This week I had the pleasure of attending the Alberta Early Years Conference for the first time and the word that comes to mind is dedication. I got to meet people from all over the country, including people as far away as the Northwest Territories. I have always believed that people who work with young children are special but I was truly inspired by the level of commitment and passion that I saw.
Throughout the past few days the 440 people who attended the conference took part in a wide array of training and development opportunities, but one of the common themes was protecting children’s rights. Children’s rights are not new in Canada, in fact in 1959 Canada signed the United Declaration of the Rights of the Child and then in 1989 it adopted the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. As a signatory to the Convention, Canada made a commitment to protecting children’s rights by ensuring that children are considered in all economic, social and political decision, policies, programs and expenditures. At the same time the government also promised it would help to end childhood poverty by the year 2000. However, in 2009, 1 in 10 (637,000) Canadian children still lived in poverty, which is only a slight decrease from 1989.
Although these numbers are quite depressing, the feeling that I got from the people at the conference was that there is still hope! And this hope lies in the belief that by working together we can make a difference in the lives of children and families and events like the Alberta Early Years Conference are only one example of this. If you look around Edmonton at the agencies that support children and families, I think you will see that we are working towards the goal of ending child poverty on a daily basis, but we need everyone's support to make a difference.
I believe this support comes about by bringing awareness to the issues that exist in our communities. As one conference speaker quoted from a recent UNICEF report, “A great change is coming over childhood in the world’s richest countries.” I look forward to being a part of this great change!!