On May 6th 2020, a group of child rights organizations, lawyers and advocates from across Canada, including Asper Centre ED Cheryl Milne, joined forces to advocate for the rights of children in detention during the Covid-19 pandemic.
The group addressed their concerns in an open letter to the Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada. Their letter urges Canada to do its utmost during the COVID-19 pandemic to protect the rights, health, and well-being of young people who interact with the justice system.
The organizations and advocates based many of their recommendations on the Alliance for Child Protection in Humanitarian Action’s recently published Technical Note on COVID-19 and Children Deprived of their Liberty, which provides detaining authorities with key information and steps to respond to COVID-19.
The group is calling on government to pursue all efforts to divert youth from institutions during the pandemic and to actively seek the release and reintegration of youth who are currently detained, whenever possible. Further, they are urging for greater transparency about the health and well-being of young people in the justice system and the necessary oversight, as advocates and organizations have not been able to enter institutions to check in on youth and the conditions of their detention during this time.
Ms. Milne co-wrote the letter with Rowena Pinto (UNICEF Canada), Rachel Gouin (Child Welfare League of Canada), Shawn Bayes (Elizabeth Fry Society of Greater Vancouver), Mary Birdsell (Justice for Children and Youth), Heather Sago (Murray McKinnon Foundation) and Senator Kim Pate. Ms. Milne is the past Chair of the Canadian Coalition for the Rights of Children and Justice for Children and Youth.