enough initially. In fact, I think you probably could do it with
less than that if both offices were combined, because as I said, you would not have to duplicate services. It
could be up and running within a matter of weeks with a budget of probably around $300,000.
Senator Oliver: Does that include money for training and advising youth and children about their
Mr. Richard: Yes. That is an essential role. However, it is not only to advise youth, but also to
advocate for them. There are several instances where that can be done, including before the legislature, but in
other ways too, such as conducting studies on specific issues. I think of the gap in services for 16- to
18-year-olds. That has been an issue in New Brunswick for several years. It concerns children between the ages
of 16 and 18 who no longer live at home and their access to some services. It likely would deserve some
attention from a youth advocate, as soon as one is appointed, because at our office we deal with about 3,000
complaints a year regarding inmates, income assistance clients, injured workers, anything that you can think of
to do with provincial government services.
Senator Oliver: However, when you were talking today about youths, the main types of complaints were
largely medical paranoid schizophrenia and so on. What about education and the justice system? Surely
children's rights in New Brunswick have been violated in those areas as well. Have you had many cases involving
those two systems?
Mr. Richard: Yes, I think they are very often connected. I give the example of the autistic children
who are entitled to services until they go to school and then the
Senator Oliver: That will be the education component of it?
Mr. Richard: Yes. The government position is that once they are in school there are other services
available. However, we all know that those services are woefully lacking, and certainly do not compare with the
services that are available before they go to school, even if judged inadequate by the parents. They have been
forced, or felt compelled, to hire private services and are paying a huge cost. It is a cost of tens of
thousands of dollars a year per child.
Obviously, there are other issues that we have responsibility for, including youth in prison. We do visit the
youth detention centre on the Miramichi on a regular basis and we deal with complaints emanating from that
Although I have only been ombudsman for a short period, I recognize that these are the types of
investigations that will take a lot more time. They are very complex. They often deal with medical issues,
mental health issues, and other types of services, so it is hard to make comparisons. Two hundred complaints
regarding children would compare probably with about 3,000 miscellaneous complaints that deal with all kinds of
issues, some of which can be handled quite easily. I do not think that would be the case with children's
complaints. The fact is, though, there is no child and youth advocate, so we will not turn down a complainant.
We are dealing with those issues, but we do not have the resources or the clear mandate. I feel very strongly
that it is overdue in New Brunswick. It is needed.
Senator Pearson: Thank you for a very interesting presentation, and for a clear commitment to the
rights of children. If I may so, I think it is clear in everything you said that you understand their rights,
even if you have never used the convention, as you said. Of course, we are hoping that you will now be using it
We do note that the Province of New Brunswick is required to make a separate report to the Committee on the
Rights of the Child we read the last one so there are people within the bureaucracy who are aware of this,
and that the convention itself, while it is ratified by the federal government and is the state's
responsibility, required letters from every province and territory before the ratification took place.
I believe on the last part of the convention, which is the optional protocol on child prostitution, child
pornography and so on, New Brunswick was fairly early in sending its letter. It is just a matter of ``There is a
letter in the mail'' from the last province, and the protocol will be announced shortly.
We are very interested to hear the description of the child and youth advocate office and are a bit curious
as to why they would think of amending the bill. If I can read between the lines of what you said, the kinds of
amendments that concern you relate probably to resources, and the fear that this will create a sense of
entitlement that the government bureaucracy is nervous about.
Mr. Richard: That would be my interpretation as well.
Senator Pearson: However, we hope that our presence here may help to spur this along. The oldest child
advocate office is in Ontario, which is just about to pass legislation to make the advocate an officer of the
legislature. She has been extremely active, and of course the ombudsman there has helped on this entire issue of
giving up custody, which has always made no sense. I think that the child advocates, as they work together in
their Canadian association, have been a good, strong voice on the national scene as well. Having yet another
mandate or officer will help to strengthen that association, which I think is one in which the different
provinces are able to learn from one another and come to common ideas. All the offices clearly structure
themselves around the Convention on the Rights of the Child. I have worked with them for a long time.
I will ask a question on behalf of one of our colleagues on this committee, Rose-Marie Losier-Cool, who is,
of course, a senator from New Brunswick, and is detained in Ottawa for the moment, since she is the whip.
On her behalf I have to ask about French language. As you know, there is in the Convention on the Rights of
the Child a right to culture, identity and so on. In the work that you have done, and particularly if anything
has crossed your path with respect to children, are there any issues related to access to the language, not just
in school, but in child care and in other kinds of facilities?
Mr. Richard: Since I have been the ombudsman?
Senator Pearson: Yes.
Mr. Richard: We have a Commissioner of Official Languages in New Brunswick. Complaints about services
in either of the official languages would be forwarded to the Commissioner of Official Languages. Even if our
office received the complaint, we would refer it to the commissioner. New Brunswick is, after all, the only
officially bilingual province in Canada.
Tremendous improvements have been made over the years. We now have duality in the Ministry of Education,
where we have one minister and two deputy ministers. Services, certainly those that pertain to instruction, and
curriculum, for example, are provided separately to the two linguistic communities through schools organized on
the basis of language. As far as schools are concerned, I think that we could assert that tremendous progress
has been achieved and that the minority community is now given good services in our province. Over the years, we
have been able to adopt legislation, such as the Act Recognizing the Equality of the Two Official Linguistic
Communities in New Brunswick. The principle of this act has been incorporated into the Canadian Charter of
Rights and Freedoms, specifically for New Brunswick.
Further to the Charlottetown accord, there has been an important amendment that further guarantees
legislation. I believe that, in New Brunwick, we have made some very important progress over the years.
Moreover, Senator Oliver mentioned that I had held the position of Minister of State for Intergovernmental
Affairs. When I performed this duty, I had the privilege of promoting New Brunswick as a site for the
Francophonie Summit held in Moncton, in 1999. I often gave New Brunswick as an example of a jurisdiction where
minority rights were gained with great difficulty but without violence.
As a francophone Acadian, living in New Brunswick, I am, like many other people, aware of the fact that we
have to remain vigilant. Sometimes we tend to forget that these rights are important in principle, but that they
are even more important because they actually do exist and we have to remain constantly vigilant.
If there are any shortcomings, I would say that they may be found in the area of health care. In some
regions, complaints have been filed over the years that certain hospitals did not provide services of equal
caliber to the minority community. In particular, I believe this would apply to the Miramichi region where one
third of the patients are francophone and where there have been some complaints over the years.
I know that each regional health corporation in New Brunswick has made efforts to provide services of equal
caliber to both communities. I do not think that there are any major problems. We do have to remain constantly
vigilant. There are always improvements that can be made, but I think that, generally speaking, significant
progress has nonetheless been achieved in New Brunswick.
Senator Poy: Mr. Richard, I just want to go back a little to your office as ombudsman. There is no
child advocate at this time in New Brunswick, but obviously from what you have talked about, you have handled a
lot of cases to do with children. What would be the percentages of cases involving children and adults that you
have handled in your office?
Mr. Richard: I wish I could give you a specific number. It would be small in terms of percentage. As I
said, last year we handled 3,000 complaints, and maybe a hundred related specifically to children. I hasten to
add that these cases are much more difficult for us to handle. They are often very complex. They involve issues
of custody. They involve medical issues, as Senator Oliver has said. We talked about a child who has been in a
psychiatric ward for almost the last year. These are very complex issues that involve several health
professionals, and professionals from other non- health departments. I am thinking of Family and Community
Services, for instance. We have dealt with youth in the youth detention centre here in New Brunswick. There are
sufficient numbers, in my view.
One of my frustrations has been that because our mandate is not specific to children and our resources are
lacking and I have mentioned that publicly several times we are not able to give the quality of attention
that I think that we should to those cases. I feel strongly about that.
Thankfully, we have three law students and a business student working at that. When you look at the fact that
in my office, other than myself and my legal adviser, I have four investigators, it doubles my investigative
staff for four months. Even with all their qualities, they need to be trained and become accustomed to the work,
and before you know it, unfortunately they are gone, and then we start again, usually with a new batch, the next
We do not have the resources to handle these types of complex cases. I would say that although the numbers
may be low relative to the total number of complaints that we receive dealing with all kinds of issues tax
assessments, road works you cannot really compare those to a complaint regarding an autistic child, or a child
not receiving speech therapy, for instance, where the department cannot fill a position in a certain region
because those professionals are so hard to come by. Yet when the parents identify a speech therapist in private
practice who could provide the services, the department says, ``No, we cannot do that.'' They are saving money
on their budget because they cannot fill the position, and yet the child is going through critical months, and
perhaps a year or more, of waiting for these services that need to be provided on a timely basis. Although the
numbers are not high, they are seen by me and by my staff as critical complaints that deserve our attention.
Unfortunately, we cannot devote to them all of the resources that they deserve, in my view.
Senator Poy: Therefore, there must be a lot of other complaints that do not get to you?
Mr. Richard: Absolutely.
Senator Poy: Who would have been handling those? Would Family and Community Services be handling all
of the other complaints for the time being?
Mr. Richard: I think so. I think they end up with the departments. We found that people do not know we
exist. People do not know that we deal with these kinds of complaints. However, when we do talk to complainants,
we find out that they are very frustrated by the way they are being dealt with.
Having been a social worker for three years, I understand that you have a specific mandate, you have
policies, and so the unusual, exceptional cases disarm you. It is good to have someone who can look at it from
an impartial, independent point of view being an officer of the legislature, I do not report to the Premier or
to any cabinet minister. I am completely independent and report to the legislature, and that gives me the
opportunity to speak out without having to report to a supervisor or administer specific policies.
I am not surprised when we get the response, ``Well, the policy is clear,'' or ``The program is clear. We
cannot do anything other than what we are doing.'' Although I am not surprised, I think it is my role to point
out that this is an exceptional case, and that perhaps fair treatment would be to go beyond the norm or the
policy. It is not very easy for officials who are employees in the departments to do that. It is not very easy
for me to do that because I know the types of responses that I will get when I raise those issues. It is not
fair to expect officials of the department, employees of the department, to do the kinds of things that an
advocate should do.
Senator Poy: You mentioned that the best solution for New Brunswick is to follow the Nova Scotia
model, to have the ombudsman and child advocate in the same office. Now, you mentioned that legislation is being
passed in that respect?
Mr. Richard: No.
Senator Poy: I did not understand.
Mr. Richard: No, the bill was before the legislature and was approved unanimously last year, but then
amendments were introduced in January of this year that provide for the establishment of separate
Senator Poy: And it would cost a great deal more?
Mr. Richard: Well, in my view it would cost more. I state it humbly, but in my view it would cost
more. I think it is pretty obvious. In a small province like New Brunswick, setting up a separate administration
would mean that valuable resources would be spent on administrative issues that should be spent on providing
services to children. I have made that plea and stated that case.
The legislation is in place. It has not been adopted yet. There is barely a week or two left in our
legislative session and the amendments have not been debated yet. I was hoping that it would go to a legislative
committee so that I could address the bill. I am sure that others would want to address the bill, but that has
not been the case. I do not know if it will be adopted before the end of the session. If it is not, then
normally our legislature would not reconvene before approximately mid-November. In practical terms, it could be
a year and a half, two years, before an office is set up. I think that is unfortunate because people are crying
out for those services.
Senator Poy: Has anyone proposed a bill to include your office with one for child advocacy?
Mr. Richard: No, but that would not be very complicated.
Senator Poy: No?
Mr. Richard: Essentially, it would be a bill describes the mandate, and that is fine. It would be a
minor amendment stating that, perhaps even, as I have suggested, for a transition period, because it is possible
for us to be up and running very quickly, that the ombudsman is designated as the child advocate for a period of
two or three years. That transition would allow you to judge what resources are required and whether a separate
office would be better. I am sure that could be done fairly easily, if the will is there.
I cannot help but mention, for instance, that there is an issue in Saint John, our largest city, regarding a
liquid natural gas plant where the municipality has agreed to provide a significant rebate on property taxes to
the proponent of the project. That is $5 million a year for 25 years, which is a lot of money. However, because
our current legislative framework does not allow a municipality to provide that kind of incentive, there needs
to be an amendment to our Municipalities Act, and that appears to be going ahead by leaps and bounds. In some
cases, I think there is a need for incentives. I express no opinion on whether that is a good thing or a bad
However, what I am saying is that when we want to make legislative changes and the will is there, then it
certainly can be done in a hurry.
Senator Oliver: Well, it is the Irvings. It is New Brunswick's politics. It is the Irvings versus the
Mr. Richard: As I say, I make no comment on it.
The Chairman: You have used the phrase ``the best interest of the child.'' You have referred to the
fact that it is in the convention. I am going back to your social work days and my old Family Court days. Very
few parents ever say they do it for selfish reasons. They want custody of the child, or they want to restrict
the child, often using the phrase, ``I am doing this because it is in the best interest of the child.'' It is
true of grandparents also. Rarely do family service officers say that they are putting their own stamp on a
case. They are always couching it in phrases like, ``We believe this is in the best interest of the child.'' My
question is how do you define the best interest of the child? Who do you listen to, the child, or all of these
advocates on behalf of the child?
Mr. Richard: I think it is an excellent question, because it is not always easy to tell. I can tell
you that the majority of the complaints that we deal with we find to be not substantiated. Once we have done our
investigation, we have obtained all of the information and I long ago learned that there are two sides, and
sometimes three and four sides, to every story on many of the complaints that we have received, we have come
to the conclusion that in fact what was done by the officials is in the best interest of the child. There are
those cases where we have concerns, and we have expressed those concerns.
The key, in my view, is having an independent office to look at these issues, with access to all of the
available information, access to expertise, either in terms of social work, law, or other services, and that is
able to independently come to some judgment or conclusion. To me, that is essential. I have read the New
Brunswick submission on the convention, and essentially, we are asking officials of government departments to
assess themselves. I think chances are they will say they are doing pretty well. Therefore, the key, in my view,
is to have an independent official such as a child advocate or an ombudsman and allow that official to have
access to all of the pertinent information, to look at all services relating to children and not to restrict the
mandate. If you do that, then I think in the end it is always an issue of judgment. Providing someone
independent with the tools to do their job is the best guarantee that you will get the best results.
It is never black and white, and it would be wonderful if, for every complaint that we get, we could say with
absolute certainty, ``Yes, this is what needs to be done and this is a clear violation.'' It is rarely like
that, so we have to exercise our best judgment. As long as we have the tools to do it and are independent of the
agencies that we are investigating, then I think we have the best possible way of arriving at a state of affairs
where we respect the convention as completely as possible.
There is turnover in departments. Social work is a tough job and there is a high turnover rate here in New
Brunswick. I am sure it is no different in other jurisdictions, so it is difficult. Then they have all of the
internal pressures from their departments, their supervisors. These cases often tend to be very interesting to
the media, and I find there is always a concern about that. The important ingredient, in my view, is to have
somebody independent with sufficient resources look at these complaints in a detached way, and if we do that,
then we will do the best job possible.
The Chairman: We have allowed cameras into the meeting. We often do not because of the kinds of
testimony we hear, but we thought this might be a good educational resource. Do you have any objections to them?
Mr. Richard: I do not find them intimidating in the least.
The Chairman: No. I think you have 12 years of experience.
Senator Oliver: I would like to go back to the Constitution of Canada. As you know, there are
provincial and federal rights in the Constitution. Many of the issues that affect the rights of children are
shared jurisdictions health, education, law and justice, property and civil rights, and so on. Our federal
government, which signs these international treaties such as the Covenant on the Rights of the Child, often does
not consult with every province before doing so. Then the federal government begins to implement some of the
terms of that covenant, and we do not have any overarching, overriding system. Should we look at having some
standard enabling legislation to implement international treaties in each of the provinces? What is your view,
as a former provincial cabinet minister, on that relationship between the federal and the provincial
Mr. Richard: This is also an excellent question because it is an issue with which we have struggled. I
would almost have a different answer for Quebec than for the other provinces. As you are well aware, Quebec is
very concerned about any federal encroachment on provincial jurisdiction, so it is a never-ending issue.
However, if we can find a way to work together on issues such as health care and address the waiting lists, the
lack of resources and training of physicians, if we can work across boundaries in doing that, for the life of me
I cannot understand why we could not find the same resolve on the rights of children.
I think even given our complicated federal system, if there is a political will to find a way to work
together to make sure that our obligations as a country are fulfilled, then I think we should, and we can. I
think it has been shown on other issues and on other important subjects. Well, I cannot think of any issue more
important than the rights of children. It is possible, although I agree it is difficult, and at times it seems
Senator Oliver: What about enabling legislation? Do you think that we should have some standard
legislation that can be recommended to all provinces to help enforce these international agreements signed by
the federal government?
Mr. Richard: Certainly a lot of work is done in Canada on uniform legislation, for instance. It is
done on a continuing basis, but when you touch on the subject of jurisdiction, it becomes a lot more difficult.
I would be concerned that we could lose a lot of time debating issues of jurisdiction when we have shown that
informally, we have been able to overcome some of these issues. I am thinking of child care, for instance. It
seems that provinces across the country are agreeing with the federal government on a new program.
As we often hear in New Brunswick, the resources are in Ottawa, the jurisdiction is in the province. However,
if they are able to do it on the issue of child care, then perhaps it is possible informally on the issue of the
rights of the child as well. I am just concerned that if we are looking for a too formal cadre that we may waste
valuable time. I cannot disagree that it would be better if it were agreed to formally. I am just not sure that
we can get there, but we have been able in the past to agree informally, and if that is the way it has to be
done, I am happy with that as well.
Senator Pearson: I have a particular interest in the civil and political rights of children. I have
been working a lot on youth participation. In our interview with the Children's Commissioner of New Zealand, we
were struck by the fact that she had the statutory obligation to consult with children. It was written into her
statute. I am just wondering whether, since your child and youth advocate is still in the process of evolving,
you might think about putting in a provision of that kind.
We were speaking yesterday with some young people in Newfoundland for whom the discovery of the Convention on
the Rights of the Child had been transformative. It was extraordinary. They had not known about it, so we have
failed badly in educating, which is part of our obligation under the convention.
One of the young people said that she would really like to see the voting age go down to 16, because then she
would be forced to think about being involved in politics. I was not quite sure whether this was the way to go,
but her sense was there was a need to build a critical mass of young people who will be prepared to take part in
the political process. I have been thinking about defining the political rights, because political and civil
rights go together. Articles 12 to 17 of the convention, the right to participate in decisions affecting you,
the right to free assembly, the right to privacy, the right to free expression and so on, are in some ways civil
rights, but they are tied to political rights, because unless you have those you cannot have the others. I would
be interested in hearing if you have a reaction to the political rights of children.
Mr. Richard: I confess it is not something that I have thought about a great deal or considered. My
spontaneous reaction would be that given the level and quality of adult participation in our democratic
institutions, I cannot see that they would do much worse. When we look at the rates at which adults are voting,
the cynicism that exists, often the lack of interest in some critical issues, that sort of thing, certainly I do
not think that we could do much worse. I do not have any objection in principle. I know there is some work being
done on that now, perhaps by a Senate committee, I am not sure, but I have read something about it. That would
be my spontaneous reaction.
Senator Poy: I would like to refer to some of the specific cases that you mentioned in your
presentation. There was one about grandparents' rights. Now, I would like you to please expand on what these
rights are in New Brunswick. I have always thought of it as in the best interests of the child that the
grandparents have access to grandchildren.
Mr. Richard: There is fairly limited mention in our laws of the rights of grandparents to access.
There is a mention of grandparents' access in our Family Services Act. It does not specifically protect
grandparents' rights to access. Essentially, you are absolutely right, the best interest of the child is of the
foremost importance, but it is up to the grandparents to establish that they have a right of access and that it
is in the best interests of the child.
Grandparents in New Brunswick, and in Ontario, have organized a group that I think is called GRAND. I am not
sure exactly what it stands for. Their impetus has been to have legislation in all provinces similar to the
legislation in Quebec, where it is assumed to be in the best interest of the child that the grandparents have
access. I think in a very high percentage of the cases that would be true, but it is up to the custodial parent
to establish in any specific case that it is not in the best interests of the child. I can imagine some cases
where it may not be in the best interest of the child, but then the onus is on the custodial parent to show why.
