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Monday, March 25, 2013

Who Will Really Speak For Children In This Province? Ombudsman Andre Marin Will & Do A Better Job!


CHRISTINA BLIZZARD - Ontario ombudsman should have oversight of Children's Aid Society


Ontario ombudsman should have oversight of Children's Aid Society



TORONTO -- I was listening Wednesday for a politician who'd have the courage to speak out in Question Period on behalf of abused and murdered children.
Someone who'd demand that no little girl ever be placed in the hands of a monster again. That no child would spend her precious childhood being raped and savaged by someone who'd been entrusted with her care.
QMI Agency reporter Sam Pazzano recently reported the case of a young woman whom the Children's Aid Society handed to a pervert when she was just two years old. That creep physically and sexually abused her from the time she was seven through her teen years.
I was waiting for a politician to demand that Children's Aid Societies in this province be made accountable.
The silence was deafening.
Who speaks for children in this province?
Not Children's Minister Teresa Piruzza, who told me this week her government was not looking at giving oversight of the Children's Aid Society to the provincial ombudsman.
After that interview, her aide contacted me to assure me the Liberal government was "committed to ensuring the safety and well-being of all children and youth receiving support and protection from Ontario's children's aid societies."
Well, blah, blah, blah.
"We have taken strong action to ensure the accountability of CASs, requiring them to have clear, transparent and consistent complaint review procedures," the spokesman said.
Complaints? How can a two-year-old complain?
"Additionally, we have increased the mandate and powers of the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB) to independently review complaints related to CASs, as well as decisions of CASs and adoption licensees," said the e-mail.
"The ombudsman does have the authority to investigate complaints about the Child and Family Services Review Board and may report and make recommendations arising from such a review."
Well, blah and more blah.
Here's why we need ombudsman oversight.
In an interview this week, ombudsman Andre Marin, the province's crusading watchdog, told me he gets 500 complaints a year from people asking him to take up their issues with the CAS.
"This is from a constituency that knows we have no jurisdiction, but they need someone to talk to, a shoulder to cry on," he told me.
Five times, opposition MPPs have brought bills to the House that would open up CAS to his scrutiny.
The last one died on the order paper when former premier Dalton McGuinty quit and shut down the legislature. This despite the fact that McGuinty had assured Marin privately that they wanted to broaden his mandate to include the CAS.
The result is that we ricochet from one horror story to another. From Jordan Heikamp, the five-week-old baby who starved to death in 1997 in a women's shelter while under the care of the CCAS, to Randal Dooley, who was murdered at age seven, despite his teachers calling the CAS -- which did nothing.
An inquest ruled in 2001 that Jordan's death was a homicide. Both his mother, Renee Heikamp, and Catholic Children's Aid Society worker Angie Martin were charged with criminal negligence, yet the case did not proceed to trial after the judge ruled the whole child welfare system was to blame, not the mother or the case worker.
So a baby starved to death -- and no one was punished.
Meanwhile, I heard from countless loving families who were refused foster children or were not allowed to adopt for often trivial reasons -- one suspects it might be because if a child is adopted, the CAS loses funding.
Whenever these cases come up, the CAS cites privacy laws for not speaking about it.
They use the privacy laws as a shield to hide their own incompetence.
If we gave Marin oversight of these agencies, he could probe where journalists and other members of the public cannot. He could get to the truth and report who failed these poor, vulnerable children.
And stop this endless litany of shame.
Marin has been successful in rooting out lottery scams, G20 excesses, government ineptness and bureaucratic heartlessness.
It's time to have him speak for the children who are alone and unprotected in a cruel world.
We, collectively, are all these vulnerable children have. We, collectively, must do better.
If we don't stand up and demand society take better care of them, then we should all hang our heads in shame.

CHRISTINA BLIZZARD | QMI AGENCY
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