Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act

An Act to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada

This bill was last introduced in the 41st Parliament, 1st Session, which ended in September 2013.

Sponsor

Marc Garneau  Liberal

Introduced as a private member’s bill. (These don’t often become law.)

Status

Defeated, as of Dec. 5, 2012
(This bill did not become law.)

Summary

This is from the published bill. The Library of Parliament often publishes better independent summaries.

This enactment provides for the establishment of the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada.

Elsewhere

All sorts of information on this bill is available at LEGISinfo, provided by the Library of Parliament. You can also read the full text of the bill.

Votes

  • Dec. 5, 2012 Failed That the Bill be now read a second time and referred to the Standing Committee on Human Resources, Skills and Social Development and the Status of Persons with Disabilities.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

December 3rd, 2012 / 11:05 a.m.
See context

NDP

Djaouida Sellah Saint-Bruno—Saint-Hubert, QC

Mr. Speaker, the bill introduced by my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie aims to appoint a commissioner for children and young persons in Canada. I agree with the substance of these measures.

I became involved in the NDP because I saw the work my party has been doing for years, including for instance, the motion moved by former NDP leader Ed Broadbent aimed at eliminating child poverty by the year 2000. I probably do not need to point out that successive governments have failed to achieve that goal. Nor do I need to explain how hard my colleague from Timmins—James Bay has been working on behalf of aboriginal children, particularly on initiatives such as Shannen's dream.

The current state of affairs is appalling. Canada is no longer a leader when it comes to children's well-being. Out of 30 OECD countries, Canada ranks among the bottom third regarding infant mortality, health, safety and poverty. Those statistics are cause for alarm. Our children and teenagers should be at the centre of our policies and actions. We should work on their behalf. We should not need a commissioner to remind us of that, but unfortunately, as history has shown, it seems we do.

Regardless of the mandate of such a commissioner and the impact the office will have, we as a country must take a greater interest in our children. We should invest now to provide them with better services and better living conditions. This summer, I attended the Canadian Medical Association's annual meeting in Yellowknife, where the focus was on health determinants. Delegates attended a presentation by Sir Michael Marmot, a subject matter expert from the United Kingdom.

Social determinants of health are gaining greater attention and being more widely studied. A number of health-focused organizations are investigating them. One of the highest-profile organizations studying health determinants is the World Health Organization. WHO defines social determinants of health as the conditions in which people are born, grow, live, work and age, including the health system.

These circumstances reflect policy choices and are shaped by the distribution of money, power and resources at global, national and local levels. The social determinants of health are mostly responsible for health inequities—the unfair and significant differences in health status seen within and between countries.

In his presentation, Sir Marmot identified six strategic objectives for healthy living, and I would like to list them all: strengthen the role and impact of ill health prevention; create and develop healthy and sustainable places and communities; ensure a healthy standard of living for all; create fair employment and good work for all; enable all children, young people and adults to maximize their capabilities and have control over their lives; and give every child the best start in life.

As Sir Marmot said in his presentation, the longer we wait to rectify inequalities, the worse problems associated with low income become. Quoting from his own work, Fair Society, Healthy Lives, he said:

Disadvantage starts before birth and accumulates throughout life. Action to reduce health inequalities must start before birth and be followed through the life of the child. Only then can the close links between early disadvantage and poor outcomes throughout life be broken.

The evidence is there and experts have said it on more than one occasion: we must address the socio-economic factors. Poverty has an impact on health. It has an impact on education and crime.

In the case of health, I would like to provide some statistics from the Canadian Medical Association: 68% of Canadians with an income greater than $60,000 describe their health as excellent or very good. For Canadians with an income of less than $30,000 a year, this rate drops to 39%, a difference of 29%. Furthermore, 59% of those with an income of less than $30,000 accessed the health care system, compared to 43% of those with an income of $60,000 or more.

Canadians with an income of $30,000 or less are also more likely than those with an income of $60,000 or more to use tobacco—33% versus 10%—and to have been diagnosed with a chronic illness—41% versus 28%.

With regard to children, I would like to point out that 22% of children in families with an income of less than $30,000 are very or somewhat overweight, compared to 9% of children in families with an income of over $60,000. I would like to remind hon. members that not everyone can afford to register their child in hockey, especially if the family income is less than $30,000.

The numbers are there and I have just presented some of them. Yet, this government has decided to punish the poor of our society. The government's ad hoc employment insurance reform will penalize many families and will have an impact on children. The cuts to the federal tobacco control strategy will have an even greater impact on people with incomes of less than $30,000. All these measures will affect our health care system.

It is important to create this type of position for the health of our children. In a 2009 report, the Canadian Paediatric Society, the CPS, called for the creation of a commissioner for children and young persons. The report explains that the CPS recommends that a Canadian commissioner for children and young persons be appointed so that the opinions and needs of these individuals are taken into account in all federal government initiatives affecting them. UNICEF Canada and a number of other child advocacy groups have made the same request.

We need tools to ensure that Canada fulfills its commitments under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, we must look at the big picture and make a consistent effort. By not giving our children what they need now, we are jeopardizing their health, and that is unacceptable.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

December 3rd, 2012 / 11:10 a.m.
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Liberal

Lise St-Denis Saint-Maurice—Champlain, QC

Mr. Speaker, a bill for the establishment of a commissioner for children in Canada is crucial because of the deterioration of the socio-economic conditions of children in our country.

For years, one crop of MPs after another has tried to fight poverty and to ensure that Canadian youth have an equal opportunity to succeed.

Unfortunately, we have to admit that Canada's children and youth continue to be on the excessively long list of people who are exploited, abused and criminalized. The number of children suffering from malnutrition continues to grow. Children who suffer the consequences of hunger, violence and a lack of education are legion in our society, and we are concerned about this scandalous situation in a developed country such as ours.

In a special report to the UN, which was tabled in Geneva on February 6, 2012, the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates stated that Canada must do better today and tomorrow. Irwin Elman, the Ontario representative of the group, pointed out that Canada does not have a monitoring mechanism to provide a detailed and reliable national view of living conditions and the progress made in furthering the rights of aboriginal children and youth. This council also reiterated its request for the creation of a national commissioner for children's rights.

