A mother carries her child on her back outdoors. Both of them are smiling.

Canada’s National Child Day: Celebrating our kids and advocating for their rights

On November 20, Canada celebrates National Child Day, a day to recognize and advocate for the rights and well-being of the nation’s children.

Since 1993, Canada has held this annual observance to coincide with World Children’s Day, with both commemorating two historic international treaties: the adoption of the United Nations (UN) Declaration on the Rights of the Child in 1959, and the UN adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989. Both expand on the UN’s Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which proclaims that childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.

The convention comprises 54 articles that encompass every part of a child’s life—civil, educational, political, economic, social, and cultural universally accepted rights to which every child is entitled. It also provides guidance on the collaborative efforts required from adults and governments to ensure that every child can fully experience and benefit from these rights.

A day of celebration and reflection

As Canada recognizes 30 years of commitment to its children, this year’s National Child Day theme #EveryChildEveryRight is an opportunity for Canadians to reflect on the progress made in protecting and safeguarding the rights of its youngest citizens—while acknowledging the work that remains to be done and the unique rights of Indigenous children and youth.

This year, let’s mark November 20 as a day to celebrate the vibrancy and diversity of the more than eight million kids who call Canada home. Parents, caregivers, educators, and communities can help educate our little ones about their rights and responsibilities, encourage children to embrace a healthy and active lifestyle, and listen to their thoughts and dreams for the future. 

To help get you started, visit the Public Health Agency of Canada’s website to access information and resources related to National Child Day. There, you’ll discover material to encourage and bolster your understanding of children’s rights, complete with a fun and interactive National Child Day Activity Kit. Unsure how to explain the convention to children? This colourful and condensed PDF from UNICEF breaks it down into more manageable phrases. 

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. 

Article 31, UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

Events across Canada

Throughout Canada, schools, communities, and community groups are hosting events that encourage children and youth to express themselves creatively and share their perspectives on issues that matter to them.

In Lethbridge, Alta., a free family event is planned, complete with playing, dancing, and games. The city’s Family Centre, which champions “Healthy Children! Healthy Families! Healthy Communities!” has joined with community groups including Lethbridge Plays and the Lethbridge Public Library to “bring joy and celebration to our event.”

In celebration of National Child Day, Torbay, Nfld., is promoting its Active Start program with free sessions for children 0-5. Participants can get their bodies moving at the Torbay Common gym during the program, which promotes “fun and physical activity.”

If you’re near Lloydminster Alta./Sask., the Lloydminster & Area Early Years Coalition has plenty of ways to get active. Kids 0-6 are invited to negotiate an obstacle course, try yoga, and more.

The Akwesasne Child & Family Services invites residents to party with them at their National Child Day Carnival at St. Regis Mohawk School in Hogansburg, New York, just across the Ontario border.

And in Cobourg, Ont., there will be celebrations both on and off the ice during the Cougars for Kids event at the Cobourg Community Centre. Local families will be taking part in the ceremonial puck drop, sledge hockey will be showcased during the game’s intermission, and money raised will benefit the Northumberland Backyard Project—a safe and fully-accessible multi-purpose green space that will include an inclusive, accessible garden, and more to benefit the community. 

If you can’t make an in-person event, online options are available for classrooms and at home. Children First Canada has programming for kindergarten age through high school, with special treats including a sing-along with Raffi, a reading of her book Coyote Queen with Canadian author Jessica Vitalis, and members of the Young Canadians’ Parliament will share how they’re working in their communities. Youth across Canada are also invited to participate in the online Youth Advocacy Summit: The Right to be Heard where they can discuss what matters most to them. 

You can also show your support for all 8 million Canadian kids by:

  • Wearing blue in support of National Child Day
  • Using the hashtags #NationalChildDay or #EveryRightForEveryChild
  • Raising awareness for children’s issues with local politicians
  • Donating time or money to support activities for children
  • Helping your community organize an event

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