Proceedings of the Standing Senate Committee on
Issue 17 - Evidence - Afternoon meeting
FREDERICTON, Tuesday, June 14, 2005
The Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights met this day at 1:05 p.m. to examine and report upon Canada's
international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children.
Senator A. Raynell Andreychuk (Chairman) in the chair.
The Chairman: Good afternoon.
We are the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights, and we are studying, or examining and reporting upon,
Canada's international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children, with particular emphasis on the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. At the moment, we are hearing witnesses in Ottawa, but we also decided to go
across the country to hear views from the varying regions. We wanted to hear particularly from youth about the
Convention on the Rights of the Child and whether you have any particular concerns as young people growing up in
Canada that you would share with us.
I understand there is an opening statement explaining the group and how you came to be at the table, perhaps, and
then we will continue from there.
Mr. Florian Bizindavyi, coordinator, Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement: Thank you. I come from Ottawa
and I am involved with a youth organization called the Student Commission of Canada. We are the leader
organization of the Centre of Excellence for Youth Engagement, which is one of the centers of excellence for children's
well-being funded by Health Canada. That is how I came to find wonderful young people interested in coming here,
and who will bring up issues, ideas and concerns. That is how I got in touch with a teacher at Leo Hayes High School.
A lot of the students are from Leo Hayes High School, and two there are involved with an organization that maybe
they will identify when they start talking. Without further adieu, I ask Ryan to take it away.
Mr. Ryan Bresson: I do not have much to say about it, but the first thing is, I think it should be taught in the
curriculum at schools because at least half of us did not even hear about this. We cannot protect our rights if we do not
know our rights.
I only read articles 12 to 16 but I disagreed with article 12, section 1. It said that you are free to express your opinion
or free to express yourself, but it is given due weight according to age and maturity. I do not so much agree with that
because no matter what your age is or your maturity level, it is still an opinion of that age or that maturity level. It
should not be sectioned off like that. An opinion is an opinion, and I think they should all be pretty well equal.
That is about all I have to say. I do not have a big speech.
The Chairman: Fair enough; that is an opening comment. I understand that about four people have been added to
Mr. Possesom Paul: I was brought here by Children's International Summer Villages, CISV. As a Native American
of St. Mary's First Nations, I have come to speak. According to a lot of these laws, languages and the spirituality of the
child should be known. In the early 1900s and up to the 1960s, there was put into place with the church and the
government, Indian day schools and a bunch of stuff like that. Due to that, according to these laws, I suggest that the
government, and these people who protect these laws, that the Native language and the stuff that was stolen due to
these things that were put into place by the same government who put this into place, should be brought into effect.
The Native language should be brought back. This is my own agenda. This is not with CISV. This is my personal
agenda as a Native American and living in Canada under these charters and laws.
Ms. Joelle LaFargue: I read over these articles and from what I can tell, a lot of them have to do with freedom of
expression, your opinions, and for adults to take you seriously. One thing I have noticed about kids my own age or
younger, or sometimes even older, is that when you ask them their opinions, they shrug and say, ``I don't know.'' I find
this sad because I believe that everyone is entitled to have their own opinions and to be heard. Often, kids do not have
opinions or they do not say that they have opinions because they feel that it does not matter because they are either not
taken seriously, or when they do say their opinions, it does not change anything.
The difficulty is, especially when it comes to children becoming active in associations like some of my fellow students
are in, or even active in the government and becoming interested in political affairs, they often feel like they are too
busy or they feel they are not heard because no one asks them or even when they are asked, nothing is done. To get
students and children interested in what is going on in Canada, they have to feel like they are being listened to, and that
something they are doing has an effect on someone and something. They have to see results of what they are doing.
Ms. Emma Strople: I am also here with CISV. Under the Declaration of the Rights of the Child, children have the
right to adequate nutrition, housing, recreation and medical services, but we know that this does not reflect reality in
Canada. Often these rights are overlooked and neglected. Many people, including public officials, have publicly stated
that they believe housing is a privilege extended to those who can afford it. Therefore, we feel that more emphasis needs
to be placed on raising awareness of the Declaration of Human Rights and what it entails. It is especially important to
educate youth about this document, preferably through the school system so that everyone has access to it.
The Chairman: Are there any other students who want to jump in with an opening statement? No? Then I think
Senator Pearson may have some questions or comments.
Senator Pearson: Thank you for coming, all of you, and in the middle of exams and so on. It can be stressful. We try
to make it as informal as possible, but we can only make it so informal because this all goes on the record. I liked what
Emma and Joelle said about the fact that kids often do not speak up because they do not think they are listened to.
You are now on a permanent record, so you are being listened to. I do not want to intimidate you in terms of
I liked Possesom's point about the right to culture because that is in the convention; the right to culture and identity.
If you all look at the convention, because there are some versions in which the language is not so formal, you might
find it useful to work with, think about and share with your friends.
I am interested in your own idea about how you can participate more in the political process because the
Convention on the Rights of the Child contains five major kinds of rights. There are the social, cultural and economic
rights that Emma referred to; the questions of poverty, a right to an adequate level of life, and to housing and so on.
Then, there are the cultural rights that Possesom spoke to, and also what we call civil and political rights. It is hard to
figure out what the political rights of children are. When I say children, I mean everybody under the age of 18. I
apologize for calling you children, but technically, that is the term.
Would anyone take on an answer to, how do you see getting more engaged in the life of the country in a political
way? What would you like to see? Do you want the vote lower or whatever?
Ms. LaFargue: It would be interesting if politicians came, not to talk to classes to try to get them to vote for them,
but to talk about how the political process works, about what type of things people in politics do, and maybe even
more committees like this one to ask for children's opinions. That would make them feel like they are being listened to.
They are being educated because that is the best way to take advantage and actually do things, if you have the
knowledge you need to make the right decisions and say your opinions.
The Chairman: Are you saying that you have not had any politicians or senators come to your schools?
Second, is this the first time you have learned about the Convention on the Rights of the Child, or were you aware
of it? Perhaps you did not know what was in it, but you knew there was such a thing as an international Convention on
the Rights of the Child?
Mr. Ryan Bresson: I remember in Grade 7, we dabbled in it. We went over it, and that was basically it. I think maybe
even a week would be enough because you do not want to beat it to death.
As for politicians coming in, Mr. Peters got our MLA, T.J. Burke, to come in and it was pretty interesting. He went
over how the whole process works. He was not campaigning or anything. He told us how it works and a few stories and
stuff. It was pretty interesting.
It should be part of the curriculum because you cannot protect your rights if you do not know them.
Ms. Katie Cook: For me, I know my rights. Ever since you were young, you know your basic rights, like freedom of
speech and freedom of expression. However, as you start to get older, especially in high school, you start to have
deeper thoughts. I do not really know what I mean by that, but you try to express them in classes like political science
and stuff. You get to express them. You have a great time. You feel like your views are taken into consideration, but on
a broader view, you do not feel like they are. You know what your rights are.
As far as knowing about the convention, I do not necessarily know that I have heard of that exact document, but we
know we have those rights, especially as children. At least I do. However, it is hard exercising them and getting them to
Ms. Jessica Richards: I only learned about politics when I took courses that involved politics, like law and political
science, for example. If you take regular courses you, do not learn much about your rights and stuff. You learn what it
is, based on what the curriculum is for those classes. I think it is important that it is shown more in other courses
because most people will not take political science, for example, because they say it might be boring and all that stuff,
so they are turned off from that path. It should be placed more randomly, it has to be more of an informal setting and
maybe get the school involved. Like Joelle said, there should be presentations on politicians and stuff, not campaigning
for their party, but more, ``This is what politics does and this is how it ensures your rights,'' and stuff like that.
Mr. Bresson: You could even have maybe a political section in say Grade 6 social studies or something, just to get
kids thinking about it. The only way I knew I liked politics is that I was interested in it, and I watched the news,
speeches, the House of Commons and stuff like that. However, it was all maps and stuff. Social studies was the same
course for probably three or four years, and maybe you can go through and if you really want, you can get kids to open
their minds by giving them different things to talk about and learn about. Social studies, to me, is a broad topic, and all
we learned about was geography and maps for four years.
Ms. Richards: I think the most important thing, though, would be to make the younger children understand what it
is exactly. For example, Ryan said that he watched the news and stuff and that is how he became informed about it.
However, a lot of children do not understand what it is; the issues that are going on in the news and stuff. If you put it
in a context where they can understand what is being said, then they might become more interested at an early age, so
they could become more informed that way.
Mr. Matt Cavanaugh: I do not know about other schools throughout the province, but I have a friend in Woodstock
in Grade 8. Her teacher actually teaches the class about politics. It is not part of the curriculum, but a lot of times they
will have days for crosswords or whatever, and the teacher just skips out on that and goes into teaching stuff like
politics. It is not a social studies class, and they have debates and stuff like that. The entire class gets involved and they
debate it out during the class. I know like sometimes in some places, in some situations, it is getting better. People are
more informed, but I know that through my schooling, through my education, I did not get involved in politics until
last year. I would have loved to have gotten it in Grade 8. I think it should be taught more in the curriculum than it is.
Ms. Cook: I think the information about it is limited to school. When you do talk about it and when you do have
these debates, your thoughts and your views are taken into account in school. It does not go beyond that. There is no
way outside of school to show your opinion on any type of deal, like politics or anything. There is no place for you to
say what you think about this, especially since you do not vote until you are 18. It is fine for political science to have a
debate about your rights or about anything and you say your thoughts, but outside of that, there is no real outlet for
Mr. Matt Long: As long as we are on this topic, I wrote down a little thing. I remember Grade 3. Joelle, you were in
my class. I do not know if you remember this, but Mrs. Besner was our teacher's name, if that helps. There was a
provincial election going on between the Liberals, the PC and NDP, and she went over all the people running and stuff.
I did not pay attention much because it was political stuff and I did not really understand it because I was eight years
old. However, once I went outside and stuff, I would see signs going down the highway and I would say, ``Mrs. Besner
talked about him.'' I would see ``Frank McKenna'' signs and my mom would be talking about him. Then, I would go
into McDonald's at 10 a.m. and catch the random seniors talking about it, too. If you introduce it at an early age and
then they get some more sources outside, then it is easier. You are cruising from there.
Mr. Bresson: What Matt was saying about debates, I do not know how deep a conversation you would have in
Grade 8 through a debate, but I like the whole idea of kids learning how to have a structured debate at that age. Even
in Grade 12 sometimes it gets to be a free-for-all.
Social studies is a broad topic, and it was not anywhere near broad enough. That is a great idea, to put different
sections in it because I think, for the most part, teachers get a basic outline and then they go from there. I think it
should be more structured because you should have debates at that age. My first debate in school was probably in high
school. I think if people are exposed to it at a younger age, they will be better off because they will learn how to debate,
and how to make new opinions from new information. Debating, to me, feeds your brain because you get other
people's opinions and you can process that and make a new opinion. Sometimes when you first do that when you are
older, you will be more set in your ways and you will be like, ``No, no, no, you are wrong, I am right.'' I know people in
my class, they might think that of me.
The Chairman: Now that you are older, do you think when you talk about politics and political science that the
subject matter that politicians deal with affects your lives? Are there issues that affect you, whether it is crime, drugs or
the way poverty is dealt with, or do you see it as something for adults up there? In other words, have you made the
connection to your own lives?
Ms. Strople: This goes back to what we were discussing earlier about there not being an outlet for political beliefs or
discussion. CISV is a youth-based organization. We get together once a month and talk about issues like human rights,
international relations and politics. It is a great chance for young people to talk to each other, share ideas and talk
about the different things that they have heard in the news, from their parents or from their teachers. That makes a
really big difference.
In terms of politics, what happens with the politicians and whether it relates to us directly, it does. Whether we know
it or not and whether it will affect us today or tomorrow, it will affect us later on, it will affect people around us, and it
shapes the community that we live in. I think it is important, no matter what.
Ms. LaFargue: She took most of what I was going to say. When I heard about your organization, the only problem
is I do not believe I have ever heard of it before. No offence, but that is part of the problem. We do not hear about
those types of organizations. The only organization I was ever in that would be similar to that was something called
Concerned Youth for Development, CYD, that talked about how to develop the Third World. They had, I believe,
donated money to a particular school in Ecuador or El Salvador, and these people really depended on the money. The
problem was, when I was in this group, I was in Grade 9 and everyone else was in Grade 12, and no one was looking
for other members to join up. People might not know about those organizations and that information needs to get out
What you said about politics not affecting us or we do not feel like it affects us, and what she said, you know it does,
ultimately. Anything that happens in Parliament, a decision that is made, will eventually affect us. The problem is, we
do not know how. Maybe if there was a way to be able to see, ``They have made some sort of decision on this bill that
we do not know anything about, or what that does.'' Maybe if we had more education about what this bill will actually
mean to everyone, in a language that is not formal but that we could actually understand: ``This will affect you
probably in these ways. So what is your opinion on it?'' We need to be more informed about those types of things to
figure out how it is going to affect us.
Ms. Erin Bowlen: I was raised in a political family. My family was very involved in politics, and it has worked with
me because I am very interested, and I like getting involved in politics. I think we need to attract the younger children
to get involved in politics.
