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The Challenge of Children’s Rights for Canada

Interview with Katherine Covell and R. Brian Howe

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Why did you write The Challenge of Children’s Rights?

We wrote the book for personal and professional reasons. On the personal side, we, like many families, lost a wonderful young woman who was the victim of childhood sexual abuse. Her tragic and untimely death created a strong need in us to give the issue of children’s rights a higher profile in public consciousness.

On the professional side, the impetus for the book came from our teaching and research experiences in our respective fields of developmental psychology (Covell) and public policy (Howe). Canada signed the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child over a decade ago. Yet we continue to find a lack of awareness about, and a lack of provision for children’s rights. At the same time, our research highlights how important it is to provide for children’s rights if we are to maintain or continue to build a rights-respecting and healthy society in Canada.

What impact do you hope the book will have?

We hope that the book will increase awareness of the principle and reality of children’s rights in Canada. Our aim is to inform readers of what children’s rights really are, and why they are so important to the development of a healthy child and a healthy society. We believe that once there is understanding about children’s rights, there will be more support for the practice of children’s rights, in families, schools, communities and government policies. Of course, this would involve some radical changes in our thinking and our practices.

Why did you use the word “challenge” in your title?

We do this because there are serious problems with the practice of children’s rights; not just the well-known ones like child poverty, child abuse, and a lack of child care, but also the lack of provision for children to have meaningful participation in their own lives. The challenge is to move from seeing children as parental property and having reactive policies to seeing children as independent bearers of rights and having proactive policies to ensure the meeting of those rights. The challenge is to take children’s rights seriously.