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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Uh Oh...

Hi Amanda,

As I believe Minister Chambers has mentioned to you, last Fall we issueda directive to all Children's Aid Societies in Ontario to ensure that afull and comprehensive background check is completed in all kinshipcases. Minister Chambers followed this up by issuing a new regulation toprovide for the strongest enforcement of this requirement. The Ministerhas asked me to provide you with a copy of the regulation, which youwill find attached. You may also be aware of the fact that we have introduced much strongeraccountability measures for CASs, through a strengthening of Bill 210.Bill 210 should be entering final reading this week and may even pass bythe end of the week. I would be more than pleased to offer you anoverview of what the new accountability measures entail. Best regards,
Chris

Chris Carson
Senior Advisor, Issues Management and Legislative Affairs
Office of the Hon. Mary Anne Chambers
Minister of Children and Youth Services
Ph: (416) 212-7118,
Fax: (416) 212-7431
http://www.children.gov.on.ca


My response:

Hi Chris,

Thank you for this information.

Why does the minister not agree with allowing the Ontario ombudsman the authority to investigate?

I would very much like to know, in laymen's terms as I am not educated in law, what exactly the new accountability measures are.

So many people are opposed to the Bill passing, why is it going through so quickly and ever so quietly??

Regards,Amanda

38 comments:

Anonymous said...

Amanda. I think the Ministry is trying to snow you and everyone. Section 68 of Bill 210 removes accountability from the CAS agencies of Ontario. This spin doctor that wrote to you is not conveying the truth of this matter. The bill is going through as a means of protecting the CAS and not children. It is unbelievable as to the arrogance of these people. I would love to hear their valid reasons. And yes, if they are doing such a good job why are they so afraid of the Ombudsman. Your response is excellent!! The NDP appears to be the only party that cares with Andrea Horwath, and thankfully the Ombudsman who is outside of the government. Bill 210 is a total lie, it makes all the CAS agencies answerable to no one except their own internal procedures which obviously are a joke, considering Jeffrey was killed, and the many other victims. Yet these workers remain employed at the agencies responsible and the government wants us to believe their propoganda. It is a disgusting display that they should be ashamed of. I applaud your efforts in the name of Jeffrey to ask them for responsibility finally!!!!!!!

Anonymous said...

When Janet Ecker was minister, she arranged all three readings of the Child and Family Services Act bill to fall on the same day - with absolutely no public consulation.

Brenda Elliot was minister in name only. Marie Bountrogianni tried to conceal the five year review from the public before being forced into a sham process for the sake of appearances.

Mary Anne Chambers dismisses calls for accountability by the Ombudsman and Privacy Commissioner. Mary McConnvile and Jeanette Lewis are caught trying to mislead the publc about CCAS' role in the Jeffrey Baldwin's death (evading accountability) while attempting to portray CAS highly accountable. Not surprisingly, Ms. Lewis' demented view of accountability does not include firing several individuals whose gross negligence resulted in a child's death. Instead, she sites a series of controls (financial and otherwise) that have nothing to do with children's best interests to convince us that CAS is accountable.

So what gives? For starters, the people who inhabit the child-welfare universe are nuts. The ministry is every bit as incompetent as CAS. The child welfare industry effectively runs the Ministry - only CAS' voice is given weight. Within the Ministry, Bruce Rivers (ED of Toronto CAS) has played a pivotal role in entrenching the barbaric situation that exists.

You can be certain that whatever the ministry says its doing, its actions prove just the opposite. Bill 210 removes even the appearance of CAS accountability. Instead of criminal responsibility for CAS employees that engage in gross negligence, maliciousness, perjury, etc - even the sham public complaints process (which is totally corrupt) will be removed.

Moreover, the government's interest in rushing children into adoption ignores the fact most kids should not be in CAS custody to start with. Nor does the bill respect children's desire to stay with their own families - that doesn't even enter the picture.

The deeper question is how our elected representatives could act so immorally while claiming to be child welfare guardians. The short answer is that government ministries are just as inward looking and myopic as the systems they fund. If the government were ever to wake up, admit the obvious and do the right thing they would potentially face thousands upon thousands of lawsuits.

Credible individuals who see the obvious and do not fear speaking out (Andre Marin for example)are perceived as trouble makers and are definitely not wanted.

The bottom line: Nothing in Bill 210 will improve anything. The social carnage inflicted by CAS will continue to increase and incidents like Jeffery will continue to occur.

Anonymous said...

The poster above has a very valid point. Many kids in care should not be in CAS jurisdiction. The overall plan seems to be to accelerate adoption. I hope it will not be another witch hunt, as massive and ugly as it was in the 60's where innocent parents had their children stolen - only to be given to many times unfit strangers. The government cannot get away with this bill. I hope everyone writes if they have not already.

