Children's Rights Impact Assessment in Education

  • 13 juin 2023
  • Patrick Szabo

I recently attended an informative training session titled “Children's Rights Impact Assessment: Spotlight on Education”, organized by the Interdisciplinary Research Laboratory on the Rights of the Child. The session was held virtually on May 25, 2023 and delivered in French. The speakers at the training were Christian Whalen (Deputy Ombudsman and General Counsel, Office of the Ombud of New Brunswick and former Deputy Advocate and Senior Legal Counsel, Office of the Child and Youth Advocate of New Brunswick),Yves-Gérard Méhou-Loko (Equity and Human Rights Commissioner, Conseil des écoles publiques de l'Est de l'Ontario), and Malika Saher (Director - Integrated Law, Dr. Julien Foundation; and Substitute Student Protector, Centre de services scolaires de Montréal).

This article focuses on the “Children’s Rights Impact Assessment” section of the training, delivered by Christian Whalen. Mr. Whalen noted that many public sector organizations frequently conduct specialized impact assessments to provide a focused lens on a sphere of activity requiring special consideration. Specialized impact assessments are normally conducted for proposed decisions or changes to statutes, regulations, policies, programs, and other items concerning a subject of significant value to the public, such as the environment, health, or privacy.

In recent years, specialized impact assessments have also extended to assessing impacts on vulnerable people, marginalized or equity-seeking groups, or groups that are otherwise under-represented in decision-making processes. For example, impact assessments have been conducted to identify, consider, and address detrimental effects of proposals affecting homeless individuals, gender minorities, and Indigenous peoples.

Similarly, in the last decade, several levels of government in Canada have conducted children’s rights impact assessments (“CRIAs”) and one province, New Brunswick, has put in place a formal CRIA framework at the cabinet level. The speakers noted that an impact assessment dedicated to children’s rights is critical to predicting the impact of a proposed change on the well-being of children and that it provides useful information to monitor, address, or remedy any adverse effects. Impact assessments, they noted, allow organizations to seek input from experts, government officials, and researchers, but also children themselves, who traditionally have had little say in the decision-making processes directly affecting them. CRIAs have been conducted by governments for a variety of matters including victim statements, employment standards, school infrastructure, marriage age, and substance abuse.