I was thinking back to a story I read in Reader's Digest about a child in Ontario back in the 1990s. His teacher told
him about things like poverty that affect politics, and how in Africa they needed wells to be built so they could have
clean water. He lobbied his class to raise money for wells, and it became a really big thing. I think it is important to
attract the youth to get involved in politics. We can make a difference because things like poverty do affect us. Even if
we are not helping people in Africa, we can still help the people in our own city, and so I think it is important to attract
Ms. Cook: I was going to say something about what Erin said. Erin was talking about how — I cannot even
remember. I had something so good to say, too.
Senator Pearson: Maybe if I could make a point, it might spur Katie on.
I think all of you are saying in some ways that there needs to be some structured way in which the opinions of young
people can be sought and actually heard, in terms of government legislation and so on.
When we talked this morning with the ombudsman, he talked about the need for a child and youth advocate in New
Brunswick, and that there has been legislation to establish that, but it has not come into being yet. Maybe there is still a
chance to have some effect on how that office might be set up. I think that maybe he or she, whoever becomes the child
advocate, should have what we call a statutory obligation, which means it is in the law, to listen to young people. That
might be a way of getting your opinions through, at least as it affects New Brunswick. Would that be a good idea? I
throw that out to you. Some of you have to take that on and perhaps go and talk, or at least send a letter, to the
ombudsman, or send a letter to your member of the legislative assembly to suggest that it should be there, that you are
I think you are right that most legislation will affect you one way or another, but some of it affects you specifically,
particularly in the province.
I think Katie now remembers what she was going to say. The pause helped.
Ms. Cook: Yes, it came back to me. I think sometimes we are underestimated on how much we can do. When you
look at our high school, for instance, Leo Hayes, the productions that we put on such as Renaissance, The Lion King
and things like our Safe Grad fund where we raise unbelievable amounts of money, if people could tap into that, we
would support anything.
We have had debates in political science, some heated ones, about international aid and stuff like that. We have a lot
of views on them coming from what we have done in high school to raise all this money, to raise things for what we
want. I think people underestimate us on what we can actually get up and do when we want to do it. For prom, we
would pretty much raise any amount of money. I think if adults could work together with us, a lot more could be done
if they would realize our potential. We just need a little push, I think.
Mr. Paul: I do not want to sound overzealous about my culture, but that is my personal agenda. Along the lines of
organizations, I believe that an organization should be set forth by something like this; how we have this meeting with
senators. This should be done monthly or something be put into place for youth by this committee, but not everyday
youth, but someone who knows not from the top grade students, not just your students that are applying in this, not
this or that. Do not get me wrong. That is awesome that you guys are in political classes and stuff, but personally, I
know this stuff by growing up around my First Nations, where I know that if this person is elected, my grandfather's
logging rights are gone, or something like that.
I am going all over the place with this. Along the lines of the organization, I believe that there should be someone
who should sit down with youth and listen to them and understand what ideas are put into place. Thanks.
The Chairman: Senator Poy, you had an intervention.
Senator Poy: After listening so far to all of you, and listening to the four youth yesterday in St. John's, you have all
said first, most of you do not know anything about the convention. Some of you might have heard of it, but you do not
know the content, and what your rights are. Katie was saying you do know, but it is not the effect that you experience,
right? You know the words.
As Ryan said, we need to listen, not just at a certain age and above; we need to listen at any age. I would say, as a
mother, I did that at any age, and I have always been careful to show respect, even when my children were small. It was
always the respect and listening that is important.
One youth yesterday suggested that voting age should be lowered to 16. I have been thinking about it, and I think
from everything that all of you have said, it makes a lot of sense. It means that the moment you get into high school,
you have to learn the political system; you have to know what is going on in the country.
As Katie said, you have all been underestimated. You have a lot of capabilities, and from listening to all of you, it
makes sense. It makes sense that you develop your political capabilities before you graduate from high school and go
to university because it becomes a different agenda. You have other worries that you want to take care of in your lives.
I want to hear your opinions about lowering the voting age. Do you want to start?
Mr. Bresson: To get back to the first thing I said about whether we care if it affects us, it was a long time ago, but
some adults do not feel that it affects them. Some adults do not think that politics affects them. That is why they do not
vote and that is why if we instil it in the kids, when they grow up they will care a lot more and they will get out and
As far as lowering the voting age, I am 18 now, so I do not care.
Senator Poy: When you were 16 —
Mr. Bresson: Yes, I would have loved to vote when I was 16, but I think you have to teach kids about politics so that
way, when they vote, they care. They do not just go vote, like, ``Hey, this guy has a cool mustache. Vote for him.'' If
you lower the voting age, you should put more in the curriculum about our politics because that way people know.
They are not just voting out of ignorance. They know what is going on, and they can actually make a valid vote.
Senator Poy: My point is that when you lower the voting age, it makes it necessary to have that taught at school.
Mr. Bresson: Yes.
Senator Poy: You should be taught earlier then.
Mr. Bresson: Yes, definitely.
Senator Poy: If necessary, yes.
Mr. Bresson: If you do that, I think it should go hand in hand.
Senator Poy: Absolutely.
Mr. Bresson: Yes, you put it in because that way, you will not get 6,000 16-year-old votes for the Green Party
because they say they want no homework or something.
Senator Poy: Adults vote that way, too.
Mr. Bresson: Yes, I know, but some adults do not feel that politics affects them, so they throw their vote away on
something, or spoil their ballot.
Senator Poy: I know.
Ms. Cook: Matt and I talked before we started about lowering the voting age, and I am all for it. I have been ready
to vote forever. I do not turn 18 for about a month from yesterday. I was sitting there praying that they would not lose
that confidence vote and they would wait until I could vote. I agree, though, and I think it is good that it makes it
necessary for us to learn earlier because you definitely have to walk before you can run. Lowering the voting age to 16
would be awesome. It forces them to learn at Grade 8 and Grade 9. Teach students what is going on in our system. I
did not even know how our system works, how a bill becomes a law or anything like that, until Grade 9 or 10, or even
until I took law class last year. Some things definitely need to be taught earlier, and I agree with lowering the voting
Mr. Bresson: That is why social studies is such a wasted class. You learn maps, the ten provinces and three
The Chairman: I will have to start defending some of those teachers because I certainly did not learn about
geography. That was my complaint. I had everything else.
Ms. Bowlen: I agree with both Ryan and Katie. At 16, I felt I was ready to vote, along with many of my friends, and
I felt we were old enough. I knew what was going on in the political scene. I think it should be lowered because we are
ready, I think. We have a lot to say and we are not heard a lot. I think this is the one way we would be heard, if we were
able to vote at 16. I think it is a good idea.
Senator Oliver: You are the exception because you come from a political family.
Ms. Bowlen: That is true. Yes, I definitely agree with having it in the curriculum.
Mr. Long: When Senator Poy brought up that point, the first thing that clicked into my head was yes, it should be. It
is a great idea to be forced to learn about politics in schools, but I feel they should learn about local politics first
because that is probably the most interesting thing; to know what happens around you first, and then the circle gets
bigger and bigger. Start first with local politics, then go provincially, and then federally.
The Chairman: That is an interesting point about starting locally. We were taught — and I will not even tell you
what year — that school politics, running for your student council, running for what affects you in school, was the first
step to becoming politically active. I have not heard one of you mention school politics, student council, et cetera as
being significant as a stepping stone. I leave that out as a question.
Ms. Richards: School politics does not affect me at all because our school presidents do not do much. At our school,
it is all for show. They have a speech at the end of one year so they can run for the next year, and that is basically it.
They hold this huge fanfare, ``Hey, vote for me,'' but then they do not hold anything of significance to be like, ``This is
what I am going to do as co-president.'' It is, well you voted for me, ``Hey, I am co-president.''
As to Senator Poy's previous comment about lowering the voting age, I agree with everybody else. It is a good idea,
but as Matt said, you have to start locally. You have to show how it affects them first because community politics is
one of the most important things. If you know how things affect you and the area you live in, then you are more
inclined to vote for something that affects you. As Matt said earlier, starting locally is the best way to get people
involved in politics because it shows how it affects them the most.
Senator Oliver: I would like to say thank you to all the students who have made their presentations today. They are
all interesting and they have opened my eyes to a lot of things that, as an adult, I have to start rethinking in relation to
the rights of children.
One thing that concerns me, though, is that there are so many rights and there is so much to learn, there is so much
to know. There are rights in relation to housing, there are rights in relation to education and there are rights in relation
to the justice system. If you are stopped by the police, what are your rights? What can you do and what can you not
do? There are rights in relation to the Charter of Rights and Freedoms, the Human Rights Act, and democratic rights,
rights of freedom of speech and so on. There are so many of them.
When you personally feel that your rights have been denied or encroached upon here in New Brunswick, where do
you go and how can you express it? Most of us today either live or die by our Blackberries or by the computer, so a
logical way to be able to file a complaint is with your Blackberry, but to whom? My question to all of you is, in New
Brunswick when you feel that your rights of free speech under the Charter of Rights and Freedom or the Human
Rights Act have been infringed upon and denied, what is the best and most convenient way for you to file your
complaint? Where and how?
Mr. Long: To be honest with you, I would ask Mr. Peters because the guy is like a human dictionary or something.
If something like that ever happened to me, the first thing I would think of is that there is a place downtown called
Service New Brunswick. I think they offer information, but that would be the first thing that would click in my head;
call them or go downtown and ask them or something.
The Chairman: That is a good answer that you would go to your school, and then to a resource. What about your
Mr. Long: They are not as smart as Mr. Peters.
The Chairman: We know who the top student will be.
Mr. Bresson: As far as school politics goes — I am going back to this — that is just a popularity contest. The people
who would do a good job are usually the losers, so all the cool kids vote for their friends, basically. I do not think that
is good. I do not think that is politics. Like I said, it is more of a popularity contest.
As far as what I would do to protest something, I would probably go to the Legislature building, and if it is more
than just me who has a problem, I would probably get a group together and have a peaceful, good old protest.
Senator Oliver: What if it were your right to privacy that had been infringed? You would not go to the Legislature
building for that?
Mr. Bresson: No.
Senator Oliver: Ryan said he would go to the Legislature building and perhaps march for something big. If it were a
private right to him, such as a right of privacy or he was being bullied or some of these others, what would he do then?
Mr. Bresson: I would make as much noise as I could because that is the only way to be heard. I do not know a
certain place where you can go and say, ``My rights have been — my privacy has been...''
Senator Oliver: The issue is, should there be a place, and if so, what kind of place? Where should it be? That is the
Mr. Bresson: Are you talking specifically for youth or for everyone? Maybe you could have a youth centre or a new
branch or something that just deals with people infringing your rights, so you could go and tell them what happened,
who did it or whatever. They could give you guidance on how to go about it because there are youth centres around. I
have never been to one, so I do not know if they deal with this stuff, but if they do not, they probably should.
Ms. Strople: I think in New Brunswick there is something called the Human Rights Coalition, which would be a
good place to start if you had a concern. Maybe something could be incorporated in terms of a youth-focused part,
which would take into consideration the right to adequate nutrition, housing and the things that go along with that,
because those things are often neglected and they affect the child's future. They affect how children function in school,
they affect what extra-curricular activities they can be part of, and it is really important that at some level, somebody
take responsibility for that and pay attention to that.
Ms. LaFargue: When I have trouble, and I feel that a right is being infringed, I usually go to either a teacher or the
guidance counsellor. I was going to mention the Human Rights Commission, but I do not ever remember knowing
how to get hold of them, other than maybe looking them up in the phone book. Maybe that should be a more
presentable thing that if you have trouble and someone is infringing upon your rights, there should be more
information available that you can use this association. I do not remember hearing about it other than maybe listening
to CBC Radio and hearing them mention about people complaining to the Human Rights Commission. Other than
that, there is no information around school or around where I could have easy access to it. That should be an
The Chairman: Ryan, you wanted to add something?
Mr. Bresson: Yes, because I did not know about this place. So I would say when you teach kids about their rights,
you should teach them how to protect their rights. Either tell them how to go about it or tell them about this youth
coalition place or whatever. Localize it a little bit. You could say where you could go locally, not ``This is the
curriculum across Canada and go to Ottawa and tell someone there about it.'' You cannot really do that. If you are
taught your rights, you should be taught how to protect them too, so it should all be summed up.
The Chairman: Just to change a little bit, with every generation there are different problems that young people face,
and as you know, the older folks like us always say, ``Well, in my day...,'' and they will tell you what the problem was.
There is a generational difference of what problems you face, and our tendency often is to relate back to ourselves.
From your perspective, what is the single most important problem for youth? Not for you, personally, because we all
have different developmental problems, family problems and growing problems, but, what do you think is the greatest
problem facing your communities for youth today? Ryan.
