Toronto Star

November 20, 1999

Children pick family as main right

By Elaine Carey
Toronto Star Demographics Reporter

Canada's kids love their families.

In a national vote this week on what they deem to be their most important right, elementary and secondary students chose the right to a family as number one.

The 187,757 students who voted selected from a list of 10 rights picked from the United Nations Charter on the Rights of the Child, in a first-ever vote co-sponsored by UNICEF and Elections Canada to mark the 10th anniversary of Canada's endorsement of the charter.

The idea was not to emphasize one right over another but to educate kids about their rights and the importance of voting.

Food and shelter came second after family, which got 45,426 votes, followed by health, education, rest and play, protection from harm, non-discrimination, sharing opinions, name and nationality, and own culture.

``We are not announcing the winners of the election for there are none - nor are there any losers,'' Lisa Wolff, UNICEF Canada's director of education for development, told a news conference yesterday in Ottawa.

``Canadian youth voted for each and every one of the 10 rights candidates on the ballot and each right is equally important to the well-being of youth both here in Canada and around the world,'' she said.

The vote was the first national vote for Canadian children and also their first chance in a single event to discuss and voice their opinions.

While 1,110 schools took part in the vote, the notion of kids' rights sparked considerable controversy across the country.

Some school boards didn't participate after parent groups and members of the Reform Party fought against the election, arguing it violated the rights of parents who had no say in what their kids were being taught.

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