We must examine this proposal to create a commissioner for children in the context of budget cuts that are affecting the most disadvantaged in our society. Creating a commissioner for children and young persons would remind us of our commitments under the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Defending the rights of children around the world has been part of our political agenda for decades. We now have the opportunity to take another important step to protect youth.

The notion of fundamental rights has changed significantly since the creation of the League of Nations and the publication of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. As a society, we are now in a position to include measures for child protection and development that are consistent with our collective wealth. A country like ours, with our material and intellectual resources, is in a position to create this structure independent from the government and to give children a voice.

As set out in the bill, a commissioner for children must be independent in order to inform the public about the shortcomings of and the progress made by our institutions dedicated to children and young people. The position of commissioner is held during good behaviour for a term of five years, in order to create the judicial independence needed for the investigations that are part of his or her duties. The commissioner would protect all children benefiting from the laws and conventions that define and govern children's rights. The commissioner has jurisdiction over criminal laws that affect the rights of children and young persons. The application of these child protection principles is very complex, particularly in light of the number of laws, regulations, departments and agencies that directly or indirectly influence these rights.

The machinery of government is so complex that it is unrealistic to think that elected officials have access to all the information they need to connect children's fundamental rights with the thousands of government programs operating in rural or urban regions.

A commissioner for children would have to promote the government's rights and responsibilities towards children, in order to democratize this information and to reach all segments of the Canadian population.

We have failed to protect our children from the discrimination and suffering resulting from violence and abuse. We have ignored our important obligations to protect children. We have enshrined laws and conventions on human rights, while overlooking the main issue of applying the related principles.

The mandate of a legislator includes obligations related to executing the rules that govern our democracy. Essentially, we have agreed on the principles of education, mental health, criminal liability and children's health care. However, how can we ensure equity and respect for the rights provided for by our laws and conventions without creating an office of the commissioner that is independent from the government? How can we claim to support justice without knowing how children and young people are treated by our court system?

Answers to our questions about the status of children in Canada are long overdue. We live in a huge country where our guiding principles must be applied fairly. We cannot allow departments to take a random approach to honouring the fundamental rights of children. Despite thousands of government programs to combat inequality, children across Canada are victims of abuse, exploitation and poverty. Our institutions are so complex that sometimes we do not hear the complaints and grievances of Canadians, be they young or old.

Creating a children's commissioner dedicated to the study of social phenomena affecting children is in line with the principles in our laws. The commissioner could work with agents across the country to demonstrate the application of laws and conventions that define children's rights. The commissioner could receive reports and recommendations from individuals and groups concerned about the status of children in an effort to enrich our understanding of the situation.

This bill promotes the involvement of children in decision-making processes that affect them. The greater interest of the child guides legal decisions in Canada, and the office of the commissioner must make involving children a priority in fulfilling its mandate. We have agreed to basic rights for all citizens of this country, but our work will not be done as long as our Charter, laws and conventions apply only in theory, and we continue to fail the populations that our institutions should be protecting.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

December 3rd, 2012 / 11:20 a.m.
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NDP

Dany Morin Chicoutimi—Le Fjord, QC

Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I would like to thank my Liberal colleague for introducing this bill, which will make up for the Conservative government's lack of leadership since coming to power.

I will explain in detail why the NDP and I support this kind of initiative. It is based on the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child. For years, the NDP has been championing the rights of children in Canada, supporting the work of those advocating for the rights of children, and promoting collaboration with international bodies like the UN.

We know that co-operation with international organizations has been going poorly lately because of the Conservatives' attitude. However, once Conservatives are removed from power in 2015, I am confident that we will be able to get Canada back on the right track as a fairer, greener, more prosperous country that cares more about the well-being of children.

As I mentioned, we support this bill. However, we do have some reservations, since the Conservative government will be the one to appoint the commissioner. Considering the Conservatives' patronage appointments in the past, particularly regarding the immigration bill that gives more power to the minister, we are very reluctant to give the Conservatives any more power. I am pretty sure that people watching us at home feel the same way. That said, I would like to put partisanship aside, because it is actually a pretty good bill and I want to make sure we have enough time to debate its merits.

In 1991, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Essentially, it committed all parties, including Canada, to take all necessary measures to ensure the respect, protection and implementation of children’s rights. It also required Canada to review its legislation on children. Furthermore, it committed the parties to re-examine their legal system, social services and health care networks and their education system, as well as to review the funding levels available to those systems.

Unfortunately, the Government of Canada deserves a failing grade. If this were a grade on a report card, Canada would get an “F”. It might get a few marks for effort. However, at the end of the day, since Canada does not have such a commissioner or an independent person responsible for the well-being of children, many of the ratifications and measures proposed by the government and meant to protect young people or ensure their well-being have been nothing but empty promises. No one behind the scenes has really done anything to implement the provisions of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

If a commissioner were appointed, he or she could play a leadership role. He or she could either be part of the parliamentary branch or be completely independent. We in the NDP prefer that people who serve the House of Commons be independent. That way, it is easier to ensure positive results no matter which party is in power. In that regard, I would like to congratulate Kevin Page, who has demonstrated that the independence of individuals in positions like his is crucial to playing a leadership role in Canada.

Bill C-420 would establish the position of commissioner for children, who would be responsible for ensuring that Canada complies with provisions of the convention, as I mentioned, and also for implementing the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, which Canada also ratified in 2000 and 2005 respectively. These are good measures that have the support of the NDP, and we truly want the government to take a leadership role in these areas. The position of commissioner established by this bill would allow the government, as the leader, to fulfill this role.

According to the report of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children, many children in Canada face obstacles to realizing their full potential as young Canadians, even though most children's basic needs are met. Unfortunately, even in a rich country such as Canada, too many children live in poverty for many reasons that I do not necessarily wish to address at this time.

My purpose is not so much to speak about poverty as to describe the situation of our young people. That is an area in which Canada also lags behind. While doing my research, I even learned that Canada is lagging behind with respect to the basic indicators of child welfare. This is due in part to the fact that, as I mentioned, Canada's federal system does not have an intergovernmental mechanism to ensure that international treaties such as the Convention on the Rights of the Child are implemented across the country.

