Finding the Best Ways Forward: A Symposium on Children’s Participation in Justice Processes

I am delighted to announce Finding the Best Ways Forward, a two-day national symposium scheduled for 15 and 16 September 2017 in Calgary, featuring keynote speakers Mr. Sheldon Kennedy of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and Dr. Nicole Sherren of the Alberta Family Wellness Initiative.

Finding the Best Ways Forward is aimed at gathering together leading stakeholders to share information and dialogue about how the voices of children and youth are heard, how their interests are protected, and how their evidence is received in justice processes. The symposium will generate innovative proposals for policy reform, best practices, and recommendations for future research about children’s participation in justice processes.

The symposium is open to anyone with an interest in the participation of children and youth in justice processes. We welcome the participation of: judges, lawyers and articled students; academics, researchers, graduate students and post-doctoral students; social workers, clinical psychologists, counsellors and other mental health professionals; and, government decision-makers, policy-makers and administrators.

Subject areas to be discussed at the symposium will include:

  • the role of children’s counsel;
  • the child in family law proceedings, child protection proceedings and youth criminal justice proceedings;
  • the practical and legal effect of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child within Canada; and,
  • best practices for children’s legal clinics, representing children, judicial child interviews, and child interviews by lawyers and mental health professionals.

Proposals are welcome on any subject related to the participation of children and youth in justice processes. Potential topics include, but are not limited to, the following.

  1. Best practices:
    • the role of children’s counsel;
    • best practices for children’s legal clinics;
    • best practices for representing children;
    • best practices for judicial child interviews;
    • best practices for child interviews by lawyers and mental health professionals;
    • establishing and operating children’s legal clinics; and,
    • promoting legislative and regulatory change.
  2. Child participation:
    • the child in family law proceedings, child protection proceedings and youth criminal justice proceedings;
    • determining children’s competence and capacity to instruct counsel;
    • the child in parenting coordination processes;
    • roles for the child in mediation and collaborative law processes;
    • children’s testimony, affidavits and letters in court processes; and,
    • adapting court processes to accommodate children’s participation.
  3. Child interviews and assessments:
    • evaluative and non-evaluative views of the child reports;
    • confidentiality of professionals’ communications with children;
    • child interviewers on the stand;
    • the role of early assessments and parenting assessments in family law and child protection proceedings;
    • training child interviewers; and,
    • establishing child interviewer rosters.
  4. Children’s rights:
    • children and the Charter of Rights and Freedoms;
    • children and Canadian human rights legislation; and,
    • the practical and legal effect of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child within Canada.

Finding the Best Ways Forward is a project of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family and the Office of the Child and Youth Advocate Alberta, and has been generously funded by a grant from the Alberta Law Foundation.

For more information about the symposium, please contact me or visit its website at www.findingthebestwaysforward.com; download a copy of the symposium’s call for papers (PDF) if you’re interested in presenting. News about the symposium is available on Twitter under the hashtag #FTBWF.

John-Paul Boyd is the executive director of the Canadian Research Institute for Law and the Family. The Institute is a federally-incorporated charity established in 1987 and is affiliated with the University of Calgary

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