Letter-Writing Points of Consideration

To follow are potential reasons why concerned citizens should write their local provincial
MLA/MPP/MNA, their federal MP, as well as Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, House Leader Don
Boudria (Minister responsible for the Canada Elections Act, which lays out the mandate for
Elections Canada), and Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections Canada to
express their objection to Elections Canada’s involvement with the National Election for the
Rights of Youth (to take place on November 19, 1999). Parents should also write their local
school board and express their objection to this vote being held in our schools:

1. Elections Canada’s “Child Rights” vote is disrespectful of parents:

  a.. By associating the “National Election for the Rights of Youth” with the UN Convention
  on the Rights of the Child, Elections Canada is ignoring the concerns of many parents who
  are concerned about the implications of the Convention on family life and parental rights& responsibilities. The 36th Parliament alone has received petitions of 13,000 signatures
  from Canadians concerned about this matter, and it is unfortunate that Elections Canada
  would wade into such a politically loaded issue.

  b.. There was no opportunity for parents to give input into this project beforehand, and
  parents are left out of the process going forward, in spite of the fact that parents best
  represent the interests of their children, and that parents are paying for this exercise
  through their tax dollars.

  c.. Parents were not consulted in a genuine manner about the wisdom of utilizing this
  “rights” vote to teach their children about democracy. Nor did parents have appropriate
  input into which “rights” will be put before their children on the Elections Canada ballot.
  Currently, there is no requirement that parents be informed that Elections Canada will be
  conducting a “Child Rights” vote in their schools, nor are parents asked to give their
  consent for the participation of their children in this exercise.

  d.. Some of the “rights” give the impression that the government is the ultimate parent of
  children and is thus disrespectful towards parents. For example, the “Rights Vote” tells
  children that the government ensures a child’s ‘right to be given a name’ and that the
  government will ‘make sure that we [children] survive and develop.’ This is disrespectful
  to parents who hold the primary responsible for these and other concerns.

  e.. Canada’s elections agency also feels that children have an absolute right to “Share
  Opinions.” This, we are told in its description, means a “right to express our views and
  opinions and to have these opinions listened to in matters that affect us.” It appears,
  then, that the state must assume that the judgement of Canadian parents on matters that
  affect their children isn’t good enough. Once again, such an assumption is disrespectful
  of Canadian parents.
  g.. In addition, some of the listed “rights” give little respect for parental rights and
  responsibilities. For example, according to Elections Canada and UNICEF, one of the 10
  key rights Canadian children have is a right to their “Own Culture.” This is explained as
  the “right to enjoy and practise our own cultures, languages and religions, especially if
  we belong to a minority or indigenous population.” If this is the case, then one wonders
  what “rights” parents have if their child is intent on joining a local cult.

  h.. The description of a child’s right to “Share Opinions” also states that children have”the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion, the freedom to receive
  information from many sources, the freedom to meet with others and to join or start our
  own associations.” One wonders whether this “right” prevents parents from utilizing a “V-
  chip” on their television to prevent their kids from viewing violent or sexual programming
  on television, or whether a parent who sets a curfew infringes a child’s “freedom to meet
  with others.” These purported “rights” are a clear invasion of parents’ responsibilities
  and the privacy of the home.

2. Elections Canada’s “Child Rights” vote is manipulative of children:

  a.. It is certainly admirable to want to teach our children about the democratic process,
  but a “Child Rights” vote based upon a UN Convention which itself has never been
  scrutinized by the democratic process is the wrong vehicle to do so. Elections Canada may
  indeed have a role in “public education and information programs to make the electoral
  process better known to the public” but the elections agency must be very careful that
  education programs directed towards children will not be used to indoctrinate these
  children about a particular political philosophy. The “child rights” vote tends to push a”big government ‘rights’ mentality” upon our children, and to do so using taxpayer dollars
  in public schools is objectionable.

  b.. In addition, the results of the Child Rights vote will be used by adults in lobby
  groups to demand more tax dollars for whatever pet project they are working, and thus, the
  Child Rights vote is manipulative of children (some as young as six years old), who
  innocently cast their vote on the ballot placed in front of them.

