Bernard Richard, the Representative for Children and Youth (RCY) started an 18 month tour Tuesday to educate youth about their rights.
RCY is an independent organization the supports youth, young people and their families. They are using the hashtag #Rep4Rights to reach out to communities in B.C. to educate children – and adults – about their fundamental rights.
Team member Kimberly Grey said the #Rep4Rights program is as much to educate adults as it is for students, and she explained the importance for youth to know their rights and hold them responsible.
The tour kicked off in Greater Victoria at Shoreline Community Middle School, where roughly 50 students and teachers gathered in the school’s library for the event.
The focus of the tour is on Indigenous children that are over-represented in the child welfare system. Nine per cent of children in B.C. are Indigenous, and 60 per cent of those children are in care, Grey said adding the tour will try to stop at as many alternative schools, First Nations schools and band schools as possible in the next year and a half.
There are 7,000 children in care and half of them are in continuing custody orders or are Crown wards. The other half of children are considered in care for various reasons, some being because they need access to provincial services as a result of being denied private services, or are in the care of another family member.
During the stop at Shoreline, Richard talked to students about the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, which is an international agreement that Canada joined 27 years ago. Richard talked about different articles within that and told the students about his favourite – Article 12 – the right of the child to be heard.
Grey and her colleague Brianna Dick also explained to students the importance of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples and the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and reasons why students may need to call the service.
There are nine advocates in the province, located in Victoria, Burnaby and Prince George and RCY receives roughly 2,000 calls annually. The tour aims to educate students ages five to 19 years old.
Trent Harder, a student at Shoreline, was in class when his homeroom teacher announced the RCY launch. Harder said he wanted to participate because he doesn’t think there’s enough representation for children’s rights.
The right to go to school is very important to him, but it starts with listening, he said, because sometimes children aren’t taken as seriously as adults.
“There’s people in high school who end up dropping out and living on the streets,” Harder said. “It’s all about listening, there are just people that get ignored and that can lead to something really harmful.”