This is a great time of year to be a kid. By now we are over the back-to-school transition, and as Halloween draws close, kids are so excited.

At this time of year, I am thinking a lot about what it means to be a kid in Rideau-Vanier. The kids at Andrew Fleck Children’s Services on George Street are two steps away from the non-stop truck traffic on King Edward. The workers there rake the play area each morning to remove needles and other drug paraphernalia. My own son counts needles on his way to school at De La Salle. Teens who live in Vanier and attend Immaculata High School take an hour to get to school by public transit, with 2 or 3 transfers. The Bernard Grandmaître arena has been a shelter since earlier this year, so the children in that area no longer have sports programming.

Would our city look different if children were taken into account when the City made decisions?

This summer, I visited a couple of cities with the “Child Friendly” designation during a trip to Europe (I was accompanying my son on an exchange, and found myself with a lot of free time when he abandoned me to hang out with his new friends).

Child Friendly Cities is a UNICEF initiative underpinned by the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Its goal is to help municipalities promote the rights of children at the municipal level. The overarching principles include non-discrimination, best interests of the child, the inherent right to life, survival, development, and respect for the views of the child.

Other underlying philosophies of this program are directly related to the functioning of a city: transparency, accountability, equity and inclusion…in other words, a corrupt government is not child friendly.

To be designated “Child Friendly,” a city must put forward a robust plan and will be assessed rigorously. They must re-certify every three years. Of course, designation is not the be-all end-all… child-friendly policies can be enacted, and huge progress can be made without an official designation.

In Canada, Quebec leads the charge with 85 municipalities, including Quebec City and Montreal, holding Child Friendly designation. Along with Councillor Rawlson King, I am actively trying to get the City of Ottawa on board with this initiative.

At Council on September 13th, a motion of mine passed that would require city staff to consider how children and youth would be impacted when putting together city reports.

This motion is very simple. Currently, whenever the city makes reports, there are a list of implications that must be considered. The implications include:

  • Financial implications
  • Legal implications
  • Accessibility impacts
  • Asset Management implications
  • Climate implications
  • Delegation of Authority Implications
  • Economic Implications
  • Environmental Implications
  • Indigenous, Gender and Equity Implications
  • Risk Management Implications
  • Rural Implications
  • Technology Implications.

My motion adds “Implications to Children and Youth” to the list.

I am also working on making “School Streets” more commonplace in Ottawa. A “School Street” is simply a street closure near a school during the hours that students are being dropped off and picked up. This makes it safer and more fun for students arriving at school, and relieves traffic congestion around the school during these peak hours. I held one at Trille des bois during the last week of school, and it was a huge success! I plan to keep trying them out.

These are two small, but significant, steps to making Ottawa more child-friendly. I will continue to work on ideas like this.

What do you think? How could Ottawa be more Child Friendly? Write me an email if you have any ideas!

Below are some photos from the School Street in June, 2023.