Kids don’t vote. We don’t trust children under the age of 18 to be sophisticated enough or experienced enough to have a say in electing our government. I haven’t spent a lot of time thinking about how different election campaigns would be if kids could vote, nor have I spent a lot of time thinking about how that could change what our children care about. I will now. Because the outcome of kids not having a say is that children’s issues are almost never election issues. Canadians do not vote on children’s issues. They vote on the economy or the environment, they vote on parental issues (tax breaks, nationalized daycare, etc.), or they may even vote based on who paid back the $90,000. But, I have yet to see a poll even ask voters if they are voting on children’s issues. So, I was pleasantly surprised to see a couple of platform announcements align with the mission of Teagan’s Voice.
At the heart of the Teagan’s Voice mission is that priority must be given to the rights of children to live in a safe home. It seems so simple, yet we have systems that neglect this basic right of children. Even when systems make decisions that are based on “the best interests of the child”, there are no advocates to argue for what those interests are. The Liberal Party announced an encouraging initiative as part of their platform – the creation of a federal children’s advocate or commissioner. Unfortunately, following the August 5th announcement of this part of their election “Plan”, it is nowhere to be found on the Liberal website. That is disappointing, but again, kids don’t vote. So, for the sake of this post, let’s ignore that and get really excited that a political party is talking about federal leadership on ensuring children’s basic rights as citizens are a priority. You can read more about this at the following link: https://marcgarneau.liberal.ca/en/blog/after-21-years-a-canadian-childrens-commissioner-is-long-overdue/
The provinces each have a Children’s Advocate. They all have been created with differing legislation, so their mandates are quite varied. In order to ensure that children’s rights are not marginalized, federal leadership could bring some cohesion to these efforts and together they have the capability to provide meaningful recommendations to improve the systems that are designed to protect children. We applaud this commitment and would like to see the other political parties make similar commitments. Rest assured, we will add this to our advocacy agenda no matter which party is elected.
The other bright spot in the barrage of platform announcements is the promise of “Life Means Life” legislation. This refers to a promise by the Conservatives to re-introduce legislation that allows for life sentences without parole (as opposed to having the ability to seek parole after 25 years) for criminals convicted of particularly heinous murders. I’m not sure how one defines a particularly heinous murder. Isn’t all murder heinous? But, if we had to be specific, we would argue that the act of child murder would fall into this category. When systems fail to protect children and their lives are cut short, those responsible have taken away so many years of promise. Life in prison seems the appropriate punishment for killing our most vulnerable; those in our society who have not yet had a chance to even start to strive for their potential, those with the most yet to give our world. The surviving victims of these murders would no longer have to fear the release of the monster that took their loved one away, nor would they be re-victimized year after year at parole hearings. Innocent people deserve to be protected by our government - child murderers do not. Sharon Rosenfeldt lost her son to brutal murder at the hands of serial killer Clifford Olsen in 1981. She supports this proposed legislation for many of the same reasons we do. Best to hear it straight from Ms. Rosenfeldt:
It has to be said at this point that Teagan’s Voice is completely non-partisan. When we see a good idea, we will promote it no matter which political party communicates it first. We want every elected official to care about children’s rights and we will seek political champions from elected members of Parliament and Provincial Legislatures across the country, regardless of political stripe. We hope to see more from this election campaign prioritizing children’s rights. Speak to your candidates about these issues. Let them know these issues are important to you and the reasons why. Make your candidates aware that Canadians care about children’s rights.