Convention on the Rights of the Child
Committee on the Rights of the Child
6 December 2012
Concluding observations on the combined third and fourth periodic report of Canada, adopted by the Committee at its sixty-first session (17 September – 5 October 2012)
1. The Committee considered the combined third and fourth periodic report of Canada (CRC/C/CAN/3-4) at its 1742nd and 1743rd meetings (see CRC/C/SR. 1742 and 1743) held on 26 and 27 September 2012, and adopted, at its 1754th meeting (see CRC/C/SR.1754), held on 5 October 2012, the following concluding observations.
2. The Committee welcomes the submission of the consolidated third and fourth periodic report of the State party (CRC/C/CAN/3-4) and the written replies to its list of issues (CRC/C/CAN/Q/3-4/Add.1), which allowed for a better understanding of the situation in the State party. The Committee expresses appreciation for the constructive dialogue held with the multi-sectorial delegation of the State party.
3. The Committee reminds the State party that the present concluding observations should be read in conjunction with its concluding observations adopted on the State party’s initial report under the Optional Protocol on the involvement of children in armed conflict (CRC/C/OPAC/CAN/CO/1, 2006) and under the Optional Protocol on sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (CRC/CO/OPSC/CAN/CO/1, 2012). The Committee regrets that the reporting guidelines were not followed in the preparation of the State party’s report.
II. Follow-up measures undertaken and progress achieved by the State party
4. The Committee welcomes the adoption of the following legislative, measures:
(a) The law amending the Citizenship Act which came into effect on 17 April 2009;
(b) Bill C-49 in 2005, an Act to amend the Criminal Code (trafficking in persons) (25 Nov. 2005), which creates indictable offences which specifically address trafficking in persons.
5. The Committee also welcomes the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, in March 2010.
6. The Committee notes as positive the following institutional and policy measures:
(a) National Action Plan to Combat Human Trafficking, in June 2012;
(b) Homelessness Partnering Strategy (HPS), in April 2007;
(c) National Plan of Action for children, A Canada Fit for Children, launched in April 2004;
(d) National Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet, launched in May 2004.
III. Main areas of concern and recommendations
A. General measures of implementation (arts. 4, 42 and 44, para. 6 of the Convention)
The Committee’s previous recommendations
7. While welcoming the State party’s efforts to implement the Committee’s concluding observations of 2003 on the State party’s initial report (CRC/C/15/Add.215, 2003), the Committee notes with regret that some of the recommendations contained therein have not been fully addressed.
8. The Committee urges the State party to take all necessary measures to address those recommendations from the concluding observations on the second periodic report under the Convention that have not been implemented or sufficiently implemented, particularly those related to reservations, legislation, coordination, data collection, independent monitoring, non-discrimination, corporal punishment, family environment, adoption, economic exploitation, and administration of juvenile justice.
9. While the Committee positively acknowledges the State party’s efforts towards removing its reservations to article 37(c) of the Convention, the Committee strongly reiterates its previous recommendation (CRC/C/15/Add.215, para.7, 2003), for the prompt withdrawal of its reservation to article 37(c).
10. While welcoming numerous legislative actions related to the implementation of the Convention, the Committee remains concerned at the absence of legislation that comprehensively covers the full scope of the Convention in national law. In this context, the Committee further notes that given the State party’s federal system and dualist legal system, the absence of such overall national legislation has resulted in fragmentation and inconsistencies in the implementation of child rights across the State party, with children in similar situations being subject to disparities in the fulfilment of their rights depending on the province or territory in which they reside.
11. The Committee recommends that the State party find the appropriate constitutional path that will allow it to have in the whole territory of the State party, including its provinces and territories, a comprehensive legal framework which fully incorporates the provisions of the Convention and its Optional Protocols and provides clear guidelines for their consistent application.
Comprehensive policy and strategies
12. The Committee notes the adoption of the National Plan of Action for Children, A Canada Fit for Children, in 2004, but is concerned that beyond its broad objectives the Plan lacks clear division of responsibilities, clear priorities, targets and timetables, resource allocation and systematic monitoring as recommended in the Committee’s previous concluding observations (CRC/C/15/Add.215, para. 13, 2003) and that it has not been evaluated in order to assess its impact and to guide the next steps.
13. The Committee strongly recommends that the State party adopt a national strategy that provides a comprehensive implementation framework for the federal, provincial and territorial levels of government spelling out as is appropriate the priorities, targets and respective responsibilities for the overall realization of the Convention and that will enable the provinces and territories to adopt accordingly their own specific plans and strategies. The Committee further recommends that the State party allocate adequate human, technical and financial resources for the implementation, monitoring and evaluation of this comprehensive strategy and related provincial and territorial plans. In this context, the Committee encourages the State party to establish a coordinated monitoring mechanism that would enable the submission and review of progress reports by all provinces and territories. It also recommends that children and civil society be consulted.
14. While noting as positive the work of the Council of Ministers of Education and the Joint Consortium for School Health, both with representation from all levels of government, as well as other sectorial coordination bodies, the Committee remains concerned that overall coordination of the implementation of the Convention assigned to the Interdepartmental Working Group on Children’s Rights (2007) has not been effective in practice. Furthermore, the Committee notes the challenges presented by the federal system of the State party and is concerned that the absence of overall coordination results in significant disparities in the implementation of the Convention across the State party ́s provinces and territories.
15. The Committee strongly reiterates its recommendation that the State party establish a coordinating body for the implementation of the Convention and the national strategy (recommended in paragraph 13 above) with the stature and authority as well as the human, technical and financial resources to effectively coordinate actions for children’s rights across sectors and among all provinces and territories. Furthermore, the Committee encourages the State party to consider strengthening the Interdepartmental Working Group on Children ́s Rights accordingly, thus ensuring coordination, consistency and equitability in overall implementation of the Convention. The Committee also recommends that civil society, including all minority groups, and children be invited to form part of the coordination body.
