THE STANDING SENATE COMMITTEE ON HUMAN RIGHTS
First Session, Thirty-eighth Parliament, 2004-05
Hearings: OTTAWA, Thursday, June 16, 2005 - Issue No. 19 - Twentieth and twenty-first
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
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 Nova Scotia:
Christine Brennan, Supervisor of Youth and Senior Services;
Sonia Ferrara, Ombudsman Representative of Youth and Senior Services.
Dalhousie Law School: Professor Wayne MacKay.
IWK Health Centre: Dr. Douglas McMillan, Professor of Pediatrics;
Jane Mealey, Vice-President, Children's Health; Anne Cogdon,
Director for Primary Health; Dr. Ryan Thompson, MHSA Resident.
Child Care Connections Nova Scotia:
Elaine Ferguson, Executive Director.
Government of Nova Scotia
Family and Children's Services: George Savoury, Senior Director.
Department of Education: Ann Power, Director, Student Services Division; Don
Glover, Consultant, Student Services Division.
Department of Justice: Fred Honsberger, Executive Director, Correctional
Department of Health: Linda Smith, Executive Director, Mental Health, Child
Health and Addiction Treatment Services.
HALIFAX, Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 9:05 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 here to examine and
report on Canada's international obligations concerning the rights and freedoms of children, and in particular,
the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
We have before us from the Office of the Ombudsman Christine Brennan, Supervisor of Youth and Senior
Services, and Sonya Ferrara, Ombudsman Representative.
Ms. Christine Brennan, Supervisor of Youth and Senior Services, Office of
the Ombudsman of Nova Scotia: Madam Chair, on behalf of our office, I extend our gratitude for the
opportunity to present to the committee and send regrets from the ombudsman, Mr. Dwight Bishop, who was unable
to attend this morning due to a previous commitment.
Mr. Bishop recognizes the importance of child and youth rights and the Standing Senate Committee on Human
Rights' dedication to such issues and felt confident that my colleague, Ms. Sonya Ferrara, and myself, would
accurately represent the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman.
I would also like to note that we have some support staff members with us: Elaine Venturini, Charlie Gouthro
and Kay Rogers-Lidstone.
Our mission is to advance administrative fairness, good governance and natural justice in the delivery of
municipal and provincial public services by addressing the concerns of all citizens including youth in care and
custody of the government. To do so, the office must be accessible and continue building and maintaining
confidence and trust. Ombudsman representatives manage an independent, impartial and confidential complaint
resolution mechanism for the provincial and municipal government entities within Nova Scotia with a focus on
children and youth.
The youth services section established a proactive outreach process to children and youth in care and custody
of the government within all youth correctional facilities. We established this section in response to
allegations of institutional abuse at provincial facilities since approximately the mid 1990s. Effective the
summer of 2005, we will be in all licensed residential child-caring facilities or group homes. Since December
2003, we have had a proactive outreach process within the province's only secure care facility.
Our primary focus is to provide an independent complaints resolution mechanism to all children and youth in
care and custody of the government as well as those youth and families accessing youth-serving systems in the
province. We strive to ensure that the administration of youth legislation within this province is fair.
We track complaints received by our youth services section based on the principles enshrined in the UN
Convention on the Rights of the Child and I feel confident in saying our office has been instrumental in
effecting systemic changes.
Our secondary focus is to provide education on youth rights and responsibilities. It is my understanding
there has been some discussion with respect to establishing an independent human rights commission for children
and youth, a recommendation our office supports. An independent federal body would provide a national focus for
enhanced intra and inter-governmental discussion on children and youth rights. An organization such as this
could serve to enforce national standards addressing the care and culture of institutions and increase awareness
of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Currently, there is no legal obligation on provincial government to apply and uphold the UN Convention on the
Rights of the Child. This lack of an enforcement mechanism weakens the integrity of systems providing services
to the children of Nova Scotia. Establishing a centralized liaison to coordinate and facilitate such discussion
would be appropriate; one-stop shopping, if you will.
The form of such a body, as well as the responses rendered, would need further research. The Canadian Council
of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates, of which the ombudsman's office is a member, has recommended the
establishment of a national body which would be responsible to promote and protect the rights of Canadian
children. We suggest an independent office reporting to Parliament with the legislative authority to monitor and
evaluate the impact of the national plan of action for Canada's children with blended ombudsman and advocacy
roles and duties. Such a proposal has the potential to be a useful mechanism to allow discussion on
federal-provincial matters particularly relating to the crossover on social programs such as child poverty.
As I mentioned earlier, we created the framework for our youth services section based on specific reference
to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We have advanced children's rights in the areas of prevention,
identification, reporting, referral, investigation, treatment and follow-up of instances of child maltreatment.
Pursuant to article 19, subsection 2, however, we still have our work cut out for us.
We have experienced success through our initiatives aimed at the education of citizens and government
officials and a reintroduction to commit and provide mentoring on youth issues and rights through the
establishment of a proactive, independent accountability mechanism. We suggest a better entrenchment of the
convention within all youth-serving systems across the country and in particular, within our own province.
We support Canada's National Plan of Action, "A Canada Fit for Children,'' and we support increased
awareness, education and buy-in from all levels of government, to support, promote and infuse the principles
enshrined within the convention. We encourage the committee to further explore and pursue ways to achieve this
My last issue relates to present-day human rights concerns facing our children and youth. This office has
identified a number of issues as emerging areas of concern for youth in Nova Scotia. We are concerned with the
gap in child protection services for 16 to 17 year-olds; mental health services; sexual abuse and exploitation;
internet and child pornography; homelessness and poverty; addiction; HIV/AIDS; gang-related activity and
The Chairman: That is the sum total of the report. We have the extended version.
Ms. Brennan: Yes, you do.
Senator Oliver: Thank you for your presentation. We have heard from a number of people in a number of
jurisdictions on what to do about Canada's unique federal system. The federal government wants to ratify the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; however, civil and property rights are provincial, not
federal matters, and this leaves a gap between what the federal government can say and do. Nova Scotia's
Education Act and other acts are provincial and not federal.
Your proposal is that we have a new creation, a new human rights commission of sorts. We already have a
federal Human Rights Commission and we have a Nova Scotia Human Rights Commission and I am starting to think
that we are getting a bit of duplication. Is it necessary to create yet another new organization?
Ms. Brennan: I have given that some thought. In discussions with the Canadian Council of Provincial
Child and Youth Advocates, as well as in our office and with the province, it appears to be the only
alternative. Such a framework would be able to enable the provinces to apply human rights as they relate to
children. We have human rights for adults but children have lagged behind those rights and enforcements. We need
a person who would really draw the focus to children and youth. We have relied heavily on Senator Pearson to do
that, and in all fairness, she has other responsibilities.
Senator Oliver: She is our traveling human rights commissioner around the world.
Ms. Brennan: I am not sure what your thoughts are, but I believe it would be great to have somebody
specifically dedicated to children and youth rights to pick up where Senator Pearson leaves off. I believe there
will be a void upon her retirement.
I think we need a national commissioner, not necessarily an advocate, but an ombudsman with blended advocacy
duties. I can appreciate your concern for duplication but a central focus would ensure consistency throughout
the provinces. That would be a great start.
Senator Oliver: In this and many other instances, we need to find a standard form of provincial
legislation because the federal government does not have the constitutional mandate to legislate in that field.
One suggestion is that maybe we should look at standard enabling legislation enforceable in every one of the
provinces and territory. Has your organization given that any thought?
Ms. Brennan: To Nova Scotia's credit, and our office, we have been on the leading edge across the
country because we base our youth services database on the principles in the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child. When a complaint comes to us, we cross-refer it to the convention, which brings Canada up to par with the
UN report card. Unfortunately, some of the other provinces are not so forward thinking. We work closely with the
University College of Cape Breton and their Children's Rights Centre. We have implemented convention rights in
education in our core curriculum within the Department of Education.
It is indeed unfortunate that children in other provinces do not benefit from the rights and standards set
out in Nova Scotia. Canada is in need of a consistent standard for children's rights.
Senator Oliver: I agree.
Ms. Brennan: It all comes down to the basic human rights value. Nova Scotia really is onboard with
that and I think if any enabling legislation comes into place, we will be more than willing and able and ready
to take that on. It is difficult to have buy-in from higher levels of government if it does not have any teeth.
I think it is important that the committee encourage the federal government to enact enabling legislation
within the provinces so that there are repercussions, for not adhering to A Canada Fit for Children, and
get us an "A'' on that report card on the international standards.
Senator Oliver: Currently, there are no legal obligations on provincial governments to apply and
uphold the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. You hit it right on the nose.
Ms. Brennan: In our educational campaign to provide education rights to government, youth and other
youth- serving entities within the province, we discovered that 90 per cent do not even know that this
convention exists. These people direct the youth-serving systems of our province.
Nova Scotia has an advanced system compared to the rest of the country, but we are embarrassed to say that
the provincial government departments, excluding the Department of Community Services and the Department of
Justice where we are very proactive, do not know about the goals of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
As always, youth issues and rights are at the bottom of the serious issues in the country.
Senator Oliver: You are right that Nova Scotia is a leader in a number of things in this country.
The Chairman: That is not a biased statement at all; it is a fact. Could I just follow up?
Senator Oliver: Senator Mercer agrees with me, which is unusual.
The Chairman: I think what you are doing is commendable; that you are tracking the convention and you
are working with it.
Do you see it as a responsibility of your office but not quite the same approach throughout government
Ms. Brennan: It is one of the primary responsibilities of our office. When you read any communication
materials in the youth and senior services section of our office, it is throughout all of our material. We bring
copies of the guide wherever we present.
Unfortunately, the convention is not a primary focus of the provincial government. That is why we are trying
to bring it to them. We have presented to police departments, agencies, and even the RCMP. We bring it to youth
to make them aware of their rights. We are trying to infuse that within government and we are doing a good job
but we need leverage to achieve our goal.
The Chairman: At the federal level, we often hear from various parts of the governments saying that
the convention is important and that they attempt to adhere to it. They see its worth, et cetera. However, when
it comes to legal action, the Department of Justice says the convention is not binding. It may be persuasive; it
may be morally important to look at it but they do not believe that it is binding upon them. They use the fact
that it is not binding as a defence not to follow through on the convention.
Ms. Brennan: You have hit the nail bang-on. When it comes down to crunch time, I think that because it
is not official legislation it becomes an excuse not to adhere to the principles.
I applaud the Department of Justice for youth correctional services and the Department of Community Services
for their secure care and residential childcare facilities. These departments are coming on board and educating
their front- line staff and management staff about the importance of the convention.
This committee puts focus on the issue but the legislation lacks the teeth to make many changes. At the end
of the day, it is just a feel good promotional tool.
Senator Pearson: I am pleased to see you here and there are a number of things that I think that you
are doing that are great models for us to follow.
I am impressed that you follow up on complaints using the convention. This method is also a very good way to
educate people as well. Once a person understands that something comes under the Convention on the Rights of the
Child, they are unlikely to forget it.
Witnesses from most provinces have pointed out the issue of the age gap. In the Atlantic provinces they
wonder about the obligation to youth between 16 and 17 years of age.
Please tell us about this problem as it relates to Nova Scotia.
Ms. Sonya Ferrara, Ombudsman Representative of Youth and Senior Services,
Office of the Ombudsman of Nova Scotia: Our province does not provide protective services to youth over the
age of 16 years, yet some youth at that age need protective services. These youth have a hard time because they
are unable to receive welfare services before the age of 19 when they are considered adults.
We do get quite a few calls from youth that are in between those ages. We take these youth on an individual
basis and assist them in securing whatever services are available to them. We meet with community services and
the social worker on their behalf. In many cases, there are some provisions for services for youth between 16
years and 18 years, but they have to meet certain requirements in order to receive this assistance. One of the
requirements is to live in a supervised living environment.
It is difficult for youth to find a supervised living environment with an adult to take responsibility for
them, when they are having trouble at home. They have to be involved in either a work placement program or
school, which is great. If a youth is homeless, it is difficult to meet that requirement. In Nova Scotia, we
only have one youth emergency shelter for youth over the age of 16 and that is the Phoenix House emergency
shelter. Often there is a high waiting list. It is a 20-bed facility and other than that, there are not any
protective services in place for youth over the age of 16.
If a youth is suffering from abuse at home, they have to see the police to start an investigation. They would
lay a charge but Community Services Children's Aid does not really have the legislative authority to provide
services for that youth.
Senator Pearson: I think it is an issue I have encountered in other provinces and I think it is a very
important one. Transitioning from a difficult home environment into adulthood is very challenging. I know that
in Ontario there are cases that if a child decides for some reason that after the age of 16, that she will
return to her mother and then two or three weeks later discovers the mother is still on drugs, she has nowhere
to go. She turns to the street, and often becomes involved in street prostitution or street life.
I think this is a big gap and it is a big problem across the country that we should be addressing. When you
try to think of how a federal agency could help the provinces, it is the idea of trying to get a uniform age
across the country. It would have to be negotiated, of course. The convention says that a child is everyone
under the age of 18 years.
Ms. Ferrara: You make a valid point that it depends on what province you live in. In some provinces,
it is up until the age of 18 years and in others, it is up until the age of 16 years. The youth that I was
referring to were youth that were not even in the system prior to their problems.
We do also see situations where youth are in the care of protective services but because there have been so
many placement breakdowns it is almost as though they wait until they are 16 years of age and then cut those
Senator Pearson: I am sure that some of the arguments are historical, some of them are financial, but
the costs that they place on the system as they get older probably far outweigh the costs to give them the
support in that very, very important transitional age between 16 years and 18 years. Some of us find the age
goes much longer than but there is a limit to what you expect.
Ms. Brennan: If you look under the Children and Family Services Act, it is not that the province is
unable to provide the services. The act states that the province "shall'' provide protective services to
children under 15 years, and "may'' provide services to youth over 16 years. Unfortunately, that has come to
mean "more often than not.''
Senator Pearson: Legislation could change that situation.
Ms. Brennan: Right, but the practice has not been there and that is that service gap.
The Chairman: When this issue first came to light some 25 years ago, one of the rebuttals was that
parents had made some representations to provincial authorities saying that it was too easy for children to
leave when things got tough at home. They said that the province was intruding by making it easier for children
not to deal with their problems within a home context.
Is that still one of the reasons that there is the gap?
Ms. Brennan: Up until three years ago, we did not have legislation in place. At this time, there are
three criteria that the child must meet, one of which escapes me right now. The other two are attending school
and unable to live back at home or with a guardian. One of the barriers is that the youth has to have parental
confirmation that the youth is unable to return to the home. In some cases that is fine with the parent who is
happy to pass of the responsibility to the government. In turn, the government seeks financial compensation from
the parents for the care of that child. As soon as parents understood that it was going to cost them money, they
decided to keep the youth at home.
It is a different world now than it was 25 years ago and parents' responsibility has gone to the wayside and
one of the excuses for that is, "Oh, they have too many rights.'' They may think they have too many rights, but
many parents do not adhere to the basic human rights covered within the convention. Parents must accept their
responsibility to seek services if there is an issue at home, if the home environment is the reason why the
youth is seeking protective services. The parents have to have some consequence as well.
The Chairman: You seem to be ahead of the rest of the country in using the Convention on the Rights of
Do you point out that while there are children's right these rights are embedded to the family? When we work
on the rights of the child, it strengthens the family unit.
It is unfortunate that in some areas of the world, children's rights are seen to diminish the rights of
parents and of families.
Have you done anything to balance those opinions?
Ms. Brennan: We have done well in that area. We deal with youth that are already in care and custody
of some kind. They may be in temporary care agreements, permanent care agreements, in correctional facilities,
or in police detention facilities. Many are transient between various departments such as justice, health,
education and community services.
Even though the broad mandate of the Children and Family Services Act is to maintain the integrity in the
family unit or family support unit, we recognize the lack of support that is available for these youth.
We try to teach about the UN convention so they have a fallback to have better supports in place so that
families can have their responsibility but also be educated on today's issues. The UN convention assists parents
and caregivers in making a child's environment a good environment.
We also promote to the children and youth, and although we promote their rights we make it clear to them that
they also have responsibilities. With those rights come responsibilities so it is not just a one-way street.
A selling tool to have buy-in from government is that we are teaching both youth and families and we need
those supports in place so that families can achieve harmony within their unit.
The Chairman: You noted some of the issues facing young people in this province including
homelessness, poverty, sexual abuse, gaps in the protection system, gang-related activity and bullying. You
added HIV/AIDS and for the first time, we hear a direct reference to HIV/AIDS outside of the health system
Please inform us about HIV/AIDS here in Nova Scotia. Is HIV/AIDS a growing trend or is growing because of a
lack of resources or some other reason?
Ms. Brennan: It is a lack of resources and awareness. The topic is not discussed in any Nova Scotia
material on youth rights and issues. We have a good, proactive process for the adults, awareness and so on, but
looking through the youth materials, we realized the lack of material and information and that prompted us to
state that HIV/AIDS is an issue in Nova Scotia.
Just because we are small does not mean that HIV/AIDS does not touch our communities.
Senator Oliver: Do you have any statistics on HIV/AIDS?
Ms. Brennan: No, and that is part of the problem.
The Chairman: We must address this worldwide issue.
Ms. Brennan: We deal with high-risk youth who fall into categories or probabilities for HIV/AIDS. How
can we prevent and educate if we do not have the tools to do so? In certain health programs, there is passing
mention of it but full-out education and advertisement on the subject is lacking.
The Chairman: There seems to be an issue across Canada with respect to autistic children. Can you
comment on that subject?
Ms. Ferrara: We need more research on that subject. We receive calls from many parents experiencing
long delays in getting early childhood development support for their autistic children. There is this window of
time where early intervention is the key to helping these children.
In the last few months, the parent's calls are in regards to waiting lists, lack of resources, and lack of
funding. We do not have any statistics with us here today but autism is a hot topic with the media.
We believe this to be a systemic issue with lack of resources and funding driving the problem. We have too
many children with this diagnosis and not enough resources in place to get the early help that these children
need. Research has shown that early intervention is the key and if we do not get to these children as early as
possible, we will see the repercussions later on in their lives.
The Chairman: In the jurisdiction we have just come from, one of the problems was that there are
pre-school services but that they stop at school age. Is that also the trend here in Nova Scotia?
Ms. Ferrara: Again, we do not have a lot of exposure to that particular issue, although, it is coming
to our attention more and more. I hear about early intervention but there is a lack of resources. It seems that
there are individual teaching assistants assigned to the child but I do not think there is a lot of follow up
with the child; most of the focus is on early intervention. You raise a good point: what happens after the child
is in school, I do not know.
Ms. Brennan: It is fair to say that there is a lack of programming after the preschool age because the
complaints do not concern preschool-aged children. Therefore, it is safe to infer that there are issues about
resources after that preschool age. That is why they contact our office to find out about any available funding.
While the research identifies preschool age as the primary age of focus to get intervention and help,
realistically you are not going to capture everybody at that preschool age. Services after elementary and even
leading into junior high age or secondary age are lacking.
Senator Mercer: You have identified a number of issues and emerging areas of concern for youth in Nova
Scotia. As we all know, Nova Scotia is the economic hub of Atlantic Canada and we attract people from around
Atlantic Canada and particularly the two other Maritime provinces.
