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Rally Against CAS

May 5, 2006 permalink

Wendy Babcock, an advocate for Toronto's prostitutes, sends us the announcement below. Sex-trade work is another activity that while legal, is persecuted by Children's Aid. Comments follow.




May 14th 2006 at 15 Huntley Street at 2:00pm

For most Canadians, Mother's Day is a time when families honor their mother's hard work. But for many of low income families find that on Mother's Day, peace and joy is in very short supply, especially now that more than 30,000 of their youngsters languish in foster homes.

We did not lose our children because of abuse, rather we lost our children because of poverty, lack of affordable adequate housing, being single, being young, having a child with special needs, being in recovery from substance abuse issues, having survived an abusive partner, or having worked in the Adult Entertainment Industry.

Silenced for decades by shame and guilt, we suffered alone with our grief, believing that we were the only ones. Now we find that we are not alone. Mother's Day began as a day to honor the public activism of mothers. It began in 1870 because mother's declared that they would not lose their children as casualties of war.

On Sunday May 14th 2006, lets "Take Back Mother's Day" by joining with Mother's across Toronto as we rally in front of the Children's Aid Society at 15 Huntley Street at 2:00pm to demand:

  • 40% increase in social assistance rates
  • The creation of more housing geared to low income families
  • Build more daycare spaces for low income families
  • End to the clawback of child tax benefits
  • End the discrimination against mother's who work in the Adult Entertainment Industry
  • End the apprehension of children because their mother has a disability
  • That the city of Toronto create family orientated treatment centres

Since the Mike Harris cutbacks to social assistance payments more and more mother's are in precarious financial circumstances often finding themselves unable to afford their hydro, gas, telephone and other necessities. By not being able to afford these necessities the Children's Aid Society can intervene and remove the child, citing "neglect".

Cutbacks in social programs — particularly in the area of housing — have led to shortages of affordable housing. A recent study by the Children's Aid Society of Toronto found that in the year 2000, housing was a factor in one in five cases where children were taken in care — a dramatic 60% increase over a similar study in 1992. They also found that lack of adequate housing caused a delay in the return of children to their parents in more than 11% of cases.

In cases where their children are taken into care, parents lose their child benefits forcing them to move into smaller apartments or rooms inadequate for living with their children. This creates a catch 22 system where in order for a mother to get her children back she must obtain proper living arrangements that she cannot afford without custody of her children. Thus, it becomes extremely difficult for low income mother's to get their children back once their children are taken into care. Imagine instead a system that worked in the best interest of the children and their mother's instead of a system that perpetrates a cycle of poverty and foster care.

Women with disabilities may find themselves under the scrutiny of Children's Aid Society by virtue of their disability alone. Once scrutinized, it may be difficult to remove oneself from the child protection system. In some cases, women have contacted the Children's Aid Society for support and assistance with parenting, only to find themselves the subject of an investigation. Other women are reported to the authority during pregnancy and have to fight to prevent the removal of their newborn from their care solely because the authority believes their disability prevents them from being able to parent. Other women, perhaps because of vulnerabilities caused by disability (a tendency to defer to authority, for instance), enter into what they believe to be "voluntary" agreements with Children's Aid Society only to find those voluntary arrangements used against them later by the same officials.

Many women experiencing substance abuse issues or mood disorders are often hesitant to seek treatment as they fear that in doing so they may lose their children.

Sex workers (dancers, escorts, dominants, phone sex operators), are also at risk of losing their children due to their profession. Even though it is NOT illegal to be a sex worker in Canada, the Children's Aid workers have discretionary powers for apprehending children of women working in the sex industry. This means that if a CAS worker objects to the mother's profession based on their own personal moral values, her children can be apprehended and taken into care regardless of whether they've experienced any actual abuse.

Furthermore, the number of children who have been taken into temporary custody as a result of witnessing their mother's being assaulted increased by at least 870% (no that is not a typo) between 1993-1998. With limited income supports, affordable regulated childcare, affordable housing, and emergency shelters operating at full capacity, there are few options for women who are being assaulted and abused, leaving them and their children at risk of continued violence, poverty and involvement with the Children's Aid Society. Thus, the shortages in affordable housing and emergency shelters are closely linked to the number of children who are victims of prolonged violence and involvement with the Children's Aid Society.



