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October 15, 2008 permalink
We have not covered the Cornwall Inquiry because we could not tell whether it was an exposé or a cover-up. Now we know. 33-year CAS veteran Bill Carriere has testified that CAS does not restrict former foster children access to their files out of fears the agency could be sued.
Remember the efforts of John Dunn? He tried to get the record of his own life in foster care from the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto. The effort culminated, as provided in the law, with a direct appeal to the responsible minister. He did not get the records. Well, Cornwall is not Toronto, but barring a miraculous policy difference, Mr Carriere is not being truthful.
Former CAS employee denies allegations
Posted By By Trevor Pritchard, Posted October 15, 2008
A former Children’s Aid Society employee testifying at the Cornwall Public Inquiry denied he prevented foster children access to their files out of fears the agency could be sued.
Before retiring in 2006, Bill Carriere spent 33 years with the local CAS branch, and for a time was the agency’s director of protection services.
He also supervised Mark Boisvenue, the social worker who in 1995 sent former CAS ward Cathy Sutherland a brief summary of her involvement with the agency.
Sutherland testified in May 2007 at the inquiry, which is probing how institutions like the CAS handled allegations of historical sexual abuse.
She talked about the “nightmares and flashbacks” she was having in 1995 about her alleged abuse at the hands of her mother and foster care providers. Sutherland testified she desperately wanted to see if there was something in her CAS file that would confirm her suspicions.
In August 1995, CAS officials sent Sutherland two pages that outlined her history with the agency, one page of medical records, and a timeline. In his cover letter, Boisvenue said the CAS could not give her unfettered access to her file as it would identify other people.
“With regards to your concerns about sexual abuse,” he wrote, “I can advise you that I was unable to find any information within your files that would indicate this.”
Dallas Lee, an attorney for The Victims Group, suggested to Carriere yesterday that his caseworker’s words simply didn’t match with the facts in Sutherland’s file.
In 1959, a social worker noted that Sutherland – who at the time was four years old – had begun to masturbate and soil her clothing after a visit with her mother.
“In 1995, sir, any social worker reading that paragraph would think sexual abuse,” said Lee.
“I don’t know that I would agree with you, Mr. Lee,” said Carriere. “One doesn’t know what happened on that (1957) visit.”
Lee pointed to other reports that suggested Sutherland might have been sexually and physically abused while a CAS ward. He also showed Carriere a 1996 memo from a CAS lawyer suggesting the agency didn’t have to disclose files to outside attorneys who might be contemplating civil litigation.
“I read this, sir, as, ‘If somebody might sue us, don’t give them anything,’” said Lee. “Is that your reading of this?”
Carriere said no one had ever directed him to refuse information to former foster children for that reason.
Carriere said he could vouch that Boisvenue had a full caseload and that as his supervisor, he likely told him to quickly put Sutherland’s file together.
“I think the root of the problem is just the time and the resources we had to give to it,” said Carriere.
Sutherland only received her complete file in 2007 – and even then, portions were blacked out.
Carriere also testified Tuesday about how much the CAS knew about allegations that three teenage boys had been sexually abused by Cornwall lawyer Jacques Leduc.
The boys each told the Ontario Provincial Police of alleged abuse that ranged from sexual touching to intercourse. Some of the abuse allegedly happened while the boys were employed by Leduc, while other acts allegedly took place in Leduc’s home.
Leduc was charged by the OPP’s Project Truth probe in 1998 with 16 sex-related offences. All of Leduc’s charges were stayed in 2004.
When Carriere was last on the stand in September, he testified that the CAS needed greater clarity on who fit the definition of a “caregiver” – which can affect whether certain allegations are within the CAS’s mandate to investigate.
In the Leduc case, Carriere said Tuesday he couldn’t even recall the boys’ allegations being turned over to the agency by the OPP.
“In 1998, had you been provided with that information in that amount of detail, would Mr. Leduc be considered a caregiver for CAS purposes?” asked Lee.
“I think he would have,” said Carriere.
Carriere’s cross-examination resumes at 9:30 a.m.
Source: Cornwall Standard Freeholder