In cases of separation and divorce, certainly there are often hard feelings, although not always, and the
custodial parent may not want to provide access to the parents of the other spouse. I have come to believe that
the Quebec approach is the better one. It changes the onus completely. From my readings and research, I have
concluded that it has not been a disaster in Quebec, and the feeling is it does provide easier access.
Court cases are expensive. They are becoming even more so. It is not easy to use the courts. If the onus is
in your favour and the judges have to interpret your request or application in that light, it makes it easier
We have had several complaints here, and I have met with a number of grandparents, and corresponded with
others, who are just completely disheartened by situations where they have had access for a number of years, and
then as a result of a separation, usually, that access is cut off. The children have been spending weekends,
summer vacations and having regular outings with their grandparents, and then all of a sudden, because of a
separation, the custodial parent has decided that there will be no contact with the ex's parents. Although it is
not impossible to obtain access, it is very difficult.
Senator Poy: That is the case in New Brunswick at the moment?
Mr. Richard: At this point, yes.
Senator Poy: You were talking about the 15-year-old girl who was diagnosed as a highly paranoid
schizophrenic. She is hospitalized, but there are cases where, because of resources, people in other regions
could be sent to the same hospital, but it does not work the other way? Could someone like her then not be sent
to another region to live in a residential setting?
Mr. Richard: Services are provided on a regional basis. If you reside in that region you deal with the
authorities in that region.
Senator Poy: When you say ``region,'' it is a region within New Brunswick?
Mr. Richard: A region within New Brunswick.
In this case the girl is in a psychiatric ward in a hospital. There are facilities that provide counselling
and residential care for youth like her, but I have been told directly by an official that the region takes the
position that it is too costly, and they have a budget within which they have to live. However, that same
official readily admitted that the residential facility takes children who come from other regions. In my view,
those regions have decided that they will overspend their budget if it is in the best interest of the child. I
raise the issue because it concerns me that there is no consistent application of policy throughout the
Senator Poy: As ombudsman, though, could you not say, ``You have to''? Could you not impose that on
Mr. Richard: I could certainly make the recommendation. I cannot impose.
Senator Poy: I see.
Mr. Richard: All I can do as ombudsman is to make a recommendation, and the departments deal with my
recommendations as they deem fit. That is an ongoing case for us, so we were not at the end of our road on that
one, but I thought I would mention it because it is one that has bothered me.
The Chairman: You talked about teachers sometimes suggesting medical treatment for their students,
particularly those with attention deficit disorder, and, I presume, fetal alcohol problems. We know that there
is an increase in bullying and difficulties with supervision of young people in schools. We know that many of
the abilities to restrain children have been removed from teachers. In other words, physical intervention is not
allowed or is frowned upon, depending on the jurisdiction. Do you believe teachers are reaching for medical
answers as part of a supervision problem in the schools? Or do you believe they are doing it because they are
overstepping the bounds in thinking they have the medical answers for their students?
Mr. Richard: I think your first scenario is the most likely one, in that teachers are being asked to
manage classrooms in which two, three, four, five, six, seven students have special needs. They do not have the
resources to deal with those students. In New Brunswick we embrace a school system where all students are
integrated, and I think it is a wonderful idea and tremendous progress from the time I was in school, a very few
years ago, but it requires resources to do it properly so that the students who do not have special needs are
not penalized because they share a classroom with others who do. Teachers are struggling with that. I know from
talking to teachers on a regular basis that they are really struggling. The nature of the classroom has changed
dramatically, so the easy answer for a child who is agitated, hyperactive, overactive, is to perhaps tell
parents, ``There is medication for little Tommy, and it is called Ritalin. If you talk to your family doctor, he
can get it for you.'' Not all teachers do that, but there have been cases, and it has prompted the department to
send a directive. Parents are sometimes struggling as well, and teachers are people in authority, so it is
possible for them to overstate the case, in my view, and cross the line of, ``I am having difficulty with little
Tommy. We are looking at different resources. Perhaps we can arrange for a meeting with the school psychologist
or something.'' It becomes the easy solution in a classroom that is already pretty difficult to manage because
there are too many children who require resources that are not available.
The Chairman: Thank you. I think we have come to the end of our time. I will just make a comment. You
were a social worker and I used to be a Family Court judge, so we share some of that history.
You indicated that you were less concerned about putting female adult inmates with, I presume, female
juveniles. My understanding is that we often do that because we think that females are less disruptive, less
influential, and that seems like a benefit to women. However, according to many of the studies, it is probably a
disservice to future generations, because we are finding that women can be capable of some of the same
attitudes, behaviours and crimes as males. Consequently, I just put a question mark behind that, that making
that gender differentiation may not be for the best in the long run.
Mr. Richard: Yes. Just a brief comment for the sake of clarity, I understand what you are saying.
Obviously there is a notorious case, well publicized lately, involving a female inmate.
In New Brunswick we have overcrowded adult jails, where females are housed with males. We have a new youth
facility where there are separate modules, physically separate, on the same piece of ground, and the government
has decided to handle its overcrowding problem by putting male inmates in the youth facility in separate
modules. I understand the need to deal with the overcrowding problem, because we get the complaints that result
from that, but it would be perhaps more feasible to use the youth facility to house female inmates. However, I
take your point, and I know you have much more expertise in that than I. I appreciate your comment.
The Chairman: Well, my knowledge is a bit dated, since I have been in the Senate some 12 years now.
However, even if they are separate modules, we know that attitudes of care workers permeate walls, as,
interestingly, do the conversations and attitudes of those housed. I share your caution on that, but my point
was first on the gender issue.
I thank you for your commitment to your position, and for so openly and honestly sharing both the dilemmas
and your suggested solutions. We hope that our report will support some of the work that you are trying to do,
and hopefully will support the young people in this jurisdiction. Thank you for your very valuable time today.
Mr. Richard: I would like to thank you for the opportunity to speak to you about an issue that affects
us all and which is important to our society.
I am very glad to have had the opportunity to speak before you today and to try to answer your questions.
The Chairman: Senators, our next witness is Susan Reid, Director of the Centre for Research on Youth
at Risk. She is also an Associate Professor with the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice at St.
Welcome. Perhaps you would like to highlight some points, and then we can go to questions.
Dr. Susan Reid, Director and Associate Professor, Department of Criminology and
Criminal Justice, St. Thomas University, Centre for Research on Youth at Risk: Thanks very much.
A well-known journalist for one of our Toronto-based papers reported in a series of articles on the reality
of life within our youth detention and correctional facilities. The tragedy of suicide by a 16-year-old young
man held in locked detention along with 140 others who were awaiting trial after being denied bail draws
attention to the ``rights'' of youth who have been deprived of their liberty. She begins the article with ``God
forgive us for the harm we do to our children, simply because we can.'' It is with this opening thought that I
come today to speak about the work that has been accomplished in our quest to ensure that our most vulnerable
members of society, our children, are protected from harm and provided with opportunities to grow and develop in
a supportive and caring environment.
Canada has made significant progress in ensuring that young people are afforded rights as part of our
Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms, but we must look beyond our federal laws to ensure that youth are
afforded those rights and freedoms outlined by the UN, the more universal declaration of rights enshrined under
the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Drawing on the four fundamental principles set out in the articles of the convention, my remarks will focus
on the best interests of the child; the child's right to non-discrimination; the right to life, survival and
development; and the right to participation.
I come to you today as a criminologist who has studied youth justice issues for over 20 years. My background
in child studies, criminology and education has provided me with an interdisciplinary background to apply to my
research interests in the area of child, family and youth studies. Having come from ``away'' as I said to
Senator Pearson earlier, I grew up in Ontario and will always be from away when you speak of people in the
Maritimes. I am sure Senator Oliver will recall those comments I feel very much supported in my home here at
St. Thomas University, a small liberal arts university, having come from a larger institution, the University of
Guelph. We pride ourselves on our commitment to social justice at St. Thomas, and it is home to the Atlantic
Centre for Human Rights. We continue to expand our work under the leadership of your colleague, Senator Noel
Kinsella. As a small undergraduate institution, we pride ourselves on our ability to reach out to those who may
be a first generation of young people to attend university.
My first year here, 1997, was after the tragedy of the Westray Mine disaster, and I remember in my first-year
class a young man who seemed a bit out of place bad teeth, if you will, very tall, shirt not able to be tucked
in, but just full of that Cape Breton spirit. I followed him, had him in three or four classes throughout his
schooling, and the proudest moment was when his mother came to the graduation to see her son walk across the
stage as the result of the disaster that led to his education. It is that pride that we, as a small,
undergraduate Catholic university, use to empower young people who might never have had that opportunity to come
here. That context, as well as the Centre for Youth at Risk, fits very well with my passion for young people. I
will leave it for you to read about the mission and mandate of the centre.
As we focus our attention this morning on Canada's international obligations on children's rights and
freedoms, it is important to recognize the government's progress toward a better life for children and youth.
Many initiatives have been put in place to ensure a healthy start to life for young children, including the most
recent announcement by the Minster of Social Development of a national daycare strategy. Investments in the form
of career and skills training through government-initiated youth grants have provided many people with hope for
the future. We seem to recognize that the investment in community development is an important part of the
overall solution to ensuring that children, youth and families are supported. Initiatives such as the National
Strategy on Community Safety and Crime Prevention and the National Homelessness Initiative have shown the
government's support for broad community development strategies to strengthen the links between individuals,
families and social institutions.
We still struggle, however, with those young people who become enmeshed in the machinery of either our child
welfare systems or our youth criminal justice system. These disenfranchised youth move from one caseworker to
another, attempting to find a place to support them in their quest to move from childhood through adolescence to
a healthy young adulthood. The pain and suffering of many of our youth at risk has been a focus of our work at
the Centre for Research on Youth at Risk. While grappling with legal interpretations of the concept of the best
interests of the child over the years, we have often been remiss in not seeking out and listening to the voices
of those young people who are actually involved in the system. Senator Pearson has been a champion for that
voice of children and youth, and we are slowly seeing the results of her continuing crusade.
I was disheartened to hear that she will not be continuing in the Senate, but she has plans after that crazy
birthdate for a wonderful initiative at Carleton.
In the development of the new legislation to replace the controversial Young Offenders Act, the government
should be commended for the work that was done with the renewal of the Youth Justice Strategy that preceded the
proclamation. It provided an opportunity for communities to engage in public education about youth crime
generally and young offenders in particular. In my estimation, it allowed the community to be prepared for
alternatives to custodial settings and more aware of the myths that had previously surrounded what had been
called a ``young offender.'' Prior to the proclamation of the new legislation, Canada had incarcerated far too
many young people, and I was shocked to find that our rates were much higher, four times higher, than the United
The struggle continues in terms of looking at these disenfranchised individuals. It has been shown through
the years that acting in the best interests of the child by an adult supporter may have a series of unintended
consequences that prove to be problematic for the young person.
As we move through this discussion about the Juvenile Delinquents Act, the Young Offenders Act and the Youth
Criminal Justice Act, something has happened in terms of our ideology on the best interests of the young person.
It seems to me that one of the things that are missing in this is that we have moved so far right, to a crime
control model, that we have forgotten that these young people also need protection.
If we look to the next page of my brief, at page 8, I wanted to draw your attention to a Nova Scotia Supreme
Court decision that we still need to follow, despite the fact that we have in fact reduced incarceration and can
no longer rely on the youth criminal justice system as a way of dealing with some of our child welfare matters.
We still have to look at the lack of resources that are provided for such individuals as the young woman
If we turn to page 9, the learned judge said in reviewing the sentencing judge's decisions it was clear that
there were a number of errors in law. The issue before the sentencing court was that the young person was a
troubled 14-year-old who was not able to return home to live with her parents, and it was believed that she was
living on the streets.
When we look further down the page, this decision clearly underscores and corrects many of the problems of
the Young Offenders Act in terms of not using custody for social measures. The judge remarked that, ``The entire
series of events started with the primary offence where this troubled young person took a piece of pepperoni.''
Unfortunately, many of the young people who have ended up in our system have had to commit an offence to get
necessary mental health and substance abuse treatment and so on. We need to be clear that when we look at these
best interests, we are not losing sight of the problems of not providing sufficient resources to balance out the
child welfare side.
Looking at page 10, young people being housed in adult jails, I feel that I have been harping on this point
for too many years. This issue needs to be dealt with. We have no good reason to continue to house our young
people in adult jails, and I am concerned that as time goes on and we do reduce the number of young people in
our young offender facilities, that those beds become available. Why not, given Canada's reservation on the
article under the UN convention, move our adult offenders into those facilities? In fact, at our one youth
custody facility in our province we have had to use those beds on direction from the province, because of an
agreement at the federal level, to house adult offenders when our local detention centres and penitentiaries did
not have enough space. We must not and I really mean this on the one hand reduce incarceration, yet on the
other expose those serious so-called offenders to adult offenders, because they are not throwaway kids.
I wanted to draw your attention to the issue of non-discrimination, the opinions of Barry Stuart in a classic
case about who are the kids in our jails, and the need for us to look at other articles within the UN convention
to be clear that we are not talking just about the deprivation of liberty:
Our jails are overflowing with people who suffer from substance abuse, have few employable skills, are
mentally challenged, are significantly disconnected from mainstream society, and whose lives are characterized
by little, if any support from family or community...Many have been to jail so often, they have become
institutionalized. Most have lost the connections to community and family that induce constructive lifestyles.
These are the people who fill our jails.
That is not something for our country to be proud of.
I wanted to move to the issue at page 12 around rights to privacy protected under the UN convention. There is
a discussion on that page of the evolution of this practice of the publication of names, but I put it under this
particular heading because I strongly believe that if we are to have a separate system of youth justice, then
all the young people who come before a youth court need that protection, regardless of the fact that they may be
serving an adult sentence. They are still seen as young people and they need that protection as guaranteed under
the UN convention on rights and freedoms.
We have solved some very important problems, in that we no longer try young people in adult court and go
through that double jeopardy provision, whether or not they could be tried. I feel really good about that. That
was a wonderful choice that the government made. However, we still have to be careful to recognize that we are
dealing with kids, and placing these kids' pictures in the newspapers is bad. I remember giving testimony in the
House of Commons many years ago about some young people from the Portage drug and alcohol facility, where they
were addressing the all- party committee on whether or not we should place their names in the newspapers. A
member from the Reform Party had very clear ideas about what should and should not happen. One of the young lads
stood up and said, ``Sir, I am a drug lord from downtown Toronto, and I would love it if you put my name in the
newspaper, particularly the Toronto Sun, because do you know how much it would cost me to take out a
full-page ad?'' That shut the comments down because the kids' perspective is that they do not care. You are only
really punishing the parents and providing some of these substance abusers with more advertising. I am still
harping on that entire issue about publication.
Let us look to the back of my brief, because this gets to the more fun stuff. We are on page 16, article 12
of the convention, about the right of children to participate, and I go on to talk about what is valuable. One
of the books that I found most interesting, and a popular book that the general community could pick up and not
be scared by all the academic references that scholars tend to use, is Tough on Kids by two Saskatchewan
lawyers, Green and Healy. In the middle of page 17 is probably the most salient argument that has been presented
in quite some time. They suggest that a simple question should be put to every young person who comes into the
juvenile justice system: What can we do to convince you to join us in using your personal talents and strengths
to build a better life for yourself and our community? What a novel idea. I know that Senator Pearson is aware
of my involvement with the National Youth in Care Network, and I believe that they met with this committee in
the fall and had a strong voice in presenting what it is really like to be a youth in care, youth in custody. I
have also had the privilege of working with them on two projects, one of which was sponsored by the Youth
Justice Renewal Strategy to find ways of helping communities better prepare for the new legislation, and the
other was a Health Canada project on teen moms.
One of the most salient points about this project was that it was designed so there was an equal partnership
between myself as the adult supporter of youth and a young person who was a researcher. Not only was I mentoring
a young person, but I learned so much from those young people that some of our literature on peer helping was
thrown completely out the window in the context of their own lived experiences.
In the middle of page 18 you will see some of the comments that formed a consensus among the young people and
the adult supporters at a national round table on what would be seen as most necessary for creating this
curriculum. I am proud to say that this curriculum has been used in a number of locations, particularly the
Toronto Children's Aid Society. It was a fabulous experience and I would encourage other researchers to actively
engage young people, not just give them a token voice.
The second project was one where I was approached by the network about teen moms, and my immediate reaction
was ``Oh my goodness, there is so much negative publicity to begin with in terms of teen pregnancy. What angle
are you coming from?'' Well, it was the angle that I adored, and we had an opportunity to take a group of young
women who had had their babies while they were still living in foster care on a retreat, and I took my sons with
me, who were 11 at the time. We all participated like family in terms of a lived experience, not only of being
mothers ourselves, but also the lack of support that they had received, particularly as a foster child and being
pregnant. The outcome of that has led to three or four publications by the National Youth in Care Network that
will form public education in terms of some of these stories. You can read some of the things that the girls had
In terms of a conclusion, there are a couple of things I thought were starting points for some questions. I
have been honoured to be a board member of the Vanier Institute of the Family for the last six years, and this
year we embarked on a project with Dr. Reg Bibby of the University of Lethbridge entitled, ``The Future Families
Project.'' This was something of a departure for the Vanier Institute, in that we normally take data collected
by Statistics Canada and do not go out and gather our own. However, we felt that that was only so much of the
story being reported in census data, and we really wanted to look at what were the hopes and aspirations of
Canadian families. When Canadians were asked ``What is your greatest hope for your kids,'' one in two said
happiness. Can we hope for happiness for our vulnerable children and youth? Further on in this study,
comparisons were made between what Canadians say they themselves want out of life and what their expressed hopes
are for their children. Two core values stand out in this analysis: the importance people give to relationships,
family life, being loved, having friends; and the importance they give to freedom. I wonder if these same core
values could be applied to our vulnerable children and youth.
I wanted to close with a comment from our Saskatchewan lawyers, and it is not because you are from
Saskatchewan; it is phenomenal:
Of the thousands of children who have confided in us, most feel marginalized, excluded, and
disenfranchised. For such youth, hopelessness is real. The belief that they may some day have a decent home, a
good job, money to buy clothes, food, a car, is so remote. These youths do not see a clear or even a fuzzy
path to their own personal successes. And that is the difference between youth who are marginalized and
It is my hope that this committee will continue to promote Canada's involvement in the struggle to educate
Canadians on the importance of the convention and to provide the leadership necessary to ensure the rights and
needs of our most vulnerable members receive top priority. Thank you.
Senator Pearson: Thank you very much for that presentation. I look forward to reading it through
thoroughly. I think the work you have been doing and the attention you have paid to the need was a new way of
phrasing it, in the sense that young people in trouble with the law are in need of protection. It is not youth
in need of protection; it is a different concept. I think that is a very important one to underline, that we
have additional responsibilities towards young people that we may not have towards adults.
I am interested in almost everything, but particularly the project on the teen moms. I think it is a
challenge for us to know how to provide the best kind of support and assistance, and I think the quote about the
foster families was remarkable. As was the young girl who says that it is the child who gives meaning to her
life. The Senate Standing Committee on Aboriginal Peoples undertook a study of urban Aboriginal youth. We had
the same kind of experiences across the country, for example, meeting in Winnipeg with young people of 16, 17
with children, and it was having the children that turned them around.
Ms. Reid: That is right.
Senator Pearson: What you are leading up to, and what I would like you to comment on a little more, is
this entire issue of mentorship, of the importance either of peer relations or mentoring. Could you expand on
Ms. Reid: I would be happy to, yes. We had a brief discussion before we convened here in terms of
focuses. It came partly out of the peer helper network and the training that went with that. This is a form, I
suppose, of qualitative research, where you are in the field and you do not have any presupposed ideas about
what you will find. It is very difficult to not have a bias, because as I said earlier, I would not go into it
unless I was clear that it would not have the hallmark of ``Here we go again. This is a bad thing, to get
pregnant.'' The support that was needed came from the young people themselves, and the adults do very little in
that process. I gathered their stories. They thought they could not write, and theme of this weekend retreat was
``Mothering as Your Muse,'' with the idea coming from the network that they could write down their birthing
stories. Well, they cannot write; they have not had any education. They have been criticized all of their
educational life for their inability to be an academic, and they honestly believed that they could not write, so
we tried videotaping. We videotaped the sessions sitting like you would at a pyjama party, on their beds in the
dorms, and talked about my experience as a mother of twins who delivered babies naturally, and their experience,
and all of a sudden there was a connection. It was not because I am an expert on young offenders or youth or
know a lot about adolescent development. It was the lived daily experience that seemed to make the difference.
