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More on Chambers
June 1, 2006 permalink
On May 16, a debate in the Ontario Legislature dealt with the subject of oversight over Children' Aid. The next day Ontario's Ombudsman André Marin sent a letter to Andrea Horwath giving his position on the matter. A copy was sent to Mary Anne Chambers, Minister of Children and Youth Services. We have a photocopy of the letter (MS word format) and a legible html copy below. The timestamp on the photocopy is 05/17/2006 11:51.
Later that day, between 1440 and 1450 according to time stamps in the Hansard, Mrs Chambers spoke again in the legislature. In two responses to questions from Howard Hampton, she denied knowledge of the letter from André Marin, though the question shows clearly that the letter had been distributed earlier. It is hard to find anything truthful in her second response:
Hon. Mrs. Chambers: The Ombudsman has independent oversight jurisdiction over the Child and Family Services Review Board, and I am sure that the Ombudsman of this province -- and I know of his commitment, which we share, to kids -- I know that the Ombudsman would not be writing to the leader of the third party if he is in fact trying to impact policy-making by this government. I have a very constructive, very positive working relationship with the Ombudsman. I am sure that if the Ombudsman has had any difficulty with what I am doing, I will hear from him directly.
Here is the letter from the Ombudsman:
May 17, 2006
Ms Andrea Horwath
M.P.P.for Hamilton East
Room 159, Main Legislative Building
Dear Ms Horwath:
RE: Bill 210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006
Upon review of Hansard yesterday, I noted references to my jurisdiction over the Child and Family Services Review Board under Bill 210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006. As you know, I have maintained that the ability to bring complaints about children's aid societies to the Board is not a substitute for independent investigative oversight of children's aid societies. The Board is an administrative tribunal. Its jurisdiction is limited to considering allegations against children's aid societies in the circumstances set out in the Act, and as eventually prescribed by regulation. This creates an adversarial and imbalanced process in which the resources of children's aid societies are pitted against those of individuals. There is no independent fact-finding done by the Board.
At present, only a few types of allegations trigger a mandatory obligation on the Board to hold a hearing. In many cases, the Board will have the discretion to determine whether to hear a matter.
Bill 210 does not introduce meaningful oversight of children's aid societies. While the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over the Board, our review would be limited to considering whether the Board acted in accordance with administrative fairness principles during its procedures and in issuing its reasons. An ombudsman investigation is not an appeal of the Board's decision, and would not involve an investigation of the underlying complaints about children's aid societies. These would continue to remain immune from independent investigative oversight.
André Marin Ombudsman
Minister Mary Anne Chambers, MPP Howard Hampton, Premier Dalton McGuinty, MPP Julia Munro, MPP John Tory
We thank a Dufferin VOCA reader whose persistence got the facts from Ontario's NDP.