Allocation of resources
16. Bearing in mind that the State party is one of the most affluent economies of the world and that it invests sizeable amounts of resources in child-related programmes, the Committee notes that the State party does not use a child-specific approach for budget planning and allocation in the national and provinces/territories level budgets, thus making it practically impossible to identify, monitor, report and evaluate the impact of investments in children and the overall application of the Convention in budgetary terms. Furthermore, the Committee also notes that while the State party’s report contained information about various programmes and their overall budget, it regrets that the report lacked information on the impact of such investments.
17. In light of it’s day of general discussion in 2007 on “Resources for the Rights of the Child - Responsibility of States” and with emphasis on articles 2, 3, 4 and 6 of the Convention, the Committee recommends that the State party establish a budgeting process which adequately takes into account children’s needs at the national, provincial and territorial levels, with clear allocations to children in the relevant sectors and agencies, specific indicators and a tracking system. In addition, the Committee recommends that the State party establish mechanisms to monitor and evaluate the efficacy, adequacy and equitability of the distribution of resources allocated to the implementation of the Convention. Furthermore, the Committee recommends that the State party define strategic budgetary lines for children in disadvantaged or vulnerable situations that may require affirmative social measures (for example, children of Aboriginal, African Canadian, or other minorities and children with disabilities) and make sure that those budgetary lines are protected even in situations of economic crisis, natural disasters or other emergencies.
18. The Committee welcomes the international cooperation carried out through the Canada International Development Assistance (CIDA) programme and particularly appreciates that approximately 30 per cent of the State party’s aid goes to health, education, and population. However, the Committee notes with concern that ODA for 2010-2011 is 0.33 per cent of GNI and is projected to decline, which would bring it even further below the OECD/DAC average and below the percentage recommended in the Monterrey Consensus.
19. The Committee encourages the State party to focus on children in its assistance programmes and to increase its level of funding in order to meet the recommended aid target of 0.7 per cent of GNI.
20. The Committee notes with concern the limited progress made to establish a national, comprehensive data collection system covering all areas of the Convention. The Committee notes that the complex data collection systems utilize different definitions, concepts, approaches, and structures across provinces and territories, which therefore makes it difficult to assess progress to strengthen the implementation of the Convention. In particular, the Committee notes that the State party report lacked data on the number of children aged 14 to 18 years old placed into alternative care facilities.
21. The Committee reiterates its recommendation that the State party set up a national and comprehensive data collection system and to analyse the data collected as a basis for consistently assessing progress achieved in the realization of child rights and to help design policies and programmes to strengthen the implementation of the Convention. Data should be disaggregated by age, sex, geographic location, ethnicity and socio-economic background to facilitate analysis on the situation of all children. More specifically, the Committee recommends that appropriate data on children in special situations of vulnerability be collected and analysed to inform policy decisions and programmes at different levels.
22. While noting that most Canadian provinces have an Ombudsman for Children, the Committee reiterates its concern (CRC/C/15/Add.215, para. 14, 2003) about the absence of an independent Ombudsman for Children at the federal level. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that their mandates are limited and that not all children may be aware of the complaints procedure. While noting that the Canadian Human Rights Commission operates at the federal level and has the mandate to receive complaints, the Committee regrets that the Commission only hears complaints based on discrimination and therefore does not afford all children the possibility to pursue meaningful remedies for breaches of all rights under the Convention.
23. The Committee recommends that the State party take the necessary measures to establish a federal Children’s Ombudsman in full accordance with the principles relating to the status of national institutions for the promotion and protection of human rights (Paris Principles), to ensure comprehensive and systematic monitoring of all children’s rights at the federal level. Furthermore, the Committee encourages the State party to raise awareness among children concerning the existing children’s Ombudsman in their respective provinces and territories. Drawing attention to its general comment No. 2 (2002), the Committee also calls upon the State party to ensure that this national mechanism is provided with the necessary human, technical and financial resources in order to secure its independence and efficacy.
Dissemination and awareness-raising
24. The Committee appreciates the State party’s efforts to promote awareness and understanding of the Convention, particularly by supporting non-governmental organizations’ efforts. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned that awareness and knowledge of the Convention remains limited amongst children, professionals working with children, parents, and the general public. The Committee is especially concerned that there has been little effort to systematically disseminate information on the Convention and integrate child rights education into the school system.
25. The Committee urges the State party to take more active measures to systematically disseminate and promote the Convention, raising awareness among the public at large, among professionals working with or for children, and among children. In particular, the Committee urges the State party to expand the development and use of curriculum resources on children’s rights, especially through the State party’s extensive availability of free Internet and web access providers, as well as education initiatives that integrate knowledge and exercise of children’s rights into curricula, policies, and practices in schools.
26. Despite information regarding some training on the Convention provided for professionals, such as immigration officers and government lawyers, the Committee is concerned that there is no systematic training on children’s rights and the Convention for all professional groups working for or with children. In particular, the Committee is concerned that personnel involved in juvenile justice, such as law enforcement officers, prosecutors, judges, and lawyers, lack understanding and training on the Convention.
27. The Committee urges the State party to develop an integrated strategy for training on children’s rights for all professionals, including, government officials, judicial authorities, and professionals who work with children in health and social services. In developing such training programmes, the Committee urges the State party to focus the training on the use of the Convention in legislation and public policy, programme development, advocacy, and decision making processes and accountability.
Child rights and the business sector
28. The Committee joins the concern expressed by the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination that the State party has not yet adopted measures with regard to transnational corporations registered in Canada whose activities negatively impact the rights of indigenous peoples in territories outside Canada, (CERD/C/CAN/CO/19-20, para. 14), in particular gas, oil, and mining companies. The Committee is particularly concerned that the State party lacks a regulatory framework to hold all companies and corporations from the State party accountable for human rights and environmental abuses committed abroad.