The NDP supports the appointment of an independent or parliamentary child advocate. We support this measure, but we also believe that Canada could take the lead in other initiatives, especially if the Conservative government is interested—I am reaching out here—in introducing a children's health initiative to support and expand healthy meal programs for children in community centres and schools. These are practical measures that can make a difference and help many of these young children whose basic needs are not being met.

Are hon. members familiar with Jordan's principle? It is a principle that the NDP supports. In short, this principle seeks to resolve jurisdictional disputes between two federal government departments or between two levels of government, for example, between the federal and the provincial or territorial governments. This prevents interminable delays during which the needs of the child are not met.

Let us take the example of an aboriginal child who should normally have the same access to services as any other Canadian. Since it is unclear which authority is supposed to pay for these expenses, aboriginal young people often have to wait a very long time before their needs are met.

We therefore support Jordan's principle, which would make it possible, in the case of such jurisdictional disputes, for the government or department of first contact to meet the needs of the child and then refer the matter to the jurisdictional dispute mechanism. We believe that it could be worthwhile for the commissioner to play a role in this regard.

The hon. member for Timmins—James Bay is a strong supporter of the Shannen's dream initiative. I would like to commend him for the great work he has done in this regard. Shannen's dream urges the federal government to ensure that all first nations children attend a school that is in good repair and that all first nations schools receive equitable education funding.

Unfortunately, the poverty rate in Canada is high, particularly among first nations. I find this very distressing. I am proud to live in a country that is rich in human and financial resources, but I think it is very unfortunate that so many people are still falling through the cracks.

To come back to the issue of creating a national office of child and youth health, I think that we could even rally the Conservative member for Simcoe—Grey to this cause and get her support. In fact, in 2007, she was the government's advisor on healthy children and youth. She published a report entitled, “Reaching for the Top”, in which she strongly recommended that Health Canada and the Government of Canada create a national office of child and youth health. I hope that the Government of Canada will support the Liberal initiative as the NDP is doing.

At the end of the day, we need leadership in Canada with regard to children's health, particularly since, unfortunately, Canada is doing so poorly in terms of measures to support early childhood development, for example. The OECD countries devote an average of 0.7% of their GDP to child care expenses and early childhood development. Were hon. members aware of this? That is more than double Canada's investment in this area. What is more, only 50% of Canadian children with disabilities have access to the technical assistance they need to ensure their well-being.

Canada is definitely lagging behind, which is a major problem. I would simply like to remind hon. members that the NDP has been a strong advocate of the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child for a long time. I would like to commend my Liberal colleague and thank him for introducing this measure in the House. I would like to remind those watching at home that the NDP will continue to stand up for children's rights. I hope that the Conservatives will vote with their hearts in favour of this bill, as the Liberals and New Democrats are going to do.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

December 3rd, 2012 / 11:30 a.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I rise today to speak to Bill C-420. I would like to thank those who have spoken to this bill, who have shared their thoughts with me and who have taken the time to listen to me.

In speaking with other members of Parliament, I was reminded of how parliamentarians, regardless of party, can work together to achieve common goals.

Indeed, at the heart of the bill is a goal that we all have in common, improving our children's lives.Twenty-three years ago all parties committed to end child poverty by the year 2000. We failed. We did not fail because we could not agree or because we did not care; we failed because we got distracted. That is why we need a commissioner for children, so that we do not get distracted again from improving our children's lives. This is not a partisan issue. The Liberals were in power for most of the last 23 years and we did not create a children's commissioner.

Over the past weeks I have heard several concerns about a children's commissioner, that it would be costly, redundant and would step on provincial toes. While I understand these concerns, I do not believe they apply when one takes a closer look at Bill C-420. Let me address each of them in turn very quickly.

First, some have said that the $5 million cost of a children's commissioner would be better spent on programs for children. While these programs are an integral part of what we can do for children, a children's commissioner would help us learn how to use our money more efficiently. For example, many of today's programs for youth are focused on addressing problems after they have arisen. A commissioner could help us focus on prevention, surely a more cost effective way of helping young people. The investment in our children's future is worth every penny.

Second, some have said that a children's commissioner would be redundant, duplicating processes that already exist at the federal level, such as parliamentary studies, reports to the UN and committees within government.

Yes, parliament does study children's issues, but certainly not enough or we would have succeeded in eradicating child poverty. Moreover, it was one of these parliamentary studies, a Senate report entitled “Children: The Silenced Citizens”, that recommended establishing a children's commissioner.

Yes, Canada does report to the UN every five years about children's rights, and every five years the UN reminds us that we have not yet established a children's commissioner.

Yes, there are committees within government that focus on children's issues, but these committees coordinate between different departments and levels of government. They do not focus on improving children's rights in Canada.

A children's commissioner would provide us with the information we need to improve what we do for our children.

Finally, some worry that a children's commissioner would infringe on provincial jurisdiction. They are right that many issues affecting children are provincial, and because of this nine of the ten provinces have established children's advocates, like the one proposed in Bill C-420. But these provincial advocates are calling for the establishment of a federal commissioner. Why? Because there are many areas affecting children beyond the reach of the provinces, such as aboriginal affairs, youth criminal justice, marriage and divorce law. For example, which drugs can be given to children under state care? Additionally, there are many areas of shared jurisdiction where children are falling into the cracks, like child welfare, health care and combatting child poverty. A federal children's commissioner could study any of these issues without stepping on provincial toes.

Consider a few questions a children's commissioner could ask. How do custody laws affect children going through divorces? How effective has the Youth Criminal Justice Act been in fighting crime among young people? These are but a few examples.

It is by answering questions like these that a commissioner for children can help parliamentarians focus on eliminating child poverty. According to Statistics Canada, today, nearly one in 10 children lives in poverty. The proportion rises to one in four children living with single mothers and one in three children living in aboriginal communities. In all, that is more than a half-million children who live in poverty in Canada.

With the help of a commissioner for children, we can change this.

I urge all members to vote in favour of Bill C-420 to send it to committee, where it can be improved. This will prevent us from once again getting too distracted to focus on eliminating child poverty.

