On July 10 and 11, different representatives from a number of non-government organizations came together in Moncton, New Brunswick to talk about the need for a Canadian Commissioner for Children and Young People. My co-chair, Alicia Raimundo and I, represented the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health at the event. Over the course of six hours, we discussed: What should or could the role of the commissioner be? Who else should be sitting at the table? What is the plan of action we all need to contribute to in order to make this work? What would it change?
The initial idea was that there would be a Canadian Commissioner who would, in the simplest form, stand up for the rights of children and young people. When I read the agenda and stepped into the room on July 11th, I has actually thought “gee, this should be easy." I was wrong. Not so easy.
While the bare bones were laid before we even arrived, since this wouldn’t be the first attempt at instituting a Canadian Commissioner for Children and Young People, we still needed to identify many aspects of what the role would look like and how it would function. All of us who attended the forum believe this is the time, that we can’t let it fail, and we need to take a stand and make this happen for the sake of our children and young people. But how?
We quickly realized that it would be important to have many, many more voices involved in the conversation from the get-go: We would need more parents, more youth, more First Nations, more representatives of children under five, more kids in general, and government support. Realizing how many more people needed to be represented put a shift in our day. We spent some time identifying the key things we thought should be in the role of the commissioner, but instead of writing a draft proposal, we came up with an action plan to reach out to others, to hear from everyone, to connect with the folks in our contacts, and to reach out to the Canadians that would benefit from the commissioner the most.
We ended the forum with great ideas of some of the key roles a commissioner would play and ideas for how to get there, but most importantly we came out with a desire and a goal to collaborate and co-create with Canadians on something that I and everyone at the table that day see as a big step for the health and wellbeing of the children and young people in our nation. We’ve got a lot of work to do and some big follow-ups to come, but I’m so happy to have had the opportunity to be a part of this process, and to have the voice of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health in the conversation.
Alyssa Frampton is a co-chair of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health. She studies Public Relations at Humber College in Toronto.