Best interests of the immigrant, refugee, ‘culturally diverse’ child

The Canadian Coalition for the Rights of the Child has released its discussion paper, Best Interests of the Child: Meaning and Application in Canada. The paper was prepared for the conference, held February 2009 and includes content gleaned from conference sessions. Each section contains an introduction to a particular issue, a discussion of the issue, suggestions for action and/or further research.

Three sections will be of particular interest to immigrantchildren.ca readers: Children in the Refugee and Immigration System; Early Childhood Learning and Care; and Children and Cultural Diversity. This post highlights only some of the issues and suggested actions. For a complete review, consult the full paper on the CRC website.

Children and Cultural Diversity

Discussion of Issues ~ “In Canada, immigrants often want to preserve the culture they brought with them, even though it may be changing in the country of origin to reflect more modern conceptions of children’s rights (frozen culture). Children often get caught between a parent’s desire to preserve their past and young people’s desire to be accepted in the new country. In some ways, Canada’s multiculturalism policy has fostered the continuation of “frozen cultures”.

Suggestions for Action ~ “Top priority was given to community-based approaches to education about the rights of children, as well as school-based education. Community programming can create safe spaces for dialogue between young people, parents, and community leaders on these matters”.

Children in the Refugee and Immigration System

Discussion of Issues ~ “Canada lacks a clear policy framework to protect the best interests of children who are unaccompanied asylum seekers, in spite of recommendations for this from the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child in 2003 and in the 2007 Senate Report on children’s rights …Trafficking of children is a growing concern; it is important to consider differences between children and adults and include the BIC in the development of strategies to prevent trafficking, prosecute traffickers, and provide services to victims”.

Suggestions for Action ~ “Make the BIC and the Convention part of Canadian law to protect the rights of children in all policies and programmes for refugees and immigrants…Give special attention to children in the development of strategies to prevent trafficking, and consider the BIC in provision of services to victims and prosecution of traffickers”.

Early Childhood Learning and Care

Discussion of Issues ~ “Social science research has documented that supporting families with affordable, high quality options for early child learning and care has benefits for child development and for the social and economic well-being of communities. Yet Canada does not have a national policy framework for early childhood education and well-being; provincial policies vary widely, resulting in equity for children across Canada; and funding for services in support of early child development is inadequate”.

Suggestions for Action ~ “National leadership is needed to develop a deeper understanding and vision for child development and the purpose of education in Canada, based on giving priority to the BIC. This would include greater awareness of how children learn to belong and contribute to the community, developing early notions of what it means to be citizens in Canada”.

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