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. This commitment includes that they be given the opportunity to have a voice, be protected from harm and be provided with their basic needs and every opportunity to reach their full potential.
The Convention is based on four principles:
- Article 3 : The best interests of the child should be the first consideration for actions that affect a child
- Article 6 : All children have the right to life, survival and development
- Article 12 : All children have the right to participate; and,
- Article 2 : All rights belong to all children without discrimination or exception.
The Convention also acknowledges the key role of parents and families in the lives of children and young people. For a complete listing of the UNCRC, visit the UNICEF's child friendly backgrounder.
NEW Dr. Janusz Korczak: Champion of Children’s Rights
Dr. Janusz Korczak (1878 -1942) was a pediatrician, author, champion of child rights and a hero of the Holocaust. He is considered to be the prime inspiration of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) - one of the most widely adopted human rights instruments in the world. Adopted in 1989, the UNCRC changed how children were viewed and treated by outlining the inalienable rights of every child in three key areas: provision, participation and protection. Today, the human rights treaty has been ratified by 194 countries, including Canada.
Through the 1920s and 1930s until his death in 1942, Korczak focused on the health and welfare of orphans in Poland and created an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland that was built on a unique model of care that resembled a children’s republic.
Book launch: My Life as a Child of Janusz Korczak, the Father of Children’s Rights – The biography of Shlomo Nadel
In the fall of 2015, the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and youth partnered with the Janusz Korczak Foundation of Canada to publish the book: My Life as a Child of Janusz Korczak, the Father of Children’s Rights – The biography of Shlomo Nadel, by Lea Lipiner. In recognition of International Human Rights Day (December 10th), the Provincial Advocate and UNICEF Canada hosted a book launch event at the Ontario Legislature (including an exhibit of photos from the book) and called on the provincial government and child welfare leaders to adopt lessons from “the father of children’s rights.”
- Dr. Janusz Korczak
Janusz Korczak, the pen name of Henryk Goldszmit (July 22, 1878 – August 1942), was a Polish-Jewish author, pediatrician, pedagogue and hero of the Holocaust. He was an early proponent of children’s right for human dignity and respect and the value of dialogue with children as friends and partners. He has become an international symbol of the fight for social justice and rights for vulnerable children, and his theories have inspired, amongst numerous advocate groups, the UN Convention of Rights of the Child - one of the most widely adopted rights instrument in the world.
Through the 1920s and 1930s, until his death in 1942, Korczak focused on the health and welfare of orphans in Poland. He created an orphanage built upon a unique philosophy of child-centred care where children and youth participated in the production of their own food, wrote and produced their own newspaper, voiced their own needs, and operated their own Children’s Court to deal with behavioural problems. For a complete biography, please visit the Janusz Korczak Association of Canada at http://www.januszkorczak.ca/biography/
Initially, Korczak’s orphanage served children of all backgrounds. However, after Nazi Germany occupied Warsaw, non-Jewish children were removed from his care and his orphans were segregated into the Jewish ghetto. Korczak is most widely known for the infamous “March of the Children”. Although he was given a reprieve, when the staff and children of his orphanage were ordered to be deported, he refused to leave his children. On August 5, 1942 he accompanied them on a march through the Warsaw Ghetto into the cattle cars that took them to the gas chambers of Treblinka, where they perished together. An eyewitness described the event.
“Forced into tight formation, body against body, driven by guards, wielding whips on all sides, the solid mass of humanity was forced to run toward the train platforms. Suddenly the commandant ordered the Secret Police to pull back.
At the head of the line was Korczak! No, how could it be? The scene I shall never forget. In contrast to the mass of humanity being driven like animals to slaughter, there appeared a group of children marching together in formation. They were the orphanage children walking four abreast in line behind Korczak. His eyes were lifted to heaven. Even the military personnel stood still and saluted. When the Germans saw Korczak, they asked, `Who is that man?"
- Shlomo Nadel
Shlomo Nadel was born in 1920 in Warsaw, Poland. His father died when he was very young and his mother was forced to place Shlomo in Dr. Korczak’s orphanage and his younger brother Simcha (Samek) in a very different type of orphanage. Nadel thrived during his time at the orphanage (1927 -1935) and became the resident photographer. It was the orphanage’s policy to “discharge” children at the age of 15. It was a harsh reality for Nadel to face, but the skills he acquired served him well.
Nadel lived in the Warsaw Ghetto for a time and left Poland in 1939 to go to Russia. As he was leaving, he was robbed of his photos at knifepoint and it was only due to the unlikely intervention of a German Officer that they were returned to him and he was able to escape. His mother refused to leave Poland and she and Samek perished there. Nadel worked at a photographic laboratory in Russia, but with the outbreak of war between Germany and Russia, he was conscripted to work in the Ural Mountains, repairing railroad tracks. One day, and for no apparent reason, he took his photo album to work with him. When he returned, he discovered that the workers’ sleeping quarters had been destroyed by fire. It was the second miraculous survival of the photographs. Nadel married his wife Frieda in 1946 and they immigrated to Israel in 1950, where he had a photographic shop and became involved with the activities of the Janusz Korczak Society. Nadel’s photographs finally reached Eretz, Israel and are on display at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. Today, Nadel and his family live in Ramle, Israel.
- Lea Lipiner, author
Lea Lipiner was eight years old when she moved to Israel in 1957. She and her sister spent their first summer vacation in the home of Shlomo Nadel and his family, who are close friends of Lipiner’s parents. Over the years, Nadel included Lipiner in his meetings with children and youth-leaders from Korczak’s children’s home, who were then living in Israel. She credits those experiences with her decision to embark on a profession in the field of education. Korczak’s pedagogical methods have influenced her work throughout the thirty-five years of teaching young children in various places in Israel and abroad. Given their close relationship and Lipiner’s admiration for Korczak’s teachings, Nadel asked her to write his memoirs. Lipiner lives in Israel with her husband and family.