We owe this to our children.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:20 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

moved that Bill C-420, An Act to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada, be read the second time and referred to a committee.

Mr. Speaker, I have been waiting for this moment for a very long time, and I believe most Canadians have been waiting for this moment for a long time as well, the opportunity for Parliament to debate and eventually vote for the creation of a national commissioner for children and young persons.

I say a long time because it was more than 20 years ago that Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, and yet to this date we have not made the decision to create the position of a national commissioner, one of whose tasks would be to monitor our compliance with our obligations under the convention.

The fact that the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child is the most ratified UN convention ever, over 190 countries, tells us something important. It tells us that virtually all of humanity recognizes the fundamental importance that we must accord our children, our voiceless children.

I admit from the outset that my own party, which was in power for 13 of the past 20 years, did not take the opportunity to create an office of the commissioner for children and young persons. Although many Liberals, including Senator Landon Pearson, who worked very hard on this issue, dreamed of creating such an office, it did not come to fruition, and the Liberal Party has to take responsibility for that.

There is no room for partisanship today, especially when we are talking about something as important as our children.

I will read a few excerpts from the preamble to Bill C-420:

...the true measure of a nation’s standing is how well it attends to its children, including their health, safety, material security, education and socialization, as well as their sense of being loved, valued, and included in the families and societies into which they are born;

The second excerpt:

...Canada, by ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, recognizes the right of every child to a standard of living adequate for his or her physical, mental, spiritual, moral and social development;

Finally, the third excerpt:

...Canada, by ratifying that Convention, recognizes the right of every child to have his or her best interests be given primary consideration in all actions concerning him or her;

I do not believe that a single one of us present in the House today would disagree with any of the words I have just quoted from the bill's preamble. Many of us are parents of children and whether a parent or not, all of us want the best for our Canadian children and indeed for every child on this planet. All of us recognize intrinsically that children enter this world completely helpless and that it is the responsibility, not only of parents but also of the nation, to ensure that we attend to their needs, including their health, safety, material security, education and socialization, as well as their sense of being loved, valued and included in the families and societies in which they are born.

While all of us are torn by the heart-wrenching sight of a malnourished child in the Sahel region of Africa, or by the sight of children begging for food in the street rather than attending school, or indeed by the sight of young children working in atrocious conditions in a factory or a mine, we take comfort in the thought that in Canada we have taken measures to prevent this kind of thing from happening.

Yet we know that all is not perfect within our own country and that children's rights are also not always protected or taken into consideration. While successive Conservative and Liberal governments have brought in measures that were clearly focused on our children and young people, and this is commendable, we also know that we must continue to be extremely vigilant when it comes to our children and their basic rights.

Parents obviously have a fundamental responsibility for their children, but so does the state. It is the state that makes the laws of the country that affect all of us, including our children and what happens to them. It is the state that provides the infrastructure of schools for education and hospitals for health care, as well as many other institutions that touch the lives of our children. It is the state that decides what minimum social safety net we will put in place to ensure that nobody falls between the cracks through no fault of their own.

We have all recoiled with horror at what we, as a country, did to our aboriginal children by transferring them into the residential school system. We are all disgusted when we hear the stories of sexual abuse of children by adults in many schools, horrific stories that have been coming to the surface in the past few decades. How could this happen in Canada?

While these are dramatic examples of what can happen to our defenceless children, we also know that child poverty is a reality in our country, that children go to school hungry, that they sometimes go to bed hungry, that they sometimes live in poor housing conditions, that they are not provided with the adequate educational resources that they need, that they suffer from mental health problems and that they are exposed to bullying and so on.

Let me say this loud and clear. I am not standing here today pointing the finger at any party, any organization or any person. We all bear collective responsibility for the well-being of our children. Just as we can be proud of some of the measures that we have implemented to ensure their well-being, we must also concede that no party has a perfect record and that much work still has to be done.

Of course, the scandalous living conditions of some Canadian children can be seen on the evening news. We all know that some children go to school without having eaten a nutritious breakfast. These examples are striking, but they are not our only concerns as federal legislators.

For example, when a couple divorces and the family includes children, federal family law determines the fate of those children to some extent. This legislation obviously must take into consideration the well-being of these children. When a young offender commits a very serious crime and he is under 18, the justice system treats him differently than it would an adult and for good reason. Again, federal legislation could determine what will happen. In all of this there is, of course, the matter of federal or provincial jurisdictions.

Today I am speaking in favour of creating a federal office of the commissioner for children and young persons, recognizing at the same time that there are organizations at the provincial level that have responsibilities toward children. One might wonder whether it is necessary to have a federal commissioner when the provinces have equivalent positions. The answer is yes.

First of all, these provincial equivalents—let us call them children's ombudsmen or advocates—agree that it is important to have a federal commissioner so that there is a federal-provincial exchange that will make it possible to initiate a national dialogue on children and to identify existing gaps. The provincial and federal jurisdictions do not meet all of the needs of our children. Our children have needs that fall through the cracks between the federal and provincial jurisdictions.

A motion to eliminate child poverty by 2000 was adopted in the House 23 years ago by all the parties. We made this promise for good reasons, but we did not keep it. The other priorities of the day distracted us from our goal and, with time, the promise was lost among those other priorities.

Child poverty still exists today. The rate of child poverty is approximately 13% and, if I were to ask my colleagues whether we should give priority to reducing that rate—a rate that is much too high in a country like Canada—I am sure that they would all say yes. But things have a tendency to be forgotten with time when other crises arise. That is why we need a commissioner for children and young persons who would report to Parliament and Canadians on a yearly basis.

We need a permanent national commissioner because we can easily forget the promises that we made to ourselves with respect to our children, for example, the promise the parties made unanimously 23 years ago to eliminate child poverty by the year 2000. A commissioner would be there to remind us because every one of us needs to be reminded from time to time that we have work to do here or there with respect to the obligations that we undertook toward our children and young people and, yes, a commissioner would also tell us when we are doing a good job at satisfying those obligations.

I would like to briefly summarize the mandate that a commissioner for children and young persons would be given.

