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David Baxter

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Canada must address child abuse: Chief Justice
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
CBC News

The abuse of Canadian children undermines the future of the country, says Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada.

"Children continue to be abused in this exceptional country we call Canada, and each instance of abuse represents a tragedy," McLachlin told a gala dinner in Moncton, N.B., on Tuesday night. "A tragedy in the life of a child and a loss to the future of Canada."

It's a paradox in a society that commonly touts its youth as one of its greatest resources, McLachlin said.

"Guilt and the impulse to atone that it often provokes will not solve the problem. What is needed is a hard-headed look at why child abuse continues and what can be done to stop it."

About 300 people paid $125 a plate to hear McLachlin speak at the event, organized by the Muriel McQueen Fergusson Foundation, a charity that funds research into domestic violence.

To recognize the extent of child abuse that occurs in Canada, the problem must be looked at with honest eyes, McLachlin said. The abuse of Canadian children undermines the future of the country, says Chief Justice Beverley McLachlin of the Supreme Court of Canada.

  • One in six children live in poverty and 40 per cent of the children raised by a single mother are poor, she said.
  • More than 60 per cent of sexual assaults reported to police are committed against youth, she added, and those cases are only the tip of the iceberg.
  • Estimates suggest between five and 10 per cent of boys and 13 to 25 per cent of girls are abused, McLachlin said.
  • The majority of all abuse against children is committed at the hands of the family or someone close to the family, she said.
Canada must seek out the causes of abuse and understand them if children are to be protected, she told the crowd, which included lawyers, judges, politicians and front-line workers.

Historically the law has treated children like property, she said, and though attitudes are shifting, the practice in court is too often to place the interest of the parents ahead of the child's. Courts and Canadian society need to continue to recognize that children have the right to be free of abuse, she said.
 

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