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February 16, 2011 permalink
If you have been following the rallies   across Ontario calling for ombudsman oversight, you will notice that newspaper reporters sometimes interview both sides. The children's aid answers are so uniform that they must be centrally planned: there is already oversight through regulations and through the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB), and there is an internal complaint procedure. They almost always mention that the ombudsman has oversight over the CFSRB. Sometimes they add the ministry, the courts and the local membership that elects the board of directors, itself an oversight board. Rally participants who might be questioned about oversight should know what to say in rebuttal to the uniform CAS statements. John Dunn has prepared an excellent document copied below to do just that. Read it carefully before speaking to the press. If you want to be less technical than Mr Dunn, point out that the CFSRB will not listen to matters before the courts (that means all current child protection cases). When a court hands down a decision you have to comply with it before you can appeal. But when the CFSRB makes a ruling in favor of a family, children's aid does not have to comply, they merely file a few papers with another tribunal and ignore the ruling. Here is a case in which CAS ignored a ruling from the CFSRB.
OACAS Presentation to Finance Committee of Ontario Legislature.
I won't put the entire text of their entire presentation on here, however I do want to focus on the importance of us knowing how the CAS's make their presentations to the legislature, so that we can get the correct wording while we talk about the issues all year long. Because when MPP's ask them questions we need to show them that the responses the CAS's provide (via OACAS) are not always accurate.
For example, read the last question that MPP Norm Miller asked the OACAS during their presentation to the Ontario Finance Committee, and then read the very smooth response of the OACAS. I will then comment on their response and hope to get others speaking in the same terms throughout the year.
Ontario Finance Commitee:
MPP Mr. Norm Miller: There are groups out there that are asking for Ombudsman oversight of children’s aid societies. Do you have a perspective at all?
(OACAS) Ms. Mary Ballantyne: Children’s aid societies are very highly regulated. Most of our work is actually dictated through regulation standards. There are many, many reviews in ways that it is regulated. Also, there have been bodies such as the CFSRB, the Child and Family Services Review Board, that have been put in place to ensure that families do have their concerns heard and that those things can be rectified; there are complaint procedures within agencies. There is already a lot that is in place to ensure that things are happening the way they should be.
First of all the OACAS was very careful to avoid answering the question directly. The question asked by Mr. Miller was,
"Do you have a perspective at all" on groups asking for Ombudsman Oversight of Children's Aid Societies.
The closest they came to answering the question was;
"There is already a lot that is in place to ensure that things are happening the way they should be"
However, they were very careful not to say they do not want Ombudsman oversight because the public would wonder why among other reasons.
Also, the OACAS goes on to say, "Children's Aid Societies are very highly regulated. Most of our work is actually dictated through regulation standards."
When I contacted the Ministry to ask if they Ministry would enforce the "Standards" they said back to me that they do not enforce them, and that they are merely guidelines to the agencies. Remember this when you talk about CAS saying they are highly regulated. Mention it at Rallies and at Finance Committee presentations.
The OACAS said "there have been bodies such as the CFSRB, the Child and Family Services Review Board, that have been put in place to ensure that families do have their concerns heard and that those things can be rectified.
When the Ministry created the CFSRB in the legislation, they were also sneaky enough to add that the Board is exempt from the Statutory Powers and Procedures Act, which is an Act which gives most similar "Tribunals" which the Board really is, powers of enforcement and other powers similar to a court. By doing this the Ministry intentionally made the CFSRB toothless and ineffective. I have a letter from the Board itself stating the same thing. That they have no enforcement powers over CAS's because of them being exempt from the SPPA.
The OACAS mentioned in that quote that the CFSRB was put in place to ensure that families do have their concerns heard and that those things can be rectified. That too is inaccurate since the Board has no teeth and can not force a CAS to do what it requests they do.
Also, the OACAS failed to mention that a recent court ruling prevents the CFSRB from taking any cases that happen to be involved with a court. (every apprehension of a child automatically is involved with a court). This ruling is wrong, and the CFSRB has stated that they intend to appeal the court decision which prevents them from getting involved in any case that happens to be invovled with the courts. The Court ruling is wrong, because it is supposed to be that any ISSUES BROUGHT UP IN THE COMPLAINT WHICH HAVE BEEN DECIDED OR WHICH ARE BEFORE THE COURTS are outside of the Jurisdiction of the Board. Instead, this "bad ruling" by a judge says that anyone involved with a court can not use the CFSRB and that the CFSRB can not get involved with that persons complaint. Completely wrong.
The OACAS also says "there are complaint procedures within agencies"
The OACAS says "There is already a lot that is in place to ensure that things are happening the way they should be."
They say this all the time yet we never see what those tools are. Why does the Ministry not publish their Accountability Framework so the public can use it to ensure the Ministry holds the CAS accountable when it violates the Accountability Framework?
There are also "Annual Service Agreements" between the Ministry of Children and Youth Services and EACH CAS. That agreement says we give you money and you agree to X, Y, Z... however, they don't make those annual service agreements available to the public either, therefore, how can we contact the Ministry to tell them when the CAS is in contravention of those agreements and to ask the Ministry to enforce the agreements.
We need to focus on the Ministry. For decades, people have complained about the CAS's... we have protested at the CAS's... and that is great. But they are resilient to protest. They have preformed responses to the media, or they don't respond to the media at all and the pressure is off in a couple of days, and everyone goes home.
IF WE FOCUSED OUR PROTESTS ON THE MINISTRY, THE OPPOSITION CRITICS WOULD USE THAT PRESSURE IN THE COMING ELECTION TO START ASKING THE MINISTRY PUBLICLY (THE GOVERNMENT) WHY THEY ARE NOT ENFORCING THEIR OWN ACT? WHY THEY ARE NOT ENFORCING THEIR REGULATIONS, WHY THEY ARE NOT ENFORCING THEIR POLICIES, WHY THEY ARE NOT ENFORCING THEIR ACCOUNTABILITY FRAMEWORKS, WHY THEY ARE NOT ENFORCING THEIR OWN ANNUAL SERVICE AGREEMENTS FOR BILLIONS IN TAX-PAYERS MONEY, AND WHY THEY ARE NOT FULFILLING THEIR DUTY TO ONTARIO'S MOST VULNERABLE CITIZENS GENERALLY.
Then the pressure would mount. We need to refocus our energies to the Ministry. AT LEAST BETWEEN NOW AND OCTOBER'S ELECTION.
We also need people to go to All Candidates Meetings at election time just to ask the questions about what I just listed. Not about CAS's... but about the Ministry failing to live up to its own Annual Service Agreements, Policies, Accountability Frameworks and Regulations, Directives and more.
WHAT THE OMBUDSMAN CAN DO
REFOCUS YOUR EFFORTS ON THE MINISTRY AND IT'S FAILINGS. START COMPLAINING TO THE OMBUDSMAN ABOUT HOW THE MINISTRY IS FAILING IN THESE AREAS AND FILE COMPLAINTS ABOUT IT. HE HAS JURISDICTION OVER THE MINISTRY. A WHOLE NEW FLOOD OF COMPLAINTS WOULD BE LOOKED AT AND HOPEFULLY REPORTED ON BRINGING MORE PUBLIC REPORTS AND POLITICAL PRESSURE WHEN HIS NEXT REPORT COMES OUTSee More
Source: Facebook, private posting by John Dunn February 16, 2011