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Introduction to Child Rights

What are child rights?

Rights for children and youth are minimum acceptable standards and obligations that the government and its citizens have agreed to uphold and provide to all children and youth.

Every person (child, youth, adult) has rights set out by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and children and youth have an additional set of rights outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). These rights cannot be taken away from anyone for any reason.

What is the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)?

The UNCRC is an international treaty that identifies civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights of all children and youth and reinforces responsibilities of government and all members of society (adults, children, youth) to respect and uphold those rights.

In 1991 Canada ratified the UNCRC, which obligates Canada to promote, implement, protect, and monitor rights of children. The UNCRC has been adopted by all countries in the world except for two.

The four guiding principles of child rights are:

  1. All children and youth have the basic right to life, survival, and development.

2.   All children and youth have the same rights and must be treated equally.

3.  The best interests of children and youth must be the primary consideration in all policies and decisions that affect them.

4.   The views of children and youth should be taken into account in all decisions concerning them, with their age and maturity, and developmental capacity taken into consideration.

Why do children and youth have special rights in Canada?

Canadian laws, policies, and practice along with the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms provides for some protection to children and youth but it does not always consider the unique developmental needs of children and youth and the needs of the people supporting them.

Children and youth are more vulnerable in society because they need help to
protect themselves and promote their own welfare. They are also unable to directly participate in any meaningful way in the political process, which means they do not have access to the decision-making power that affects their lives. This makes them ultimately dependent on their parents and caregivers and other adult decision makers.

Children are defined as any human being under the age of 18. That means adolescents, tweens, infants, teenagers, toddlers, and kids in their middle years are all entitled to the rights guaranteed in the UNCRC.

Child, Family, and Community Services Act (CF&CS Act)

BC Children and Youth in government care also have additional rights under the Child, Family, and Community Services Act (CF&CS Act).




Do adults always know what is
best for children and youth?