When one spends from the public purse, transparency and accountability are paramount responsibilities. The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa receives (according to their audited statement for YE March 31, 2017*) over $70 million from the Ministry of Children and Youth Services. So, the Ottawa CAS should be accountable to the taxpayers of Ontario.
But they are not! Why not?
What most Ontarians do not know is that, while 98% of CAS of Ottawa’s revenue comes from the Ontario purse, the CAS is not a part of the government. They are a Non-Profit Organization. And that NPO society is not subject to Access to Information Laws. A renewed Child, Youth and Family Services Act came into force in 2017. But Part X (an ominous number to say the least) of the Act, which addresses this deficiency, does not come into effect until January 1, 2020. Currently, CAS, although a major recipient of government funding, is not subject to FIPPA (Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy), MFIPPA (Municipal Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy) or PHIP (Personal Health Information Protection) legislation.
So, if an Ontarian has a problem with the way CAS is dealing with them, what is their recourse? The aggrieved party could follow one of two lines of complaint. The first is to the CAS itself, by filing a complaint to the Society’s Internal Complaints Review Panel (ICRP). The second is to complain to the Child and Family Services Review Board,(CFSRB) a division of the Social Justice Tribunals Ontario. Essentially, you take the CAS to court and attend a hearing at your own cost. CAS will defend themselves of course but their costs come from their government funding.
There was a third avenue of appeal, but it was squashed in the Fiscal Update of the Ontario Government on November 16 of this year. The Child Advocate of Ontario was axed in the name of fiscal restraint. (As a side note, November 20 is National Child Day in Ontario.)
So, let’s look a real-life scenario. A father is being harassed by CAS. They are trying to intimidate him, through covert means, to force him to, in their opinion, neglect his child (He has fought CAS in the past to successfully maintain custody of the child). CAS has forced him from his apartment, possibly intercept his mail and have him fired from his job. Then they surveil him looking for some excuse to grab his child.
What is his recourse? Complain to the CAS which is the source of his complaint? Take it to the court which will cost him for legal support?
I believe CAS is out of control and not accountable. And that, to me, spells impending disaster for a real-life father and son.
To make the situation worse, the announcement of the axing of the Child Advocate included the promise to move the Advocacy until the Office of Ontario Ombudsman… but not until March of 2019. Now, there is a plan. I would like to see the napkin upon which that idea was sketched.
If the Ontario government needs to save money, and I believe that they do, why pick on the most vulnerable? The Ontario government has fifteen international missions around the world at the cost of over $58 million per year. If they closed just one of those missions, they could save more than the cost of the Child Advocate
Author: Bruce Ricketts firstname.lastname@example.org