29. The Committee recommends that the State party establish and implement regulations to ensure that the business sector complies with international and national human rights, labour, environment and other standards, particularly with regard to child rights, and in light of Human Rights Council resolutions 8/7 of 18 June 2008 (para. 4(d)) and resolution 17/4 of 16 June 2011 (para. 6(f))). In particular, it recommends that the State party ensure:
(a) The establishment of a clear regulatory framework for, inter alia, the gas, mining, and oil companies operating in territories outside Canada to ensure that their activities do not impact on human rights or endanger environment and other standards, especially those related to children’s rights;
(b) The monitoring of implementation by companies at home and abroad of international and national environmental and health and human rights standards and that appropriate sanctions and remedies are provided when violations occur with a particular focus on the impact on children;
(c) Assessments of, and consultations with companies on their plans to address environmental and health pollution and the human rights impact of their activities and their disclosure to the public;
(d) In doing so, take into account the United Nations Business and Human Rights Framework adopted unanimously in 2008 by the Human Rights Council.
B. Definition of the child (art. 1 of the Convention)
30. The Committee is concerned that not all children under the age of 18 are benefiting from the full protection under the Convention, in particular children who in some provinces and territories, can be tried as adults, and children between the ages of 16 and 18 who are not appropriately protected against sexual exploitation in some provinces and territories.
31. The Committee urges the State party to ensure the full compliance of all national provisions on the definition of the child with article 1 of the Convention, in particular to ensure that all children under 18 cannot be tried as adults and all children under 18 who are victims of sexual exploitation receive appropriate protection.
C. General principles (arts. 2, 3, 6 and 12 of the Convention) Non-discrimination
32. While welcoming the State party’s efforts to address discrimination and promote intercultural understanding, such as the Stop Racism national video contest, the Committee is nevertheless concerned at the continued prevalence of discrimination on the basis of ethnicity, gender, socio-economic background, national origin and other grounds. In particular, the Committee is concerned at:
(a) The significant overrepresentation of Aboriginal and African-Canadian children in the criminal justice system and out-of-home care;
(b) The serious and widespread discrimination in terms of access to basic services faced by children in vulnerable situations, including minority children, immigrants, and children with disabilities;
(c) The lack of a gender perspective in the development and implementation of programmes aimed at improving the situation for marginalized and disadvantaged communities, such as programmes to combat poverty or the incidence of violence, especially in light of the fact that girls in vulnerable situations are disproportionately affected;
(d) The lack of action following the Auditor General’s finding that child welfare services for Aboriginal children are provided with less financial resources than those for non-Aboriginal children;
(e) Economic discrimination directly or indirectly resulting from social transfer schemes and other social/tax benefits, such as the authorization given to provinces and territories to deduct the amount of the child benefit under the National Child Benefit Scheme from the amount of social assistance received by parents on welfare.
33. The Committee recommends that the State party include information in its next periodic report on measures and programmes relevant to the Convention on the Rights of the Child undertaken by the State party in follow-up to the Declaration and Program of Action adopted at the 2001 World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, as well as the outcome document adopted at the 2009 Durban Review Conference. The Committee also recommends that the State party:
(a) Take urgent measures to address the overrepresentation of Aboriginal and African-Canadian children in the criminal justice system and out-of-home care;
(b) Address disparities in access to services by all children facing situations of vulnerability, including ethnic minorities, children with disabilities, immigrants and others;
(c) Ensure the incorporation of a gender perspective in the development and implementation of any programme or stimulus package, especially programmes related to combatting violence,poverty, and redressing other vulnerabilities;
(d) Take immediate steps to ensure that in law and practice, Aboriginal children have full access to all government services and receive resources without discrimination;
(e) Undertake a detailed assessment of the direct or indirect impact of the reduction of social transfer schemes and other social/tax benefit schemes on the standard of living of people depending on social welfare, including the reduction of social welfare benefits linked to the National Child Benefit Scheme, with particular attention to women, children, older persons, persons with disabilities, Aboriginal people, African Canadians and members of other minorities.
Best interests of the child
34. The Committee is concerned that the principle of the best interests of the child is not widely known, appropriately integrated and consistently applied in all legislative, administrative and judicial proceedings and in policies, programmes and projects relevant to and with an impact on children. In particular, the Committee is concerned that the best interest of the child is not appropriately applied in asylum-seeking, refugee and/or immigration detention situations.
35. The Committee urges the State party to strengthen its efforts to ensure that the principle of the best interests of the child is appropriately integrated and consistently applied in all legislative, administrative and judicial proceedings as well as in all policies, programmes and projects relevant to and with an impact on children. In this regard, the State party is encouraged to develop procedures and criteria to provide guidance for determining the best interests of the child in every area, and to disseminate them to the public or private social welfare institutions, courts of law, administrative authorities and legislative bodies. The legal reasoning of all judicial and administrative judgements and decisions should also be based on this principle, specifying the criteria used in the individual assessment of the best interests of the child.
Respect for the views of the child
36. The Committee welcomes the State party’s Yukon Supreme Court decision in 2010 which ruled that all children have the right to be heard in custody cases. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned that there are inadequate mechanisms for facilitating meaningful and empowered child participation in legal, policy, environmental issues, and administrative processes that impact children.
37. The Committee draws the State party’s attention to its general comment No. 12 (2009), and recommends that it continue to ensure the implementation of the right of the child to be heard in accordance with article 12 of the Convention. In doing so, it recommends that the State party promote the meaningful and empowered participation of all children, within the family, community, and schools, and develop and share good practices. Specifically, the Committee recommends that the views of the child be a requirement for all official decision-making processes that relate to children, including custody cases, child welfare decisions, criminal justice, immigration, and the environment. The Committee also urges the State party to ensure that children have the possibility to voice their complaints if their right to be heard is violated with regard to judicial and administrative proceedings, and that children have access to an appeals procedure.
D. Civil rights and freedoms (arts. 7, 8, 13-17, 19 and 37 (a) of the Convention)
38. While the Committee notes as positive that birth registration is almost universal in the State party, it is seriously concerned that some children have been deprived of their identity due to the illegal removal of the father’s name on original birth certificates by governmental authorities, especially in cases of unwed parents.