Do you see many people from New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island and perhaps Newfoundland? I am not
suggesting that it is a bad thing if you do; I am trying to see if there is a trend.
Ms. Brennan: There does not seem to be an influx of children and youth complaints coming to our office
from other provinces. However, Prince Edward Island does not have an ombudsman, a child advocate or a child and
youth ombudsman and I wonder what is going on in that province.
Newfoundland has a child advocate and is able to deal with internal issues. We have some complaints from
families that are in two provinces and we try to work with both provinces to resolve issues and complaints as
they affect the child that is living in our province. In that way, we do have communication from parents living
in Newfoundland and occasionally New Brunswick and seldom P.E.I.
Senator Pearson: I want to talk to you, as you will not be surprised, about article 12 and youth
Do you have a group of young people who keep you up to date on how they perceive the issues affecting the
youth in Nova Scotia?
Ontario and Saskatchewan have such groups.
Ms. Brennan: We do not have such groups within our office as the other provinces do. We travel to our
youth correctional facility once a month, the one in Cape Breton once every four months, the secure care
facility every two weeks, and the group homes on a regular basis. We have an audience impacted by government
services. We provide an information session on the role and services that our office provides and then we ask
for their feedback. We ask them about their experiences with government institution and programs.
We sit on numerous youth committees to have feedback, again on a different playing field, not one where youth
are in such a closed setting. We sit on the Canadian Council of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates and this
coming September the focus of our annual meeting is how to achieve authentic youth engagement or participation
within that council. We are there for a voice for our children and youth but there are no children or youth on
that actual panel, which is embarrassing, I will say. We are looking to improve that council.
Within Nova Scotia, while we do not have somebody necessarily within the confines of the walls of our office,
we have a vast audience of youth who are better able to comment on government to access the justice system, the
health system, community services and education. They are definitely not shy about telling us about their
experiences with government. They are not afraid to tell us about both the good and bad experiences and how they
think we can change the bad aspects. We file the comments in monthly reports and send them back to the
departments. We make recommendations about how we can change government policy because while our primary focus
is to ensure that policy is administered properly, we want to make sure that that policy is fair. We look at
best practice standards, youth involvement and youth recommendations.
I am confident that our office has been effective in systemic change. Kudos to those youth, I would say.
Senator Pearson: When we were working on the National Plan of Action for Children, we met with a group
of young people in New Brunswick. We had a round table discussion with these youth and Senator Andreychuk asked
about their number one concern on youth said it was oxytocin and drug addiction. This was obviously of huge
concern to the young man. It was certainly the last thing that I expected anyone to say.
Do you employ this round table technique here in Nova Scotia? It might be useful to meet with youth other
than the ones that are directly served.
We heard from youth that they are concerned about sexually transmitted diseases and not just HIV/AIDS. They
were forthcoming about the degree of sexuality in which they are involved and were frank that they are
uneducated about many diseases et cetera.
I know you are trying to address HIV/AIDS, but the youth we spoke to were equally concerned with STDs. They
consider HIV/AIDS to be the at the worst end of the sexually-transmitted diseases but there was a lot of concern
that there was a refusal in the adult population to pay attention to the fact that they need more in terms of
information, support and so on. New Brunswick has the more controversial sex education program.
I am not quite sure how an ombudsman working for children and youth is your way unless you make some
representation on their behalf.
As a final comment there is a study, a Senate study being conducted by Health Canada on street-involved youth
of which Halifax was one of the sites. I believe they were beginning to gather some information on the incidence
of HIV/ AIDS so I do not know whether you have had that feedback from them or not.
Ms. Brennan: No.
Senator Pearson: I will follow up on that for you.
Ms. Brennan: I know within Nova Scotia we are looking to have a sex education program similar to New
Brunswick but that has met with huge controversy to the point where parents are choosing to pull their children
out of the class. We have an informative booklet but unfortunately the parents do not approve of it and we are
holding back on its distribution. We might have to water it down a bit, which is also unfortunate.
Senator, the only round table discussions that we attend are the ones we actually sit on. We do participate
but we do not convene them.
We seek round tables to attend and we are on various committees that hold round tables but there is none
actually put out specifically by our office.
Ms. Ferrara: We consult various youth groups such as the National Youth and Care Network. In Nova
Scotia, we have a youth and care newsletter group published by a group of young people involved in the child
welfare system. They produce a great newsletter and we often consult with them and have presented to them as
We would love to have a youth-designated position in our office because we have seen the success of the
position in other provinces. We try to consult as often as possible, and as Christine said, during our regular
proactive visits to different facilities and attending different meetings and discussion groups we learn what is
important to the youth of our province. You have to listen in order to understand their important issues. That
is the only way we can help them.
Senator Oliver: I would not want the record not to show that in Nova Scotia we have an endowed chair
for the research and study in autism at Dalhousie University, funded by the Craig Foundation to the tune of one
Halifax is a leader in autism research. One city block from here the Craig Foundation has a house for parents
of autistic children where they give counselling, training, education, and advice. In October, there will be
another fundraiser here in Nova Scotia in Halifax to raise another $200,000 for these very things.
I would not want the record to indicate that in Nova Scotia we are not very proactive in raising the money in
doing the things that are necessary to get research done in this area.
The second thing, near the end of your remarks you were giving a list of the emerging areas of concern in
Nova Scotia and every one of us made note of them. Everyone has commented on them. You mentioned the gap in
services for the children of 16 and 17 years. You discussed mental health, sexual abuse, homelessness, HIV/
AIDS, and so on.
I want to discuss mental health. Senators Keon and Kirby head another committee that is doing the largest
Canadian study of its kind, on mental health issues.
Did your group make a presentation to that committee?
Ms. Brennan: Yes, Senator we did make a presentation to that committee.
Senator Oliver: Good, I am very happy to hear you say that.
Ms. Brennan: Actually, that was my first experience with a Senate committee. I was thrown into it and
it was a very interesting experience presenting to that committed.
Senator Oliver: That is excellent.
Ms. Brennan: We have conducted research on mental health issues and youth, particularly youth that are
incarcerated in care and custody of the province. We realize that services for those particular youth are
lacking. While we do recognize that there is a lot leading edge research within Nova Scotia, we want the
supports within the community to match the research so that we can really hold ourselves up to a higher bar;
that is for sure.
Ms. Ferrara: We also want to help the parents of autistic children. We wanted that on record as well.
The Chairman: I take it from your comments that we are easier than the first Senate committee you
Ms. Brennan: Senator, both experiences have been great. The ombudsman presented at the previous
committee. We prepped him for his presentation and he did a great job, but he suddenly referred to me during the
question period. That was when I was thrown in and had to answer questions from honourable senators. I am much
better prepared today.
What a phenomenal experience and please ask us any time and we will come back to answer any questions. We are
delighted to speak to a federal body anytime. You have been very kind. Thank you very much.
The Chairman: We in turn thank you for your phenomenal work and the fact that you have taken on the
Convention on the Rights of the Child and are doing the best you can within your own responsibilities.
During the course of our study, we have come to realize that that people are not aware of the Convention of
the Rights of the Child, both in the public arena and in the governmental services. Any sort of education about
the convention, of course, is the first step to ensure that it is implemented. You will hear from us in that we
will continue to make this our issue.
Senator Pearson: I think there are many things that Nova Scotia has to teach the rest of us and that
is one of the things we are doing with this trip is finding out from different places what positive steps are
being taken in this country.
New Brunswick is uncertain whether the rights of the child will fall under the ombudsman's office. I know
that Nova Scotia follows that trend.
Please tell me, from a mechanical point of view, do you think the system works well here in Nova Scotia?
Ms. Brennan: You have to have it under that realm. Not to take any credit away from offices that are
strictly child advocates but that ombudsman role is the key in that we are a perfect fit because we are able to
identify issues within, via the public, about government services and then effectively change or make
recommendations to have direct policy impact. That is one of the benefits of our job is that we actually see
these complaints come to fruition to have systemic change.
Our independence is our golden selling point because we are not responsible to either the complainant or the
respondent, such as the government. We are able to make those recommendations without fear of reprisal from
anybody. That is the key and we are a perfect fit.
I encourage other provinces to follow our example. If there is federal commissioner, I strongly encourage a
blended role, not solely an advocacy role. While we do promote ourselves as providing a voice for children and
youth, we also want to make sure that government is also comfortable to come to us with policies prior to their
We want to have an open dialogue so we can suggest that the government refer back to the UN convention. We
want the convention to become second nature in that we do start to have obligation. While it is not a legal
obligation, we have a moral and ethical obligation so that government will have that buy in. Once you get it
started and underway it would be a lot easier to have buy-in but you definitely need that national standard. I
just hope Prince Edward Island starts to recognize that they have children and youth in their province that
deserve the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Senator Pearson: I was very glad to hear that you were working with the University College of Cape
Breton and the Centre for Children's Rights. I have been increasingly impressed with their work and the work of
the focus groups prior to the UN study; our consultation in Toronto on the UN study on violence. They did a
number of focus groups, some on the reserve that is outside of Sydney and so on and those were extremely
powerful statements of how the kids perceive their rights. They see a lot of violence and I do not know whether
that has been an issue. You do not actually list it that study.
Ms. Brennan: No. In Nova Scotia it has not really come to the forefront of issues because again it
comes down to that federal/provincial line that has been drawn, especially with First Nations and Aboriginal
While I was in Toronto for the Canadian Council of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates meeting, we did have
somebody come in from the Department of Indian and Northern Affairs. They are having these tripartite round
tables to address specific child and youth issues on reserve.
I asked them about the rights of children off reserve. Our office is strictly limited to provincial and
municipal policy and legislation. I see a service gap for youth that are on reserve and especially youth that
are off reserve. I am aware that this situation is in the national focus and that First Nations and Aboriginal
children are getting the information that they need to know.
Senator Pearson: It was not just First Nations and Aboriginal.
Ms. Brennan: Right.
Senator Pearson: Groups from Sydney and elsewhere expressed concern about violence, and you mentioned
gangs during your presentation. Do you receive many complaints of that nature?
Ms. Brennan: We see the problem in our youth correctional facilities. We see it in certain regions,
not necessarily in the cities. I mean I am sure there are pockets of gangs in the city. Well, I know there are
gangs in the city.
Senator Oliver: Do you have incidents of swarmings?
Ms. Brennan: Yes, but the swarmings are in areas rather than associated with certain creeds. It is
becoming a disturbing trend, I agree. It does get media coverage. Whether or not the actual numbers have
increased statistically is a little bit different but media coverage has certainly brought a spotlight on that
Senator Pearson: The University of Cape Breton research concerning the impact on the curriculum is
very positive and we will consider that impact in our recommendations. We are the only province to implement
education around the convention.
Ms. Brennan: We thank the University College of Cape Breton, especially Dr. Covell and Dr. Howe
because they were instrumental in teaching us the mantra within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We
have tried to spread the convention all across the province. The university has conducted excellent, excellent
work and we are definitely grateful. They have helped us shape our database so they deserve the credit for that
Senator Pearson: Great, thank you.
The Chairman: Again, thank you for coming this morning and giving us a much more optimistic approach
to the convention than we have had up to this point.
I simply hope that you continue to let people know that ratifying a convention is not enough. It is going to
take education and some action to bind Canada to the convention. We have more work to do.
We thank you for bringing the Nova Scotia perspective to us. We hope you follow our work and that our
recommendations will be of benefit to you.
Senators, we are very pleased to have before us Professor Wayne MacKay of the Dalhousie Law School who is
well- known to Senate committees, having testified often on many issues to do with human rights and the law.
Professor Wayne MacKay, Dalhousie Law School: Thank you very much. I have
on occasions appeared before Senate committees and I always enjoy the experience. I find that senators are
inevitably well prepared and ask good and tough questions so that is always a fun experience to have. I realize
you want me to be fairly brief so I will try to do that to leave lots of time for questions. I hope that you
have in front of you my longer submission. It is a bit longer than usual because I am very interested in this
subject, and because there are a number of committee members who are not here today. I have left a complete
submission with those senators in mind.
My choice of topic in terms of your important and broad mandate concerning the protection of the rights of
children under international guarantees is education. Obviously, there are many other areas of concern, some of
which you heard earlier today.
Today I will focus on education and, as the title of my submission indicates, apart from the obvious
importance of education, it is a useful microcosm of how we respond to the rights of children or we balance
these rights and other concerns in a particular context. I think education is a useful case study.
The editorial part of the title is "Rights by Example: The Education Context As a Microcosm of Society's
Recognition of the Rights of Children.'' My thesis in part is that we must set a lesson in practice more than
just in what we say. How do we regard the rights of children? Do we teach by example that students have rights?
That is the first part of the introduction.
I have also included a handout, which I am sure you do not need, just for ease of reference, on some of the
key sections related to education from the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
I will start by looking at some of the key sections including article 28, which guarantees a right to free
primary education. I am acting chair of the Rights and Democracy Board, and one of our Millennium Development
Goals is free primary education for all countries in the world.
On page 2 of my brief, you will see the heading "International Human Rights Guarantees.'' Canada has been a
signatory of the Convention on the Rights of the Child since 1992 and among many others deals with the right to
identity and the right to high standards of health and healthcare. My focus is on education and to some extent
on free speech.
The convention, like some of our own legislation, highlights the special status of children in our society.
Our children have rights but we recognize that they are vulnerable and need protection. We strive to find a
healthy balance between the two.
Article 19 is important in relation to schools and to the guarantee of freedom from violence. I will discuss
the issue of bullying in schools, school violence and the corporal punishment, which is discussed in section 43.
Article 19 gives children guarantees against violence and those rights are linked to the concept of human
dignity, which is central to our Charter as well.
I am currently engaged in a review for the Government of New Brunswick on inclusive schooling focused on
access for disabled, mentally and physically disabled students. Inclusive education is a broader concept that
links quite nicely into various guarantees in the convention, the guarantees of access for the disabled in
article 23 as well as the general guarantees in article 28. Inclusive education seems to me a very important
overall goal for education.
Equality and dignity require that we belong to the community and that we have the benefits of the community.
The benefits of education mean that a child will reap the benefit of society. A child without primary, secondary
and increasingly even post-secondary education really cannot get many of the benefits in society.
New Brunswick is a leader in inclusive schooling. You asked questions of the previous panel concerning
autism. I will be happy to answer any questions you might ask me during the question period.
The main point about inclusive schooling is the clear approach of the courts in a couple of cases, one in
B.C. and one in Alberta, that the government is responsible for providing quality education and equal access to
education to our youth. The courts do not like it when the government talks about passing the burden from one
department to the other. They are not concerned under whose jurisdiction education falls; they feel that the
government as a whole is responsible for the education of our youth. They point out that the government is
responsible for meeting the obligations under the Charter. I believe that the same should apply to obligations
under the Convention of the Rights of the Child; the government as a whole that has the responsibility for
education. The courts do not accept the defence that it is the problem of such and such a department. The courts
are sending a very clear signal that it is not acceptable and that is important.
One of the positive developments in the area of student rights and education is a growing awareness of rights
consciousness, that students do have rights, of course they have to have limits, but that they do have rights.
No doubt, senators are aware of the Malcolm Ross case; the anti-Semitic comments outside class. In
that one the Supreme Court of Canada in a rather extraordinary fashion, actually put upon the school boards a
duty to proactively work to make schools discrimination-free zones, that school should be a place that is free
of race discrimination, sex discrimination and disability exclusion. That is a very broad goal and a very
important goal set by the Supreme Court of Canada's Justice La Forest, who wrote the key decision in that case.
That is a positive development in trying to give effect to the Convention on the Rights of the Child.
In another Justice La Forest case, the Audet case emphasized the trustee relationship of teachers.
That is a rather important point when we come to the other criminal justice area that teachers are in a special
relation of trust in relation to children. That special relationship must focus of the best interests of the
child, and that relationship should not be abused.
I move on to the interesting balance between freedom of speech for students and safe schools, and the issue
of bullying and safe schools. I set out some of the material there but I will not repeat that. We are all
familiar with the challenges in schools. Bullying and students who commit suicide at least in part because of
bullying and violence in schools are significant issues that must be addressed. These problems emanate from all
over the country from Red Lake to Alberta, Nova Scotia and elsewhere.
One element of the issue is student free expression and because of this legitimate concern about order and
safety in schools, there has been a bit more of a tendency to limit speech that has any kind of violent
undertones. I am now talking about content. Obviously violent form is not accepted. Even under our Charter
violent expression, in terms of rapes, assault and so on, is not constitutionally protected but violent content
generally is protected, subject to section 1. The burden is to justify why it should not be and there were a
couple of very high-profile cases out of Ontario. One high school student in Ontario was incarcerated by police
because he wrote a creative story about a student who, after being harassed by bullies, took revenge by planting
explosives throughout the school. Although it was shown that the student had himself been the victim of
bullying, no evidence was found that he had actually plotted any revenge. The student was arrested and spent
Christmas and his 16th birthday in jail. The court concluded that the boy should not have been arrested. In
fact, much of the same had happened to his brother. These and other similar cases are referred to as the
"twisted'' cases. You can understand, in the post-Columbine period why the school authorities reacted in that
What I am cautioning here is that while censorship is one response, it may not be and is not, I do not think,
the most effective response. We must find the root causes for these violent acts in schools. We have to make a
judgment call about how far to go on free speech but simply shutting down the speech may not be the best thing
to do. We can certainly have more discussion about that issue.
I will highlight a couple of less controversial cases of student free speech. On page 13, I discuss the
Lutes case and the "Let's Talk About Sex'' case. In the latter case, a student sang the song of that name in
the presence of a school board authority and the student was suspended. The song is about HIV/AIDS. The court
told the school authority that he did not have the right to suspend the child. The court said;
The problem arose as a result of overreaction to an inoffensive song that carried a powerful message.
The court involved itself in the business of the school, which is something they did not do before. The court
made it clear that the authority had to justify why he would do such a thing, and that being offended was not
enough to suspend a child.
I am sure that senators are familiar with, the Mark Hall case and the right to take his male date, his
gay date to the prom. In this case, the court, in an injunction proceeding, upheld the boy's right to do so. The
School is a fundamental institution in the lives of young people. It often provides the context for their
social lives both in and outside of school hours. Recreational activities such as sports, clubs and dances,
which are important in the development of a student's development, are often experienced within the school
setting. Exclusion of a student from a significant occasion of school life, like the school prom, constitutes
a restriction in access to a fundamental social institution.
That is pretty strong language, though. Students will be interested to hear their prom is a fundamental
social institution but, in any event, there it is.
These two decisions show us how far we have come in our thinking about the rights of the child.
What is the balance between student free speech and safe schools?
Another area of interest to me is the intersection of crime in schools, particularly on search and seizure
because there, of course, the critical question is reasonable expectations of privacy. While the courts have
made it clear that the Charter guarantees of freedom from unreasonable search apply in schools, they have
applied a lower standard of expected privacy. Again, maybe that is acceptable; maybe it is not. We could debate
that. In some ways, it is built on the prison model.
