Statement made on 19 November 2009 by Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette
Hon. Céline Hervieux-Payette:
Honourable senators, the role that government should play in the lives of Canadians has been the subject of many debates over the years. The debates have helped us conclude that the government has the moral obligation to help all citizens, especially the most vulnerable members of society, including our children.
Scientists have proven over and over that children between the ages of two and twelve are passing through a critical development stage that will affect what kind of adults they will become. For this reason, we must reconsider the behaviours that our society deems acceptable in terms of raising children and helping them reach their full potential.
Parents are not the masters when it comes to how they treat a child, spouse or family member. Children are human beings who are entitled to the same privileges as their parents, in particular the rights to life, freedom and, most importantly, physical integrity.
Society needs to take a closer look at the new roles parents must take on as a result of a new awareness. And it is because of that awareness that I am using my role as a legislator to propose changes to traditional child-rearing methods. Bill S-209, which I have introduced to protect children, will never make parents into criminals, but seeks to help them find non-violent ways to raise their children. That is why this bill provides for a period of education before it comes into force.
By looking to religious values such as instruction, forgiveness, respect and compassion, we should be able to create a more harmonious society. These values are represented in Bill S-209 and reflect a new vision of the child in our modern societies.
November 20, 2009 will mark the 20th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We must take advantage of this opportunity to amend our legislation. Canada signed this convention 20 years ago, but is not doing enough to protect children against child-rearing violence. It is urgent, not only that we prove to the international community that Canada deserves its reputation as a defender of human rights, but also that we prove to our children that Canada is ensuring that they can develop their full potential.
Canada has learned much about children's rights from other countries, especially those that have passed legislation similar to the bill I have introduced. By promoting a positive approach to child-rearing, these countries have succeeded in legislating behaviour without compromising parents' rights to raise their children. The parent-child relationship in Canada must change, and a new law must serve as the basis for better protection of children's rights. We cannot create a harmonious society without non-violent child-rearing methods. We must never forget that today's children will be tomorrow's parents and that it is up to adults to behave in a way they hope their children will emulate one day.