The concept of children’s rights and liberties is relatively new: the humanistic pedagogy emerged no earlier than the 19th century. It took even the most developed countries quite a while to accept the integrity and self-autonomy of children. Nowadays, in the Northern hemisphere, it is indisputable that children have rights and are entitled to their execution even if it means disobeying their parents. Childhood traumatic experiences tend to linger and have a lasting impact on a former child victim’s life.
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Thus, it is important to prevent child abuse from happening or stop perpetrators mid-action. This paper will discuss children’s rights in Canada and the course of action a person needs to undertake to identify and stop child abuse. Two cases of family abuse will also be examined in regards to parents’ entitlement to particular child-rearing styles.
Children’s Rights in Canada
In 1991, Canada ratified The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and was among the first countries to become part of the treaty. The nations that ratified the Convention are bound to enact its guidelines by international law. By becoming part of the treaty, the ratified states show their commitment to acting in children’s best interest. The Convention on the Rights on the Child defines a child as a “human being below the age of 18 unless national laws recognize an earlier age of majority.” (“Rights of Children”) The document identifies children’s civil, political, economic, social, health, and cultural rights.
Every child has a right to life, to their name, and their identity. Children’s voices and opinions need to be heard and acted upon if a situation calls for it. All children should be protected from any kind of abuse and exploitation. They have the right to their privacy, and their lives should not be subjected to interference. The ratified states need to allow parents to fulfill their responsibilities; however, some child-rearing practices are forbidden under the Convention, for instance, corporal punishment.
It should be noted that Canada is also part of two out of three optional protocols under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. In 2000, the state ratified the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Involvement of Children in Armed Conflict. This protocol aims at preventing children’s compulsory recruitment and direct participation in conflicts. The second protocol, Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornography, was ratified in 2001. The ratification made addressing the problem of sexual exploitation of children easier. As of now, making, possessing, and distributing child pornography is a criminal offense for which a convict can spend up to fourteen years in prison (Government of Canada).
Parenting Styles: Are Parents Entitled to Choosing Any?
Hardly anyone would argue that adults have the freedom to choose their lifestyle and act accordingly as long as what they are doing is legal. If some of their choices are not entirely healthy, an adult is to take full responsibility for the harm they inflict on himself or herself, and the authorities can only interfere on rare occasions. For instance, if a person of age decides to join a religious organization with a bad reputation or deny himself or herself adequate medical treatment, it is their private matter. However, such situations are vastly different when children are involved. Underage people depend on their parents and cannot make choices for themselves which puts them in a vulnerable position.
In 2008 in Toronto, a 22-year-old mother and a 36-year-old father were arrested for putting their infant son at risk of a lethal outcome due to extreme malnourishment. The 9-months-old boy weighed only 11 pounds and needed medical intervention. At the hospital, the parents became combative and did not want professionals to conduct much-needed procedures (Freeze). During the investigation, it was found out that both parents belonged to a religious sect that denied the necessity of institutionalized health care. The parents claimed that they were entitled to their views. Child protection services, however, acted in the child’s best interests, as the infant was seized from his parents (Hammer). Despite parents’ rights to self-identity, under the Convention on the Right of the Child, the boy had the right to life.
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As opposed to the case described above, some cases of abuse are not that obvious. For instance, in 2015 in Maryland, US the police spotted small children (three and seven years old) walking the streets without any supervision (Rosin). The police assumed that children got lost, so they picked them up and drove them back home to their parents. To their surprise, policemen discovered that letting children roam freely was part of the parenting strategy. As of 2015, such a decision had not had any adverse outcomes. It is easy to see how “free-range” parenting may compromise children’s safety and wellbeing. The parents did not face any repercussions for their actions.
Children in Need of Protection: Identifying and Taking Action
In Canada, it is not only a moral but also a civic duty to report child abuse cases. In 2007, the Canadian government passed the Child, Youth, and Family Services Act that obliges citizens to take action if they observe a child being mistreated (“Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017″). Child abuse is a broad notion that includes a set of behaviors such as physical violence, emotional violence, sexual exploitation, and denial of appropriate treatment. Cases should be reported even if there is no content of a criminal offense yet, but the witness concludes that the likelihood is rather high (Ontario Court of Justice). Concerned citizens should contact child aid societies in their territory or province. The criminal justice system of Canada guarantees full confidentiality and anonymity.
In Canada, the cases of child abuse and mistreatment usually attract a lot of attention in mass media and generate a great deal of resonance. Such crimes are seen as particularly heinous because children and teenagers usually do not have enough power and leverage to protect themselves from harm and stop toxic behaviors. In some cases, abuse is evident whereas, in others, it is not that obvious. Sometimes parents’ behavior directly affects a child’s health – for instance, through failure to provide medical treatment. However, at times, abuse is more subtle and may compromise a child’s well-being indirectly.
Canadian citizens must report child abuse cases as it is their civil duty prescribed by the current legislation. Children have the right to safety and a healthy, full life under the Convention on the Rights of the Child ratified by Canada in 1991.
“Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, S.O. 2017, c. 14, Sched. 1.” Queen’s Printer for Ontario. Web.
Freeze, Colin. “Parents Arrested after Hospital Standoff over Baby.” The Globe and Mail. 2008. Web.
“Criminal Code (R.S.C., 1985, c. C-46).” Government of Canada. 2019. Web.
“Rights of Children.” Government of Canada. 2017. Web.
Hammer, Kate. “Mother of Malnourished Baby Freed.” The Globe and Mail. 2008. Web.
Ontario Court of Justice. Children’s Aid Society of Toronto v. B.H. (excerpt)  O.J. No. 2446.
Rosin, Hanna. “The Poster-Parents for Free-Range Children.” National Post. 2015. Web.