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Thoughts on CAS Reform Efforts

June 22, 2012 permalink

Greg Holden of the CK Review uses the occasion of the broken windows at Chatham-Kent CAS to comment on the entire effort to draw attention to the abuses of CAS, and to effect reform.



CAS protest leaders disown breaking windows

Chatham-Kent CAS broken windows
How divided are local protesters on the use of vigilantism?
Photo CKReview

Sometimes columns just write themselves. I sit and watch, and lo and behold my sight is drawn to something so compelling that I cannot turn away. That describes my Thursday as I sweltered my way through a mesmerizing display of mixed messages by CAS protesters. Most of these people disowned the notion of breaking some windows to make their point, but the underlying feeling was that breaking the law this way was understandable, excusable and trivialized.

There is no evidence at all that three broken windows at the CIS building in Chatham was anything other than a random event. In a Facebook page dedicated to CAS protesters, yours truly broke the story of the broken windows and asked if the event was random, and if not then how it would be good to hear from those who can explain taking the law into their own hands. The unfolding dilemma tore at the very fabric of this community that strives for legitimacy. Most of these people have had their children taken away or have been so closely affected that it adds up the same. Their lives are often in ruins and they live with resentment and anger constantly. Imagine seeing grave injustice in the face of every child you ever see, and knowing you can’t see your own. For whatever reason that someone loses custody of their child, the fallout is immeasurable.

An Ongoing Issue

The problem now is that children’s aid societies are privatized and there is no oversight of them. They are not government bodies, they are privately run businesses. Protesters complain that CAS are paid per child. I have heard them quote $90,000 for a full adoption to be complete beginning to end. That leaves CAS agencies very motivated in the eyes of the protesters, who address CAS as CA$. Every Ombudsman in Ontario since the 1970′s has sought oversight of the CAS and never gotten it. Every other province in Canada has oversight.

At CAS protests you can mingle and meet with protesters, they are happy to talk. Mothers and fathers united on the street, they have nothing to hide. A common problem is that their case is before the court so they do not wish to be named. I made video recordings of passionate pleas for help from people who are afraid to have it shown. These people have good jobs, they have been pillars of the community quite literally. And they have had enough of the current Children’s Aid system. The protesters are adamant, driven and defensive. Those who take to the streets are empowered, taking charge, and in many instances will probably overcome the odds and restore what there is left of their family lives.


Then there are those with less hope. To them the government is not helping, the police are not helping, the courts, the crown, the press, even the protests can’t help them. They may have lost their children or not, just that they feel so harassed by the process and that no-one is listening. This is where vigilantism is born. It doesn’t need to be about the bricks through the windows here in Chatham. Extremist views do exist in very small and isolated pockets of the CAS protesters community, independent of the windows.

Neil Haskett, who runs an online social group and speaks often on behalf of the movement immediately and unreservedly distanced the group from acts like breaking windows. As expected, the leadership gave good reasons not to go that route. He challenged followers to consider that no gains have ever been made that way and chastises the notion entirely. Clearly very sensitive to the issue, he found time to “lol” a comment that suggested a mistake was made by leaving the building standing. Haskett pulled his lol, when it became clear the member of the group was serious. The internet being what it is, the difference in opinion was clear, and this is where the story wrote itself.

An Unexpected Turn

“If someone is taking away your home and your children then I think that you are quite justified in behaving violently towards them.”, said Paul, a user of the group. “The consequences for many families are very dire and lifelong.” Another woman suggested she would do an interview on supporting vigilantism, but didn’t. Paul however continued along, “Just because something is legal (sanctioned by a corrupt court), this does not make it moral.” An appeal to separate the difference between legal rights and moral rights, with their moral right being the last word that decides whether violence is acceptable. “Politicians are deaf to our complaints, one ombudsman office will make little to no difference. CAS agencies should be tried in the world court at Le Hague as crimes against humanity.” Finally an appeal to the greater community, part of the subtext to any vigilante. Make no mistake, these are a call to arms.

Chris Carter from Canada Court Watch declared he would never break a window. “I would never do anything like break the CA$s windows nor counsel others to take such action. In fact were anyone to come to me with such a proposal (and nobody ever has) I would argue against it. That being said I’m very surprised this type of action hasn’t been happening more often. I argue that the fact that we haven’t responded to their ugly criminality with criminality is one of our strongest positions. They destroy. We protest.” Carter assists families in need with legal and peer support, often soon after their children have been taken away. He acts as one of the leading representatives, particularly in Chatham-Kent. Carter then went on to write, “Were I to come into possession of such info about this umm “crime”: I can’t imagine a situation where I would volunteer information about it. Remember the Underground Railroad was completely and totally illegal but it was also unimpeachably correct, courageous and one of the most moral responses possible to the disgusting fraud of slavery.” Carter had a new angle where he wouldn’t do it, he would tell people not to do it, but if he found out about it he wouldn’t report it. His reasons for looking the other way are justified by what Paul used to defend the violence itself. Morality, his morality, trumps the legal system.

CAS Protesters Rarely Agree With Vigilantism

If this article leaves an impression the whole group thinks that way it would be a serious misconception; by far most of the people who protest the CAS would never support criminal acts. They have good reason not to, they are winning the hearts and minds of politicians and the general public. Pat Niagara, one of the leaders of rallies in Niagara Falls, was explicit in his condemnation, saying, “We here in Niagara would absolutely not condone any of this type of behaviour. Criminal acts would get reported as we are on the side of the truth.” Without saying what condoning exactly was he continued, “By condoning these acts it is sending the wrong message to the public that violence is the answer. As much as we all feel like smashing some windows at times, and we may have all felt like that, it is childish behaviour like this that will set this movement back.”

Haskett was just as sincere in suggesting that police or CAS workers may be behind the broken windows, and more than one protester suggested the same thing. I tried to remind everyone that no-one knows if the windows were simply broken by a drunk passerby who didn’t know or care who owned the window. No matter, the story had a life of its own.

The last thing the CAS protesters need is to portray themselves as an out-of-control mob. Pat Niagara and Neil Haskett had it right. Chris Carter almost had it right. Guys like Paul (last name not used) had it wrong. The leaders of this loosely knit organization need to emphasize, without the mixed messages, to members like Paul and others who think vigilantism is ok, that political movement is at hand, change is on the way, and the hope that exists is real. They know the endless hours they have put into making change, and what is at stake, and they keep their eye on the ball. But have they lost track of some of their members?

The police may never catch whoever broke those windows. I hope they do catch them and the culprit has nothing to do with the protesters. However those who support breaking the law, in revenge for what injustices they experience through the legal system, are among the most dangerous of our citizens and must be stopped.

Back at the CKReview… harassing comments started in response to the report of the broken windows that was linked to the Facebook page, and my comments about writing this article. Karen Robinet and myself were named as spies for the CAS. Next time I see her we will share some Sherlock Holmes lines and laugh. Thing is she will get to be Holmes.

Source: CK Review