What role for the new Commissioner for Children’s Welfare and Rights?


As a society, we rarely question how a child can claim their rights alone. We assume that this role falls to his parents. However, there are several situations where young people have no other choice but to defend themselves alone. Let us think of those whose parents are in a vulnerable situation, such as newcomers who do not speak the language or do not know the system. Let’s also think about young people who do not want to inform their parents of a particular situation they are experiencing.

As fictional examples, let’s imagine the following cases. Félix is ​​a 16-year-old boy, victim of racial profiling by the police in his neighborhood. Myriam, is a 14-year-old girl who is harassed at the youth center she attends because she wears the veil. Tanya, 13, is a young transgender girl who experiences psychological harassment at a summer camp. What recourse do Félix, Myriam and Tanya have if their parents do not take action on behalf of their child?

The Commission on Human Rights and Youth Rights (CDPDJ) receives complaints related to discrimination or harassment for various reasons provided for in the Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms, such as race, color, sex, gender identity, age and religion. However, this organization will not accept a child’s complaint or initiate proceedings before the Human Rights Tribunal without the consent of their parents. So what about young victims of discrimination or harassment like Félix, Myriam or Tanya? These young people have no real recourse — in the absence of parental support — to assert their right to equality, the cornerstone of the Quebec charter.

How will the new Children’s Welfare and Rights Commissioner (the Commissioner) established by Bill 37 help these children? Although promoting respect for children’s rights is at the heart of the Commissioner’s role, the bill does not create an independent complaints system for the benefit of children. With regard to the defense of rights, the Commissioner’s functions will be limited to “supporting children in the exercise of their rights” and “accompanying them in their efforts”. The bill does not make up for the lack of recourse for children like Félix, Myriam and Tanya.

In this regard, it is important to remember that children are legal subjects in their own right who benefit as much as adults from the protection granted by the Charter.

Gold, If adults have different options to assert their rights and obtain reparations, it is different for children, who do not have the capacity to submit legal claims on their own.

In this context, an analysis of the usefulness and effectiveness of the remedies currently offered to children in the defense of their rights is necessary, in particular so that the Commissioner can fully support and accompany them. Without effective recourse, children’s rights are illusory and offer them no real protection. Let us hope that the bill will be accompanied by deeper reflection on the existing remedies available to children so that they can fully assert their rights.

Furthermore, young people are poorly aware of their rights and can be easily dissuaded by the formal and complex nature of administrative complaints. For example, although a child can submit a request to the CDPDJ alone in the event of a violation of their rights provided for in the Youth Protection Acte — contrary to what is provided for in matters of discrimination or harassment prohibited by the Charter — only 11 requests came from children in 2022-2023, or 2% of all complaints received by the Youth Investigation Department.

More than 42,000 children were in the care of the Youth Protection Department that same year, which raises serious questions about the exercise of the CDPDJ’s current mandate to inform them of their rights. Articles recently published in The Press about the illegal use of isolation rooms in rehabilitation centers clearly illustrate the importance for children to know their rights and to make complaints when they are not respected1.

These distressing figures demonstrate the important role that the Commissioner must play in effectively reaching young people, including those in the care of the youth protection system, by educating them on the laws and offering them real support in implementation. of their rights. Otherwise, the Commissioner will only have a symbolic rather than effective role in defending children’s rights.

1. Read the file “Tannants” withdrawn in cells”, by Ariane Lacoursière and Caroline Touzin=

What do you think ? Participate in the dialogue


reference: www.lapresse.ca

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