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Bill 110 Passes Second Reading
October 4, 2012 permalink
Bill 110, the Ombudsman Amendment Act (Children’s Aid Societies) 2012, passed second reading today in the legislature. Debate on the bill began late in the session (link to Hansard) with approval without a roll call. The bill was referred to the Justice Policy Committee, which will be conducting hearings at a time yet to be scheduled. A year and a half ago a similar bill 183 failed to achieve second reading. Two news stories on the current bill are enclosed.
Mountain MPP hoping to shine a light on children’s aid
Hamilton Mountain MPP Monique Taylor wants to give Ontario’s watchdog sharper teeth to investigate children’s aid.
Taylor, the NDP’s critic for children and youth services, has introduced a private member’s bill that would give Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin the authority to probe child protection services.
The bill passed its second reading at the Ontario Legislature Thursday. From there, the bill faces the approval of a committee and a third reading in the house before it becomes law.
Taylor, who worked as Councillor Scott Duvall’s assistant before being elected in 2011, said she fielded many calls from residents looking for someone to investigate their concerns about children’s aid.
“Working previously for the city and working for a councillor, people were calling the office and asking where they could turn. The calls just were flooding in,” she said. “I knew that it was the right thing to do.”
The Ombudsman’s office has long been pushing for greater investigative abilities over the so-called MUSH sector, which includes municipalities, universities, school boards, and hospitals, as well as nursing homes, long-term care facilities, police and children’s aid.
“That’s been the view of the Ombudsman’s office since it was established in 1975,” said spokesperson Linda Williamson.
In 2011 and 2012, the ombudsman’s office received 491 complaints it couldn’t investigate.
There have been other private member’s bills attempting to open up the MUSH sector to ombudsman oversight, though none have successfully made it through the house.
However, this bill specifically targets children’s aid instead of the entire swath of organizations in the MUSH sector.
As Taylor’s office points out, Ontario is the only province that doesn’t grant its Ombudsman the authority to oversee its 47 children’s aid societies.
“I’m really pleased this bill has received the support of the legislature,” Taylor said in a statement.
“There have been a few attempts over the years to get similar legislation passed, but this is the first time it has made it past second reading. I’m looking forward to the bill going to committee and then back for final approval by the legislature.”
Source: Hamilton Spectator
Hamilton MPP wants more oversight of children's aid societies
Monique Taylor's bill passes second reading
Monique Taylor is calling on fellow MPPs to give Ontario's Ombudsman the ability to investigate decisions made by the province's children's aid societies.
A private member's bill initiated by Taylor, MPP for Hamilton Mountain and the NDP's critic for Ministry of Child and Youth Services, passed second reading Thursday afternoon. If made law, it would give Ontario's Ombudsman, André Marin, independent oversight over the societies' decisions.
“Children's aid societies are charged with the responsibility to make decisions that can turn the lives of children and their families upside down,” Taylor said in a media release Thursday. “They have the authority to remove children from their family home and put them into the care of others.
“Unfortunately, sometimes they get it wrong, mistakes get made and lives are ruined forever.”
The Ombudsman has been calling for oversight of children's aid societies since the office began 35 years ago, spokesperson Linda Williamson said. This is not the first private member's bill about it.
“Every year in our annual report, we discuss how we get hundreds of complains about children's aid societies and we're not able to deal with them,” she said. “We have nothing to do with the movement that's been happening, but we've seen it.”
Children's aid societies already have “considerable oversight” on several levels, said Dominic Verticchio, executive director of the Hamilton Children's Aid Society (CAS).
They are accountable to the courts when children are apprehended. They are also accountable to the province via the Child and Family Services Review Board — which falls under the oversight of the Ontario Ombudsman, he said. But complaints are often settled before they reach that level.
Of the 50 complaints lodged against the Hamilton CAS during the 2011/2012 fiscal year, all but nine were settled internally, Verticchio said. The remainder went to the Child and Family Services Review Board.
“We really believe we're highly accountable for the services we deliver,” he said.
At the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Hamilton, there were 10 complaints in the last fiscal year and one went to the review board, said executive director Ersilia DiNardo.
Parents with complaints against the society have a number of options, including taking the case to the review board, DiNardo said.
“Whenever anyone has a complaint about our service, we provide them with an information booklet that outlines for them the steps involved for resolving a complaint,“
Children's aid societies are also audited by the province each year. This, combined with the court system, makes for a “well defined system,“ she said.
Taylor told CBC Hamilton she first noticed the issue as assistant to Coun. Scott Duvall, she said. Issues ranged from parents “jumping through hoops” to meet criteria that suddenly changed, to court dates being unexpectedly cancelled.
Now that she's NDP critic, “the calls have been pouring in.” This private member's bill — Taylor's first — was “a no brainer for me.”
“This is not about wearing a helmet while driving your bike,” she said. “These are life-altering decisions.”
Laura Reid is a former facilitator with the Aboriginal Healing and Outreach Program, which until March was offered through the Native Women's Centre. Reid worked with many women dealing with children's aid societies and said she's happy to see Taylor's bill.
Court systems are often too overwhelmed to pay close attention to each case, and with the current system, complaints often go through children's aid societies themselves.
”The Ombudsman would be a great step forward,” she said. ”Before, you could write to the Ombudsman's office but there was nothing they could do.”
Taylor's bill will now be examined at the committee level.