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Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Give Ontario Ombudsman powers to investigate Children's Aid Society



TORONTO - It's sickening. It's depraved.
And it's outrageous.
In a supposed civilized society such as ours, how could a 
pretty baby girl be handed over to a monster?
How could the Children's Aid Society commit a child to the 
care of a man who's not biologically related to her, who had 
a criminal record and who subjected her to years of sexual 
and physical abuse?
Yet, as Toronto Sun reporter Sam Pazzano reported last 
week, that's what happened.
Mac Bool Hassan was found guilty recently of 13 criminal 
offences for sexually and physically abusing the girl.
Pazzano quoted the now 20-year-old woman speaking in 
anger about the CAS: "Children's Aid ruined my life because 
I could have been adopted as a baby," she told him.
"Instead they thought it was in my best interest ... to be 
placed into this man's care. He was a single man with a 
criminal record who had no connection to me. Why would he 
want to parent me?"
What's it going to take to get government to provide 
accountability to CAS? These precious children are the most 
vulnerable in our midst.
Yet time and again, we fail them.
Add this young woman to the shameful litany: Jordan 
Heikamp, Randal Dooley, Jeffrey Baldwin.
Jordan, just five weeks old, was left to starve to death in a 
women's shelter while under the watch of the Catholic 
Children's Aid Society in 1997. He weighed 4 pounds, two 
ounces when he died -- four ounces less than his birth 
weight.
Randal Dooley, 7, was beaten to death in 1998. Teachers at 
his school called the CAS who, incredibly, told them it was a 
police matter and were not heard from until two weeks after 
his death.
Jeffrey Baldwin, 5, was murdered in 2002 by his 
grandparents -- who'd been awarded custody of the child by 
the CCAS -- even though both had previous records for child 
abuse.
Ombudsman Andre Marin has for years asked the 
government for the power to investigate the CAS.
"There is a huge gap of accountability," he told me in phone 
interview Tuesday.
"We're in this new phase of governing where we hear 
promises of fairness," Marin said.
This province is the only one in the country where the 
provincial ombudsman has no jurisdiction over the child 
protection system.
"It's completely unacceptable," Marin said.
Since 2006, five bills have been presented to the legislature 
that would give the ombudsman oversight.
The last one, sponsored by Hamilton Mountain New 
Democrat Monique Taylor, passed second reading. It died 
on the order paper when Parliament was prorogued.
"There's absolutely no reason for this young woman to have 
lived the life she lived," Taylor said in an interview.
"How do we get to these decisions of where this child was 
placed? How did it come to that? (Ombudsman) oversight is 
absolutely necessary," she told me.
Burlington Tory Jane McKenna agrees and supports 
ombudsman oversight personally, although her party has 
not yet formulated its official position on the issue.
Children's Minister Teresa Piruzza said it's not one of her 
government's priorities.
"There are appeal processes in place and ultimately the 
ombudsman has the ability to look at appeals that come 
forward, but at this point, given the structure of the CAS and 
the board of directors, I would have to say, it's not something 
we are looking at at this point," she told me.
That's too bad. Because children are being robbed of their 
innocence.
And they're dying.
If that's not a government priority, we need a new 
government.
If all we have to offer abused kids is handwringing and 
empty gestures, we're complicit in that abuse.
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