Mr. Bresson: I do not know. It is not for everyone, but probably one of my biggest issues in terms of Canada, in
general, is prescription drugs, because it is a huge problem. Pharmacies are not allowed to share information, or
doctors are not allowed to share information. This person has a hurt leg. We prescribed him Dilaudid. As far as I am
concerned, they are doing that way too easily to begin with. Then when they get their prescription, they can go to
another pharmacy and get their other prescription, or the same prescription, filled and the two pharmacies are not
allowed to share information about it. I go to Cape Breton quite a bit, and it is tearing that place apart. As far as the
crime rate in Halifax going up, I do not think it is a mystery that it is all connected to prescription drugs because it is
basically heroin people are shooting, and they are shooting it like heroin. They are not themselves. You cannot think,
``Oh, I am just going to get help'' or ``I will offer this person help.'' They are not themselves. They will do anything to
get this high again, even those 15- and 16-year-olds stealing cars and breaking into places. In Cape Breton if someone
dies, you cannot even put in their obituary that they died of cancer or whatever because people will break into their
houses looking for prescription drugs. It is my biggest issue, anyway.
Mr. Paul: I have been there and I have seen all that too, and it is a really horrible thing to see it tearing apart all
nations that I know of.
Along the lines of things that my generation faces as a Native culture is loss of culture. I am facing drug-related
problems, suicide and everything; things that normal youth face, also, but the scale is not known in my communities. It
is awareness, in a sense. I think the alienated communities, let us say Cape Breton or a reserve out of town; seeing how
they have been alienated by the government for a long time should be looked at and should be covered.
Ms. Bowlen: I agree with Possesom. Loss of culture is something that our generation faces because it is happening
everywhere, not just on the reserves. I think it is a big problem within Canada because we have so many cultures
together, and they are trying to mix together now and trying not to ignore each other. In the end, they are all losing a
part of their heritage at the same time. They lose that culture by trying to mix and blend and be all one, and I think it is
a problem that we need to address, especially in a multi-cultural society like Canada. I think it is something we
definitely need to address.
Ms. Strople: An issue that we need to address is the fact that some youth are not given the same privileges, which are
not actually privileges. They are fundamental rights. It is not fair to expect them to be able to function and cope and
perform to the same levels as kids who leave the house in the morning with their bellies full and have spent the night in
a bed, as compared to somebody who spent the night on the street in the cold. It is wildly different circumstances, but it
is ignored in the school systems. There is little support within the school for that. There seems to be little support in the
community for these youth.
Ms. LaFargue: Another problem in the school system is that a lot of students are being forced to go into a type of
curriculum that does not fit their learning needs. It does not fit how they learn. Some people are not good at math; they
are better with their hands but there are no courses that will allow them to explore that. I have seen kids who go
through school thinking they are stupid. If I talk to them, they are like, ``Oh, you are just smart and I am just stupid.'' I
am like, ``Maybe, but I am pretty sure that you are good in other ways, or that you are not being taught properly.''
That is one of the problems. It is not encompassing. Kids who are good at carpentry, who are good at mechanics, do
not have the opportunities within the school system to take courses they need for that. Maybe people with businesses
do not necessarily have the opportunity to take math that will be in accordance to what they need to know. We are
lucky in the sense that we have things like law, sociology, political science and media studies, but I think we might have
woodworking. We have no mechanics courses. We have no cooking courses. We have no course encompassing how
some people learn with their hands, or think differently. It is always this set way that we have to learn. It is taking the
square peg and putting it into the round hole. That is something we need to address.
Senator Oliver: Do you not have vocational schools?
Ms. LaFargue: Vocational schools? I do not know. Is there one in Saint John? Is that for kids our age or is it for kids
who have graduated already?
Ms. Cook: For our age, there is Rothesay Collegiate School. It is a private school. There is another one downtown
in Saint John, but there are not as many. My grandmother went to Voc. I have no clue what that is, but it was for
sewing, I think; a vocational school.
Cooking and mechanics courses are not offered a lot, especially at our school, Leo Hayes, but I think it is regional,
or depends on where your school is, because this is my first year here in Fredericton. I am from Chipman; it is a small
town. Basically, all Chipman has is cooking and mechanical courses. I could not take political science, philosophy and
sociology. I could take math, English, nutrition, shop and French, and that was basically it. I think it just depends. I
think schools groom the students towards the areas that they live. Fredericton is a city; you have your businessmen and
you have basically every type. Chipman is a mill town. You go to school, you graduate and you work at the mill. That
is pretty much what they groom you to do. It depends on where you live, the type of education you get now.
Senator Oliver: They must eat well in the mill with all those cooking classes.
The Chairman: I think you are making the point, though, that there should be some variation. Young people should
know about those variations so they can fit their needs, rather than being pigeonholed; because they live in a certain
town, they have to take certain classes. Katie had to move out to get them, and that is perhaps one answer.
We have a few minutes for some last thoughts on any topic. Now is your moment.
Ms. Richards: Going back to what Joelle said about the need for more opportunities in school, my sister and I do
not find school challenging at all. The problem is we are not interested. We are different people, obviously, because we
are two individuals, but my sister has dropped out of school. She is younger than me, and she does not go to school
because she has a problem. She is bored in school, so she does not come. They need to find a way to challenge people
like her and myself. I go because I cannot do anything else if I do not go to school, but she does not see a reason. She
says, ``If I do not learn anything, then what is the point of coming?'' She needs to find something to do that would get
her interested and make her learn at the same time. School is generic learning. You go to school, your teacher teaches
you stuff, and that is it. You are expected to learn everything that way, but there are people who cannot learn that way.
It is not possible. It is not the way they learn. You need different opportunities for people to be able to learn.
Ms. LaFargue: To comment on Jessica's remarks, the fact that I did not know about those schools might be the
issue. If I do not know about them — not that I am going to take those courses — how could anyone go to them unless
they researched it? It goes back to information being available, in my opinion. That is an important issue.
One of the senators talked about, how are we supposed to teach rights to children? Maybe rights should be taught
each year, but becoming more detailed and focusing on more rights that will have more impact as they grow and
progress. You will not worry too much about civil laws until you are around 12, or you get to that age where you need
to know about them because they will be a part of your life, but you could learn about your basic rights when you are a
kid, and then progress to the rest of the rights.
Ms. Cook: My comment does not have anything to do with what they are saying right now. You talked about high
school politics, and Ryan made the comment that everyone should make about high school politics; it is a popularity
vote. Not that politics is not a popularity vote, which it is, but I think it has to be changed. If we learned this stuff
earlier, then it would be changed because we see high school politics as what politics is. We see it as, you have one
assembly and they tell you they are going to bring you cake tomorrow, so vote for them. It has happened. I think that
we have to change that. If we learn earlier what politics is, by lowering the voting age, high school politics might
change along with it. People might realize that it could do things; it could have higher standards than the popularity
Mr. Cavanaugh: If you lower the voting age there should be a mandatory course throughout Canada that goes along
with it that introduces you to politics and what it is all about, what everybody has to do, what all the parties are all
about and everything like that. It should not be an optional course like political science, but enforced, and maybe
starting in Grade 8 or Grade 7 or something like that, and then working its way up slowly, building up to different
Mr. Paul: Along the lines of my agenda that I have brought here today — sorry about this, this means a lot to me,
just to be heard, and being here is really cool —thinking along the lines of bringing back education about people's
cultures, elders are the ones in my community who have the fluent language, yet they are at the ages of 50 to 60 and 70.
For them to teach the language in regular schools, they need a bachelor's degree or something, but I believe at that age,
you should not need something like that to teach a language. A lot of them will not take that course to teach a
language, and I think they should be allowed to teach with just a background check or something. If something is not
done soon, then people will have a total loss of culture. It is not just my culture, either; it is the Inuit. In Canada, you
have so many cultures that are failing and losing themselves, so that is a way of solving that.
The Chairman: So you are somewhat reassured, I come from Regina, Saskatchewan, where we have a large
Aboriginal community. We started the first Native-run university, and we had the same problem. How do you teach
Cree when no one has a Ph.D. in Cree? How do you make it an educational component? We had to get one of the
elders, an elderly lady who was very much interested in teaching and has that capacity. We had to work with her and
academics internationally, linguists around the world, to set the criteria for the Cree language to be taught. Eventually,
we got to the point that we knew what you needed and what skills you needed, and what components could lead you to
teach Native languages. So if there is a will, there is a way of overcoming those impediments. Bringing those issues to
us maybe in this area will get people to reflect that we can bring back cultures if we are interested in doing so.
Senator Poy: I want to answer to what you said, Matt. You said that if the voting age is lowered, there should be
mandatory courses on the Canadian Parliamentary system. Right now, do you have mandatory courses, even at the
voting age of 18? Does that exist? Maybe Matt should answer first.
Mr. Cavanaugh: Not in politics. Politics is not taught in the curriculum or anything like that, but I think there
should be some.
Senator Poy: There should be at any age. Whether it is 18 or 16, I think young people should be taught.
Mr. Long: As long as you are on the final statement, a motivational speaker came to our school one time and he
said, ``I sometimes think that little kids are the smartest people in the world.'' I teach swimming lessons; I do not
actually have kids, and when I was with them I realized that I can learn just as much from them as they can learn from
me. I wish everyone had that fact inside their head. If everyone does get that fact, then you would not have to come and
talk to us, and we would not have such a big problem.
The Chairman: Good point.
Mr. Bresson: As far as teaching us about politics and our rights, it could all be put into social studies. I think I have
a good idea here because seriously, I learned that we have 10 provinces four years in a row. The math curriculum is
changed bi-annually, and this could all be summed up with putting more into social studies, like your rights and how
politics works; put it in at least one year.
The Chairman: I want to thank all of you for coming and for sharing. It is not easy to know exactly what a group
coming from somewhere else is looking for and why they are here, and I think you have responded admirably. As a
final note, we are not looking for any particular thing. We have read and studied the Convention on the Rights of the
Child. I think the Senators on the committee are committed to breathing life into this document so that it is not just
words that you read from time to time, but that Canadians start to live this convention, and live by it. That is what we
expect from adults. What we expect from young people whose rights are affected is to tell us how to go about it, and
what rights are most important to you. Please spread the word to all the students you know that there is such a thing as
a rights-based convention for young people.
Please give us your thoughts; not just today. You can contact us, and tell any of your friends that if they have
anything they think would be helpful to our study, they can contact us. This is an ongoing study. It is not going to end
when we leave today. You have many more opportunities.
We thank you for your ideas and your willingness to be here. Hopefully, some of you will be those political leaders
that you are making comments about today, and I am sure that you will do the role proud as Canadians.
Senator Pearson: I have a website which has a lot of children's rights information on it, including copies of the
convention in youth-friendly language. I will pass a few around. It is called Rights Now!
The Chairman: Senators, we now have before us from Partners for Youth, Leah Levac, program manager and
coordinator, the New Brunswick Youth Action Network. I think you have an opening statement, and then we will go
to questions. Welcome.
Ms. Leah Levac, Program Manager and Coordinator of the New Brunswick Youth Action Network, Partners for
Youth: Thank you all for the opportunity to sit with you today. It really is an honour to speak on behalf of the Partners
for Youth and on behalf of the New Brunswick Youth Action Network.
I work here in Fredericton as the program manager and the interim director for Partners for Youth and also for the
New Brunswick Youth Action Network. Partners for Youth is an organization that does adventure-based work of a
preventative nature with youth who are disenfranchised in their communities. The New Brunswick Youth Action
Network is a collaboration of organizations in New Brunswick that are set up to serve youth who are homeless or at
risk of being homeless. Because of the unique position I have of being involved in both organizations, I feel proud and
also challenged to speak from the position where our youth arrive in a situation of risk to the position of what happens
to those youth when services and interventions are not accessible or available to them. I would like to make a few
comments today about some of the challenges that we face in dealing with our populations, and the way that those
challenges are exaggerated by needs that are unmet through federal policy. Then, because I am an optimistic person by
nature, I have brought some solutions as well, and we will go from there. I am willing to answer questions at any time,
so do not feel the need to wait until I am done because that could take a while.
First, I commend the federal government on some of its initiatives. The National Homelessness Initiative has started
to make progress, certainly in our region of Atlantic Canada, and particularly the extension of the Supporting
Communities Partnership Initiative. It is an indication that the government is beginning to understand that short-term
project-based interventions simply do not work for these kids. We need long-term stable programming for them.
Secondly, I think the National Crime Prevention Strategy has been able to support innovative and exciting projects
in Atlantic Canada, and that has been a great contribution. Unfortunately, one of the big challenges that I identified
when I was pulling together my presentation or my comments is that a lot of those efforts seem relatively
uncoordinated, and they do not create an overall system. Kids are still falling needlessly through widening cracks in
our social fabric, in society.
From Partners for Youth's perspective, we work in the school systems, so the youth we deal with often come to
school hungry. They do not have access to nutritious meals because they often come from an impoverished situation
and circumstance in their communities. They do not have a lot of adequate access to transportation in many cases, so
accessing services and programs outside of school is a challenge for them. Many of them are overweight and obese. We
have a significant obesity and overweight youth problem in New Brunswick, which obviously taxes our health system
at a rate that we cannot afford to sustain as a country. Most significantly, many of these youth are marginalized in
their own schools through bullying that is running rampant. As a result, it creates not only the problem of being
socially, emotionally and physically bullied, but also of being victimized by a system that is simply not set up with
adequate resources to respond to kids when they are bullied.