That is the difference between a so-called expert clinical psychologist and an adult supporter of youth. I am
not necessarily in the same realm as a youth advocate, but I would see myself as being to open people's eyes to
their ability to share their stories in a way that perhaps had not been done before. That provides lessons for
more experienced front-line professionals, who can use that as a starting point perhaps for a mentoring
experience, because not everybody has that ability to connect. How do you train someone to be a good mentor? You
can list all the qualities in the world you need compassion, empathy and so on but sometimes you need a
discussion starter or something that people would believe happened to someone else. I think it was that lived
experience that I have been able to capitalize on the most, not just in terms of collecting data for data's
sake, but being able to give something back in terms of applied research.
The same thing happened, I might add, with the work that I did on school violence. We were partnered with
Toronto, and we followed along with Reverend Dale Lang. If you recall, his son was killed in Taber, Alberta. He
was doing a school tour as part of the crime prevention initiative. I was doing this project on school violence,
trying to look at kids' perceptions of that. We toured around with the reverend, and after he spoke, the kids
would go back to their home room and fill out a questionnaire, which is tedious, and of course I got great
quantitative data, but what felt really meaningful to me was that the bell did not ring after the assembly. The
kids got a chance to go back and reflect on their own lived experience of whether or not that applied to them.
The questionnaire was a research instrument for me, but I probably would not have done it if I had had to just
go into the school and say, ``Okay, today you are not doing math; you are going to fill out this
questionnaire.'' It had to have some sense of meaningful involvement of the young people for me to participate,
and that is who I am as a researcher. The young people who commented afterwards in the halls would say, ``You
know, we do not really have a problem with violence in the school. We just do not want people intimidating us or
sexually harassing us or saying bad things about how we dress.'' That is a totally different springboard,
geographically and otherwise, from what you will see in downtown Toronto, and it is not a one-size-fits- all.
A mentoring relationship may work in one situation, but would have totally different results elsewhere. You
cannot create a binder that you pull off the shelf and say, ``This is how you work with this population.'' Does
Senator Pearson: Yes, that is helpful. I think the right of a child to guidance is not just the right
to be guided by his or her parents. It is a right to have access to older people, significant others and
mentors. I think there is an underrated capacity within our community to do it, and I am glad to have you
emphasize it. It is good for us to have this on the record. Thank you.
Ms. Reid: If I might add just one more thing about this mentoring business. We had a challenge
presented to us because we also have a Third Age Centre at St. Thomas and a program in gerontology. A colleague
of mine in gerontology and I took it upon ourselves to try to bring young offenders and seniors together because
of this idea of intergenerational programs, and we often see these programs featuring grandparents and little,
pretty kids. My big beef is that is all well and good, but what about those nasty adolescents who dye their
hair? We ended up creating a resource after this pilot project, but the most interesting story was we had a tea
up at St. Thomas. We brought them together for lunch, because I find that if you feed people, they always have
something to talk about. We had no agenda. We provided sandwiches, some pop and some chips, and they sat at
tables. We put together one group of residents from an open custody facility, some university students, and some
other kids to see what would happen. At first it was really awkward, and they did not know what to say to each
other. One of the kids was there against his better judgment because he had been kicked out of school. He sat
there with flat affect and his hat down and his feet up. One of the church ladies, as I call her, because she
goes to my church, came over in an exuberant way and said, ``Do you know anything about dyeing your hair,
because my friends go every week to the beauty parlour to get their hair rolled up, and once a month they pay to
get it dyed, but I just cannot afford it.'' She went on and on about her hair, and you can just imagine her,
this woman who goes out with her senior friends. The guy looks at her like she has 42 heads and says, ``Yeah,''
and takes off his hat. His hair is 82 colours. She says, ``Yes, like that.'' There is no reaction, no ``Oh, my
God, your hair is spiked and coloured.'' She asks, ``How do you do that?'' He says, ``Well, I just do it
myself.'' ``Well, I have looked at those kits in the drugstore'' she says, in a regular kind of tone. Once we
saw that, I said this could happen in rural communities throughout the Maritimes, particularly when you are
bringing people together who may not be young offenders but at-risk kids who just need somebody to sit down and
talk to. That is again mentoring. That is not a forced program. We went out and asked some kids and some seniors
what the problems would be, and then came up with some ideas about how you might put that together.
Senator Oliver: It is my opinion that it is not in the best interests of youth or children to be
incarcerated, to be in prison or to be deprived of their liberty. You have a section in your paper entitled
``The Child's Right To Non- Discrimination,'' and you talk about the effects of poverty and crime. One thing
that was missing from your paper was the demographic breakdown on that. For instance, I know that in the United
States most of the adults behind bars or in jail are Black. I need to know from you, when you talk about the
child's right to non-discrimination and the correlation between poverty in Canada and youth crime and youth
incarceration, the demographic and ethnic breakdown of these youth and children.
Ms. Reid: I cannot cite statistics for you, Senator Oliver, but I will definitely get some information
for you. I can tell you that Aboriginal populations are four times more likely to be incarcerated, particularly
out West. We are catching up with the girls. Before we started to ``decarcerate,'' girls were almost as likely
as boys to be incarcerated for violent offences.
Senator Oliver: That is Aboriginal?
Ms. Reid: No, girls generally. In the Aboriginal population it would be three or four times more
likely than the general population. In terms of age, they tend to peak at around age 17, so there has been an
ongoing controversy about whether or not we lower or raise the age, but I think it is probably just about right.
In fact, I have made the argument that we might want to raise it to a higher age, to age 21, which would allow
that period of adolescence to extend into young adulthood and maintain the protections of the youth justice
system for a longer period, because we know that the longer we can keep kids out of the adult system, the more
likely we are to have a chance to rehabilitate them.
What I was doing in that particular section was drawing attention to the provision in our provincial
legislation about non-discrimination as based on social condition. I am trying to make the argument that we know
that the more likely choice for many of our kids in detention is jail because they have no place to go. If you
take two kids of equal offence rating, and one has money and the other has not, then what is the likelihood that
the person with money will to jail? It is very little. I think we are discriminating based on social condition
because there are not the resources of both parents at home to monitor that young person pre-trial, and we are
talking about kids who have not even been convicted of offences. Being discriminated against based on social
condition is just one of many positions I would argue that our young people are vulnerable to.
Senator Oliver: I would like to look at the demographic breakdown. For instance, take Toronto. You
have talked about Saskatchewan. Take Toronto, and take Jane and Finch, that area. What do you think the
demographic breakdown is and what do you think the relationship between crime and poverty is? The colour of
those involved is a significant factor that you and your research really have to look at, particularly when you
are looking at forms of discrimination affecting the rights of children.
Ms. Reid: That is right.
Senator Oliver: It is my view based upon my research that if you are a visible minority, if you
are Black, your rights are more quickly taken away than if you are White. When you are talking about the social
condition of people, their colour is also a major part of that social condition, and it has to be addressed. I
would hope that more social scientists would research that and comment on it, because it is holding Canada back.
Ms. Reid: I totally agree. We would not want to follow in the footsteps of the United States. One in
three young people of colour in the Southern United States is likely to end up in jail, if they are not already,
and those are not just Blacks, but Latinos as well. That is an alarming statistic, that because of your colour,
the likelihood of going to jail is greater and it has nothing to do with your behaviour.
Senator Oliver: Do you have any statistics or numbers on the Jane and Finch area of Toronto?
Ms. Reid: No, I just know that my former mother-in-law grew up in that area, and it is frightening to
live there. It is very frightening to live in that area because the crime rate is so high. She was a senior and
had to move out of the centre that was her home. All her kids were raised there. It just did not feel right.
Despite the fact my sister-in-law works at the Jane Finch Community Centre and knows many of the people in the
surrounding community, she felt that she could not protect her mother, who has now moved to Nova Scotia. That is
frightening, to have the place where you have grown up and lived all your life become so populated with crime
that you cannot stay there any more.
Senator Poy: I will go back to the subject of mentoring that Senator Pearson was talking about.
Usually when we talk about mentoring, it is adults mentoring young people. However, I am wondering whether the
courses that you give at St. Thomas on youth at risk are popular and also whether many of the university
students would like to mentor youth at risk?
Ms. Reid: That is a wonderful question, and I think my colleague, Bob Eckstein, sitting back there,
who works for the Department of Public Safety here and also teaches a section of young offenders, and I can both
vouch for the popularity of that course in particular, which is not even required for the major in criminology.
We have some plans under way that I was speaking to Senator Pearson about, because of the popularity of that
particular focus and a desire to work in partnership with the Atlantic Centre for Human Rights, to develop a
major in child, family and youth studies. I would like to have a service component not a practicum because it
would not be a pre-service professional program where youth are required to spend a certain number of hours
mentoring. My ideal is to have a storefront in the Fredericton Mall, which is right across from the high school,
and have our education, social work, and child and youth studies students provide counselling. Get the probation
officers up there, get the police up there, get the drug counsellors up there at lunchtime and have these
students be the mentors and tutors for the young people in the high schools.
Senator Poy: However, that would be a top-down arrangement. Have the young people who take your
courses expressed an interest in doing that?
Ms. Reid: Oh, yes. That is where it came from. Many of them are looking for volunteer opportunities,
and the market in Fredericton is certainly flooded. Many of our students work for Chimo and in the homeless
shelters, and there just are not enough services. This would not be creating a new resource to get more funding.
It is a needed resource that the other agencies cannot assist with. Many students work with Big Brothers/Big
Sisters; they work with the Boys and Girls Clubs; they volunteer in after-school programs, so there is certainly
an interest, yes.
The Chairman: In your paper you talk about the use of the justice system when in fact, if I am reading
you correctly, the real issues are either mental health or child welfare issues?
Ms. Reid: That is correct. I am making that argument.
The Chairman: Therefore, in Canada we are still not providing the resources at what I call the front
end, or early enough, and therefore the justice system seems to be the way that we trap them?
Ms. Reid: They are falling through the cracks.
The Chairman: They are falling through the cracks still. I just read your case, and that is what led
me to the conclusion that while we have switched from the Young Offenders Act to the Youth Justice Act, which in
itself may have some good tools, the net result is that is has not changed the dynamic. We are still using the
courts because it is
Ms. Reid: I do not want to bash the new legislation because there are so many parts of it that I
strongly support, particularly the restorative justice components and so on. Let me rephrase my argument. I
think it is important not to just change a law that was providing a service, even if we did not agree that you
had to commit an offence to get drug treatment, without providing the drug treatment on the other side. That
case illustrates that we cannot use young offender courts for social service requirements, but where is the
money to support the social service requirements on the other side? It has not happened. We just said we can no
longer, as we did under the Juvenile Delinquents Act, take kids who were committing status offences and put them
together with kids who were aggressive and violent and say they all need protection. However, I do not think the
new legislation is as far right of crime control as saying we want to punish all these kids either. It is trying
hard to balance that need, to look for restorative solutions and mediation that will allow for community
involvement. However, there is not the money to support the community to create those opportunities, or the
specialized mental health services, child psychologist services, or, sometimes, children's residential mental
health services for those who require that.
The Chairman: One of the other points was Canada put a reservation on the Convention on the Rights of
the Child so that they could house youth with adult inmates, allegedly because there was a shortage of resources
at the time and it was not expedient or was not seen as a priority to make facilities available. The most often
used defence was in Northern Canada, where it was argued we would be separating the young people from their
families, and the distances are great, the settlements small. Have you done any studies to see whether that is
how we use the reservation, or has it been used throughout Canada?
Ms. Reid: I only know this based on conversations, so it is not a random sample of agencies by any
stretch. However, we have used it, unfortunately, as a way to make sure our beds are full, even in places like
the Toronto East Detention Centre. I know there have been phenomenal changes in Ontario, but there is no excuse
for having kids in adult detention centres in Toronto, period.
The Chairman: Is it happening in New Brunswick?
Ms. Reid: As I mentioned earlier, yes. We pride ourselves on the fact that we have lowered our
incarceration rate of young offenders to about 35. Kids currently incarcerated are in one facility. We have one
secure custody facility. Unfortunately, the Canada/New Brunswick agreement on adults serving more than one year
is no longer a viable option, as the penitentiaries are full, and so there is no place for these people serving
over one-year sentences. A group of adults was brought to the New Brunswick Youth Centre to be housed there. If
you want a description of the youth centre, it is a modern, cottage-style facility, but when the adults use the
exercise yard, they are within sight and sound of the young people in the institution, and I do not find that
acceptable. It is my understanding, in conversations with the Department of Public Safety, that this was just a
temporary, stopgap measure and that they will be leaving. Again, if we did not have that reservation, we could
not take that temporary action. We would not be allowed to.
The Chairman: Just following up on that, are the authorities that you have dealt with or studied aware
of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the reservation, or are they acting without that knowledge? Is
it expediency that is driving it, or are they making this effort without the knowledge that it is a violation
under the convention?
Ms. Reid: I would have to answer that both ways. My moral will would like to say no, they do not know.
How do we leave it at that?
Senator Pearson: I have a quick question. The ombudsman spoke here this morning about kids of 16 and
17 who are technically youth in care.
He was deeply concerned about that and felt that New Brunswick, along with a few other provinces
Ms. Reid: Six other provinces.
Senator Pearson: One of the recommendations that we would perhaps think about making in our report is
for a more uniform way of protecting young kids at least until the age of 18. Could you give us a bit more
information on what has happened in New Brunswick with that age group? I can remember Matthew Geigen-Miller's
study, which I would recommend to the committee. We will talk about it later.
Ms. Reid: My own involvement here in Fredericton with the 16- and 17-year-old problem is as chair of
the board of directors for a girls' home that is specifically designed for that age group and does not receive
funding from the province. It is called Youth in Transition: Chrysalis House, and was developed by caring
individuals who saw that these girls have nowhere to go and have fallen through the gaps, since they were not
children in need of protection but not old enough to receive welfare. Some of them received small amounts of
student assistance but not enough to live on their own. It is most shocking and you will find this
particularly salient to your other work that most of these girls were sexually abused. When they started to
experience their own sexuality, they disclosed that they had been sexually abused, and of course could no longer
live in their homes.
Senator Oliver: Sexually abused in their homes?
Ms. Reid: Or by a family member somewhere along the chain of the nuclear family. Therefore, they need
to get out of the house, but where will they go? If they had been 15 when they disclosed the sexual abuse, the
child welfare authorities would of course have stepped in and found those children in need of protection until
they were 21. However, they are 16, and so there is nothing to be dome. There is one-day difference, in some
cases, of kids between 15 and 16. As a national group concerned about children and the alarming statistics on
the number of middle school children who are engaging in sexual behaviour, we want to encourage young people to
have good attitudes to and education about sexuality. Surely to goodness when they start to explore their own
sexuality and understand that something was bad touching, we need to support them. It should not matter if they
are 13 or 17. They are still young people under the age of 18. We have only been able to service about five
girls a year, although we have done really well with the ones who were there. However, it has had to close three
times because there is not the money to provide a proper home. We own the facility. The plan was put together by
local residents. Even with the mortgage paid off, there still is not the money, from a variety of volunteer
organizations, fundraisers and bake sales, to keep a place like that running, but there would be if they were
children in need of protection. I feel strongly about the 16- and 17-year-old issues, especially as related to
youth homelessness. Where do those kids go? Kids are living on the street. We have kids who live under bridges
here in Fredericton. A colleague of ours from the centre is doing some ongoing research on youth homelessness
and trauma and is starting to recognize signs of post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of living on the
streets. Does that help?
Senator Pearson: Well, it reinforces my concern that I think we will find as we cross the country that
there are several provinces where there is this gap between what will kick in at 18 and what stops at 16, and it
The Chairman: Just to follow up on that, when the Young Offenders Act replaced the Juvenile
Delinquents Act, some provinces set the criminal age at 18 and others at 16. Do you recollect what happened in
Ms. Reid: It is 16.
The Chairman: Sixteen; so they went to 18 with the criminal law. However, the child welfare act stops
Ms. Reid: Sixteen.
The Chairman: Okay.
Ms. Reid: The other thing that is quite interesting about New Brunswick is that there was a push in
the Education Act to raise the school leaving age, and they increased it from 16 to 18. You could, in theory,
have 16- and 17-year-olds without a home who are required to go to school.
Senator Pearson: I think that is a very clear example.
The Chairman: Thank you for your report, for being here and the work that you do. Our emphasis has
been on the application of the international instruments, particularly the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, so I hope you will look to our report with that viewpoint. Thank you very much for coming today.
Ms. Reid: Thanks very much for having me.
The committee adjourned.
FREDERICTON, Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 1:05 p.m. to examine and report upon Canada's
international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Good afternoon.
We are the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, and we are studying, or examining and reporting upon,
Canada's international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children, with particular emphasis
on the Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the moment, we are hearing witnesses in Ottawa, but we also
decided to go across the country to hear views from the varying regions. We wanted to hear particularly from
youth about the Convention on the Rights of the Child and whether you have any particular concerns as young
people growing up in Canada that you would share with us.
I understand there is an opening statement explaining the group and how you came to be at the table, perhaps,
and then we will continue from there.
Mr. Florian Bizindavyi, coordinator, Centre of Excellence for Youth
Engagement: Thank you. I come from Ottawa and I am involved with a youth organization called the Student
Commission of Canada. We are the leader organization of the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, which is
one of the centers of excellence for children's well-being funded by Health Canada. That is how I came to find
wonderful young people interested in coming here, and who will bring up issues, ideas and concerns. That is how
I got in touch with a teacher at Leo Hayes High School. A lot of the students are from Leo Hayes High School,
and two there are involved with an organization that maybe they will identify when they start talking. Without
further adieu, I ask Ryan to take it away.
Mr. Ryan Bresson: I do not have much to say about it, but the first thing
is, I think it should be taught in the curriculum at schools because at least half of us did not even hear about
this. We cannot protect our rights if we do not know our rights.
I only read articles 12 to 16 but I disagreed with article 12, section 1. It said that you are free to
express your opinion or free to express yourself, but it is given due weight according to age and maturity. I do
not so much agree with that because no matter what your age is or your maturity level, it is still an opinion of
that age or that maturity level. It should not be sectioned off like that. An opinion is an opinion, and I think
they should all be pretty well equal.
That is about all I have to say. I do not have a big speech.
The Chairman: Fair enough; that is an opening comment. I understand that about four people have been
added to the list.
Mr. Possesom Paul: I was brought here by Children's International Summer
Villages, CISV. As a Native American of St. Mary's First Nations, I have come to speak. According to a lot of
these laws, languages and the spirituality of the child should be known. In the early 1900s and up to the 1960s,
there was put into place with the church and the government, Indian day schools and a bunch of stuff like that.
Due to that, according to these laws, I suggest that the government, and these people who protect these laws,
that the Native language and the stuff that was stolen due to these things that were put into place by the same
government who put this into place, should be brought into effect. The Native language should be brought back.
This is my own agenda. This is not with CISV. This is my personal agenda as a Native American and living in
Canada under these charters and laws.
Ms. Joelle LaFargue: I read over these articles and from what I can
tell, a lot of them have to do with freedom of expression, your opinions, and for adults to take you seriously.
One thing I have noticed about kids my own age or younger, or sometimes even older, is that when you ask them
their opinions, they shrug and say, ``I don't know.'' I find this sad because I believe that everyone is
entitled to have their own opinions and to be heard. Often, kids do not have opinions or they do not say that
they have opinions because they feel that it does not matter because they are either not taken seriously, or
when they do say their opinions, it does not change anything.
The difficulty is, especially when it comes to children becoming active in associations like some of my
fellow students are in, or even active in the government and becoming interested in political affairs, they
often feel like they are too busy or they feel they are not heard because no one asks them or even when they are
asked, nothing is done. To get students and children interested in what is going on in Canada, they have to feel
like they are being listened to, and that something they are doing has an effect on someone and something. They
have to see results of what they are doing.
