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Marin Wants CAS Oversight
February 14, 2006 permalink
Ontario's Ombudsman has issued another press release in his campaign to get jurisdiction over Children's Aid Societies. A contrary view follows the press release.
FEBRUARY 14, 2006 - 12:30 ET
Ombudsman Ontario: Proposed Legislative Changes Fall Short of Extending Independent Oversight to Children's Aid Societies
TORONTO, ONTARIO--(CCNMatthews - Feb. 14, 2006) - The Ministry of Children and Youth Services' proposed amendments to Bill 210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act, fall far short of what is needed to ensure independent, third party, investigative oversight of Children's Aid Societies, according to Ontario's Ombudsman, Andre Marin.
In a letter sent to the Minister on Monday, the Ombudsman wrote: "The Ministry's proposal falls far short of what the citizens of Ontario, in particular, children in need of protection, deserve."
Mr. Marin, who has called on the legislature to extend Ombudsman oversight to Children's Aid Societies, expressed concern and disappointment at the proposal which includes additional internal complaints mechanisms and expanding the mandate of the Child and Family Services Review Board.
"It's a stop-gap measure, which does not go far enough," said Mr. Marin. "All it does is add another layer of bureaucracy to internal processes. "
The Ombudsman also pointed out that the Child and Family Services Review Board, which will operate under a limited jurisdiction, lacks both investigative powers and the power to address systemic issues affecting children and families. "You are talking about protecting our children. How many more cases like Jeffrey Baldwin will there be before the government wakes up and sees that we need stronger accountability, the kind that comes from having an independent watchdog with strong investigative powers?
"This proposed scheme still leaves us at the back of the oversight pack," said Mr. Marin, referring to other provinces in Canada, which have independent oversight of child welfare matters. "I was hoping we would move forward, instead we've gone nowhere."
Mr. Marin further noted that Ministry officials were unable to provide him with any answers as to why the proposal to bring Children's Aid Societies under the umbrella of Ombudsman oversight was rejected. This is something which has received wide public support and which makes eminent sense. "What are they afraid of?" he said yesterday upon reviewing the Government's proposed changes to Bill 210.
This press release is also available in French.
The Ombudsman is an officer of the Legislature and is independent of both the political process and government administration. Generally an office of last resort, the Ombudsman investigates and resolves complaints about provincial governmental organizations and recommends corrective action. Services are free and confidential. Other languages can be arranged. For further information, call 416-586-3300, TTY 1-866-411-4211 or visit our website: www.ombudsman.on.ca
Re: Independent Oversight of Children's Aid Societies
- Children's Aid Societies do not come within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction.
- The Ombudsman received 436 submissions and complaints from January 1, 2005 to February 13, 2006 regarding the need for greater oversight and accountability of Children's Aid Societies.
- Types of complaints:
- concern about care of children by CAS
- concerns about dealings with CAS
- denial of access to grandchilden
- threat of removal of child
- sexual abuse by CAS staff
- concerns about CAS allegations
- concern about child abuse register administration
- refusal to disclose information
- concerns about CAS removal of child
- concerns about access and custody
- Bill 210 provides an opportunity to enhance independent oversight of Children's Aid Societies by extending the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to complaints about Children's Aid Societies.
- The Ombudsman investigative process provides a credible accountability mechanism for the child protection system. Administrative conduct of Children's Aid Societies has the potential for seriously and dramatically impacting the lives of Ontarians and it should be subject to independent investigation and systemic review of administrative practices.
- The costs of implementing expanded jurisdiction of the Ombudsman in this area would be minimal, given that the infrastructure and experience already exists.
Five other provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) have Ombudsman oversight of child welfare issues including child protection
- In Alberta, the Ombudsman has jurisdiction to review the conduct of government officials who administer the child protection system in that province with the exception of First Nations child protection services.
- In British Columbia, the Ombudsman has authority to investigate children's services provided by the Ministry as well as services provided by private agencies.
- In Manitoba, the Ombudsman can investigate children's aid societies and other childcare agencies because of their responsibility to the Crown under The Child Welfare Act.
- In New Brunswick, the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over child welfare issues, which are the responsibility of a department of provincial government.
- In Nova Scotia, in accordance with s. 2(a) of the Ombudsman Act and the Designation of Agencies Regulations, child welfare agencies and child-caring facilities licensed under the Child and Family Services Act are within the Ombudsman's jurisdiction. The Act was amended in May 2004 and new regulations approved by cabinet in December 2004 to provide the Ombudsman with clear jurisdiction over these bodies.
Saskatchewan, Quebec and Newfoundland and Labrador have independent investigative oversight of child protection issues through separate offices:
- In Saskatchewan, the Ombudsman has jurisdiction to consider complaints about the child protection system, which is administered through a government ministry. Generally, the Children's Advocate, which is essentially a specialized Ombudsman, deals with issues affecting children. However, the Ombudsman does consider complaints relating to child services brought by others e.g. parents.
- In Quebec, child protection services are provided through another oversight body with investigative authority.
- In Newfoundland and Labrador has a Child and Youth Advocate that has investigative powers.
Source: press release from Ombudsman
Earlier in this debate, the OACAS issued a report Ontario's Children's Aid Societies are Highly Regulated and Accountable. In case of expiry, here is our local copy of their holocaust denial.
Addendum: Here is a letter to the legislature on the same subject:
From: Dolores A. Sicheri
Sent: Wednesday, February 15, 2006 9:07 AM
Subject: Bill C210
Members of the Social Policy Committee of Ontario Legislative Assembly:
Gentle men and women
Minister Mary Ann Chambers' proposed amendments to Bill C210 do not go far enough to protect the rights of parents and children of Ontario. As an advocate for families, I respectfully request that the Ontario Ombudsman be given the oversight right of public watchdog with appropriate funding to fulfill the role.
The "private corporation" administrative setup of Children's Aid Societies has the potential for abuse. These corporations, funded with public dollars, should be subject to an independent and public review of its practices.
Five other provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia) have identified the need for increased independent monitoring and have already given the Ombudsman oversight in child welfare issues including child protection.
The taxpayers of Ontario deserve transparency and accountability.
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