Statement made on 26 November 2008 by Senator Elizabeth Hubley
Hon. Elizabeth Hubley:
Honourable senators, November 20 was National Child Day, which commemorates the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991 by the United Nations. I wish to first commend my colleagues, Senator Cochrane, Senator Mercer and Senator Munson, for the wonderful celebrations they helped to organize for National Child Day. I am sure all children would be pleased.
The convention enumerates the basic human rights to which all children are entitled. By ratifying this convention in 1991, Canada made a commitment to ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect, protected from harm, given a voice in issues of concern to them, provided with their basic needs and given an opportunity to reach their full potential.
As we celebrate National Child Day, we must also take this opportunity as parliamentarians to ensure that we are protecting and promoting the basic human rights of children everywhere in Canada, especially those of our Aboriginal children.
Nelson Mandela has said:
. . . overcoming poverty is not a gesture of charity. It is an act of justice. It is the protection of a fundamental human right, the right of dignity and a decent life.
While poverty persists, there is no true freedom.
Over 50 per cent of preschool Aboriginal children live in low-income families. The infant mortality rate, the rate of severe disabilities and the rate of serious illness is much greater for First Nations children on reserve than for non-Aboriginal children. As legislators, we must ensure that Aboriginal children in Canada have access to the same basic supports as non-Aboriginal children, so that they, too, achieve their full potential. After all, it is their right.