An Antigonish County teenager recently participated in a national summit focussed on the ongoing creation of the Canadian Children’s Charter.
“It was an amazing experience,” Lyza Ells, 15, said of the three-day gathering in Ottawa, which took place in late November.
The road to the Nation’s Capital for the Grade 10 student at Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional High School started with her participation in a provincial summit through the Nova Scotia Ombudsman’s Office.
“She [Grade 9 Atlantic studies teacher Janie Lumsden] thought it would be a really good opportunity for me,” the Brierly Brook resident said, considering her interest in politics.
Lyza described her provincial experience as “incredible.”
“We heard about the problems that youth in our province are facing,” she said, noting the importance of meeting other people from across Nova Scotia.
On the heels of that conference, Lyza received an invitation to participate at the national level.
“We discussed a wide range of subjects,” she said, noting people listened to everyone’s “point of view.”
“It made us feel like we were having an impact on our country,” Lyza added.
As the Children First Canada website – childrenfirstcanada.com – describes, the Canadian Children’s Charter was created with input from hundreds of children and youth from across the country, who contributed their ideas through online forums and a survey.
During the national summit, the children and youth, including Ells, along with adult participants, fashioned the draft charter.
A report on the outcomes of the online consultation and summit are now available on the aforementioned website.
The vision for the charter is “to raise public awareness and mobilize action on the part of every Canadian to respect, protect and fulfil the rights of children.”
Lyza said one of the “major issues” she has brought up is education.
“It has to be high quality,” she added, in talking about its importance.
Lyza noted children across the country deserve to be able to have that opportunity in their community.
Reflecting on her experience in Ottawa, she described hearing from Sophie Grégoire Trudeau as “really powerful.”
Participants also had the opportunity to visit the Office of the Prime Minister, where they met with Justin Trudeau’s secretary.
“He wanted to listen to us, which was impactful,” she said.
As for the draft charter, there will be further consultation in the coming months, as Lyza explained, will focus on consulting indigenous peoples and organizations and national child/youth serving organizations.
The aim is to complete the Canadian Children’s Charter prior to Canada’s appearance before the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child, in the summer of 2018.
“I am not entirely sure,” Lyza said, when asked about her career plans, while noting her interest in the sciences and engineering.
She reiterated her interest in politics.
“I want to be able to make a difference in my community and country,” she said.