Ms. Emma Strople: I am also here with CISV. Under the Declaration of the
Rights of the Child, children have the right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services,
but we know that this does not reflect reality in Canada. Often these rights are overlooked and neglected. Many
people, including public officials, have publicly stated that they believe housing is a privilege extended to
those who can afford it. Therefore, we feel that more emphasis needs to be placed on raising awareness of the
Declaration of Human Rights and what it entails. It is especially important to educate youth about this
document, preferably through the school system so that everyone has access to it.
The Chairman: Are there any other students who want to jump in with an opening statement? No? Then I
think Senator Pearson may have some questions or comments.
Senator Pearson: Thank you for coming, all of you, and in the middle of exams and so on. It can be
stressful. We try to make it as informal as possible, but we can only make it so informal because this all goes
on the record. I liked what Emma and Joelle said about the fact that kids often do not speak up because they do
not think they are listened to. You are now on a permanent record, so you are being listened to. I do not want
to intimidate you in terms of answering questions.
I liked Possesom's point about the right to culture because that is in the convention; the right to culture
and identity. If you all look at the convention, because there are some versions in which the language is not so
formal, you might find it useful to work with, think about and share with your friends.
I am interested in your own idea about how you can participate more in the political process because the
Convention on the Rights of the Child contains five major kinds of rights. There are the social, cultural and
economic rights that Emma referred to; the questions of poverty, a right to an adequate level of life, and to
housing and so on. Then, there are the cultural rights that Possesom spoke to, and also what we call civil and
political rights. It is hard to figure out what the political rights of children are. When I say children, I
mean everybody under the age of 18. I apologize for calling you children, but technically, that is the term.
Would anyone take on an answer to, how do you see getting more engaged in the life of the country in a
political way? What would you like to see? Do you want the vote lower or whatever?
Ms. LaFargue: It would be interesting if politicians came, not to talk to classes to try to get them
to vote for them, but to talk about how the political process works, about what type of things people in
politics do, and maybe even more committees like this one to ask for children's opinions. That would make them
feel like they are being listened to. They are being educated because that is the best way to take advantage and
actually do things, if you have the knowledge you need to make the right decisions and say your opinions.
The Chairman: Are you saying that you have not had any politicians or senators come to your schools?
Second, is this the first time you have learned about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or were you
aware of it? Perhaps you did not know what was in it, but you knew there was such a thing as an international
Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Mr. Ryan Bresson: I remember in Grade 7, we dabbled in it. We went over it, and that was basically it.
I think maybe even a week would be enough because you do not want to beat it to death.
As for politicians coming in, Mr. Peters got our MLA, T.J. Burke, to come in and it was pretty interesting.
He went over how the whole process works. He was not campaigning or anything. He told us how it works and a few
stories and stuff. It was pretty interesting.
It should be part of the curriculum because you cannot protect your rights if you do not know them.
Ms. Katie Cook: For me, I know my rights. Ever since you were young, you know
your basic rights, like freedom of speech and freedom of expression. However, as you start to get older,
especially in high school, you start to have deeper thoughts. I do not really know what I mean by that, but you
try to express them in classes like political science and stuff. You get to express them. You have a great time.
You feel like your views are taken into consideration, but on a broader view, you do not feel like they are. You
know what your rights are.
As far as knowing about the convention, I do not necessarily know that I have heard of that exact document,
but we know we have those rights, especially as children. At least I do. However, it is hard exercising them and
getting them to be heard.
Ms. Jessica Richards: I only learned about politics when I took courses
that involved politics, like law and political science, for example. If you take regular courses you, do not
learn much about your rights and stuff. You learn what it is, based on what the curriculum is for those classes.
I think it is important that it is shown more in other courses because most people will not take political
science, for example, because they say it might be boring and all that stuff, so they are turned off from that
path. It should be placed more randomly, it has to be more of an informal setting and maybe get the school
involved. Like Joelle said, there should be presentations on politicians and stuff, not campaigning for their
party, but more, ``This is what politics does and this is how it ensures your rights,'' and stuff like that.
Mr. Bresson: You could even have maybe a political section in say Grade 6 social studies or something,
just to get kids thinking about it. The only way I knew I liked politics is that I was interested in it, and I
watched the news, speeches, the House of Commons and stuff like that. However, it was all maps and stuff. Social
studies was the same course for probably three or four years, and maybe you can go through and if you really
want, you can get kids to open their minds by giving them different things to talk about and learn about. Social
studies, to me, is a broad topic, and all we learned about was geography and maps for four years.
Ms. Richards: I think the most important thing, though, would be to make the younger children
understand what it is exactly. For example, Ryan said that he watched the news and stuff and that is how he
became informed about it. However, a lot of children do not understand what it is; the issues that are going on
in the news and stuff. If you put it in a context where they can understand what is being said, then they might
become more interested at an early age, so they could become more informed that way.
Mr. Matt Cavanaugh: I do not know about other schools throughout the
province, but I have a friend in Woodstock in Grade 8. Her teacher actually teaches the class about politics. It
is not part of the curriculum, but a lot of times they will have days for crosswords or whatever, and the
teacher just skips out on that and goes into teaching stuff like politics. It is not a social studies class, and
they have debates and stuff like that. The entire class gets involved and they debate it out during the class. I
know like sometimes in some places, in some situations, it is getting better. People are more informed, but I
know that through my schooling, through my education, I did not get involved in politics until last year. I
would have loved to have gotten it in Grade 8. I think it should be taught more in the curriculum than it is.
Ms. Cook: I think the information about it is limited to school. When you do talk about it and when
you do have these debates, your thoughts and your views are taken into account in school. It does not go beyond
that. There is no way outside of school to show your opinion on any type of deal, like politics or anything.
There is no place for you to say what you think about this, especially since you do not vote until you are 18.
It is fine for political science to have a debate about your rights or about anything and you say your thoughts,
but outside of that, there is no real outlet for anything.
Mr. Matt Long: As long as we are on this topic, I wrote down a little thing. I
remember Grade 3. Joelle, you were in my class. I do not know if you remember this, but Mrs. Besner was our
teacher's name, if that helps. There was a provincial election going on between the Liberals, the PC and NDP,
and she went over all the people running and stuff. I did not pay attention much because it was political stuff
and I did not really understand it because I was eight years old. However, once I went outside and stuff, I
would see signs going down the highway and I would say, ``Mrs. Besner talked about him.'' I would see ``Frank
McKenna'' signs and my mom would be talking about him. Then, I would go into McDonald's at 10 a.m. and catch the
random seniors talking about it, too. If you introduce it at an early age and then they get some more sources
outside, then it is easier. You are cruising from there.
Mr. Bresson: What Matt was saying about debates, I do not know how deep a conversation you would have
in Grade 8 through a debate, but I like the whole idea of kids learning how to have a structured debate at that
age. Even in Grade 12 sometimes it gets to be a free-for-all.
Social studies is a broad topic, and it was not anywhere near broad enough. That is a great idea, to put
different sections in it because I think, for the most part, teachers get a basic outline and then they go from
there. I think it should be more structured because you should have debates at that age. My first debate in
school was probably in high school. I think if people are exposed to it at a younger age, they will be better
off because they will learn how to debate, and how to make new opinions from new information. Debating, to me,
feeds your brain because you get other people's opinions and you can process that and make a new opinion.
Sometimes when you first do that when you are older, you will be more set in your ways and you will be like,
``No, no, no, you are wrong, I am right.'' I know people in my class, they might think that of me.
The Chairman: Now that you are older, do you think when you talk about politics and political science
that the subject matter that politicians deal with affects your lives? Are there issues that affect you, whether
it is crime, drugs or the way poverty is dealt with, or do you see it as something for adults up there? In other
words, have you made the connection to your own lives?
Ms. Strople: This goes back to what we were discussing earlier about there not being an outlet for
political beliefs or discussion. CISV is a youth-based organization. We get together once a month and talk about
issues like human rights, international relations and politics. It is a great chance for young people to talk to
each other, share ideas and talk about the different things that they have heard in the news, from their parents
or from their teachers. That makes a really big difference.
In terms of politics, what happens with the politicians and whether it relates to us directly, it does.
Whether we know it or not and whether it will affect us today or tomorrow, it will affect us later on, it will
affect people around us, and it shapes the community that we live in. I think it is important, no matter what.
Ms. LaFargue: She took most of what I was going to say. When I heard about your organization, the only
problem is I do not believe I have ever heard of it before. No offence, but that is part of the problem. We do
not hear about those types of organizations. The only organization I was ever in that would be similar to that
was something called Concerned Youth for Development, CYD, that talked about how to develop the Third World.
They had, I believe, donated money to a particular school in Ecuador or El Salvador, and these people really
depended on the money. The problem was, when I was in this group, I was in Grade 9 and everyone else was in
Grade 12, and no one was looking for other members to join up. People might not know about those organizations
and that information needs to get out more.
What you said about politics not affecting us or we do not feel like it affects us, and what she said, you
know it does, ultimately. Anything that happens in Parliament, a decision that is made, will eventually affect
us. The problem is, we do not know how. Maybe if there was a way to be able to see, ``They have made some sort
of decision on this bill that we do not know anything about, or what that does.'' Maybe if we had more education
about what this bill will actually mean to everyone, in a language that is not formal but that we could actually
understand: ``This will affect you probably in these ways. So what is your opinion on it?'' We need to be more
informed about those types of things to figure out how it is going to affect us.
Ms. Erin Bowlen: I was raised in a political family. My family was very
involved in politics, and it has worked with me because I am very interested, and I like getting involved in
politics. I think we need to attract the younger children to get involved in politics.
I was thinking back to a story I read in Reader's Digest about a child in Ontario back in the 1990s.
His teacher told him about things like poverty that affect politics, and how in Africa they needed wells to be
built so they could have clean water. He lobbied his class to raise money for wells, and it became a really big
thing. I think it is important to attract the youth to get involved in politics. We can make a difference
because things like poverty do affect us. Even if we are not helping people in Africa, we can still help the
people in our own city, and so I think it is important to attract the youth.
Ms. Cook: I was going to say something about what Erin said. Erin was talking about how I cannot
even remember. I had something so good to say, too.
Senator Pearson: Maybe if I could make a point, it might spur Katie on.
I think all of you are saying in some ways that there needs to be some structured way in which the opinions
of young people can be sought and actually heard, in terms of government legislation and so on.
When we talked this morning with the ombudsman, he talked about the need for a child and youth advocate in
New Brunswick, and that there has been legislation to establish that, but it has not come into being yet. Maybe
there is still a chance to have some effect on how that office might be set up. I think that maybe he or she,
whoever becomes the child advocate, should have what we call a statutory obligation, which means it is in the
law, to listen to young people. That might be a way of getting your opinions through, at least as it affects New
Brunswick. Would that be a good idea? I throw that out to you. Some of you have to take that on and perhaps go
and talk, or at least send a letter, to the ombudsman, or send a letter to your member of the legislative
assembly to suggest that it should be there, that you are being consulted.
I think you are right that most legislation will affect you one way or another, but some of it affects you
specifically, particularly in the province.
I think Katie now remembers what she was going to say. The pause helped.
Ms. Cook: Yes, it came back to me. I think sometimes we are underestimated on how much we can do. When
you look at our high school, for instance, Leo Hayes, the productions that we put on such as Renaissance,
The Lion King and things like our Safe Grad fund where we raise unbelievable amounts of money, if people
could tap into that, we would support anything.
We have had debates in political science, some heated ones, about international aid and stuff like that. We
have a lot of views on them coming from what we have done in high school to raise all this money, to raise
things for what we want. I think people underestimate us on what we can actually get up and do when we want to
do it. For prom, we would pretty much raise any amount of money. I think if adults could work together with us,
a lot more could be done if they would realize our potential. We just need a little push, I think.
Mr. Paul: I do not want to sound overzealous about my culture, but that is my personal agenda. Along
the lines of organizations, I believe that an organization should be set forth by something like this; how we
have this meeting with senators. This should be done monthly or something be put into place for youth by this
committee, but not everyday youth, but someone who knows not from the top grade students, not just your students
that are applying in this, not this or that. Do not get me wrong. That is awesome that you guys are in political
classes and stuff, but personally, I know this stuff by growing up around my First Nations, where I know that if
this person is elected, my grandfather's logging rights are gone, or something like that.
I am going all over the place with this. Along the lines of the organization, I believe that there should be
someone who should sit down with youth and listen to them and understand what ideas are put into place. Thanks.
The Chairman: Senator Poy, you had an intervention.
Senator Poy: After listening so far to all of you, and listening to the four youth yesterday in St.
John's, you have all said first, most of you do not know anything about the convention. Some of you might have
heard of it, but you do not know the content, and what your rights are. Katie was saying you do know, but it is
not the effect that you experience, right? You know the words.
As Ryan said, we need to listen, not just at a certain age and above; we need to listen at any age. I would
say, as a mother, I did that at any age, and I have always been careful to show respect, even when my children
were small. It was always the respect and listening that is important.
One youth yesterday suggested that voting age should be lowered to 16. I have been thinking about it, and I
think from everything that all of you have said, it makes a lot of sense. It means that the moment you get into
high school, you have to learn the political system; you have to know what is going on in the country.
As Katie said, you have all been underestimated. You have a lot of capabilities, and from listening to all of
you, it makes sense. It makes sense that you develop your political capabilities before you graduate from high
school and go to university because it becomes a different agenda. You have other worries that you want to take
care of in your lives. I want to hear your opinions about lowering the voting age. Do you want to start?
Mr. Bresson: To get back to the first thing I said about whether we care if it affects us, it was a
long time ago, but some adults do not feel that it affects them. Some adults do not think that politics affects
them. That is why they do not vote and that is why if we instil it in the kids, when they grow up they will care
a lot more and they will get out and vote.
As far as lowering the voting age, I am 18 now, so I do not care.
Senator Poy: When you were 16
Mr. Bresson: Yes, I would have loved to vote when I was 16, but I think you have to teach kids about
politics so that way, when they vote, they care. They do not just go vote, like, ``Hey, this guy has a cool
mustache. Vote for him.'' If you lower the voting age, you should put more in the curriculum about our politics
because that way people know. They are not just voting out of ignorance. They know what is going on, and they
can actually make a valid vote.
Senator Poy: My point is that when you lower the voting age, it makes it necessary to have that taught
Mr. Bresson: Yes.
Senator Poy: You should be taught earlier then.
Mr. Bresson: Yes, definitely.
Senator Poy: If necessary, yes.
Mr. Bresson: If you do that, I think it should go hand in hand.
Senator Poy: Absolutely.
Mr. Bresson: Yes, you put it in because that way, you will not get 6,000 16-year-old votes for the
Green Party because they say they want no homework or something.
Senator Poy: Adults vote that way, too.
Mr. Bresson: Yes, I know, but some adults do not feel that politics affects them, so they throw their
vote away on something, or spoil their ballot.
Senator Poy: I know.
Ms. Cook: Matt and I talked before we started about lowering the voting age, and I am all for it. I
have been ready to vote forever. I do not turn 18 for about a month from yesterday. I was sitting there praying
that they would not lose that confidence vote and they would wait until I could vote. I agree, though, and I
think it is good that it makes it necessary for us to learn earlier because you definitely have to walk before
you can run. Lowering the voting age to 16 would be awesome. It forces them to learn at Grade 8 and Grade 9.
Teach students what is going on in our system. I did not even know how our system works, how a bill becomes a
law or anything like that, until Grade 9 or 10, or even until I took law class last year. Some things definitely
need to be taught earlier, and I agree with lowering the voting age.
Mr. Bresson: That is why social studies is such a wasted class. You learn maps, the ten provinces and
The Chairman: I will have to start defending some of those teachers because I certainly did not learn
about geography. That was my complaint. I had everything else.
Ms. Bowlen: I agree with both Ryan and Katie. At 16, I felt I was ready to vote, along with many of my
friends, and I felt we were old enough. I knew what was going on in the political scene. I think it should be
lowered because we are ready, I think. We have a lot to say and we are not heard a lot. I think this is the one
way we would be heard, if we were able to vote at 16. I think it is a good idea.
Senator Oliver: You are the exception because you come from a political family.
Ms. Bowlen: That is true. Yes, I definitely agree with having it in the curriculum.
Mr. Long: When Senator Poy brought up that point, the first thing that clicked into my head was yes,
it should be. It is a great idea to be forced to learn about politics in schools, but I feel they should learn
about local politics first because that is probably the most interesting thing; to know what happens around you
first, and then the circle gets bigger and bigger. Start first with local politics, then go provincially, and
The Chairman: That is an interesting point about starting locally. We were taught and I will not
even tell you what year that school politics, running for your student council, running for what affects you
in school, was the first step to becoming politically active. I have not heard one of you mention school
politics, student council, et cetera as being significant as a stepping stone. I leave that out as a question.
Ms. Richards: School politics does not affect me at all because our school presidents do not do much.
At our school, it is all for show. They have a speech at the end of one year so they can run for the next year,
and that is basically it. They hold this huge fanfare, ``Hey, vote for me,'' but then they do not hold anything
of significance to be like, ``This is what I am going to do as co-president.'' It is, well you voted for me,
``Hey, I am co-president.''
As to Senator Poy's previous comment about lowering the voting age, I agree with everybody else. It is a good
idea, but as Matt said, you have to start locally. You have to show how it affects them first because community
politics is one of the most important things. If you know how things affect you and the area you live in, then
you are more inclined to vote for something that affects you. As Matt said earlier, starting locally is the best
way to get people involved in politics because it shows how it affects them the most.
Senator Oliver: I would like to say thank you to all the students who have made their presentations
today. They are all interesting and they have opened my eyes to a lot of things that, as an adult, I have to
start rethinking in relation to the rights of children.
One thing that concerns me, though, is that there are so many rights and there is so much to learn, there is
so much to know. There are rights in relation to housing, there are rights in relation to education and there
are rights in relation to the justice system. If you are stopped by the police, what are your rights? What can
you do and what can you not do? There are rights in relation to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Human
Rights Act, and democratic rights, rights of freedom of speech and so on. There are so many of them.
When you personally feel that your rights have been denied or encroached upon here in New Brunswick, where do
you go and how can you express it? Most of us today either live or die by our Blackberries or by the computer,
so a logical way to be able to file a complaint is with your Blackberry, but to whom? My question to all of you
is, in New Brunswick when you feel that your rights of free speech under the Charter of Rights and Freedom or
the Human Rights Act have been infringed upon and denied, what is the best and most convenient way for you to
file your complaint? Where and how?
Mr. Long: To be honest with you, I would ask Mr. Peters because the guy is like a human dictionary or
something. If something like that ever happened to me, the first thing I would think of is that there is a place
downtown called Service New Brunswick. I think they offer information, but that would be the first thing that
would click in my head; call them or go downtown and ask them or something.
The Chairman: That is a good answer that you would go to your school, and then to a resource. What
about your parents?
Mr. Long: They are not as smart as Mr. Peters.
The Chairman: We know who the top student will be.
Mr. Bresson: As far as school politics goes I am going back to this that is just a popularity
contest. The people who would do a good job are usually the losers, so all the cool kids vote for their friends,
basically. I do not think that is good. I do not think that is politics. Like I said, it is more of a popularity
As far as what I would do to protest something, I would probably go to the Legislature building, and if it is
more than just me who has a problem, I would probably get a group together and have a peaceful, good old
Senator Oliver: What if it were your right to privacy that had been infringed? You would not go to the
Legislature building for that?
Mr. Bresson: No.
Senator Oliver: Ryan said he would go to the Legislature building and perhaps march for something big.
If it were a private right to him, such as a right of privacy or he was being bullied or some of these others,
what would he do then?
Mr. Bresson: I would make as much noise as I could because that is the only way to be heard. I do not
know a certain place where you can go and say, ``My rights have been my privacy has been...''
Senator Oliver: The issue is, should there be a place, and if so, what kind of place? Where should it
be? That is the issue.