We would readily accept that prison inmates have a lower expectation of privacy than the general public, but
I have argued, probably irreverently, that prison inmates actually have a better situation than students do in
terms of section 8. I am not sure if the argument is as good for restricting the privacy expectations of
The Supreme Court of Canada in the M.R.M. case adopted the lower standard of privacy for students. The
court ruled that the school does not need reasonable and probable grounds to search a student's locker. You need
a lot less to search a student, either his physical presence or his location, and that a teacher or a school
administrator does not have the restrictions of a police officer in terms of reading Charter rights to the
student. From a teacher point of view, I understand that they are not trained as police officers. The problem is
that while it is appropriate when it is an in- school discipline matter, if the consequence is also a Youth
Criminal Justice Act offence for the student, why are their rights different depending upon who searches them?
In fact, if I were advising students these days I would tell them to insist on having a police officer because
that is what all these cases tell you, that if a police officer had done the search, the evidence would have
been excluded because of the lack of suspicion and so on. If the school conducts the search, they immediately
hand the confiscated items over to the police. Therefore, oddly enough, the best advice is to have a police
officer do it.
From a school point of view, it seems if you are dealing with serious criminal matters, you do better not to
involve the police. This is a significant issue.
The M.R.M. case is a particularly interesting case. The case from here in Halifax is interesting
because the vice- principal with a RCMP officer in the room conducted the search. The Supreme Court of Canada
said it was still a school administrative search and not a police search. The court recognizes that there could
be times when they would be acting as agents of the police. That is another area for consideration in terms of
the rights of students. We have to look at whether that distinction is justified.
On page 19 of my brief, I deal with the contentious issue of corporal punishment. In the past number of
years, there has been a significant social shift in that we do not accept physical responses to students and
children. However, we still have section 43 of the Criminal Code that states that force for correction is still
part of our law.
In The Foundation for Children and Youth case, the Supreme Court of Canada rejected constitutional
challenges to section 43 on three grounds. They argued that it violated section 7 as being too vague; violate
section 12 as being cruel and unusual, and section 15 as being unequal.
In the majority decision, Justice McLachlin held that section 43 did not offend the dignity of young children
and as such did not violate section 15(1) of the Charter. At paragraph 68 of the decision, Justice McLachlin
Children often feel a sense of disempowerment and vulnerability; this reality must be considered when
assessing the impact of s. 43 on a child's sense of dignity. Yet, as emphasized, the force permitted is
limited and must be set against the reality of a child's mother or father being charged and pulled into the
criminal justice system, with its attendant rupture of the family setting, or a teacher being detained pending
bail, with the inevitable harm to the child's crucial educative setting. Section 43 is not arbitra4rily
demeaning. It does not discriminate. Rather, it is firmly grounded in the actual needs and circumstances of
She is Chief Justice of Canada and makes the rules and I do not, but it is a somewhat surprising conclusion
when Judges Binnie, Arbour and Bastarache and others had a different view and thought the decision created a
On pages 23 and 24 of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended that Canada repeal section 43
of the Criminal Code. The UN stated that in line with the guarantees of non-violence in article 19, their view
was that Canada was in violation of that article. In fact, about one third of the European Council has repealed
their equivalent law. Seventeen of the states under the European Council have now repealed their equivalent to
section 43 corporal punishment and Canada has not.
The UN committee has one view and the Supreme Court of Canada has another. There is currently a bill before
the Senate, Bill S-21 that would repeal section 43.
The Chairman: It is still in the committee.
Mr. MacKay: Nothing in the Supreme Court decision would prevent Parliament from repealing section 43.
All they said is that it is constitutional but if Parliament wants to be more enlightened than our courts, they
are free to do so.
Senator Oliver: Parliaments make laws.
Mr. MacKay: Exactly.
Let me just come to my conclusion. There are some areas of advance, on discrimination-free zones and an
increasing focus on inclusive education. There is some concern that bullying and school violence may reduce free
speech and process rights for students.
In the area of corporal punishment, section 43, I support those arguing for repeal, clearly in relation to
teachers. It seems to me that section 43 as a defence for teachers is almost beyond debate. In relation to
parents there is still some debate about whether it should be totally abolished or not but in the Children
Foundation case the Supreme Court of Canada substantially narrowed the use of section 43.
I suggest that either the continuing committee of human rights officials or officials on human rights have a
re- invigorated mandate to monitor our commitments under international treaties. Perhaps an ongoing Senate
committee looking at human rights implementation should monitor education. An ongoing watchdog committee could
stop the negative UN reports on Canada not meeting her obligations under the convention.
The Chairman: Thank you and I appreciate there is more in your presentation than you have pointed out
and we will have to study it more carefully.
Senator Oliver: Professor MacKay wears many hats and one of them is as a leading expert in
constitutional law in Canada. Madame Chair, with your permission, I would like to put to him a question that he
has not raised so much in his speech but one that has been raised with our committee in Europe and here in
We met with the UN committee in Geneva and they asked us questions about our Supreme Court ruling but the
question I want to put to you really is as a constitutional expert.
Canada has made significant efforts in implementing the rights and obligations of the various international
instruments concerning the rights and freedoms of children, and in particular on the Convention of the Rights of
the Child. However, Canada does not have a systematic process, a legal process to implement these rights in
Canadian law given our federal system. The federal government has certain powers and the provinces and
municipalities have others.
What system would ensure a more systematic approach so you would not have the rights of children being
enforced in one way in British Columbia and another way in Newfoundland?
What type of constitutional system would meet international obligations in Canadian law in the provinces and
Mr. MacKay: You are correct; children's rights issues and education fall under provincial
The federal government signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child that makes Canada as a nation state
responsible for the implementation of that covenant. However, under our constitutional system the provinces and
territories are responsible for the implementation of the covenant. that.
As the Labour Conventions case indicates, the federal government cannot enforce implementation. There
is a counter-view that under peace, order and good government, some federal jurisdiction to insist on
implementation may apply. One might argue for human rights commitments signed at the federal level. That is one
Senator Oliver: Is there a case that we could use to hang our hat on for that for peace, order and
Mr. MacKay: Chief Justice Laskin now deceased in Capital Cities Cable case put forward that
idea that peace, order and good government should be a source of authority for treaty implementation. His
dissent might be worth looking at in order to fulfill the convention's obligations.
The courts have not reversed the Labour Conventions case. The argument against it is that the danger
from a federal/ provincial power point of view is that the federal government could add to its jurisdiction
simply by signing a treaty, that if you sign a treaty you gain authority to implement. The provinces are
uncomfortable about that, as you can understand. That is probably why Labour Convention still stands.
Perhaps, there is a middle position and it comes back to monitoring and educating agencies.
Your question really was how we get national standards of implementation across the country. The Charter is
one vehicle because all levels of government must abide by the Charter. As we get increasing definitions of
rights under the Charter, those rights must be applied right across the country. That is one avenue of
The Convention on the Rights of the Child could be another very useful vehicle for that implementation. It
does not have immediate effect; it is persuasive only.
This committee might educate and monitor the provinces and territories to our commitments under the
convention. That is indeed, one of the UN recommendations under the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.
That committee recommends that the federal government should educate all provinces and all territories about
their commitments under the convention.
It seems to me that engaging public opinion makes the chances greater that provincial legislation will become
consistent with our international obligations. For example, is Nova Scotia's education statute consistent with
our international commitment and sufficiently inclusive in light of article 23 on disability? Is it sufficiently
inclusive in light of our guarantees against sex discrimination or race discrimination?
I think that if people knew it existed and we had a mechanism to draw it to the attention of government
authorities, then maybe that would provide greater consistency. That might be another way.
I think a committee that takes on the monitoring role and the education mandate might help to provide greater
Most people do not know about the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In fact, if you did a survey of
government departments, my guess would be that there would not be a high level of knowledge or understanding of
the convention. That would be an important starting point.
That is my practical answer, short of changing the Constitution by amendment or arguing for federal
implementation of our international obligation.
Senator Oliver: What about some form of a standardized, enabling piece of legislation that could apply
to all provinces and territories? What do you say legally to that?
Mr. MacKay: That would be an interesting route to take. That would directly raise the debate about
whether that is education or children's property and civil rights in the province under section 92.13 and
therefore not valid federal legislation. Yes, that is where we might presumably argue about peace, order, and
good government. That is where we might argue that as a nation state, if we do not do this we are failing to
meet our international obligations under the Convention of the Rights of the Child. It would raise the debate
and give the opportunity to re-evaluate the implementation, and maybe do it in a way that would not as directly
challenge provincial jurisdiction.
The Chairman: If I understand Senator Oliver we have missed the moment for the Convention on the
Rights of the Child; we have ratified the convention. The Vienna Convention says that we are not interested in
your own internal problems and that if you ratify you put yourself on the line of saying you are going to make
your best effort to implement the convention.
At this point in time, there are negotiations with the continuing group. These negotiations are questionable
to us because we cannot seem to find out what this continuing group does. From my own personal experience I
understand how these federal and provincial negotiations proceed before ratification.
How feasible is it to follow Senator Oliver's suggestion of a method of negotiation between the provinces and
territories prior to the ratification of UN convention?
It is important that all levels of government understand that much of the human rights law is meaningful. Is
it possible to provide a mechanism for uniform enforcement before signature and ratification? How feasible is
that as a template for future conventions?
Mr. MacKay: That is an interesting idea, really. As I understand this continuing committee, which is a
little mysterious, the difference is that it is post facto. The only reason I know a little bit about
that is that when I was Director of Nova Scotia Human Rights, the director was on this committee. I do not think
that is the case anymore. I think now it is a representative from the Department of Justice. Part of their
mandate is to educate, monitor, and send reports to the UN committees on Canada's compliance with the
You suggest that we move that back and have a federal-provincial dialog about the implementation prior to
ratification. This is an interesting suggestion.
As I understand it, the continuing committee, monitors and educates on an inter-provincial basis after the
Your idea seems good.
One downside is potential delay, that already these processes are slow and I can see it perhaps slowing down,
but it would not have to be if you started early enough.
I think you need an effective mechanism that educates all the potential government implementers about what
the convention means. The provinces and territories must know what the convention means in their daily lives.
When is there a guarantee, like article 19 of freedom from violence, what does that mean in respect to how you
handle child abuse registries, bullying in the schools, and other children's issues.
The continuing committee meets twice a year, if that, and as I say, it is not a well-known entity.
The Chairman: We do know that the ministers have not met for over a decade.
Mr. MacKay: I think 1988 was the last time the ministers met.
The Chairman: Senator Pearson and I have had this discussion, and we have had it in the committee.
Before the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, there was not any systematic way of looking at our rights in Canada,
throughout our legislation and our policies. After the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, governments were mandated
within each department and ministers were mandated to take the Charter into account. The minister now has to
sign off a certificate before any legislation is filed in cabinet that in fact, they comply with the Charter of
Rights and Freedoms.
We have been tossing around whether a similar process should be in place for the Convention of the Rights of
the Child and other human rights legislation. To what extent it would be formalized, we still need to discuss,
but the process would obligate the bureaucracy to take into account international human rights obligations as we
structure our policies and laws.
Mr. MacKay: That is a very good idea and in some ways, it might be easy to implement because, as you
say, there is already a review for Charter compliance. The Sharpe case, for example, shows that the
Supreme Court of Canada increasingly interprets the Charter as consistent with our international commitments.
You could argue that they already have an obligation to do that because how can you properly assess Charter
compliance unless you consider the Charter in the context of our international commitments.
The Supreme Court of Canada has said that the international commitments are persuasive and where possible the
Charter should be interpreted consistent with them. It seems that would be a very logical extension.
Senator Pearson: I have another question around education and a new convention that is emerging. This
might be the right time during the new convention on disabilities to push this idea before Canada ratifies the
convention. We are interested in the continuing committee and its anonymity. The committee exists and we
understand that we must follow this process before ratification. We have the committee because it took so long
to ratify the covenants. The committee itself is not a high-level committee and it might be helpful to raise
it's profile. We feel that many of the international do not get adequate airing in connection within the
parliamentary legislative system.
We do not know if we should bring this fully into Parliament or into the Legislatures as we go through the
process. The optional protocol on child prostitution is just on the total verge of finalization. It has taken
ages because the process is so cumbersome. Alberta did take the optional protocol through cabinet because it is
an educative process but I do not think every province did the same. We are just waiting for one other little
piece before we can deposit the instrument for ratification. We all know that the process is too slow. The
optional protocol on child prostitution is a no-brainer.
There is something wrong with the mechanism that needs a lot of oiling. We are trying to find the right oil
and some of your suggestions will be helpful in our quest to speed up the process.
I want to come back for a moment to education as an example, not because of the federal/provincial challenge
but because of something that one of the young people said to us in the round table we had in New Brunswick. We
were having a discussion about the political rights of children.
You touched on the subject of privacy and I would be grateful for some clarification as to how privacy melds
with the civil and political rights of children. One of the youth discussed this subject with us at our round
What are the political rights of children? What does freedom of assembly mean for the educational system?
We discussed whether we should lower the voting age. You made the comment that the school is a model for
democratic behaviour and democratic citizenship. The youth pointed out to us that school councils and other
school- related electoral processes are basically popularity contests and this prepares them to think about
elections as popularity contests. We need to discuss these implications. We need not discuss it today abut I am
interested in some reflection from you on the political rights of children as they could be exercised within the
Senator Oliver: I will also mention the girl who said that it was an invasion of her privacy for the
school to go into her locker.
Senator Pearson: Yes and another girl talked about the teacher who grabs your note that you are
passing to your friend and reads it. Grabbing may be okay but reading?
Mr. MacKay: It says "search and seizure.'' It does not say search, seize and read. It does raise the
interesting point that children do learn by example in schools. Civil as well as political rights are learned in
schools and the participation in student councils is a good learning tool. Democratic rights under the Charter
are not necessarily directly applicable but one of the recommendations from the UN committee on the Rights of
the Child is that students receive an education concerning their in a rights-based society. The UN suggests this
education be part of their school curriculum. Should we teach the students about the Charter of Rights? Yes, I
believe that we should teach them about the Charter. The UN conventions and others suggest that education should
prepare our children for the citizenship of tomorrow. They should be well informed participants and learn to be
creative about democracy. We know that the best way to do learn about democracy is to practice it.
Senator Pearson: The children raise the issue that the school councils are without power and that in
some ways the councils are a mockery of democracy. I do not want to put you on the spot but I would like you to
reflect on that statement.
I know of schools that have elections so that the young person elected as minister of the environment is in
charge of the school's environmental action; the young person elected minister of foreign affairs is in charge
of the world issues club. I mean there is some actual connection between that and some power. If you are elected
there is accountability.
Mr. MacKay: That is an important point. There used to be accountability but also impact that it should
not be a charade of power.
Senator Pearson: That is right.
Mr. MacKay: Just having somebody sit on a council without authority is tokenism that is not helpful.
Senator Pearson: Yes.
Mr. MacKay: In some ways it is a win-win situation because usually when you empower in those ways,
they exceed your expectations.
Senator Pearson: Absolutely.
Mr. MacKay: When I was President of Mount Allison, the student environmental group performed an
environmental audit of the university every year. The audit was effective and had a lot of impact because they
were, as often is the case, way ahead of the administration and the teachers and so on in terms of knowing the
environmental needs. Just as one example, every year they audited the recycling and issued a report card to the
various segments of the university. Mount Allison has a good reputation that is based on the reputation of its
students. The university departments take the report cards seriously. That is just one little example. The
schools might employ similar democratic participation with the student body. Democratic participation education
is exactly what we need to produce good citizens for tomorrow, I would say.
The Chairman: We used to have teachers stand in the shoes of the parents, in locus parentis and
a lot of that has fallen away. We have taken away a lot of the authorities that teachers had and have created.
Going back to your point on search and seizure, are you saying that we do not understand the role of teachers
in our schools?
In my training and as a judge we agreed that the closest comparison of a teacher was a parent. We felt that
the duties and responsibilities of the teacher were equal to the parents. We have slowly eroded that authority
without replacing it some ability for teachers to be in charge of the classroom. Am I correct saying in that?
Mr. MacKay: Yes, you are correct. It is a very big point, a very big and significant shift in the
nature of the role of the teacher because their traditional role was in loco parentis. They were able to
perform a search and seizure under the main assumption that the interests of the parent and child coincide. That
is a bit of a hangover sentiment from the search cases, and the assumption that there is a difference between a
teacher and a police officer making the search. The attitude has shifted and in almost all the legal cases the
teacher is held to be an educational agent of the state. In certain areas they have the duties of a parent but
that is not their primarily role and it is a much different setting from the sort of one room school where they
were agents of the parents in the direct sense. That is no longer the case and the shift is not yet part of our
I think search is one of area where we should not always assume that the teacher and students' interests are
the same side. That same teacher, who might be searching them, if they are a guidance counsellor, may have all
kinds of confidential information from that student on the assumption that it will never go anywhere. In a legal
sense, if they appear in a criminal proceeding, they may have to give all that information. There is no
privilege on that. The very important thing about what role a teacher is playing is the delegated parent role.
Sometimes they are in an educational state role. Sometimes they are in a police agent role. When the child was
searched at school the teacher was acting as an agent of the police department. In that context the teacher,
along with the RCMP agent in the room is not a friend that will help you out. It is very important to clarify
the roles and there has been a shift.
The Chairman: If you take corporal punishment out of the Criminal Code, one of the arguments is that
you would have to put something back for defences of necessity and other defences.
We had the Animal Rights Act in front of us and the justice department came and said that if we took out
certain sections and changed them in the Criminal Code, the common law would still afford us the ability to use
the defences. Many lawyers, including the Canadian Bar, came along and said they were not quite sure that would
happen. They argued that you should leave the defence within the Criminal Code. What about the restraining need
of teachers and parents in a situation where a child is out of control? Physical restrains might be necessary to
protect the child, another child, or anyone else in that environment. You could end up in a position of being
charged with assault to raise the defence of necessity and you would have to try to reach back into common law
to find that defence. Is it alive; is it still viable? If you take out section 43, you should put something back
for the caregivers who work with children. Do you agree?
Mr. MacKay: I agree with part of it. I do not understand why, if it is not replaced by statute, common
law does not continue to exist. Common law exists until it is repealed by clearer statutory language. I would
think they are still there but there is not quite the same comfort in having the somewhat less-clearly defined
common law protections as clearly written out in the code protection. There are some sections, and I do not have
them right at my fingertips, in the Criminal Code itself that would provide defences in some of those
situations. For example, in hospital settings there are often cases where people have to be restrained in their
own best interests and that does not normally produce prosecutions for assault. There is also the de minimus
rule that is often put forward by advocates for repealing section 43. That is a matter of both police and
prosecutorial discretion. They have some choice about what cases they bring, again not as comforting as having a
In some of the information in the Foundation for Children and Youth case there was a strong suggestion
that, if repealed, other things would fill the void.
In studies on the 17 European Union countries that repealed the section there has not been a big problem with
the prosecution of parents and teachers. The cases are dealt with early on at the prosecutorial and police
discretion level and winnowed out before they get to court. If the cases includes self-defence, other rules come
in to avoid a rash of assaults. It is probably true in relation to teachers and parents, but particularly in
relation to teachers that most teachers are not going to intervene in this way unless it is self-defence or
protecting the safety of the rest of the class. I believe that the days of formalized corporal punishment, and
the strap, are over in most places in Canada.
I do not think that repealing section 43 would result in a rash of prosecutions of teachers and parents. I
think that within both the Criminal Code and the common law the defences are there.
