Children’s voices matter.
Those are the words that grace the top of a new document designed to remind city decision makers to take children’s needs into account.
At last week’s Monday council meeting, that document – the city’s first Children’s Charter – was officially presented to city council and signed by the city’s mayor, School District 72 and the Kwakiutl District Council which represents local First Nations children.
The signing capped off nearly two years of work with local stakeholders, such as Success by 6, and engagement with children living in this community.
Susan Wilson, chair of School District 72’s board of education, said the charter is the result of people coming together to help improve children’s self-esteem, values, safety and basic needs.
“It’s really about us working together to make good citizens for the future,” Wilson said. “There is hope for the future and even more hope for our children here in Campbell River.”
One of the driving forces behind the Children’s Charter was the struggle that many Campbell River children face.
Dr. Tanya Flood with Success by 6 painted a grim picture to city council last year of parents struggling and the effects being passed down to their children.
She shared that in 2004, one in six Campbell River children was not developmentally ready for school. In 2011, that figure was up to one in four and in 2013, one in three children in Campbell River was not developmentally ready to learn.
She also revealed that 22.8 per cent of Campbell River children under the age of six live in poverty, compared to the provincial average of 18.5 per cent and the national average of 13 per cent. Further to that, roughly 500 Campbell River children under the age of 17 use the food bank monthly and 154 children up to age 16 were living in care as of November, 2014.
But the Children’s Charter is aimed at improving those statistics.
John Powell, chair of the Kwakiutl District Council, said that with the Children’s Charter he is making a commitment to stand up for children.
“We will listen to our children’s voices, ensure each child has good clothes, good food and a safe home. We will encourage them, nurture them and respect them. We will welcome them and care for them,” Powell said. “Today we are saying kids count and I will do my best to uphold the words of this charter. I hope that we all will.”
Powell said the Children’s Charter was well overdue and that signing the document was a “significant and historic event” and “a turning point in our history.”
Mayor Andy Adams agreed.
“This has been a long time coming,” Adams said. “A few years ago when we did the Seniors Charter, I know you were all chomping at the bit and saying ‘come on, where’s the Children’s Charter?”
The Family Network, along with Success by 6 and other community partners, have been working on the document since the city adopted the Senior’s Charter in September, 2014.
So far the charter has been endorsed by more than a dozen local companies and organizations including the We Wai Kai First Nation, the Immigrant Welcome Centre and the Campbell River Literacy Association.