From the perspective of the Youth Action Network which deals with service providers who work with homeless
youth, the situation in many cases is even more grave. Homeless youth are often self-abusive. There are rampant drug-
use issues on our streets. Our youth are often on the streets making the choice to be there, which often is glorified in the
media but in reality is a choice that is based on a far worse alternative, which is the choice that they have at their
homes. There are absolutely no services, at least in New Brunswick, outside the non-profit realm, that support 16- to
18-year-old youth because that is a significant legislation gap that we deal with on a regular basis, certainly in this
province. I know that gap exists in other parts of the country as well. These youth come from dysfunctional families in
many cases. Abuse, poverty, homophobia and drugs are rampant. One of the significant pieces we have to concentrate
on is the fact that many of them have had former involvement with the child welfare system. This involvement is a
significant indication to me that even the systems we do have in place are not doing what they need to, in all cases. That
is another system I would argue is terribly overtaxed, and yet we still have these youth who are being further
disenfranchised by a system that is not responding to their needs.
On the question that was sent to me, ``How are we doing under our obligations to the rights of children,'' I think we
see significant gaps in housing, access to safe and comprehensive education programs and supporting families. Even
access to play and recreation are being eroded from our school systems on a daily basis. The question bears asking,
``How is this possible?'' How does it happen that there are so many different documents, agendas and strategies for
youth and yet we still have a higher poverty rate for youth, and more children living in poverty, than we did 16 years
ago. That is five years past when there were supposed to be none left.
I offer three answers, three problems that we have. First, we are not paying close enough attention to the Canada
social transfer. That transfer needs to have special attention paid to it because the only way it becomes a national
priority is if national policy is wrapped around it. Second, we have an inconsistency with the way we deliver values,
developmental assets and esteem-based education in our school systems so that youth do not access equal
opportunities, depending on what part of the country they come from. We heard from the youth you were speaking
with that differences exist even from neighbouring communities of the same parts of the country. Third, which affects
me on a daily basis but I think is a significant national problem, is the erosion of core funding and access to resources
for frontline service providers, people who work on the ground with these youth day in and day out.
Here come the solutions. It is not all glum. My first blanket statement is that youth have to become the national
priority. It is not good enough for them to be ``one of'' or ``part of'' or ``somewhere in connection with.'' They are all we
have. They are the only future we have. We really need to focus our attention on them as being central to the process.
Within that, I offer three solutions, and then I am happy to answer questions.
First, we need to legislate dedicated social funding that allows all youth to live out of poverty. I do not know how to
make it simpler than that. That is what kids need.
Second, we need to establish a national initiative, a national network, that supports the delivery of asset-based
education. It obviously needs to happen in conjunction and cooperation with provinces and territories, but it has to be
significant enough that it maintains an education that is focused on the rights of children, and on developing self-worth
and self-sufficiency in terms of daily living.
Finally, I think we have a role to play in re-establishing the work that has happened through the voluntary sector
initiative. Work that focused on the relationship between the federal government and the voluntary sector was a good
starting point, but we need to re-commit to some of the ideas that we have established in that document. I think we
need to go further and work on agreements at a provincial voluntary sector level, and to actually make sure that we do
what we say we are doing in those documents.
I want to close by saying that I am a big believer in actions and in getting something done, and I was shocked last
week. I was meeting with a social worker, and she gave me a document from 1977. It was hearings about the impact of
abusive or dysfunctional family life on youth, and their impetus to commit crime as a result of that. That was almost 30
years ago, and the conversation was quite similar. We still know that kids living in dysfunctional homes do not do well
in society, and yet they are still there. My final comment is a call to action in terms of my hope that when the results
from these proceedings come out in the winter of 2006, which I believe they will, that there be aggressive teeth attached
to them, and they will inspire people to mobilize and to motivate beyond words and into action.
The Chairman: Thank you for your summary and your full report. Could you, as a clarification, give me your
definition of assets-based education?
Ms. Levac: The research I most often point to comes from the Search Institute and the 40 Developmental Assets.
Those are the pieces that pop into my mind around empowerment, self-identity and constructive use of time. There are
eight categories, four internal and four external, and then a number of sub-categories. In terms of developing assets in
a broad sense, though, I think of that in terms of any tools that we can provide youth that give them resiliency against
the struggles that they face. I use the word broadly, but if we were to speak specifically, I would refer to assets outlined
through some of the developmental asset framework that comes out of the Search Institute. Does that answer your
The Chairman: Thank you.
Senator Pearson: We could talk about many things, but I would like to take the opportunity to talk about the
voluntary sector because of your reflections on the voluntary sector, the voluntary sector initiative and the issues
around capacity building within the voluntary sector related also to the downloading of a lot of activities that were
formerly done by government to some extent, and so on. I am well acquainted with the voluntary sector, with some of
its successes but a lot of its disappointment in that they never did set up the two tables that would have made a big
difference. One of the tables was funding relationships and how to change the way in which voluntary organizations
are funded. The other had to do with the whole tax system. That is where we can come in, because in a way that is a
federal responsibility, but it has its impacts on local organizations like yours. The changes in the Charities Act have
been talked about but we have not gotten very far on that yet. We need something to address the issue of the 10-per-
cent rule and the fact that you can only spend 10 per cent of your income on advocacy when organizations like yours
should be doing advocacy on behalf of the public interest. I am talking about, a small thing, but it is really advocacy on
behalf of the public.
Ms. Levac: Sure.
Senator Pearson: We have all seen the capacity for organizations, the energies that your volunteers and the people
bring to your organizations, are often dissipated by the need to go after funding, to fill in endless forms and to do all
that kind of thing. You said we need to re-establish our commitment to the voluntary sector initiative. Do you have
suggestions about how to do that? I am not sure that we even worked it out as well as we should have. There is the
Voluntary Sector Accord, but that is a generic statement. It does not have any teeth. Do you have more specific
Ms. Levac: I do not want to hide behind dollars suggestions all the time, although I would be remiss in not
identifying that every non-profit agency that I ever talk with says, ``We cannot do anything without core funding.'' I
put that out there because organizations have been eroded significantly as a result of the transition, the persuasion to
shift to project-based funding. In terms of working and making a more significant impact as a sector, I would throw
out a couple of general suggestions. One, there needs to be a more coordinated understanding of who takes
responsibility for what jobs and services in communities. On some level, that is the responsibility of a community to
coordinate that. However, I recognize that the establishment of non-profit organizations happens at the federal level
and then the community, to a place where now there are 400 non-profit organizations in Fredericton, and we are only
50,000 people. That is a lot of non-profit organizations, right? So the question bears asking: How do we make sure that
our energies are being channelled? We complain on a regular basis on all levels of government and society that there is
duplication here and gaps over here. Part of the difficulty in the voluntary sector is that they are so overworked and
under-resourced that — I will be perfectly honest with you — I do not have a lot of time to try and find out who else
might be doing what I am doing because I am too busy trying to do what I am doing. It is a vicious cycle of cause and
effect, if you will.
There is also room for making a national statement about whose responsibility is what. I have not yet been able to
find a national policy that deals with youth specifically, and I suggest that everything we identify as being important in
this country, we have a national policy about. We have a national policy on health care; we have national policies on
all sorts of interesting things, on national defence. I recognize there are different levels of government that intervene,
and yet health care is a provincial responsibility, but we have lots of federal attention paid to health care. That, I think,
needs to be established.
We need to establish who holds the responsibility for some of these issues, and how we can specifically designate,
because arguably when the reverse happens, we, being the voluntary sector, pop through where there is an identified
need. That is why you end up with so many people popping through. You see this need, you want to respond to it, and
this is what you do. You see this need and you cannot look at it from a bird's eye view. There needs to be a coordinated
mechanism in place to respond to and identify where the service gaps are.
Senator Poy: You mentioned that there are 400 non-governmental organizations in New Brunswick.
Ms. Levac: Fredericton: this is my understanding, in the city of Fredericton.
Senator Poy: You said you are too busy to find out what others are doing. Are you saying the provincial
government should have control of these NGOs? How would a government — never mind the federal government but
a provincial government — control the number of NGOs? How do you do that?
Ms. Levac: I do not know if the call is to control the NGOs. I think that the call is to create awareness and
coordinate the NGOs so what little resources there are at least are spread to where they need to be spread. For
example, a lot of communities are hiring community liaisons, people to do some of this networking and connecting,
people in their community, which is important, but also something that has been transferred to the community and
municipal level of responsibility. I am not arguing that this is necessarily the best place for it to happen. I am arguing
that, if we want it to happen there, we better shift the resources to go with the responsibility. If we want it coordinated
at the community level, then send the community the resources it needs to do the work.
Senator Poy: I am trying to think how it can be done practically. Suppose the municipality or the city finds out that
three NGOs are doing similar things. Having been involved with different NGOs, I think it would be difficult to say,
``The three of you get together and just have one office.'' That could be a major problem.
Ms. Levac: Sure. It is very difficult and it is about fostering an environment of cooperation, and I think that is a
grassroots level. Maybe I could ask you a question. Because I am not super familiar with what happens when a non-
profit organization applies for non-profit or charitable status, what happens when those documents go to Ottawa
before they come back with, ``Yes, you can be a non-profit,'' or, ``No, you cannot be a non-profit.'' How does that
Senator Poy: I do not know but all these NGOs have to do is use a separate name or say, ``We are doing it for this.''
I am from Toronto. There are many. Even within the Chinese Canadian communities there are so many doing the
same thing and tapping from the same group of people for funding. It really gets watered down. I can see the problem
you have in Fredericton with that many — and you have a small population here.
One of your three solutions is, legislate dedicated funding for adequate housing for youth. How would you do that,
from a practical point of view, from a parliamentarian point of view? I can think of all kinds of problems of not being
able to do that because it is not just for young people; it is really for all Canadians. That means everyone. It is a right
that we all have adequate housing but how do you legislate that?
Ms. Levac: For starters, there has to be a political will.
Senator Poy: Obviously, yes.
Ms. Levac: To make that a reality. I will use an example. We had a will to clean up drinking and driving, and we did
it. It still exists, but we had a will; we had communication strategies. It starts with a will to make it true. Beyond that,
we need to talk about the living conditions, and the ways we stipulate and expect landlords and landowners to serve the
people who live in their buildings. We need to create social housing programs that are accessible to the poorest of the
poor, to the people who are not affected by tax cuts because they do not get enough money to pay taxes; people who
are making $6,000 a year trying to support a child. Those are the people who need social housing. That needs to be
stipulated. Obviously, there needs to be a benchmark for who qualifies for that kind of housing, but we need to put it in
place and make it accessible; make it available for people to have because it simply is not available. It is not there.
Senator Poy: Yes, I realize that. That would be the ideal. Toronto has such a huge problem with homelessness. A lot
of people are trying to solve it, and it still has not been solved.
Senator Oliver: My question is a follow-up question on the same point. Unlike an awful lot of the other witnesses
who have come to see us, your recommendations are highly political in that you are calling upon the federal
government that has the purse strings to do some substantial spending to meet your conditions. I wonder how realistic
that is. In Ottawa, in the House of Commons as elected parties we have the Bloc Québécois, the New Democratic
Party, the Liberal Party of Canada and the Conservative Party of Canada. Of those four, which of them can you see
doing legislation that is dedicated to social funding at an amount that allows all children to live out of poverty? How
much do you think that will cost, and which of those four parties could you see wanting to do something like that? If it
is not realistic that it can happen in a Canadian context today, what are you really saying?
Ms. Levac: My question would be: Who did we expect to do it in 1989 when we said that all Canadian children
would be living out of poverty by 2000?
Senator Pearson: It was an all-party recommendation motion, and it was done to honour Ed Broadbent, who was at
that time leaving the House of Commons. Unfortunately, like many motions as opposed to legislation, they make
statements but do not necessarily reflect the most profoundly held political will. It has been useful as a motion in the
sense that it keeps people reminded. It is a way of reminding people that this was a statement that had been made, but
it was not like a piece of legislation.
Ms. Levac: Right.
Senator Pearson: I remember when it happened, and it reflects in a way, sometimes, on the lack of seriousness. I
would not say lack of seriousness: I think everybody who said it thought it was a nice thing to do. As our chair would
often say, a statement of wonderful ideal, ``pious invocation'' is the term that she uses, and I am afraid that was it. The
will that you are speaking about, to some extent, exists. The means are complex, and I think Senator Oliver would
agree with me that in many ways the best way to get children out of poverty is to have an economy that can pay a living
wage. That is not necessarily government responsibility. Governments can create a climate that improves that or does
not improve that, so the ups and downs of families with children living in poverty are often the fault of the ups and
downs of the economy. It is very complex. I do not think it takes away from our responsibility of working towards this.
Senator Oliver: I would flag it as a recommendation that is extremely complex. For instance, some of the parties that
I mentioned would say the way to get that economy going is to start with tax cuts, and tax cuts will stimulate and spur
the economy. Others will say, ``Well, that is just the opposite way to go.'' Then it also involves the cooperation of three
major parties that historically in Canada do not work well together. It involves the municipalities or the big cities
where a lot of the impoverished are: Toronto, Vancouver and so on. It involves the provinces, and it involves the
Ms. Levac: Absolutely.