The commissioner would be there to advocate at a national level for the needs, views and rights of children and young persons; to implement programs to inform the public of his role; to monitor the development and application of laws affecting children and young persons; to monitor the implementation of Canada's obligations under the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; to assess the impact of our legislation on the rights of children and young persons; to maintain close liaison with similar bodies or authorities in the provinces; to encourage consultation with children and young persons and with organizations and service providers that have a mandate to protect their rights; and to carry out studies on the rights of children at the request of the Minister of Justice or a committee of the Senate or the House of Commons.

I speak today in the spirit of trying to do what is best for our children. This is not a partisan issue. It is an issue that is focused squarely on the children of Canada.

It is also a smart thing for the government to do. It is particularly smart economically speaking. We all know that children represent the future of our country and that it is in our utmost interest to get them off to a good start in life so they can be productive members of society. Putting it bluntly, they are an incredibly important resource.

With the aging baby boomer demographic approaching retirement, we will be placing a greater onus on our children to support us. We need to ensure that they grow up healthy, in safe conditions, with a good education and within a well-balanced social environment. We need to provide the less fortunate ones with extra help to ensure they are also able to achieve their potential. When children's needs are not addressed, whether it be their nutrition, living conditions, health needs and so on, we end up with more children who get in trouble with the law, suffer mental problems or cannot maintain long-term jobs.

I ask my fellow members in the House of Commons, regardless of party affiliation, to support the creation of a commissioner for children and young persons. It is the smart thing to do. It is the right thing to do. It is in our vital interest to do so as a country. It is in the vital interests of our children and young persons.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:35 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, New Democrats will be supporting the motion by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie. We have a concern though, and I know I will hear moans from the government side.

Of late, with regard to human rights and responsive obligations to the United Nations, there has been a certain amount of push back from the government side or concerns with the United Nations. In my view, the commissioner's role would be to oversee Canada's response to our obligations to the United Nations with regard to the children of Canada. We would anticipate that the person who might get appointed to such a commission would not come from a rights-based background.

I would like the member's response to that.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, in some sense there was an understanding when we ratified the convention back in 1991 that to give ourselves the right tool to see how we were respecting our obligations under the convention we would create a position of commissioner. There are some 60 countries with a similar kind of approach, which works well.

We in the Liberal Party did not do that, and we were in power for 13 of those 20 years. It is something that we need to do. It is something that is a good investment for the country. It is something that I think the government will recognize as the proper thing to do at this point, some 21 years after ratifying the convention.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Rodger Cuzner Cape Breton—Canso, NS

Mr. Speaker, I want to commend my colleague for his presentation and bringing this forward.Twenty-one years later its time has come. Also, I very much appreciate the gesture and notification of support from the NDP.

This came forward in 1991. Brian Mulroney would have been prime minister at the time and it would have been a Conservative government that ratified the convention. I would think that would point toward the unanimous acceptance of this by the House. Is that the view of my colleague?

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, my hon. colleague points out that in fact this was ratified under the Conservative government of Prime Minister Mulroney. Also, on two occasions a committee of the Senate, the committee on human rights, recommended the creation of a commissioner. In 2007, its landmark report, “Children: The Silenced Citizens”, recommended the creation of a commissioner precisely for the reasons we have been discussing today, and again made the recommendation in 2011. This was a bipartisan Senate committee.

I think there is will. This is not a partisan issue. This is something that is smart and the right thing for Canada to do. I hope I will have the support of my colleagues in government.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
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NDP

Alain Giguère Marc-Aurèle-Fortin, QC

Mr. Speaker, I appreciated the speech given by the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie. He is a compassionate man, and one with a big heart. However, it is important that these compassionate words be followed by action. For the past 20 years, there has been no action. Of course, it is important to ensure that the people who vote in favour of this motion are aware of the consequences it could have on funding for health care and post-secondary education. In that regard, a children's commissioner could be a good way to sound the alarm.

I want to ensure that my colleague from Westmount—Ville-Marie understands that this action will have consequences.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
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Liberal

Marc Garneau Westmount—Ville-Marie, QC

Mr. Speaker, I thank my hon. colleague for his comments. Of course, he is right. If we create this children's commissioner position, that individual will have to focus on children and youth, report annually and identify any shortcomings that we need to address. Of course, in some cases, this will involve some financial repercussions and perhaps a repositioning of certain programs. So, yes, there will be consequences.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:40 p.m.
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Moncton—Riverview—Dieppe
New Brunswick

Conservative

Robert Goguen Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, it is a pleasure for me to participate in this debate on Bill C-420, An Act to Establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada.

This bill was tabled by the member for Westmount–Ville-Marie in May 2012.

Before going into detail regarding this bill, I would like to stress the fact that the Government of Canada is determined to meet the needs of Canadian children and their families in order to build a strong society. Thanks to a broad range of substantial investments, the government continues to help children get the best possible start in life.

I will take a moment to describe in a bit of detail what Bill C-420 aims to do.

The bill proposes to create a federal children's commissioner with a very broad mandate. Some of the key responsibilities envisaged for such a commissioner include: to review, monitor and report to Parliament annually on Canada's implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child; to conduct an impact assessment on all federal legislation, regulations and other instruments related to the rights of children and young persons; to carry out special duties or inquiries when requested by Parliament or committee or the Minister of Justice; and to raise public awareness of the convention.

I have reviewed Bill C-420 and after careful consideration it appears to me that the proposed creation of a federal children's commissioner would, arguably, be redundant.

Here is why I will be voting against Bill C-420.

The establishment of a federal children's commissioner as proposed by this bill would be a costly and unnecessary duplication of existing international and domestic reporting and implementation mechanisms. Further, it could indirectly impact upon provincial and territorial areas of responsibility.

Mr. Speaker, creating and maintaining an office for the federal commissioner for children will increase the tax burden on Canadian taxpayers. In fact, the net annual cost of comparable arm's-length commissioners' offices totaled approximately $7 million, dollars that are not, in my opinion, well spent on a new bureaucratic entity. The creation of an office of the commissioner for children and young persons will add an administrative level at the expense of accountability and oversight.