The Chairman: I think it was teachers, parents and caregivers, who were working with difficult
Mr. MacKay: Yes, others. That is correct.
Senator Mercer: I think Professor MacKay may have answered my question because my concern is with the
repeal of section 43. I am in favour of the repeal of the section but worry that it will leave our educators
dangling without power. I was a tough kid to manage in the Halifax school system and there are many teachers
still around who would tell you that. And without that, yes, and I am difficult here, too without that threat
of, or at least the knowledge that corporal punishment was there, I am concerned that teachers in particular, do
not have that big stick. I do not mean it in a literal sense. I mean the threat of something to maintain the
peace, order and safety in the classroom of both the teacher and others.
My civil libertarian side of me says we need to remove section 43, but I appreciate the practicality of a
teacher operating in the system and I am worried about their protection.
Do you feel comfortable that there are other protections for educators?
Mr. MacKay: I understand that, having taught in schools and being a teacher for much of my life
myself. I understand that and it is a bit like the balance between safe schools and free speech. There is always
that balance between making sure it is a safe, and ordered learning environment on the one hand, but protecting
rights on the other.
Here is a letter signed by Anne MacGillivray and others who have done a lot of writing on the repeal of
section 43. The letter is addressed to the Legal and Constitutional Affairs committee that is dealing with the
repeal. It says:
Where force must be used to protect, restrain or move a child other defences to assault apply. These
include self-defence, Criminal Code sections 34 to 37; using force to prevent an offence, section 27; and
defence of property, sections 38 to 42, and the common law defences of necessity, de minimus and
implied consent to acts of nurture...
Then it cites a case in 2000 where the Ontario Court of Appeal said that there was a defence in a health
setting to restraining people. It goes on to conclude:
...These are equally available to protect parents and teachers from unfair criminal sanctions.
Now that is not a total answer but that is illustration that is just a bit more specific and it was what I
was searching for earlier. It is not just the common law defences but there are actually some Criminal Code
defences that would apply in many cases. The nature one defence strikes me as particularly appropriate in both a
health and educational context so I think there are other ways to do it and this is going to Senator Mercer's
point, without being offensive to the civil liberties. One of the things I found hard about the majority
decision in the Foundation for Children and Youth case was that they said it was not an offence to a
child's dignity to be just about the only person in society who can be assaulted with impunity.
The Chairman: That stands for a child from the ages of two to 12 years.
Mr. MacKay: Well that is right, as they restricted it but section 43 does not so limit it.
The Chairman: No, but they restricted section 43 and their judgment on dignity concerned the ages of
two to 12.
Mr. MacKay: That is correct and is written in as a judicial amendment to section 43 so you are right.
I do not know why they did not at least say it was a violation of dignity under 15 years and then maybe save it
under section 1 in order to promote order and to do other valuable things. To say there is no violation, I do
not understand because assault violates most people's dignity.
The Chairman: We have not seen them reach to section 1 too often, nor parliamentarians, for that
Senator Oliver: Professor MacKay, when we were in New Brunswick we were told that in November of 2004
you were engaged by the Department of Education to do a major review of inclusive education in New Brunswick. We
are also told that one of the things that you would be recommending is a policy framework for inclusive
education and more specifically, helping them with a definition of "exceptionality.''
Are you able to give us an indication where you are going with the new definition of "exceptionality''? We
have had many questions regarding this definition in context with children suffering from autism.
Mr. MacKay: In that very interesting study there are two challenging definitional tasks. One is
defining "inclusion'' and defining "exceptionality'' because section 12 of the New Brunswick Education Act
refers to "exceptional students,'' a term that we often used for special needs or disabled children.
I should preface this by saying that I am still in the process of preparing the report and the hearings are
nearly finished. However, we are all mindful of Justice Gomery these days, and I do not want to make any
statements before all the evidence is collected. I will say that as an informed caveat. I think only two
provinces actually use the term "exceptionality,'' New Brunswick and Ontario. Most provinces refer either to
"disabled,'' "special needs'' and there is always the question of language. I think that is maybe an important
starting point. "Exceptionality'' may be a term that is a bit problematic in that the act defines "exceptional
students,'' but does not give a label for the rest. In fact, that is one of the challenges I put to most of my
hearings. What do you call the non-exceptional students? Well that does not go very well. "The rest'' is not
very good either.
I have not made any firm conclusion on this, but I certainly want to explore whether we should stick with the
word "disabled'' that the convention and the Charter use. I know there are issues around that as well but that
is one thing we are looking at. Whatever term we use, whether "exceptionality'' or "disabled,'' there is a
growing list of people who need intervention.
One of the other things I have discovered in the hearings is that in the French edition they discuss students
in "need of intervention.'' That terminology is a bit more neutral.
In some ways most of us need intervention, educational intervention at some point because we are all
exceptional. We all have some aspects of difference. That is another sort of thing we are playing around with. I
think we have to accept that in an inclusive society we are going to have a growing list of "exceptionalities,''
and "disabilities,'' whatever we call it.
I think the challenge is to define it in a way that is workable, leaving room for addition but also to maybe
even more importantly, provide the resources to respond once you do define it. Autism is a good example. Autism
or Autism Spectrum Syndrome has a whole range from very high achieving to not so high achieving. Our
understanding of that syndrome is relatively new and we are just beginning to understand it. ADD has been around
for a long time but we did not discuss it. We used to talk about kids who were problematic, full stop.
Now we have all kinds of labels for our children's behaviours. I do not have any final answer other than
saying that one of the challenges is to come up, not only with the label, but with who should be included and
perhaps equally important, who should decide whether people fit the categories. Who decides is always an
important question and at the moment it is the superintendent, at least in theory, or they may delegate it down
who decides whether a student fits the "exceptionality'' definition and therefore gets services. I think it is
on the advice of experts but "expert'' is not defined. So where do the parents fit and so on? Almost as
important as the definition and the label is who actually gets to decide it. This goes to participation and
whether the parent is allowed input in the decision making process. The big question is how much of our
education model should be medical? Should these be medical diagnoses or is it really more educational? I am
attracted to intervention, because once you get a medical label you are left with the dilemma that it is helpful
for educational purposes to get this label because you will get resources and support. However, for the rest of
your life it is not helpful to have this label. Is there something we can do to get the resources without the
Senator Oliver: Without getting the scarlet letter.
Mr. MacKay: Exactly.
Senator Oliver: Senator Pearson has said that the UN is now working on another convention in relation
to the disabled and I am just wondering if they are wrestling with definitions of what is "disabled''.
Mr. MacKay: I have not had a look at that yet. I have made a note of that. If you have any
information, I would very much like to see it.
There is a very useful cross-Canada study by Gary Bunsch and Kevin Finnigan looking at definitions within
special education and inclusion. They found, not surprisingly, that there is disagreement that people use the
terms, "inclusion'' and "integration'' as the same while in fact the terms have very different meanings. I am
interested to see that study because perhaps we can take some guidance from the international definition.
Senator Pearson: I know that Ontario has used the term "exceptionality'' because they encompass in
that "exceptionally gifted children.'' There is a need to encompass that and the need of intervention sometimes
may not fit that particular category.
In New Brunswick, there is a directive that teachers should not ask parents to ask their doctors to prescribe
Ritalin. It is an interesting and challenging rights issue. We must find a answers to the questions on whose
advice we should medicate our children and are we over-prescribing for the wrong reasons?
Mr. MacKay: You raise a very good point about the Ontario definition. Just to finish that one off, New
Brunswick does not include the word "gifted'' in "exceptional,'' which is interesting.
Concerning the Ritalin question we did hear from Ombudsman Richard who I think was meeting with you in Saint
John. That was certainly one of the things he talked about and we have heard from some others. We certainly have
heard about the growing number of diagnosis of students with ADD and ADHD. I think the important question is who
is making the diagnosis.
I do not have any medical information one way or the other to debate on this, but how much of that should be
a doctor's view? Where is the role of the parents in it? Do parents have some say in whether or not their child
should have Ritalin? This is the directive from the department has set out as to what role should parents or
principals have in saying, you know, "We think your child should go on Ritalin. He would do a lot better.'' That
is a tough question because again somewhat like the label, once you are on Ritalin then, you know, again I am
not medical but there are debates on both sides. It is probably good for some people and it seems to help them
to work effectively. On the other hand, what are some of the consequences and side effects of the drug?
I suppose I cannot answer the question and I do not know if Ombudsman Richard did, whether there is really
over- prescribing because I do not know how many students there are with ADD where it is necessary or how
effective it is as a response.
I suppose one of the things I would say, and we have heard this from a lot of witnesses, is that we should
perhaps spend more time looking at alternatives before we have a medical answer. There other effective ways to
respond to students with ADD other than medical responses.
I do not really have any answers. We have heard about it, not a huge amount, which does not mean it is not a
big issue. I know it is a big issue for the ombudsman.
I am interested that New Brunswick does not have a child advocate. Many issues concerning education in New
Brunswick go to either the ombudsman or the Human Rights Commission.
The Chairman: Mr. MacKay, as usual you have generated a lot of interest and given us a lot to think
about. You have framed some of our questions in new ways, and given us some of the answers that I think we can
incorporate into our study. Thank you for your paper and thank you for your presence today.
Dr. Douglas McMillan, Professor of Pediatrics, IWK Health Centre: Thank
you very much, Madam Chair and members of the committee. Sitting on my left and providing the first team back-up
is Jane Mealey who is Vice- President at the IWK Health Centre. I should indicate that we will be speaking on
behalf of the IWK Health Centre as it relates to Dalhousie University, not just the injury program. Anne Cogdon
is on my right and Ryan Thompson on my far right.
We are pleased to have an opportunity to contribute to your committee's examination of Canada's obligation
under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and whether Canada's legislation, as it applies
to children, meets our obligations under this convention.
As past President of the Canadian Paediatric Society, I would also like to indicate that Senator Landon
Pearson and colleagues in the Canadian Senate are well-recognized by the Canadian Paediatric Society, the
Canadian Association of Paediatric Health Centres, and other organizations for their activities on behalf of
Canadian children and youth.
I would like to begin with a quote from Dr. Meharban Singh, former Head of Pediatrics at the All India
Institute of Medical Sciences in New Delhi, India.
Children are the seeds and future of any nation. Their mothers are the soil which provides the nutrients
The well-being of children and youth is multi-faceted with many directly or indirectly involve health. World
Health Day, April 7, 2005 provided an important message in four parts. Healthy mothers and children are the real
wealth of societies. Too many mothers and children are suffering and dying each year. Millions of lives could be
saved using the knowledge we have today. The challenge is to transform this knowledge into action.
I would suggest that a similar challenge exists in Canada and in order to make a difference, we must all join
forces and act. Together we can do it. Each of us has a role to play on the global stage or in the Canadian
As the committee is aware, Canada is a proud signatory to the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the
Child, the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child and the sale of children, child
prostitution and child pornography and the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the
involvement of children in armed conflict. While we recognize that we have taken steps to improve the well-being
of children in Canada and elsewhere in the world, our obligations at home and abroad present continuing
challenges. In supporting the convention,
The child, by reason of his or her physical and mental immaturity, needs special safeguards and care and
appropriate legal protection before and after birth.
We must not only be seen to contribute; we must achieve better results. Perhaps no country can fully meet
article 4 on the Convention on the Rights of the Child:
To undertake all appropriate legislative and other administrative measures for the implementation of rights
recognized in the present convention.
With regard to economic, social and cultural rights, state parties shall
undertake measures to the maximum extent of their available resources and where needed within the framework
of international cooperation.
However, we would like to focus on seven areas where we believe that we can do better: mothers, injuries,
violence and abuse, education, poverty including the poverty of opportunity, recreation, health services and
supporting the UN Millennium Development Goals.
Today 1,400 women will die of pregnancy-related causes. As in another presentation, that is equivalent to
four jumbo jets full of women crashing; 530,000 women per year. Today 30,000 children under the age of five will
die and many more mothers and children suffer either short-term or long-term disabilities. The deaths include 4
million who die in the first month after birth and a million adolescents who die of violence, pregnancy-related
and treatable illnesses.
In some areas of the world if a mother dies in childbirth, the baby has only a 50 per cent chance of reaching
his or her fifth birthday. While many parts of the world struggle to have trained birth attendants at all
deliveries, Canada is faced with a decreasing number of family physicians providing care during birth. Midwives
are relatively few and nursing is facing their own human services crisis. Our most disadvantaged will likely
continue to be our Aboriginal people, new immigrants, and youth.
In many parts of the world the lack of readily available water means that children, most often girls, travel
to remote distances to collect the water, which often prohibits their attendance at school. This lack of
education is associated with earlier pregnancies, shorter birth spacing, decreased earning power and increased
While our focus is on the obligation of Canada under the Convention of the Rights of the Child, we must
remember that the determinants of well-being include psychosocial, environmental, economic, educational and
cultural factors. This is as true in Canada as it is elsewhere in the world. We have responsibilities to
mothers, children and youth both in Canada and on a global basis.
In the area of injuries, violence and abuse, injuries including poisoning count for almost one third of the
deaths of children one to four years of age. Some of our societies are at even greater risk. The Canadian
Council on Social Development Highlights the Progress of Canada's Children 2003 indicates that Aboriginal
children are more likely to die from injuries. Violence is an increasing concern. One might well question
whether article 17 (e) of the convention to encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the
protection of the child from information and material injurious to his health or her well-being is enough to
protect our children and youth.
Do our injury prevention programs need expansion to the media where children are routinely exposed to
Anger management programs may need greater implementation in our schools. Some current school regulations
have children suspended from school until a mental health assessment report but it may take months to get an
appointment for that assessment during which time the child is out of school, probably in contravention of
Violence, depression and low self-esteem are often contributing factors to suicide, a significant cause of
death in youth as well as adults.
In British Columbia 40 per cent of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender youth have dramatically low
self-esteem and 46 per cent have attempted suicide at least once. We must be more effective in reaching out to
the marginalized segment of society, especially our children and youth.
The Canadian Council on Social Development reports a survey of Aboriginal youth in Ontario that reveals that
61 per cent of female respondents and 35 per cent of males had experienced some form of sexual abuse. This
reaches other elements of our society without regard for socio-economic status.
While Canada has prosecuted individuals engaged in sexual exploitation of children in other countries, as
supported by the Optional Protocol on the Convention of the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child
prostitution and child pornography, there still remains much to be done at home.
Article 19 indicates
That state parties shall take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and education measures to
protect the child from all forms of physical or mental violence, injury or abuse or negligent treatment or
exploitation including sexual abuse while in the care of parent(s), legal guardians(s), or any other person
who has care of the child.
We overheard some brief discussion about bill 43 from the legal profession and I would suggest that the
present legislation does not effectively protect the child from violence from parents and guardians. Evidence
suggests that the child exposed to violence learns violence and this leads to a perpetuating cycle in future
generations. Current legislative and administrative steps are not enough. More social and educational measures
are required, perhaps expanding upon our programs that are initiated in some schools.
In the area of education, article 28 of the convention addresses the right to education. Although we have a
system of universal education, 15 per cent of young Canadian men and 9 per cent of young women fail to complete
high school. We must not only provide a system but also do so in a manner that optimizes utilization.
Article 23 indicates that states parties recognize that mentally or physically disabled children should enjoy
a full and decent life in conditions that ensure dignity, promote self-reliance and facilitate the child's
active participation in the community.
Chronic conditions and disability affect more than 10 per cent of Canadian children, often interfering with
their education. While we do better with physical disabilities, it is often difficult to get children into
appropriate assessment and treatment programs, especially for mental health and learning disabilities. This has
serious adverse effects on their education and future contributions to society and often represents a disconnect
in the responsibility of the education and health sectors.
Throughout the world, there is poverty and it should also be remembered that we have poor in Canada. The 2002
Canadian Council Report on Canadian Children indicated that 18.5 per cent of Canadian children live in
"poverty.'' Although this number is down from 21.3 per cent in 1993, it is higher than the 15.2 per cent
incidence in 1989 when the Canadian House of Commons unanimously committed to eliminate child poverty by the
The link of poverty with poor health, increased exposure to violence and decreased educational opportunities
exists throughout the world, and in this area, we are seen to be doing less than our nation's resources indicate
should be done. This is perhaps particularly true for our Aboriginal people and recent immigrants and families.
While our educational system has many positive impacts, schools are asked to do more as 63 per cent of
children under the age of 15 in two parent families have both parents working full-time.
In other areas of the world a safe water source close to home may enhance educational opportunities. The
solution for Canadian children is more complex. Many of us have had periods of financial limitations that may
have even met the definition of `poverty.' That definition certainly applied to me while I was going to
university. The difference is that we have hope and opportunity and it may well be that the perceived lack of
opportunity contributes to the use of alcohol, tobacco and drugs as well as limiting education in some who
cannot see the hope for the future. We must find a way to more effectively reach those in need to provide
opportunities to become contributing members of society.
Article 31 addresses the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational
activities. Unfortunately, Canadian children are becoming less engaged in the latter. A recent report indicates
that in grade 11 students, only approximately 10 per cent exercise an hour a day throughout the week. This was
something that was unheard of when I was going to school as we had lots of opportunity with parks, with
schoolyards and with organized program activities.
While in some areas stunting of growth and underweight are major problems Canadian children are becoming
increasingly overweight. This may be partly related to children spending more time in front of a screen as well
as poor nutritional habits. Poor nutritional habits also have a strong link with limited financial resources.
Canada's national action plan, A Canada Fit for Children when implemented, could significantly contribute
to the resolution of this problem. It might also be expected that the provision of alternate activities and
outlets may decrease some other adverse behaviours in children and youth.
Elsewhere in the world structured educational programs and refugee camps are endeavouring to address the
adverse effects of war on children and youth. In Canada there needs to be ongoing consideration for physical
well-being of our children, youth and adults.
Provision of health services in Canada is generally good, although there are significant problems with access
in some areas. As costs of care continue to increase we must focus efforts on prevention and health promotion.
Although article 33 does not refer to tobacco and alcohol, clearly our children need protection against the
pressures for use that currently exist.
Article 24 recognizes the right of the child to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health
and to facilities for the treatment of illness and rehabilitation of health. As healthcare providers, we
recognize the importance of prevention. New immunizations for pneumococcus, meningococcus, and chicken pox
recommended by the National Advisory Committee on Immunization, the Canadian Paediatric Society were variably
implemented across Canada. As the responsibility was provincial, implementation of a nationally recognized
standard resulted in children across Canada getting unequal access to health prevention while some provinces
paid for this new immunization and others required parental payment.
In Canada we must find a better way to address provincial disparities and care, especially for children and
youth. On a global basis, measles, a preventable disease with immunization, is responsible for the death of
400,000 children each year. We must find a better way for health programs, especially those related to
prevention, to actually reach those in need. This will need to consider the many barriers and enhancers which
exist in all societies.
In the global arena, Canada has endorsed the following UN Millennium Development Goals. We endorsed the
eradication of extreme poverty and hunger; and the achievement of universal primary education. We endorse
promoting gender equality, the empowerment of women and the reduction of child mortality under age five by two-
thirds by 2015. We endorse improving maternal health with a three-quarter reduction in maternal mortality by
2015. We endorse the combat of HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases and endorse the measures to ensure
environmental sustainability and develop a global partnership for development. Many Canadians are urging greater
action in this area.
