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August 4, 2011 permalink
The press has taken note of Friday's planned rally in Barrie.
Rally taking aim at CAS accountability
‘How they go about doing things when they know they’re doing it wrong is what we want to change’
The sound of collected voices will be heard at a rally in downtown Barrie where organizers say they plan to give a provincial watchdog a piece of their mind, Friday.
Members of the Children and Families Advocating for Accountability (CFAA) will be at the intersection of Mulcaster and Collier streets from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. to educate people about how the province's so-called MUSH sector is monitored.
"We're holding rallies all across Ontario," said organizer Neil Haskett.
MUSH includes the Children's Aid Society (CAS), municipalities, school boards, hospitals, nursing, police and long-term care facilities, which Haskett said are not monitored by Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.
"He is entrusted by the people of Ontario to provide independent investigations into public institutions," Haskett said.
"Ontario is one of the only provinces that doesn't allow its Ombudsman to investigate those public agencies."
Haskett, and the many who are expected to attend the rally, have set their focus on the province's 53 CAS branches and the procedures the organization follows when dealing with reports of child treatment.
"We're trying to raise awareness about the lack of accountability with the Children's Aid Society," Haskett said.
"How they go about doing things when they know they're doing it wrong is what we want to change."
The group claims there is misconduct within the CAS, resulting in families being torn apart. They have yet to reach the public's ears because the CAS has an internal monitoring group, Haskett said.
"There are some gross negligences where systematic issues are involved and they just don't get resolved quickly or at all," he said.
"If there's a complaint, people have to deal directly, and that hasn't resulted in a lot of favourable investigations."
Gary Perdue, media representative for the Simcoe County CAS, said the organization is governed by provincial legislation.
"Our sense is, we are funded under the Ministry of Community and Youth Services," Perdue said. "Children's Aid Societies are empowered under the Child and Family Services Act, and there are a significant number of accountability measures already in place."
Perdue said the Ombudsman doesn't oversee the CAS, but does oversee the third-party board responsible for monitoring any complaints against the organization.
"The Ombudsman has the oversight over the child and family services review board," he said. "If a member of the public has a complaint, there is a review board set, so this is a neutral independent third party."
Haskett said the goal for the peaceful rally is to inform people who otherwise wouldn't know about dealings with CAS by sharing stories from people who have.
"Emotionally, it's hard because we know there's nothing they (families) can do," he said. "We have received probably 30,000 to 40,000 e-mails from people across Ontario. A lot of them are scared to death and afraid to stand up and speak out."
Perdue said the review board does yearly investigations and is non-partial because board members are not directly related to the CAS.
"It has experts that are not part of child welfare. Their employment is in no way (directly) related to the CAS ," he said. "They have other jobs during the day and then, from time to time, they are brought together to receive and review compliants from the public."
Perdue said the rally is a reflection of peoples' opinions, but believes the CAS has a solid approach to dealing with complaints of children in distress.
"We respect people's opinions who may think differently, who may think further monitoring is required," he said.
"We always respect people's rights to voice their opinions."
Source: Barrie Examiner