Senator Oliver: To get those three groups in one place and arrive upon a financing formula that everyone can live
with and agree with, then finally start building the housing and get people out of the poverty, it is an enormous
Senator Pearson: We made an effort to raise elderly people out of poverty. There was political will for that, and to
some extent it has worked. We have not done quite the same with children. It is a more complex issue, but we are
happy to listen to you, and we just want to put a caveat on the difficulty of doing it.
Ms. Levac: Rest assured that I was not expecting a bill tomorrow when I woke up. It is okay. Have a good night's
The Chairman: You did call for action so you should not let governments off the hook and say, ``I did not expect a
Ms. Levac: Not tomorrow.
The Chairman: Part of the dilemma in that we are trying to narrow the gap between what governments say and what
governments do. We are here because of the Convention on the Rights of the Child which was signed and ratified by
Canada. We are trying to see how we can get the government to put that convention into action in Canada, so do not
However, to follow up on Senator Oliver's question, you have put out how the whole issue would be nicely
packaged if we could do it, if we had that political will behind it. What is the most pressing necessity now that is
achievable? You have talked about NGOs coordinating. I have been through this. You said 1977. To me that sounds
like right in the middle of my career. We talked about how there are duplications, but there are also uniquenesses of
Ms. Levac: Absolutely.
The Chairman: You can deliver services to an Aboriginal community and they will be the same services as in
downtown Fredericton, but because they are delivered within the community they take hold. It is not just duplication;
it is trying to find the right fit for all services. I think we know some of those complexities. To go at the issues for youth
from your perspective, here is the overall blueprint, but what is the most pressing necessity that is achievable?
Ms. Levac: Based on the youth that I see on a daily basis, it really rolls back to education and to access to safe places
to go to school. It rolls back to families. You asked me about feasibility and achievability, and I recognize that all your
challenges are obviously valid ones. Beyond a licence for parents, which I think about from time to time as being a
potentially viable solution — I am kidding — I think that schools and education that promote safe self-sufficiency for
youth is the key. They need a place where they can go and be their own learners, a place where they are free from
bullying, a place where they are free from all forms of discrimination — everything from homophobia to racism and
everything in between — and values-based education. What it means to be a citizen of the world and in turn, a citizen
of the country, the province and your backyard: that for me is pressing.
In terms of what we need to deal with specific individual kids, my sense is that it is access to adequate nutrition and
housing. It is physiological needs. That is where we have to go back to; making sure that kids get breakfast in the
morning, if we want to talk about the important meal. How do we make sure that kids get breakfast every day? Those
are the tangible things.
I want to go back to the first comment you made to make sure that it does not sound as though we should eradicate
and amalgamate all non-profit organizations. That is certainly not my intention. I think they are all doing valuable
work. Obviously, they have been born from need. I think we need to do better because they are arguably doing some of
the most important groundwork in the country. Without them, imagine what we would look like if they were not there
providing housing. Those are a couple: breakfast food and values in education.
The Chairman: Senator Oliver, you have more questions?
Senator Oliver: There was one sentence I did not finish when I was talking before about the need to cooperate and
coordinate the three levels of government. In your statement you say, ``This must include developing consistent
standards in social programming to ensure that children up to the age of 18 receive housing, education and social
support services.'' Again, that would have to involve all three levels of government in all the provinces and all the
territories, and it is a massive undertaking. I wanted to have that on the record.
My question is this: When you gave your original statement, I wrote down something. You said there is a need for
long-term stable programming because it is wrong for children to have to go to school hungry, with no nutritious meals
and without access to adequate transportation to get them to school, to the hospital and so on. You said there is a
significant obesity problem in New Brunswick that is taxing our health system. What is New Brunswick doing about
that particular problem?
Ms. Levac: In the latest provincial budget, a healthy initiative was launched. Someone out in the audience might be
able to help me a little bit. There was money for public awareness: about a million dollars, I think, is what came down
in the last provincial budget; $ 2 million, 2005-06, around healthy lifestyles.
Senator Oliver: What was in it for children up to age 18? What was there to help this obesity problem for youth?
Ms. Levac: There is not a plan wrapped around that money at this point, as far as I know. Our next witnesses might
be able to answer but yes, it is the most significant problem in the country. In New Brunswick, we have the highest
childhood obesity rate.
Senator Pearson: They told us in Newfoundland they had the highest.
Ms. Levac: Well, maybe it is Atlantic Canada.
The Chairman: I think it is a Canadian problem. We can get the statistics, as they are known.
Senator Pearson, after the war, is it not true that schools in Ontario were providing breakfasts or lunches at school?
Senator Pearson: No.
The Chairman: No, just lunches, because my husband said there were soups, sandwiches and all kinds of things.
Anyway, I am just wondering. This is quite doable. If schools provide healthy breakfasts and lunches for children, at
least they can get through the day. It would be a real incentive to get to school for a lot of the children. Talking from a
practical point of view, I think that is doable. Obesity, that is from bad nutrition. Am I correct?
Ms. Levac: It is partly from nutrition and partly lack of activity. The physical education program has been virtually
decimated in school systems. Even when I was a kid we had gym every day. When I was doing my teacher training, our
kindergarten kids had it twice a week. They are five. It just does not compute. It does not make sense. They are
unhealthy because they play Game Boy instead of running around. I was not allowed to sit inside on Saturday morning
when it was nice out; no way.
Senator Poy: From your work, is it true that obesity often is connected with people who are from a poorer section of
society because they are not eating properly, or they are eating more junk food? I have read that. I do not have the
Ms. Levac: I would hypothesize it, but I cannot point to anything that would back it up. Logic sort of follows that
without access to nutritious food —
The Chairman: I think in fairness, there is some linkage with poverty and the lack of ability to get the right food.
Your choices do not lead to a healthy lifestyle.
Ms. Levac: Right.
The Chairman: I think there is also a trend that our entire Canadian lifestyle is leading to obesity.
Ms. Levac: Yes.
The Chairman: Whether it is the abundance of food or the wrong choices we make.
Senator Pearson: I am interested in the coordination idea, and I did not know whether Fredericton has an active
social planning council and whether that is one of the mechanisms for ensuring the knowledge base. I am also
suggesting some. I think a lot of things you talked about would not be that expensive to correct if you put the resource
in the right place; for example, the breakfast-for-learning program that Senator Poy talked about, which is a
coordinated program between the public and private sector. It needs a little bit more government support to get it in
without it being excessively expensive. Taking junk foods out of schools is another way. They have done that in
Ontario now in the elementary system. That will be something helpful. Put in more physical exercise. None of those are
particularly expensive issues. Planning and coordinating is as much a question of will and creating the correct structure
as it is of money. I do not know about the social planning council here, or whether it has been given that mandate. I
know that certain Canadian foundations now are doing capacity building. The Muttart Foundation, the J.W.
McConnell Family Foundation, and so on are coming together. They now have umbrella organizations that are
saying, ``In the philanthropic field we should bring a greater coalescence into our work.'' You have some interesting
foundations here in New Brunswick.
Ms. Levac: Fredericton is just starting to do some work on establishing a social planning mechanism, and it has not
taken form yet. However, there is certainly the foundation of some will in that direction.
Senator Pearson: Good.
The Chairman: I do not know if this is an unfair question. You have pointed out that bullying is such a big issue
now, and we continue to hear this as we read newspapers as well as receive information. Bullying is not new. It
happened in schools before. It was dealt with by the school, the teachers and the family. Why is bullying today such a
big issue in your opinion, and particularly in your area?
Do you have an answer, or are you struggling with the question as we are?
Ms. Levac: I have a couple of shots at it. One, the topics around which youth are bullied are becoming more
exaggerated. For example, the growing divide between rich and poor is a great catalyst for bullying: kids who do not
have things and, therefore, are disenfranchised as a result. Also, bullying has taken a more covert approach, and
consequently it is harder to find. It is harder to pinpoint and, therefore, it spreads more rapidly. My sense is also that
we are dealing in different community circumstances than we used to. When you have a school of 600 kids where
parents do not know each other, and teachers do not know parents, and kids do not know each other, there is not a
sense of community, so there is not the same sense of respect for your fellow people. I think I would identify that as
being a challenge of growing concern. As we try to manage bigger classes and more stringent demands on curriculum,
et cetera, teachers do not have the capacity to address these things. They do not have the capacity because they do not
have the time or resources, or they did not see it happen. I think those are some of the contributing factors that
continue to feed the fire. This is a bit grandiose, but I think that in some ways we model a society of bullying because
there is always a little guy in society, and kids see it. They see it that if they want to win, they have to be better than,
bigger than and more successful than. We see it in business. We see it in politics. We see it around us. It is a model that
we set up for them, which I think is a real part of the way kids learn.
The Chairman: You have put some things to paper; a call to action. We hope our report will point the way on action,
spur governments at all levels to act on behalf of the betterment of children, and speak with the voice of children more
than they have in the past. Thank you for sharing your particular work here in this area and some of your solutions.
Ms. Levac: Thank you.
The Chairman: Senators, our next panel is from the Department of Family and Community Services of New
Brunswick. Mr. Bill MacKenzie is Director of Policy and Federal/Provincial Relations. There are others from other
Mr. MacKenzie, I understand you are going to be the lead. Perhaps you could introduce everyone, and if there is an
opening statement, you could proceed to it. Then we will ask the usual questions.
Mr. Bill MacKenzie, Director, Policy and Federal/Provincial Relations, Department of Family and Community
Services, Government of New Brunswick: Thank you. We look forward to this opportunity to speak to the Senate
committee. As with all good government work, you do it by committee, so our presentation is a collaboration. There
was some leadership by our group and the Department of Training and Employment Development. With me today is
Inga Boehler. She is the Assistant Director of Policy and Planning at the Department of Education; Mike Comeau,
who is the Director of Policy and Planning at the Department of Justice; Ian Walsh who is a Senior Policy Advisor at
the Department of Public Safety; and Jay Clifford who is the Manager of Policy and Planning at the Department of
Public Safety. We took this approach because we saw a number of departments whose mandates touched on the rights
of the child. New Brunswick has many initiatives that protect the rights of the child. I will briefly outline some of these,
and then we will take questions at the end.
The Province of New Brunswick fully supports the principles of the United Nations conventions including the
Convention on the Rights of the Child. New Brunswick has also given its formal support to the Optional Protocol to
the Convention on the Rights of the Child, on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. Under the
authority of the Family Services Act, the Department of Family and Community Services coordinates and delivers a
wide spectrum of programs for children and their families. These programs range from education, prevention and
support to protection and adoption, and include general assistance to families. The Family Services Act provides the
legislative framework for the development and delivery of services to New Brunswick's children and families. The act
opens with a preface that affirms that the family is the basic unit of society and its well-being is essential; it
acknowledges the fundamental rights and freedoms of children; it recognizes that parents are responsible for their
children and that intervention and removal of a child from parental care must be considered in accordance with the act;
and that in such a case, the minister should provide care for a child, as nearly as possible as if they were under the care
and protection of wise and conscientious parents. In all their decisions, representatives of the minister must consider,
above all else, the best interests of children.
The government is in the process of defending its Main Estimates here in New Brunswick, but some of the highlights
from the budget speech that affect this area include an increase in education funding for kindergarten to grade 12 of
$23.7 million over last year's revised expenditures, to a total of $803.6 million for education. Initiatives under the
Quality Learning Agenda will receive $15.3 million more, including new funding for 85 more teaching positions. The
government will continue investments in wage and bonus increases for staff in child care facilities, and will provide an
annual increase of $100 per child-space for early intervention and integrated day-care spaces. A long-term strategy for
the recruitment, retention and training of child care workers will be undertaken. Prevention-based early language
services will be expanded to all regions of the province, and we will launch a public awareness campaign to support
parents in choosing quality child care for their children.
The next point is the one I was yelling the answer to when the previous witness was speaking. New Brunswick will
spend $2 million in 2005-06 to promote healthy living for children and youth in the areas of physical activity, nutrition
and healthy eating, tobacco cessation and mental health and resiliency.
The overall budget increase for Family and Community Services is $28 million, to a total of $738 million. The main
groups receiving increases will be low income families and individuals, children, seniors, community partners and
persons with disabilities. Under the Family and Youth Capital Assistance Program, funding will be provided to assist
in the development of community playgrounds, sport and recreational facilities and equipment, and community
Now, here are some initiatives. It has already been mentioned, and you would have heard it from our ombudsman
this morning. I am sure he would have spoke on it at length. The New Brunswick Legislature has passed the New
Brunswick Child and Youth Advocate Act, the purpose of which is to monitor the delivery of government services to
children in the province. I am sure he also told you this morning that there has not been someone appointed yet to that
Senator Oliver: Well, there are amendments being made —
Mr. MacKenzie: Yes. There is An Act to Amend the Child and Youth Advocate Act that is presently in the
Committee of the Whole.
Senator Oliver: — to take the teeth out of it.
Mr. MacKenzie: I think that is a bit of an overstatement. We could talk about it now, or we can talk about it when
we get to the question period.
The Chairman: I think we would like you to continue. I am sure Senator Oliver will follow up.
Mr. MacKenzie: Please remind me, and we will talk about the nature of the amendments, and the act to amend.