39. The Committee recommends that the State party review legislation and practices in the provinces and territories where birth registrations have been illegally altered or the names of parents have been removed. The Committee urges the State party to ensure that the names on such birth certificates are restored and change legislation if necessary to achieve this.
Nationality and citizenship
40. While welcoming the positive aspects of the April 2009 amendment to the Citizenship Act, the Committee is nevertheless concerned about some provisions of the amendment which place significant limitations on acquiring Canadian citizenship for children born to Canadian parents abroad. The Committee is concerned that such restrictions, can in some circumstances, lead to statelessness. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that children born abroad to government officials or military personnel are exempted from such limitations on acquiring Canadian citizenship.
41. The Committee recommends that the State party review the provisions of the amendment to the Citizenship Act that are not in line with the Convention with a view to removing restrictions on acquiring Canadian citizenship for children born abroad to Canadian parents. The Committee also urges the State party to consider ratifying the 1954 Convention relating to the Status of Stateless Persons.
Preservation of identity
42. The Committee is concerned that vulnerable children, including Aboriginal and African Canadian children, who are greatly over-represented in the child welfare system often lose their connections to their families, community, and culture due to lack of education on their culture and heritage. The Committee is also concerned that under federal legislation, Aboriginal men are legally entitled to pass their Aboriginal status to two generations while Aboriginal women do not have the right to pass their Aboriginal status to their grandchildren.
43. The Committee urges the State party to ensure full respect for the preservation of identity for all children, and to take effective measures so as to ensure that Aboriginal children in the child welfare system are able to preserve their identity. To this end, the Committee urges the State party to adopt legislative and administrative measures to account for the rights, such as name, culture and language, of children belonging to minority and indigenous populations and ensure that the large number of children in the child welfare system receive an education on their cultural background and do not lose their identity. The Committee also recommends that the State party revise its legislation to ensure that women and men are equally legally entitled to pass their Aboriginal status to their grandchildren.
E. Violence against children ((arts 19, 37 (a), 34 and 39 of the Convention) Corporal punishment
44. The Committee is gravely concerned that corporal punishment is condoned by law in the State party under Section 43 of the Criminal Code. Furthermore, the Committee notes with regret that the 2004 Supreme Court decision Canadian Foundation for Children, Youth and the Law v. Canada, while stipulating that corporal punishment is only justified in cases of “minor corrective force of a transitory and trifling nature,” upheld the law. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the legalization of corporal punishment can lead to other forms of violence.
45. The Committee urges the State party to repeal Section 43 of the Criminal Code to remove existing authorization of the use of “reasonable force” in disciplining children and explicitly prohibit all forms of violence against all age groups of children, however light, within the family, in schools and in other institutions where children may be placed. Additionally, the Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Strengthen and expand awareness-raising for parents, the public, children, and professionals on alternative forms of discipline and promote respect for children’s rights, with the involvement of children, while raising awareness about the adverse consequences of corporal punishment;
(b) Ensure the training of all professionals working with children, including judges, law enforcement, health, social and child welfare, and education professionals to promptly identity, address and report all cases of violence against children.
Abuse and neglect
46. While the Committee notes initiatives such as the Family Violence Prevention Program, the Committee is concerned about the high levels of violence and maltreatment against children evidenced by the Canadian Incidence Study of Reported Child Abuse and Neglect 2008. The Committee is especially concerned about:
(a) The lack of a national comprehensive strategy to prevent violence against all children;
(b) The fact that women and girls in vulnerable situations are particularly affected, including Aboriginal, African Canadian, and those with disabilities;
(c) The low number of interventions in cases of family violence, including restraining orders;
(d) The lack of counselling for child victims and perpetrators and inadequate programmes for the reintegration of child victims of domestic violence.
47. The Committee recommends that the State party take into account the Committee’s general comment No. 13 (2011) and urges the State party to:
(a) Develop and implement a national strategy for the prevention of all forms of violence against all children, and allocate the necessary resources to this strategy and ensure that there is a monitoring mechanism;
(b) Ensure that the factors contributing to the high levels of violence among Aboriginal women and girls are well understood and addressed in national and provincial/territorial plans;
(c) Ensure that all child victims of violence have immediate means of redress and protection, including protection or restraining orders;
(d) Establish mechanisms for ensuring effective follow-up support for all child victims of domestic violence upon their family reintegration.
Sexual exploitation and abuse
48. The Committee notes with appreciation the launching of the National Strategy for the Protection of Children from Sexual Exploitation on the Internet in 2004 and the significant amount of resources allocated to the implementation of this programme by the State party. The Committee further notes as positive that the State party has demonstrated considerable political will to coordinate law enforcement agencies to combat sexual exploitation of children on the Internet. Nevertheless, the Committee is concerned that the State party has not taken sufficient action to address other forms of sexual exploitation, such as child prostitution and child sexual abuse. The Committee is also concerned about the lack of attention to prevention of child sexual exploitation and the low number of investigations and prosecutions for sexual exploitation of children as well as at the inadequate sentencing for those convicted. In particular, the Committee is gravely concerned about cases of Aboriginal girls who were victims of child prostitution and have gone missing or were murdered and have not been fully investigated with the perpetrators going unpunished.
49. The Committee urges the State party to: (a) Expand existing government strategies and programmes to include all
forms of sexual exploitation;
(b) Establish a plan of action to coordinate and strengthen law enforcement investigation practices on cases of child prostitution and to vigorously ensure that all cases of missing girls are investigated and prosecuted to the full extent of the law;
(c) Impose sentencing requirements for those convicted of crimes under the Optional Protocol on the sale of children, chilled prostitution and child pornography to ensure that the punishment is commensurate with the crime;
(d) Establish programmes for those convicted of sexual exploitation abuse, including rehabilitation programmes and federal monitoring systems to track former perpetrators.
50. The Committee is concerned that there is inadequate protection against forced child marriages, especially among immigrant communities and certain religious communities such as the polygamous communities in Bountiful, British Columbia.
