Canadian Journal of Family Law

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This article explores children’s participation and their right to be heard in Quebec’s child protection proceedings. While children’s participation rights are well protected in international and domestic legal instruments, they have received little attention in relation to child protection. This article aims to fill a gap in the legal literature by reporting on the results of an empirical research project examining children’s participation in judicial child protection procedures in Quebec. The participation of judges, social workers, and children in this research sheds light on practice that is clearly inspired by the Quebec’s rights- advancing Youth Protection Act (YPA) but that remains confronted with uncertainties and inconsistencies. While children are recognized as subjects of rights, many will not have the chance to express their views freely and to be heard by the decision-maker. A review of practice leads to a critical analysis of child testimony and legal representation as ways to hear children. The attitudes of the professionals in relation to these practices and gaps in the legislation lead us to suggest various changes that could help make practice more respectful of children’s rights.