As humans we all have basic human rights; this is set out in the United Nations International Bill of Human Rights signed in 1948. Excerpts from this important document include:
- All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights. They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.
- Article 2, which sets out the basic principle of equality and non discrimination as regards the enjoyment of human rights and fundamental freedoms, forbids “distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status”.
- Article 3, the first cornerstone of the Declaration, proclaims the right to life, liberty and security of person – a right essential to the enjoyment of all other rights.
This article introduces articles 4 to 21, in which other civil and political rights are set out, including: freedom from slavery and servitude; freedom from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment; the right to recognition everywhere as a person before the law; the right to an effective judicial remedy; freedom from arbitrary arrest, detention or exile; the right to a fair trial and public hearing by an independent and impartial tribunal; the right to be presumed innocent until proved guilty; freedom from arbitrary interference with privacy, family, home or correspondence; freedom of movement and residence; the right of asylum; the right to a nationality; the right to marry and to found a family; the right to own property; freedom of thought, conscience and religion; freedom of opinion and expression; the right to peaceful assembly and association; and the right to take part in the government of one’s country and to equal access to public service in one’s country.
- Article 22, the second cornerstone of the Declaration, introduces articles 23 to 27, in which economic, social and cultural rights – the rights to which everyone is entitled “as a member of society” – are set out. The article characterizes these rights as indispensable for human dignity and the free development of personality, and indicates that they are to be realized “through national effort and international cooperation”. At the same time, it points out the limitations of realization, the extent of which depends on the resources of each State.
The economic, social and cultural rights recognized in articles 22 to 27 include the right to social security; the right to work; the right to equal pay for equal work; the right to rest and leisure; the right to a standard of living adequate for health and well-being; the right to education; and the right to participate in the cultural life of the community.
In addition to this comprehensive document – http://www.un.org/en/universal-declaration-human-rights/– Children also have a specific convention dedicated to their interest – UN Convention on the Rights of a Child – https://www.unicef.ca/sites/default/files/imce_uploads/UTILITY%20NAV/TEACHERS/DOCS/GC/CRCPosterEN_FA.pdf .
In some countries, there are actually laws and restrictions violating these rights, while in Canada, there are laws protecting our rights. A fundamental part of the Canadian Constitution is the ‘Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms’, which calls for discrimination and harassment-free environments among other things. Canada also has, ‘The Canadian Human Rights Act’, this act calls for freedom and equality for all human beings.
The UN Convention on Rights of a Child is intended to protect our children and allow for their safety and wellbeing. All children (under 18) have these rights no matter what (Article 2 of The UN Children’s Rights). With 30 Human Rights and 54 children’s rights, why are our children still being harmed so often? Why is a country as wealthy as Canada not meeting these obligations to its own children. People often perceive these problems as isolated to the developing world when in fact it exists today in every single country on the planet.
Well, the answer is that these rights are not being respected. This is something Teagan’s Voice is trying to change. Teagan’s Voice wants to create change within all aspects of our child welfare systems including the judiciary, giving children a voice in matters pertaining to their overall well-being. As well as ensuring the basic structure and rules of the system respect and adhere to all children’s rights. These changes will further support our children’s rights and assure that they grow up in a safe, nurturing environment free from abuse no matter where they live.
UNICEF has launched the movement called One Youth, where they have shown us that out of the 41 rich nations, Canada is ranked 25th in the wellbeing of our children. We have laws and rights implemented to help our youth stay protected and yet we are ranked in the bottom half – this is not well-known nor is it acceptable.
Not only is the current legal environment expensive and complex but it is also tragically uncoordinated; in Teagan’s case, for example, most court hearings involved different judges with little background on the case let alone the time or data to make an informed decision. Setting aside that children are left out of most of the legal process (some which are warranted) but the vast majority of children are not aware of their rights. How can they stand up for themselves when they don’t know that they can?
Out of curiosity I recently asked 5 children between the ages of 8 and 12 if they knew about their rights or if they even knew what rights were. None of them did. These are children who have been in school for years already and have not learnt about their rights. We need to start incorporating lessons for our children in school, but we also need to be teaching them outside of school. Parents, Guardians, Grandparents and older siblings, we need to be teaching our children about their rights, so that they are able to use them and know when those rights are being violated.
We have to keep our Youth and Children safe, they are our future. When our children are informed, they will know when their rights are not being respected. This will allow them to fight for their own rights when nobody else is. We as Canadians have to give children the knowledge and tools to be able to keep themselves safe and understood. This will build their confidence in the system, which is built to help people, and allow the rights to do their job: keep people safe.
In order for this to happen we, as a nation, need to be doing all we can to ensure all children’s rights are followed. When they are not followed we need to make a change, which exactly what Teagan’s Voice is trying to do. Help us keep our children safe. Help us keep our children loved. Help us keep them informed. Help us give our children the confidence to express their rights.
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