4.7 Children in Especially Difficult Circumstances The range of situations which describe children Aliving in especially difficult circumstances@ is diverse. These situations go far beyond those described in this section, and include children who are sexually exploited, refugee children, children in care of the state, the sale and trafficking of children, and others. What is common to all of these children is that they experience situations that represent an obstacle to, or that serve to compromise, their rights, well-being and development. Effective government action can serve to reduce the impact of these difficult circumstances on children, emphasize prevention by working with those children at risk of experiencing those difficult circumstances, or employ a combination of these approaches.
The differences in socio-economic conditions between Status Indians, Status Indians living on-reserve and the total Canadian population are apparent both within First Nations communities and throughout the larger population of Canada. The gap continues to narrow, however, between these groups. An improvement toward narrowing the earnings gap was realized between 1990 and 1995. For Status Indians living on-reserve, an increase was noted for those who completed trades or non-university training between 1991 and 1996. Within the Status Indian population, women=s employment earnings as a percentage of men=s rose between 1990 and 1995. For statistics regarding the educational achievement of Aboriginal People, see Section 4.6. In other areas, important challenges to progress still remain. In a study of a First Nation community in Manitoba, Fetal Alcohol Syndrome and Fetal Alcohol Effect rates were estimated at 10 to 30 times the world wide incidence. Also, First Nations children were five times more likely to be in the care of Child and Family Service (CFS) agencies than the national average in 1996-1997. The ratio of on-reserve Status Indian children in care to on-reserve Status Indian children aged 16 and under has remained stable for the last five years. Finally, suicide among Aboriginal people is three times the rate for non-Aboriginal people. Suicide rates for First Nation females aged 15 to 24 years are eight times higher than the national rate among females of the same age cohort. For some examples of measures taken by the Government of Canada with respect to Aboriginal People, see Section 3 AAction at the National Level.@
Children in Care Canada as a whole does not have a uniform definition of a "child in care", since the reason a child may be taken into care varies between provincial/territorial jurisdictions. Generally children taken into care are children who, as a result of abuse and/or neglect, have had provincial or territorial child welfare authorities assume responsibility for them on a temporary or permanent basis.
In March 1990, there were approximately 30,180 children in care (excluding data from the province of Quebec, which was not available). In March 1999, there were approximately 41,940 children in care (excluding data from the province of Quebec). Estimated data from that province has only become available as of March 1998 B the most recent data indicates that there are 20,510 children in care in Quebec, giving a Canada-wide total of 62,450 children in care for 1999.
Children with Disabilities Examples of human rights legislation in Canada point to the need to reasonably accommodate disabled persons, including children. Over the past 10 years, there has been a small change in the proportion of Canadian children with disabilities. In 1991, the proportion of Canadians under 19 years who had an activity limitation or disability was 7.2%. By 1996-1997, this proportion had risen to 7.7%. In First Nation communities, disability rates are twice the national average. Action on behalf of persons with disabilities is an ongoing priority of governments across Canada. Recent actions by the federal government for Canadians with disabilities have included enhancements to educational grants, housing loans and grants, employment assistance and a range of tax credits.
Sexually Exploited Children Combating the sexual exploitation of children is a responsibility that is shared in Canada by several levels of government and numerous non‑governmental agencies and organizations. The Government of Canada, through the work of a federal interdepartmental committee, is developing and promoting a Canadian strategy in response to the Declaration and Agenda for Action from the First World Congress Against Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children held in Stockholm in 1996. The strategy includes child participation, prevention, protection, recovery/reintegration, information collection and dissemination, international cooperation and follow-up. The committee issues and updates a report listing federal government activities that work to eliminate the commercial sexual exploitation of children. One of the most important elements of Canada=s national strategy is opening and maintaining channels of communication.
In May 1997, Bill C-27 amended the Criminal Code to allow for the Canadian prosecution of persons who engage in child sex tourism in foreign countries and to facilitate the apprehension and prosecution of persons who seek out the services of juvenile prostitutes in Canada. The Bill also provides for a mandatory minimum sentence of five years imprisonment for any person living off the avails of a child prostitute, and who uses violence against the person under that age and assists that person in carrying on prostitution-related activities for profit.
The federal government has initiated a consultation process through the Federal-Provincial-Territorial Continuing Committee of Officials on Human Rights to examine any necessary implementation measures for the Optional Protocol on the Sale of Children, Child Prostitution and Child Pornographyfor federal, provincial, and territorial jurisdictions, with a view to Canada=s future signature and ratification of this instrument.
Children, Youth and Work Exploitative work, or any work that places the development or education of a child at risk, is not considered to be a domestic challenge in Canada. Legislation exists in Canadian provinces restricting work by children under a given age, in most cases under the age of 14 or 15 years. The Government of Canada also places restrictions on employment of children under 17 years in federal workplaces. In all of these statutes, emphasis is placed on restricting all work that interferes with the required schooling of children under provincial law.
The proportion of youth aged 15 to 19 who participated in the labour force in Canada decreased from 59% (males) and 56% (females) in 1990 to 48.1% (males) and 46.6% (females) in 1996, and most recently remained stable with a slight increase, at 48.3% (males) and 47.9% (females) in 1998. The majority of these work situations are rewarding, giving young people access to a range of new experiences and information on their personal and career development from a variety of sources. These experiences promote rather than challenge children=s rights.
Canada is nonetheless conscious of the threat of exploitative child labour both domestically and internationally, and is committed to taking relevant action to prevent and address the harmful employment of children. To this end, Canada ratified ILO Convention No. 182 on the Elimination of the Worst Forms of Exploitative and Child Labour on June 6, 2000, following consultations with provinces and territories as well as with employers= and workers= organizations. The Convention calls for the elimination of the worst forms of child labour such as all forms of slavery (including debt bondage and the forced recruitment of children for use in armed conflict), the use of children for prostitution, pornography, and drug trafficking, and work which is likely to harm the health, safety or morals of children.
At the time of ratification, Canada announced that it would provide $15 million over 5 years ($3 million per year) to the International Labour Organization (ILO) for programs on the elimination of child labour. Three million dollars of this amount has already been targeted to the Statistical Information and Monitoring Program on Child Labour (SIMPOC), an ILO program aimed at assisting 50 member countries to generate comprehensive data on all forms of child labour in order to improve understanding of the problems in order to better target efforts at its elimination. Over the next four years, funding in the amount of $12 million will continue to be directed at ILO programs aimed at eliminating child labour.