National Child Day has been celebrated across Canada on November 20 since 1993 to commemorate the United Nations' adoption of two documents centered on children's rights: the United Nations Declaration of the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1959, and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child on November 20, 1989.
Why we celebrate National Child Day
By ratifying the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1991, Canada made a commitment to ensure that all children are treated with dignity and respect.
When the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) contributes to a more stable, peaceful world through peace, support operations and peacekeeping, they are helping children have a voice, be protected from harm, be provided with their basic needs and the opportunity to reach their full potential.
To encourage a dialogue between members and their families, the recreation departments of Canadian Forces Morale and Welfare Services (CFMWS) began celebrating National Child Day through free art workshops. Children have the chance to experience Article 31 first hand, which is the right of the child to rest and leisure, to engage in play and recreational activities appropriate to the age of the child and to participate freely in cultural life and the arts.
“Research shows that children and youth who are aware of their rights, and the rights of others, develop positive peer relations, have better school performance, possess higher self-esteem and may be more supportive of their parent’s military responsibility” says Ben Ouellette, Director Comprehensive Military Family Plan. “By increasing awareness of children's rights, you can help to promote and improve the health and well-being of children and youth in Canada.”
This is something Lt(N) Andrea Feist takes to heart. She has been a proud CAF member since 1997, she currently works as a Primary Care Nurse at the 2 Field Ambulance Medical Clinic in Petawawa. She is also a single parent to two great kids who live with her full-time.
In May 2016, she was tasked to San Pablo, Guatemala on Exercise BEYOND THE HORIZON. For approximately 3 weeks, she worked alongside American military medical personnel providing primary medical care to the local people of Guatemala. At the time of her tasking, her children were 4 and 5 years old.
“They were fortunate that their mom had never been away for any significant period of time before, so, given their age, it was a little difficult trying to explain to them why I had to leave,” she says. “I explained to them that I was going to help sick families who didn’t have hospitals close by or people with special training like me to help them when they are sick.”
Lt(N) Feist says her deployment went by in a hot, humid haze. Many locals came through the make-shift clinic and alongside her interpreter, she learned so much about their language and culture. She says she was lucky to document the experience with many pictures, but her favourites were with the children, especially the ones she was able to win over who needed medication.
“When I returned, I showed my children the pictures of other families and I helped. Explaining to them that they are happier and hopefully healthier because I was there, helped them understand why I do my job.”
This is something Ben Ouellette encourages all members to do. Deployment can be a difficult topic to talk about with kids. Describing what the deployed parent will do during this time in language young children can understand helps especially when you can relate it back to their own experiences, like going to school or the doctor.
“Avoid giving details that will frighten or confuse them. Terms like war, fighting, etc., aren't helpful, especially since our operations are mostly nation-building and security operations at this stage," Ouellette says. Saying something like, "Daddy is going to help the people of Afghanistan by training new police officers to help keep kids safe" or "Daddy is going to help build roads, schools, and hospitals" can give them an idea of what the deployed parent will be doing. National Child Day is a great way to start to make those links.”
To learn more parents are encouraged to look at the resources on CAFconnection.ca or call the Family Information Line 1-800-866-4546.