April 17 was National Equality Day: How Can You Share This Day with Your Children?

April 17th was National Equality Day.  On this day, we celebrate The Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms being signed by Queen Elizabeth II and Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau on April 17, 1982.  Section 15 of The Charter was not implemented for another three years however so it actually came into force on April 17, 1985.

Section 15 of The Charter states:

Equality Rights

15.(1) Every individual is equal before and under the law and has the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination based on race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

(2) Subsection (1) does not preclude any law, program or activity that has as its object the amelioration of conditions of disadvantage individuals or groups including those that are disadvantage because of race, national or ethnic origin, colour, religion, sex, age or mental or physical disability.

Section 28 of The Charter, added later, states:

28. Notwithstanding anything in this Charter, the rights and freedoms referred to in it are guaranteed equally to male and female persons.

Given that this was (and is) a monumental day for our Canadian history, it is worth discussing and celebrating with your children.  However, sometimes it can be difficult to explain the magnitude of something like this on a level that younger children can understand.

Explaining Equality Day to Older Children

If you live in Ottawa and your children are a bit older, it might be nice to bring them down to the Human Rights Monument at the corner of Lisgar and Elgin streets.  This monument was designed by Montreal artist and architect Melvin Charney and unveiled by His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet on September 30, 1990.

The Human Rights Monument was erected as a powerful and empowering symbol to suggest a new approach to power – one that emphasizes power based on the recognition of rights and on the empowerment of the individual as well as the community.  Human community has its social foundation firmly rooted in the enjoyment of equal rights and freedoms by each citizen.

Bringing them there would allow you to open up the conversation around human rights and what it means for them today and for their future.  Allow them to ask you questions about what it means and ask them to explain it in their voice too.  Simply by having the conversation, you’ll make them aware of something that they may not know exists and you’ll help shape their attitude as they grow older.

How to Instill These Values In Younger Children

If your children are younger, look for resources and tools that can help to solidify the message that all people are equal.  For example, Sesame Street has this video called “Women Can Be”, which explains that women can be anything they want.  Messages like this, shared early on, can help remind our children of equality.

While it is not the most celebrated day, Equality Day is an important one for our history and for our children’s futures.  Take the time to open up about it and start the conversation with them around National Equality Day.  Raising human beings to be are more compassionate, understanding and who view all people as equals is one amazing thing that we can all do together.




Erin is a work-at-home mom who shares her life with her husband Steve, who is a stay-at-home dad, and her daughter Willow, who is almost two. Erin is the co-founder of OttawaValleyMoms.com and writes on the site about her experience as a parent, a woman and a busy entrepreneur and the fine art of juggling it all while maintaining sanity (which, unbeknownst to some, does not come easily!)

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