Mr. Bresson: Are you talking specifically for youth or for everyone? Maybe you could have a youth
centre or a new branch or something that just deals with people infringing your rights, so you could go and tell
them what happened, who did it or whatever. They could give you guidance on how to go about it because there are
youth centres around. I have never been to one, so I do not know if they deal with this stuff, but if they do
not, they probably should.
Ms. Strople: I think in New Brunswick there is something called the Human Rights Coalition, which
would be a good place to start if you had a concern. Maybe something could be incorporated in terms of a
youth-focused part, which would take into consideration the right to adequate nutrition, housing and the things
that go along with that, because those things are often neglected and they affect the child's future. They
affect how children function in school, they affect what extra-curricular activities they can be part of, and it
is really important that at some level, somebody take responsibility for that and pay attention to that.
Ms. LaFargue: When I have trouble, and I feel that a right is being infringed, I usually go to either
a teacher or the guidance counsellor. I was going to mention the Human Rights Commission, but I do not ever
remember knowing how to get hold of them, other than maybe looking them up in the phone book. Maybe that should
be a more presentable thing that if you have trouble and someone is infringing upon your rights, there should be
more information available that you can use this association. I do not remember hearing about it other than
maybe listening to CBC Radio and hearing them mention about people complaining to the Human Rights Commission.
Other than that, there is no information around school or around where I could have easy access to it. That
should be an important thing.
The Chairman: Ryan, you wanted to add something?
Mr. Bresson: Yes, because I did not know about this place. So I would say when you teach kids about
their rights, you should teach them how to protect their rights. Either tell them how to go about it or tell
them about this youth coalition place or whatever. Localize it a little bit. You could say where you could go
locally, not ``This is the curriculum across Canada and go to Ottawa and tell someone there about it.'' You
cannot really do that. If you are taught your rights, you should be taught how to protect them too, so it should
all be summed up.
The Chairman: Just to change a little bit, with every generation there are different problems that
young people face, and as you know, the older folks like us always say, ``Well, in my day...,'' and they will
tell you what the problem was. There is a generational difference of what problems you face, and our tendency
often is to relate back to ourselves. From your perspective, what is the single most important problem for
youth? Not for you, personally, because we all have different developmental problems, family problems and
growing problems, but, what do you think is the greatest problem facing your communities for youth today? Ryan.
Mr. Bresson: I do not know. It is not for everyone, but probably one of my biggest issues in terms of
Canada, in general, is prescription drugs, because it is a huge problem. Pharmacies are not allowed to share
information, or doctors are not allowed to share information. This person has a hurt leg. We prescribed him
Dilaudid. As far as I am concerned, they are doing that way too easily to begin with. Then when they get their
prescription, they can go to another pharmacy and get their other prescription, or the same prescription, filled
and the two pharmacies are not allowed to share information about it. I go to Cape Breton quite a bit, and it is
tearing that place apart. As far as the crime rate in Halifax going up, I do not think it is a mystery that it
is all connected to prescription drugs because it is basically heroin people are shooting, and they are shooting
it like heroin. They are not themselves. You cannot think, ``Oh, I am just going to get help'' or ``I will offer
this person help.'' They are not themselves. They will do anything to get this high again, even those 15- and
16-year-olds stealing cars and breaking into places. In Cape Breton if someone dies, you cannot even put in
their obituary that they died of cancer or whatever because people will break into their houses looking for
prescription drugs. It is my biggest issue, anyway.
Mr. Paul: I have been there and I have seen all that too, and it is a really horrible thing to see it
tearing apart all nations that I know of.
Along the lines of things that my generation faces as a Native culture is loss of culture. I am facing
drug-related problems, suicide and everything; things that normal youth face, also, but the scale is not known
in my communities. It is awareness, in a sense. I think the alienated communities, let us say Cape Breton or a
reserve out of town; seeing how they have been alienated by the government for a long time should be looked at
and should be covered.
Ms. Bowlen: I agree with Possesom. Loss of culture is something that our generation faces because it
is happening everywhere, not just on the reserves. I think it is a big problem within Canada because we have so
many cultures together, and they are trying to mix together now and trying not to ignore each other. In the end,
they are all losing a part of their heritage at the same time. They lose that culture by trying to mix and blend
and be all one, and I think it is a problem that we need to address, especially in a multi-cultural society like
Canada. I think it is something we definitely need to address.
Ms. Strople: An issue that we need to address is the fact that some youth are not given the same
privileges, which are not actually privileges. They are fundamental rights. It is not fair to expect them to be
able to function and cope and perform to the same levels as kids who leave the house in the morning with their
bellies full and have spent the night in a bed, as compared to somebody who spent the night on the street in the
cold. It is wildly different circumstances, but it is ignored in the school systems. There is little support
within the school for that. There seems to be little support in the community for these youth.
Ms. LaFargue: Another problem in the school system is that a lot of students are being forced to go
into a type of curriculum that does not fit their learning needs. It does not fit how they learn. Some people
are not good at math; they are better with their hands but there are no courses that will allow them to explore
that. I have seen kids who go through school thinking they are stupid. If I talk to them, they are like, ``Oh,
you are just smart and I am just stupid.'' I am like, ``Maybe, but I am pretty sure that you are good in other
ways, or that you are not being taught properly.'' That is one of the problems. It is not encompassing. Kids who
are good at carpentry, who are good at mechanics, do not have the opportunities within the school system to take
courses they need for that. Maybe people with businesses do not necessarily have the opportunity to take math
that will be in accordance to what they need to know. We are lucky in the sense that we have things like law,
sociology, political science and media studies, but I think we might have woodworking. We have no mechanics
courses. We have no cooking courses. We have no course encompassing how some people learn with their hands, or
think differently. It is always this set way that we have to learn. It is taking the square peg and putting it
into the round hole. That is something we need to address.
Senator Oliver: Do you not have vocational schools?
Ms. LaFargue: Vocational schools? I do not know. Is there one in Saint John? Is that for kids our age
or is it for kids who have graduated already?
Ms. Cook: For our age, there is Rothesay Collegiate School. It is a private school. There is another
one downtown in Saint John, but there are not as many. My grandmother went to Voc. I have no clue what that is,
but it was for sewing, I think; a vocational school.
Cooking and mechanics courses are not offered a lot, especially at our school, Leo Hayes, but I think it is
regional, or depends on where your school is, because this is my first year here in Fredericton. I am from
Chipman; it is a small town. Basically, all Chipman has is cooking and mechanical courses. I could not take
political science, philosophy and sociology. I could take math, English, nutrition, shop and French, and that
was basically it. I think it just depends. I think schools groom the students towards the areas that they live.
Fredericton is a city; you have your businessmen and you have basically every type. Chipman is a mill town. You
go to school, you graduate and you work at the mill. That is pretty much what they groom you to do. It depends
on where you live, the type of education you get now.
Senator Oliver: They must eat well in the mill with all those cooking classes.
The Chairman: I think you are making the point, though, that there should be some variation. Young
people should know about those variations so they can fit their needs, rather than being pigeonholed; because
they live in a certain town, they have to take certain classes. Katie had to move out to get them, and that is
perhaps one answer.
We have a few minutes for some last thoughts on any topic. Now is your moment.
Ms. Richards: Going back to what Joelle said about the need for more opportunities in school, my
sister and I do not find school challenging at all. The problem is we are not interested. We are different
people, obviously, because we are two individuals, but my sister has dropped out of school. She is younger than
me, and she does not go to school because she has a problem. She is bored in school, so she does not come. They
need to find a way to challenge people like her and myself. I go because I cannot do anything else if I do not
go to school, but she does not see a reason. She says, ``If I do not learn anything, then what is the point of
coming?'' She needs to find something to do that would get her interested and make her learn at the same time.
School is generic learning. You go to school, your teacher teaches you stuff, and that is it. You are expected
to learn everything that way, but there are people who cannot learn that way. It is not possible. It is not the
way they learn. You need different opportunities for people to be able to learn.
Ms. LaFargue: To comment on Jessica's remarks, the fact that I did not know about those schools might
be the issue. If I do not know about them not that I am going to take those courses how could anyone go to
them unless they researched it? It goes back to information being available, in my opinion. That is an important
One of the senators talked about, how are we supposed to teach rights to children? Maybe rights should be
taught each year, but becoming more detailed and focusing on more rights that will have more impact as they grow
and progress. You will not worry too much about civil laws until you are around 12, or you get to that age where
you need to know about them because they will be a part of your life, but you could learn about your basic
rights when you are a kid, and then progress to the rest of the rights.
Ms. Cook: My comment does not have anything to do with what they are saying right now. You talked
about high school politics, and Ryan made the comment that everyone should make about high school politics; it
is a popularity vote. Not that politics is not a popularity vote, which it is, but I think it has to be changed.
If we learned this stuff earlier, then it would be changed because we see high school politics as what politics
is. We see it as, you have one assembly and they tell you they are going to bring you cake tomorrow, so vote for
them. It has happened. I think that we have to change that. If we learn earlier what politics is, by lowering
the voting age, high school politics might change along with it. People might realize that it could do things;
it could have higher standards than the popularity vote.
Mr. Cavanaugh: If you lower the voting age there should be a mandatory course throughout Canada that
goes along with it that introduces you to politics and what it is all about, what everybody has to do, what all
the parties are all about and everything like that. It should not be an optional course like political science,
but enforced, and maybe starting in Grade 8 or Grade 7 or something like that, and then working its way up
slowly, building up to different things.
Mr. Paul: Along the lines of my agenda that I have brought here today sorry about this, this means a
lot to me, just to be heard, and being here is really cool thinking along the lines of bringing back education
about people's cultures, elders are the ones in my community who have the fluent language, yet they are at the
ages of 50 to 60 and 70. For them to teach the language in regular schools, they need a bachelor's degree or
something, but I believe at that age, you should not need something like that to teach a language. A lot of them
will not take that course to teach a language, and I think they should be allowed to teach with just a
background check or something. If something is not done soon, then people will have a total loss of culture. It
is not just my culture, either; it is the Inuit. In Canada, you have so many cultures that are failing and
losing themselves, so that is a way of solving that.
The Chairman: So you are somewhat reassured, I come from Regina, Saskatchewan, where we have a large
Aboriginal community. We started the first Native-run university, and we had the same problem. How do you teach
Cree when no one has a Ph.D. in Cree? How do you make it an educational component? We had to get one of the
elders, an elderly lady who was very much interested in teaching and has that capacity. We had to work with her
and academics internationally, linguists around the world, to set the criteria for the Cree language to be
taught. Eventually, we got to the point that we knew what you needed and what skills you needed, and what
components could lead you to teach Native languages. So if there is a will, there is a way of overcoming those
impediments. Bringing those issues to us maybe in this area will get people to reflect that we can bring back
cultures if we are interested in doing so.
Senator Poy: I want to answer to what you said, Matt. You said that if the voting age is lowered,
there should be mandatory courses on the Canadian Parliamentary system. Right now, do you have mandatory
courses, even at the voting age of 18? Does that exist? Maybe Matt should answer first.
Mr. Cavanaugh: Not in politics. Politics is not taught in the curriculum or anything like that, but I
think there should be some.
Senator Poy: There should be at any age. Whether it is 18 or 16, I think young people should be
Mr. Long: As long as you are on the final statement, a motivational speaker came to our school one
time and he said, ``I sometimes think that little kids are the smartest people in the world.'' I teach swimming
lessons; I do not actually have kids, and when I was with them I realized that I can learn just as much from
them as they can learn from me. I wish everyone had that fact inside their head. If everyone does get that fact,
then you would not have to come and talk to us, and we would not have such a big problem.
The Chairman: Good point.
Mr. Bresson: As far as teaching us about politics and our rights, it could all be put into social
studies. I think I have a good idea here because seriously, I learned that we have 10 provinces four years in a
row. The math curriculum is changed bi-annually, and this could all be summed up with putting more into social
studies, like your rights and how politics works; put it in at least one year.
The Chairman: I want to thank all of you for coming and for sharing. It is not easy to know exactly
what a group coming from somewhere else is looking for and why they are here, and I think you have responded
admirably. As a final note, we are not looking for any particular thing. We have read and studied the Convention
on the Rights of the Child. I think the Senators on the committee are committed to breathing life into this
document so that it is not just words that you read from time to time, but that Canadians start to live this
convention, and live by it. That is what we expect from adults. What we expect from young people whose rights
are affected is to tell us how to go about it, and what rights are most important to you. Please spread the word
to all the students you know that there is such a thing as a rights-based convention for young people.
Please give us your thoughts; not just today. You can contact us, and tell any of your friends that if they
have anything they think would be helpful to our study, they can contact us. This is an ongoing study. It is not
going to end when we leave today. You have many more opportunities.
We thank you for your ideas and your willingness to be here. Hopefully, some of you will be those political
leaders that you are making comments about today, and I am sure that you will do the role proud as Canadians.
Senator Pearson: I have a website which has a lot of children's rights information on it, including
copies of the convention in youth-friendly language. I will pass a few around. It is called Rights Now!
The Chairman: Senators, we now have before us from Partners for Youth, Leah Levac, program manager and
coordinator, the New Brunswick Youth Action Network. I think you have an opening statement, and then we will go
to questions. Welcome.
Ms. Leah Levac, Program Manager and Coordinator of the New Brunswick Youth Action
Network, Partners for Youth: Thank you all for the opportunity to sit with you today. It really is an honour
to speak on behalf of the Partners for Youth and on behalf of the New Brunswick Youth Action Network.
I work here in Fredericton as the program manager and the interim director for Partners for Youth and also
for the New Brunswick Youth Action Network. Partners for Youth is an organization that does adventure-based work
of a preventative nature with youth who are disenfranchised in their communities. The New Brunswick Youth Action
Network is a collaboration of organizations in New Brunswick that are set up to serve youth who are homeless or
at risk of being homeless. Because of the unique position I have of being involved in both organizations, I feel
proud and also challenged to speak from the position where our youth arrive in a situation of risk to the
position of what happens to those youth when services and interventions are not accessible or available to them.
I would like to make a few comments today about some of the challenges that we face in dealing with our
populations, and the way that those challenges are exaggerated by needs that are unmet through federal policy.
Then, because I am an optimistic person by nature, I have brought some solutions as well, and we will go from
there. I am willing to answer questions at any time, so do not feel the need to wait until I am done because
that could take a while.
First, I commend the federal government on some of its initiatives. The National Homelessness Initiative has
started to make progress, certainly in our region of Atlantic Canada, and particularly the extension of the
Supporting Communities Partnership Initiative. It is an indication that the government is beginning to
understand that short-term project-based interventions simply do not work for these kids. We need long-term
stable programming for them.
Secondly, I think the National Crime Prevention Strategy has been able to support innovative and exciting
projects in Atlantic Canada, and that has been a great contribution. Unfortunately, one of the big challenges
that I identified when I was pulling together my presentation or my comments is that a lot of those efforts seem
relatively uncoordinated, and they do not create an overall system. Kids are still falling needlessly through
widening cracks in our social fabric, in society.
From Partners for Youth's perspective, we work in the school systems, so the youth we deal with often come to
school hungry. They do not have access to nutritious meals because they often come from an impoverished
situation and circumstance in their communities. They do not have a lot of adequate access to transportation in
many cases, so accessing services and programs outside of school is a challenge for them. Many of them are
overweight and obese. We have a significant obesity and overweight youth problem in New Brunswick, which
obviously taxes our health system at a rate that we cannot afford to sustain as a country. Most significantly,
many of these youth are marginalized in their own schools through bullying that is running rampant. As a result,
it creates not only the problem of being socially, emotionally and physically bullied, but also of being
victimized by a system that is simply not set up with adequate resources to respond to kids when they are
From the perspective of the Youth Action Network which deals with service providers who work with homeless
youth, the situation in many cases is even more grave. Homeless youth are often self-abusive. There are rampant
drug- use issues on our streets. Our youth are often on the streets making the choice to be there, which often
is glorified in the media but in reality is a choice that is based on a far worse alternative, which is the
choice that they have at their homes. There are absolutely no services, at least in New Brunswick, outside the
non-profit realm, that support 16- to 18-year-old youth because that is a significant legislation gap that we
deal with on a regular basis, certainly in this province. I know that gap exists in other parts of the country
as well. These youth come from dysfunctional families in many cases. Abuse, poverty, homophobia and drugs are
rampant. One of the significant pieces we have to concentrate on is the fact that many of them have had former
involvement with the child welfare system. This involvement is a significant indication to me that even the
systems we do have in place are not doing what they need to, in all cases. That is another system I would argue
is terribly overtaxed, and yet we still have these youth who are being further disenfranchised by a system that
is not responding to their needs.
On the question that was sent to me, ``How are we doing under our obligations to the rights of children,'' I
think we see significant gaps in housing, access to safe and comprehensive education programs and supporting
families. Even access to play and recreation are being eroded from our school systems on a daily basis. The
question bears asking, ``How is this possible?'' How does it happen that there are so many different documents,
agendas and strategies for youth and yet we still have a higher poverty rate for youth, and more children living
in poverty, than we did 16 years ago. That is five years past when there were supposed to be none left.
I offer three answers, three problems that we have. First, we are not paying close enough attention to the
Canada social transfer. That transfer needs to have special attention paid to it because the only way it becomes
a national priority is if national policy is wrapped around it. Second, we have an inconsistency with the way we
deliver values, developmental assets and esteem-based education in our school systems so that youth do not
access equal opportunities, depending on what part of the country they come from. We heard from the youth you
were speaking with that differences exist even from neighbouring communities of the same parts of the country.
Third, which affects me on a daily basis but I think is a significant national problem, is the erosion of core
funding and access to resources for frontline service providers, people who work on the ground with these youth
day in and day out.
Here come the solutions. It is not all glum. My first blanket statement is that youth have to become the
national priority. It is not good enough for them to be ``one of'' or ``part of'' or ``somewhere in connection
with.'' They are all we have. They are the only future we have. We really need to focus our attention on them as
being central to the process. Within that, I offer three solutions, and then I am happy to answer questions.
First, we need to legislate dedicated social funding that allows all youth to live out of poverty. I do not
know how to make it simpler than that. That is what kids need.
Second, we need to establish a national initiative, a national network, that supports the delivery of
asset-based education. It obviously needs to happen in conjunction and cooperation with provinces and
territories, but it has to be significant enough that it maintains an education that is focused on the rights of
children, and on developing self-worth and self-sufficiency in terms of daily living.
Finally, I think we have a role to play in re-establishing the work that has happened through the voluntary
sector initiative. Work that focused on the relationship between the federal government and the voluntary sector
was a good starting point, but we need to re-commit to some of the ideas that we have established in that
document. I think we need to go further and work on agreements at a provincial voluntary sector level, and to
actually make sure that we do what we say we are doing in those documents.
I want to close by saying that I am a big believer in actions and in getting something done, and I was
shocked last week. I was meeting with a social worker, and she gave me a document from 1977. It was hearings
about the impact of abusive or dysfunctional family life on youth, and their impetus to commit crime as a result
of that. That was almost 30 years ago, and the conversation was quite similar. We still know that kids living in
dysfunctional homes do not do well in society, and yet they are still there. My final comment is a call to
action in terms of my hope that when the results from these proceedings come out in the winter of 2006, which I
believe they will, that there be aggressive teeth attached to them, and they will inspire people to mobilize and
to motivate beyond words and into action.
The Chairman: Thank you for your summary and your full report. Could you, as a clarification, give me
your definition of assets-based education?
Ms. Levac: The research I most often point to comes from the Search Institute and the 40 Developmental
Assets. Those are the pieces that pop into my mind around empowerment, self-identity and constructive use of
time. There are eight categories, four internal and four external, and then a number of sub-categories. In terms
of developing assets in a broad sense, though, I think of that in terms of any tools that we can provide youth
that give them resiliency against the struggles that they face. I use the word broadly, but if we were to speak
specifically, I would refer to assets outlined through some of the developmental asset framework that comes out
of the Search Institute. Does that answer your question?
The Chairman: Thank you.