51. The Committee recommends that the State party take all necessary measures, including legislative measures and targeted improvement of investigations and law enforcement, to protect all children from underage forced marriages and to enforce the legal prohibition against polygamy.
Freedom of the child from all forms of violence
52. Recalling the recommendations of the United Nations Study on violence against children (A/61/299), the Committee recommends that the State party prioritize the elimination of all forms of violence against children. The Committee further recommends that the State party take into account its general comment No 13 (2011) , and in particular:
(a) Develop a comprehensive national strategy to prevent and address all forms of violence against children;
(b) Adopt a national coordinating framework to address all forms of violence against children;
(c) Pay particular attention to the gender dimension of violence;
(d) Cooperate with the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on violence against children and relevant United Nations institutions.
F. Family environment and alternative care (arts. 5, 18 (paras. 1-2), 9-11, 19-21, 25, 27 (para. 4) and 39 of the Convention)
53. The Committee welcomes the State party’s efforts to better support families through, inter alia, legislative and institutional changes. However, the Committee is concerned that families in some disadvantaged communities lack adequate assistance in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities, notably those families in a crisis situation due to poverty. In particular, the Committee is concerned about the number of pregnant girls and teenage mothers who drop out of school, which leads to poorer outcomes for their children.
54. The Committee recommends that the State party intensify its efforts to render appropriate assistance to parents and legal guardians in the performance of their child-rearing responsibilities with timely responses at the local level, including services to parents who need counselling in child-rearing, and, in the case of Aboriginal and African Canadian populations, culturally appropriate services to enable them to fulfil their parental role. The Committee further encourages the State party to provide education opportunities for pregnant girls and teenage mothers so that they can complete their education.
Children deprived of a family environment
55. The Committee is deeply concerned at the high number of children in alternative care and at the frequent removal of children from their families as a first resort in cases of neglect or financial hardship or disability. The Committee is also seriously concerned about inadequacies and abuses committed within the alternative care system of the State party, including:
(a) Inappropriate placements of children because of poorly researched and ill- defined reasons for placement;
(b) Poorer outcomes for young people in care than for the general population in terms of health, education, well-being and development;
(c) Abuse and neglect of children in care;
(d) Inadequate preparation provided to children leaving care when they turn 18;
(e) Inadequate screening, training, support and assessment of care givers;
(f) Aboriginal and African Canadian children often placed outside their communities.
56. The Committee urges the State party to take immediate preventive measures to avoid the separation of children from their family environment by providing appropriate assistance and support services to parents and legal guardians in performance of child-rearing responsibilities, including through education, counselling and community-based programmes for parents, and reduce the number of children living in institutions. Furthermore, the Committee calls upon the State party to:
(a) Ensure that the need for placement of each child in institutional care is always assessed by competent, multidisciplinary teams of professionals and that the initial decision of placement is done for the shortest period of time and subject to judicial review by a civil court, and is further reviewed in accordance with the Convention;
(b) Develop criteria for the selection, training and support of childcare workers and out-of-home carers and ensure their regular evaluation;
(c) Ensure equal access to health care and education for children in care;
(d) Establish accessible and effective child-friendly mechanisms for reporting cases of neglect and abuse and commensurate sanctions for perpetrators;
(e) Adequately prepare and support young people prior to their leaving care by providing for their early involvement in the planning of transition as well as by making assistance available to them following their departure;
(f) Intensify cooperation with all minority community leaders and communities to find suitable solutions for children from these communities in need of alternative care, such as for example, kinship care.
57. The Committee notes as positive the recent court decision in Ontario v. Marchland which ruled that children have the right to know the identity of both biological parents. However, the Committee is concerned that domestic adoption legislation, policy, and practice are set by each of the provinces and territories and vary considerably from jurisdiction to jurisdiction and as a result, Canada has no national adoption legislation, national standards, national database on children in care or adoption, and little known research on adoption outcomes. The Committee is also concerned that adoption disclosure legislation has not been amended to ensure that birth information is made available to adoptees as recommended in previous concluding observations (CRC/C/25/Add.215, para. 31). The Committee also regrets the lack of information provided in the State party on intercountry adoption.
58. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Adopt legislation, including at the federal, provincial and territorial levels, where necessary, to ensure compliance with the Convention and the Hague Convention on Protection of Children and Cooperation in Respect of Inter-Country Adoption;
(b) Amend its legislation without delay to ensure that information about the date and place of birth of adopted children and their biological parents are preserved;
(c) Provide detailed information and disaggregated data on domestic and international adoptions in its next periodic report.
G. Disability, basic health and welfare (arts. 6, 18 (para. 3), 23, 24, 26, 27 (paras. 1-3) of the Convention)
Children with disabilities
59. The Committee welcomes the ratification of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2010. While recognizing that progress has been made on the inclusion of children with disabilities within the State party, the Committee is deeply concerned that:
(a) The PALS (Participation and Activity Limitation Survey) was last conducted by the State party in 2006 without it having been substituted to date by any other data collection effort on children with disabilities. As a result, there are no global or disaggregated data since 2006 on which to base a policy on inclusion and equal access for children with disabilities;
(b) There is great disparity among the different provinces and territories of the State party in access to inclusive education, with education in several provinces and territories being mostly in segregated schools;
(c) The cost of caring for children with disabilities often has a negative economic impact on household incomes and parental employment and some children do not have access to the necessary support and services;
(d) Children with disabilities are more than twice as vulnerable to violence and abuse as other children and despite an overall drop in homicide rates among the general population, there appears to be an increase in homicide and filicide rates against people with disabilities.
60. The Committee recommends that the State party implement the provisions of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and in light of its general comment No. 9 (2006), the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Establish as soon as possible a system of global and disaggregated data collection on children with disabilities, which will enable the State party and all its provinces and territories to establish inclusive policies and equal opportunities for all children with disabilities;
(b) Ensure that all children with disabilities have access, in all provinces and territories, to inclusive education and are not forced to attend segregated schools only designed for children with disabilities;
(c) Ensure that children with disabilities, and their families, are provided with all necessary support and services in order to ensure that financial constraints are not an obstacle in accessing services and that household incomes and parental employment are not negatively affected;
(d) Take all the necessary measures to protect children with disabilities from all forms of violence.
