Early Childhood Intervention: Module One – Typical and Atypical Development

Charter of The Rights of the Child, Inclusion Laws, and Early Childhood Laws

Parents and professionals involved with children with special needs will find it both important and useful to know about children’s rights and learn about the laws in place to protect each child.

As you read this page, you are invited to click on the links that explain information on laws, agencies and organizations.

The Rights of the Child vs. the Rights of the Parents?

While everyone has basic human rights, there can sometimes be conflicts between the rights of a child and the rights of his or her parents. Every child deserves services that meet his or her unique needs, but not all services offered agree with the values and beliefs held by parents and families. Other times, services may come too late for families.

It’s important to recognize that while people still experience discrimination in Canada, there are many laws that protect human rights, and that these laws apply to children as well as adults.

Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms

In 1982, Canada developed the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms. This federal law states that all people in Canada, including children, have certain rights. One of these rights is that of equality, stated in Section 15 (1):

“Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to the equal protection of the law, without discrimination and in particular, without discrimination based on… mental and physical disability”

Human rights are also protected by the Canadian Bill of Rights and the Canadian Human Rights Act. In addition, each province also has human rights legislation .

United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child

In 1991, Canada ratified the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child. This means that the Federal government agrees in principle with the international commitment to protecting children’s rights. This convention guarantees rights for all children, including social, economic, cultural, and civil and political rights.

Article 23 is specific to children with disabilities. It states that it’s important that children with disabilities are included and recognizes that special efforts are needed for children with disabilities to realize their rights.

Provincial Ministries

The bills and acts mentioned earlier contain laws set out for each province in Canada. Each province has its own service delivery systems, set out by provincial laws and guidelines.

In British Columbia, for example, services for children with special needs (see full Glossary) and their families are provided mainly by three Ministries:

  • the BC Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD);
  • the BC Ministry of Health; and,
  • the BC Ministry of Education.

The Ministry of Children and Family Development (MCFD) has a designated department called “Children and Youth with Special Needs” (CYSN). MCFD provides services to children in five regions in the Province: Northern, Interior, Fraser, Vancouver Island and Vancouver Coastals.

The MCFD and Community Living British Columbia (CLBC) work together to offer a range of services. These services are provided through various organizations, including MCFD and CLBC offices, health authorities, contracted agencies and other programs.

The BC Ministry of Health Services is managed provincially through the Provincial Health Services Authority (PSHA). Together they look after organizations that provide health services province-wide, including the BC Children’s Hospital or the BC Early Hearing Program.

As with MCFD’s regions, there are also five health authorities (HAs), each responsible for delivery of health care services and programs; for example, the At-Home program.

For school age children, services and programs are provided by the BC Ministry of Education. In 1995, a “Special Education Policy Framework” for British Columbia was established. This guided the development of legislation and direction for special education programs and services in British Columbia.


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