Posted on 19 November 2009
OTTAWA – On the eve of the 20th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations General Assembly, Liberal senators questioned the Harper government on the state of children’s welfare in Canada.
Senators Callbeck, Dallaire, Hervieux-Payette, Hubley, and Munson joined forces during today’s Question Period to hold the government to account on its record of inaction in improving the quality of life of young Canadians in need. The senators questioned the Leader of the Government in the Senate about the government’s lack of action over four years on the issues of hunger, the disheartening living conditions often endured by Aboriginal youth, the challenges faced by single mothers of young children, the use of physical force as a disciplinary measure, and the breach by the government of the United Nations Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict.
Senator Catherine Callbeck was critical of the government’s record of failing to meet the most basic needs of young Canadians. "Across the country, more and more Canadian families have to depend on food banks, and half of these families have children. This government has forgotten those who need help the most during these harsh economic times," charged Senator Callbeck.
"The situation of Aboriginal children is particularly tragic: they are twice as likely to live in poverty, twice as likely to commit suicide, three times as likely to drop out of school and three times more likely to die in infancy," said Senator Jim Munson. "What is this government doing to change these shameful statistics?"
Regarding the ongoing H1N1 inoculation campaign, Senator Elizabeth Hubley decried the government’s lack of planning in distributing the vaccine to vulnerable segments of the population. "Single mothers with very young children in many cases may not have the means to get their kids to the designated clinic in their region. The government claims that the pandemic plan was designed to ensure that the most vulnerable would be the first to receive the vaccine. Yet we hear of professional sports teams being sent to the front of the line. What steps has the government taken to protect the principle that the most vulnerable go first?" asked Senator Hubley.
Senator Céline Hervieux-Payette endorsed her colleagues’ interventions and reminded them that Canada is lagging behind other countries that have banned the use of force against children as an educational method. "The government has a moral obligation to assist all citizens, and in particular those who are the most fragile members of society, such as our children," said Senator Hervieux-Payette, who has tabled Bill S-209 against child rearing violence.
Senator Romeo Dallaire raised the growing international issue of children in armed conflicts. "Canada used to be at the forefront of efforts to protect and promote the rights of children and youth affected by war. We did this through instruments like the Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Paris Principles and Commitments. Now, our actions and inaction have instilled doubt where we used to be leaders."
Liberal senators have been true to their mandate to defend the rights and interests of groups that are underrepresented in Parliament. Children, Aboriginal Peoples, women and minority groups have all been able to count on this support to bring forward the critical issues of real concern to them, and to achieve the social progress that they deserve.
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