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July 22, 2010 permalink
The Observer reports on today's rally in Sarnia, quoting ralliers John Butts and Catherine Frei along with Sarnia CAS executive director Richard Newton Smith.
Protesters target CAS in Sarnia
A group of travelling protesters demanding reform of Ontario's child protection services held a small rally outside Sarnia's Children's Aid Society Thursday.
"We're not opposed to the CAS. There are children in need, but stats show more than 50% of families under investigation are innocent to begin with," said Catherine Frei, founder of Protecting the Innocent based in Kitchener.
She and John Butts of Families Opposed to Children's Aid Society Deceit (FOCASD) say there have been about 60 similar rallies across Ontario since February, involving an estimated 600 demonstrators.
The largest in Sudbury and Timmins earlier this summer attracted about 40 people. The Sarnia rally drew eight.
"We pulled this together at the last minute," Butts said.
The group alleges many abuses within child protection services, including illegal and unprofessional conduct.
"The number of kids in care is growing in leaps and bounds and we believe it's because the CAS gets government funding based on numbers," Butts said.
The protesters want the Ontario ombudsman to be given authority to review complaints against the CAS.
Ombudsman Andre Marin is on record as saying he wants oversight of Ontario's 53 Children's Aid Societies and that his mandate should be expanded.
But a private members bill supporting such a move has failed twice.
"We have the support of the NDP," Butts said. "(NDP Leader) Andrea Horwath has told us that there will be a third attempt to get this through."
He urged anyone with a complaint against the CAS to contact Sarnia-Lambton MPP Bob Bailey and call for change.
"We are fighting back within the bounds of the law," Butts said. "Our stories may seem shocking but that's why we're putting so much effort into this. Abuse within the system is just so common."
Richard Newton Smith, executive director of the Sarnia CAS, briefly met with the protesters outside CAS headquarters on Kendall Street in Point Edward.
"I'm prepared to deal with anything related to Sarnia. Contact me and I'll follow up," Newton Smith said. "Good luck with your travels."
As he turned to leave, he said, "In all seriousness, contact me."
"He's the first executive director to come out and talk to us," Frei said. "We asked him why it takes the CAS so long to provide full disclosure and he said he'd look into it."
"That's pretty vague," Butts said, "But at least he came out."
In an interview with The Observer, Newton Smith said the CAS already has numerous mechanisms and agencies that oversee its actions, including the courts, a local client complaints process, the Child and Family Services Review Board, the provincial advocate for children, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services.
"We already have more than sufficient overviewers," he said.
Butts acknowledged the CAS is answerable to several agencies but said none are open to public scrutiny.
"The review board can review cases," he said. "But they won't look at anything that's before the courts, which eliminates about 90% of cases."
The group plans rallies in Kingston July 27 and at Queen's Park in Toronto Aug. 16.
Source: Sarnia Observer
Thanks to Catherine Frei for pointing this out promptly