June 23, 2010
FREDERICTON (CNB) - New Brunswick's ombudsman and child and youth advocate, Bernard Richard, is among an alliance of child and youth advocates who are calling for national action to address Aboriginal children's issues.
The Canadian Council of Provincial Child and Youth Advocates (CCPCYA) today released a position paper, Aboriginal Children and Youth in Canada: Canada Must Do Better, which urges national, provincial, territorial and aboriginal governments to create a co-ordinated national action plan to improve the living conditions and well-being of Aboriginal children and youth.
The position paper contends that Aboriginal children and youth are one of the most vulnerable groups in Canada. This finding has been echoed in various other Canadian studies and reports, including Hand-in-Hand: A Review of First Nations Child Welfare in New Brunswick, which Richard released last February.
"I am encouraged by the positive response to the Hand-in-Hand report and the way people in this province are starting to come together to work towards improving the lives of Aboriginal children," said Richard. "But Aboriginal children are struggling throughout the country. If the various levels of government respond to this crisis collaboratively and urgently, it would be transformative for current and future generations."
Studies show that Aboriginal children in New Brunswick and throughout Canada are disproportionately living in poverty, over-represented in the child protection system and the youth criminal justice system, and face significant health problems in comparison with other children. Alarmingly, the CCPCYA notes, Aboriginal children and youth in Canada are more likely to be involved in the criminal justice system than they are to graduate high school.
"There are significant deep-seated gaps between the health, education and safety of Aboriginal children and youth in Canada and their non-Aboriginal peers," said John Mould, president of the CCPCYA. "We believe this is the single most important - and most neglected - human rights issue in the country."
One of the recommendations in the position paper is the creation of a national children's commissioner, an independent officer who would report to Parliament on the well-being of Canadian children and youth, with particular emphasis on Aboriginal children and youth.
MEDIA CONTACT: Bernard Richard, Office of the Ombudsman and Office of the Child and Youth Advocate, 506-453-2789, firstname.lastname@example.org.