For more information please contact


Comment Further research, and feedback from readers, has disclosed what may be the true nature of this rally. There can be no question that prostitutes are an aggreived group — any history of prostitution, even far in the past, will be held against the mother in any child protection investigation. The agenda of this rally, starting with increased social assistance, is identical to that of social services, and the rally appears to have been organized with professional social services help. The rally, if successful, could attract the attention of the salacious element of the press, leading to an opportunity for Children's Aid to tout cases of children saved from prostitute mothers. This will become another instance of social services shamelessly betraying the very groups they purport to champion.

Addendum: This event did not attract the kind of media attention we feared, only this report in the web publication



Taking back Mother's Day

Women took turns at the megaphone, each telling her story with poverty, discrimination and the ever-present threat of Children's Aid either taking their children away, or adopting them to other families.

The radical roots of Mother's Day were embraced in Toronto last Sunday by a group calling for a stronger social safety net and reforms to the allowable actions of the Children's Aid Society in Ontario.

Take Back Mother's Day, a group that calls for a return to the origins of the holiday (Mother's Day was originally created by war-protesting mothers in 1872), rallied at a Children's Aid Society office to demand an increase in social assistance rates, more day-care spaces and affordable housing.

They also spoke out against the discrimination adult entertainment workers and disabled mothers face when trying to keep their children when the CAS intervenes.

Standing on a street corner in front of a small group of mothers and supporters, one unidentified woman told the crowd about her two children in foster care, “I felt like shit this morning. People called to say 'happy mother's day,' but it doesn't feel like mother's day. I've been fighting for eight years for my children ... It eats me away.”

Women took turns at the megaphone, each telling her story with poverty, discrimination and the ever-present threat of Children's Aid either taking their children away, or adopting them to other families.

Many of the mothers who spoke no longer had custody of some or all of their children and felt helpless in getting them back.

Take Back Mother's Day was not a day against the CAS — most of the speakers agreed that there are some children who are safer in foster care — but rather against what factors are used to take children from their parents.

Abuse and neglect are certainly factors for CAS intervention, but the Take Back Mother's Day organizers say that there are other factors relating to family poverty, addictions, disabilities and employment that lead to children being taken from their families unfairly.

For the most part, the CAS agrees with the concerns of the mothers: affordable housing in Toronto is scarce and social assistance rates make providing for children extremely difficult.

But, they say that no child has ever been taken from a parent because she is a sex trade worker or because of a disability, unless those things impede the parent's ability to look after her child.

“We don't have any policy related to [sex workers],” says David Fleming, assistant director of intake at CAS Toronto.

Fleming has been working with the CAS for 25 years and says he can remember only one child taken into protective custody regarding the mother's work in the sex trade. He says CAS got involved not because the mother was a sex worker, but because she would leave her young child alone at night while she worked.

“Whether she's shopping for groceries or an exotic dancer, the child's alone,” and that's why the CAS stepped in, Fleming says.

While there is disagreement over how invasive CAS is to families (the organizers of Take Back Mother's Day still maintain that many children are taken from their mothers without just cause), the message of the rally was that families are hurting because of a misconceived notion of our social safety net.

Abuse is not the only reason children can't live at home; sometimes there isn't a house to live in.

According to a report by the CAS in 2000, housing was a factor in 20.7 per cent of cases where children were taken into care.

The report also states, “The number of children admitted to care where housing was a factor increased by about 60 per cent over the eight-year period — from about 290 children in 1992 to about 450 in 2000.”

In 2003, there were 73,697 households on the social housing waiting list in Toronto.

“I fell on hard times, on welfare, and couldn't afford rent,” says Wendy, an organizer of the rally, whose child is in foster care.

“My only crime was poverty.”

Jenn Watt is a student at Ryerson University and a freelance writer in Toronto. She has served an internship at