61. While welcoming programmes such as Canada’s Prenatal Nutrition Program (CPNP), the Committee is nevertheless concerned at the low rates of breastfeeding in the State party, especially among women in disadvantaged situations and the lack of corresponding programmes to help encourage breastfeeding among all mothers in the State party. The Committee also regrets that despite adopting the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes, the State party has not integrated the various articles of the International Code into its regulatory framework and as a result, formula companies have routinely violated the Code and related World Health Assembly resolutions with impunity.
62. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Establish a programme to promote and enable all mothers to successfully breastfeed exclusively for the first six months of the infant’s life and sustain breastfeeding for two years or more as recommended by the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding;
(b) Strengthen the promotion of breastfeeding and enforce the International Code of Marketing of Breast-milk Substitutes, and undertake appropriate action to investigate and sanction violations.
63. The Committee notes as positive the free and widespread access to high-quality health care within the State party. However, the Committee notes with concern the high incidence of obesity among children in the State party and is concerned at the lack of regulations on the production and marketing of fast foods and other unhealthy foods, especially as targeted at children.
64. The Committee recommends that the State party address the incidence of obesity in children, by inter alia promoting a healthy lifestyle among children, including physical activity and ensuring greater regulatory controls over the production and advertisement of fast food and unhealthy foods, especially those targeted at children.
65. The Committee notes with appreciation that the State party provided significant resources to implement the National Aboriginal Youth Suicide Prevention Strategy over a five-year period. Despite such programmes, the Committee is concerned about:
(a) The continued high rate of suicidal deaths among young people throughout the State party, particularly among youth belonging to the Aboriginal community;
(b) The increasingly high rates of children diagnosed with behavioural problems and the over-medication of children without expressly examining root causes or providing parents and children with alternative support and therapy. In this context, it is of concern to the Committee that educational resources and funding systems for practitioners are geared toward a “quick fix;”
(c) The violation of both children’s and parents’ informed consent based on adequate information provided by health practitioners.
66. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Strengthen and expand the quality of interventions to prevent suicide among children with particular attention to early detection, and expand access to confidential psychological and counselling services in all schools, including social work support in the home;
(b) Establish a system of expert monitoring of the excessive use of psycho stimulants to children, and take action to understand the root causes and improve the accuracy of diagnoses while improving access to behavioural and psychological interventions;
(c) Consider the establishment of a monitoring mechanism in each province and territory, under the ministries of health, to monitor and audit the practice of informed consent by health professionals in relation to the use of psychotropic drugs on children.
Standard of living
67. While the Committee appreciates that the basic needs of the majority of children in the State party are met, it is concerned that income inequality is widespread and growing and that no national strategy has been developed to comprehensively address child poverty despite a commitment by Parliament to end child poverty by 2000. The Committee is especially concerned about the inequitable distribution of tax benefits and social transfers for children. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the provision of welfare services to Aboriginal children, African Canadian and children of other minorities is not comparable in quality and accessibility to services provided to other children in the State party and is not adequate to meet their needs.
68. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Develop and implement a national, coordinated strategy to eliminate child poverty as part of the broader national poverty reduction strategy, which should include annual targets to reduce child poverty;
(b) Assess the impact of tax benefits and social transfers and ensure that they give priority to children in the most vulnerable and disadvantaged situations;
(c) Ensure that funding and other support, including welfare services, provided to Aboriginal, African-Canadian, and other minority children, including welfare services, is comparable in quality and accessibility to services provided to other children in the State party and is adequate to meet their needs.
H. Education, leisure and cultural activities (arts. 28, 29 and 31 of the Convention)
Education, including vocational training and guidance
69. While welcoming the State party’s various initiatives to improve educational outcomes for children in vulnerable situations, the Committee is concerned about the following:
(a) The need for user fees at the compulsory education level for required materials and activities that are part of the basic public school service for children;
(b) The high dropout rate of Aboriginal and African-Canadian children;
(c) The inappropriate and excessive use of disciplinary measures applied to Aboriginal and African Canadian children in school, such as resorting to suspension and referring children to the police, as well as the overrepresentation of these groups in alternative schools;
(d) The high number of segregated schools primarily for minority and disabled children, which leads to discrimination;
(e) The widespread incidence of bullying in schools.
70. The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Take measures to abolish the need for user fees at the level of compulsory education;
(b) Develop a national strategy, in partnership with Aboriginal and African Canadian communities, to address the high dropout rate of Aboriginal and African Canadian children;
(c) Take measures to prevent and avoid suspension and the referral of children to police as a disciplinary measure for Aboriginal and African Canadian children and prevent their reassignment to alternative schools while at the same time ensuring that professionals are provided with the necessary skills and knowledge to tackle the problems;
(d) Ensure integration of minority and disabled children in educational settings in order to prevent segregation and discrimination;
(e) Enhance the measures undertaken to combat all forms of bullying and harassment, such as improving the capacity of teachers and all those working at schools and of students to accept diversity at school and in care institutions, and improve conflict resolution skills of children, parents, and professionals.
Early childhood education and care
71. The Committee is concerned that despite the State party’s significant resources, there has been a lack of funding directed towards the improvement of early childhood development and affordable and accessible early childhood care and services. The Committee is also concerned at the high cost of childcare, the lack of available places for children, the absence of uniform training requirements for all childcare staff and of standards of quality care. The Committee notes that early childhood care and education continues to be inadequate for children under four years of age. Furthermore, the Committee is concerned that the majority of early childhood care and education services in the State party are provided by private, profit-driven institutions, resulting in such services being unaffordable for most families.
