The future of Canada lies with our children, so why aren’t they featuring in the federal election?

Wednesday, April 27th marks a national day of action on Parliament Hill, organized by young people in support of Shannen’s Dream.

Shannen Koostachin, a thirteen-year-old girl from Attiwapiskat First Nation on James Bay, came to Ottawa three years ago with her classmates to ask Chuck Strahl, then Minister of Indian Affairs, for a school.

Strahl refused to see them. Tragically, Shannen lost her life in a car accident shortly afterward, but an ever-widening group of students and educators across Canada have taken up her dream.

Canada’s children should not be in a position where they have to beg the government for a chance to learn, but there are now 50 First Nations reserves where schools either do not exist – as in Shannen’s community -- or are in such poor condition that it is difficult for children to learn.

As Canadians, we should be deeply ashamed to allow such utter neglect of young people to exist in our own country. Yet where is this issue in the federal election?

Indeed, where are any of the serious issues related to children and youth, either in Canada or abroad?

Children have a right to education, we all agree. Promoting that right is hardly a partisan issue. I accompanied Prime Minister Brian Mulroney to the World Summit on Children in 1990, and stood by him when he ratified the UN Declaration on the Rights of the Child, on December 13, 1991, surrounded by children from every province and territory.

Later, I was Prime Minister Chretien’s personal representative to the Special Session on Children at the UN, in 2002. Following each of these events, Canada prepared a national plan of action for our children because we know the three key conditions that enable children to thrive: adequate income for families with children; effective parenting within strong and cohesive families, and supportive and inclusive communities.

It is how to achieve these conditions that becomes partisan, but not the childrens’ basic rights to be healthy, safe and educated.

When you go to the ballot box on May 2nd, please think of the future, not just the present, and choose the governing party that is most likely to build both a Canada and a world fit for children.

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