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Our Office and The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC)

UNCRC - Child Friendly Version (PDF)

UNCRC - Standard Version (PDF)

The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) is an international human rights treaty that outlines the rights of all children and youth in three key areas: provision, participation and protection. Adopted in 1989 by the United Nations, the UNCRC changed how children were viewed and treated – as human beings whose rights must be upheld and respected.

The convention has been ratified by 194 countries, including Canada in 1991, and obligates signatories to promote, implement, protect and monitor the rights of children and youth.

Countries that ratify the treaty must submit a report every five years to the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child. This committee of independent experts examines each country’s reports, as well as information from non-governmental organizations and UN sources to identify areas of progress and concern, the country’s progress in implementing the UNCRC and to recommend steps that the country should take to improve the lives of children.

The Convention is based on four guiding principles:

  1. All children and youth have the basic right to life, survival, and development.
  2. All children and youth have the same rights and must be treated equally.
  3. The best interests of children and youth must be the primary consideration in all policies and decisions that affect them.
  4. The views of children and youth should be taken into account in all decisions concerning them, with their age and maturity, and developmental capacity taken into consideration. 

The Advocate’s Office is guided by the principles of the UNCRC, and has a strong commitment to child and youth participation. Some highlights in our work with young people and the United Nations include:

  • The Provincial Advocate and a delegation of six young people speak about recommendations made in “Our Dreams Matter Too” and the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocate’s (CCCYA)  alternate report, “Aboriginal Children–Canada Must Do Better: Today and Tomorrow” at Canada’s Pre-session in Geneva (February 2012).
  • Within weeks of returning from Geneva, the Advocate’s Office staff and youth members of the UN delegation witness the passage of Shannen’s Dream in Ottawa. The motion declares that all First Nations children are entitled to the basic human right to high quality education (February 2012).
  • The Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA) invite the “Country Rapporteur” from the Committee on the Rights of the Child to visit Canada. The visit was intended to provide the Rapporteur with an opportunity to meet with young people and to understand from them on how Canada is honouring its commitment to protect young people’s right (May 2012).
  • The Advocate’s Office submits a brief to the United Nations on the occasion of Canada’s Universal Periodic Review (UPR). The four key areas of concern raised by the Advocate’s Office include: 1) improved support to First Nations children; 2) the links between poverty and children seeking advocacy resources; 3) a call for focused attention on the needs of children with disabilities; and 4) greater attention on the needs of immigrant children (October 2012).

We have continued to monitor the processes available through the United Nations to ensure that the voices of children and youth in Ontario are included in policy and legislation, and young people are given the opportunity to contribute to the international and national dialogue surrounding children’s rights.  

The Listening Tour

In honour of the 25th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), the Provincial Advocate launched a 10-day “listening tour” in November 2014 to help build a more transparent feedback process with the UN. We believe that reporting to the UN should be a public process and conversation, and it should involve children and youth and include their voices. We hope to encourage such a process for Canada’s upcoming review in 2018.

The tour was tied to the 25th anniversary of the passing of the UNCRC and the International Day of the Child. Our goal was to meet with young people around the province and listen to them to obtain a sense of how Ontario is living up to its commitment to the UNCRC. We hope that this and future listening tours will lead to greater breadth and transparency  in Ontario’s process for gathering the information it uses to assess its  commitment to the Convention.


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