By Alyssa Frampton and Parnian Pardis of the Young Canadians Roundtable on Health
On Thursday, November 15th, the Ford Ontario Government chose to axe the Ontario Children and Youth Advocate’s Office. Young people always deserve protection of their rights and their safety, regardless of who holds the government power, and this decision by the Ontario Government has put that protection at risk. This choice comes as a part of Premier Ford’s economic statement and attempt to reduce Ontario’s deficits. What this really is, is an indication that reduced spending is prioritized above the welfare of young people and their rights.
In 1978, Ontario became the first province in Canada to have a child advocacy office. There are now offices across the country. The Young Canadians Roundtable on Health has had the privilege of working with many of these offices in some regard – learning from them about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). These offices are guided by the UNCRC and provide services to young people, especially those who are part of the child welfare or youth justice systems.
Why Ontario Needs a Child and Youth Advocate
While the Advocate’s office has decided to continue to provide services until further notice, we still need to rise up and vocalize the importance of funding this office. In Canada’s largest province, with some of the highest suicide rates and heightened numbers of children in care and justice systems, advocates who give young people a chance and an office that amplifies child and youth voices is necessary.
Children and youth who are in care or justice systems are especially vulnerable to having their rights abused or infringed on. The Advocate’s office helps young people who are often in the most vulnerable positions, out of view from the general public. They administer checks on the provision of government care, and advocate for increased access to rights and justice.
Essentially, the Advocate’s office acts as Ontario’s government watchdog for children. A lot of effort went into making this office independent of the government so that it could work without conflicts of interest to ensure the best possible advocacy for young people in Ontario. By axing the office, the ministry becomes solely responsible for child and youth advocacy. Despite Minister MacLeod (Minister of Children, Community and Social Services/Minister Responsible for Women’s Issues) declaring she will be the advocate, young people will no longer receive the same attention. Minister MacLeod cannot possibly answer the phone and hold the hands of the young people who need help the way that the advocacy office has. Consequently, the voice of young people will no doubt become underrepresented, while the actions of the government will go without an official check which the Advocate’s office provides.
What Can You Do
The Advocate’s office has been a long standing friend and support of the YCRH, working closely with us in looking at the rights of youth in Ontario with regards to health. We also have invited Irwin Elman to speak at panels, and to partner with us. We appreciate and recognize the work of this office and the importance of it continuing to not just uphold the rights of children and youth but in its work to include youth voice in all that they do. If you agree with the values of the advocacy office, please get involved and ensure your voice is heard!
Contact your MPP and share why you think this decision needs to be reversed:
Ottawa Centre: 613-722-6414
Ottawa South: 613-736-9573
Ottawa West-Nepean: 613-721-8075
Nepean (Minister MacLeod’s Riding): 613-823-2116 / 416-325-5225
This post originally appeared on YouthHealthRights.ca.