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Youth reps: Canada needs national strategy for Aboriginal children

Canada must develop a comprehensive plan to improve the lives of Aboriginal children, says a national coalition of youth advocates.

Early next week, the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates (CCCYA) will argue before a U.N. committee that the Canadian federal government has not done enough to support Aboriginal children in Canada -- a group disproportionately affected by poverty, homelessness, abuse, and poor physical and mental health.

The CCCYA, a coalition of ten provincial and territorial youth advocates, will table a special report at the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) next Monday.

In Aboriginal Children - Canada Must Do Better: Today and Tomorrow, the CCCYA offers 40 recommendations to bolster the federal government's role in addressing economic, educational, and health-related issues facing Aboriginal children.

"By submitting this Special Report, we ask the [U.N.] Committee to encourage Canada to develop and implement special measures that will assist Aboriginal children, and all children, with the fulfillment of their human rights under the CRC and other related human rights instruments," the report reads.

According to its authors, this special report reiterates many recommendations made to the Canadian government in the fall of 2003 by the CRC -- recommendations, the report says, which "remain largely unaddressed."

For example, the CCCYA renews the 2003 call for the establishment of a national Children's Commissioner. Like the constituent members of the CCCYA who advocate on behalf of children and youth at the provincial or territorial level, a federal children's representative would coordinate child welfare oversight and policy administration across jurisdictions.

Other recommendations include equalization of funding between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal child services and the implementation a national framework on education for Aboriginal children living under federal jurisdiction.

Ben Christopher reports for The Tyee

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