As late as three days ago, I received information from the Canadian Coalition for Global Health Research that
we urged the Group of Eight meeting in July 2005 to strengthen national health systems, support and enlarge
health worker capacity, overcome macroeconomic challenges, address health worker needs in high-income countries,
support international organization and ensure soundness of donor programs. While Canada should increase its
contributions to the 0.7 per cent of Gross National Product promised in the days of Prime Minister Lester B.
Pearson, it is simply not enough to provide funds. Our contributions must be measured not by input, such as
dollars, but by output, well-being. Canadians should continue to insist that programs at home and abroad be
based on locally-recognizable and supported needs, and be able to be evaluated to aid replication or elimination
and be sustainable for the future.
In summary, Canada has done much to meet its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
However, there remains much to do to ensure that our programs reach those in need and that they have the desired
effects. We must ensure that these programs are sustainable for the future.
The United Nations Children's Fund published an extensive report, The State of the World's Children, 2002.
While supporting such efforts, we should consider whether a similar document, a report card, should be regularly
published for Canadian children and youth.
I would like to finish on a personal note. I believe that Canada as a nation would do well following the
advice once given to me by my father, paraphrased as, "We must always forge ahead ourselves and help others
along with us.'' Thank you for the opportunity to make a small contribution to this important process.
Senator Pearson: I thank you very much for your presentation and for the reminders of some of the
issues that confront us in Canada as well as around the world.
We are not going to deal with around the world today. We are just going to try to focus on our more
challenging problems here at home. The Canadian Paediatric Society, of which you were the past president, has
been doing increasingly good work in your position papers and so on, very, very helpful stuff.
We are interested when children talk to us and say what they perceive as their problems and issues in the
health area. I have already raised this before but we did hear from a young person in New Brunswick who was very
much concerned with some of the prescription drug abuses, oxytocin and things of that sort and we have also
heard from young people who are concerned about sexually-transmitted diseases and issues around lack of
education and so on about their emerging sexuality and the implications of their activity.
Dr. McMillan: I will make an initial comment and then maybe Anne and Jane could add in further. While
on the CPS Board I had the opportunity to sit on the adolescent health committee which is quite different from
my usual taking care of newborn babies. I became increasingly aware of how the youth are as culturally from
children and from adults as many ethnic groups. If we try to have one model that fits all or we divide things
into children and adults, the youth get left somewhere in the middle. Although there is a universal health
system, it does not effectively reach many of the youth the same way as it does not reach some other areas of
our community. I think that we have the knowledge. I think that we need to do better at actually reaching the
people on the subjects of drugs, alcohol, sexually transmitted diseases staying in school, or preparing for
parenting. I think these are all issues that we need to find a better way of reaching the involved people.
Ms. Anne Cogdon, Director for Primary Health, IWC Health Centre: Yes, one of
the things that we have tried to deal at the Capital Health District is to address some of the issues you have
talked about related to youth health. To that end, we have established youth health centres in every one of our
high schools. We have a public health nurse who runs a centre in each of the high schools. The nurse also visits
the junior high school that is part of the high school. The youth health centres have been operating for two
The most common reason for youth visits is to discuss relationship-related issues. They tell us that the
health centres enable them to access help concerning stress and relationships with their parents and their
peers. They have concerns about intimate relationships and issues related to gender identity sexuality and drug
and tobacco use.
Although it is a wonderful resource, it is not enough. We see the need to provide the serve to children in
grade 8. They do well in grade 7 and then something happens between grade 7 and 8 in that summer and all sorts
of indicators follow at that point in time. Their behavioural issues come to the fore, identity issues, and
those kinds of things. We need a larger resource for children in that junior high level.
As a result of our success with the teen health centres there is an indication that the program will become
part of a province wide initiative. Again, that is a resource issue.
In our area and in Dartmouth the youth, grades 4-12 have participated in a youth survey developed by the
Search Institute. A number of school districts across Canada have used this survey, which measures children's
There are 40 developmental assets and the survey indicates that as the children age their assets drop.
Children start out in grades 4-6 with 25 assets out of a possible 40 and by the time they get to grades 7-12
they have 16 assets. Assets such as decision-making, feeling a sense of value in the community, and feeling they
have caring, adult role models, all drop as children age.
We have a lot of work to do with this information collected from the youth.
Ms. Jane Mealey, Vice-President, Children's Health, IWK Health Centre: We
also have a large group of youth with disabilities and those young people have the same issues as I will not
call them "normal'' youth without disabilities.
Our challenge is to help those youth integrate into their social environment while coping with disabilities
and often with the challenge of poverty. We have not solved those problems at either the provincial or the
Senator Pearson: Young people use the school clinics more frequently than centres that are more
difficult to access. I am pleased to hear about these clinics because I think young people think of the public
health system in a positive way.
I am aware of your assets program in terms of learning about health behaviours. The McCreary Centre Society
has a similar system in British Columbia. It is a tool used with young people and often organized by young
people themselves to get their needs answered. I think it is a fairly accurate reflection of where kids think
they are in their environment.
I can remember Dr. Graham Chance from the Canadian Institute of Child Health, talking about how mental health
issues really hit in adolescence. I can confirm his statement having raised five adolescents myself.
I would like you to say some more about the capacity or lack thereof in the system to respond to the mental
health needs of children and adolescents.
Ms. Mealey: That is a major challenge for us in Nova Scotia. Over the years, we have conducted
numerous reports on mental health, and even with increasing resource to support mental health, we have two and
one half year waiting lists for those youth not critically ill. Children and youth that have attempted suicide
or created major problems at home or in their environment receive immediate assistance, but otherwise the wait
is too long for youth with mental health issues.
We need to have better access for youth children and families to assessment. We look to the school to observe
the child's ability to function and determine whether their problem is a behavioural disorder or if it is mental
As Doug said, the school often suspends the child for bad behaviour and then he or she has to wait for up to
two and a half years to get assessment. This wait time is too long.
We are making progress but it is a resource issue in terms of financial resources to support what appears to
be an ever-growing need. We find that adults suffer from the same problems in accessing mental health care. They
have difficulty finding qualified professional psychologists, social workers and psychologists. These
professionals make up a team of mental health care service providers. We do not have enough child psychiatrists
in the country. They have a unique skill set and we do not produce enough of them to fill our mental health
Ms. Cogdon: I totally agree. One of the responsibilities that I have within my job is to do community
consultations. We have a system in Nova Scotia where we have community health boards and their function is to
relate to the community, to be the eyes, ears and voice of the community and bring that information into the
Access to mental health services is a concern for families in need of help and information for children and
youth with mental health issues. Parents are in need of support to deal with their child's problems. They need
advice on how to be the best possible parent in their circumstances.
Last fall, we conducted a telephone survey of 1,400 people across our district. We asked people to reflect on
the major health issues related to children. The survey indicates that the foremost issue for children is a
stable and supportive family. Then we asked them to reflect on what action we should take. Sixty per cent
answered that they need help with parenting skills.
We have to help the child and equally important, we have to help the parents of a child with mental health
issues. Parents want to be the best support possible for their children.
Senator Pearson: I believe your findings match the results from the Invest in Kids survey conducted in
Toronto. The results of that survey indicate that parents believe that their job as parents is the most
important role that they play in their lives. It also indicates that they do not know how to do properly and
they do not feel valued for their work with their children.
Senator Mercer: My reading and studies show that one of the most significant problems is that young
parents thrust into parenthood are unsure of their parenting abilities. As I always say, children do not come
I was 25 years of age when I became a parent and it was a scary experience. Image the fear parenthood would
bring to a 16 or 18 year old.
This issues goes to preventative medicine and preventative care. Have you been able to track the
effectiveness of teaching parenting skills? Are there cases where you have had effective parenting skills
training and then seen a decline in certain problems that you might have anticipated?
Ms. Cogdon: Unfortunately, we do not have a good system of parenting programs. We have excellence in
pockets. I think that is our problem. I think we need a broader reach. Parents require education and other
supports to be the best parents they can be. Parents need adequate housing and finances to shelter and feed
their children in a healthy way. All of these supports contribute to the well-being of the child and assist
parents in their role of raising their children.
I cannot recall the research on the effectiveness of parenting skills but I am sure it is out there. The
literature points to the need to give parents those tools and to do it from their perspective. We realize that
our program is not suitable for everyone. Programs must relate to the socio-economic level and their specific
We have an interesting project underway Dartmouth. The family resource centre in that city performs a great
service in reaching out to parents and offers a comprehensive approach to new parents. The centre welcomes
parents into an inviting atmosphere and provides them with supports to raise their children in the best possible
The centre provides public health services and heath and speech and language therapists. It offers reading
programs and links parents with the food bank services. Therefore, it has to be a very comprehensive approach.
Dr. McMillan: The Read to Me program at the IWK Health Centre encourage child-parent interaction while
educating the child. Parents receive books and instructions on reading bedtime stories. This program is
beneficial to both parent and child.
As to the issue of newborn children, we need more studies on their post-natal environment. I really think
that from the research standpoint and indeed, for all the programs that we have, that we should have an
evaluation to know what works and what does not work.
Senator Mercer: One of the issues with young parents, particularly very young parents is self-esteem
and the belief they can tackle the big bad world and successfully raise a child in it. It is difficult to teach
self-esteem. I see that as significant part of the equation in trying to solve some of those health and social
Dr. Ryan Thompson, MHSA Resident, IWK Health Centre: I would like to
comment regarding the parenting skills, as I am a young parent myself. It is not necessarily that the skills are
not there. Yes, there definitely can be improvement. However the problem is the time I spend with my child. In
many homes both parents work and they shuttle their kids to daycare and they see their kids for maybe two or
three hours a day, and maybe on weekends depending on their employment situation.
The trouble is not enough time to make an impact on your child. It gets back to the self-esteem part. If you
are not around your children, you cannot be that role model and provide that role model. It is difficult for
parents to be role models when they are out working to pay for the housing and food. They are busy doing other
things. It is difficult to make an impression when you are not with the child.
Senator Oliver: Part of my question has been answered but I am going to put it anyway. First, thank
you for your presentations that dealt with both national and international issues.
Dr. McMillan's c.v. indicates experience in educational programs for healthcare professionals in places like
India, China, Bangladesh, Laos, Philippines, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and so on.
We have been in Sweden and Switzerland and in a number of provinces hearing from witnesses and one of the
things that I would like to hear from the four of you is about the UN Covenant on the Rights of the Child in
Nova Scotia and, in particular, at the Isaak Walton Killam Hospital.
What type of education and training is there for staff on the rights of the children? Do most people
understand what these rights are and, if not, what measures are you taking to help the staff understand
What new things would you recommend to this committee that we take with us as ways to implement the various
rights of the child insofar as they relate to healthcare issues?
Ms. Mealey: On a day-to-day basis we probably do not educate and remind staff of the rights of the
children based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. We do have that information available and
posted. We include it in our philosophy of care. We make sure our staff has the proper credentials. Our general
philosophy include the covenant in our family-centered facility. We have a child abuse registry. We talk about
the rights of children and youth and parents to be involved in their care. We have done work around the rights
of children in hospital and healthcare settings. Our family-centered care literature ties very nicely into the
rights of children and the rights of youth.
Our overall approach is embedded in the rights of children, youth and the family. The IWK is a very strong
family- centered, family-focused environment that strives to ensure that children and families are an integral
part of their care. They are integral in their decision making. We have just, for example, revised and
implemented our policy on consent to treatment that engages and involves our adolescents in making those
decisions and they can consent or refuse to consent. Senators are aware that here in Nova Scotia there is not a
legal age of consent.
Senator Oliver: What are the youngest ages of participation?
Ms. Mealey: Children from the age of eight, nine and 10 are always involved in the discussions. We
feel that they are capable of telling us what they want by that age. Obviously, when we are dealing with
children with cancer and cardiac disease, there is a lot of parent involvement. However, the 15 year-old
adolescent faced with a transplant who understands what that heart transplant means to him, has the right to
say, "This is not how I want my life to go forward.'' In that situation we help the youth in his decision-making
process. It is a very challenging area but our policy in particular gives us the opportunity to ensure that
children are actively engaged in that dialog, and the same applies with engaging our families in making
decisions around their children.
Senator Oliver: I am familiar with some of the work that Dr. John Anderson and Dr. Reese did in that
Ms. Mealey: Yes.
Dr. McMillan: I will comment that we provide care to the best of our ability. However, having read the
Convention of the Rights of the Child, I realize that it is a good idea to reread the document. We are probably
not aware of all the issues on the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Indeed, as I started to reread the
document an enormous number of issues came to my attention. I refer to our immigration policy, which may
separate families and a child's right to education. All these are in balance and I think that as a healthcare
professionals we would all do better to examine the covenant in more detail. I am going to make this a
challenge. I think we could all do better in that regard.
Ms. Mealey: As we think beyond the walls of the IWK and we think about our issues with our young
people and access to mental health services, we need to go back and think about the rights of the child and the
young person to access care and proper nutrition. We need to tie those needs back into our local, provincial and
I think the IWK has a huge role in advocating and using this as a source document as we look to policy
Ms. Cogdon: Jane just made me think about something which is around the whole issue of food security.
We have provincial numbers indicating that a minimum wage family of four or a social assistance family of four
cannot afford to buy a healthy food basked as identified by Canada's Nutritious Food Basket which, in our
province costs $572.90.
The numbers take into consideration the cost of shelter and participation but do not include recreation
medication or meaningful participation in the community.
A two-parent family with two children earning minimum wage for one parent and part-time minimum wage for the
other parent ends up minus $292 every month when all expenses are included in the formula.
A two-parent family with two children on income assistance is minus $277 every month. If you are a single
parent family with two children on minimum wage, you are below $392 every month. If you are a lone parent family
with two children on income assistance, you are below by $153 every month.
You can imagine the stress that brings to a family and all the other things that come with that stress.
The Chairman: I think we have run out of time but I want to thank you for your presentations and echo
what Senator Oliver said that I am particularly pleased that you put Canada in an international context. Not
only does it point out the severe problems we have around the world with children, it points out that in
relative terms we have to do a lot better in Canada. The poverty statistics are particularly disturbing although
the numbers you are using are probably more optimistic than the recent figures. I think Canadians a lot to think
about in terms of feeding our children properly.
I want to commend your centre for using the rights-based approach and the convention and I strongly suspect
that we have many good practitioners across this country who work for the best interests of children. However,
the convention talks about the child's rights as opposed to what others believe is in their best interests and
so I think that emphasis may be the key to triggering some of the success stories.
I was rather touched by hearing you talk about involving a child in making decisions about transplants, et
cetera. In the past, when a child had a problem and said "no'' to the transplant and if the parent said "no,''
we would call welfare services. I do not think we would have had the consent discussion that you are talking
about so perhaps we are starting to make inroads into the intent of the convention.
We thank you for being supportive and hopefully our report will spur others and be of some benefit to all of
you. So, we thank you for coming.
Ms. Mealey: I was struck by your conversation with Mr. MacKay and the subject of Ritalin and
schoolchildren. The use of Ritalin is an easy answer to a complex question; it is a quick fix.
We had some major reports by Mr. Romanow and Senator Kirby looking at the issues surrounding access to
services and wait lists. It is interesting to note that access to diagnostic imaging services, access to hip
replacements, access to cardiac surgery, access to public health homecare are related to adult issues. What we
do not see are the issues surrounding children's access to assessment.
We have children in school who have to be put on Ritalin because they are waiting for two and a half or three
years to get a pre-school assessment.
I would hate to say that it is because children do not vote but children's issues are not noticed. There is a
huge adult voice around, "I am waiting two years to get my hip replaced.''
Only recently are we hearing the voice of children with autism. We know that across our country, parents are
dealing with huge burdens with these children who have huge problems. We have to find a way to look at the
problems associated with our children, because as Doug has said, they are our future and even children with
disabilities are our future.
I encourage the committee to look at those problems in the context of the covenant.
Dr. McMillan: As a clinician I see an opportunity to better use my clinical skills and not rely on the
technology. As a program developer, I see the impact and the influence of economic, social, environmental and
other aspects of health that are magnified in other areas of the world, but are just as relevant here in Canada.
The Chairman: I appreciate it and I appreciate the last comments. Our committee has many more hearings
but because the health issue is such a timely one at this point, we may have to consider doing something rather
quickly to ensure that this health debate includes the children and particularly the assessment to which you
Senator Mercer and I sit on the legal and constitutional committee and we see children who find themselves in
court because we have failed to deal with their mental health issues when they were young.
Perhaps we need to do include ourselves in the health debate now and not wait until our report is finalized.
We thank your for your time and your opinions.
The committee adjourned.
HALIFAX, Thursday, June 16, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 1:10 p.m. to examine and report upon Canada's
international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Senators, we are pleased to welcome this afternoon Ms. Elaine Ferguson, Executive
Director, Child Care Connection Nova Scotia.
The floor is yours, Ms. Ferguson.
Ms. Elaine Ferguson, Executive Director, Child Care Connection Nova Scotia:
Madam Chair, senators, Child Care Connection Nova Scotia is a community-based development organization for child
care and our primary clients are child care practitioners. The purpose of our development projects and modest
infrastructure is to enable these child care practitioners to be the best they can be in their delivery of child
care services to children and their families. We believe that investments in children will be maximized through
recognizing, valuing and supporting the development of an effective, quality, early childhood community in Nova
Scotia. Our vision is that there will be a comprehensive, coordinated early childhood community that maximizes
resources; that early childhood practitioners in Nova Scotia will be self-confident, skilled and professional;
and that there will be a favourable public image of child care practice. I have included our annual report to
stakeholders in Appendix A that will tell you more about our activities.
This presentation will focus on legislation and policy related to early learning and child care, and
specifically articles 3.3, 18.2 and 18.3 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Article
3.3 relates to policy and legislation that affects the part of child care practitioners in meeting our country's
obligations under the CRC. To provide a voice for the children that these practitioners care for and about, I
have included their comments on their teachers in both visual and verbal form. Articles 18.2 and 18.3 relate to
parents' accessibility to child care services.
Canadian society has undergone a profound change in recent years, a change that has prompted public officials
to pledge their commitment to increasing positive outcomes for children. We now have a public policy framework
that supports good outcomes for children. Under the umbrella of the National Children's Agenda, NCA, and
following the basic parameters for improving social programs described in the Social Union Framework Agreement,
SUFA, Canada's first ministers committed to the Early Childhood Development Initiative, ECDI, which pledged
funding to strengthen early childhood development, learning and care.
It states that every child should be valued and have opportunities to develop his or her unique physical,
emotional, intellectual, spiritual and creative potential. Building on this commitment, the federal, provincial
and territorial ministers responsible for social services agreed to make additional investments in the specific
area of early learning and child care, based on the recognition that child care plays an important role in
meeting national goals. The Multilateral Framework on Early Learning and Child Care, ELCC, provides the
framework for increased funding specifically for provincially and territorially regulated early learning and
child care programs.