Anonymous said...

WARDS OF THE CROWN
Tuesday March 7, 2006 at 10pm ET/PT
repeating Saturday March 11 at 10pm ET/PT

At age 13, Andrée Cazabon was briefly placed in a group home. Marked by this experience, the filmmaker decided to track four young people for 10 months as they prepared to leave foster care. The result is Wards of the Crown, a stirring documentary about a little-known reality.

Leaha, Andrew, Emily and Chantal are among the 66,000 youngsters in foster care in Canada. These four young people, all between 16 and 20 years old, give us a candid look at their lives. Beyond their personal stories, all four speak disdainfully about an inept, overburdened foster-care system. "Nobody has time for a depressed, suicidal thirteen-year-old," adds Emily. In addition to their sad revelations, Wards of the Crown spotlights a system that isn't working, as Claudette Mayheux, a director at the Children's Aid Society, readily admits. "Foster care must become a temporary, short-term solution," she advises.

Though the comments are frank and heartbreaking, the documentary never adopts a sensationalist tone. The shocking disclosures have the ring of truth. With great empathy and a real gift for listening, the filmmaker skilfully blends the four stories.

"When kids become wards of the Crown, does their mother become Queen Elizabeth?" the filmmaker quips. Black humour is one weapon these young people have used to survive (and youngsters who are abandoned, rejected and unloved need their weapons). Beneath their protective shells is a lucidity these walking wounded were forced to learn at an early age, too early in fact. They are courageous souls, and with Wards of the Crown, Andrée Cazabon pays tribute to their incredible strength, generosity and resilience.

Wards of the Crown was directed by Andrée Cazabon and produced by Robert Charbonneau & Marie-Pierre Gariepy of Les Productions Robert Charbonneau (Ottawa) in association with CBC Newsworld and in co-production with the National Film Board of Canada (Claudette Jaiko, producer).

Find out more about the film at the NFB website . where will they place the children, the babys will be placed for money. we will see a huge surge in very young children being removed. Mark my words, and we will be watching,

Anonymous said...

READ BETWEEN THE LINES ITS GOING TO BE MUCH WORSE. NO OVERSIGHT, AND COURTS, AND FAST TRACK BABYS INTO NEW FAMILYS, WHAT ABOUT THE FALSE ALLIGATIONS TH ERR ON CAUTION. WE HVE JUST HAD A Dr SMITH PUT WOMEN IN JAIL, BECAUSE HE WAS A SO CALLED EXPERT. DOES THIS GOVERNEMNT THINK WE DONT SEE THE WHOLE PICTURE.
ORDERS OF THE DAY

CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2006

LOI DE 2006 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE LES SERVICES
À L'ENFANCE ET À LA FAMILLE

Mrs. Chambers moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act and make
complementary amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 210, Loi modifiant la
Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille et apportant des
modifications complémentaires à d'autres lois.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I recognize the minister for her
leadoff remarks.

Hon. Mary Anne V. Chambers (Minister of Children and Youth Services):
I'm pleased to rise today to talk about Bill 210, the government's child
protection legislation, which is before this House for third reading. The
fundamental goal of this legislation is to build a child protection system
that is better for children, a system that puts the interests of the
children first in every instance, a system that is accountable to the
community it serves. The very thoughtful and well-considered amendments that
have been made as the bill has moved through first and second readings and
through committee hearings will provide stronger protection for children and
greater accountability to the children, their families and the broader
community.

I want to take a moment to thank my colleagues in this House and those
individuals who came to us through public hearings and committee meetings to
make improvements to this bill. Thirty-five amendments have been made to
Bill 210 since second reading, five of which came from the NDP. These
improvements have made this bill even stronger and will help to make
Ontario's child protection system much more accountable. If passed, these
changes will provide more hope, support and stability to vulnerable children
in Ontario. It will do this by making children's aid societies more
accountable to the children and families they serve and more accountable to
their communities through a stronger complaints and appeals process. It will
do this by helping more children who are crown wards find a loving, adoptive
family by making adoption more flexible for children and less complicated
for prospective parents. It will do this by providing more options so more
children who need protection, even those who are not adopted, can grow up in
a safe, caring, permanent home. And it will do this by helping to resolve
cases outside the courtroom more quickly, through collaborative solutions
such as mediation.

The children and youth who come into the care of children's aid
societies come from incredibly challenging circumstances. We need to know
that children in need of protection are indeed better off because a
children's aid society was there to help. It is our collective
responsibility, and it is a responsibility that this government believes is
of the utmost importance. That's why we're strengthening the system so that
our children's aid societies are more accountable to the children and
families they serve.