Senator Pearson: We could talk about many things, but I would like to take the opportunity to talk
about the voluntary sector because of your reflections on the voluntary sector, the voluntary sector initiative
and the issues around capacity building within the voluntary sector related also to the downloading of a lot of
activities that were formerly done by government to some extent, and so on. I am well acquainted with the
voluntary sector, with some of its successes but a lot of its disappointment in that they never did set up the
two tables that would have made a big difference. One of the tables was funding relationships and how to change
the way in which voluntary organizations are funded. The other had to do with the whole tax system. That is
where we can come in, because in a way that is a federal responsibility, but it has its impacts on local
organizations like yours. The changes in the Charities Act have been talked about but we have not gotten very
far on that yet. We need something to address the issue of the 10-per- cent rule and the fact that you can only
spend 10 per cent of your income on advocacy when organizations like yours should be doing advocacy on behalf of
the public interest. I am talking about, a small thing, but it is really advocacy on behalf of the public.
Ms. Levac: Sure.
Senator Pearson: We have all seen the capacity for organizations, the energies that your volunteers
and the people bring to your organizations, are often dissipated by the need to go after funding, to fill in
endless forms and to do all that kind of thing. You said we need to re-establish our commitment to the voluntary
sector initiative. Do you have suggestions about how to do that? I am not sure that we even worked it out as
well as we should have. There is the Voluntary Sector Accord, but that is a generic statement. It does not have
any teeth. Do you have more specific comments?
Ms. Levac: I do not want to hide behind dollars suggestions all the time, although I would be remiss
in not identifying that every non-profit agency that I ever talk with says, ``We cannot do anything without core
funding.'' I put that out there because organizations have been eroded significantly as a result of the
transition, the persuasion to shift to project-based funding. In terms of working and making a more significant
impact as a sector, I would throw out a couple of general suggestions. One, there needs to be a more coordinated
understanding of who takes responsibility for what jobs and services in communities. On some level, that is the
responsibility of a community to coordinate that. However, I recognize that the establishment of non-profit
organizations happens at the federal level and then the community, to a place where now there are 400 non-profit
organizations in Fredericton, and we are only 50,000 people. That is a lot of non-profit organizations, right?
So the question bears asking: How do we make sure that our energies are being channelled? We complain on a
regular basis on all levels of government and society that there is duplication here and gaps over here. Part of
the difficulty in the voluntary sector is that they are so overworked and under-resourced that I will be
perfectly honest with you I do not have a lot of time to try and find out who else might be doing what I am
doing because I am too busy trying to do what I am doing. It is a vicious cycle of cause and effect, if you
There is also room for making a national statement about whose responsibility is what. I have not yet been
able to find a national policy that deals with youth specifically, and I suggest that everything we identify as
being important in this country, we have a national policy about. We have a national policy on health care; we
have national policies on all sorts of interesting things, on national defence. I recognize there are different
levels of government that intervene, and yet health care is a provincial responsibility, but we have lots of
federal attention paid to health care. That, I think, needs to be established.
We need to establish who holds the responsibility for some of these issues, and how we can specifically
designate, because arguably when the reverse happens, we, being the voluntary sector, pop through where there is
an identified need. That is why you end up with so many people popping through. You see this need, you want to
respond to it, and this is what you do. You see this need and you cannot look at it from a bird's eye view.
There needs to be a coordinated mechanism in place to respond to and identify where the service gaps are.
Senator Poy: You mentioned that there are 400 non-governmental organizations in New Brunswick.
Ms. Levac: Fredericton: this is my understanding, in the city of Fredericton.
Senator Poy: You said you are too busy to find out what others are doing. Are you saying the
provincial government should have control of these NGOs? How would a government never mind the federal
government but a provincial government control the number of NGOs? How do you do that?
Ms. Levac: I do not know if the call is to control the NGOs. I think that the call is to create
awareness and coordinate the NGOs so what little resources there are at least are spread to where they need to
be spread. For example, a lot of communities are hiring community liaisons, people to do some of this networking
and connecting, people in their community, which is important, but also something that has been transferred to
the community and municipal level of responsibility. I am not arguing that this is necessarily the best place
for it to happen. I am arguing that, if we want it to happen there, we better shift the resources to go with the
responsibility. If we want it coordinated at the community level, then send the community the resources it needs
to do the work.
Senator Poy: I am trying to think how it can be done practically. Suppose the municipality or the city
finds out that three NGOs are doing similar things. Having been involved with different NGOs, I think it would
be difficult to say, ``The three of you get together and just have one office.'' That could be a major problem.
Ms. Levac: Sure. It is very difficult and it is about fostering an environment of cooperation, and I
think that is a grassroots level. Maybe I could ask you a question. Because I am not super familiar with what
happens when a non- profit organization applies for non-profit or charitable status, what happens when those
documents go to Ottawa before they come back with, ``Yes, you can be a non-profit,'' or, ``No, you cannot be a
non-profit.'' How does that work?
Senator Poy: I do not know but all these NGOs have to do is use a separate name or say, ``We are doing
it for this.'' I am from Toronto. There are many. Even within the Chinese Canadian communities there are so many
doing the same thing and tapping from the same group of people for funding. It really gets watered down. I can
see the problem you have in Fredericton with that many and you have a small population here.
One of your three solutions is, legislate dedicated funding for adequate housing for youth. How would you do
that, from a practical point of view, from a parliamentarian point of view? I can think of all kinds of problems
of not being able to do that because it is not just for young people; it is really for all Canadians. That means
everyone. It is a right that we all have adequate housing but how do you legislate that?
Ms. Levac: For starters, there has to be a political will.
Senator Poy: Obviously, yes.
Ms. Levac: To make that a reality. I will use an example. We had a will to clean up drinking and
driving, and we did it. It still exists, but we had a will; we had communication strategies. It starts with a
will to make it true. Beyond that, we need to talk about the living conditions, and the ways we stipulate and
expect landlords and landowners to serve the people who live in their buildings. We need to create social
housing programs that are accessible to the poorest of the poor, to the people who are not affected by tax cuts
because they do not get enough money to pay taxes; people who are making $6,000 a year trying to support a
child. Those are the people who need social housing. That needs to be stipulated. Obviously, there needs to be a
benchmark for who qualifies for that kind of housing, but we need to put it in place and make it accessible;
make it available for people to have because it simply is not available. It is not there.
Senator Poy: Yes, I realize that. That would be the ideal. Toronto has such a huge problem with
homelessness. A lot of people are trying to solve it, and it still has not been solved.
Senator Oliver: My question is a follow-up question on the same point. Unlike an awful lot of the
other witnesses who have come to see us, your recommendations are highly political in that you are calling upon
the federal government that has the purse strings to do some substantial spending to meet your conditions. I
wonder how realistic that is. In Ottawa, in the House of Commons as elected parties we have the Bloc Qubcois,
the New Democratic Party, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada. Of those four, which
of them can you see doing legislation that is dedicated to social funding at an amount that allows all children
to live out of poverty? How much do you think that will cost, and which of those four parties could you see
wanting to do something like that? If it is not realistic that it can happen in a Canadian context today, what
are you really saying?
Ms. Levac: My question would be: Who did we expect to do it in 1989 when we said that all Canadian
children would be living out of poverty by 2000?
Senator Pearson: It was an all-party recommendation motion, and it was done to honour Ed Broadbent,
who was at that time leaving the House of Commons. Unfortunately, like many motions as opposed to legislation,
they make statements but do not necessarily reflect the most profoundly held political will. It has been useful
as a motion in the sense that it keeps people reminded. It is a way of reminding people that this was a
statement that had been made, but it was not like a piece of legislation.
Ms. Levac: Right.
Senator Pearson: I remember when it happened, and it reflects in a way, sometimes, on the lack of
seriousness. I would not say lack of seriousness: I think everybody who said it thought it was a nice thing to
do. As our chair would often say, a statement of wonderful ideal, ``pious invocation'' is the term that she
uses, and I am afraid that was it. The will that you are speaking about, to some extent, exists. The means are
complex, and I think Senator Oliver would agree with me that in many ways the best way to get children out of
poverty is to have an economy that can pay a living wage. That is not necessarily government responsibility.
Governments can create a climate that improves that or does not improve that, so the ups and downs of families
with children living in poverty are often the fault of the ups and downs of the economy. It is very complex. I
do not think it takes away from our responsibility of working towards this.
Senator Oliver: I would flag it as a recommendation that is extremely complex. For instance, some of
the parties that I mentioned would say the way to get that economy going is to start with tax cuts, and tax cuts
will stimulate and spur the economy. Others will say, ``Well, that is just the opposite way to go.'' Then it
also involves the cooperation of three major parties that historically in Canada do not work well together. It
involves the municipalities or the big cities where a lot of the impoverished are: Toronto, Vancouver and so on.
It involves the provinces, and it involves the federal government.
Ms. Levac: Absolutely.
Senator Oliver: To get those three groups in one place and arrive upon a financing formula that
everyone can live with and agree with, then finally start building the housing and get people out of the
poverty, it is an enormous undertaking.
Senator Pearson: We made an effort to raise elderly people out of poverty. There was political will
for that, and to some extent it has worked. We have not done quite the same with children. It is a more complex
issue, but we are happy to listen to you, and we just want to put a caveat on the difficulty of doing it.
Ms. Levac: Rest assured that I was not expecting a bill tomorrow when I woke up. It is okay. Have a
good night's sleep.
The Chairman: You did call for action so you should not let governments off the hook and say, ``I did
not expect a bill.''
Ms. Levac: Not tomorrow.
The Chairman: Part of the dilemma in that we are trying to narrow the gap between what governments say
and what governments do. We are here because of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was signed and
ratified by Canada. We are trying to see how we can get the government to put that convention into action in
Canada, so do not back off.
However, to follow up on Senator Oliver's question, you have put out how the whole issue would be nicely
packaged if we could do it, if we had that political will behind it. What is the most pressing necessity now
that is achievable? You have talked about NGOs coordinating. I have been through this. You said 1977. To me that
sounds like right in the middle of my career. We talked about how there are duplications, but there are also
uniquenesses of services.
Ms. Levac: Absolutely.
The Chairman: You can deliver services to an Aboriginal community and they will be the same services
as in downtown Fredericton, but because they are delivered within the community they take hold. It is not just
duplication; it is trying to find the right fit for all services. I think we know some of those complexities. To
go at the issues for youth from your perspective, here is the overall blueprint, but what is the most pressing
necessity that is achievable?
Ms. Levac: Based on the youth that I see on a daily basis, it really rolls back to education and to
access to safe places to go to school. It rolls back to families. You asked me about feasibility and
achievability, and I recognize that all your challenges are obviously valid ones. Beyond a licence for parents,
which I think about from time to time as being a potentially viable solution I am kidding I think that
schools and education that promote safe self-sufficiency for youth is the key. They need a place where they can
go and be their own learners, a place where they are free from bullying, a place where they are free from all
forms of discrimination everything from homophobia to racism and everything in between and values-based
education. What it means to be a citizen of the world and in turn, a citizen of the country, the province and
your backyard: that for me is pressing.
In terms of what we need to deal with specific individual kids, my sense is that it is access to adequate
nutrition and housing. It is physiological needs. That is where we have to go back to; making sure that kids get
breakfast in the morning, if we want to talk about the important meal. How do we make sure that kids get
breakfast every day? Those are the tangible things.
I want to go back to the first comment you made to make sure that it does not sound as though we should
eradicate and amalgamate all non-profit organizations. That is certainly not my intention. I think they are all
doing valuable work. Obviously, they have been born from need. I think we need to do better because they are
arguably doing some of the most important groundwork in the country. Without them, imagine what we would look
like if they were not there providing housing. Those are a couple: breakfast food and values in education.
The Chairman: Senator Oliver, you have more questions?
Senator Oliver: There was one sentence I did not finish when I was talking before about the need to
cooperate and coordinate the three levels of government. In your statement you say, ``This must include
developing consistent standards in social programming to ensure that children up to the age of 18 receive
housing, education and social support services.'' Again, that would have to involve all three levels of
government in all the provinces and all the territories, and it is a massive undertaking. I wanted to have that
on the record.
My question is this: When you gave your original statement, I wrote down something. You said there is a need
for long-term stable programming because it is wrong for children to have to go to school hungry, with no
nutritious meals and without access to adequate transportation to get them to school, to the hospital and so on.
You said there is a significant obesity problem in New Brunswick that is taxing our health system. What is New
Brunswick doing about that particular problem?
Ms. Levac: In the latest provincial budget, a healthy initiative was launched. Someone out in the
audience might be able to help me a little bit. There was money for public awareness: about a million dollars, I
think, is what came down in the last provincial budget; $ 2 million, 2005-06, around healthy lifestyles.
Senator Oliver: What was in it for children up to age 18? What was there to help this obesity problem
Ms. Levac: There is not a plan wrapped around that money at this point, as far as I know. Our next
witnesses might be able to answer but yes, it is the most significant problem in the country. In New Brunswick,
we have the highest childhood obesity rate.
Senator Pearson: They told us in Newfoundland they had the highest.
Ms. Levac: Well, maybe it is Atlantic Canada.
The Chairman: I think it is a Canadian problem. We can get the statistics, as they are known.
Senator Pearson, after the war, is it not true that schools in Ontario were providing breakfasts or lunches
Senator Pearson: No.
The Chairman: No, just lunches, because my husband said there were soups, sandwiches and all kinds of
things. Anyway, I am just wondering. This is quite doable. If schools provide healthy breakfasts and lunches for
children, at least they can get through the day. It would be a real incentive to get to school for a lot of the
children. Talking from a practical point of view, I think that is doable. Obesity, that is from bad nutrition.
Am I correct?
Ms. Levac: It is partly from nutrition and partly lack of activity. The physical education program has
been virtually decimated in school systems. Even when I was a kid we had gym every day. When I was doing my
teacher training, our kindergarten kids had it twice a week. They are five. It just does not compute. It does
not make sense. They are unhealthy because they play Game Boy instead of running around. I was not allowed to
sit inside on Saturday morning when it was nice out; no way.
Senator Poy: From your work, is it true that obesity often is connected with people who are from a
poorer section of society because they are not eating properly, or they are eating more junk food? I have read
that. I do not have the statistics.
Ms. Levac: I would hypothesize it, but I cannot point to anything that would back it up. Logic sort of
follows that without access to nutritious food
The Chairman: I think in fairness, there is some linkage with poverty and the lack of ability to get
the right food. Your choices do not lead to a healthy lifestyle.
Ms. Levac: Right.
The Chairman: I think there is also a trend that our entire Canadian lifestyle is leading to obesity.
Ms. Levac: Yes.
The Chairman: Whether it is the abundance of food or the wrong choices we make.
Senator Pearson: I am interested in the coordination idea, and I did not know whether Fredericton has
an active social planning council and whether that is one of the mechanisms for ensuring the knowledge base. I
am also suggesting some. I think a lot of things you talked about would not be that expensive to correct if you
put the resource in the right place; for example, the breakfast-for-learning program that Senator Poy talked
about, which is a coordinated program between the public and private sector. It needs a little bit more
government support to get it in without it being excessively expensive. Taking junk foods out of schools is
another way. They have done that in Ontario now in the elementary system. That will be something helpful. Put in
more physical exercise. None of those are particularly expensive issues. Planning and coordinating is as much a
question of will and creating the correct structure as it is of money. I do not know about the social planning
council here, or whether it has been given that mandate. I know that certain Canadian foundations now are doing
capacity building. The Muttart Foundation, the J.W. McConnell Family Foundation, and so on are coming together.
They now have umbrella organizations that are saying, ``In the philanthropic field we should bring a greater
coalescence into our work.'' You have some interesting foundations here in New Brunswick.
Ms. Levac: Fredericton is just starting to do some work on establishing a social planning mechanism,
and it has not taken form yet. However, there is certainly the foundation of some will in that direction.
Senator Pearson: Good.
The Chairman: I do not know if this is an unfair question. You have pointed out that bullying is such
a big issue now, and we continue to hear this as we read newspapers as well as receive information. Bullying is
not new. It happened in schools before. It was dealt with by the school, the teachers and the family. Why is
bullying today such a big issue in your opinion, and particularly in your area?
Do you have an answer, or are you struggling with the question as we are?
Ms. Levac: I have a couple of shots at it. One, the topics around which youth are bullied are becoming
more exaggerated. For example, the growing divide between rich and poor is a great catalyst for bullying: kids
who do not have things and, therefore, are disenfranchised as a result. Also, bullying has taken a more covert
approach, and consequently it is harder to find. It is harder to pinpoint and, therefore, it spreads more
rapidly. My sense is also that we are dealing in different community circumstances than we used to. When you
have a school of 600 kids where parents do not know each other, and teachers do not know parents, and kids do
not know each other, there is not a sense of community, so there is not the same sense of respect for your
fellow people. I think I would identify that as being a challenge of growing concern. As we try to manage bigger
classes and more stringent demands on curriculum, et cetera, teachers do not have the capacity to address these
things. They do not have the capacity because they do not have the time or resources, or they did not see it
happen. I think those are some of the contributing factors that continue to feed the fire. This is a bit
grandiose, but I think that in some ways we model a society of bullying because there is always a little guy in
society, and kids see it. They see it that if they want to win, they have to be better than, bigger than and
more successful than. We see it in business. We see it in politics. We see it around us. It is a model that we
set up for them, which I think is a real part of the way kids learn.
The Chairman: You have put some things to paper; a call to action. We hope our report will point the
way on action, spur governments at all levels to act on behalf of the betterment of children, and speak with the
voice of children more than they have in the past. Thank you for sharing your particular work here in this area
and some of your solutions.
Ms. Levac: Thank you.
The Chairman: Senators, our next panel is from the Department of Family and Community Services of New
Brunswick. Mr. Bill MacKenzie is Director of Policy and Federal/Provincial Relations. There are others from
other departments also.
Mr. MacKenzie, I understand you are going to be the lead. Perhaps you could introduce everyone, and if there
is an opening statement, you could proceed to it. Then we will ask the usual questions.
Mr. Bill MacKenzie, Director, Policy and Federal/Provincial Relations,
Department of Family and Community Services, Government of New Brunswick: Thank you. We look forward to this
opportunity to speak to the Senate committee. As with all good government work, you do it by committee, so our
presentation is a collaboration. There was some leadership by our group and the Department of Training and
Employment Development. With me today is Inga Boehler. She is the Assistant Director of Policy and Planning at
the Department of Education; Mike Comeau, who is the Director of Policy and Planning at the Department of
Justice; Ian Walsh who is a Senior Policy Advisor at the Department of Public Safety; and Jay Clifford who is
the Manager of Policy and Planning at the Department of Public Safety. We took this approach because we saw a
number of departments whose mandates touched on the rights of the child. New Brunswick has many initiatives that
protect the rights of the child. I will briefly outline some of these, and then we will take questions at the
The Province of New Brunswick fully supports the principles of the United Nations conventions including the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. New Brunswick has also given its formal support to the Optional Protocol
to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.
Under the authority of the Family Services Act, the Department of Family and Community Services coordinates and
delivers a wide spectrum of programs for children and their families. These programs range from education,
prevention and support to protection and adoption, and include general assistance to families. The Family
Services Act provides the legislative framework for the development and delivery of services to New Brunswick's
children and families. The act opens with a preface that affirms that the family is the basic unit of society
and its well-being is essential; it acknowledges the fundamental rights and freedoms of children; it recognizes
that parents are responsible for their children and that intervention and removal of a child from parental care
must be considered in accordance with the act; and that in such a case, the minister should provide care for a
child, as nearly as possible as if they were under the care and protection of wise and conscientious parents. In
all their decisions, representatives of the minister must consider, above all else, the best interests of
The government is in the process of defending its Main Estimates here in New Brunswick, but some of the
highlights from the budget speech that affect this area include an increase in education funding for
kindergarten to grade 12 of $23.7 million over last year's revised expenditures, to a total of $803.6 million
for education. Initiatives under the Quality Learning Agenda will receive $15.3 million more, including new
funding for 85 more teaching positions. The government will continue investments in wage and bonus increases for
staff in child care facilities, and will provide an annual increase of $100 per child-space for early
intervention and integrated day-care spaces. A long-term strategy for the recruitment, retention and training of
child care workers will be undertaken. Prevention-based early language services will be expanded to all regions
of the province, and we will launch a public awareness campaign to support parents in choosing quality child
care for their children.