In November of 2004, the federal, provincial and territorial ministers of social services agreed to the QUAD
principles of quality, universally-inclusive, accessible and developmental. This national policy framework will
further advance the ability of the child care sector to do its part in meeting Canada's obligations under the
CRC. The CRC article 3.3 states:
States Parties shall ensure that the institutions, services and facilities responsible for the care or
protection of children shall conform with the standards established by competent authorities, particularly in
the areas of safety, health, in the number and suitability of their staff, as well as competent supervision.
Two types of standards or regulations are important to ensuring the quality of child care provided:
government regulation and sector self-regulation. In the government regulation area we call the standards
licensing regulations. They help to reduce or eliminate three broad areas of risk that threaten children's
health and well-being while they attend child care programs. They are safety hazards, health hazards, and
developmental impairment hazards. The area of developmental impairment is relatively new and is based on a
growing body of evidence that children's early years' experiences have a lifelong impact.
Does Canada's legislation as it applies to children meet our obligations under article 3.3? All provinces and
territories in Canada have standards that have to be met in order for a child care service to be licensed. While
these standards or regulations vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, overall there is not a wide variance and,
overall, children are safe. However, when we consider the area of developmental impairment, the "number and
suitability of staff as well as competent supervision'' as required by regulation, becomes important.
Licensing rules or standards do not protect children. They help people to protect children through
structuring the caregiving environment. However, the staff must have the basic theoretical and practical
knowledge to interpret and apply the standards. As well, they must have the knowledge and expertise to apply
what cannot be regulated sensitive, informed caregiving practice that stimulates children's development.
People always make the difference. People are the first layer of defence against harm. The theoretical knowledge
and experience of the practitioner will be reflected in the layers of preventive practice and informs all
preventive measures taken in any given circumstance. Ideally, preventive practice identifies when a risk becomes
a hazard and appropriate measures are then taken.
The most efficient and available means of ensuring that people intervene before risk becomes hazard is
through regulating the credentials of professional program staff in all programs. Post-secondary training in
early childhood care and education provides the knowledge to assess these hazards and plan or act accordingly.
Currently, in Canada, the ratio of trained to untrained staff in legislation ranges from no trained staff
required in Nunavut and Northwest Territories to two out of three staff in Nova Scotia and Manitoba.
Administrators of child care services must have an Early Childhood Care and Education credential in Alberta,
Quebec, Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia and Manitoba.
Dr. Gillian Doherty notes that caregiver training, ratio and group size have been referred to as the "iron
triangle'' that supports quality in child care programs. Maximum desired levels are identified in her work, and
the Canadian Child Care Federation National Statement on Quality Child Care and the National Health
and Safety Performance Standards Guidelines for Out-of-Home Child Care Programs identify similar
recommended adult-child ratios and group sizes.
The National Health Safety Performance Standards Guidelines for Out-of-Home Child Care Programs,
published in 1992, was developed by the American Public Health Association in cooperation with the American
Academy of Paediatrics. It documents 981 standards most needed for the prevention of injury, morbidity and
mortality in child care settings. The standards were reduced to 182 and are now published as Stepping Stones
to Using Caring for Our ChildrenProtecting Children from Harm. These standards serve as the most critical
and logical starting points for administrators in their planning of policy and regulatory revisions as well as
parents, child care and health professionals who are most concerned about protecting children from harm in child
Table 1 on page 6 gives you the guidelines for staff to child ratio and maximum group size and, if we look at
the infants, which would be the zero to 12 months, we see that the staff to child ratio is one to three, and the
maximum group size is six.
A provincial and territorial comparison of ratios and group sizes in centres is provided on page 7. Some
provinces and territories have similar group sizes and ratios for some age groups as is recommended by
Stepping Stones. Of concern would be those provinces and territories with regulations that exceed those
recommended, in particular ratios and group sizes for infants.
Table 2 on page 7 shows the rations and group sizes for infants across for the provinces and territories. In
New Brunswick, as recommended in Stepping Stones, the ratio is one to three, but the maximum number in a
group is nine infants, three more than is recommended.
In Nova Scotia the ration is one to four, so that is one teacher for four infants, and a group size of 10. A
conundrum we face in the regulations here is that we do not know how we can have half a person with 10 children.
In Quebec, the numbers are even more alarming. The ratio is one to 5 and a group size of 15. I started my
child care career taking care of children under the age of one. They were as young as one month old and up to 12
months old. We had a ratio of one to three. I cannot imagine looking after 15 infants, even with three people
working together. That is a concern.
I will now touch on sector standards. Occupational standards and standards of practice, as determined by the
child care sector, identify core pre-service training and a foundation for early childhood care and education
training guidelines. Occupational standards and standards of practice have been developed by the Canadian Child
Care Federation through broad consultation with child care practitioners. Vehicles for certification of
practice, classification of credentials and registry of ongoing professional development are in place in some
provinces and territories and being developed in others. For instance, Nova Scotia has a voluntary certification
of practice process for both early childhood educators and early childhood centre administrators. Alberta's
Children's Services, in partnership with the Alberta Child Care Network and the Canadian Child Care Federation,
have developed an accreditation process for group and family home agency child care programs. This process is a
means to evaluate and recognize best practices in child care programs.
The Canadian Child Care Federation has developed an accreditation model for post-secondary early childhood
care and education programs. Through this accreditation process these programs demonstrate accountability to the
child care sector and to society in their provision of training to increase good outcomes for children.
As a developing profession, child care is at a point where collective standards are developed for practice
and the delivery of child care to children and parents. These are professional standards and practised on a
voluntary basis. Sanctions are not in place for non-compliance. Legislative recognition is in its infancy with a
number of provinces and territories at various stages in its development.
UNCRC article 18.2 states:
For the purpose of guaranteeing and promoting the rights set forth in the present convention, States
Parties shall render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their
child-rearing responsibilities and shall ensure the development of institutions, facilities and services for
the care of children.
Article 18.3 states:
States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure that children of working parents have the
right to benefit from child care services and facilities for which they are eligible.
The federal, provincial and territorial ministers of social services, in agreeing to the QUAD principles for
a national child care system, have recognized that a child care system is necessary to support parents in their
child rearing responsibilities. Building a system will require that the current patchwork of services is
stabilized, expanded and enhanced so that it provides a standard of quality care that will optimize children's
growth and development and meet parents' needs.
Does Canada's legislation as it applies to children meet these articles? As far as availability to services
goes, even parents who can afford to pay for high-quality, regulated child care, have trouble getting it. In
Nova Scotia, in 2003, 45,300 children had mothers in the paid workforce. The number of regulated child care
spaces in the entire province, including full-day and part-day programs, is 12,194 which would accommodate 27
per cent of the children of working mothers.
As to affordability, costs can also be a barrier. Around the province, child care costs $20 to $28 per day,
per child for full-time care. In 2000, the average income of a Nova Scotia family was $46,523. This means the
average Nova Scotia family with one child in full-time care could spend between 11 and 15 per cent of its total
household income on child care.
Your committee has been asked to examine and report on Canada's international obligations in regards to the
rights and freedoms of children, specifically the obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child
and whether Canada's legislation, as it applies to children, meets these obligations.
Regarding article 3.3, Canada's provincial and territorial governments have established minimum standards to
ensure the health and safety of children in licensed child care. In relation to staff number and qualifications,
there is room for improvement in some provinces and territories and, overall, a need for a goal in all provinces
and territories that staff working with children and families have post-secondary credentials in early childhood
care and education.
The child care sector is a developing profession and professional standards have been developed, and
processes for monitoring these standards are being developed. At this point, adhering to those standards is
voluntary without sanctions in place for non-compliance.
Regarding articles 18.2 and 18.3, a policy framework in the form of the National Children's Agenda, the Early
Childhood Development Agreement, the Multilateral Framework Agreement on Early Learning and Child Care and the
agreement to the QUAD principles for a national child care system provide the environment for an expansion of
services to further meet the needs of parents for accessibility to child care services in terms of availability
The policy framework regarding children that is in effect in Canada at this time and the work of the child
care sector in establishing professional standards across Canada advances Canada's capability to meet the
obligations under the CRC regarding these articles.
Thank you for the opportunity to make this presentation.
Senator Mercer: Thank you for appearing for us and for your excellent presentation. I have three short
questions. My first is: How many groups are members of the Child Care Connection?
My second question relates to government spending. I am a member of a political party that has been trying
for a number of years to appropriately channel money into child care. This is not a political statement; it is a
fact. We have finally started to reach some agreements with some provinces. Do you think that our government
spending will have the desired effect?
My third question relates to ratios. You mentioned a ratio of one to five in Quebec with a maximum of 15
children. Does that reflect the real cost of $7 a day for child care? Does the ratio have to be skewed so that
$7 or somewhere around that dollar figure meets the cost of child care? Is that the sacrifice we have to make?
I had another question about your opinion on whether we are meeting article 18.3, but I think you have
already answered that question.
Ms. Ferguson: Child Care Connections does not have members. We have a constituency. Nova Scotia has
about 15 child care organizations, and Child Care Connections is the only one that has the funds to be able to
provide any kind of infrastructure. The others are voluntary organizations. They rely on professional
development activities and their membership fees. When we were formed, we decided that we did not want to
compete with them. We wanted to support them. On our board of directors, however, we have representatives from
the various child care organizations. They have input, and they set the direction for the organizations so that
each of the organizations has a voice. We also provide our services to the entire child care community in Nova
Scotia, free of charge. We seek outside monies through advertisements. We take a sort of non-profit,
entrepreneurial type of approach. We seek money outside to subsidize costs because there are few financial
resources. We are connected with the other organizations. We do have a constituency. We just do not have
The $5 billion is a wonderful start for us to be able to start building the child care system that we
envision. Of course, the child care sector will need more money than that. However, the $5 billion gives us a
start on it, and we are very pleased about that.
In Nova Scotia we have been assessing the entire child care system and trying to determine how we can use
that money to the best effect in order to build a strong foundation. The approach is to stabilize the existing
system, which means that we have a retention and recruitment issue. We need to attract more young people to the
child care sector. We also need to stabilize the funding. To our delight, our minister in Nova Scotia has
realized that the price that parents pay for child care cannot meet the cost of delivering child care if we are
to deliver quality child care. Of course, in implementing the QUAD principles, we go beyond just keeping
children safe to the point where we enrich the lives of children.
We have to stabilize, and then we need to expand because we need more spaces. Then we have to enhance to meet
the quality criterion. It will have a major effect.
Our minister is committed to keeping the price of care down for parents, so he is looking at ways to increase
the funding to child care centres so that their costs are met and quality care can be provided.
The ratios in Quebec have been the same for a long time. I am not qualified to speak to whether it is an
expensive system. I understand it is around $2 billion per year, which is a lot for one province. However,
knowing of the lifelong returns there will be, I think Quebecers will have a wonderful golden age when those
children reach the point where they will be contributing to the economy.
We are not meeting the provisions of article18.3, which relates to working parents. I believe that Prince
Edward Island cares for about 60 per cent of those children. That number is high, so good for them. In Quebec,
the number is higher but in the other provinces and territories the number would probably be similar to the
number in Nova Scotia's. The number with regard to Manitoba might also be higher.
Senator Pearson: As you know, I come at this from the child's rights perspective as opposed to the
needs of parents. I totally support a universal system that is available for those who want it. However, as a
mother of a rather large family, I am always wary of any message that, somehow, by not having my children in
child care, I may have short- changed them. I do not believe I did. We have to be careful that any message we
convey about the value of child care in early childhood does not imply that parents are less able to provide
that care, if they so choose.
You mention that there are many mothers in the workforce. You do not, however, at the same time, mention that
many fathers are staying at home. Just because mothers are in the workforce does not mean that there is nobody
at home to look after children.
As you know only too well from your long experience, every child is different. Children are more different
when they are little than they tend to be when they are older because they have different rates of development
and so on. In the discussions of quality to meet the QUAD principles, I have argued that there should be
parental involvement. Would you comment on the importance of parental involvement and what you would see as the
ideal situation in any child care centre?
My further question has to do with training. I think that child care is a vital profession. However, not all
people are qualified to be child care workers. I know from my long years of study that there is no consensus on
what comprises healthy child development. What kinds of skills or knowledge do these workers need? You talked
about a theoretical background being necessary for healthy child development. What are the three most important
things that prospective child care workers need to know before they start to work with children?
Ms. Ferguson: Deep down, my reason for being in child care is to help to optimize children's growth
and development. The focus should not be on thinking of children as sort of guaranteed investment certificates.
That view bothers me. I am not comfortable with focussing on what children can do for adults.
However, there are times when I have to use certain phrases to attract listeners, particularly when I want to
make the point that children's lives have to be enriched. I was delighted when quality and the developmental
aspect were included in the design of a national child care system.
A unique aspect of the child care profession is that it is cross-disciplined. We take our theoretical
knowledge and practice from social work, from health and from education. We also take from mothering, not
parenting, mothering. We tend to lean more towards the mothering aspect than the fathering aspect. That results
in a certain gap. When we talk about the nurturing of children, to me that comes from mothering.
As an example of parental involvement, I think of the Peter Green Hall Children's Centre here in Halifax
which is in the married couples' quarters of Dalhousie University. It has been around for a long time. That
centre is located in the building in which the children live. In the lobby you see parents interacting with
their children. Many casual kinds of things happen there. Parents have input through the parent advisory board.
I think that parents should influence child care programs. They should have a voice. Good child care programs
must provide expertise about children as groups. The job of a parent is to be the advocate for the child. A
parent's child is the most important child in a child care centre. That has to be recognized and understood. We
should not try to talk parents out of that of thinking about the group because they need to think about their
child as the most important child in the group. I do not know what I would say would be the ideal situation as
far as parental involvement in child care centres.
Senator Pearson: I know that in Quebec, by law, they must be involved.
Ms. Ferguson: Yes, the centres are parent-run. The boards are made up of parents. I am not comfortable
with that. I believe that there should be parental representation on boards, but I also think that there needs
to be community representation and expertise on child development. I mean a child development perspective that
does not come from the "my child'' perspective. We need a holistic approach because I feel strongly that we, as
communities, bring up children. We have a collective responsibility and we all have roles to play. I think that
the child care centre is a place where that collective responsibility can be demonstrated, that is, a place
where we can demonstrate what we need as citizens and how we need to live together with respect and dignity.
I started in child care without theoretical training. I had a university education in political science, so
that did not help me much, although it may have a bit. However, I had grown up in a Baptist community and I had
taught Sunday school and led the explorers. I was always taking care of the children in my community so what I
learned from that experience was helpful when I went into the child care centre up in Wolfville in 1970.
I recognized, though, that I needed to know more. I needed to know why things were working. I was a child of
the 1960s, so a whole bunch of cultural things affected me. The children taught me a lot. They taught me that it
was not up to me to tell them how to change; it was up to me to work with them and facilitate the skills they
needed to make decisions and to speak out for themselves. When they made choices, my job was to applaud them for
making the choice they did and not to criticize them.
One little girl, Becky, was the most amazing five-year-old girl. Her spirit was strong and free, and she knew
who she was. I thought that was just wonderful. That was the kind of woman I wanted to see leading the world.
One day she came in wearing a frilly dress and, of course, my face dropped. I was 20 years old at that time so I
was still quite idealistic. When I saw her I thought, "Oh, all of the work I have done has gone out the
window.'' Then I realized that Becky had the right to choose. It was not up to me to choose. That is an example
of the kind of skill that child care professionals need. They need to have modesty, and honour and respect for
the children. They should recognize that they have a lot to learn and that children have a lot to teach them.
They need to form relationships with the children relationships in ways that are safe and secure. They should
enjoy each other. That is not to say that there will not be times when you have to problem solve together and
figure out when people's rights are being imposed on, but you must do it in a respectful way. They also need to
know the milestones in child development and what to expect. They should also know how to get help when they do
not know what to do.
Senator Oliver: I am interested in global as well as national standards. A section in your paper deals
with concepts of standardization, national standards certification, credentials, a national registry,
accreditation and finding a way to have best practices apply all across the country and in the territories.
Difficulties in standardization apply across the professions, apart from daycare workers. I think of engineers,
medical doctors and lawyers. Traditionally and historically, the problem we have had in Canada is that each
province wants to maintain the right to regulate and control standards. In the case of law we have a
self-administered bar society that sets its own rules and regulations for its members and it sets its own
standards. What you are proposing is not the Canadian way.
Given the federal system that we have, that the federal government has a lot of the money and the provinces,
under section 92 of the Constitution, have jurisdiction over education and other things. How would you propose
that we bring in these standards? Your statement is that regulations are the tools for establishing basic
standards and that we must to have these basic standards so that the rights of all children can be protected to
the same standard and at the same level. How do we go about doing that?
Ms. Ferguson: I think child care is very Canadian. We are fortunate in the sense that we are very
Canadian but we have been marginalized for so long that we have been able to do what we want. Now it is our time
in the sun and we are going to make hay. We know it is not going to last, but it is our time in the sun. We have
been pulled out of the margins.
Now we have to look at all of the work that we have done. We have a wonderful association, the Canadian Child
care Federation, which is a federation of the various child care organizations in the provinces and territories.
Their member council and their affiliates have exercised tremendous leadership in developing the standards of
practice and the accreditation for early childhood training programs. We are most fortunate in that they have
shown leadership in doing that. For instance, here in Nova Scotia, the Nova Scotia Child Care Association has
accepted the standards of practice developed by the Canadian Child Care Federation. Organizations across Canada
have all been involved in developing those standards of practice.
Senator Oliver: In Nova Scotia if standards of practice are not met by an individual or group, how is
Ms. Ferguson: That is the problem. We cannot enforce sanctions because we do not have the
infrastructure to meet the legal liability of being the people who enforce sanctions.
We are putting together the pieces of the puzzle to know what we need. We have our 10-year professional
development plan in place. However, because we are so under-resourced in child care we do not have the finances
to be able to start it up. We have been doing a fair amount of advocacy and lobbying to try to get to the point
where we have the seed money to start it. After 10 years we will be self-sufficient because we cannot charge our
members $300 to support an organization when they are only making $17,000 a year. It is that kind of an
inventive balance. I learned from my mother in our little Baptist community that, if something needs to be done,
then get it done. That is how we have done it. I am optimistic. We now have a national code of ethics to which
all of the affiliates subscribe. I feel that we are a Canadian organization, too.
Senator Oliver: Touch.
The Chairman: You and I may be the same age because I related to some of the milestones you mentioned.
I do know that safety and security was my priority. I wanted to put my child somewhere that was safe and secure.
Nutrition was my next consideration. I wanted to know that they would be well fed. In later years, entire child
development was the subject of discussion. Should children's behaviour be structured at a young age, or was that
counter-productive? That was the international discussion. At that time there was some focus on the Soviet Union
where children were directed. There was government-driven daycare. There was also the Swedish model that
certainly encouraged involvement.
Now we also have the Quebec model where parents drive the process, that is, they must have a parental role,
front and centre.
Who will set the development agenda? Will it be the Canadian government or the Nova Scotia government? Will
it be the parents who set it, bearing in mind that some children will not be in regulated daycare? Some children
will be in daycare that is an extension of the family and not regulated. Will we have a different standard for
children in regulated daycare? Will we be creating two types of children those who, in the eyes of society,
are more advantaged because they received regulated care, and those who may be seen to be less advantaged
because they are raised by their parents?
