May 2003
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Youth Dialogues around Canada
By Victor N., Age 13, Toronto, ON

(aussi disponible en français)

As a youth or a child, have you ever thought about your rights, your responsibility, or how Canada should be a first-class country for children (or youth)? Well, you should be happy to hear that these things are going on for you.

Adults have their rights, and so do we. On December 28, 1989, the United Nations set up the Convention of the Rights of the Child (CRC), which has the framework of the basic human rights every child on Earth should have. In 1990, governments held a big meeting in New York called "The World Summit for Children", which includes 27 promises that countries are planning to achieve by 2000, to improve the lives of children. And of course, Canada was part of it. In May 2002, the participating countries held a "United Nations Special Session on Children" in New York, to review their changes to the lives of children over the last 10 years, and also setting goals for children for the next 10 to 15 years. It was the only few times that our delegates were actually under the age of 18.

The result of this session was a document called "A World fit for Children". It gives a small view of what a world that suits children and youth should look like. The United Nations also developed a Plan of Action, to guide individual governments to write their own, suitable plan for their own nation. Canada would really like to get this Plan of Action done. Prime Minister the Right Honourable Jean Chrétien, appointed Senator Landon Pearson, with the collaboration of several departments such as Health Canada and the Human Resources Development Canada, to set up a National Plan of Action for Children (referred as the NPA).

How are we to accomplish this? The two departments and Senator Pearson invited youth from all over Canada to participate in four dialogues around Canada, to discuss about what should be included in the National Plan of Action for Children. Yukon, British Columbia, Alberta will hold their dialogue in Vancouver; Northwest Territories, Saskatchewan and Manitoba will be in Winnipeg; and the Atlantic Provinces will be held in Halifax.

The first one was held on March 29, 30, in Ottawa, for professionals and 12 youth from the provinces of Ontario, Quebec, and the territory of Nunavut to discuss the NPA. We are very honoured here to have invited one of the youth delegates here to share with us his experience at the Ottawa Dialogue for the National Plan of Action for Children.

R = Reporter (Victor)           D: Donovan

R: Hi Donovan! How are you?
D: Not Bad!

R: You are from which part of the country?
D: I am from Orleans, Ontario, Orleans, a part of Ottawa, is a nice square. Not too much occurs around the area. Unfortunately, I live right beside a fire station, so it can get noisy, but I got used to it. Except for a hospital, it has all my needs close to home including the near by Place d'Orléans Mall, which is not TOO big for a shopping center, but it's complete! There are a lot of parks and recreational areas and services such as pools and daycare and such. It's certainly a relaxing place and pleasant to visit if your looking for a nice, calm place.

Regarding my activities in Orleans, it consists of lots of relaxing and chilling. My parents work on the garden in the backyard; a long and somewhat narrow terrain. I have to say it's the real highlight of any visit during the summer! I myself, during my spare time, I'm on my computer or napping. If I'm out, I'm biking and having fun with friends. Mind you, I do visit downtown sometimes; I visit the Market with my parents or go to Rideau Place and St-Laurent with my buddies!

If anyone is looking for a relaxing district, no big noises and no crowded streets void of intense crime and pollution, come to Orleans!

R: How did you find out about these dialogues going on around the country?
D: My mom works at the UNAC office in Ottawa. From there, she found some information and got me involved. Invitations were sent all over the country for youth to participate in these dialogues.

R: Are you very involved in youth activism and participation? What do you think youth nowadays should do?
D: I am a very active participator in my community. As a matter of fact, I am part of a group called Aiding Peers (Pairs Aidant) led by a facilitator named Christian Paquette, who organizes meetings once a month to have a discussion about drugs and alcohol abuse, sex, etc. Quite honestly, regarding the majority of youth, pardon my language, but they have to get off their ass and start doing something. Laziness is not a virtue but they seem to think it is.

R: What did you do in the dialogue in Ottawa? What was discussed?
D: I was part of the youth health group in the dialogue. We discussed about classification of certain conditions and how some are related like overall physical and mental health. If one of those is not at a norm, the other isn't in good condition either. We also discussed the HIV / AIDS problems that people have. We then tried to think of ways for aboriginal people to have better access to services they might have trouble accessing in times of emergency.

The other groups discussed about providing quality education, protecting against abuse, exploitation, violence and neglect, and also enabling social engagement and collaboration. At the end of the roundtable, we all shared about the things we discussed, what could be added to the National Plan of Action for Children, and identifying new arising problems.

R: What interesting people have you met?
D: I found Senator Pearson a very nice person; as a matter of fact, I've met her husband before (double whammy!). David Millen, Executive Director of Child And Youth Friendly Ottawa (CAYFO), and I keep regular contact with him. CAYFO is an organization providing services and helping especially youth and children.

Unfortunately as it may seem, the dialogue was limited to one day, therefore I did not get to meet all the participants of the dialogue, which include educational, social and other kinds of professionals.

R: What did you think of the Dialogue?
D: The dialogue was enriching to say the least. It was a great idea to invite youth to participate. I believe that the government is now letting more youth participate in government issues, especially the ones dealing with us. Youth voice should be heard in all issues that involve Canadians.

R: What have you learnt?
D: I've learnt that I'm not the only person that feels surrounded by lack of attention to youth. I also learnt various things about child health and such. I have also learnt a lot from the professionals from the small discussion groups, since they were all "health" experts.

R: What are your hopes for the National Plan of Action for Children?
D: I hope the goals that are set are attained and are not ignored. I, along with others, do not wish that the National Plan of Action for Children would be delayed. Canada should continue to improve itself, as a peaceful and suitable nation for children and youth to live in.

R: Will you be promoting the National Plan of Action for Children in your community? How will you be doing so?
D: I'll be promoting it through my school. With the facilitator, who is also a good friend of mine, I believe we can implement certain information in the kit we received into activities we have set up and then promote it.

R: Thank you very much Donovan, for sharing such an experience with us. We hope to be able to talk to you again.
D: You're welcome. Bye!


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