The next point is the one I was yelling the answer to when the previous witness was speaking. New Brunswick
will spend $2 million in 2005-06 to promote healthy living for children and youth in the areas of physical
activity, nutrition and healthy eating, tobacco cessation and mental health and resiliency.
The overall budget increase for Family and Community Services is $28 million, to a total of $738 million. The
main groups receiving increases will be low income families and individuals, children, seniors, community
partners and persons with disabilities. Under the Family and Youth Capital Assistance Program, funding will be
provided to assist in the development of community playgrounds, sport and recreational facilities and equipment,
and community centres.
Now, here are some initiatives. It has already been mentioned, and you would have heard it from our ombudsman
this morning. I am sure he would have spoke on it at length. The New Brunswick Legislature has passed the New
Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate Act, the purpose of which is to monitor the delivery of government services
to children in the province. I am sure he also told you this morning that there has not been someone appointed
yet to that position.
Senator Oliver: Well, there are amendments being made
Mr. MacKenzie: Yes. There is An Act to Amend the Child and Youth Advocate Act that is presently in the
Committee of the Whole.
Senator Oliver: to take the teeth out of it.
Mr. MacKenzie: I think that is a bit of an overstatement. We could talk about it now, or we can talk
about it when we get to the question period.
The Chairman: I think we would like you to continue. I am sure Senator Oliver will follow up.
Mr. MacKenzie: Please remind me, and we will talk about the nature of the amendments, and the act to
In the area of services to Aboriginal children, Family and Community Services is party to a tripartite
agreement with the federal government and First Nations in New Brunswick. Services to Aboriginal children on
reserve are delivered by First Nation Child and Family Agencies based on culturally appropriate standards,
funded by the federal government, and regulated by our minister. For those children who do not live on reserves,
service is delivered through the same mechanism as that which delivers services to all New Brunswick's children.
Staff make every effort to deliver services to children in an environment that is sensitive to the needs of all
children, and respects their cultural rights.
Family Violence and Child Protection: The New Brunswick government recently announced the second action plan
to reduce violence against women in New Brunswick, including programs to treat assaulters, programs for women
and children who have been exposed to violence in their home, and extending special social assistance benefits
for women trying to leave violent relationships. This protection was previously three months. It has been
extended to nine. In April 2005, an updated version of the Child Victims of Abuse and Neglect Protocols was
released. The protocol is a joint effort of the ministers of Health and Wellness, Education, Justice, Public
Safety, Status of Women, Training and Employment Development and Family and Community Services. The purpose of
the protocols is to assist in the identification of abuse and neglect, and to set out the responsibilities and
procedures for reporting and responding.
In the area of adoption, New Brunswick will soon introduce amendments to the adoption provisions of the
Family Services Act to modernize the entire process for both adoptions within the province and international
adoptions. We will strengthen the Intercountry Adoption Act to be a stand-alone act. Family and Community
Services hopes to ensure the rights of children by holding all international adoptions to the principles of the
Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. This is known as the
Hague convention. Whether the country of origin is or is not a Hague jurisdiction, this is important for us
because presently, 80 per cent of the international adoptions in New Brunswick are from non-Hague countries.
In the past few years, New Brunswick has taken steps to increase adoption placements for children in care of
the minister. Additional social workers were hired to support this program. As of March 31, 2005 this program
was started in 2001 426 children have been placed for the purpose of adoption through this initiative. I think
it is more than three times the rate of normal placements that we would have had. I do not know if any of you
saw the article in the National Post I believe it was the end of last week that was all on adoption,
triggered by what is happening in Ontario. However, there was a map with the bar chart showing performance of
different provinces placement of children relative to children in care and on that map, New Brunswick was
clearly one of the leaders in the country, and we are very proud of that program.
I had a carry-in fax from my colleagues at Health and Wellness, so this is not in the prepared text, if any
of you are reading it. I got it about five minutes to three.
Immunizations for children and youth are a priority identified in the government's provincial health plan.
Since the health plan's release in 2004, the vaccination program for children and youth has been expanded to
include I have to read these medical names varicella, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, meningococcal
vaccine and flu vaccine for infants. Then we have the early childhood initiatives. These are province-wide
integrated services. They are delivered jointly by Health and Wellness and the Department of Family and
Community Services. Health and Wellness delivers enhanced prenatal screening and intervention, enhanced
post-natal screening and intervention, and health clinics for three-and-a-half-year-old children. All children
in New Brunswick are called for an appointment at Public Health when they are three and a half to have their
hearing and their eyes tested. The public health nurse can also identify at that time any potential speech
impediments and things that need to be addressed before the child gets to school. It also gives an opportunity
to address safety risks in the home. It helps to identify at-risk children and gives us some time to address
them before they show up in school.
Family and Community Services, as part of the Early Childhood Initiative, ECI, has integrated daycare
services for children at risk, early childhood social worker services, home economics services that improve
family development and resource management skills. The program targets their priority children from the prenatal
stage to age five, whose development is at risk due to physical, intellectual or environmental factors.
In the area of education, in November, 2004 the Department of Education engaged Professor Wayne MacKay to
conduct a review of inclusive education in New Brunswick. Dr. MacKay is internationally known for his work in
the area of human rights and education. This study will provide the NB government with an analysis of legal and
human rights frameworks in which public education must be delivered. Recommendations of the study will relate to
a policy framework on inclusive education; a working definition of exceptionality; a service delivery model that
will include supports required government-wide for student learning, a standards/accountability framework, and a
I am not sure if committee members are aware that we have a dual
education system in New Brunswick. The anglophone
social studies curriculum for kindergarten to grade 2 makes reference to the United Nations conventions.
Teachers are specifically requested to use activities that raise the awareness of children for the rights they
share. The context is children's right to protection and support, physical support, emotional support,
psychological support, as well as rights to education and to play. In the francophone sector, in the ``Formation
curriculum, students learn about democratic institutions and roles of men and women, as well as rights, laws and
responsibilities that allow us to live in a harmonious society.
Even though there are no direct outcomes that state the Convention on
the Rights of the Child, many teachers, especially in grades 5 to 10, use the convention as a starting point for
their lesson planning.
The Department of Education has recently reviewed and improved its
policies concerning the management of child custody issues in the school environment, and its policy for
protection of students from non-professional conduct by adults in the school system. Its Positive Learning
Environment Policy and related initiatives provide assistance to school system personnel regarding respectful,
positive discipline and creating systemic conditions for peaceful and respectful learning environments.
New Brunswick's dropout rate is the second lowest in Canada. Its annual drop-out rate has been decreasing
steadily and is at its lowest in 10 years at 2.8 per cent. Over the last three years, the New Brunswick
government has developed 10-year strategic plans for the kindergarten to grade 12 public education system and
post-secondary education. These plans contain concrete actions that include developing the whole child and
ensuring varying learning needs are met, increasing access to vocational and other education opportunities, and
increasing access to and completion of post- secondary education.
The government is in the process of reforming its family support
orders process. The legislative assembly is presently considering Bill 48, the Support Enforcement Act. This
bill will replace the provisions of the Family Services Act concerning the enforcement of family support orders.
It is expected the new act will allow us to collect family support more effectively.
Children and youth in the criminal justice system: Programs for child victims include court preparation and
court support, referrals for counselling to registered therapists of the parents' choice if Child Protection is
not involved, assistance with parents or guardians and children to prepare victim impact statements, if the
accused is found guilty, for court sentencing hearings.
Crime compensation and following up to court: A service will offer an explanation of sentencing outcomes and
assistance to parents or guardians for registering with Correctional Services Canada and the National Parole
Board or with the New Brunswick Department of Public Safety for release of information on incarcerated offenders
or accused found not guilty by reason of mental disorder.
In the area of youth justice and detention, legislative schemes enforced by or affecting the operations of
the Department of Public Safety comply with or exceed the level of protection afforded by the convention. In the
area of age of criminal responsibility, age stipulations governing the quasi-criminal liability of children are
contained in the Provincial Offences Procedure for Youth Criminal Justice Act, which establishes the age of
quasi-criminal liability for provincial offences to be 12 years.
Deprivation of liberty: The Custody and Detention of Young Persons Act, which governs the custodial detention
of young persons found guilty of criminal and quasi-criminal offences in conjunction with the federal Youth
Criminal Justice Act, adopts the minimum and maximum age guidelines contained in the federal act. New Brunswick
has two levels of youth custody, namely, secure custody and open custody. Secure custody is at the New Brunswick
Youth Centre, a relatively new, state-of-the art facility for youth. Programs administered by the centre include
academics, life skills, cognitive skills, leisure and recreation and clinical programming. Open custody consists
of community-based group homes and therapeutic foster homes. A young person who is found guilty of a provincial
offence cannot be committed to secure custody if he or she is under the age of 14 years.
During the past 10 years, the Department of Public Safety has significantly increased its use of
evidence-based community programs and enhancements aimed at reducing our level of youth custody. In 1996, the
youth custody rate in this province was 36 out of 10,000. Currently, the projected rate is 12 out of 10,000. We
are waiting for official data from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics to confirm this.
Consent to medical treatment: Although regulation of medical services is mainly under the administrative
authority of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, New Brunswick's Regulation 92-71, enacted pursuant to the
Custody and Detention of Young Persons Act, requires that supervisors of secure youth custodial facilities
arrange for young persons to undergo such medical, psychiatric, psychological and dental examinations, and
treatments, as appear necessary. Rules governing the age of consent to medical treatment are thus a concern to
the Department of Public Safety. The Medical Consent of Minors Act provides that minors who have attained the
age of 16 possess full powers of consent, and that minors below the age of 16 may be legally capable of
consenting to medical treatment if, in the opinion of two qualified medical practitioners, the minor is capable
of understanding the nature and consequences of medical treatment, and if the medical treatment is in the best
interests of the minor. However, section 12 of the Custody and Detention of Young Persons Act provides that the
consent provisions of the Medical Consent of Minors Act may be superseded if a person below the age of 16 who is
detained in a youth custodial facility requires medical treatment, and the consent of the parent or guardian is
required by law and is refused or unobtainable. In such circumstances, the Minister of Public Safety may consent
to the medical treatment.
Access to independent legal counsel: The Provincial Offences
Procedure for Young Persons Act confirms the right of children between the ages of 12 and 18 to retain and
instruct counsel without delay. The young person can exercise that right personally at any stage of the
proceedings, as well as prior to and during any consideration of whether to use alternative measures to deal
with the young person. The young person is entitled to access existing legal aid programs. If no legal aid
program is available, or if the young person is unable to obtain legal counsel through a legal aid program, the
youth court is empowered to direct the Attorney General of the Province to appoint counsel. Each young person is
entitled to representation by independent counsel in any case where it appears to a youth court judge or a
justice that the interests of a young person and their parents are in conflict, or that it would be in the
interests of a young person to be represented by their own counsel.
We are ready to take questions.
Senator Oliver: Thank you very much. I would like to go to the Youth Advocate Act, and we would like
to have a current update on the act. Is it before the Committee of the Whole now?
Mr. MacKenzie: Right.
Senator Oliver: When will it be dealt with? When will it become effective? Has a budget been given?
What is the budget? When are you going to start hiring so it can be effective?
Mr. MacKenzie: Some of those questions, I am not in a position to answer, but I will answer the ones I
The original act came into effect April 1, 2005. The act to amend is in the Committee of the Whole. A budget
was provided for the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. It is under the legislative assembly. The advocate
will be an independent officer of the legislative assembly. I believe the amount of about $430,000 was provided
for fiscal year 2005-06.
Now to the nature of the act to amend: I did not bring it with me, but my recollection is the Child and Youth
Advocate will have four broad areas of power. Generally advocacy is basically talking about the importance of an
advocate and their role and general right. Systemic advocacy talks about where the advocate would make specific
references about policies and programs of government and make recommendations for change. The last two are
individual advocacy and individual complaint, where the advocate would advocate on behalf of a particular person
with a particular complaint.
The nature of the amendments in the act to amend limits two of those
areas of power: the area of individual advocacy and individual complaint to the policies and programs that fall
under the auspices of the Minister of Family and Community Services, and the Department of Public Safety. In
many jurisdictions that is the scope of the power of the advocate. In the two jurisdictions, I believe, that
have there may be three, Quebec, as well Saskatchewan and Newfoundland have the broadest powers of a child
and youth advocate. In those jurisdictions, I believe about 70 per cent of the complaints fall within the areas
of the mandates of Family and Community Services and Public Safety.
Senator Oliver: It is now before the Committee of the Whole. When is the Committee of the Whole due to
hear witnesses to deal with the amendments?
Mr. Mike Comeau, Director, Policy and Planning, Department of Justice,
Government of New Brunswick: I will take a shot at that because I work for the Government House Leader, as
well as the Minister of Justice. The ``when'' is to be determined. The government has, I think, 19 bills pending
before the Committee of the Whole, and a Committee of the Whole means Committee of the Whole House. It usually
does not mean witnesses, such as at the committee stage in the House of Commons or the Senate. It means members
questioning ministers who advocate for the bill. Nineteen bills are waiting for that, and the House will sit for
four or five more days before it recesses for the summer, which is to say the timing is in the hands of
parliamentarians, the members of the three political parties that are represented in the House. We do not know
how many bills they will manage to consider and pass, but this is one is before them.
Senator Oliver: Normally the government indicates to opposition parties in most jurisdictions, ``These
are must-have bills before we rise.'' Is there such a list, and is this bill on that list?
Mr. Comeau: I think they are still discussing those between
Senator Oliver: We understand about that.
Mr. MacKenzie: In fairness, to add to what Mike said, it might help you to understand the history of
this bill. To clarify, the first act was an opposition bill, and the act to amend is the government bill. There
is both opposition and government support to seeing this thing through.
Senator Oliver: There was a suggestion this morning that maybe we should not have a provincial
ombudsman and a separate ombudsman or ombudsperson for youth. Maybe, as in the case of Nova Scotia, they should
be all in one. Is that a consideration here in New Brunswick, to cut down on administrative costs?
Mr. MacKenzie: That decision would be made by the politicians and the ministers.
Senator Oliver: By the Director of Policy and Federal-Provincial Relations?
Mr. MacKenzie: No, I would provide advice to my minister and to the Premier as how to proceed, and
that is normally protected under the Right to Information Act.
Senator Oliver: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Senator Pearson: I want to follow up briefly on the youth advocate, because I think we had some good
ideas about what should be included, and hearing from the young people, as well. If you are in the process of
amending or at least discussing, it might be useful for us to share that rapidly with you. The young people felt
that, as in the case of New Zealand, there should be a statutory requirement for the advocate to hear from
children generally, to have an advisory group or something associated with the office. I know this is true in
Saskatchewan. I know it is also true in Ontario. This works well. It is helpful to the youth advocate. I thought
I would share that with you.
I note that what you have done now is similar in some of the other provinces; eliminate education as the area
in which the advocate will operate. I think some young people would be concerned about that, and I put that on
I wanted to talk briefly about children in care of the state, and I commend the work that has been done on
adoption. I was here at that adoption council meeting last October in St. John's, and heard some of the things
that were done. Remarkable efforts had been made to ensure that more children were taken out of care and given
into foster homes, or given to adoption.
New Brunswick has been a long time user, I think, of the method known as looking after children in the foster
care system. Is that still in existence? My own sense about that particular approach I remember being here,
also, many years ago, hearing about that particular approach is that it is consistent with the convention on
the Rights of the Child because the children are given much more role in developing the care plans and so on for
Is that still going on in New Brunswick, and if so, do you feel comfortable with it and so on?
Mr. MacKenzie: I think the only discomfort we have is that we do not have enough, and we are trying to
recruit and train more foster homes. As of March 2004, there were 893 foster homes and 29 group homes in New
Senator Pearson: Yes, and you need more.
Mr. MacKenzie: We need more.
Senator Pearson: The method that is being used is this looking-after-children method, which has been
Mr. MacKenzie: I am sorry, I had hoped to bring the Director of Child Protection for our department
with us today but she is at a coroner's inquest.
Senator Pearson: I have not heard to the contrary, so I hope that is the case, because it is a good
Mr. MacKenzie: Yes, and we also have something that we call Parent Resources for Information
Development and Education, PRIDE, training which we put these people through, as well as the adoptive parents in
our new adoption program. The PRIDE training is focused on some of the issues that these people deal with; not
parenting in general, but with the specific sort of kids that get taken into the care of the minister.
Senator Pearson: The children themselves are given the opportunity to take a substantial part in the
development of their plans of care and so on. I think that is one of the significant components. It is something
we have urged, and heard from young people themselves, how important it is for them to feel that they are part
of the decision-making process for their own care. For the moment, that is my question. If we have more time, I
will come back.
Senator Poy: Mr. MacKenzie, I want to ask you something regarding the family violence and child
protection section in your presentation. You said the New Brunswick government recently announced a second
action plan to extend the programs from three months to nine months. Do these programs have anything to do with
women's shelters, or are they just treatment programs?
Mr. MacKenzie: In trying to tighten up my presentation, I skipped a few words when I read that. What
is written there probably does not do justice to a fairly complex thing. There are a number of things. I think
we have a system of 13 transition houses in New Brunswick. Someone can go there for 30 days and stay without
cost, but not all people leaving violent or abusive relationships end up in transition houses. The part about
the three months to nine months relates to a particular part of our social assistance. In our province, we have
something called the household income policy. Many provinces have things similar to it. It takes into
consideration all the income in a household when determining what rate to pay for social assistance. We have a
number of exceptions to the household income policy that we have for social policy purposes. It is usually so
women in transition that is how we refer to it, but if you look at policy drafting, it is drafted as gender
neutral can live with someone else and not have it affect their social assistance. It is a protection that
helps them to transition out of a violent relationship. It used to be that they had three months where they
could live in a household with someone else, another potential income earner or someone else on social
assistance, and not have that affect their social assistance cheque. As part of the 2005-06 budget process, we
are extending that sort of protection or consideration from three months to nine months, to help further with
Some things we have done in the first part of that: I think it was three years ago, we used to formally fund
transition houses to 80 per cent of the approved operating budget. In two steps, we have moved to 100 per cent
funding of transition houses, the approved operating budget. This new five-year plan that was talked about will
look at 100-per- cent funding for second-stage housing. That is a bit of a gap in our system in many parts of
the province now. Someone leaving an abusive relationship will hit their 30 days of free time at the transition
house and be left with nowhere to go.
Another interesting thing we do in this area under our early childhood development program is we pay for
interveners for the children in these transition houses. That is something we have done for a few years;
counselling for children who are witnesses of family violence.
Senator Poy: These women usually take their children if they are young children?
Mr. MacKenzie: Yes.
Senator Poy: The children are with them. When they are in the transition houses it is paid for by the
government 100 per cent, and that extends to nine months now?
Mr. MacKenzie: No, they still get just 30 days in a transition house. If the woman does not have
income, she qualifies for social assistance. Normally under social assistance, and we take into consideration
the income of everyone in the household. If someone moves in with someone who has a job, then they would not
qualify for social assistance.
Senator Poy: You mean such as family members?
Mr. MacKenzie: Not just family members.
Senator Poy: Or friends?
Mr. MacKenzie: Or friends, but in the case of someone leaving an abusive relationship there is an
exemption to considering the income of others. Even if they move in with a friend who has a good job, because
they are leaving a violent relationship and looking to re-establish, they can still qualify for social
assistance and they can have an income of their own. The three months and nine months referred to in the text
talks about extending that exemption to that household income policy from three months to nine months.
Senator Poy: What happens after they are on their own then?
Mr. MacKenzie: In the last action plan that was released last week or two weeks ago, I believe, the
second stage housing was identified as a gap. I am sure any of you are aware of family violence statistics. Many
of these people return to the violent relationships because they have nowhere to go when the 30 days in
transition house runs out. That is why the second stage of the plan talks about 100 per cent funding for second
stage housing, so there is somewhere to go after that 30 days.
Senator Poy: How long would that period be; another 30 days or it is not decided?
Mr. MacKenzie: No, it is longer. It could be up to two years.
