Symposium on children's participation in justice processes coming to Calgary.

Author:Boyd, John-Paul

Canada and its provinces are signatories to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that requires governments to recognize children's fundamental human rights. In particular, Article 12 of the Convention says that children must be given "the opportunity to be heard in any judicial and administrative proceedings" affecting them.

Many of the Canadian laws governing family law disputes say something similar. In British Columbia, for example, section 37(2) of the Family Law Act provides that parents and the court must consider the child's views in deciding the course of action that is in the child's best interests. Section 18(2) of Alberta's Family Law Act says that the court must consider the child's views and preferences, and section 24(2) of the Ontario Children's Law Reform Act provides that the court must consider the child's views in determining the child's best interests.

Despite these legal requirements, the mechanisms available for hearing the views and voices of children in family law disputes vary enormously from province to province--and sometimes from case to case--as do the standards, training and methodologies those mechanisms employ.

This September, the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family and the Alberta Office of the Child and Youth Advocate are presenting a two-day national symposium on how the voices of children and youth are heard in legal proceedings, how their interests are protected and how their evidence is received in justice processes. A special half-day conference on Canadian family law, designed for mental health professionals, precedes the symposium.

Children's Participation in Justice Processes: Finding the Best Ways Forward is scheduled for 15 and 16 September 2017 at the Calgary Hyatt Regency, and features keynote speakers Sheldon Kennedy of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and Dr. Nicole Sherren of the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative.

The symposium involves leading practitioners, researchers and academics and is intended to generate innovative proposals for policy reform, best practices and recommendations for future research about children's participation in justice processes.

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