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Conflict of Interest

May 18, 2008 permalink

Following our item on the Children's Lawyer, Rob Ferguson pointed out a conflict of interest. Birkin Culp acts for the Office of the Children's lawyer, and serves as a director of community organizations including St Leonard's Community Services. Mr Culp's profile, from the website of his own law firm, is copied below.



Lawyer Profile - Birkin J. Culp

Birkin Culp
Picture By The Northlight Studio, Brantford

Birkin Culp joined Lefebvre and Lefebvre in 1999 and has since had a busy practice primarily in the areas of family and criminal law. He represents individuals in the Superior Court of Justice and the Ontario Court of Justice. In addition to representing individuals, he also acts as agent for the Office of the Children's Lawyer (OCL) and represents children in both Child and Family Services Act and Children's Law Reform Act matters. He is an appointed agent for the Family Responsibility Office (FRO), representing the FRO in collection and enforcement proceedings.

Birkin obtained his Bachelor of Laws degree from Kingston, Ontario in 1997. At Queen's, he served as president of Law Students' Society and was honoured with the Gavel Award for his significant contribution to student affairs during his three years at law school. He previously completed his Bachelor of Arts (Honours Degree) in Political Science/History at the University of Guelph where he was awarded with the W.S. Reid Thesis Prize for a paper he wrote on a special history project.

Birkin is involved in various community affairs. He is a member of the Brant Ontario Court of Justice Bar and Bench committee and in such capacity, represents concerns of the bar to the local Judge and participates in deliberations concerning matters affecting administration of justice at the local level. He is also a member of the Board of Directors at St. Leonard's Community Services, a position he greatly cherishes. He participates in board meetings concerning the agency's diverse services in the areas of justice, addictions, mental health, employment and education. In the past Birkin was an executive board member and director of the Brantford School of Instrumental Music.

Birkin is also a keen participant in federal, provincial and local political associations in the Brantford area.

Source: Lefebvre and Lefebvre LLP

Examining the annual report of St Leonard's Community Services (pdf) discloses the following:

Expansion of the dining and recreation facilities at the Youth Resource Centre (YRC), located at 331 Dalhousie Street, in order to properly serve 20 youth. This renovation, which followed the creation of 20 single rooms last year, was made possible with funding from Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation (CMHC) and through ongoing contributions for operating expenses from the Municipality, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and area Children’s Aid Societies. — page 1

Child Welfare Reform St. Leonard’s Community Services has been providing residential care to local, regional and provincially based Children’s Aid Societies since 1992. In an effort to establish more home-like therapeutic environments for children in the care of the CAS, the Agency reduced its overall number of child welfare beds to eight for Brant County and eight for Haldimand/Norfolk. This decision was also in response to a reduced demand for group home beds in Ontario, resulting from changing demographics and child welfare reforms, which are focusing on permanency planning, adoption, custody, foster care and kinship care. Sadly, as a result of the reduction in beds, staffing levels needed to be reduced. In an effort to minimize the impact of the reduction and to ensure the continued relationship between the Agency and valued staff members, most impacted employees were transferred to other Agency locations or they accepted an alternate role within the program. — page 3

Tables list Children's Aid Societies under both Funders and Partners. — page 12

We have a local copy of the annual report.

Mr Culp is a director of an agency that receives funding from the children's aid societies. The largest contributor to children's aid funding is the Ontario government, under a formula that provides per-capita reimbursement for foster children. So when Mr Culp represents a child in a protection action, returning the child to his parents reduces the funding of St Leonard's customer.

There is a potentially larger conflict of interest in the extraordinarily uninformative financial statement (page 11). Of St Leonard's $9,649,999 annual revenue, $9,321,687 came from Government funding. If that is also distributed per-capita, Mr Culp's organization can benefit directly by taking certain children away from their parents.