“A strong community, vibrant and healthy, is a community that recognizes the fundamental right of all its citizens to a quality of life that guarantees safety, and the reasonable expectation of health and happiness,” begins a section of the Campbell River Area Family Network’s website.
Many community partners would say we are one step closer to achieving that strength as of Tuesday’s launch of Campbell River’s new Children’s Charter.
The Family Network, along with Success By 6 – with the support of numerous community partners – has been working on this document since the city adopted a Senior’s Charter in September of 2014.
“It began around two years ago,” said Joyce McMann in presenting the final draft of the Children’s Charter to council last month, “with the commitment by council around a Youth Charter and a Senior’s Charter, we thought, ‘well, where is the Children’s Charter?’”
So a committee was struck to produce one.
In creating the charter, McMann told council, the committee “was driven by what is probably instinctual to all of us, but has also been increasingly both confirmed and emphasized through research, which is that the period from conception through the early years is critical in setting the trajectory for health and well-being in adult life. Social, emotional, physical health, behavioural outcomes, all are dependent on the quality of life that we experience both in utero and those years following birth.”
She says those studies – which back up our instincts – “create a profound commitment – a profound responsibility – to the children of our community.
“If we are to strive for a society – for a community – that depends on the strength of its citizens to fully participate in the health and well-being of the community,” McMann continued, “then we really must ensure that the conditions exist for children to thrive.”
Tuesday’s launch at the Community Centre signalled the beginning of what McMann hopes will be a new lens through which decisions will be made to give children the best chance at being happy and healthy within our community.
“It’s our hope to create a kind of pervasive awareness within our community that a strong and vibrant community is dependent on the health and well-being of our children and their families,” McMann says. “We want to bring collective attention to ensure that the decisions we make as a community support the very best outcomes for children and, ultimately, for every one of us.”
Cheryl Jordan, early years community developer and Success By 6 coordinator, agrees whole-heartedly.
“The hope and dream is to have city, business, organizations, individuals endorse the plan and use it in their decision making,” Jordan says. “For example, an individual could become a champion for children by advocating for childcare needs, or a business making an investment in the early years, or when making policy decisions, family and children are taken into consideration.”
Jordan says the energy in the room at the opening – the enthusiasm that everyone seems to have for the document – “was a huge display of the support the Children’s Charter has moving forward.”
The Charter has received endorsements from over a dozen companies and organizations within the community already, including the school district, the We Wai Kai Nation, the Immigrant Welcome Centre, the Campbell River Literacy Association and others. The City of Campbell River itself will be signing on later this month.
“In the work we are currently doing, we are making a meaningful difference in reducing vulnerability in children,” Jordan says. “However, we have a long way to go yet in reducing this vulnerability, but by working together, supporting children, we can make this happen.”
MLA Claire Trevena was at the launch of the charter, as well, and says what’s important is that people who commit to it work the ideals of it into their decision making.
Trevena says the Charter reflects the ideals of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, which Trevena says, “gives children the right to be children,” express their opinion, be clothed, housed and fed, and, most of all, respected and nurtured in a healthy way.
“I’m very, very pleased that Campbell River has its own Children’s Charter now,” she says, “but what’s important is that we all respect it and work on it, and live by the ideals it represents and not just have it as a static document that looks great as a poster on the wall of our offices.”
To that end, Jordan says, once the Charter has been in place for a year, Campbell River Family Network will be “checking in” with those who endorsed the charter, “celebrate where we have gotten over the course of the year and look to where we can continue going.”
The charter will officially be signed by the City of Campbell River in council chambers Monday night.