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Protecting Immigrant Children
April 14, 2012 permalink
Toronto Councillor Michael Thompson wants to put all immigrant children on a central database. For their protection, of course.
City council looking to protect immigrant children
Newcomer families with children could have their names collected on a registry to help prevent and intercept instances of child abuse within their families.
Toronto Council voted Wednesday to send off a notice of motion from Scarborough Centre Councillor Michael Thompson to find ways to co-ordinate services to protect immigrant children.
The motion came after the high-profile arrest of the parents of 17-year-old Jamaican Canadian Melonie Beddersingh, whose body was found 18 years ago and was only recently identified.
The parents have been charged with first-degree murder. But child welfare agencies who attended a news conference with Thompson to promote his motion said it is often difficult to protect children who have recently arrived in the country with their families.
Immigration lawyer Mendel Green said that over 50 years of working in immigration law, he's seen numerous instances of what amounts to abuse.
"Unfortunately what I have recognized over the years is that when families come to Toronto what the parents do is freeze in their culture and don't modernize, and their children change and modernize and they go on dates, they want to go dancing and go to discos and in many cultures that is taboo," he said. "I have seen excessive parental punishment on children that have just done these simplistic things."
Thompson said co-ordinating services - including creating a registry - would make it easier for agencies to spot problems and deal with them.
"If we fail to act now children will continue to suffer and die needlessly," he said. "We have an extensive safety net in our city but immigrant children are often disconnected from the support in their communities and they do not know how to turn to the social service agencies that can help them. Our motion seeks to bring the services already in place to bear on the issue."
David Rivard, CEO of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto, said the agency would find a registry useful - but he wasn't sure that such a registry wouldn't amount to profiling.
"The difficulty I would be worried about would be the question around the profiling - that would be something I would want to think about," he said.
He did acknowledge that it is difficult for the Children's Aid Society to find instances of the worst abuse, because many children don't have official status.
"The difficulty is that most of these children have no status when they end up in our organization," he said. "When they have no status that makes it very difficult."
The matter was referred to the city's Community Services and Recreation Committee to develop a policy.
Source: Inside Toronto