3. Elections Canada (EC) should remain non-political, and not organize an exercise whose
  results could be used as a political tool by lobby groups:

  a.. As Elections Canada’s website states, “Elections Canada is the non-partisan agency
  responsible for the conduct of federal elections and referendums. Its prime task is to be
  prepared at all times to administer an electoral event.”

  b.. Parliament mandated Elections Canada to act in a neutral and independent fashion so
  that no election or referendum in Canada would be seen as manipulated or corrupted.

  c.. As Canada’s non-partisan elections agency, it is important for it to remain non-
  political, and not associate itself with a particular political agenda, or be seen to be
  associating itself with a particular political agenda.

  d.. By associating itself with a “Child Rights” vote whose results will surely be
  tabulated, evaluated and interpreted for political and policy-based purposes, EC is risks
  being perceived as engaging in political activism. This perception in the minds of the
  public would undermine the trust that Canadians place in Elections Canada’s credibility
  for administering the voting process, and thus constitute a serious threat to its non-
  partisan, non-advocacy status.

  e.. In addition, parents are concerned when it appears that their children may be used for
  political purposes, and it is clearly inappropriate for Canada’s non-partisan, and non-
  political elections agency to be using tax dollars for this exercise.

  f.. Elections Canada may state that they are simply teaching children about the democratic
  process, and are not engaged in the political interpretation with this “child rights” vote,
  but this is not the case. Rather than simply listing these “rights,” Elections Canada and
  UNICEF goes further and explains how these “rights” are to be interpreted. Each of the 10
  rights that children will vote upon is followed by a paragraph-length “description” of the
  rights. This “description” is, to any objective, reasonable observer, an interpretation by
  Elections Canada as to how a vote for that particular “right” should be interpreted.

  g.. For example, “EDUCATION – our right to an education. DESCRIPTION: We have the right to
  education. Governments have the responsibility to guarantee that primary education is
  compulsory and free of charge, and to take steps so that we all have equal access to
  secondary and higher education. The discipline used in our schools must not go against our
  human dignity. Our education must develop our own personalities and abilities; prepare us to
  become responsible members of a free society; and develop respect for our parents or
  guardians, for human rights, for the environment, and for the cultural and national values
  of ourselves and others.”

  h.. As we can see, Elections Canada has a particular way of interpreting a “right to
  education” which many Canadians may or may not agree with. The point is, this interpretation
  of the “right to education” may be that of Elections Canada, but other Canadians may take
  issue or debate certain points of this interpretation.

  i.. By including a particular interpretation of each of the 10 “rights” that will be voted
  upon, Elections Canada is doing more than just teaching children about the democratic
  process – it has involved itself in political debate about what the “rights” mean, and how
  the voting results should be interpreted. By including a description of the 10 rights on
  the ballot, Elections Canada has gone beyond just facilitating a national election, but has
  entered into what most reasonable people would regard as political activism. Elections Canada
  is no longer just the facilitator, it has become the interpreter. Elections Canada is no
  longer just telling children HOW to vote, but telling Canadians WHAT a particular “right” means.
  This is surely not something that a non-partisan and non-political elections agency should do.

  j.. Conducting a vote and also telling Canadians how it should be interpreted causes
  further concern and gives more concrete evidence that this “child rights” vote is an openly
  political lobby tool. Elections Canada admits as much when it states on its July 12, 1999
  press release that, “The results of the election will be presented to the Government and the
  people of Canada.”

4. Elections Canada is exceeding its mandate with this “child rights” vote:

  a.. The Canada Elections Act states, “8. (2) The Chief Electoral Officer may implement
  public education and information programs to make the electoral process better known to
  the public, particularly those persons and groups most likely to experience difficulties
  in exercising their democratic rights.”

  b.. EC claims that the “child rights” vote is part of its “public education” mandate.
  However, a “rights vote” goes beyond merely educating the public about democracy, it is
  involved in promoting a political “rights agenda.”

  c.. A “rights” vote is sure to end up being used by lobby groups to call for more
  government social spending programs, and more state intervention programs—with Canadians
  on the hook for the higher taxes that these programs would demand.

  d.. There are many types of public education programs through which Elections Canada could
  teach Canadians about democracy, but Elections Canada exceeds its mandate when it gets
  involved in “public education” programs which may be utilized for political purposes.

