November 18, 2009

National Child Day.

November 20th is National Child Day in Canada, enacted a mere 39 years after the UN called upon its members to establish a national holiday celebrating childhood on November 20, 1954, and proclaimed that date Universal Children's Day. It was in fact first celebrated in October 1953, at the request of the International Union for Child Welfare, to promote children's welfare and foster contact and understanding among the world's children. It's also the anniversary of the UN's adoption of the Declaration of the Rights of the Child in 1959.

Convention on the Rights of the Child was signed on the same date in 1989, and has since been ratified by 193 states. Though only two – Somalia and the USA – haven't ratified the Convention, many of those that have (including Canada) haven't fully implemented the Convention in domestic laws, or have done so with numerous reservations. (The Optional Protocol on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflicts has only been ratified by 130 states, while the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography has only been ratified by 135 states.)

This year the
20th Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child - Celebrating Children's Rights is the theme, meant to raise awareness of the fundamental rights to which children are entitled. In Canada, we may also be reminded that November 24th (four days after National Child Day) will mark the 20th anniversary of the unanimous parliamentary resolution to end child poverty. Especially as Canada's child poverty rate - despite decades of unprecedented economic growth - currently stands at 9.5%.

Out of 784,738 Canadians relying of food banks to survive in March 2009, some 280,900 were children and youth under the age of 18 - an 86% increase since 1989. In First Nations and Inuit communities one in four children grow up in poverty; nearly one in two children of recent immigrants to Canada live in poverty. While the current, Conservative government attempts to address the problem with paltry, monthly handouts it has the gall to call a "child care plan", and lower taxes for parents who can afford to enroll their children in sports, 760,000 Canadian children (one out of every nine kids) live in poverty.

While National Child Day may be a good opportunity to familiarise yourself with what your state's actually signed on to, or reminding your elected representatives of their commitments, the day could also be spent actually listening to a kid (doesn't have to be your own, they're all worth your attention) and perhaps doing what they'd like to do for a change. Give them a break – they get told what to do practically every other day of the year.

Note: this is an expanded and updated version of an article originally published on November 19, 2008.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous19/11/08

    I agree - child poverty in Canada is appalling and our governments are doing little to meet their commitments to eliminate it. $100 of diaper money a month doesn't quite cut it.



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