In the area of services to Aboriginal children, Family and Community Services is party to a tripartite agreement
with the federal government and First Nations in New Brunswick. Services to Aboriginal children on reserve are
delivered by First Nation Child and Family Agencies based on culturally appropriate standards, funded by the federal
government, and regulated by our minister. For those children who do not live on reserves, service is delivered through
the same mechanism as that which delivers services to all New Brunswick's children. Staff make every effort to deliver
services to children in an environment that is sensitive to the needs of all children, and respects their cultural rights.
Family Violence and Child Protection: The New Brunswick government recently announced the second action plan
to reduce violence against women in New Brunswick, including programs to treat assaulters, programs for women and
children who have been exposed to violence in their home, and extending special social assistance benefits for women
trying to leave violent relationships. This protection was previously three months. It has been extended to nine. In
April 2005, an updated version of the Child Victims of Abuse and Neglect Protocols was released. The protocol is a
joint effort of the ministers of Health and Wellness, Education, Justice, Public Safety, Status of Women, Training and
Employment Development and Family and Community Services. The purpose of the protocols is to assist in the
identification of abuse and neglect, and to set out the responsibilities and procedures for reporting and responding.
In the area of adoption, New Brunswick will soon introduce amendments to the adoption provisions of the Family
Services Act to modernize the entire process for both adoptions within the province and international adoptions. We
will strengthen the Intercountry Adoption Act to be a stand-alone act. Family and Community Services hopes to
ensure the rights of children by holding all international adoptions to the principles of the Convention on Protection of
Children and Cooperation in Respect of Intercountry Adoption. This is known as the Hague convention. Whether the
country of origin is or is not a Hague jurisdiction, this is important for us because presently, 80 per cent of the
international adoptions in New Brunswick are from non-Hague countries.
In the past few years, New Brunswick has taken steps to increase adoption placements for children in care of the
minister. Additional social workers were hired to support this program. As of March 31, 2005 — this program was
started in 2001 — 426 children have been placed for the purpose of adoption through this initiative. I think it is more
than three times the rate of normal placements that we would have had. I do not know if any of you saw the article in
the National Post — I believe it was the end of last week — that was all on adoption, triggered by what is happening in
Ontario. However, there was a map with the bar chart showing performance of different provinces — placement of
children relative to children in care — and on that map, New Brunswick was clearly one of the leaders in the country,
and we are very proud of that program.
I had a carry-in fax from my colleagues at Health and Wellness, so this is not in the prepared text, if any of you are
reading it. I got it about five minutes to three.
Immunizations for children and youth are a priority identified in the government's provincial health plan. Since the
health plan's release in 2004, the vaccination program for children and youth has been expanded to include — I have to
read these medical names — varicella, whooping cough, tetanus, diphtheria, meningococcal vaccine and flu vaccine for
infants. Then we have the early childhood initiatives. These are province-wide integrated services. They are delivered
jointly by Health and Wellness and the Department of Family and Community Services. Health and Wellness delivers
enhanced prenatal screening and intervention, enhanced post-natal screening and intervention, and health clinics for
three-and-a-half-year-old children. All children in New Brunswick are called for an appointment at Public Health
when they are three and a half to have their hearing and their eyes tested. The public health nurse can also identify at
that time any potential speech impediments and things that need to be addressed before the child gets to school. It also
gives an opportunity to address safety risks in the home. It helps to identify at-risk children and gives us some time to
address them before they show up in school.
Family and Community Services, as part of the Early Childhood Initiative, ECI, has integrated daycare services for
children at risk, early childhood social worker services, home economics services that improve family development and
resource management skills. The program targets their priority children from the prenatal stage to age five, whose
development is at risk due to physical, intellectual or environmental factors.
In the area of education, in November, 2004 the Department of Education engaged Professor Wayne MacKay to
conduct a review of inclusive education in New Brunswick. Dr. MacKay is internationally known for his work in the
area of human rights and education. This study will provide the NB government with an analysis of legal and human
rights frameworks in which public education must be delivered. Recommendations of the study will relate to a policy
framework on inclusive education; a working definition of exceptionality; a service delivery model that will include
supports required government-wide for student learning, a standards/accountability framework, and a funding model.
I am not sure if committee members are aware that we have a dual education system in New Brunswick. The
anglophone social studies curriculum for kindergarten to grade 2 makes reference to the United Nations conventions.
Teachers are specifically requested to use activities that raise the awareness of children for the rights they share. The
context is children's right to protection and support, physical support, emotional support, psychological support, as
well as rights to education and to play. In the francophone sector, in the ``Formation personnelle et sociale''
curriculum, students learn about democratic institutions and roles of men and women, as well as rights, laws and
responsibilities that allow us to live in a harmonious society.
Even though there are no direct outcomes that state the Convention on the Rights of the Child, many teachers,
especially in grades 5 to 10, use the convention as a starting point for their lesson planning.
The Department of Education has recently reviewed and improved its policies concerning the management of child
custody issues in the school environment, and its policy for protection of students from non-professional conduct by
adults in the school system. Its Positive Learning Environment Policy and related initiatives provide assistance to
school system personnel regarding respectful, positive discipline and creating systemic conditions for peaceful and
respectful learning environments.
New Brunswick's dropout rate is the second lowest in Canada. Its annual drop-out rate has been decreasing steadily
and is at its lowest in 10 years at 2.8 per cent. Over the last three years, the New Brunswick government has developed
10-year strategic plans for the kindergarten to grade 12 public education system and post-secondary education. These
plans contain concrete actions that include developing the whole child and ensuring varying learning needs are met,
increasing access to vocational and other education opportunities, and increasing access to and completion of post-
The government is in the process of reforming its family support orders process. The legislative assembly is presently
considering Bill 48, the Support Enforcement Act. This bill will replace the provisions of the Family Services Act
concerning the enforcement of family support orders. It is expected the new act will allow us to collect family support
Children and youth in the criminal justice system: Programs for child victims include court preparation and court
support, referrals for counselling to registered therapists of the parents' choice if Child Protection is not involved,
assistance with parents or guardians and children to prepare victim impact statements, if the accused is found guilty,
for court sentencing hearings.
Crime compensation and following up to court: A service will offer an explanation of sentencing outcomes and
assistance to parents or guardians for registering with Correctional Services Canada and the National Parole Board or
with the New Brunswick Department of Public Safety for release of information on incarcerated offenders or accused
found not guilty by reason of mental disorder.
In the area of youth justice and detention, legislative schemes enforced by or affecting the operations of the
Department of Public Safety comply with or exceed the level of protection afforded by the convention. In the area of
age of criminal responsibility, age stipulations governing the quasi-criminal liability of children are contained in the
Provincial Offences Procedure for Youth Criminal Justice Act, which establishes the age of quasi-criminal liability for
provincial offences to be 12 years.
Deprivation of liberty: The Custody and Detention of Young Persons Act, which governs the custodial detention of
young persons found guilty of criminal and quasi-criminal offences in conjunction with the federal Youth Criminal
Justice Act, adopts the minimum and maximum age guidelines contained in the federal act. New Brunswick has two
levels of youth custody, namely, secure custody and open custody. Secure custody is at the New Brunswick Youth
Centre, a relatively new, state-of-the art facility for youth. Programs administered by the centre include academics, life
skills, cognitive skills, leisure and recreation and clinical programming. Open custody consists of community-based
group homes and therapeutic foster homes. A young person who is found guilty of a provincial offence cannot be
committed to secure custody if he or she is under the age of 14 years.
During the past 10 years, the Department of Public Safety has significantly increased its use of evidence-based
community programs and enhancements aimed at reducing our level of youth custody. In 1996, the youth custody rate
in this province was 36 out of 10,000. Currently, the projected rate is 12 out of 10,000. We are waiting for official data
from the Canadian Centre for Justice Statistics to confirm this.
Consent to medical treatment: Although regulation of medical services is mainly under the administrative authority
of the Ministry of Health and Wellness, New Brunswick's Regulation 92-71, enacted pursuant to the Custody and
Detention of Young Persons Act, requires that supervisors of secure youth custodial facilities arrange for young
persons to undergo such medical, psychiatric, psychological and dental examinations, and treatments, as appear
necessary. Rules governing the age of consent to medical treatment are thus a concern to the Department of Public
Safety. The Medical Consent of Minors Act provides that minors who have attained the age of 16 possess full powers
of consent, and that minors below the age of 16 may be legally capable of consenting to medical treatment if, in the
opinion of two qualified medical practitioners, the minor is capable of understanding the nature and consequences of
medical treatment, and if the medical treatment is in the best interests of the minor. However, section 12 of the Custody
and Detention of Young Persons Act provides that the consent provisions of the Medical Consent of Minors Act may
be superseded if a person below the age of 16 who is detained in a youth custodial facility requires medical treatment,
and the consent of the parent or guardian is required by law and is refused or unobtainable. In such circumstances, the
Minister of Public Safety may consent to the medical treatment.
Access to independent legal counsel: The Provincial Offences Procedure for Young Persons Act confirms the right
of children between the ages of 12 and 18 to retain and instruct counsel without delay. The young person can exercise
that right personally at any stage of the proceedings, as well as prior to and during any consideration of whether to use
alternative measures to deal with the young person. The young person is entitled to access existing legal aid programs.
If no legal aid program is available, or if the young person is unable to obtain legal counsel through a legal aid
program, the youth court is empowered to direct the Attorney General of the Province to appoint counsel. Each young
person is entitled to representation by independent counsel in any case where it appears to a youth court judge or a
justice that the interests of a young person and their parents are in conflict, or that it would be in the interests of a
young person to be represented by their own counsel.
We are ready to take questions.
Senator Oliver: Thank you very much. I would like to go to the Youth Advocate Act, and we would like to have a
current update on the act. Is it before the Committee of the Whole now?
Mr. MacKenzie: Right.
Senator Oliver: When will it be dealt with? When will it become effective? Has a budget been given? What is the
budget? When are you going to start hiring so it can be effective?
Mr. MacKenzie: Some of those questions, I am not in a position to answer, but I will answer the ones I can.
The original act came into effect April 1, 2005. The act to amend is in the Committee of the Whole. A budget was
provided for the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate. It is under the legislative assembly. The advocate will be an
independent officer of the legislative assembly. I believe the amount of about $430,000 was provided for fiscal year
Now to the nature of the act to amend: I did not bring it with me, but my recollection is the Child and Youth
Advocate will have four broad areas of power. Generally advocacy is basically talking about the importance of an
advocate and their role and general right. Systemic advocacy talks about where the advocate would make specific
references about policies and programs of government and make recommendations for change. The last two are
individual advocacy and individual complaint, where the advocate would advocate on behalf of a particular person
with a particular complaint.
The nature of the amendments in the act to amend limits two of those areas of power: the area of individual
advocacy and individual complaint to the policies and programs that fall under the auspices of the Minister of Family
and Community Services, and the Department of Public Safety. In many jurisdictions that is the scope of the power of
the advocate. In the two jurisdictions, I believe, that have — there may be three, Quebec, as well — Saskatchewan and
Newfoundland have the broadest powers of a child and youth advocate. In those jurisdictions, I believe about 70 per
cent of the complaints fall within the areas of the mandates of Family and Community Services and Public Safety.
Senator Oliver: It is now before the Committee of the Whole. When is the Committee of the Whole due to hear
witnesses to deal with the amendments?
Mr. Mike Comeau, Director, Policy and Planning, Department of Justice, Government of New Brunswick: I will take a
shot at that because I work for the Government House Leader, as well as the Minister of Justice. The ``when'' is to be
determined. The government has, I think, 19 bills pending before the Committee of the Whole, and a Committee of the
Whole means Committee of the Whole House. It usually does not mean witnesses, such as at the committee stage in the
House of Commons or the Senate. It means members questioning ministers who advocate for the bill. Nineteen bills
are waiting for that, and the House will sit for four or five more days before it recesses for the summer, which is to say
the timing is in the hands of parliamentarians, the members of the three political parties that are represented in the
House. We do not know how many bills they will manage to consider and pass, but this is one is before them.
Senator Oliver: Normally the government indicates to opposition parties in most jurisdictions, ``These are must-have
bills before we rise.'' Is there such a list, and is this bill on that list?
Mr. Comeau: I think they are still discussing those between —
Senator Oliver: We understand about that.
Mr. MacKenzie: In fairness, to add to what Mike said, it might help you to understand the history of this bill. To
clarify, the first act was an opposition bill, and the act to amend is the government bill. There is both opposition and
government support to seeing this thing through.
Senator Oliver: There was a suggestion this morning that maybe we should not have a provincial ombudsman and a
separate ombudsman or ombudsperson for youth. Maybe, as in the case of Nova Scotia, they should be all in one. Is
that a consideration here in New Brunswick, to cut down on administrative costs?
Mr. MacKenzie: That decision would be made by the politicians and the ministers.
Senator Oliver: By the Director of Policy and Federal-Provincial Relations?
Mr. MacKenzie: No, I would provide advice to my minister and to the Premier as how to proceed, and that is
normally protected under the Right to Information Act.
Senator Oliver: Thank you, Madam Chair.
