More than ever, Québec children need protection
Montréal, March 23, 2020 - The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse is concerned about the impact of the Coronavirus crisis on more vulnerable children. It calls on the government to be very vigilant and asks all Quebecers to become advocates for the children.
The Commission notes that the interruption of school and childcare imposed by the current situation weakens the social safety net for children. "The government confirmed to us yesterday that schools will remain closed until at least May 1st. The teachers, daycare staff, school administrators and various professionals working in schools are no longer there to monitor difficult situations and report them to the Director of Youth Protection (DYP)," notes Suzanne Arpin, Vice-President responsible for the Commission's youth mandate.
The Commission also anticipates the impact on children of the increasingly difficult economic situation for some parents, a consequence of the current crisis. "Several parents have lost or could lose their jobs and find themselves in a precarious situation. Tension may increase in some homes. Isolation and the fact that some families live in a small space 24 hours a day can also increase the risk of escalation," said Philippe-André Tessier, President of the Commission.
Ms. Arpin therefore calls on the DYP and all of Québec society to be more vigilant in protecting children." I invite everyone to care for and protect the children around them. Call your nephews and nieces, grandchildren or young neighbors to ask them how they are, send them emails or contact them on social media if possible. Be there for them."
The Commission also underlines that anyone who witnesses a situation that threatens the safety or integrity of a child has the obligation to report the situation to the DYP.
Application of government decrees
Following measures taken to limit the spread of COVID-19, the Québec government adopted, on March 19, a decree that restricts physical contact between children in foster families or in youth centers and their parents, grandparents and anyone else. The Commission welcomes the directive which clarifies the procedure to be followed in this exceptional context. However, it warns against a wall-to-wall application of this decision which would not take into account the last portion of the decree which expressly requests that" the Director of youth protection (DYP) must, where possible, provide other arrangements of secure contact by any means deemed useful, in particular technological means". "It is the responsibility of the DYP to try as much as possible to find alternative means to maintain links between the children and their network," insists Suzanne Arpin.
The Commission also wishes to warn about the possible impact of another decree, adopted March 21, which allows greater latitude to the health and social services network in terms of staff movement. While the Commission agrees with the importance of such measures in the context of the current crisis, it is concerned about the possible move of staff currently dedicated to youth protection towards front-line health services. "The call for child protection we are making to the people, we are also making it to the government. In a context where children are even more vulnerable and their social safety net is weakened, it is essential that workers are there to protect them," concluded the Vice-President of the Commission responsible for the youth mandate.
The Commission underlines that it continues to fulfill its role as an advocate for children during this crisis and will continue to do so. It invites anyone who believes that the rights of a child whose situation is or should be the subject of a report to the DYP are violated, to contact the Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Commission des droits de la personne et des droits de la jeunesse (Human Rights and Youth Commission) ensures the promotion and respect of the principles set out in the Québec Charter of Human Rights and Freedoms. It also ensures that the interests of children are protected and that their rights recognized in the Youth Protection Act are respected and promoted. In addition, the Commission oversees compliance with the Act respecting Equal Access to Employment in Public Bodies.