Mamadosewin (meeting place, walking together)

National Children’s Commissioner

National Children’s Commissioner

National Children’s Commissioner

Hon. Jim Munson: 

Let’s get back to children, minister.

You and I have had conversations. I commend the government for the recent announcements, and that’s all a good thing, but this has been a rather interesting time in the last month or so. This is sort of a follow-up to Senator Ngo’s question. When you say UNICEF says children’s well-being in this country ranks 25 out of 41 rich nations, I think we should be ashamed of ourselves, really. When you talk to people, they say Canada is number one or number two, but we are nowhere near it.

We’ve talked about a national children’s commissioner. It seems to be working in the U.K. We have so many commissioners. We have ethics commissioners, lobby commissioners, we have official languages commissioners. What about the child, sir? What about the child? We’re talking about the future, but the future is now for the child, minister.

Irwin Cotler wanted a national child’s commissioner. Former member of Parliament, now Minister Garneau wanted a national child’s commissioner. Led by Senator Andreychuk in our report in the human rights committee many years ago, Silenced Citizens, we asked for a children’s commissioner.

Now, I know there are borders, but there are no borders for children in this country, sir. Are you able to commit to us, at least, today that within this mandate of your government that we can see with your negotiations with the provinces and the territories the creation of this position which would be a go-to place and a responsible place for Parliament and government to pay attention to the rights of the child? Thank you.

Hon. Jean-Yves Duclos, P.C., M.P., Minister of Families, Children and Social Development: Thank you. Let me say that when I hear this type of forward-looking language, it reminds me of a hockey team which wants to belong to a 3A league. You know, 3A for triple A governments, governments that are ambitious, that have both right actions and also have the right attitudes. Ambition because, as you say — and I share that view totally — there is no reason for which a child in this prosperous and developed country should live in poverty, in situations which not only impede his or her actual well-being but also his or her ability to develop and become a citizen that has the ability to contribute to everyone’s well-being. It is something that is not accessible, and therefore we need to do better.

However, the planets are well aligned. We have taken action. The CCB, the Canada Child Benefit, which I mentioned earlier, is a key element. The poverty reduction strategy. The significant investments in early learning and child care. The housing investment. The investments to provide better training and work transition support. The important investments we need and we’ve started to do in indigenous communities. All of that makes your language very appropriate and timely.

I welcome your views and the view of all honourable senators on how we can do such a thing, how we can have a child or family commissioner that is able to support this long-term agenda around making society better for everyone, in particular those that truly need and deserve our support.