72. Referring to its general comment No. 7 (2005), the Committee recommends that the State party further improve the quality and coverage of its early childhood care and education, including by:
(a) Prioritizing the provision of such care to children between the age of 0 and 3 years, with a view to ensuring that it is provided in a holistic manner that includes overall child development and the strengthening of parental capacity;
(b) Increasing the availability of early childhood care and education for all children, by considering providing free or affordable early childhood care whether through State-run or private facilities;
(c) Establishing minimum requirements for training of child care workers and for improvement of their working conditions;
(d) Conducting a study to provide an equity impact analysis of current expenditures on early childhood policies and programmes, including all child benefits and transfers, with a focus on children with higher vulnerability in the early years.
I. Special protection measures (arts. 22, 30, 38, 39, 40, 37 (b)-(d), and 32- 36 of the Convention)
Asylum-seeking and refugee children
73. The Committee welcomes the State party’s progressive policy on economic migration. Nevertheless, the Committee is gravely concerned at the recent passage of the law entitled, Protecting Canada’s Immigration System Act, in June 2012 authorizing the detention of children from ages 16 to 18 for up to one year due to their irregular migrant status. Furthermore, the Committee regrets that notwithstanding its previous recommendation (CRC/C/15/Add.215, para. 47, 2003), the State party has not adopted a national policy on unaccompanied and asylum-seeking children and is concerned that the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act makes no distinction between accompanied and unaccompanied children and does not take into account the best interests of the child. The Committee is also deeply concerned that the frequent detention of asylum-seeking children is being done without consideration for the best interests of the child. Furthermore, while acknowledging that a representative is appointed for unaccompanied children, the Committee notes with concern that they are not provided with a guardian on a regular basis. Additionally, the Committee is concerned that Roma and other migrant children often await a decision about their deportation, in an uncertain status, for prolonged periods of time, even years.
74. The Committee urges the State party to bring its immigration and asylum laws into full conformity with the Convention and other relevant international standards and reiterates its previous recommendations (CRC/C/15/Add.215, para. 47, 2003). In doing so, the State party is urged to take into account the Committee’s general comment No. 6 (2005) on. In addition, the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Reconsider its policy of detaining children who are asylum-seeking, refugees and/or irregular migrants; and ensure that detention is only used in exceptional circumstances, in keeping with the best interests of the child, and subject to judicial review;
(b) Ensure that legislation and procedures use the best interests of the child as the primary consideration in all immigration and asylum processes, that determination of the best interests is consistently conducted by professionals who have been adequately applying such procedures;
(c) Expeditiously establish the institution of independent guardianships for unaccompanied migrant children;
(d) Ensure that cases of asylum-seeking children progress quickly so as to prevent children from waiting long periods of time for the decisions;
(e) Consider implementing the United Nations High Commission for Refugees Guidelines on International Protection No. 8: Child Asylum Claims under articles 1(A)2 and 1(F) of the 1951 Convention. In implementing this recommendation, the Committee stresses the need for the State party to pay particular attention to ensuring that its policies and procedures for children in asylum-seeking, refugee and/or immigration detention give due primacy to the principle of the best interests of the child and that immigration authorities are trained on the principle and procedures of the best interest of the child.
Children in armed conflict
75. While noting with appreciation oral responses provided by the delegation during the dialogue, the Committee seriously regrets the absence of information to the follow up on implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict pursuant to article 8, paragraph 2. The Committee expresses deep concern that despite the recommendation provided in its concluding observations (CRC/OPAC/CAN/C0/1, para. 9, 2006) to give priority, in the process of voluntary recruitment, to those who are oldest and to consider increasing the age of voluntary recruitment, the State party has not considered measures to this effect. The Committee additionally expresses concern that recruitment programmes may in fact actively target Aboriginal youth and are conducted at high school premises.
76. The Committee reiterates its previous recommendations (CRC/OPAC/CAN/C0/1) and recommends that the State party include their implementation and follow up to the Optional Convention on the involvement of children in armed conflict in its next periodic report to the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Committee further recommends that the State party consider raising the age of voluntary recruitment to 18, and in the meantime give priority to those who are oldest in the process of voluntary recruitment. The Committee further recommends that Aboriginal or any other children in vulnerable situations not be actively targeted for recruitment and that the State party reconsider conducting these programmes at high school premises.
77. The Committee welcomes the recent return of Omar Kadr to the custody of the State party. However, the Committee is concerned that as a former child soldier, Omar Kadr has not been accorded the rights and appropriate treatment under the Convention. In particular, the Committee is concerned that he experienced grave violations of his human rights, which the Canadian Supreme Court recognized, including his maltreatment during his years of detention in Guantanamo, and that he has not been afforded appropriate redress and remedies for such violations.
78. The Committee urges the State party to promptly provide a rehabilitation programme for Omar Kadr that is consistent with the Paris Principles and Guidelines
on Children Associated with Armed Forces or Armed Groups and ensure that Omar Khadr is provided with an adequate remedy for the human rights violations that the Supreme Court of Canada ruled he experienced.
Economic exploitation, including child labour
79. The Committee regrets the lack of information provided in the State party’s report regarding child labour and exploitation, and notes with concern that data on child labour is not systematically collected in all provinces and territories. The Committee is also concerned that the State party lacks federal legislation establishing the minimum age of employment within the provinces and territories. The Committee also expresses concern that in some provinces and territories, children of 16 years of age are permitted to perform certain types of hazardous and dangerous work.
80. The Committee recommends that the State party: (a) Establish a national minimum age of 16 for employment, which is consistent with the age of compulsory education;
(b) Harmonize province and territory legislation to ensure adequate protection for all children under the age of 18 from hazardous and unsafe working environments;
(c) Take steps to establish a unified mechanism for systematic data collection on incidences of hazardous child labour and working conditions, disaggregated by age, sex, geographical location and socio-economic background as a form of public accountability for protection of the rights of children;
(d) Consider ratifying ILO Convention No. 138 (1973) concerning the minimum age for admission to employment.
Sale, trafficking and abduction
81. The Committee welcomes the passage of Bill C-268 in 2010, which requires minimum mandatory sentences for persons convicted of child trafficking. However, the Committee is concerned about the weak capacity of law enforcement organizations to identify and subsequently protect child victims of trafficking and the low number of investigations and prosecutions in this respect. The Committee is also concerned that due to the complexity of most child trafficking cases, law enforcement officials and prosecutors do not have clear guidelines for investigation and are not always aware of how to best lay charges.
