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Batshaw - History of Problems

November 7, 2012 permalink

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Research dating back to 1996 shows that problems at Batshaw Youth and Family Centres are nothing new. Back then, they were locking up teenagers in a small room with no windows.



Panel to probe locked doors at rehabilitation centre

The Quebec Human Rights Commission has begun its investigation of allegations that a locked facility at the Shawbridge campus of Batshaw Youth and Family Service Centres violates the rights "of the children housed there.

Commission spokesman Monique Rochon confirmed that the investigation had begun this week but was unable to say how long the inquiry will last

"We are going to the site. We will examine the installation and try to determine if the allegations are true," she said, adding that if the allegations were true, the commission had "the power to take all measures to make sure the situation is corrected."

The inquiry was called after the commission received reports that the Shawbridge Centre was more a jail for teenagers than it was a rehabilitation centre.

The allegations against the centre were leveled by Robert Hatton, a Montrealer who visited the centre last September during an international forum for child welfare.

Hatton was particularly disturbed by an isolation cell referred to as "the chapel," a 4-by-8-foot room with no windows.

Batshaw officials have said they have been asking the provincial government for years for new facilities,

Rochon said the commission's powers of inquiry includes the right to provide an institution under investigation with recommendations on how to correct a violation of human rights, and provincial law provided it with the power to go before the courts to enforce compliance should those recommendations be ignored.

Source: Concordia University microfilm library

In 2007 Batshaw youth worker Evon Smith got a year in jail for soliciting oral sex from two female wards.



Ex-youth worker gets a year in jail

Former Batshaw youth worker Evon Smith said he's had several years of reflection since being charged with urging two girls under his care to perform oral sex on him, and it's allowed him to be the best man he can be.

Former Batshaw youth worker Evon Smith said he's had several years of reflection since being charged with urging two girls under his care to perform oral sex on him, and it's allowed him to be the best man he can be.

And given the opportunity, he could be a better person for the community and his church, he said yesterday.

But the judge decided the 32-year-old's self-improvement program will kick off in jail, and sentenced Smith to a year in prison.

The girls Smith exploited were 13 and 15 at the time and had been placed in Batshaw's care "for their protection, and they were vulnerable," Quebec Court Judge Gilles Cadieux said. "He abused his authority and trust to manipulate them." Smith, who worked for Batshaw Youth and Family Centres for four years, first communicated with the girls by cellphone and sexually explicit email. He told the court he had no idea of the sexual connotation of his email address, majorlove69@ - a story the judge didn't buy.

In June 2004, Smith accompanied the two girls on a walk, where he touched one girl's breasts and received oral sex from both, letting on that they were playing a game. He warned them not to speak to anyone about their secret.

He was found guilty in December of one count of sexual exploitation, one of sexual interference and one of invitation to sexual touching.

Yesterday, Cadieux noted that throughout his trial, Smith always denied his actions, and showed no remorse, regret or empathy.

He said the sentence should serve as deterrence to others in a position of authority, but at the same time, takes into consideration that Smith has no prior convictions, has community support from his wife and church and has respected his bail conditions.

After serving his sentence, Smith will be on probation for three years, during which time he can't contact his victims or their families, or be in the presence of anyone under 18 not accompanied by their guardian.

For eight years after, he is not to go to parks, daycares or public pools, nor can he accept any volunteer or paid work that would put him in a position of authority over anyone under 18. He also must give a DNA sample, and his name will be placed on the national sex offender registry.

Source:, Montreal Gazette

In April 2008 Batshaw foster parent Clifford Zimmer was charged with sexual abuse of three children in his care.



Foster parent charged

It's the kind of news that makes the head of a child protection agency cringe.

It's the kind of news that makes the head of a child protection agency cringe.

A foster parent hired by the agency is accused of abusing the very children he was entrusted to protect.

Clifford Zimmer, a foster parent with Batshaw Youth and Family Services since 1997, faces charges in St. Jérôme of sexually abusing three of five children in his care, as well as a relative. He was arrested in August 2006, after the foster children reported the alleged abuse to Batshaw.

Zimmer and his wife, who has not been charged, ran their foster home in Brownsburg-Chatham, near Lachute.

Batshaw executive director Michael Udy said the five foster children in the home were placed elsewhere as soon as the agency received complaints.

Zimmer, 47, faces 16 charges, two of which are sexual assault and sexual touching of a boy in his care. The boy is now 14 and has returned to live with his biological parents. The crimes against the boy are alleged to have occurred between 1999 and 2006.

Zimmer also faces four charges each of sexual assault and sexual touching of two girls in his care, who are now 14 and 15. These are alleged to have occurred between 2001 and 2005.

The remaining six charges include two charges each of indecent assault, having sexual intercourse with a female under 14 and sexual assault involved a relative of Zimmer. Those crimes are alleged to have occurred between 1976 and 1986 on a victim who is now 35.

Zimmer's next court date is May 22 for the continuation of his preliminary hearing in St. Jérôme.

Udy said such allegations against foster parents at Batshaw are rare.

"When a foster parent does that, it's a complete betrayal of trust," he said. "And it puts our efforts to provide protection completely in question, plus it's very harmful to the victims."

Between 2003 and 2008, three adults and one biological child of foster parents were charged with sexual abuse in four separate situations, including the Zimmer case. Udy said he doesn't know how many were convicted.

During the same five-year period, 1,600 children were in foster care either full-time or part-time, Udy said. And 650 families were caring for those children.

Abuse in residential care, or group homes, was also rare in the five-year period, Udy said.