5. Elections Canada is interfering with provincial jurisdiction over education:

  a.. Elections Canada is bypassing the provinces, school boards, as well as parents by
  unilaterally announcing the launch of this exercise.

  b.. According to section 93 of the Constitution, education falls under the jurisdiction of
  the provinces. Elections Canada has not indicated that it received prior approval by the
  provinces to enter the schools and conduct this National Election, in spite of the fact that
  public school resources would be utilized in this “child rights” vote.

  c.. As a result, it gives the appearance of a federal agency meddling in the provincial
  education systems, without ever obtaining the input of those with closest responsibility
  for education – parents, school boards, and the provinces.

6. The UN Convention is the wrong vehicle to teach kids about democracy:

  a.. As previously mentioned, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is a document of
  some concern to many Canadian parents. Many Canadians are concerned that some articles of
  the Convention advocate a “big government” mentality that is intrusive into family life and
  disrespectful of parental rights and responsibilities.

  b.. The 36th Parliament has received petitions of 13,000 signatures from Canadians concerned
  about the implications of the Convention on the Rights of the Child on family life and
  parental rights & responsibilities. This fact alone should have given Canada’s non-
  partisan elections agency pause before embarking upon a national children’s vote tied in
  to this UN document.

  c.. The UN Convention is also an inappropriate tool to utilize in an exercise to teach
  children about democracy, because the document itself has never received democratic review
  by elected Parliamentarians. Cabinet ratified the Convention in the early 1990s, but no
  Parliament or legislature in Canada has ever debated or voted on the document itself. As a
  result, many of the concerns that Canadian parents have about this UN document remain
  unresolved. At any rate, it seems strange to hold up what is essentially a non-democratic
  document as a model to teach kids about democracy.

  d.. It is also interesting to note that the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child is not
  the law in Canada. As the Supreme Court of Canada stated in Mavis Baker (1999),
  “International treaties and conventions are not part of Canadian law unless they have been
  implemented by statute. the [United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child] has not
  been implemented by Parliament. Its provisions therefore have no direct application within
  Canadian law.” Again, it seems strange that Elections Canada would hold up a non-domestic
  document that isn’t even binding law in Canada as a model to teach kids about Canadian

  e.. Many Canadians are concerned about the undemocratic review of Canada’s compliance with
  the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child by the United Nations Committee on the Rights
  of the Child. The Convention requires an initial report to the UN two years following
  ratification and reports every five years thereafter (Article 44 of the Convention). Canada
  submitted its first report in June, 1994. This first report was reviewed by the UN Committee
  on the Rights of the Child in May, 1995.

  f.. Among other things, in its review of Canada’s submission, this unelected, unaccountable
  UN body exhibited a tendency to demand “big government” spending programs: (Examples: “. the
  Committee emphasizes the need for special programmes and services.,”“[The Committee]
  recommends that a nation-wide education campaign be launched.,”“The establishment of a
  comprehensive network for the collection of data. is recommended,”“. resources should be
  allocated to their maximum extent.,”“The Committee also encourages the State party to use
  the principles and provisions of the framework for the programme of international
  development assistance,” etc.). The Committee was also critical “legislation allowing
  corporal punishment of children by parents [and] in schools.”

  g.. Canada will have to address these interventionist criticisms by this non-transparent
  international body in its second report due in 1999. Many Canadians feel that an
  undemocratic UN committee has no business telling a sovereign nation with an exemplary
  human rights record how its domestic legislation should be drafted. By associating the
  “Child Rights” vote with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child which is reviewed by
  an undemocratic international committee, Elections Canada is again choosing a strange model
  to teach children about democracy.

  h.. In summary, Elections Canada would do better to promote democratically passed domestic
  legislation, like Canada’s anti-child pornography law, in our schools, rather than a UN
  document which itself has never been debated or voted upon by duly elected legislators, and
  is in fact, not even the law in Canada.

