Debates of the Senate (Hansard)

1st Session, 41st Parliament,
Volume 148, Issue 128

Monday, December 10, 2012
The Honourable Noël A. Kinsella, Speaker

International Human Rights Day

Hon. Mobina S. B. Jaffer: Honourable senators, 64 years ago today, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. I want to thank honourable senators for supporting my motion for the Senate to join the UN General Assembly in recognizing December 10 as Human Rights Day. Every day we read about human rights violations that take place around the world. Today, however, I want to speak about the rights of Canadian children.

Canada signed the Convention on the Rights of the Child over 23 years ago. Article 19 of the convention declares that states have an obligation to take all appropriate legislative, administrative, social and educational measures to protect children from all forms of physical or mental violence.

Recently, the Standing Senate Committee on Human Rights visited Winnipeg, where we were invited to attend a children’s powwow. When we entered the Indian and Metis Friendship Centre of Winnipeg, the hall was full of children and their teachers. Some of the children were dressed in beautiful, colourful outfits.

After a while, they were joined by mothers, aunts, grandmothers, grandfathers, great-grandmothers and great-grandfathers who also entered the room dressed beautifully in the most colourful outfits. We all got involved in the powwow. We visited arts and craft tables, chatted with the children, and admired their outfits. I cannot describe to you the sense of the community coming together, even as visitors. We felt like we belonged.

While we were there, drums were constantly played. Elders and adults were teaching the young adults and children to play drums. Then the procession started. One by one, elders, teachers, other adults and children joined in. I marvelled at how even a two year old was dancing in her beautiful outfit to the rhythm of the drums.

Then came the banners. At first, I could not read the banners, but when I was able to read the message, I was in absolute disbelief. The banner said: “Powwow to Honour Children Who Have Died as a Result of Violence.”

Honourable senators, this was in downtown Winnipeg, a Canadian community organization that was hosting a powwow to honour its children as a result of violence. We witnessed an incredible celebration of life, of community and of remembrance.

Honourable senators, I ask you to join me on this Human Rights Day and to commit to doing more in Canada to protect the rights of our children. All our children deserve to live their lives free from violence.