The Role of Canada’s Child and Youth Advocates: A Social Constructionist Approach
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In the absence of a federal Children’s Commissioner in Canada, the mandates of the provincial and territorial Child and Youth Advocates have evolved primarily to protect and promote children’s rights. Although research exists on the rights of marginalized youth, relatively little attention has been paid to the growing role of the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates. As a consequence, the aim of this research was to address a knowledge gap by investigating the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocates and examine their understanding and articulation of child and youth advocacy in Canada. The study further aimed to uncover the opportunities and barriers associated with their day-to-day work. A critical ethnography was employed involving five former and current members of the Council (including members from the Prairies, central Canada and eastern Canada). In line with the intent of the study, a discourse analysis was also undertaken to explore relevant child and youth advocacy policy documents, media pieces, and legislation. The results of this study indicate that child and youth advocacy is best understood as a complex phenomenon, and as such, various opportunities assist the Council members’ work. On the other hand, certain barriers also hinder the work, which ultimately affects the many groups of vulnerable children and youth with whom the Offices engage. The findings of this study demonstrate the need to appoint a Canadian Children’s Commissioner to liaise with the Council in an attempt to improve the current state of child and youth advocacy in this country and help ensure that no children fall through the cracks of Canadian society.