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Dunn Charges Ottawa CAS
August 9, 2007 permalink
In the press release below John Dunn announces charges against the directors of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa resulting from their failure to provide him with a membership list as required by law. The release does not make it clear what legal process is being used to pursue the charges.
For Immediate Release
Date: Wednesday, August 08, 2007
FORMER FOSTER CHILD CHARGES CHILDREN'S AID SOCIETY OF OTTAWA AND ITS EXECUTIVE DIRECTOR UNDER CORPORATIONS ACT.
At a time when the Ombudsman of Ontario has been fighting for jurisdiction over Children's Aid Societies across the province for the purpose of increasing accountability for the services they provide, John Dunn, a former foster child and child-welfare reform advocate, laid charges against the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa and its Executive Director on Wednesday, (August, 8th, 2007) for knowingly and willfully committing the Offence of contravening section 307 (5) of Ontario's Corporations Act.
The Society and its Executive Director, Barbara MacKinnon, if convicted, could face fines of up to one thousand dollars each.
Dunn, wanting to advocate for positive changes to the way child-welfare services are provided to Ottawa's children and youth applied for a membership with the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa, only to have his application denied without a valid explanation.
After several failed attempts to meet with the Society to discuss the matter, Dunn was instructed by Pierre Viger, the Society's Director of Professional Services, to discuss the matter with Ottawa lawyer, Robert C. Morrow of Burke-Robertson Barristers & Solicitors.
Later, while in a meeting with Morrow, Dunn was advised that the Society was not prepared to discuss the matter any further, that the matter was “closed” and that he should seek legal counsel if he wishes to pursue the membership matter any further.
Shocked at the treatment he received from the Society regarding his membership application, Dunn filed a complaint with the Ministry of Children and Youth Services only to be informed by them that Society memberships are a “corporate law” matter and as such, can not be dealt with by the Ministry.
On February 05, 2007, Dunn filed with the Society, a request for a list of its existing members in accordance with section 307 (1) of the Corporation's Act so that he could inform them of how membership applications are being dealt with by the Society's Board of Directors, hoping that he could convince them to vote for change to this practice during a members meeting.
Once again, the Society retained the legal services of Robert C. Morrow who then assisted the Society in committing the Offence of failing to furnish a list of the Society's members when so required, as outlined in section 307 (5) of the Act.
Normally a person would advocate for service improvements within a Society by applying for an annual membership and voting for, or making requisitions for change at members meetings. Unfortunately, the people who are the most concerned with how a Society operates -- its former wards -- are blocked from obtaining a membership with their originating Society, simply because as adults, they now live outside the jurisdiction of the Society, or because they are currently involved in advocating for improvements to the services a Society delivers in the community.
The only option a person has to advocate for change once their membership application has been denied by a Society is to communicate with the annual members who reside in the community and who support the work a Society performs, through requesting a list of those members in order to allow the person to communicate with them as is allowed under section 307 (1) of the Corporations Act.
It has been made apparent that the Ottawa Children's Aid Society through its Board of Directors, is even willing to commit an Offence in order to prevent anyone from communicating with the members for purposes connected with the Society.
Section 307 (5) of the Act makes it an Offence for the Society and its Directors not to furnish a list of the members to a person who properly requests it, exposing the Society, and its Board members to the risk of being charged and fined one thousand dollars each, not to mention the lawyers fees for defending their illegal conduct.
John Dunn, is a former Crown Ward and child welfare reform activist who founded The Foster Care Council of Canada (the Council), an organization which seeks to involve current and former wards in the process of child welfare reform.
Gary Curtis, of Winchester, (just outside of Ottawa) a former Crown Ward of the Children's Aid Society of Ottawa, aged out of the system in 1961. He recently applied for a membership with the Society only to be informed that he could not be a member since he was no longer living in the Society's jurisdiction.
Approximately four years ago, Curtis applied for access to his own life records which are held by the Society and in doing so, had to put up quite a struggle in order to get anywhere including a Ministry review by an appointed Director. Curtis had a meeting with a representative of the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, Eastern Regional Office who suggested that he file for a review under subsection 68 (3) of the Child and Family Services Act. The review took over a year to conclude producing a report to the Ministry which made the following conclusions:
There is no guiding legislation the Society can follow with regard to the disclosure of information to a former Crown Ward
The Board of Directors were satisfied that the Society's staff complied with all regulations and,
The Society believes their staff satisfied all the requests made by Curtis.
The review appears to have accomplished very little, as anything he did receive from the Society was only due to his own persistence. When Curtis eventually earned access to his records, he discovered something amazing. Gary learned after years of thinking he was an only child, that he had a sister and two half brothers. His sister and one of his brothers live in the greater Ottawa area and the other brother lives in B.C. His sister was placed for adoption at birth, but his two half brothers remained out of care. Curtis has slowly become acquainted with them and they have welcomed him as a long lost family member. Curtis says “Being accepted as a new family member can be a long and slow process and must be done with a lot of caution and care.”
Curtis has since also applied for a list of the members of the Society in accordance with the Corporations Act so that he could communicate with them regarding the Society and its Boards practices and was also denied.
Dunn says “The Society sent the exact same response letter to Gary that their Lawyer sent to me, only this time they copied the content of the Lawyers letter and pasted it onto their own letterhead, then sent it to Gary”.
Curtis is now considering his own legal options.
For further information please visit The Foster Care Council of Canada at http://www.afterfostercare.ca
Source: email from John Dunn