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Timmins Rally

July 5, 2010 permalink

Timmins CAS Logo

A rally in front of Timmins CAS drew thirty people, including falsely-accused William Mullins-Johnson and MPP Gilles Bisson. Following the newspaper story is a satellite photo of Child and Family Services of Timmins and District, 707 Ross Avenue East, showing that even in a small city (43 thousand people) CAS has an enormous facility. There is also a photo collection



Parents protest CAS

Call for provincial government to create regulating body

John Butts at Timmins Children's Aid Society
John Butts, chairman of the group Families Opposed to Children's Aid Society Deceits, leads a group of protesters in a chant during a rally in Timmins on Monday. Various groups gathered to protest what they deem unwarranted removal of children from parents care.
(KATE MCLAREN The Daily Press)

About 30 people from across the province took to Timmins streets Monday to rally against what they claim are "exaggerations and lies" by the Children's Aid Society.

With signs displaying messages like "CAS needs oversight NOW" and "Honk for justice," protesters from several groups travelled from cities including Sudbury, Burlington, and Huntsville.

John Butts, chairman of a group titled Families Opposed to Children's Aid Society Deceits (FOCASD), was driven to take action after his daughter was removed from his care by CAS workers.

"I wouldn't let my daughter go to a school dance until she cleaned her room, so one of her friends urged her to call the CAS," he said. "She was taken for 109 days, and when I finally cornered a judge about it in court, he told me I did the right thing in fighting it."

Butts explained that the major problem stems from workers not being held accountable for decisions they make about parents abilities to care for their children, and alleges that often stories are fabricated to "keep more files open."

"If the number of children being abused keeps rising like these workers say it's rising, then we're going to have an epidemic," he said. "That's just not the case.

"The reason they're doing this is to justify the huge budget they are operating on."

Various protesting groups allege that deceitful tactics are often used to warrant removing children from their homes, including false reports of drug and alcohol use, and false information provided by doctors and counsellors.

"The Parental Capacity Assessment CAS workers use has been found to be easy to manipulate," said Butts. "And judges don't question the details provided by workers."

According to Neil Haskett, creator of the website, the groups would like to see amendments to provincial legislation regarding CAS investigations.

"We want the legislation (now Bill 93 under the McGuinty government) to say that the Ontario Ombudsman can review decisions or action taken by the CAS," said Haskett, who acknowledged that most parents involved with the CAS are "not bad people."

"We know that the CAS has gone after parents who are innocent," he continued. "We just want to make sure there's someone to oversee the claims and decisions made."

Most of the protesters involved in Monday's rally have been involved with CAS, including William Mullins-Johnson of Sault Ste. Marie, who served 12 years in prison after being wrongly convicted of killing his four-year-old niece in 1994.

Mullins-Johnson maintains that following further investigation by pathologists, murder and molestation charges were dropped in 2007. He was released from prison in 2005.

"I want to stop wrongful convictions," he said. "The CAS helped to make my case a molestation case, and coerced my living niece to say untrue things as well.

"I just want people to get the truth. This has destroyed my family."

MPP Gilles Bisson (NDP — Timmins-James Bay) agreed that having a regulating body investigate complaints against the CAS would likely be a good thing.

"I believe that all workers are trying to do the right thing," he said. "Every now and then, things go wrong, so the question is how do we deal with this."

Bisson added that regulating bodies have been effective in other fields, such as nursing and teaching.

Timmins CAS executive director Richard Lambert-Belanger explained that although the agency currently has provisions under which all situations are investigated, he would not be opposed to Ombudsman involvement.

"The CAS is mandated to provide services and follow whatever mechanisms are put in place," he said. "If that means an ombudsman, then so be it."

Lambert-Belanger also discussed the serious nature of the organization's responsibilities and the mandate of the CAS.

"Our main objective has always been to promote the well-being of children and families," he said. "We have to investigate every complaint we receive, and we know that removing children from their homes is a very serious matter.

"For that to happen, the agency has to feel that there are significant risks to the children living there."

He said before placing children in foster care, they explore the possibility of extended family members in an attempt to keep them in their local environments.

"A lot of our programs are wrapped around the idea of trying to strengthen families," he said. "Our agency is very much committed to the culture of learning."

NDP leader Andrea Horwath has shown support for Bill 93, introducing it in June 2008.

Currently, Timmins CAS has approximately 80 to 90 children in their care, one of the lowest ratios of all Ontario CAS agencies.

Source: Timmins Daily Press

Child and Family Services of Timmins and District

Addendum: There is a short video of the Timmins rally (mp4).