Speaking up for Children’s Rights

Pictured in the 1990s (left), Janis Machin played a key role in advocating for National Child Day in Canada. Now retired, she is still passionate about children's rights today.

How National Child Day was established in Canada

It all began with a simple question: Why doesn’t Canada celebrate World Children’s Day? Janis Machin of Ottawa, Ont., made this phone inquiry to the Government of Canada in the 1990s. As the founder of the Our Kids Foundation at the time, she was concerned that children’s rights were not being recognized.

Although other countries were commemorating World Children’s Day on a national level, this was not the case in Canada. The Canadian government played a leading role in the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1998, and went on to ratify the treaty in 1991. But the government hadn’t taken the step of celebrating the occasion and making it an annual event.

Machin, however, would not take no for an answer. Working alongside other child-focused organizations, she was determined to rally for children and youth. Together, they began raising awareness and launched a petition to urge the government to create a bill to establish National Child Day in Canada.

Mac Harb, member of Parliament for Ottawa Centre at the time, heard their message loud and clear. In 1993, he played an instrumental role in establishing Bill C-371, also known as the Child Day Act. Later that year, National Child Day was celebrated for the first time on November 20 in Canada. This special day honours our country’s commitment to upholding the rights of children and two historic events: the 1959 signing of the UN Declaration of the Rights of the Child and the adoption of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in 1989.

More than 28 years after the first National Child Day was celebrated in Canada, Machin still has a passion for promoting children’s rights. While progress has been made over the years, she wants to see more action taken to address the urgent needs of children and youth.

“We still have one in three children going to bed hungry in Canada. This is not acceptable,” she says. “We have to do what we were meant to do [as adults]. The children are our future.”

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