This webinar is produced by the FREDA Centre in the School of Criminology at Simon Fraser University as part of the research project being undertaken for the Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) along with the other Alliance member centres across Canada which are the equivalent of the FREDA Centre.

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The Learning Brief: English Version | French Version

The Webinar Slides: English Version | French Version


The status of children has changed dramatically from the times when children were viewed as property … Today children are viewed as individuals, who as full rights bearers and members of a group made vulnerable by dependency, age, and need, merit society’s full protection – Justice Sheilah Martin, Supreme Court of Canada, 2020

Viewing children in Canada as full rights bearers includes making sure (1) that they are safe, secure and well – free from violence of all kinds within their “homes” and after separation, and (2) that their rights to be heard in all judicial proceedings when courts are determining their best interests are effectively implemented. These rights apply to all children, including those in cases involving family violence and/or “parental alienation”.

Principles in International Conventions, such as the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UN CRC) , are part of Canada’s legal framework and help inform a contextual approach to the interpretation of both the general and the family violence and participation provisions of the Divorce Act and provincial family law legislation.

The UN Committee on the Rights of the Child states that the “right of all children [under 18] to be heard and taken seriously constitutes one of the fundamental values of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. Obtaining children’s views and preferences in court processes is now common in many cases, but the right to do so can be marginalized for children in family violence and or parental alienation cases. In addition, more attention has been paid to hearing children’s voices generally, than it has to ensuring that those views are taken seriously and given due weight in accordance with the children’s ages and maturity. This webinar considers the issue of how children’s rights in all family law court proceedings can be implemented effectively, with the involvement of independent legal representation for children, using the Eight Child Rights Safeguards/Guarantees which the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child states are necessary to do so.


Lauren Irvine, who spoke to her own experiences as a youth in dealing with family court matters here in Canada. Her voice formed an integral part of our discussion. We thank her for sharing her story with us.

Profile of Lauren:

Lauren Irvine was introduced to the world of advocacy work through her own experiences in the family legal system, whereby she retained a child lawyer at the age of thirteen. She worked as a Youth Co-researcher for a partnered project between InwithForward and The Representative for Children and Youth BC, before joining the Youth Voices Initiative. It was during this time that she was a guest-lecturer at Emily Carr University and participated in the Child and Youth Champions Conference hosted by RCYBC and Access to Justice BC. She is currently pursuing a Bachelor’s Degree at King’s College London.

We also thank our three other presenters:

The Honourable Donna Martinson is a retired BC Supreme Court Justice with many years’ experience in the areas of family violence and child rights. She was the Founding Chair of the Canadian Bar Association BC Branch, Children’s Law Section and former chair of the national CBA UN Convention on the Right of the Child Committee.

The Honourable Judge Rose Raven, is a senior BC Provincial Court Judge with over 25 years’ of experience judging and a former Chair of the Court’s Family Law Committee. She has been involved in organizing and presenting legal education programs for lawyers and for judges in the areas of family law and children’s rights for many years. Her interest in education led to her appointment to the editorial board of the British Columbia Family Practice Manual.

Suzette Narbonne is a lawyer with over 30 years’ experience who is now Managing Lawyer at the Child and Youth Legal Centre in Vancouver, a part of the Society for Children and Youth of BC, providing independent legal representation to children and youth – representing them in family law, human rights, and child protection cases.  She has served as a Governor for the Law Foundation of BC, as a Bencher of the Law Society of BC and as the Chair of the Legal Services Society.


We want to acknowledge the assistance we received throughout the development of the associated Learning Brief, Webinar Slides, and the Webinar itself.  From SFU, Dr. Sarah Yercich, Associate Director of FREDA, assisted with the materials and communications. Sandy Moro and Jenny from SFU Meeting and Events assisted with the webinar recording itself, and, Abdul Zahir, from the School of Criminology, provided invaluable and constant assistance throughout.  From CREVAWC at UWO, we thank Julie Poon who was patient, supportive and responsive in our learningbrief/webinar journey, as well as Anna-Lee Straatman, who gave us valuable financial, as well as encouraging, advice. We must also acknowledge the interpreters for the webinar, Violaine Tourny and Joseph Caron, for their excellent efforts. Finally, we want to express our gratitude to David Millership at Neogunk Inc. for his excellent and timely assistance.