A Canadian submission to the United Nations omits key information in its reporting on measures taken to protect child rights in British Columbia, according to the province's independent children and youth representative. Under international law, the submission - which covers the period from 1998 to 2007 - is supposed to indicate any "factor or difficulties" affecting a country's compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. But, in response to an interview request from Public Eye, Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond said its section on British Columbia "misses the biggest things or doesn't frame the issues in quite the way I think they need to be framed."
As an example, the representative said the submission doesn't address the "poor reporting on outcomes" for children and youth - especially those of aboriginal descent. Nor does it acknowledge they don't have a "voice in important proceedings around family breakdown, child welfare and so on," violating article 12 of the convention.
The report does trumpet the creation of Ms. Turpel-Lafond's office - something she said is "important. But this is a report for the period of up to 2007. They don't mention they shutdown the children's commission during that same period. Boy, that escaped attention...I don't think the reporting is very fair."
Also escaping attention, according to the representative, is "any mention kids that are in state-care really have nowhere to go outside the ministry when they have a complaint. They have no forum apart from some advocacy" by her office.
And Ms. Turpel-Lafond said he takes "umbrage" with the submission seemingly suggesting the province has a child rights education program by referencing a pilot project that was launched in 2006 called Rights 2 Success.
"There's no child rights education program in B.C. There's no child rights standards. There's nothing in the schools on the convention unless the UNICEF brings in some material."
"What this report says to me as a whole - the whole 200 pages together - is why it's so important not only to have an independent office here but to have a national children's commissioner" who can verify the information included in such submissions.
"This type of report runs a great risk because what if this is inaccurate?" she continued, noting its national embarrassment when a report such as this touts a youth advisory council that was abolished by British Columbia in April.
"There are some good things to report, to be sure," she said, making specific reference to Coquitlam's Cape Horn Elementary School, which bills itself as North America's first child-rights respecting school. "But this convention has not really landed in British Columbia other than through lip service."