7. The timing of the vote is itself political:

  a.. Rarely a day goes by when there isn’t speculation in the media about a federal
  “Children’s Budget” which by most accounts would involve increased spending on “children’s
  programs” as part of a “National Children’s Agenda.” By holding a National Election for the
  Rights of Youth in November of this year, Elections Canada has directly entered into what
  may be called the “political timeline” leading up to the federal budget in February/March

  b.. The results of the “rights” vote are likely to be seized upon by lobbyists to somehow
  justify increased federal government spending on items which, in the view of the lobby
  group, were supported by children in this “rights vote.” It is thus very poor judgement
  on the part of Elections Canada, if it indeed wishes to remain non-political and neutral,
  to hold this vote at this particular time in the current political climate.

  c.. The UN Convention is currently being cited as justification for a Charter challenge to
  criminalize parental discipline, so the timing of this ‘child rights’ vote is also a
  concern. On November 20, 1998, (National Child Day, the 9th anniversary of the United
  Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child – exactly one year prior to the publication
  of the results of this year’s “child rights” vote), the Canadian Foundation for Children,
  Youth and the Law announced a Charter challenge to have section 43 of the Criminal Code
  declared unconstitutional.

  d.. Section 43 of the Criminal Code states, “Every schoolteacher, parent or person standing
  in the place of a parent is justified in using force by way of correction toward a pupil or
  child, as the case may be, who is under his care, if the force does not exceed what is
  reasonable under the circumstances.”

  e.. As previously mentioned, in 1995, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child was
  critical of Canada for having “legislation allowing corporal punishment of children by
  parents [and] in schools.” – i.e. section 43 of the Criminal Code.

  f.. While the UN Convention doesn’t explicitly forbid disciplinary spanking, the Convention
  has been interpreted by the undemocratic UN Committee on the Rights of the Child as meaning
  that corporal punishment should be outlawed in countries that have signed the Convention.

  g.. In a Q&A document on the National Election for the Right of Youth website, it states
  that the Convention on the Rights of the Child “. specifies that any form of school – and
  parental – discipline must respect the child’s human dignity.” The description of the “Right
  to Education” in the National Election press release states that “The discipline used in
  our schools must not go against our human dignity.”

  h.. Given that there is currently a Charter challenge in the courts on this very matter,
  making reference to “discipline used in our schools” under the “Right to Education” is
  again a very clear allusion to a current political issue – that of the current Charter
  challenge to section 43 of the Criminal Code. This is yet another example of poor
  judgement by Elections Canada, and gives the appearance that Elections Canada is taking
  sides in this court case. Again, giving such an appearance is highly inappropriate for
  Canada’s non-partisan, and non-political elections agency.

What can you do?

Write to the Prime Minister, the Government House Leader, your federal MP, your provincial
MLA/MPP/MNA, Elections Canada, and your local school board. Object to the National Election
for the Rights of Youth, and ask them to withdraw their support for this project. You might
also suggest that if they wish to teach our children about democracy, they should participate
in a petition writing campaign objecting to the legalization of child pornography by the
courts, and call for Parliament to ensure that our children are protected from sexual

Contact Information:

All Members of Parliament may be reached by mail (postage free), simply by addressing it to
[Name], MP, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6.

For phone/fax/email contact information for Members of Parliament and Cabinet Ministers,
please call the public information office at 613-992-4793, or view the Library of Parliament

For quick reference, the contact information for Prime Minister Jean Chrétien, Government
House Leader Don Boudria, and Jean-Pierre Kingsley, Chief Electoral Officer of Elections
Canada is as follows:

The Right Hon. Jean Chrétien       The Hon. Don Boudria
Prime Minister of Canada         Government House Leader
Telephone: (613) 992-4211       Telephone: (613) 996-2907
Fax: (613) 941-6900               Fax: (613) 996-9123
Email: [email protected]           Email: [email protected]

Jean-Pierre Kingsley
Chief Electoral Officer
Elections Canada
257 Slater Street
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0M6
Telephone: 1 800 INFO-VOTE (1-800-463-6868), or (613)-993-2975
Fax: (613)-954-8584

To send an email to Elections Canada, go to the Elections Canada webpage dedicated for this

Please send copies of any correspondence to the Ottawa office of Eric Lowther, MP: Room 254,
Wellington Building, House of Commons, Ottawa, ON, K1A 0A6. Phone: 613-995-1127; Fax:
613-995-7111; Email: [email protected]
This document produced by the office of Eric Lowther MP.