First Call submitted this brief to the review of the Representative for Children and Youth Act by British Columbia’s Select Standing Committee on Children and Youth.
In preparing this brief, the coalition discussed the Act at our January meeting to gather the views of our coalition partners.
We also reviewed submissions made to the 2011 review of the Act (including one by UNICEF Canada), reports by former representative Mary Ellen Turpel-Lafond, recent recommendations regarding the mandate of the representative in Grand Chief Ed John’s report to the Ministry of Children and Family Development on Indigenous child welfare in BC, the legislation governing provincial child and youth advocates in other Canadian provinces and territories, and the observations made by the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child in regard to human rights institutions and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC).
First Call makes seven recommendations:
Recommendation 1: That the Act be amended to add explicit reference to the representative’s mandate to promote and protect the full range of child and youth rights as outlined in the UNCRC.
Recommendation 2: That the Act be amended to extend the representative’s functions and powers to advocate, monitor, review, audit, conduct research, investigate, make recommendations and report publicly in relation to services for children and youth provided by any ministry or agency of the provincial government.
Recommendation 3: That the definition of “young adult” in section 6(2) of the Act be amended to include a person 19 or older but under age 26, in line with the extension of the upper age limit for Agreements with Young Adults, and that section 6(2)(b) (restriction to those in receipt of reviewable service within 15 months before their 19th birthday) be repealed.
Recommendation 4: That a new provision be added to the Act to make it clear that the representative has the right to receive advance and timely notification of proposed legislation and policy that may have a significant impact upon children and youth.
Recommendation 5: That a new provision be added to the Act vesting the representative with the power to undertake and/or facilitate assessments of the impact on children and youth of new policies or proposed legislation, and to solicit the views of children and youth directly in these assessments.
Recommendation 6: That section 30 of the Act be repealed and replaced with a requirement to periodically review the Act in its entirety to assess how well it is supporting the work that needs to be done to promote and protect the rights of BC’s children and youth, such a review to include public notification, consultation and reporting.
Recommendation 7: That a new subsection be added to section 26 of the Act to place an obligation on every facility, caregiver’s home, group home or other home or place in which a child or youth is placed under an act of the province, the Criminal Code or the Youth Criminal Justice Act (Canada) to inform children and youth, in language suitable to their understanding, of the existence and role of the representative; how to contact the representative; and of their right to have private contact with the representative without delay.