The Chairman: Mr. MacKenzie, we are looking at the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has
been signed and ratified by the government, federally, but we know it is federal-provincial legislation. Even
though I was involved at that time and remember that provinces had been consulted, at the time that the federal
government was trying to sign and ratify it there was reaction from some premiers that they knew nothing about
it. However, it had been about a 10- or 11-year period where the negotiations went on. Their public servants
then told them there had been ongoing negotiations, and of course, as worthy as the cause appeared to be, they
all were tacitly in favour of the convention. Our committee understands that there was then a federal-provincial
committee that continues to meet, and attempts to put the convention into national and provincial law.
What can you tell us about New Brunswick's point of view, because you put in your brief that the Province of
New Brunswick fully supports the principles of the United Nations convention? Are you in New Brunswick moving
actively to make sure that it forms part of your law? It is a rights-based convention. These are rights for
children. Some of them are transitory rights; some of them may be rights vested in others until the children can
handle them, but the intent of ratifying is to be bound by the convention. The federal-provincial committee
apparently has been meeting for a long time. We, as a group, had great difficulty at the federal level even
getting the names of the people sitting on this federal- provincial committee. What is New Brunswick's position
on this working group? Are you actively promoting that the convention comes into your provincial law and also
into the federal law, or are you simply using the convention as principles that you are guided by?
Mr. MacKenzie: First, we have a member on that committee. Are you referring to the continuing
committee on human rights? We are asked quite often. They coordinate our responses to what we are doing, and
reporting relationships. Every time we take a piece of legislation forward to government, there are a number of
things that are considered. First, they look at all our legislation, all our legislative proposals. If I take a
legislative proposal forward to cabinet, I have to have a sign-off by the drafter saying, ``Yes, this makes
sense.'' The second one is always from a constitutional lawyer saying that it is compliant with the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
The Chairman: This convention was signed and ratified by the federal authorities, which they have
every right to do. However, for this convention to have teeth, that it is binding so that it can be used fully,
requires that it become part of our law. There are jurisdictions where the sheer fact of ratifying makes it part
of the law. There is also the other part from the international point of view when the working group looks at
our progress. They have often said they do not care that we are a federal-provincial problem that the federal
government cannot implement on its own; it needs the collective support of the provinces. From their point of
view, once you ratify, you have an obligation to put it into force. In Canada, that obligation is jointly shared
between the provinces and the federal government. Quebec, I think, is the only province that has moved to make
the convention part of its provincial laws, and therefore binding. I take it from the way you are answering my
questions that this has not been the subject of much discussion in New Brunswick. It is somewhere in this
continuing committee. Am I correct?
Mr. Comeau: I do not think there is any ongoing dialogue about legislation specific to implementing
the convention. Not having the convention in front of me, I am hesitant to say this, but I do not think there
are any rights in the convention that New Brunswick is not fulfilling its share of Canada's obligations on. In
other words, this has happened irrespective of the rights in the convention, and notwithstanding that there is
not a statute specifically referring to the convention.
The Chairman: You cannot say whether you have put it into your provincial legislation, the likes of
which would allow someone in New Brunswick to be able to make it actionable? You are in conformity, not
compliance, is that correct, from a justice point of view?
Mr. Comeau: To make it actionable as in...? I am not sure I follow the question.
The Chairman: The convention is a rights-based convention.
Mr. Comeau: Yes.
The Chairman: Conceivably, if it is not complied with, a child or someone on behalf of the child,
could use the convention as a basis of action in court.
Mr. Comeau: I am at a bit of a disadvantage because I do not have it in front of me, but my
recollection is that the Convention on the Rights of the Child is the only one of the six major international
human rights treaties that does not contemplate a complaints process. That convention is only implemented on the
basis of social audits of state reports by the state parties.
The Chairman: That is not where I am going.
Mr. Comeau: Okay.
The Chairman: In Canada, from time to time a lawyer can bring on behalf of his client, and can use as
a grounds for action, that Canada has signed, and intends to be bound by, a convention. At the moment, the
Convention on the Rights of the Child is only persuasive opinion; it is not binding.
Mr. Comeau: I think that is true.
The Chairman: That is the point we are getting at.
Mr. Comeau: I think that is true. Sorry.
The Chairman: Okay, so you are at that point.
Mr. MacKenzie: Ian was interested in making a point where they take the UN Convention on the Rights of
the Child into consideration when they redraft child victims legislation.
Mr. Ian Walsh, Senior Policy Advisor, Department of Public Safety, Government of
New Brunswick: One bill currently before the Committee of the Whole that was mentioned earlier is the
Victims Services Act, a comprehensive review of our Victims Services Act. In that comprehensive review, we have
adopted the Canadian principles on the rights of victims, which is a reflection of the United Nations
principles, and which also involve the children.
We are also beginning a comprehensive review of our Custody and Detention of Young Persons Act, and one of
the pieces of legislation that we are looking at is certainly the UN convention to make sure that we comply with
that. This is within our own Department of Public Safety.
The Chairman: That leads to my second question. Since you are not bound by it, are you increasingly
using the convention as moral suasion, if nothing else, to make sure that we are somewhat in conformity? I
understand you are in your department. Is that true across all departments, that when you draft legislation and
fulfill the two preconditions before legislation goes to a legislature, is there a third precondition that says,
``Do we comply with our international obligations?'' Is that increasingly something you look at, or is that
unique to the Public Safety group?
Mr. MacKenzie: Do we require a legal opinion to sign off that says we have done it; not at the present
time. Our political masters usually require as part of the package that we send them, when they consider new
legislation or programming, interjurisdictional review and the implications and what other jurisdictions are
doing with things, and these things sometimes come up in that context.
Senator Pearson: I would like to follow up on that question because for us to meet with you is useful
because of these problems of reporting to committee on the rights of the child and to the other treaty bodies.
One of the reasons for the existence of the continuing committee on human rights is to enable that reporting
process to take place. One thing we know is that the process is cumbersome. The committees to which we report at
the United Nations in Geneva often, of course, complain about the fact that we send them documents about this
long, this big, and of course, in French, as well, so it is that big.
The Chairman: That will not be on the record, but I think that looks like about a foot. I do not know
what it is in metric.
Senator Pearson: You do not have to answer this question now, but perhaps you might think about it and
advise, because we might make some recommendations in this order. Is there some way in which we can simplify
that process to make it easier for the provincial reports that are appended to the federal report? We now pay
for these two provinces to be represented at every committee hearing. However, I think it is at the earlier
stage because the challenge for many provinces is that it is something that is put on the edge of somebody
else's desk. To get the thing done effectively and quickly, there might be some ways in which it could be
simplified. It is a big question for now, but could you think about it? I think some recommendations to us might
say, ``Would it be possible to develop a more standard questionnaire at the federal level that would be
helpful?'' I am not even answering the question for you, because it is not just our convention; it is all the
international conventions, plus the letters to support the optional protocols: the Hague convention, the
international crime convention, the trafficking and all these things. I guess it is an intergovernmental task,
is it not, or where does it fall?
The Chairman: Perhaps I could add to that. We are also looking at it because at the federal level, at
least, the NGO community that works internationally is complex and sophisticated, and they are asking for more
public input and more parliamentary input into these reports. If we recommend that at the federal level, it
reverberates down to the provinces where groups will want to know what is going into these international
reports. Perhaps the Legislature would also want to have a say. I take it now it is still interdepartmental, by
and large, ministerial, not involving the transparency of either civil society or Legislature. What are your
views on that?
Mr. MacKenzie: I take it from Senator Pearson's comment that you are open to receiving further
thoughts in writing if we have any recommendations on how to streamline the process.
Senator Pearson: Yes.
Mr. MacKenzie: I know our contact person who is on that continuing committee has been after us the
last few submissions to keep them more concise.
Senator Pearson: Yes, I want to put it out as an offer we are making.
Mr. MacKenzie: Thank you.
Senator Pearson: We all agree that the reason for this process is to improve the situation for
children, so the objective of transparency is nothing that any of us would argue with. Our challenge is how can
we make it more effective and more efficient, and ensure greater compliance as opposed to conformity?
Mr. MacKenzie: I have not had a lot of experience with the reports, but I would say as it stands now,
there is limited public and political input into the submissions. What sometimes happens, depending on the
report and I will look at Diane to shake her head yes or no is we sometimes see our New Brunswick Human
Rights Commission writing sections on the report as to how the government is doing on compliance.
Senator Pearson: See, if you had a child advocate, then the child advocate could help too.
Mr. MacKenzie: It could help.
Senator Pearson: The transparency is important because students said to us, and we had quite a few
here, that they do not know about the convention. I am glad to see the little bit in the curriculum. These
children are older, so they would not have had it in Grade 2 or wherever it is. However, it is important for
them in becoming fully functioning citizens to be aware of the whole issue of their rights through which they
learn to respect other people's rights. Lots of materials are available, but increasingly, we have to unfold
this into the Canadian public so they understand what it is because it is for the betterment of us all.
Senator Poy: You mentioned that the curriculum between the anglophone school system and the
francophone sector are different. In the anglophone system, they teach the children's rights to protection,
physical support, emotional support and psychological support, as well as rights to education and play. In the
francophone sector, they learn about democratic institutions and roles of men and women, as well as rights, laws
and responsibilities. Why the difference? I do not understand. It is the same province.
Ms. Inga Boehler, Assistant Director of Policy and Planning, Department of
Education, Government of New Brunswick: As you know, we have the dual education system in New Brunswick. It
is important to the Charter minority rights that the francophone system and the anglophone system be able to
determine what goes into their curriculum. It is almost as if we have two separate provincial systems so that
the anglophone curriculum can be as different as well, maybe not as different, but say a neighbouring
province. In both systems, as we are more cognizant of the conventions, as we cycle through the curriculum
development process and as they come up for revision, there would be more consideration to reflecting some of
the things that are in the convention. As you can appreciate, we are dealing with a number of subject areas, and
so they would not all be revised annually.
Senator Poy: The curriculum is generally very different between the two systems, aside from what was
Ms. Boehler: Yes, they are quite different.
Senator Poy: Is that specifically for New Brunswick, or is it similar in other provinces that have the
Ms. Boehler: New Brunswick is the only one.
Senator Poy: That is the only one?
Ms. Boehler: Yes.
Senator Poy: In Quebec, you have the two school systems. You do not? There are two here, two different
Ms. Boehler: No, we have one Minister of Education, one Education Act, but it entrenches duality. We
have two deputy ministers.
Senator Oliver: I am familiar with the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act, and I know
how that works. I know that you used to have a Support Enforcement Act and now you are getting a new one. You
said that this new act is expected to allow us to collect family support more effectively. The witness before
you said that it is wrong that children have to go hungry, do not have nutritious food and so on, and often the
reason is that fathers do not pay their maintenance on time. What are you doing in New Brunswick that will make
that more efficient? That is my first question. Then I had a brief second one.
Mr. Comeau: We are doing a number of things. This new act that is before the House borrows best
practices. We have reviewed the legislation from across the country. Our best statistics tell us that we are
collecting 78 cents on every dollar owed to children in this province. That has fluctuated up and down a few
percentage points for the last five or six years. It has shifted year to year by a percentage point or two each
year from the mid-1970s to as high as the mid- 1980s, and we want to move it higher, obviously. A number of the
things that we are not able to do under our existing legislation that we will be able to do is access joint
assets and joint bank accounts.
Senator Oliver: With a view to a garnishee?
Mr. Comeau: That is right. We believe we are extremely successful. We are something close to 100 per
cent successful with people who are employed full-time at a steady job because we have had the power in
legislation for more than 10 years now to garnish wages, and we do that very successfully. The problem area is
with parents who are transitional and move from one job to another. We have a hard time keeping track of them,
and those who are self-employed or are working in the underground economy. The new tools that the Legislature
will give our program are designed for these kinds of situations; getting at joint assets and joint bank
accounts. For people who fall behind three months or more, reporting them to credit reporting agencies is an
incentive to get them to pay, and removing driver's licenses after a due process.
Senator Oliver: Removing licenses?
Mr. Comeau: Yes. We include provisions to pierce the corporate veil and get at single shareholder
businesses from which a parent might officially take very little income, but significant wealth is tied up in
the corporation. Those are among the things that we are doing to try to improve performance of our program.
Senator Oliver: That is very interesting.
The second question deals with the constitutional problem. It is a follow up on Senator Andreychuk's
question. The federal government passes these conventions and then it is up to the provinces and territories to
implement them. It is important in some of these cases that there is some uniformity in the implementation,
province by province. In your view, is there any merit or any need to have some kind of standard form enabling
legislation for these international covenants, such the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Mr. Comeau: I do not see anybody leaping forward to answer that.
Senator Oliver: I think they are all looking to you, the Department of Justice.
Mr. Comeau: I guess I will have to. All I can say is that I have not given that any thought at this
point. It is an interesting idea. Standard form anythings
Senator Oliver: Enabling legislation.
Mr. Comeau: that facilitate provincial and territorial work are always helpful. The challenge is to
have standard form legislation that is facilitative, that makes things easier as opposed to making them more
complex. That is all
Senator Oliver: Are you, on behalf of New Brunswick, prepared to take the Canadian lead in drafting
such an enabling bill, and walking it across Canada?
Mr. Comeau: I am not in a position to bind the Government of New Brunswick to anything today. I am
The Chairman: Before we end, there was some evidence this morning, both from the ombudsman and other
witnesses. One point was that often there are needs for children, but we have to take unusual steps to get at
the resources children need. One of the examples pointed out was that a child, a 15-year old girl with a lot of
mental difficulties, could not get the services, and her family could not get the services, that they needed.
The child went into care because once they were in care they were afforded the services. In my old days in
government, this was always the problem, that sometimes if you were on welfare, you released resources to
children that low income parents could not afford. Have you given any thought to those situations? Is this a
problem, and are you supporting families to get those resources rather than institutionalizing children to get
Mr. MacKenzie: Our child welfare system is strongly based on serving the child and the family wherever
we can. I am not familiar with the particular details of the case. With respect to mental health, I have heard
anecdotes too. I do not have a colleague with me from Health to talk about how stretched those resources are. I
do not believe, though, that taking a child into care would get them greater access to mental health resources
than they otherwise would have. Sometimes and I hate to generalize, and I do not want to but in marginalized
populations, if you are talking about the poor or others, they are not as strong advocates for their needs as
other family situations might be, or they are not as aware of the services. I would hate to think that we take
children into care, or have to take children into care, for them to have better access to mental health services
or any other service.
Mr. Comeau: May I borrow one more minute from the committee? I was inspired by Senator Poy and Senator
Oliver's questions to the previous witness to suggest some concrete doable things to you as federal
parliamentarians, so I sat here and scribbled a couple of things from my point of view in the justice sector
about what federal parliamentarians might do to reduce violence, poverty and exploitation in children's lives.
One, we could use federal cooperation on enforcing family support orders. One obstacle in tracking people who
disappear on us is accessing information from the Canada Revenue Agency. We have had an ongoing battle for many
years now with trying to help the Canada Revenue Agency get over its concerns with privacy and making exceptions
to privacy legislation to give us information we need to find defaulting parents.
Another thing you can do is to pass Bill C-2, which you are inheriting from the House of Commons today
because that will protect children and teens from exploitative sexual relationships with adults. It will
criminalize sexual voyeurism, and it will make additional services available to child witnesses in criminal
You can use your good offices to promote federal funding of civil legal aid. Family legal aid in the
provinces and this one is directed almost entirely to victims of family violence is 100 per cent funded by
provinces and zero per cent funded from the Government of Canada. The provincial and territorial ministers of
justice have extracted the commitment from the Minister of Justice Canada, that he has agreed in principle that
there ought to be federal funding for family legal aid, in particular, and that, of course, is caught up in the
question of the federal budget priorities.
The fourth is to be aware of the potential need to reform the Criminal Code with respect to conditional
sentences. The Minister responsible for the Status of Women and the Minister of Justice in this province have
publicly stated their concern about conditional sentences being given in cases that involve violent crimes
against child victims, and domestic violence cases. We want to work, along with other provincial and territorial
ministers, with the federal Minister of Justice to perhaps tinker with the provisions introduced to the Criminal
Code and Bill C-41.
There are four legislative items that are doable by federal parliamentarians that I thought I would leave you
as food for thought.
The Chairman: I would not want to let the province off the hook either.
There is a reservation, we know, in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, about housing young people
away from adults. We heard testimony today, and I thought I would give you an opportunity. Are you putting young
children, under Youth Justice who find themselves in conflict with the law, in facilities with adults or
vice-versa? Are you now adding adults to the juvenile or young persons' system?
Mr. Walsh: Two months ago, back in April, we were faced with a situation where we had a 35 per cent
overcapacity in our adult system, in our adult jails. At the time, we were faced with the situation, what do we
do to combat that or to deal with that? It was creating a dangerous situation not only for other inmates, for
morale and for staff, as well, but it was a dangerous situation. In our institutions we are 35 per cent
We looked at it and we had three options. One was to leave things as be, which we did not feel we could do
because it was too dangerous a situation to manage. Second was to release many of these offenders, or at least
significant numbers of these offenders, back to the community on a temporary absence. In many cases, they would
still pose a threat that we felt that the public safety could be enhanced. The third option was the only
available institution that we had that was under-utilized was our youth facility, which is a state-of-the-art,
100-bed capacity facility in Miramichi. At that time, it was only 30 per cent occupied because our youth custody
numbers had dropped significantly in secure custody.
Our policy has always been, and continues to be, that youth and adults should be kept separate and apart, and
separate and apart is what is provided for in the Provincial Offences Procedure for Young Persons Act and also
in the Youth Criminal Justice Act or YCJ. At that time, we had to make a decision of how to deal with the
overcrowding in our adult facility. Our response, and what we felt was the only available response that we had
at the time, or the most reasonable response we had at the time that took safety into consideration, was to
designate one cottage of the youth facility as an adult facility. However, the policy and the designation was
that the youth and adults be kept separate and apart at all times. One part of the institution, the
administration building, was used by both. Our policy was that any time a youth was in the administration
building, there could be no adult prisoner in it, and any time that an adult prisoner was in the administration
building, there could be no youth in that facility. Even though they are in the same facility, there are
separate cottages. The facility consists of four cottages with two units in each cottage. We designated one
cottage as an adult facility on a temporary basis to meet an unexpected urgent situation at that point in time.
The numbers have since stabilized and that adult facility is now closed. It has not changed our policy that
youth be kept separate and apart at all times. By saying that, we can meet the letter of the law by keeping them
separate and apart by not having any contact with each other. Is there visual contact? We were not able to
prevent visual contact. It was not a situation that we liked; it was not a situation that is our provincial
policy. Our provincial policy is that they be kept in separate buildings completely, but we had an emergency
situation that has now been relieved. The unit has been closed, and hopefully, this is the first time that
situation has arisen, hopefully, it will never arise again. Our policy continues to be that they should be kept
separate and apart in separate facilities, as well. However, this situation was unexpected, and we had to deal
with it. We dealt with it in what we thought was the most appropriate manner. We hope it never has to happen
The Chairman: I appreciate you say it should not happen again. It is not just that you mixed the
adults with youth. If you look at the literature from National Network for Youth, NNY, the convention states
that even practices by case or custodial people should be different towards adults and children, and that if
they mix together their attitudes will mix together. There are other components to the need to keep them
separate, not just that they will learn from each other. Obviously, the younger will be influenced by the older,
which is the idea, but it is more pervasive than that.
It is one of the questions we will address in our report about the reservation made in the convention, and
perhaps you can then read our report with some interest. We will look for your further input and suggestions as
to the way we might go to help children.
Mr. Walsh: I agree because I think that when you look at the legislation, we can meet perhaps the
letter of the law that they are kept separate and apart, but what about the spirit of the law? The spirit of the
law, I think, is so much more important when it comes to youth than it is for adults. I can be honest with you:
For all of us in our department who had to make this decision, that was the troubling aspect. How do you deal
with the spirit of the law and make sure that you comply with it? However, we had an unexpected situation and I
certainly agree with you; we did not like what we had to do, and we hope that will never happen again.
The Chairman: It is on the record. You are not the only jurisdiction that has struggled with this.
This is why I think we need to look at it as the convention and the effect of having put a reservation, and make
comment on it rather than singling out one jurisdiction in any way.
We thank you for your input and for your further input at a later date, if you can, and for the time that you
have taken today to be with us.
The committee adjourned.