Comparative Politics

B21 - Children, Education, Paternalism, and Rights

Date: Jun 14 | Time: 03:30pm to 05:00pm | Location:

Toward Democratic Inclusion: Rights Education and the Children's University: Marshall Beier (McMaster University)
Abstract: This paper approaches children’s university programs as engaged forms of rights education allied with efforts toward democratic inclusion of children. To the extent that they produce opportunities for children to discover themselves as participants in knowledge production and transmission, children’s universities promote children’s recognition of their own extant (not just deferred) potential to make a difference in their societies. Meaningful participation, in turn, underwrites possibilities both for children to be seen as and to come to see themselves as practicing a fuller citizenship as children – that is, premised on their present assets, capabilities, insights, and experiences and not just on preparation for eventual ‘ascension’ to adulthood. The participation rights laid out in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) herald just this promise but, in practice, little progress has been made on their implementation in the more than three decades since the Convention came into force. Also largely unfulfilled is the UNCRC commitment for states to educate citizens (including but not limited to children) on the Convention and its provisions. Drawing from original research on children’s university models in Canada and Hawai‘i, I highlight the contributions of a central ethos that explicitly positions children as indispensable acting subjects in knowledge practices, not merely a recipient audience.

Interactions and Implications: Contextualizing the Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan: Kenya Thompson (York University), Leah Vosko (York University)
Abstract: The Canada-wide Early Learning and Child Care Plan (CWELCC)—a federal policy incentive promising a public, non-profit system of early learning and child care—is often attributed to the Covid-19 pandemic, compelled by interruptions to women’s employment due to heightened caregiving responsibilities. Though child care in Canada has largely been a patchwork, market-based system, characterized by insufficient and unreliable government support and overreliance on civil society, there have been some limited national and subnational policy initiatives. The Universal Child Care Benefit, the Caregiver Program (formerly the Live-In Caregiver Program), and Multi-Lateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework addressed child care at the national level, while Quebec implemented a provincial program in 1997. Framing child care as a reproductive right through a feminist political economy lens, this paper considers how these policies interact, and the differential impacts for diverse families, creating conditions ripe for the implementation of the CWELCC. For example, Quebec’s child care program was well-established when it withdrew from the Caregiver Program in 2014; likewise, the Multi-Lateral Early Learning and Child Care Framework, an unprecedented federal investment in the field, was launched in 2017, only 3 years following the dissolution of the Live-In Caregiver Program. Placing the CWELCC within this context links these disparate policies, underscoring the Canada’s systemic devaluation of child care. This paper argues that advocates must critically consider the consequences of the CWELCC based along lines of race, citizenship, and class, lest it perpetuate Canada’s exclusionary legacy and miss opportunities to redress such structural inequalities.

The Failure of Economic and Social Rights in Canada: James Van Schaik (Western University), Dr. Laszlo Sarkany (Huron University College at Western University)
Abstract: Human rights are organized into several categories: civil and political, economic, social and cultural, and global. Civil and political rights have been enshrined in most institutions and laws within Canada along with economic and social rights, which are considered equal. However, in practice, those latter rights are relegated to so-called “second-generation” rights. These rights include material and economic rights, such as the right to shelter, food, education, healthcare, and employment, all of which have fallen by the wayside in politics and policy. The homelessness crisis in Canada is evidence of the lack of practical implementation of these basic human rights. This reality creates a human rights’ antinomy because one cannot enjoy one set of rights without access to the other. This creates a disconnect between theory and practice when it comes to protecting these human rights. This paper examines economic, cultural, and social rights in International theory versus Canadian human rights’ public policy, comparing it to the ethnographic experiences of a frontline social worker. It explores the lived experience of homelessness in Canada and lack of access to basic rights. The study uncovers that while Canada has a duty to uphold these rights, the lived experiences of the homeless in Canada indicates they face significant discrimination and barriers in regard to access and practice. The implications of this essay suggests a political and policy failure to live up to our International commitments to economic and social human rights, and a failure to protect the most vulnerable in our society.

Permissive politicians, coercive public: The misalignment of attitudes on government paternalism in Israel.: Clareta Treger (University Of Toronto)
Abstract: Government paternalism includes policies that intrude into individuals' private spheres to prevent self-harm, including food labeling, sugar taxes, retirement savings mandates, and euthanasia restrictions. While conventional wisdom and previous research suggest that individuals favor non-coercive paternalism (like information and nudges) over coercive measures such as taxes and bans, little is known about how politicians, who shape these policies, perceive them. We also do not know where they think public opinion on such policies stands. This study examines politicians' attitudes toward government paternalism and their perceptions of public opinion on such policies, and actual public preferences using original data from Israel. The findings reveal that politicians generally prefer non-coercive paternalistic policies, such as information provision, across various policy issues. They also believe that the public shares similar preferences and, if anything, supports coercive measures less than they do. However, actual public support in Israel is higher than politicians perceive, and on certain issues, the public favors more coercive policies. This discrepancy indicates that politicians frequently underestimate public preferences, in line with the idea that less coercion is generally preferable but contrary to actual public sentiment. This misalignment suggests a representation gap that can lead to suboptimal policy outcomes.