We take the implementation of Canada's international obligations in the area of human rights very seriously. Canada already reports to the United Nations every five years regarding the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. Canada also deals with issues affecting children in the reports it presents as part of a multitude of international treaties in the area of human rights, including The Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women and the International Convention on The Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination.

Many of the functions of the proposed federal children's commissioner are being performed through existing domestic mechanisms. For instance, the government already promotes public awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reviews proposed legislation and regulations for consistency with human rights protections, and promotes ongoing implementation of the convention through the provision of legal advice and training. Moreover, parliamentary bodies have conducted and continue to conduct special studies on children's issues.

Effective domestic coordination is already in place through various interdepartmental and intergovernmental mechanisms. For example, an interdepartmental working group on children's rights was created in 2007 to enhance federal coordination with respect to children's rights.

Further, federal, provincial and territorial governments continue to consult on issues relating to children through various forums such as the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights, and the Directors of Child Welfare Committee.

Finally, the important government role in supporting families and children is shared between the federal, provincial and territorial governments, with most of the programs and services relating to children falling within provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Almost all of the provinces and territories have already established independent children's commissioners, advocates or ombudspersons.

Bill C-420 will require the federal commissioner for children to present an annual report to Parliament regarding the implementation of the convention by the government. However, due to limitations regarding areas of jurisdiction, it would be difficult to establish a complete portrait of the well-being of children without potentially encroaching on areas of provincial or territorial jurisdiction.

In conclusion, there is no need to add a costly new layer of bureaucracy to ensure Canada's compliance with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Measures are already in place to make sure that all levels of government coordinate their efforts in an effective way so that Canada meets its obligations under the convention.

I therefore urge my colleagues on both sides of the House to oppose this bill for the reasons I have espoused.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 6:50 p.m.
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NDP

Wayne Marston Hamilton East—Stoney Creek, ON

Mr. Speaker, I reiterate for the record that the NDP does endorse and support this motion.

In the first speech made, we heard reference to poverty 2000 and the aspirations this House had in those days for eliminating child poverty. Around 1990, I was the chair of the poverty 2000 campaign in Hamilton when it first started and, sadly, we did not reach the goal we were looking at. In many ways, things are much worse than they once were.

Members will be aware that in 1991 Canada ratified the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The convention, among other things, charges the current government with the responsibility of taking all available measures to make sure that children's rights are respected, protected and fulfilled. We heard in the parliamentary secretary's speech reference made to the government's belief that this is taking place today, though we have some disagreement about that.

When countries ratify such agreements, they agree to review the laws relating to children, which involves assessing social services, the legal and health and education systems, as well as levels of funding of these services. Governments are obliged to take all necessary steps to ensure that the minimum standards set by the convention are met.

The government was late in responding to questions that were posed in March by the United Nations committee reviewing Canada's participation in this protocol. The questions were to be answered by July 2, but the answers were in fact delivered to the UN committee just last Friday. This week in Geneva, the committee is reviewing Canada's record and we anticipate a response shortly. However, it was very troubling for us that Canada took all that time to respond to those questions. There are people out there, with perhaps a more cynical view than my own, who are concerned that the Conservatives' reasons for not responding earlier are that they did not want their response open to public scrutiny before they were delivered to the UN, and perhaps to face the potential questions that might have been asked internally within Canada.

As the government's response to the UN committee suggests, it does not track the numbers of children under state care. People have asked for and tried to get from the government just how many are under state care. One has to wonder whether it does not have the available information to work with. The office of a commissioner would do precisely that. It would accumulate the necessary information regarding the services provided, the number of children receiving them and the various levels of need in our country. It is important that people stop and ask themselves if that is not a role that a commissioner would offer to Canadians and to the government in support of the work of the government. In some senses, when the Conservatives took office we had the Parliamentary Budget Officer put into place to take an arm's length view of government operations, someone who could report to the Canadian people and the House. This would be something similar to protect the rights of children and to ensure that we meet the obligations that we have signed up to.

The international agreements that Canada is party to are significant, given they have been negotiated and put in place for the benefit of children in this case, or in other protocols to prevent torture and other aspects. The agreements are important because they reflect Canada's international reputation for how we treat our own citizenry in the public context. We can say, as a government, that we are doing these things but having a commissioner would add to the veracity of those statements.

Federal and provincial ministers are responsible for social policy, as just one example. However, they have not met in five years despite the fact there is evidence out there, which we believe, that children are falling through the cracks.

On September 25, the Government of Canada was repeatedly taken to task in Geneva by the UN committee on the rights of the child for its incoherence about how the federal government and the provincial programs actually help children, and for the lack of any evidence of a clear strategy. Committee members said that Canada's biggest challenge is to bring together the various parts of its political system to implement the convention throughout Canada and to improve the conditions for our most vulnerable children.

One could ask: Would that not be a role suited to a commissioner, as has been proposed by our friend from Westmount—Ville-Marie? I think so.

The Canadian response to the committee cites that first nations children are 4.2 times more likely to be investigated by child welfare officials than non-aboriginal children, and that this is driven by neglect linked to poverty, substance abuse, social isolation and domestic violence.

The government claims that coordination between the federal and provincial and territorial governments occurs, but the reality is that the relationship is between low-level officials who exchange information and call it coordination.

Current mechanisms for coordination serve to kind of grey the area around what is happening more than actually bringing things to the fore. In fact it could be argued that they protect government decisions from public scrutiny. They do not serve children.

Again, would this not be a place to insert a commissioner to help us all deal together to ensure the work is done?

It has been said in this place, and I do not disagree, that all members of this House have the best interests of children at heart. This would be another valuable tool, a force to pull it together in a way that would ensure the best possible delivery.

The government has claimed, repeatedly, in public that the universal child care benefit is designed specifically to help families pay for child care. In the section on poverty, in the recent response to the UN committee on the rights of children, the benefit is presented as a poverty reduction program. At $100 a month, it does neither effectively and most of the money goes to non-poor families.

Again, would this not be a place where a commissioner could insert himself or herself into the process to advise the government to make the appropriate changes?