Evon Smith, who worked for Batshaw in a group home for four years, was convicted last year of one count of sexual exploitation, one of sexual interference and one of invitation to sexual touching for abuses of teenage girls that took place in 2004.

He was jailed for one year.

While Batshaw screens employees and potential foster parents as best they can, Udy said, they also assign each foster child to a case worker who must visit the home at least once a month.

A support worker, who provides help to the foster parent, must visit at least once every two months.

Perfect vigilance is just not possible, Udy said.

"Nonetheless, if we're going to carry out our obligations, we have to constantly be trying to figure out how to detect things. It's a never-ending challenge."

Source:, Montreal Gazette

Also in April 2008 a report shows that Batshaw is a hybrid prison/foster home.



Batshaw youth centre will move into town

After 100 years in the Laurentians, Batshaw Youth and Family Centres confirmed yesterday it plans to close down its Prévost Campus and move the correctional institute into town.

After 100 years in the Laurentians, Batshaw Youth and Family Centres confirmed yesterday it plans to close down its Prévost Campus and move the correctional institute into town.

Dorval and Beaconsfield will be the two new in-town locations for residential programs serving anglophone youth under Batshaw’s care, said Michael Udy, the agency’s executive director.

Udy said the $30-million project calls for the construction of a brand new residential facility in Beaconsfield and the expansion of an existing but small Batshaw facility in Dorval.

The Prévost facility, which has been operating as a home for boys since 1901, will be taken over by the Centre Jeunesse des Laurentides.

With three-quarters of Batshaw’s anglophone clients coming from the western half of the island of Montreal, Udy said, the idea is to centralize the agency’s residential services in the two West Island locations.

Right now, he said, the majority of of the agency’s anglophone youth are in the residential program in Prévost, formerly known as the Shawbridge Reform School.

The others, he said, are scattered in Batshaw facilities or Centre Jeunesse buildings throughout the Montreal region.

“They are far from the communities and families from which they come,” he said, adding: “It forces us to supply a terrific amount of transportation.”

In the old days, the distance worked because the idea was to take so-called bad boys up north in order to separate them from negative forces in the city.

Today, however, Udy said, the youth in Batshaw’s care are less likely to be guilty of any crime and more likely to be in youth protection as a result of behavioural problems stemming from abuse and neglect.

Once the new facilities are built, he said, it will be much easier for Batshaw youth to stay in contact with supportive family members, doctors, mental health professionals and others in their home communities.

In Dorval, work is set to take place over the next 12 to 24 months.

The expansion will add two new 12-person residential units to the existing three units in the Batshaw building on the corner of Dawson and Dorval Aves.

In Beaconsfield, the new facility will be located on Elm Ave. and will replace an old Batshaw building now on loan to Portage, the drug addiction program.

The new building will incorporate recreational facilities, classrooms and nine residential units for 108 youths. However, construction in Beaconsfield won’t start for at least four years, said Udy.

Since 2001, Udy said, Batshaw has been searching for one site on which to build one new facility – but to no avail.

Citizen opposition and municipal building regulatations scuttled plans to build a new Batshaw facility for anglophone youth on the grounds of the Douglas Hospital in Verdun.

To head off opposition, Udy said, Batshaw officials have been in contact with municipal officials in Beaconsfield and Dorval.

Yesterday, Beaconsfield Mayor Bob Benedetti was unavailable to comment on those meetings.

Greg Stienstra, a member of the Beaconsfield Citizens Association, said his group was unaware of Batshaw’s plan and eager to learn more about it.

Source: (Montreal Gazette)

An undated item about a subsidiary facility, Shawbridge Youth Centres.




Shawbridge lockup for juveniles under fire

Facilities violate UN accord: critic

Quebec Health and Social Services Minister Jean Rochon yesterday ordered the province's main anglophone youth centre to reply to charges that its locked facility at Shawbridge campus is inhumane and violates the rights of the children housed there.

Michael Udy, executive-director of Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, said Rochon's demand came in the wake of extensive media coverage of a complaint to the Quebec Human Rights Commission that the Shawbridge centre was less a rehabilitation centre for children than a maximum-security prison more suited to adults.

The man who laid the complaint, Notre Dame de Grace resident Robert W Hatton, 58, is a semi-retired insurance consultant. He visited the Shawbridge facility last month with a group of other people attending the International Forum for Child Welfare.

Hatton, who said he had no expertise in the field of child welfare, was shocked by conditions at Shawbridge, he said yesterday, in particular by the presence of an "isolation cell."

"It is a dark, windowless, cold room that measures four feet by eight feet," Hatton said. "A room like that clearly contravenes the United Nations rules for the protection of juveniles deprived of their liberty"

Under the UN provisions, Hatton said, a juvenile cannot be placed in a dark cell or be confined to a closed or solitary cell.

A bit naive

By that standard, Hatton said, all the rooms in Shawbridge's closed-custody unit, which is called the Chapel, would be in violation of the UN convention.

Even people who are in favor of the public attention Hatton has brought to conditions in youth centres think he is a bit naive, though.

"Mr. Hatton is right when he talks about what a dismal, dark building the Chapel is," said Shirley Miller, head of the user committee at Batshaw. "Any 14-year-old would be intimidated by it no matter how hard they try to pretend otherwise."

Unlike Hatton, however, Miller is not scandalized by the presence of barbed wire around the walls.

"Having had a son who ran away at every opportunity, I can tell you that some parents are more concerned about where their kids are than they are about whether there's barbed wire on top of the walls." Miller's son, now 21, was in and out of Shawbridge between the age of 13 and 18, she said.

Source: photocopy of Montreal Gazette article