Putting General Comment 21 on Children in Street Situations to Work for Canadian Children and Youth

A Way Home CanadaUncategorized0 Comments

Please join A Way Home Canada, the Canadian Observatory on Homelessness,  the American Bar Association Commission on Homelessness and Poverty, Justice for Children and Youth, and the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children for a webinar on Thursday, Feb 28, 2019 from 12:00 PM – 1:30 PM EST. The webinar will include a discussion on:

  • the background, process and purpose of UN General Comment 21 and the implementation recommendations report, Principles and Strategies for Implementation of UNGC21;
  • implications for the Canadian legal community, service providers and people with lived experience; and
  • an overview and calls to action related to the UN Canadian review process of our progressive realization of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Canadian representation on an international issue

Last year we opened the new year with a blog post about United Nations General Comment 21 on Children in Street Situations and some important work we were collaborating on with a number of national and international stakeholders. Just a recap: 

Building on the success of the first International Summit on the Legal Needs of Street Youth held in London in June 2015, in late November 2017, the American Bar Association convened an even greater number of jurisdictions and advocates to examine the mandate provided by the United Nations General Comment 21 on Children in Street Situations. 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 panels and live, interactive discussion by leaders from around the world. These sessions examined 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; Julia Huys, Justice for Children and Youth; and, Krista Thompson, Covenant House Vancouver. 

What is the UN General Comment 21 on Children in Street Situations?

A General Comment is the United Nations’ legal advice to governments around the world. Comment No 21 provides advice on how to ensure that street-connected children have access to the same rights as all children. The subjects of this General Comment include children and youth who live on the street, work on the street, have unstable housing, and those who live on the street occasionally. The General Comment covers children and youth whether they have family relationships or not. The General Comment spans many areas of policy, procedure and law that can affect these children and youth in unique ways. 

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, the Summit produced a first-ever publication of principles, an implementation recommendations report, from the world’s experts on street-connected children and youth designed to foster the implementation of each of the legal issues in the UN’s General Comment. This publication was delivered to world leaders in late Summer 2018, including those in Canada, providing an opportunity to leverage the results of the Summit in our advocacy work on behalf of youth experiencing homelessness. 

What does this mean for Canada?

Fast forward to today: Though the American Bar Association delivered the General Comment 21 implementation recommendations report to global leaders, we need to show all orders of government, the legal community, youth homelessness service providers, and all issue stakeholders how we can use the implementation recommendations report as a practical tool to guide our legal and advocacy efforts. The recommendations report has the potential to ground, guide and galvanize our work. 

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