Hiding behind kids

  • May 4, 2007
Children are the latest hot marketing tool, used not just to sell sugar-coated cereal to Mom, but also to pry open wallets by appeals to the heart from a wide assortment of public lobby groups.
After all, who can argue with anything to do with helping children? They are attack proof.

Yet we must be careful to discern the difference between helping children and helping those who appear to advocate on their behalf. They are not always the same thing.

A recent Child Health Summit in Ottawa featured a bevy of professional child advocates who plumped for more government involvement on behalf of children. They cheered on Sir Albert Aynsley-Green, the Child Commissioner for England, who unsurprisingly advocated cloning his position in Canada. The same conference called for government acceptance of a proposed Child and Youth Health Charter, which sets out the rights of children to “reach their full potential, growing up happy, healthy, confident and secure,” according to a Globe and Mail report.

In the same week, the Senate human rights committee pulled out that hoary chestnut about spanking, once again calling for a legal ban on it along with all forms of capital punishment. The report also backed the appointment of a child commissioner to stand up for what it called the “silenced citizens.”

Let’s set aside for a moment the fact that government, and most of Canada’s elite opinion makers, condone the ongoing destruction of the country’s most silent citizens — the unborn. Rest assured that no Senate committee is advocating on their behalf. Even beyond that, however, there are reasons to be skeptical about this sudden fondness for children. It’s not that children do not face problems here in Canada. They do. Indicators show that Canada ranks 21 out of 29 in infant mortality in countries in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. We rank 22nd in youth suicide, 19 out of 20 for obesity, 22 out of 26 for child poverty.

The problem is that the proposed solution does little for these problems. With their government-heavy and rights-dominated proposals, the whole tenor of the Senate report and the Child Health Summit proposals appears to make villains out of the real people in need — families.

Children are not born into societies. They are born into families. Their problems are their families’ problems. Tragically, parents can get themselves into predicaments where they inflict harm on their children. Yet to create a climate of suspicion of parents is to once again attack the very health of families in society.

Instead of a child charter, why not a family charter? Why not have advocates urging governments to pass family friendly policies that support and nourish the development of mature and healthy marriages whose members can raise their children in secure and stable environments? In a contest over who can be trusted more to have children’s welfare at heart, parents beat governments hands down.

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