There are various tax credits that we hear spoken of, such as the child tax credit, the fitness and arts credits and RESPs that benefit the wealthy more than the people who are below the poverty line.

There are a lot of places where a commissioner could be inserted.

Canada's 2010 report to the UN universal periodic review states that the principal intergovernmental forum for consultation on human rights is a body called the continuing committee of officials on human rights.

Most people inside and outside of government are not aware that there is such a body in Canada, but there is. The body meets twice yearly, behind closed doors, with no public reporting. It is mid-level bureaucracy that lacks enforcement authority.

The Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Human Resources and Skills Development, in her previous life, released a report called, Reaching for the Top, which strongly recommended that the Government of Canada create a national office of child and youth health. She said:

There is a lack of the analysis as to how and how much children's rights have been achieved in the state and how progress has been made.

I apologize; the parliamentary secretary did not say that. Marta Mauras Perez, vice-chair of the committee on the rights of the child, said:

What we're telling you is really to raise the bar...

I have raised that question in this place. We are being challenged by the United Nations committee to do a better job, and in my view, and in my party's view, a commissioner would be a great asset.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 7 p.m.
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Liberal

Kevin Lamoureux Winnipeg North, MB

Mr. Speaker, the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie has done a phenomenal job in terms of bringing what I believe is a critically important issue to the House of Commons. Dealing with our children is something that I believe, at the end of the day, is an issue that causes a great deal of concern from coast to coast to coast.

For anyone to believe that Canada does not have issues surrounding our children, such as hunger, exploitation and many others, I would suggest is somewhat misinformed. There is a need for a national commissioner. That need can be justified very easily.

I commend the member for making reference to the fact that we wanted to approach this issue in an apolitical fashion, because it does cross all political party lines. I respect the fact that this is indeed a private member's bill and members will be afforded the opportunity to vote independently. I would really encourage members to get an understanding of what it is that the bill is proposing to do. At the end of the day, if the bill is allowed to proceed, it will have a very real, profound impact on the children of our country.

For over 20 years I have been a parliamentarian and travelled many different areas of the province of Manitoba and Canada, and have had endless discussions about children and some of the challenges they face and the important role government plays in terms of providing for children.

Today, many lives of children are being written off because of the fear of having to be politically correct or because of the unsure methods or approaches from different levels of government.

In the province of Manitoba we have a child advocate's office, and I have seen some of the valuable work that the child advocate has done. I suggest we would find that child advocates and commissioners in other regions of Canada would recognize the important role a national commissioner could play here in Canada. That can only be done through the national government.

The issues are many. If we at least take advantage of allowing this bill to go to committee where it could be heard, we could have representations from different stakeholders. I think we would get other child advocates—highly intelligent, articulate individuals—who could come before the committee and justify the need for the commissioner.

I believe at the end of the day Canadians, in particular children, will be better served if this bill is afforded the opportunity to go to the committee stage at the very least.

I appreciate the position the New Democrats have put on the record, and I trust and hope that all members of the opposition will in fact be supportive of this very important critical initiative.

I appeal to the members of the Conservative side to recognize how important it is that we see what is happening to our children in our communities today.

I represent Winnipeg North. I love the constituency. It is my home. I am proud of the people I represent. However, I can say that I have had exchanges with what I would classify as dysfunctional families. When people talk about children going to school hungry, that is true. How do they learn on an empty stomach?

What is worse, children are going to bed hungry. Every day there are examples of child exploitation on the streets, not only in Winnipeg North but in many constituencies throughout our country. We need a national commissioner to look at these very real issues.

I have talked to registered nurses who are trying to come to grips with fetal alcohol syndrome. Communities have been virtually devastated by this particular disorder.

Children's lives are at risk because governments of all political stripes have not been able to meet their needs. Ideas would come forward if we had a national commissioner with a mandate to make a difference. The ideas would be not only for the national government but for all the different stakeholders, ideas that could make a difference and save the lives of our children, ideas that would provide opportunities for our children.

The government does have a role to play, and it is important we recognize that all levels of government have to contribute to that role. If we want to be able to provide opportunities for young children, we need to ensure that all children are provided with the opportunity to succeed and their abilities are being challenged, whether it is through the local school board or the national government here in Ottawa or everything in between: aboriginal self-government, city councils, provincial governments, regional health institutions. Everyone has a vested interest in ensuring every child is provided with the opportunity to succeed in life.

For anyone not to imagine the potential role that a national commissioner could play in this, would be a tragic mistake. At the end of the day a national commissioner, more than any other organization or individual, could have a profound impact on children in Canada. The national commissioner would be in a far better position than anyone else to be able to give them an opportunity to succeed in life.

I have had opportunities, whether it was here in the House of Commons or inside the Manitoba legislature, to talk to a good number of private members' bills over the last 20 years. Very few have I felt could have such a profound impact on the children of our communities. This is one of them. I would challenge all members to reflect on the potential benefit to our children if we could see this bill pass.

I respect that the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie would be open to changes or to the possibility of amendments. No political party is trying to take ownership of the idea. What I see is a man of this chamber who has an idea that deserves the support of all members of the House of Commons.

I am asking members to reflect on the fact that there are thousands of children in the province of Manitoba who need the community's help, and I know because this is an issue I have been dealing with for many years. Thousands of children in the province of Manitoba alone need help in order to be provided with the opportunity to succeed in life. Part of the community is the national government, and the national government needs to come to the table. Here is a private member's bill that would allow the Government of Canada to play the strong leadership role it needs to play. I appeal to all members to recognize the value of this piece of legislation. I encourage all members to support it.

Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada Act
Private Members' Business

October 2nd, 2012 / 7:10 p.m.
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Delta—Richmond East
B.C.

Conservative

Kerry-Lynne Findlay Parliamentary Secretary to the Minister of Justice

Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to participate in the debate on Bill C-420, An Act to establish the Office of the Commissioner for Children and Young Persons in Canada.

This bill was introduced by the member for Westmount—Ville-Marie in May 2012. I reviewed Bill C-420, and after a thorough review, I believe that an office for a federal commissioner for children would be redundant.

Before going into detail regarding the bill, I would like to stress the fact that the Government of Canada is determined to meet the needs of Canadian children and their families in order to build a strong society.

