Last month, Canada submitted a report to the United Nations on measures it had taken to protect child rights between 1998 and 2007. But the report promoted a number of British Columbia programs that have recently been cut by the Campbell administration. And, in one case, the report references a change that was criticized for weakening those protections.
For example, the report - which was handed over to the United Nations on November 20 - states the province has "implemented several measures aimed at promoting non-discrimination in the school system" including the Roots of Empathy program. But, according to The Vancouver Sun's Janet Steffenhagen, government funding for that program, which amounted to $1.45 million last year, dried up October 31 due to the "fiscal challenges facing the province."
The submission also fetes British Columbia for having developed new "worker and parent support approaches" to preventing fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. But, as reported by the Times Colonist's Lindsay Kines, the government recently pulled the plug on its Healthy Choices in Pregnancy initiative - which aimed to increase awareness of the risks of alcohol use in pregnancy.
Then, there's the ministry of children and family development's youth advisory council. The report cites it as an example of how British Columbia has "developed and implemented numerous initiatives to increase opportunities for child and youth participation toward decisions in related programs and services." But the council - setup with the help of high-priced advisor Brent Parfitt - was shuttered in April as part of an effort to refocus the ministry's resources on frontline services.
As part of that same effort, the ministry axed the supported child development program's provincial advisor. That's the same program the submission highlights as enabling "more than 5,800 children with special needs to participate in child care settings."
The report also notes the province's "Employment Standards Regulation was amended in 2003 with respect to conditions of employment for children." But what it doesn't mention is that amendment and accompanying changes to British Columbia's Employment Standards Act allowed children between the ages of 12 and 14 to work up to four hours on school days and seven hours on non-school days to a maximum of 20 hours a week with the written consent of a parent or guardian.
At the time, the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives criticized those changes for making the province "the most child labour-friendly jurisdiction in North America." Since then, British Columbia's leading child rights advocacy group has revealed a "startling increase in the number of child work-place injury claims accepted by WorkSafe BC."
The report is meant to advise the United Nation on "key measures" that have been adopted by Canada to implement the Convention on the Rights of the Child, as well as an optional protocol concerning the involvement of children in armed conflict. It was originally scheduled to be submitted to the United Nations in January 2009.