It used to be said that, at six years of age, children were ready to accept a state role and that, up to
then, they should have a parental role because that builds trust, empathy, and all of those things. Do you
understand the gist of my question?
Ms. Ferguson: Yes.
The Chairman: How do we justify demanding that child care workers apply certain standards when we do
not demand that of another segment of society?
I am pleased to hear your comments about a code of ethics. I think professionalism is the link. We presume
that parents will do the best for their children. We should have professional standards which set out the level
of care that is given by those who look after the children of other people.
Ms. Ferguson: What I enjoy about child care is that there is so much to do, there is always
innovation, and there is so much to learn. We are dealing with standards for the practitioner and that is in the
form of a code of ethics. We also have to articulate what outcomes we want for our children in Canada. The
National Children's Agenda has set out what we, as a society, want for our children. With that, we can build a
system of supports as in articles18.2 and 18.3. We can support parents so that they are able to choose where
they want their children to grow up and who they want their children to be with.
In child care, many different kinds of models or techniques can be applied. We could adopt the Reggio Emilia
emerging curriculum which is exciting and dynamic and incorporates wonderful artwork. We could go to a more
cognitive model like High/Scope.
If we know that what we want for our children is that they can optimize their potential and their potential
is to be able to have a wonderful life presently and then have all of the possibilities for them in their
future, then our standards should reflect what we want for our children. We could phrase those in terms that are
not specific to child care. Child care could take societies' outcomes for children and then use various
methodologies to make those outcomes happen. That may be a roundabout answer to your question.
The Chairman: It was a roundabout question so we got a roundabout answer.
Ms. Ferguson: I do not think that we can say that one system is better than another. If I had children
of my own I would want my mother to spend time with them. Whether she would want to do that or not, I do not
know. She raised us. That was a wonderful time to learn respect and to ask all sorts of questions. That will
continue to happen. It does not need a curriculum and there need not be a standard.
I really cannot answer your question. I can just talk about what licensed child care or regulated child care
needs to do, and it does. We consider what we want for Canada's children, and then we think about how to build
that into our programs. Likewise, parents do that, too.
The Chairman: This might be an unfair question, but it follows on what Senator Mercer had said.
The new, Canada-wide program is $5 billion for five years. How much will Nova Scotia receive? You say that
you are only accommodating 27 per cent of the potential, although working mothers may be putting the children
Ms. Ferguson: Yes, exactly.
The Chairman: You know that 27 per cent are now using your services. You say that child care workers
are underpaid and that the facilities need improvement. You have three major areas of expenditure. This is not a
lot of money, in my opinion. Where is your emphasis placed? Is the emphasis on increasing the spaces; on
increasing the wages of the workers; or on the quality of space and equipment? Have you worked that out yet?
Ms. Ferguson: After the agreement was signed here in Nova Scotia, I called a colleague of mine, who
had a fair amount to do with the QUAD, to thank her for all of the work she had done towards it. I had told her
before that just the promise of the money had done amazing things in Nova Scotia.
What has happened there is that resources have been dedicated to examining the complexity of the child care
system and looking at all of the pieces that have to be put together in order to make it work for us. I put it
down to three things: stabilize the existing system; expand the existing system; and enhance the existing
system. To do something in each one of those areas, we will be getting $20 million this year, $18 next year and
$30 million the following years. That doubles the child care budget here in Nova Scotia, which is an amazing
thing for us.
We need more spaces for children. However, if we do not have practitioners to teach in those spaces, we will
have a problem. For parents, we need to keep the costs of child care down, so that it is accessible, because we
will be following all of the QUAD principles. We have to figure out how even the poorest parents can have access
to child care. It may mean subsidies. We also have to figure out ways that the operating costs can be borne by
the child care centre rather than be fees for the parents. That is another area we have to examine.
The You Bet I Care! project across Canada, in 2000 or 2001, found that the majority of child care in Canada
is mediocre, which means it is meeting regulations. With the quality and developmental expectation in the QUAD
principles, another piece is being added to the responsibilities of our government in Nova Scotia.
The Department of Community Services has always dealt with children who are at risk. As one of the strings on
this money, it now has to think about how we can enhance programs. That is a paradigm shift that they have to
make. It involves the cross-jurisdictions of health and education. It is a complex area. We could create many
spaces but if there are not enough qualified staff to take care of the children, then the spaces will not meet
the quality standard. If the cost of the child care is too high, then we would not meet the accessibility
provision. As well, if we do not increase the quality, we will not meet the developmental piece. It is an
inter-connected, complex system that we are trying to work on.
Our minister has pulled together a working group which has representatives from the child care sector and
from his department to work on that, and on a plan. Then we report back, as a sector, to our various members.
That is quite exciting.
The Chairman: If you can only supply 27 per cent of necessary spaces, where are those other children
Ms. Ferguson: I do not know. There is probably a certain amount of stress on families in that the
parents may be working shifts and taking care of the children. For the children, that is not a very good
situation to be in. There is a large, informal child care network that probably ranges from fantastic to
questionable. I do not know who they are or where they are located. Then we are confounded by the seasonal needs
of parents who work on farms or in the fishery. I do not know what child care arrangements they make. That
The Chairman: Thank you for coming forward with your paper and with your point of view which deals
with the provincial level of need. Thank you also for the display which was quite helpful.
Ms. Ferguson: Thank you.
The Chairman: Senators, our nest witness is Mr. George Savoury from the Nova Scotia Family and
Mr. George Savoury, Senior Director, Family and Children's Services,
Government of Nova Scotia: Thank you, senator. I very much appreciate the opportunity to appear before you
this afternoon. I will introduce my colleagues from the other departments who work on children's services and
youth services. Mr. Fred Honsberger is Executive Director of Correctional Services with the Department of
Justice; Ms. Linda Smith is the Executive Director of Mental Health, Child Health and Addiction Treatment
Services; Mr. Don Glover is a consultant with the Department of Education; and Ms. Ann Power is Director of the
Student Services Division with the Department of Education.
I have spent my entire career in the social services field primarily in the area of children's services so it
is a pleasure to again be with you. I will be speaking by and large in terms of the Department of Community
Services and, at the end, I will be willing to take questions, as will my colleagues, as they relate to their
In Community Services in Nova Scotia we provide a range of services that impact on children and these include
child protection services, early childhood development services and child care. I was delighted that you had
Elaine Ferguson with you for a while this afternoon. We also deal with housing benefits to low-income families
and services to support children with disabilities. Today I will give you some information on some new
initiatives and we will be pleased to answer questions at the end.
As you are aware, children's services are very complex and we deliver services with many competing demands in
our province. We have been fortunate in recent years in that our budgets have managed to increase for children's
services. They have grown steadily over the years. We recognize, of course, that we must continue to make
improvements, to address gaps, and to do better for our children and youth. I should point out that we deliver
our services in partnership with other departments. My colleagues are here today.
We are very proud in Nova Scotia to have established a Child and Youth Action Committee, known as CAYAC which
is an inter-departmental committee of senior officials from departments who report to Deputy Ministers. The
mandate of the committee is to ensure that we have a coordinated approach to policy development and
comprehensive services to children and youth in Nova Scotia. We want CAYAC to be recognized as a vessel that
floats and certainly not one that sinks, so we try to promote and facilitate inter-departmental initiatives and
we look at and identify barriers that can be stumbling blocks to children getting the right services in our
province. We are fortunate in that we work with a large network of community-based organizations which deliver
services on behalf of the department including residential facilities, foster families and child welfare
Since 2001, early childhood development has been an area of significant activity. We signed the first
federal- provincial agreement in 2001 and, since then, we have worked to strengthen the foundation of early
childhood development and child care programs in our province.
We have tried to enhance prevention programs. We partner with 32 family resource centres that provide
parenting programs and supports to families throughout our province. Recently, we expanded our partnership to
include a volunteer initiative with the goal of supporting family resource centres. We are quite proud of the
fact that we have a total of 1,000 volunteers who are connected to our family resource centres. This year we
made a special effort to recognize them for their work. Volunteers are special people, and the work that they do
should be recognized.
We provided new grants for the inclusion of preschool children with special needs. Early intervention
services have been enhanced to provide early diagnosis and treatment for children with speech and language
difficulties. The early childhood development initiative has allowed the creation of an enhanced home visiting
program for new parents under the leadership of the Department of Health.
We have also been trying to strengthen our services in the area of quality licensed child care. We believe
child care is extremely important, particularly for those who rely on child care to work or to attend school or
any post-secondary institution. We recognize that quality child care plays an important role in early childhood
Investments have been made to create new child care seats and to increase subsidies for low-income families.
We have introduced the concept of portability of subsidies, to ensure that families can move from one location
to another and still retain that subsidy. New grants have been introduced to support centres and their staff,
including salary and training enhancements, recognizing of course that we have more work to do.
We have introduced new programs to support the inclusion of children with disabilities. Demands for early
intervention services are growing, and we want to build on our efforts. In particular, we have an in-home
support program that serves families with a disabled child. We recently introduced a similar adult program
because we recognize that children do not remain children forever, and that families need supports when their
child turns 19 years of age.
We have also worked with the Abilities Foundation and have launched a children's wheelchair recycling program
so that we can help families replace their growing child's wheelchair.
Child protection or child welfare services are a cornerstone of the role we play in serving children and
families. Child welfare services are about protecting children from abuse and neglect, while making every effort
to keep families together.
We deliver these services through six government offices and 14 children's aid societies, all operating under
the Children and Family Services Act. The act was revised in 1999 and reflects best practices in child welfare.
We are currently advertising for advisory committee members from the community parents, legal counsel and
others who work in the system who will report annually to the minister and advise whether the act is meeting
the needs of Nova Scotian families.
We are fortunate to be able to rely on the skills of hundreds of highly skilled social workers to provide
protective services to families across our province. Social workers make every effort to keep children at home,
while working with parents to provide skills and support. Each year there are over 11,000 investigations and
about 840 of those involve court proceedings. I think it is quite positive that less than 1 per cent of all of
these cases involve apprehending a child from the home. Our act provides that we can enter into voluntary
agreements with families so that they may receive support. In addition, families participate in mediation,
parenting skills, anger management, addictions treatment and other kinds of counselling programs. We believe
these services are helpful to keep families together while attempting to ensure the safety of children. The vast
majority of court cases involve asking the court to order mandatory supervision and support while the child
remains at home.
I know that your committee is interested in the whole area of children's legal rights. Our act enables
children over 12 to have their own legal counsel and/or a guardian ad litem where it is deemed to be in
the interests of the child so that their interests are protected.
We also hear directly from youth involved in child welfare. The Nova Scotia Council for the Family advocates
for children in care and is a valuable source of information. We also get the youth perspective from The
Voice which is a newsletter written and produced by youth in care. I brought along a few copies of their
magazine. We provide funding to assist with this publication. It lives up to its name by providing a voice for
young people facing the challenge of not being able to live with their biological families.
We recognize the broad spectrum of needs of these children and, two years ago, Nova Scotia opened a secure
care centre to provide short-term stabilization for youth in care experiencing a crisis that might result in
harm to themselves or to others. The centre has helped limit disruption for the youth by giving the young person
the opportunity to work through the crisis and return to his or her community placement.
We are aware of the serious nature of secure services. We have built-in safeguards and we work closely with
the courts and lawyers to protect the rights of the child. At the five-day hearing which is for children who are
placed in secure care, we provide them with their own legal counsel who they can instruct and who will represent
them before the court.
The ombudsman's office visits the secure care centre twice a month. We have an agreement with the ombudsman's
office because we want the youth there to have an independent voice and an opportunity to discuss any issues or
concerns that they may be experiencing. We receive a monthly report from the ombudsman's office which brings any
issues or concerns to our attention.
In an effort to focus on permanency, Nova Scotia recently introduced new standards and procedures that focus
on comprehensive planning for all children in care. The central focus of the standards is comprehensive planning
for these children so that when a child is coming into our care, particularly in permanent care, we have a well
thought-out plan with the input of the child to make sure that the child does not stay in limbo simply because
the child has come into our care. We are in the process of reviewing all of our placement services for children
to ensure children and youth are in the most appropriate setting for their health, security, safety and
Foster care is the primary resource that we use for placement when children come into care. We have
introduced several initiatives in recent years to strengthen our foster care system. We have a centralized
provincial recruitment 1- 800 telephone service in partnership with the Federation of Foster Families of Nova
Scotia; regional foster care resource teams to respond to all foster care inquiries and foster parent training
needs within the region; and a comprehensive training program for all foster families in our province. After
years of declining numbers of foster families, we are encouraged to see that that trend is reversing with
increasing numbers over the past several years.
Although we have made great strides in this area, it is clear that foster care is meant to be a temporary
solution, not a long-term living arrangement and that is where adoption comes in. The department has been
reviewing the adoption program to find ways to place children for adoption in Nova Scotia. Through our review,
we have identified several areas that have helped us to increase the number of adopted children in permanent
care. We have held consultations with our staff and with other interested groups such as the Adoptive Parents
Association of Nova Scotia, the Federation of Foster Families, and the Nova Scotia Council for the Family to
help us improve our adoption program. As a result we have added additional staff and we are working on a
province-wide strategy to increase awareness about adoption of children in permanent care.
Last spring the government introduced legislation which was supported by all parties that will allow more
children to be adopted. Currently, there are 1,100 young people in permanent care in our province and 500 of
those have access orders that would have prevented their adoption. This new legislation makes all children in
permanent care eligible for adoption, while preserving the possibility for birth parents or other relatives such
as grandparents to continue contact with the young person, if it is in the child's best interests. I need not
elaborate on the benefits of children growing up in a permanent family as compared to foster care or residential
Other changes in our proposed legislation would enable step-parent and other relative adoptions to proceed
without the involvement of government.
In terms of Aboriginal services and diversity, child welfare services in Mi'kmaq communities in Nova Scotia
are delivered through our Mi'kmaq Family and Children's Services. We work closely with the agency whose board is
comprised of the Chiefs of First Nations communities in our province.
We have a tripartite committee made up of federal, provincial and First Nations that plays a role in
supporting this agency and resolving issues and difficulties. This organization has shown tremendous leadership
and their staff are trained to provide child welfare services that recognize and respect their culture.
Recognition of diverse cultures is mandated in our act and is reflected, and in fact is required, in case
planning. We have a diversity policy in our hiring in an effort to ensure that African Nova Scotians and other
communities are represented.
A number of youth are involved in our child welfare system and receive support from our social workers and
may reside in foster care, or residential care. We have improved planning in partnership with youth and we focus
on adoption because our goal is to have less youth needing child welfare services. There are young people
outside our child welfare system, of course, who need additional supports in the community. We work with
community organizations to address the complex needs of these youth, including Phoenix House and other groups
across the province. In addition, our regional staff have been collaborating with community groups on youth
homelessness and have put additional focus on finding solutions.
With regard to the National Child Benefit, we continue our efforts, in partnership with the federal
government, to provide supports to low-income families in Nova Scotia. Nova Scotia's Child Benefit is the
provincial government's contribution to the National Child Benefit initiative. In 2001 the government of Nova
Scotia took a significant step to help these families. Children's benefits were removed from the income
assistance system and are now delivered through the Nova Scotia Child Benefit. The Nova Scotia Child Benefit is
provided to all low-income families to help them with the cost of raising children under the age of 18. Over
50,000 children in Nova Scotia receive this benefit each year.
We recognize that there is a great deal of work to do to address the issue of child poverty. We believe
initiatives like the NCB are important tools, but recognize that many other factors influence this issue. We are
committed to working with other government services, all levels of government and the community to improve the
situation for low-income families.
As to affordable housing, we look forward to continued improvements in that area through the
federal-provincial Affordable Housing Program. To date, more than $19 million has been announced by the federal
and provincial governments for the construction or renovation of more than 400 units in our province. With the
recent signing of the second phase of the Canada-Nova Scotia Affordable Housing Agreement, the total investment
for affordable housing in Nova Scotia now stands at $56.18 million by 2008.
We have a range of services that support the well-being of children and their families in our province. I
have given you a brief overview of our programs and initiatives. It is a large and evolving responsibility, and
we are committed to our role. We recognize that we need to keep working to improve our services to ensure that
families and children can access the support they need to grow and develop successfully.
My colleagues and I look forward to trying to answer your questions. Thank you.
Senator Pearson: Thank you for that overview of all the different components. I admire the aims of the
CAYAC. I believe it is the model that all provinces will adopt. I do know that Manitoba has a similar model.
Mr. Savoury: It does.
Senator Pearson: I believe that Ontario is moving in that direction now under the direction of the new
Ministry of Children and Family Development. I think that a cross-ministerial approach is a more holistic and
more efficient response to children's needs. One aspect feeds into another.
You talked about legislation which allows you to take a child into care for five days. Is that somewhat
similar to the legislation in Alberta called the PChIP? Are you talking about children who are taken from the
street, or are you talking about children in the welfare system?
Mr. Savoury: The five days refers to the fact that we must have a court hearing within that time
respecting any of our child welfare proceedings, including those related to youth who may need to be placed in a
secure setting. They would be children who are already in the care of the ministry. They may be on the street
and of course still in our care. Running might be one of the problems that is being exhibited.
Senator Pearson: It is not focused on young people who are being exploited in the sex trade.
Mr. Savoury: That is correct. Inappropriate sexual activity could be one of the behaviours that
prompted the social worker to make a referral for secure care. Generally it is for 30 days. In our province the
tendency has been to get rulings that provide for a shorter period of time, which we believe makes sense because
these children have not committed an offence but they do need a period of stabilization.
Senator Pearson: My next question concerns foster care and the use of the model of looking after
children. Is that the model used here?
Mr. Savoury: Yes.
Senator Pearson: I think it is in most of the Maritimes.
Mr. Savoury: Exactly.
Senator Pearson: It has proven to be an effective model that involves the young people having a say in
what is happening to them.
Mr. Savoury: Yes.
Senator Pearson: I am excited to hear about your moving towards increasing the number of adoptions and
changing the legislation to make that possible. A child's right to a permanent environment, a child's right to a
home, a child's right to a family, whichever way you describe it, was frequently interfered with by legislation
that made it impossible to put the child into a permanent environment.
Children have told me, "Telling me that I cannot be adopted means that I have no right to a family,'' which
is a pretty powerful message. I am happy to see you moving in that direction.
Mr. Savoury: Thank you for your comments. Dr. Kathleen Kufeldt, who you probably know, provided a lot
of national leadership on adoption. We believe that, if there is not a mandate and a strong expectation that,
when children are placed in care, there be a plan that includes the input of the child and looks to the child's
best interests, which can often be adoption, we are doing a major disservice. We have seen access orders being
made and, for various reasons, not being exercised. Yet, some of these children would have loved to have been
adopted. In some foster homes where there are three or four children in care, when a couple of them are adopted,
it is not uncommon for the other children there to say, "How come I cannot be adopted?''
We are being assertive and we expect full support. We have additional adoption staff and we want this to be a
success because it will be a success for these children.
Senator Pearson: That is very exciting. I think permanency planning is most important. Some children
have been in as many as 16 placements. It is a total travesty, to say nothing of the fact that it does not work.
It sometimes happens because the birth parents have not adequately relinquished, and they go back and forth;
home and back; and so on. I commend your reaction to protect the rights of children.
Today someone raised the issue of the age gap between 16 and 18 and coverage. Who wants to take that one on?
