44% of Canadian children don't know they have rights, says advocacy group

·2 min read

Children First Canada says a new poll shows many children are not aware of their rights, and don't know what to do if they are violated.

The Toronto-based national non-profit group is bringing attention to children's rights in a new report, Kids' Views on Their Roles in Decision-Making, Their Rights, and Issues in Canada.

"Many Canadians think of this as being a world-leading country for children when, in fact, Canada is ranked 30th out of 38 wealthy nations for children — and we've been on the decline. We've fallen from 10th place a decade ago to 30th, and so we have been heading in the wrong direction and we really are trying to turn that around," says Sara Austin, Founder and CEO of Children First Canada.

The survey found 44 per cent of Canadian children did not know they had rights, and 73 per cent don't know what to do if their rights are violated.

"It's deeply disappointing to me as an advocate for all 8,000,000 kids in Canada, but also as a parent — clearly we are not doing a good enough job of raising the awareness of our children that they have rights," Austin said.

It has been nearly 30 years since Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international agreement signed by almost 200 countries which affirms childrens' rights to life, survival, education, enjoyment of their culture, health and freedom from violence.

'Make their lives better'

The group's survey was conducted with 750 children aged 12 to 17 from October 20 to 27 this year. Children were recruited through their parents who received the original invitation and were asked to have their child complete the survey. The margin of error for a comparable probability-based random sample of the same size is +/- 3.57%, 19 times out of 20, the report says.


Canadian children face a wide range of issues that threaten their mental, physical and economic wellbeing, Austin told CBC Radio: Island Morning host Laura Chapin Friday.

She said one in five kids in Canada grows up in poverty, which sets up children for a life of adversity. One in three kids in Canada experiences abuse before the age of 16. And she said suicide is a leading cause of death in children 10 to 14.

She said it was important to talk to children themselves about the solutions they'd like to see to improve their lives.

"We need to understand these issues from their perspective, and know the challenges they face. And not only the problems but also their thoughts around the solutions and how we can work with them to make their lives better," Austin said.

Friday is National Child Day.

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