Happy New Year! A Way Home Canada opened 2018 with an even stronger commitment to fighting for the human rights of youth experiencing homelessness. Building on the success of the first International Summit on the Legal Needs of Street Youth held in London in June 2015, the American Bar Association,in late November 2017, convened an even greater number of jurisdictions and advocates for street-connected children and youth from around the world to examine the mandate provided by the United Nations General Comment 21 on Children in Street Situations. Bringing together street youth experts across the globe, this was the second-ever convening focused on the legal rights of street youth as a path to ensuring dignity and human rights for a population often forgotten or ignored. The Summit Agenda reviewed the legal guarantees in the General Comment point-by point through panel and live, interactive discussion by leaders from around the world examining best practices and challenges in the face of the UN’s General Comment and its renewed expectations of every signatory nation across the world — including Canada. Canadian delegates in attendance were Melanie Redman, A Way Home Canada; Stephen Gaetz, Canadian Observatory on Homelessness; Bruce Rivers, Covenant House Toronto; and Julia Huys, Justice for Children and Youth.
A unique outcome of the summit was a vibrant exchange of information and best ideas across borders about how nations can implement the rights embedded in the UN’s new international instrument. Second, and equally unique, the Summit is using the input to produce a first-ever publication of principles from the world’s experts on street-connected children and youth that will foster the implementation of each of the legal issues in the UN’s General Comment. This publication will be delivered to world leaders in Spring 2018. As Canadians, we have an opportunity to leverage the results of the Summit in our advocacy work on behalf of youth experiencing homelessness.
Another important development with support from Baker & McKenzie in partnership with the Consortium for Street Children is an online resource called the “Legal Atlas for Street Children.” This website will highlight the areas where governments can do more to ensure street children can not only meet their basic needs to survive, but can develop to their fullest potential. We have an opportunity to support the development of this resource to include Canada. This will be yet another tool in our collective toolbox to not only hold all orders of government to account for our international human rights obligations, but also help government know exactly where improvements can be made and compare those efforts to other countries.
Over the coming months, A Way Home Canada, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness, Covenant House Toronto and Justice for Children and Youth will work to educate stakeholders across the country about UN General Comment 21 and Canadian opportunities and implications therein. We’ll host a webinar in collaboration with the American Bar Association to kick-off these efforts and provide opportunities for Canadian stakeholders to “sign on” to the recommendations for country-level implementation. Stay tuned for more updates and announcements in the coming weeks.
I hope you’ll take the time to watch the video above where young people with lived experience share their reflections on the importance of the Summit and all of our collective work on the human rights of children and youth. Let’s make “Youth Rights, Right Now” our rallying cry for 2018!