Senator Pearson: I want to follow up briefly on the youth advocate, because I think we had some good ideas about
what should be included, and hearing from the young people, as well. If you are in the process of amending or at least
discussing, it might be useful for us to share that rapidly with you. The young people felt that, as in the case of New
Zealand, there should be a statutory requirement for the advocate to hear from children generally, to have an advisory
group or something associated with the office. I know this is true in Saskatchewan. I know it is also true in Ontario.
This works well. It is helpful to the youth advocate. I thought I would share that with you.
I note that what you have done now is similar in some of the other provinces; eliminate education as the area in
which the advocate will operate. I think some young people would be concerned about that, and I put that on the
I wanted to talk briefly about children in care of the state, and I commend the work that has been done on adoption.
I was here at that adoption council meeting last October in St. John's, and heard some of the things that were done.
Remarkable efforts had been made to ensure that more children were taken out of care and given into foster homes, or
given to adoption.
New Brunswick has been a long time user, I think, of the method known as looking after children in the foster care
system. Is that still in existence? My own sense about that particular approach — I remember being here, also, many
years ago, hearing about that particular approach — is that it is consistent with the convention on the Rights of the
Child because the children are given much more role in developing the care plans and so on for their attention.
Is that still going on in New Brunswick, and if so, do you feel comfortable with it and so on?
Mr. MacKenzie: I think the only discomfort we have is that we do not have enough, and we are trying to recruit and
train more foster homes. As of March 2004, there were 893 foster homes and 29 group homes in New Brunswick.
Senator Pearson: Yes, and you need more.
Mr. MacKenzie: We need more.
Senator Pearson: The method that is being used is this looking-after-children method, which has been —
Mr. MacKenzie: I am sorry, I had hoped to bring the Director of Child Protection for our department with us today
but she is at a coroner's inquest.
Senator Pearson: I have not heard to the contrary, so I hope that is the case, because it is a good —
Mr. MacKenzie: Yes, and we also have something that we call Parent Resources for Information Development and
Education, PRIDE, training which we put these people through, as well as the adoptive parents in our new adoption
program. The PRIDE training is focused on some of the issues that these people deal with; not parenting in general,
but with the specific sort of kids that get taken into the care of the minister.
Senator Pearson: The children themselves are given the opportunity to take a substantial part in the development of
their plans of care and so on. I think that is one of the significant components. It is something we have urged, and
heard from young people themselves, how important it is for them to feel that they are part of the decision-making
process for their own care. For the moment, that is my question. If we have more time, I will come back.
Senator Poy: Mr. MacKenzie, I want to ask you something regarding the family violence and child protection
section in your presentation. You said the New Brunswick government recently announced a second action plan to
extend the programs from three months to nine months. Do these programs have anything to do with women's
shelters, or are they just treatment programs?
Mr. MacKenzie: In trying to tighten up my presentation, I skipped a few words when I read that. What is written
there probably does not do justice to a fairly complex thing. There are a number of things. I think we have a system of
13 transition houses in New Brunswick. Someone can go there for 30 days and stay without cost, but not all people
leaving violent or abusive relationships end up in transition houses. The part about the three months to nine months
relates to a particular part of our social assistance. In our province, we have something called the household income
policy. Many provinces have things similar to it. It takes into consideration all the income in a household when
determining what rate to pay for social assistance. We have a number of exceptions to the household income policy
that we have for social policy purposes. It is usually so women in transition — that is how we refer to it, but if you look
at policy drafting, it is drafted as gender neutral — can live with someone else and not have it affect their social
assistance. It is a protection that helps them to transition out of a violent relationship. It used to be that they had three
months where they could live in a household with someone else, another potential income earner or someone else on
social assistance, and not have that affect their social assistance cheque. As part of the 2005-06 budget process, we are
extending that sort of protection or consideration from three months to nine months, to help further with the
Some things we have done in the first part of that: I think it was three years ago, we used to formally fund transition
houses to 80 per cent of the approved operating budget. In two steps, we have moved to 100 per cent funding of
transition houses, the approved operating budget. This new five-year plan that was talked about will look at 100-per-
cent funding for second-stage housing. That is a bit of a gap in our system in many parts of the province now. Someone
leaving an abusive relationship will hit their 30 days of free time at the transition house and be left with nowhere to go.
Another interesting thing we do in this area under our early childhood development program is we pay for
interveners for the children in these transition houses. That is something we have done for a few years; counselling for
children who are witnesses of family violence.
Senator Poy: These women usually take their children if they are young children?
Mr. MacKenzie: Yes.
Senator Poy: The children are with them. When they are in the transition houses it is paid for by the government 100
per cent, and that extends to nine months now?
Mr. MacKenzie: No, they still get just 30 days in a transition house. If the woman does not have income, she
qualifies for social assistance. Normally under social assistance, and we take into consideration the income of everyone
in the household. If someone moves in with someone who has a job, then they would not qualify for social assistance.
Senator Poy: You mean such as family members?
Mr. MacKenzie: Not just family members.
Senator Poy: Or friends?
Mr. MacKenzie: Or friends, but in the case of someone leaving an abusive relationship there is an exemption to
considering the income of others. Even if they move in with a friend who has a good job, because they are leaving a
violent relationship and looking to re-establish, they can still qualify for social assistance and they can have an income
of their own. The three months and nine months referred to in the text talks about extending that exemption to that
household income policy from three months to nine months.
Senator Poy: What happens after they are on their own then?
Mr. MacKenzie: In the last action plan that was released last week or two weeks ago, I believe, the second stage
housing was identified as a gap. I am sure any of you are aware of family violence statistics. Many of these people
return to the violent relationships because they have nowhere to go when the 30 days in transition house runs out. That
is why the second stage of the plan talks about 100 per cent funding for second stage housing, so there is somewhere to
go after that 30 days.
Senator Poy: How long would that period be; another 30 days or it is not decided?
Mr. MacKenzie: No, it is longer. It could be up to two years.
The Chairman: Mr. MacKenzie, we are looking at the Convention on the Rights of the Child, which has been signed
and ratified by the government, federally, but we know it is federal-provincial legislation. Even though I was involved
at that time and remember that provinces had been consulted, at the time that the federal government was trying to
sign and ratify it there was reaction from some premiers that they knew nothing about it. However, it had been about a
10- or 11-year period where the negotiations went on. Their public servants then told them there had been ongoing
negotiations, and of course, as worthy as the cause appeared to be, they all were tacitly in favour of the convention.
Our committee understands that there was then a federal-provincial committee that continues to meet, and attempts to
put the convention into national and provincial law.
What can you tell us about New Brunswick's point of view, because you put in your brief that the Province of New
Brunswick fully supports the principles of the United Nations convention? Are you in New Brunswick moving actively
to make sure that it forms part of your law? It is a rights-based convention. These are rights for children. Some of them
are transitory rights; some of them may be rights vested in others until the children can handle them, but the intent of
ratifying is to be bound by the convention. The federal-provincial committee apparently has been meeting for a long
time. We, as a group, had great difficulty at the federal level even getting the names of the people sitting on this federal-
provincial committee. What is New Brunswick's position on this working group? Are you actively promoting that the
convention comes into your provincial law and also into the federal law, or are you simply using the convention as
principles that you are guided by?
Mr. MacKenzie: First, we have a member on that committee. Are you referring to the continuing committee on
human rights? We are asked quite often. They coordinate our responses to what we are doing, and reporting
relationships. Every time we take a piece of legislation forward to government, there are a number of things that are
considered. First, they look at all our legislation, all our legislative proposals. If I take a legislative proposal forward to
cabinet, I have to have a sign-off by the drafter saying, ``Yes, this makes sense.'' The second one is always from a
constitutional lawyer saying that it is compliant with the Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The Chairman: This convention was signed and ratified by the federal authorities, which they have every right to do.
However, for this convention to have teeth, that it is binding so that it can be used fully, requires that it become part of
our law. There are jurisdictions where the sheer fact of ratifying makes it part of the law. There is also the other part
from the international point of view when the working group looks at our progress. They have often said they do not
care that we are a federal-provincial problem that the federal government cannot implement on its own; it needs the
collective support of the provinces. From their point of view, once you ratify, you have an obligation to put it into
force. In Canada, that obligation is jointly shared between the provinces and the federal government. Quebec, I think,
is the only province that has moved to make the convention part of its provincial laws, and therefore binding. I take it
from the way you are answering my questions that this has not been the subject of much discussion in New Brunswick.
It is somewhere in this continuing committee. Am I correct?
Mr. Comeau: I do not think there is any ongoing dialogue about legislation specific to implementing the convention.
Not having the convention in front of me, I am hesitant to say this, but I do not think there are any rights in the
convention that New Brunswick is not fulfilling its share of Canada's obligations on. In other words, this has happened
irrespective of the rights in the convention, and notwithstanding that there is not a statute specifically referring to the
The Chairman: You cannot say whether you have put it into your provincial legislation, the likes of which would
allow someone in New Brunswick to be able to make it actionable? You are in conformity, not compliance, is that
correct, from a justice point of view?
Mr. Comeau: To make it actionable as in...? I am not sure I follow the question.
The Chairman: The convention is a rights-based convention.
Mr. Comeau: Yes.
The Chairman: Conceivably, if it is not complied with, a child or someone on behalf of the child, could use the
convention as a basis of action in court.
Mr. Comeau: I am at a bit of a disadvantage because I do not have it in front of me, but my recollection is that the
Convention on the Rights of the Child is the only one of the six major international human rights treaties that does not
contemplate a complaints process. That convention is only implemented on the basis of social audits of state reports by
the state parties.
The Chairman: That is not where I am going.
Mr. Comeau: Okay.
The Chairman: In Canada, from time to time a lawyer can bring on behalf of his client, and can use as a grounds for
action, that Canada has signed, and intends to be bound by, a convention. At the moment, the Convention on the
Rights of the Child is only persuasive opinion; it is not binding.
Mr. Comeau: I think that is true.
The Chairman: That is the point we are getting at.
Mr. Comeau: I think that is true. Sorry.
The Chairman: Okay, so you are at that point.
Mr. MacKenzie: Ian was interested in making a point where they take the UN Convention on the Rights of the
Child into consideration when they redraft child victims legislation.
Mr. Ian Walsh, Senior Policy Advisor, Department of Public Safety, Government of New Brunswick: One bill
currently before the Committee of the Whole that was mentioned earlier is the Victims Services Act, a comprehensive
review of our Victims Services Act. In that comprehensive review, we have adopted the Canadian principles on the
rights of victims, which is a reflection of the United Nations principles, and which also involve the children.
We are also beginning a comprehensive review of our Custody and Detention of Young Persons Act, and one of the
pieces of legislation that we are looking at is certainly the UN convention to make sure that we comply with that. This
is within our own Department of Public Safety.
The Chairman: That leads to my second question. Since you are not bound by it, are you increasingly using the
convention as moral suasion, if nothing else, to make sure that we are somewhat in conformity? I understand you are
in your department. Is that true across all departments, that when you draft legislation and fulfill the two preconditions
before legislation goes to a legislature, is there a third precondition that says, ``Do we comply with our international
obligations?'' Is that increasingly something you look at, or is that unique to the Public Safety group?
Mr. MacKenzie: Do we require a legal opinion to sign off that says we have done it; not at the present time. Our
political masters usually require as part of the package that we send them, when they consider new legislation or
programming, interjurisdictional review and the implications and what other jurisdictions are doing with things, and
these things sometimes come up in that context.
Senator Pearson: I would like to follow up on that question because for us to meet with you is useful because of
these problems of reporting to committee on the rights of the child and to the other treaty bodies. One of the reasons
for the existence of the continuing committee on human rights is to enable that reporting process to take place. One
thing we know is that the process is cumbersome. The committees to which we report at the United Nations in Geneva
often, of course, complain about the fact that we send them documents about this long, this big, and of course, in
French, as well, so it is that big.
The Chairman: That will not be on the record, but I think that looks like about a foot. I do not know what it is in
Senator Pearson: You do not have to answer this question now, but perhaps you might think about it and advise,
because we might make some recommendations in this order. Is there some way in which we can simplify that process
to make it easier for the provincial reports that are appended to the federal report? We now pay for these two provinces
to be represented at every committee hearing. However, I think it is at the earlier stage because the challenge for many
provinces is that it is something that is put on the edge of somebody else's desk. To get the thing done effectively and
quickly, there might be some ways in which it could be simplified. It is a big question for now, but could you think
about it? I think some recommendations to us might say, ``Would it be possible to develop a more standard
questionnaire at the federal level that would be helpful?'' I am not even answering the question for you, because it is
not just our convention; it is all the international conventions, plus the letters to support the optional protocols: the
Hague convention, the international crime convention, the trafficking and all these things. I guess it is an
intergovernmental task, is it not, or where does it fall?
The Chairman: Perhaps I could add to that. We are also looking at it because at the federal level, at least, the NGO
community that works internationally is complex and sophisticated, and they are asking for more public input and
more parliamentary input into these reports. If we recommend that at the federal level, it reverberates down to the
provinces where groups will want to know what is going into these international reports. Perhaps the Legislature would
also want to have a say. I take it now it is still interdepartmental, by and large, ministerial, not involving the
transparency of either civil society or Legislature. What are your views on that?
