First Call grew out of the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). When Canada ratified the UNCRC in 1991, its advocates gathered in a national conference and agreed that it was time to give children a first call on our resources and on our advocacy efforts.
The BC representatives realized that there needed to be a provincial structure to bring groups together to work on systemic issues that no one organization or sector could address alone. They called their inaugural First Call meeting in 1992, and partners were drawn from a variety of sectors, including education, health, justice and social services.
In the same period, a group of people who had been working on child and youth issues arising from the Royal Commission on Health Care and Costs recognized the need for a provincial voice for children’s issues and formed the Child and Youth Planning Advocacy Network (CYPAN).
In 1995, First Call and CYPAN merged, forming First Call: BC Child and Youth Advocacy Coalition.
Highlights from First Call’s history
- First Call and partners achieved a public policy victory, when an end to the clawback of child support payments from single parents on income and disability assistance was announced in the 2015 provincial budget. First Call had been advocating for this change since 2007.
- Following a thorough consultation and consensus-building process, First Call published Make BC’s Young Children and Families a Priority: A Call to Action, building on our 2003 Early Childhood Development in BC: First Call’s Framework for Action.
- In July 2015 the City of Vancouver mayor and council unanimously passed a motion committing the city to become a living wage employer certified by the Living Wage for Families Campaign. First Call, as host of the campaign, had been working on achieving this outcome for seven years.
- First Call launched the No Child Labour Campaign to improve employment standards for young people working in BC, including a demand to raise the work start age from 12 and increase safety protections, and published a report entitled Child Labour Is No Accident: The experience of BC’s working children (2010).
- First Call received the Award of Excellence in Advocacy from BC’s Representative for Children and Youth Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond for our commitment and hard work on behalf of BC’s vulnerable children and youth. You can watch a short video about First Call that was prepared for the award ceremony (2010).
- After discussions with First Call’s Living Wage for Families Campaign, the City of New Westminster became the first municipality in Canada to become a living wage employer (2011).
- First Call hosted Moving from Talk to Action: Youth in BC, a forum attended by 120 youth and their allies. This forum focused on supporting youth to build their advocacy skills (2011).
- First Call contributed materials to the national alternative report prepared by the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, submitted to the UN review of Canada’s compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and participated in live blogging and tweeting about the review proceedings (2012).
- First Call hosted a youth forum on environmental toxins and their impact on children and began work on raising awareness of these issues (2012) .
- First Call moved from Family Services of Greater Vancouver to a new host organization, the Vancity Community Foundation (2014).
- First Call was chosen as one of the top ten charities for 2007 by the Tides Canada Foundation for our comprehensive policy work and excellent research and recommendations to ensure that the needs of children and youth are given priority in legislation, policy and practice, and for our up-to-the-minute advocacy on child poverty and income inequality issues.
- First Call hosted a forum called Taking Stock of ECD in BC – Just the Facts. The forum featured presentations on federal and provincial early childhood development spending and the state of key programs and services for young children and families (2006).
- First Call and the BC Centre for Safe Schools and Communities hosted five provincial forums across BC about “the many faces of advocacy for children and youth” to build advocacy capacity in support of the healthy development of BC’s children and youth and raise awareness of children’s rights. (2007/2008).
- First Call’s Levelling the Playing Field for Children Project supported organizations in three communities (Gitksan Wet’suwet’en Education Society in Hazelton, Mount Pleasant Neighbourhood House in Vancouver and Kla-how-eya Aboriginal Center in Surrey) to raise awareness of income inequality and child poverty issues affecting children and families and to develop action plans. This project also produced two research reports and a toolkit for community action (2007/2008).
- In 2006, First Call began research on potential community support for living wage standards in BC, an initiative prompted by Campaign 2000’s two-year national project Addressing the Falling Fortunes of Young Children and Their Families. After hosting several Living Wage Roundtables, drawing interest from a variety of community sectors, and a research project co-sponsored with the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives and the Community Social Planning Council of Greater Victoria, we released our report Working for a Living Wage in 2008. Focused on Greater Vancouver and Victoria, this report outlined the rationale and principles behind regional living wage standards, as well as the significant benefits for both employees and employers. First Call established a Living Wage Advisory Committee to oversee living wage campaign strategy, and in 2009 the Living Wage for Families Campaign hired their first dedicated organizer, launched a website, and established a formal process to certify Living Wage Employers.
- First Call received an Award of Merit from the Public Health Association of BC for our efforts on the issues of early childhood and child poverty, and for building community-based partnerships and advocating and creating change in communities (2008).
- First Call moved from the Child and Family Research Institute at BC Children’s Hospital to a new host organization, Family Services of Greater Vancouver (2008).
- First Call held Taking Stock of Youth Well-being in BC Today: A Forum, with more than 140 youth and youth-service providers to examine current research and policy issues impacting young people in BC (2009).
- First Call published What’s Happening to Our Children?: A Look at Child Work-Related Injury Claims in BC Over the Past 10 Years (2009).
- First Call held our first annual fundraising gala, recognizing the retirement and work of Joyce Preston, the child, youth and family advocate of BC (2001).
- First Call hosted a symposium for all the communities mobilizing for children and youth to increase their skills and to network (2000).
- First Call launched the Spotlight on Children and Youth Campaign, a comprehensive public education, community mobilization and public policy advocacy initiative across BC, focused on the most important and practical things that could be done for our children and youth over the next five to 10 years to maximize the positive impact on their health and well-being.
- First Call received the Hats Off award from Westcoast Child Care Resource Centre for outstanding performance and lasting contribution to child care and BC children and families (2002).
- First Call was presented with the Distinguished Service to Families Award to mark the 25th anniversary of the BC Council for Families. The award, presented by the Honourable Iona Campagnolo, Lieutenant-Governor of British Columbia, recognizes BC-based organizations that are provincial in scope, have shown leadership and commitment to the health and well- being of families in BC, have focused on one or more family life stages and who have a relationship with the Council (2002).
- Early Childhood Development in BC: First Call’s Framework for Action was published, representing the consensus of organizations and experts in the early childhood field on a comprehensive approach to supporting young children and their families. The framework was presented to the provincial government and widely endorsed by organizations around the province (2003).
- In 1995 First Call published the first of what is now an annual BC Report Card on Child Poverty. In 1999, to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the federal all-party resolution to eliminate child poverty in Canada, events were held across BC.
- First Call joined the digital age with our first web page (1995).
- First Call produced our first election toolkit Overviews of Child and Youth Issues for the provincial 1995 election and hosted an all-candidates’ debate.
- First Call hosted eight major public forums throughout the province about Judge Gove’s report on his inquiry into child protection in British Columbia (1995).
- First Call hosted a forum on youth employment (1996).
- First Call offered eight BC communities seed money to support them in becoming Mobilized Communities for the 4 Keys to Success for Children and Youth. Twenty communities ultimately undertook public education campaigns to raise awareness of children’s rights and well-being.
- First Call’s foundational research document, The Well-Being of British Columbia’s Children and Youth, A Framework for Understanding and Action, was published (1998).