I commend the hon. member for Westmount—Ville-Marie for his interest in improving the lives of Canadian children and youth through his introduction of Bill C-420. The bill proposes to create the office of the federal children's commissioner with a broad mandate to report on Canada's compliance with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

However, our government is of the view that Bill C-420 is not the most effective means of achieving this laudable goal. We oppose the bill for four main reasons: One, it would be costly to establish and maintain; two, it would duplicate existing international reporting processes; three, it would replicate current domestic implementation mechanisms; and four, it could indirectly impact upon provincial and territorial areas of responsibility.

As to the costs associated with this initiative, our first concern with the bill is related to the potential costs. It would be difficult to justify creating another layer of bureaucracy for reporting and monitoring purposes in this current climate of fiscal restraint. The costs could be somewhere in the vicinity of $7 million annually, which is the net cost of comparable independent commissioner offices.

It is our view that federal funding would be better spent on actual programs and services for Canadian children and youth rather than on creating an office that would produce more reports. I will speak to this issue in more detail in a few minutes.

The second concern we have with the bill is that Canada already reports to the UN on its implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child. We do this every five years. Canada also covers children's issues in its reporting on a multitude of other international human rights treaties including, but not limited to, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination and the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities.

Our third concern is that many of the functions of the proposed federal children's commissioner are already being performed through existing domestic mechanisms. For instance, the government promotes public awareness of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, reviews proposed legislation and regulations for consistency with human rights protections, and promotes the ongoing implementation of the convention through the provision of legal advice and training. Moreover, parliamentary bodies have and continue to conduct special studies on children's issues.

Effective domestic coordination is already in place through various interdepartmental and intergovernmental mechanisms. For example, in 2007, an interdepartmental working Group on children's rights was created to enhance federal coordination with respect to children's rights.

It is also important to note that federal, provincial and territorial governments continue to consult on issues relating to children through various forums, such as the Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights, the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Working Group on Family Violence Prevention and the Directors of Child Welfare Committee.

Our fourth concern relates to the fact that the important government role in supporting families and children is shared between the federal, provincial and territorial governments. Most of the programs and services relating to children fall within provincial and territorial jurisdiction. Almost all the provinces and territories have established independent children's commissioners, advocates or ombudspersons. The work of those bodies and other ongoing partnerships ensure that Canada promotes and protects the rights of children.

Bill C-420 would require that the proposed federal children's commissioner submits an annual report to Parliament on the government's implementation of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. However, jurisdictional limitations would make it difficult to provide a complete portrait of children's well-being without potentially infringing upon matters of provincial and territorial jurisdiction.

I would like to point out that many other comparable federal western democracies, such as the United States, Germany and Switzerland, do not, like Canada, have independent federal or national children's commissioners.

As we can see, processes are already in place to ensure that all orders of government coordinate their efforts in an effective way so Canada meets its obligations under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. The government remains very committed to improving the lives of Canadian children and youth. I will provide members with a few examples.

The government is committed to helping parents balance work and family life through transfers to the provinces and territories of over $15.2 billion in 2011-12 in support of early childhood development and child care. This is the largest investment in early childhood development and child care in the history of Canada.

Through the universal child care benefit, the government annually provides over $2.6 billion directly to families, helping over two million young children. This is in addition to other supports, including the child tax credit and the Canada child tax benefit, which includes the national child benefit supplement.

Through the supporting families fund, the government offers $60 million per year for family justice services and information resources aimed at promoting compliance with financial support and custody access obligations in order to reduce the stress of separation and divorce on children and assisting parents to focus on the best interests of the child when deciding on parenting arrangements.

The government also provides $4.5 million per year through the youth justice fund for the development, implementation and evaluation of pilot projects that provide programming and services for youth in conflict with the law, such as children involved in or vulnerable to gun, gang and drug activities, and for youth with illicit substance abuse issues.

Through the victims fund, this government has doubled the amount of money available for child advocacy centres across Canada, to a total of $2.05 million per year. Child advocacy centres adopt a seamless, coordinated and collaborative approach to helping child and youth victims of crime to minimize system-induced trauma by providing services to young victims and their families in child-friendly settings and by reducing the number of interviews and questions directed at children during the investigation or court preparation process. This has been a very successful initiative. I have visited some of these centres.

The community action program for children funds community based organizations to develop and deliver comprehensive, culturally appropriate, early intervention and prevention programs that promote the health and social development of vulnerable children zero to six years of age and their families. This program distributes $53.4 million annually to projects across Canada.

The government also recognizes that additional efforts are required to improve the well-being of aboriginal children. Funding for first nations child and family services has also more than doubled over the past 14 years, from $238 million in 1998-99 to approximately $600 million in 2011-12.

Under the six current tripartite frameworks, more than $100 million per year in additional ongoing funding are now dedicated to implementing the new enhanced prevention focused approach to funding first nations child and family service providers for on reserve first nation children and families.

The 2010 federal budget announced additional funding of $50 million over five years, 2010 to 2015, for the aboriginal headstart on reserve and aboriginal headstart in urban and northern communities programs.

The 2010 federal budget provided $75 million from 2010 to 2015 to renew the national aboriginal youth suicide prevention strategy and to continue to support first nations and Inuit communities in addressing aboriginal youth suicide.

In 2010-11, the government invested $1.9 billion in education to support first nations and Inuit students across Canada.

Then, in the 2012 federal budget, the Government of Canada committed to invest $100 million over three years to provide early literacy programming and supports and services to first nations schools and students, and to invest an additional $175 million over three years to build and renovate schools on reserve to provide the youth with better learning environments.

Those are concrete examples of the government's investments in children and youth, investments that promote and protect the rights of children, as set out in the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

In conclusion, the establishment of a federal children's commissioner as proposed in Bill C-420 would be a costly and unnecessary duplication of existing international and domestic reporting and implementation mechanisms.

The government considers that federal funding would be better spent on concrete programs and services for Canadian children and youth, rather than on creating another layer of bureaucracy.

For all the reasons that I have just explained, I call on my colleagues on both sides of the House to oppose this bill.