The Power of Perspectives

The Canadian Bar Association

Kim Covert

Improving Canada’s grade on UNCRC compliance reporting

January 31 2018 31 January 2018

 

If the UN were grading Canada’s mandatory reporting efforts under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, with a particular focus on its record in following the recommendations found in the Concluding Observations to its previous reports, Canada might struggle to get a pass if the grading were done on a curve, but otherwise it would edge into failure territory.

There are a number of reasons for this – for one, Canada rarely hands in its reports, due every five years, on time, and for another, its third and fourth reports, which were submitted together, lacked focus and cohesion. It doesn’t follow reporting guidelines. It starts from the assumption that Canadian laws comply with international human rights conventions when in fact it still needs to develop a comprehensive legal framework for incorporating the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It has failed, despite repeated calls from the UN to do so, to establish a national Ombudsman for Children as an independent monitoring mechanism – the subject of one of the resolutions at the February CBA AGM, and has not created clear opportunities for Canadian youth and children to participate in the process.

In an attempt to address these and other shortcomings, Heritage Canada has developed a draft template for Canada to use when preparing its reports, and invited comment. The CBA Children’s Law Committee, by way of its subcommittee on the UNCRC, took up the challenge of responding.

Reports from State Parties are about more than accountability at the UN, they’re a way for states to monitor their own progress, the committee says. This makes the development of the template an important first step, but just a first step nonetheless.

“As the basic enforcement mechanism for many international human rights treaties, the process relies on the ratifying parties to address the UN Committee’s concluding observations in good faith, with a view to improving their record of implementation and enforcement between reporting periods.”

“The CBA Committee invites Heritage Canada to work from a draft outline for State Party reporting that starts from the guidelines and working methods proposed by the UN Committee and builds on this to facilitate reporting that is comprehensive, data rich and responsive to the recommendations from previous reporting cycles.”

The CBA Committee includes a number of specific recommendations for improving the reporting template developed by Heritage Canada, including making it more closely reflect UN guidelines, inviting comment on plans of action for UNCRC enforcement, and having it address Canada’s reservations.

“Canadians are leading the challenge of developing a universal standard for child rights monitoring and report-writing through the Global Child Project funded through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research. Canada’s template should be informed by that word,” the Committee says.

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