Mr. MacKenzie: I take it from Senator Pearson's comment that you are open to receiving further thoughts in writing
if we have any recommendations on how to streamline the process.
Senator Pearson: Yes.
Mr. MacKenzie: I know our contact person who is on that continuing committee has been after us the last few
submissions to keep them more concise.
Senator Pearson: Yes, I want to put it out as an offer we are making.
Mr. MacKenzie: Thank you.
Senator Pearson: We all agree that the reason for this process is to improve the situation for children, so the
objective of transparency is nothing that any of us would argue with. Our challenge is how can we make it more
effective and more efficient, and ensure greater compliance as opposed to conformity?
Mr. MacKenzie: I have not had a lot of experience with the reports, but I would say as it stands now, there is limited
public and political input into the submissions. What sometimes happens, depending on the report — and I will look at
Diane to shake her head yes or no — is we sometimes see our New Brunswick Human Rights Commission writing
sections on the report as to how the government is doing on compliance.
Senator Pearson: See, if you had a child advocate, then the child advocate could help too.
Mr. MacKenzie: It could help.
Senator Pearson: The transparency is important because students said to us, and we had quite a few here, that they
do not know about the convention. I am glad to see the little bit in the curriculum. These children are older, so they
would not have had it in Grade 2 or wherever it is. However, it is important for them in becoming fully functioning
citizens to be aware of the whole issue of their rights through which they learn to respect other people's rights. Lots of
materials are available, but increasingly, we have to unfold this into the Canadian public so they understand what it is
because it is for the betterment of us all.
Senator Poy: You mentioned that the curriculum between the anglophone school system and the francophone sector
are different. In the anglophone system, they teach the children's rights to protection, physical support, emotional
support and psychological support, as well as rights to education and play. In the francophone sector, they learn about
democratic institutions and roles of men and women, as well as rights, laws and responsibilities. Why the difference? I
do not understand. It is the same province.
Ms. Inga Boehler, Assistant Director of Policy and Planning, Department of Education, Government of New
Brunswick: As you know, we have the dual education system in New Brunswick. It is important to the Charter
minority rights that the francophone system and the anglophone system be able to determine what goes into their
curriculum. It is almost as if we have two separate provincial systems so that the anglophone curriculum can be as
different as — well, maybe not as different, but say a neighbouring province. In both systems, as we are more cognizant
of the conventions, as we cycle through the curriculum development process and as they come up for revision, there
would be more consideration to reflecting some of the things that are in the convention. As you can appreciate, we are
dealing with a number of subject areas, and so they would not all be revised annually.
Senator Poy: The curriculum is generally very different between the two systems, aside from what was mentioned
Ms. Boehler: Yes, they are quite different.
Senator Poy: Is that specifically for New Brunswick, or is it similar in other provinces that have the two systems?
Ms. Boehler: New Brunswick is the only one.
Senator Poy: That is the only one?
Ms. Boehler: Yes.
Senator Poy: In Quebec, you have the two school systems. You do not? There are two here, two different ministers?
Ms. Boehler: No, we have one Minister of Education, one Education Act, but it entrenches duality. We have two
Senator Oliver: I am familiar with the Reciprocal Enforcement of Maintenance Orders Act, and I know how that
works. I know that you used to have a Support Enforcement Act and now you are getting a new one. You said that this
new act is expected to allow us to collect family support more effectively. The witness before you said that it is wrong
that children have to go hungry, do not have nutritious food and so on, and often the reason is that fathers do not pay
their maintenance on time. What are you doing in New Brunswick that will make that more efficient? That is my first
question. Then I had a brief second one.
Mr. Comeau: We are doing a number of things. This new act that is before the House borrows best practices. We
have reviewed the legislation from across the country. Our best statistics tell us that we are collecting 78 cents on every
dollar owed to children in this province. That has fluctuated up and down a few percentage points for the last five or
six years. It has shifted year to year by a percentage point or two each year from the mid-1970s to as high as the mid-
1980s, and we want to move it higher, obviously. A number of the things that we are not able to do under our existing
legislation that we will be able to do is access joint assets and joint bank accounts.
Senator Oliver: With a view to a garnishee?
Mr. Comeau: That is right. We believe we are extremely successful. We are something close to 100 per cent successful
with people who are employed full-time at a steady job because we have had the power in legislation for more than 10
years now to garnish wages, and we do that very successfully. The problem area is with parents who are transitional
and move from one job to another. We have a hard time keeping track of them, and those who are self-employed or are
working in the underground economy. The new tools that the Legislature will give our program are designed for these
kinds of situations; getting at joint assets and joint bank accounts. For people who fall behind three months or more,
reporting them to credit reporting agencies is an incentive to get them to pay, and removing driver's licenses after a due
Senator Oliver: Removing licenses?
Mr. Comeau: Yes. We include provisions to pierce the corporate veil and get at single shareholder businesses from
which a parent might officially take very little income, but significant wealth is tied up in the corporation. Those are
among the things that we are doing to try to improve performance of our program.
Senator Oliver: That is very interesting.
The second question deals with the constitutional problem. It is a follow up on Senator Andreychuk's question. The
federal government passes these conventions and then it is up to the provinces and territories to implement them. It is
important in some of these cases that there is some uniformity in the implementation, province by province. In your
view, is there any merit or any need to have some kind of standard form enabling legislation for these international
covenants, such the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child?
Mr. Comeau: I do not see anybody leaping forward to answer that.
Senator Oliver: I think they are all looking to you, the Department of Justice.
Mr. Comeau: I guess I will have to. All I can say is that I have not given that any thought at this point. It is an
interesting idea. Standard form anythings —
Senator Oliver: Enabling legislation.
Mr. Comeau: — that facilitate provincial and territorial work are always helpful. The challenge is to have standard
form legislation that is facilitative, that makes things easier as opposed to making them more complex. That is all —
Senator Oliver: Are you, on behalf of New Brunswick, prepared to take the Canadian lead in drafting such an
enabling bill, and walking it across Canada?
Mr. Comeau: I am not in a position to bind the Government of New Brunswick to anything today. I am sorry.
The Chairman: Before we end, there was some evidence this morning, both from the ombudsman and other
witnesses. One point was that often there are needs for children, but we have to take unusual steps to get at the
resources children need. One of the examples pointed out was that a child, a 15-year old girl with a lot of mental
difficulties, could not get the services, and her family could not get the services, that they needed. The child went into
care because once they were in care they were afforded the services. In my old days in government, this was always the
problem, that sometimes if you were on welfare, you released resources to children that low income parents could not
afford. Have you given any thought to those situations? Is this a problem, and are you supporting families to get those
resources rather than institutionalizing children to get those resources?
Mr. MacKenzie: Our child welfare system is strongly based on serving the child and the family wherever we can. I
am not familiar with the particular details of the case. With respect to mental health, I have heard anecdotes too. I do
not have a colleague with me from Health to talk about how stretched those resources are. I do not believe, though,
that taking a child into care would get them greater access to mental health resources than they otherwise would have.
Sometimes — and I hate to generalize, and I do not want to — but in marginalized populations, if you are talking
about the poor or others, they are not as strong advocates for their needs as other family situations might be, or they
are not as aware of the services. I would hate to think that we take children into care, or have to take children into care,
for them to have better access to mental health services or any other service.
Mr. Comeau: May I borrow one more minute from the committee? I was inspired by Senator Poy and Senator
Oliver's questions to the previous witness to suggest some concrete doable things to you as federal parliamentarians, so
I sat here and scribbled a couple of things from my point of view in the justice sector about what federal
parliamentarians might do to reduce violence, poverty and exploitation in children's lives.
One, we could use federal cooperation on enforcing family support orders. One obstacle in tracking people who
disappear on us is accessing information from the Canada Revenue Agency. We have had an ongoing battle for many
years now with trying to help the Canada Revenue Agency get over its concerns with privacy and making exceptions to
privacy legislation to give us information we need to find defaulting parents.
Another thing you can do is to pass Bill C-2, which you are inheriting from the House of Commons today because
that will protect children and teens from exploitative sexual relationships with adults. It will criminalize sexual
voyeurism, and it will make additional services available to child witnesses in criminal courts.
You can use your good offices to promote federal funding of civil legal aid. Family legal aid in the provinces — and
this one is directed almost entirely to victims of family violence — is 100 per cent funded by provinces and zero per cent
funded from the Government of Canada. The provincial and territorial ministers of justice have extracted the
commitment from the Minister of Justice Canada, that he has agreed in principle that there ought to be federal funding
for family legal aid, in particular, and that, of course, is caught up in the question of the federal budget priorities.
The fourth is to be aware of the potential need to reform the Criminal Code with respect to conditional sentences.
The Minister responsible for the Status of Women and the Minister of Justice in this province have publicly stated their
concern about conditional sentences being given in cases that involve violent crimes against child victims, and domestic
violence cases. We want to work, along with other provincial and territorial ministers, with the federal Minister of
Justice to perhaps tinker with the provisions introduced to the Criminal Code and Bill C-41.
There are four legislative items that are doable by federal parliamentarians that I thought I would leave you as food
The Chairman: I would not want to let the province off the hook either.
There is a reservation, we know, in the Convention on the Rights of the Child, about housing young people away
from adults. We heard testimony today, and I thought I would give you an opportunity. Are you putting young
children, under Youth Justice who find themselves in conflict with the law, in facilities with adults or vice-versa? Are
you now adding adults to the juvenile or young persons' system?
Mr. Walsh: Two months ago, back in April, we were faced with a situation where we had a 35 per cent overcapacity
in our adult system, in our adult jails. At the time, we were faced with the situation, what do we do to combat that or to
deal with that? It was creating a dangerous situation not only for other inmates, for morale and for staff, as well, but it
was a dangerous situation. In our institutions we are 35 per cent overcapacity.
We looked at it and we had three options. One was to leave things as be, which we did not feel we could do because
it was too dangerous a situation to manage. Second was to release many of these offenders, or at least significant
numbers of these offenders, back to the community on a temporary absence. In many cases, they would still pose a
threat that we felt that the public safety could be enhanced. The third option was the only available institution that we
had that was under-utilized was our youth facility, which is a state-of-the-art, 100-bed capacity facility in Miramichi.
At that time, it was only 30 per cent occupied because our youth custody numbers had dropped significantly in secure
Our policy has always been, and continues to be, that youth and adults should be kept separate and apart, and
separate and apart is what is provided for in the Provincial Offences Procedure for Young Persons Act and also in the
Youth Criminal Justice Act or YCJ. At that time, we had to make a decision of how to deal with the overcrowding in
our adult facility. Our response, and what we felt was the only available response that we had at the time, or the most
reasonable response we had at the time that took safety into consideration, was to designate one cottage of the youth
facility as an adult facility. However, the policy and the designation was that the youth and adults be kept separate and
apart at all times. One part of the institution, the administration building, was used by both. Our policy was that any
time a youth was in the administration building, there could be no adult prisoner in it, and any time that an adult
prisoner was in the administration building, there could be no youth in that facility. Even though they are in the same
facility, there are separate cottages. The facility consists of four cottages with two units in each cottage. We designated
one cottage as an adult facility on a temporary basis to meet an unexpected urgent situation at that point in time. The
numbers have since stabilized and that adult facility is now closed. It has not changed our policy that youth be kept
separate and apart at all times. By saying that, we can meet the letter of the law by keeping them separate and apart by
not having any contact with each other. Is there visual contact? We were not able to prevent visual contact. It was not a
situation that we liked; it was not a situation that is our provincial policy. Our provincial policy is that they be kept in
separate buildings completely, but we had an emergency situation that has now been relieved. The unit has been closed,
and hopefully, this is the first time that situation has arisen, hopefully, it will never arise again. Our policy continues to
be that they should be kept separate and apart in separate facilities, as well. However, this situation was unexpected,
and we had to deal with it. We dealt with it in what we thought was the most appropriate manner. We hope it never has
to happen again.
The Chairman: I appreciate you say it should not happen again. It is not just that you mixed the adults with youth. If
you look at the literature from National Network for Youth, NNY, the convention states that even practices by case or
custodial people should be different towards adults and children, and that if they mix together their attitudes will mix
together. There are other components to the need to keep them separate, not just that they will learn from each other.
Obviously, the younger will be influenced by the older, which is the idea, but it is more pervasive than that.
It is one of the questions we will address in our report about the reservation made in the convention, and perhaps
you can then read our report with some interest. We will look for your further input and suggestions as to the way we
might go to help children.
Mr. Walsh: I agree because I think that when you look at the legislation, we can meet perhaps the letter of the law
that they are kept separate and apart, but what about the spirit of the law? The spirit of the law, I think, is so much
more important when it comes to youth than it is for adults. I can be honest with you: For all of us in our department
who had to make this decision, that was the troubling aspect. How do you deal with the spirit of the law and make sure
that you comply with it? However, we had an unexpected situation and I certainly agree with you; we did not like what
we had to do, and we hope that will never happen again.
The Chairman: It is on the record. You are not the only jurisdiction that has struggled with this. This is why I think
we need to look at it as the convention and the effect of having put a reservation, and make comment on it rather than
singling out one jurisdiction in any way.
We thank you for your input and for your further input at a later date, if you can, and for the time that you have
taken today to be with us.