By CHRISTIE BLATCHFORD
Wednesday, December 7, 2005 Page A20
Ontario Ombudsman André Marin wants the power to investigate complaints against the province's 53 children's aid societies.
Appearing last night before the government's social policy committee, which is examining a bill that would amend the laws governing the societies, Mr. Marin cited the notorious Jeffrey Baldwin case as an example of his office's powerlessness.
"We received a complaint in the last month about this case," he told the committee, "and were asked to investigate.
"We had to turn it down. We have no jurisdiction over the CAS."
The complaint seeking a probe into Jeffrey's death of starvation-induced pneumonia and septic shock, Mr. Marin said, is one of 94 his office received in the first six months of this year.
"Last year, we received 305. . . . Because of limits in our mandate, we cannot address them."
His counterparts in other provinces, he said, have the ability to investigate such complaints.
The little boy died while in the custody of his maternal grandparents, approved by the Catholic Children's Aid Society of Toronto as acceptable caregivers for him and his three siblings.
Only after Jeffrey died, weighing at almost the age of six less than he did when he was a year old, did the CCAS find in its files evidence that the grandparents, Elva Bottineau and Norman Kidman, were each convicted child abusers.
Ms. Bottineau, 54, was convicted as a teenage mother of assault causing bodily harm in the death of her infant daughter.
Mr. Kidman, 53, was convicted eight years later of two counts of assault causing bodily harm upon two of Ms. Bottineau's children by a previous relationship.
The two are on trial for first-degree murder in the death of Jeffrey on Nov. 30, 2002.
Mr. Justice David Watt of the Ontario Superior Court has heard evidence that Jeffrey and a sister were confined for such long periods of time to a dank and fetid room that they lived amid their own waste.
The information about the grandparents' criminal past was contained in the CCAS records, the agency has acknowledged, but went undiscovered, prompting Mr. Marin to characterize the agency as having, in effect, "facilitated" the harsh and degrading conditions in which Jeffrey was kept.
"I think the committee was stunned to realize that the CASs, despite receiving a billion dollars in taxpayers' money, run themselves without any independent oversight," Mr. Marin told The Globe and Mail last night in a telephone interview.
He said he received a sympathetic audience, but no firm commitment that the legislation would be amended.
He says it would require only the addition of a "10-word line" to the law.