Currently, there is no province-wide standard as to how complaints
against children's aid societies are handled. We are proposing a consistent
process for the review of children's aid society decisions that would
include strict timelines. Timelines are crucial, because when we're looking
at who will care for a child or where that child will live, we must act with
careful consideration as well as speed and efficiency.

1550

Since this bill has been before the House, we have heard a number of
proposals for a new approach to handling complaints about children's aid
societies. We have taken all those proposals into consideration, and from
those proposals we're putting forward what we believe is a complaints system
that will be effective, unbiased, expeditious and binding. The complaints
processes that exist now do not sufficiently meet those criteria. We need a
process that responds to the urgent and sensitive nature of child
protection. We need a process that is timely and results in binding
decisions.

We are proposing the involvement of a neutral third party to help
resolve complaints, the Child and Family Services Review Board. If passed,
this option will give families, be they birth parents, adoptive parents or
other caregivers in the community, an unbiased, impartial place to turn to
if they feel their complaints are not being dealt with fairly. The Child and
Family Services Review Board is that place.

The Ombudsman will play a key role in this new process, because in
Ontario the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over the Child and Family Services
Review Board. This means that the oversight of the office of the Ombudsman
is one of the critical checks and balances that will, if this legislation is
passed, be in place.

Let me say also that we want children and families to benefit fully
from these more stringent accountability measures. Our proposal also
includes a plan to let families know how they can access the complaints
process if their concerns are not being met. This new, stronger complaints
process would be in addition to regulations we have in place to keep
children's aid societies accountable to the children and families they serve
and to the broader public.

The family courts, the auditor, the police and the coroner also have
important roles to play. In fact, my ministry has been working with the
coroner to further strengthen the child death review process and to hold
children's aid societies accountable for implementing recommendations that
result from these reviews.

I believe that with scrutiny comes strength, and I believe we're
building that strength into this bill. From families to children's aid
societies to the courts and community watchdogs, I know we share the same
goal: a child protection system that works exceedingly well for children.

It is a goal that we share with Ontario's aboriginal community. Since
this legislation was introduced, I have dedicated a lot of time to meeting
with and listening to representatives of Ontario's aboriginal community. My
ministry staff have also participated in those and several other meetings.
They also joined aboriginal community leaders as part of a four-day meeting
in Sault Ste. Marie. Together they produced tangible solutions to address
the aboriginal community's concerns with the original legislation.

I mention the aboriginal community specifically because aboriginal
children and youth are disproportionately represented in our child
protection system. I'm determined to do whatever I can to address the needs
of this community. I have had several meetings with aboriginal chiefs,
leaders and service providers. We have discussed on-reserve and off-reserve
challenges and solutions. I asked them to work with my ministry to make Bill
210 better for aboriginal children and youth. Twenty amendments have been
made to this bill as a result of these discussions.

Under the current system, aboriginal children who come into the care
of a children's aid society are often placed in non-aboriginal foster care.
This bill places a strong emphasis on placing children with extended family
and community. For aboriginal children, this may occur through customary
care, so that aboriginal children and youth can stay in their communities
and maintain important cultural and family ties.

This is a stronger bill because of the commitment and the diligent
work that our aboriginal partners have put into it. But while much progress
has been made, our discussions with the aboriginal community will not end
with the passage of Bill 210. We will continue to work together to address
the needs of their community.

The substantial amendments that have been made to this legislation
strengthen the bill. That has always represented an important step forward
for our child protection system. Bill 210 is about helping vulnerable
children grow up in homes that are safe and secure, homes that help these
children succeed in school, homes that give them the tools they need to
succeed in life.

There is no question that this is a challenging task. Currently,
Ontario's children's aid societies receive almost 160,000 calls each year
reporting child abuse and neglect. In many of these situations, child
protection staff can support parents so they're better able to care for
their children. However, there are still about 9,000 children in the
permanent care of Ontario's children's aid societies. These children are
known as crown wards. They live in foster homes or in group homes. On
average, they change homes every 22 months, and they change schools. They
need to make new friends in their new neighbourhoods, and a new foster
family or group home may mean new rules and new expectations. That kind of
instability can affect every aspect of a child's life.

Of the 9,000 children who are crown wards, we're seeing just over 900
adoptions a year, or about 10%. I think we can do better than that. I know
we must do better than that. We need to help more children find a permanent,
caring home by making adoption more flexible for individual children and
parents.

