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OACAS Comments on Bill 42

March 31, 2014 permalink

Pending bill 42 before the Ontario legislature would extend the powers of the provincial ombudsman to children's aid societies. The Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies has published its OACAS Submission to Standing Committee on Government Agencies, Bill 42, Ombudsman Amendment Act (Children’s Aid Societies), 2013 (pdf, local copy). It starts with a recitation of the existing, and ineffective, network of oversight over children's aid societies and ends with the suggestion that Ontario needs not an ombudsman, but another one of those government policy reviews, presumably conducted entirely by people benefiting from the current system. But in between, it makes some arguments that deserve discussion.

Other provinces have ombudsman oversight of child protection. The OACAS says:

While OACAS acknowledges the limited investigative authority among existing complaints entities, Ontario cannot be compared with other provinces and territories with respect to Ombudsman oversight. Child protection services in those jurisdictions are delivered directly by government, and all government services fall within scope of Ombudsman oversight. This argument ignores the unique child protection service delivery model in Ontario.

Contrary to what the OACAS says, this unusual organization is a reason for more oversight, not less. Look in history books for the horrible abuses that ensue when police power is execised for private gain. Example: tax farming.

Further, OACAS suggests that Bill 42, as drafted, does not promote the paramount purpose of the Child and Family Services Act. The most common complaints made about CASs to the Ontario Ombudsman (despite his Office having no mandate to address these complaints) relate to adult concerns. They include failure to investigate abuse allegations, inadequate/biased investigations, problematic apprehensions of children and lack of information for families.

The tunnel vision focused only on children causes children's aid to destroy useful institutions, such as marriage. These matters are an urgent reason for bringing the ombudsman into the picture.

A new layer of oversight may also impose an obligation on child protection workers to respond to more investigations, which would mean less time with the children and families whose safety and wellbeing depend on their services.

Years of reporting here have shown that Ontario's children's aid societies are the biggest single danger to the province's children. Here are a few past summaries [1] [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] [8]. Some oversight diverting them from their own abuses is needed.