Mr. Savoury: My colleagues may want to comment after I make a few remarks. Across the country, as you
know, there is a variation in the definition of a child. In our province, as in a number of others, the age is
16. We included a provision in our act to enable us to provide some supports to children aged 16 to 18. It is an
area that we have identified as a priority. Not all 17 year olds want to be part of our child welfare system,
but they may have dropped out of school for various reasons or maybe have addictions or mental health issues and
they need support.
This week I met with a young man who is involved in producing this newsletter. He shares similar experiences
with youth who do not fit in or who, in fact, have done well in the school system but now recognize that they
need to have the equivalency, at least, of high school to get a job. These young people are taught coaching
skills, resum writing and other things. However, I think we have a much bigger job to do in that area.
It is an area on which CAYAC has focused. CAYAC produced a report several years ago. We now provide supports
through our mental health system. Some of these young people are still in the school system and some receive
income assistance. However, I think it is one area where we need a better strategy. CAYAC has created a culture
of no surprises amongst us. It is easy for us to do planning and policy work that may have negative impacts on
any government department and, ultimately, on youth or children, but CAYAC has been holding all of us
accountable for what we do.
Senator Pearson: Some of the young people I have spoken with would like a mentor. Sometimes it is not
the services that are so important; it is having somebody consistently in their lives during that transitional
period. The issue of transition is an important one. I know that the Big Brothers and the Big Sisters
organizations are expanding their capacity for mentorship, which I highly commend.
My final question concerns sports. You did not mention what role the government is playing in sponsoring
children or in providing or developing facilities. I recognize there is some municipal involvement. We all
recognize the importance of physical activity for kids for a whole variety of reasons.
Mr. Savoury: My colleague, Linda Smith is keyed up to comment on the 16 to 18 year olds. I will come
back to sports.
Ms. Linda Smith, Executive Director, Mental Health, Child Health and Addiction
Treatment Services, Department of Health, Government of Nova Scotia: The Department of Health does not
develop its services based on age, as it were. We develop them across a lifespan. Having said that, we consider
19 to be the cut-off for children and youth, particularly for mental health services. That also includes our
mental health forensic services that are linked to our Department of Justice.
There are challenges for a 16 to 19 year-old when trying to access some support services in the community
where there is no age consistency.
Along with CAYAC we have a committee that is chaired by the Deputy Ministers of Community Services and Health
where we are looking at lining up our policies so that there is more of a seamless system between the two. We
have formed four regional networks in the province to work on that. We acknowledge it as a challenge, but I am
optimistic that we are moving in that direction.
On the subject of sports, the Department of Health has a separate ministry called the Office of Health
Promotion which focuses on sport, physical activity and healthy eating. Physical activity is a key issue on
which they focus, and that is leading into partnerships with the Department of Education.
Ms. Ann Power, Director, Student Services Division, Department of Education,
Government of Nova Scotia: Transition has been a major concern of the Department of Education as well as
other departments. We recently re- established a provincial transition committee that Don sits on. That
committee is made up of a variety of agencies and departments that look at the particular issues of transition
for youth, be it at 16, 17 or 18. We are establishing some pilots to try out more facilitated transitions so
that youth can have job coaches and mentors, so that they have a more flexible transition to the workplace and
to post-secondary education. Rather than just saying, "Now that you have graduated, you have to leave,'' we tell
them that they can go back for another year and pick up some extra courses.
For certain students, particularly those with disabilities who are on individualized program plans, we may
recommend that they have some job skills built into their plan. They may need to practise in the workplace and
then go back to school and work on the theoretical aspect, and then go back to the practical side. Agencies are
involved in supporting children and youth as they move forward into our communities. We are excited because so
many agencies are involved and there is so much promise for those youth.
Senator Mercer: As one of the founding members and a former vice-president of the Adoptive Parents'
Association of Nova Scotia, I was pleased to see that you consult with that association and other interested
groups about adoption. I welcome that approach and I hope that you consult other agencies such as the Home of
the Guardian Angel and others that have been involved for many years in the promotion of adoption in Nova
I have always been concerned and I am probably even more concerned today than I was almost 25 years ago
when my wife and I adopted our son that the adoption option is not put forward early enough in two areas:
first, in the case of teen pregnancies and, second, in the case of children going into foster care. Sometimes we
wait a fair amount of time before the option is put forward. In the case of teen pregnancies I worry that it is
too easy to go the route of abortion as opposed to choosing the option of carrying the child to term. There is
no question that there is a long list of people waiting to adopt, particularly infants. I am interested in
hearing your comment on that.
You talked about being assertive. Perhaps you could clarify that for me.
Mr. Savoury: Let me respond to the question of sports. Many of our youth who come into care for
various reasons will want to participate in sports. We believe that is extremely important because they can
learn a lot from that. They meet new friends and they can learn team skills. They can also benefit from
coaching. They learn that there are rules. We support youth sports. As many of you who have been involved in
sports will know, you learn to be humble when you are not sure what to do in a particular sport. I tried my hand
at sailing a few years ago and I learned humility.
We have become passionate about adoption. When our Deputy Minister, Marion Tyson, came to our department, she
took it upon herself to make adoptions a priority because she did not want to see children who were available
for adoption or who should be available for adoption left in our care. We ended up with an adoption project,
part of which involved consulting with organizations. We have had a number of meetings with the Home of the
Guardian Angel recently, and they have demonstrated a lot of insight and wisdom. In particular, they have made
it clear to us that adoption is to be made attractive, that it is a lifelong experience, and that you need to
provide support beyond the placement of the child. The Home of the Guardian Angel has been involved in this
business for many years and they know families and children who have been adopted will come back looking for
information and/or support. We are working with them and considering how we can strengthen that area in our
As to presenting the options to pregnant teenagers, our staff are trained to put forward adoption as an
option, and I believe that is being done. The number of infants, however, available for adoption, has decreased
dramatically, not only in Nova Scotia but probably throughout North America. However, youth still come forward
and ponder and reflect on adoption, and we do a number of things that I think makes it more attractive. For
example, we present them with information on multiple families so that they can have some input into selecting
the family for the child. Of course, the identifying information is not there. We are doing things like that to
make adoption a more attractive option. Those who have gone through that realize that there are some fantastic
families out there with a lot of strengths who have adopted before, and who love to raise children. We also
provide for sharing of information on, say, birthdays, and some adoptive families are open to more contact as
well. We are trying to do some creative things in that area as well.
With respect to our assertiveness, we have established a project. We amended our legislation. Access orders
were provided with all good intentions but they did not take into account the long-term future of these children
in that they could end up staying in care forever. That is why we amended the legislation. We were pleased that
all parties supported that amendment.
We have increased our adoption staff. We have made improvements to our information technology system. We
believe that, in many systems, people do not have the information they need. There may be, say, five children in
permanent care and social histories need to be drawn up on those children because nobody will adopt them without
background information. Staff in one location may have taken a child into care, and adoption staff in another
location may have done the adoption home study. Adoptive parents may be waiting. We are dealing with that. We
have the information. We know where the children are and we are saying that what is happening is unacceptable.
We also do subsidized adoptions. Some children coming into our care today have a difficult background and
they may need ongoing counselling, therapy, some technological equipment, et cetera. They may need special
supports in the school system such as tutoring.
When we look at what it can cost for one child in residential care and what we would provide for some
families who probably could not adopt without additional support, the numbers speak for themselves. I have just
recently read the background on two children who will be placed this weekend, a two year old and a six year old,
and those children have probably been in three or four placements already. Forget the cost. The difference that
this will make in the lives of these two young girls will be phenomenal. We are determined that we will not have
children who can be adopted sitting in foster care.
Senator Oliver: I have three very brief questions arising from your presentation. My first question
relates to your comments on page 10 where you say that children's legal rights are a focus. You state that
children over 12 years are provided with their own legal counsel. I am surprised that you are still sticking
with the age of 12, because the age of intellection, so-called, has been met for a long time, and today kids are
learning a lot faster. They are exposed to computers and information technology, so they have access to more
information at a younger age. That being the case, I would have thought the age would have gone down to eight or
nine. Why did you pick such a high age?
The second question relates to page 15 where you mention grandparents. You say that the new legislation makes
all children in permanent care eligible for adoption, and you give rights to grandparents. When we were in New
Brunswick our witnesses talked about who has the burden to prove that it is in the child's best interests. Do
grandparents have to prove that they have a right to see their grandchildren or not? Who has that burden here in
Nova Scotia? As you know, it is a major issue in New Brunswick.
My third question relates to the diversity policy in your hiring referred to on page 16. What are the
statistics? If 15 per cent of Canada's population today are visible minorities, what percentage of visible
minorities do you hire? You mention an effort to ensure that African Nova Scotians and other communities are
represented. What percentage are African Nova Scotians in your workforce and, in particular, in your senior
executive workforce in your department?
Mr. Savoury: I will comment on your question regarding age of intellection. Our act is based in 1991.
Senator Oliver: You said it was revised in 1999.
Mr. Savoury: Yes, we revised the access provision and made some other minor amendments over the years,
but our act was passed in 1991.
Senator Oliver: This is 2005.
Mr. Savoury: It has been around for a fair length of time. When it was first passed, I know that legal
counsel, social workers and policy experts were very much involved in the drafting of the bill. At that time
"12'' was the age that was chosen. I am sure they examined the legislation in other jurisdictions, which
sometimes may not be the wisest thing to do, and borrowed from other provinces. I would agree with your
comments. However, I would add that, even though we stipulate 12 years of age, the provision of a guardian ad
litem is often made where the courts are concerned that the child's best interests and his or her ability to
instruct counsel is an issue. Despite the provision of 12 years of age, children still have a meaningful
opportunity to have input into the plan.
I am not saying that we should not consider lowering that number because of children's advances in
development, but I cannot imagine that we would go forward with a plan that they felt was totally opposed to
their best interests, even if the child were six years of age. You mentioned eight or nine.
The issue of access by grandparents is a difficult one. Grandparents recently appeared before the
legislature's Community Services Committee that is made up of all parties and I know they have repeatedly
communicated with elected officials in our province. It is difficult and, I would say, stressful for
grandparents who are attached to a grandchild and, because of a separation or a divorce, have no or limited
contact. It is equally stressful for the children. In my experience, most of those situations occur because of
Our Children and Family Services Act requires that we always consider relatives as our first place placement
for children as opposed to foster care or residential care. We have grandparents in our province who are looking
after children in our care. I cannot imagine either our staff or the courts looking other than favourably upon
responsible grandparents looking after grandchildren where the children are their primary interest and they want
to play a role in raising them. Similarly, even if they do not want to play the parenting role, we would not be
opposed to them having ongoing contact with children in our care.
With respect to your final question, I wish I had those figures for you. I have made a note of your question
and will try and find the number of employees in the Nova Scotia Public Service that represent various
Senator Oliver: I have those numbers. I wanted to know the percentage in your department.
Mr. Savoury: I do not have them for the department, but I could ask our HR folks to get that and I
would be most willing to share that information with you.
Senator Oliver: As a general statement, can you tell me if diversity is a fact of life in your
department? Do Aboriginals and Blacks from Nova Scotia hold senior positions in your department?
Mr. Savoury: Ann will answer and I will let the other staff speak to their departments.
We do have African Nova Scotians in management positions. We have some representation at the senior
management level. We hold ongoing meetings with the Association of Black Social Workers and with the Dalhousie
School of Social Work to look at ways to encourage and support diversity in our department. Our Public Service
Commission is assertive. In fact, yesterday I saw the presentation of the diversity coordinator with the Public
Service Commission and I can tell you that this whole area will be part of the performance management for and
including Deputy Ministers in the department. On this Monday coming a full day session will be held for all
Deputy Ministers and Assistant Deputy Ministers on the unveiling of this plan and its requirements.
The Chairman: You have given us a thorough review of Children's Services and your mandates.
We are studying the international obligations in regard to the rights and freedoms of children and,
particularly, the Convention of the Rights of the Child. That is not highlighted in your report. I would like a
candid answer about whether, in fact, you utilize the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Do you feel bound
by it? Do you take it into account when you prepare your policies and your draft legislation? Is it a guideline
or do you look at it rather sporadically because it has not been top of the agenda? I notice you have the little
book, the famous "little book.'' I am not talking about A Canada Fit for Children; I am talking about the
Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Mr. Savoury: There is a requirement for us to report periodically on how well we are doing or not
doing. In addition, we look to the agreement to see how we are doing. For example, we talked a about the rights
of children to legal counsel and their voice to be heard. Obviously we believe we are doing the right things in
our province. Are we doing all that we would like to be able to do? No. I would say that we very much look at
the agreement and it is the subject of discussion amongst our colleagues.
I am on the Board of Directors of the Child Welfare League of Canada, and I know Peter Dudding appeared
before your committee. All of the provinces are represented on that national board. We discuss areas where
improvements can be made or where there are concerns, so I would have to say yes, we do take it into account.
The Chairman: I know you cannot speak for the political arm, but do you take it as a binding document
as you would the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, or do you consider it to be a guideline? How do you utilize it?
Ms. Power: I will ask Don to respond because he has the document in front of him. It is one of the
foundations of our main policy for working with children, particularly children in need, children who are
considered at risk, children with special needs.
Mr. Don Glover, Consultant, Student Services Division, Department of Education,
Government of Nova Scotia: The guiding principles of our policy in terms of working with children at risk
and children with special needs speak to an appropriate education, speak to an inclusive education, speak to
collaboration and consultation with parents, and of tenets of the convention. The policy with that framework was
reviewed in 2000, and certainly the issue was raised of continuing to align our action with those policies.
Of late we have been addressing the role of the family. We have been looking at supporting parents to be more
effective members of program planning, and to be involved in the basic education and literacy of their children.
We have been looking at what we mean by an "appropriate education,'' and focusing on literacy and numeracy as
they relate to one's role as a citizen.
The issue of alleviation of poverty has also been a major item of discussion. The Nova Scotia School Boards
Association has been addressing childhood poverty. You might be interested in some of the work that they are
doing here in the province.
Mr. Savoury: I am very aware of the debate about how you make the convention more binding. I have had
a chance to read some of the background debate that is coming in from different sectors. Your question is an
interesting one, that is, do we view it in the same way as we view the Charter. I would have to say that we take
it very seriously. The Charter is certainly significant in any decisions we make. I know when we develop
legislation or practices, we work with our legal counsel and we are always conscious of ensuring that any
proposal conforms to the Charter. As you can imagine we hear representations from organizations, for example, on
the release of adoption information, and folks will ask whether what we are doing is in conformity with the
Similarly we have 75 international adoptions a year, most of them children from China and we constantly have
discussions about whether we should sign an agreement with a particular country. We always look to the practices
in that country and assess whether it is a country with which we would want to have an agreement because of
certain practices that may be going on there.
I can only say that we look to the convention when we look at policy and/or programs, to see if in fact we
are measuring up. There is a fair range within the convention and one could get a debate as to whether a
particular statute truly satisfies the convention. Some may say that it does, and others may say that it does
The Chairman: The convention has a provision that youth in conflict with the law must be housed at all
stages separate from adults. However, Canada had a reservation about that, stating that, wherever practicable,
we would house them separately but that there would be times when they would be housed with adults.
Mr. Honsberger, in Nova Scotia, have youth been housed with adults since the convention was ratified in 1991?
Mr. Fred Honsberger, Executive Director, Correctional Services, Department
of Justice, Government of Nova Scotia: The rule in Nova Scotia and across Canada is that they are kept
separate and apart in remand accommodation. They are in separate facilities. There is no connection. In lock-up
custody, that is when someone is arrested right off the street, the police agencies, since it is a municipal
responsibility, have made provision for separate and apart accommodation. They would be in separate parts of the
same floor in the same building. That only makes sense in lock-up accommodation. Again, that is a fresh arrest
In sentenced custody, there are separate buildings. In Nova Scotia, those buildings are not connected.
The Chairman: In one of the other jurisdictions we heard that, because of overcrowding in an adult
facility inmates were moved, although they tried to keep adults and youths physically separate. However, the
same workers would work an adult shift and then would go and work a youth shift. Has that happened in Nova
Scotia in recent times?
Mr. Honsberger: No, it has not happened at all.
Senator Pearson: The education question that was asked was to confirm what we heard earlier today
about the incorporation of the convention into the school curriculum. We heard that this was being done in Nova
Scotia and that was exciting news. Can you confirm that that is the case?
Ms. Power: That question is slightly different from the one I answered before. The previous question
had to do with whether we based our policies and the development of our policies on the convention We look at
the UN convention and then we consider the Charter and we build from those.
As to the question of whether it is incorporated into the curriculum, my understanding is that we do build it
through the curriculum in various aspects at various stages at the various levels. In many schools, for
instance, you will see posters about the rights of the child and the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It
is built in at a more sophisticated level as you move on up through our personal development and relations
courses, career and life management courses and so on.
Senator Pearson: From what I understand about what you are doing in Nova Scotia, partly in association
with the University of Cape Breton, it is a model. It is exciting that this is in place.
Ms. Power: It is a specific project in and of itself. I understand what you are saying now.
Senator Pearson: That is good news.
Mr. Honsberger, my question really was about the new Youth Criminal Justice Act. Is it number of kids that
you are taking into custody diminishing?
Mr. Honsberger: We have about a 50 per cent reduction in custody in Nova Scotia, a 19 per cent
reduction in probation services, and even our restorative justice is down about 13 per cent. The reason for all
of that is that there has been a push-down, if you will, because of the act. The police can take several more
Having said that, there is a concern that we have pushed it down too far, and our government is lobbying to
have that situation examined because about 2 per cent of the youth population is out of control. They require
support and attention. We use the metaphor of the person heading towards the drain before they start down the
vortex. With the YOA and with the Juvenile Delinquents Act, as bad as it was in some respects, you could pluck
that person out, give them time-out, away from their parents, which in some cases was not good, away from their
peer group and the community, and give them a chance to reflect and access support programs. That is the 2 per
cent that we are not getting at. That is a worry right now.
The Chairman: Having been a juvenile delinquent court judge, it is interesting to hear how the new
system is working. I appreciate the point you are making. I think it is a good alert. Some of us sat at the
table when the Young Offenders' Act was being passed, and we know what can happen to youth justice. If it is
going to go off the rails somewhere, as all legislation does, we should address it as quickly as possible. I
appreciate the comment you made.
I would thank all of you for appearing before our committee as a team. We have learned a lot about the
application of children's rights and issues involving children in Nova Scotia. We very much appreciate your
input. In turn, we hope our presence here has highlighted the convention as an important document that is the
responsibility of provinces and the federal government.
On behalf of Senator Pearson and myself, I would thank our Nova Scotia representation here, Senators Oliver
and Mercer. They brought a local understanding to the issues and questions.
On behalf of the committee, I would thank all Nova Scotians for their presentations here today.
This closes our Atlantic hearings. Our study has become much more involved than we thought it originally
would be. We now realize that there has not been an overall look at children from a Canadian perspective. We
have examined education and we have examined juvenile justice, and so on. In this particular study we are
examining the application of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We hope to complete our report as early
as possibly in the fall. However, we have already come to the conclusion that we need to continue to study some
of these areas, so no doubt we will be back to you.
The committee adjourned.