82. The Committee urges the State party to provide systematic and adequate training to law enforcement officials and prosecutors with the view of protecting all child victims of trafficking and improving enforcement of existing legislation. The Committee recommends that such training include awareness-raising on the applicable sections of the Criminal Code criminalizing child trafficking, best practices for investigation procedures, and specific instructions on how to protect child victims.
83. The Committee notes as positive the existence of a toll-free helpline for children, which seems to be used by a significant number of children within the State party who have sought psycho-social support for cases of depression, sexual exploitation, and school bullying. The Committee is however concerned that the State party has provided limited resources for the effective functioning of such a helpline.
84. The Committee urges the State party to provide financial and technical support to this helpline in order to maintain it and ensure that it provides 24 hour services throughout the State party. The Committee also urges the State party to promote awareness on how children can access the helpline.
Administration of juvenile justice
85. The Committee notes as positive that Bill C-10 (Safe Streets and Communities Act of 2012) prohibits the imprisonment of children in adult correctional facilities. Nevertheless, the Committee is deeply concerned at the fact that the 2003 Youth Criminal Justice Act, which was generally in conformity with the Convention, was in effect amended by the adoption of Bill C-10 and that the latter is excessively punitive for children and not sufficiently restorative in nature. The Committee also regrets that there was no child rights assessment or mechanism to ensure that Bill C-10 complied with the provisions of the Convention. In particular, the Committee expresses concern that:
(a) No action has been undertaken by the State party to increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility (CRC/C/15/Add.215, para. 57, 2003);
(b) Children under 18 are tried as adults, in relation to the circumstances or the gravity of their offence;
(c) The increased use of detention reduces protection of privacy, and leads to reduction in the use of extrajudicial measures, such as diversion;
(d) The excessive use of force, including the use of tasers, by law enforcement officers and personnel in detention centres against children during the arrest stage and in detention;
(e) Aboriginal and African Canadian children and youth are overrepresented in detention with statistics, showing for example, that Aboriginal youth are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system than to graduate from high school;
(f) Teenage girls are placed in mixed-gender youth prisons with cross-gender monitoring by guards, increasing the risk of exposing girls to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault.
86. The Committee recommends that the State party bring the juvenile justice system fully in line with the Convention, including Bill C-10 (2012 Safe Streets and Communities Act) in particular articles 37, 39 and 40, and with other relevant standards, including the Standard Minimum Rules for the Administration of Juvenile Justice (the Beijing Rules), the Guidelines for the Prevention of Juvenile Delinquency (the Riyadh Guidelines), the Rules for the Protection of Juveniles Deprived of their Liberty (the Havana Rules), the Vienna Guidelines for Action on Children in the Criminal Justice System; and the Committee’s general comment No. 10 (2007). In particular, the Committee urges the State party to:
(a) Increase the minimum age of criminal responsibility;
(b) Ensure that no person under 18 is tried as an adult, irrespective of the circumstances or the gravity of his/her offence;
(c) Develop alternatives to detention by increasing the use of extrajudicial measures, such as diversion, and ensure the protection of privacy of children within the juvenile justice system;
(d) Develop guidelines for restraint and use of force against children in arrest and detention for use by all law enforcement officers and personnel in detention facilities, including the abolishment of use of tasers;
(e) Conduct an extensive study of systemic overrepresentation of Aboriginal and African Canadian children and youth in the criminal justice system and develop an effective action plan towards eliminating the disparity in rates of sentencing and incarceration of Aboriginal and African Canadian children and youth, including activities such as training of all legal, penitentiary and law enforcement professionals on the Convention;
(f) Ensure that girls are held separately from boys and that girls are monitored by female prison guards so as to better protect girls from the risk of sexual violence and exploitation
J. Ratification of international human rights instruments
87. The Committee encourages the State party, in order to further strengthen the fulfilment of children’s rights, to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on a communications procedure. The Committee further urges the State party to ratify ILO Conventions No. 138 (1973) and No. 189 (2011) concerning decent work for domestic workers.
K. Cooperation with regional and international bodies
88. The Committee recommends that the State party cooperate with the Organization of American States (OAS) towards the implementation of the Convention and other human rights instruments, both in the State party and in other OAS member States.
L. Follow-up and dissemination
89. The Committee recommends that the State party take all appropriate measures to ensure that the present recommendations are fully implemented by, inter alia, transmitting them to the Head of State, Parliament, relevant ministries, the Supreme Court, and to heads of provincial and territorial authorities for appropriate consideration and further action.
90. The Committee further recommends that the third and fourth periodic report and written replies by the State party and the related recommendations (concluding observations) be made widely available in the languages of the country, including (but not exclusively) through the Internet, to the public at large, civil society organizations, media, youth groups, professional groups and children, in order to generate debate and awareness of the Convention and its Optional Protocols and of their implementation and monitoring.
M. Next report
91. The Committee invites the State party to submit its next combined fifth and sixth periodic report by 11 July 2018 and to include in it information on the implementation of the present concluding observations. The Committee draws attention to its harmonized treaty-specific reporting guidelines adopted on 1 October 2010 (CRC/C/58/Rev.2 and Corr. 1) and reminds the State party that future reports should be in compliance with the guidelines and not exceed 60 pages. In the event that a report exceeding the page limitations is submitted, the State party will be asked to review and eventually resubmit the report in accordance with the above-mentioned guidelines. The Committee reminds the State party that, if it is not in a position to review and resubmit the report, translation of the report for purposes of examination of the treaty body cannot be guaranteed.
92. The Committee also invites the State party to submit an updated core document in accordance with the requirements of the common core document in the harmonized guidelines on reporting, approved at by the fifth Inter-Committee Meeting of the human rights treaty bodies in June 2006 (HRI/GEN/2/Rev.6, chap. I).