Marvin M. Bernstein, B.A., J.D., LL.M. (ADR)
First of all, I am delighted and honored to have been appointed as the first independent Child and Youth Advocate for Prince Edward Island. More importantly, this is an historic and momentous occasion for Islander children and youth, who for the first time have an independent office dedicated to advancing their rights, interests and viewpoints.
I am passionate about child advocacy. It isn’t just a job to me. It is a lifestyle and a driving force in my life. I also have a strong sense of social justice and believe that we can all be agents of positive social change if we are optimistic, principled and prepared to speak out where we see unfairness or discrimination in any shape or form, particularly where it affects our most vulnerable and marginalized youngest citizens.
I am a lawyer by profession with decades of professional experience, having served in a variety of roles over the course of my career. This has provided me with the opportunity to advocate for improved government services to children and youth in many different provinces and territories, as well as at the federal level. I have worked both within and outside of the public sector and am able to view the impacts upon children and youth through different lenses and through the framework of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
During my time as the Children’s Advocate for Saskatchewan, I had one of the broadest mandates in the country. My Office engaged in individual and systemic advocacy, individual and systemic investigations (including child deaths and serious injuries), early complaints resolution, public education and research, monitoring and recommendation tracking, and placed a strong reliance on amplifying and promoting the voices of children and youth. I also advocated for more equitable funding and services to Indigenous children and youth and actively opposed the over-representation of Indigenous children in child welfare care and in the youth criminal justice system.
It is important for young people to see my Office as one that empowers them and reduces stigma. It is part of my Office’s responsibility to raise public awareness and see children and youth as individuals with human rights and voices to be heard. This means that we state clearly that young people cannot be reduced to categories of offenders, victims or the property of others and cannot be defined by their experience of past adversity. They are individuals who are full of promise and potential capable of writing their own successful life story.
I am a substantial sports fan too! Just a few summers ago, I was actually in Toronto on a hot and jovial day when the Raptors were celebrating with a parade for becoming the NBA Champions! It was a day when millions of people filled the streets. I was pleased to share the experience with my wife, son, and son-in-law, who all joined in. I found that the Raptors playoff run and win took the country by storm, bonded our diverse community, and gave us a shared goal - a rallying point. One of my other favourite sports experiences was being in the stadium for ALL of the Blue Jays World Series games in the early 1990s. Now THAT was a thrill! I firmly believe we all need the Right to Play and Recreation! It brings us together and brings us joy in our lives.