Our government's reforms would allow a child to maintain ties to his
or her birth family after being adopted. Right now, 75% of children in
permanent care cannot be adopted because their birth family has a
court-ordered right to contact them. When judges make an order that a child
become a ward of the crown, they may be hesitant to seal off all contact
with the family except in those cases where there is an issue of safety. So
the birth family might have the opportunity to visit the child, say, twice a
year. That often makes sense so that the child doesn't completely lose touch
with their birth family, but it should not automatically make the child
ineligible to become a member of a permanent family. These proposed changes
would mean that, where appropriate, a child could keep those important ties
to their family, community and culture and still be adopted or placed in a
permanent home.

We know that adoption will help a number of children find a secure,
stable family, but we also know it is not the answer for every child. The
proposed changes would give children's aid societies more flexibility to
meet the unique needs of each child. For some children, it would mean being
placed with extended family, people they already know and trust. Under the
current system, most children who are removed from their homes are placed in
foster care or in a group home. This would result in less disruption for a
child who has already been through too much.

The safety and well-being of all children who come in contact with the
child protection system continues to be our top priority. Let me be clear:
Before placing a child in any home, the process must always start with a
rigorous safety and risk assessment. The completion of an appropriate
assessment, including background checks on all adults who live in the home,
is a critical safeguard for all placements. Some believe that the ability of
a children's aid society to place a child with an extended family member
might make the society's job easier. This is not necessarily the case. In
fact, the need for stringent safeguards is just as important in such
circumstances. That is why children's aid societies must conduct a mandatory
background check and home assessment before placing a child, including
placement with extended family members.

We know that not all children have a family member who is an
appropriate caregiver. In such cases, there may be other adults willing and
able to provide a loving, stable home. It could be the child's long-time
foster parent or another important person in that child's life. If passed,
this bill will provide greater opportunity for these children to grow up in
a permanent, loving home.

The proposed changes I have mentioned are part of our government's
plan to help more children and youth in the care of children's aid societies
thrive in a safe, stable and supportive home.

We're also removing some of the barriers that often discourage people
from adopting children in Ontario. Parents who have tried to adopt a child
from a children's aid society will tell you that it's a cumbersome,
inconsistent process. We're improving the application process so there is a
standard, consistent application for both public and private adoptions. This
will make the process simpler for those parents who are looking to adopt a
child in Ontario, either through a children's aid society or through a
private adoption agency.

1600

We're working with the Adoption Council of Ontario and with our
children's aid societies to provide a province-wide, web-based system that
will bring together children who are available for adoption with families
who want to adopt.

To provide appropriate protection and supports for our children, there
will be post-adoption support so that families who adopt a child from a
children's aid society aren't left on their own if they are in need of
support.

We know that we can improve children's prospects for a productive,
healthy and overall successful adulthood by helping to provide them with a
loving, stable home in their childhood.

In order for these changes to be effective, we need to also make some
changes to the way our 53 children's aid societies work. We have introduced
a new funding model that places a greater emphasis on the specific results
we want to see for children, like more adoptions and the use of other forms
of dispute resolution. We want children's aid societies to better match
their level of response to the individual needs of the child. We want
children's aid societies to support and strengthen families as they face
challenges so that they can take better care of their kids themselves.

If passed, Bill 210 should result in the use of more collaborative
solutions to resolve child protection matters rather than resorting to
lengthy court proceedings. A number of provinces and states already look
beyond the courtroom to settle some child protection disputes. They use
mediation, family conferences and talking circles. Evaluations consistently
show positive results, including more timely resolutions, higher rates of
settlements, more satisfied families and better communication between the
parties involved. This is consistent with our goal of a system that works
better for children.

It is with that in mind that we are working with our children's aid
societies to develop a comprehensive information system. Many children's aid
societies regularly share information, but currently there is not a
consistent, uniform practice for sharing what can be critical information.
We are working closely with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies and the Ministry of Finance to make that province-wide system a
reality.

To conclude, as I said earlier, the legislative changes we are
proposing are part of a broad reform of Ontario's child protection system.
The bill before the House today, together with the regulations that will
follow and the policy changes that have already been implemented, is
designed to make the child protection system work better for Ontario's
vulnerable children and youth.

If passed, Ontarians will see children's aid societies that are more
accountable to the children and families they serve, with a stronger, more
accessible and more responsive complaints process; more children who are
crown wards being adopted into loving families, with rules that make
adoption more flexible for children and less complicated for prospective
parents; more children growing up in safe, caring, permanent homes and
familiar supportive communities rather than moving from one place to
another, again and again; and more child protection cases being resolved
outside the courtroom through collaborative solutions such as mediation.

I ask my colleagues in this House to join me in supporting this bill
so that we can improve the lives of Ontario's most vulnerable children and
youth.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): I'm pleased to respond to the
comments from the Minister of Children and Youth Services. I'd like to ask
the minister how her dumpling making went this morning, because I happened
to be watching Breakfast Television first thing morning-although it was
pancake day, so I'm not quite sure why you were making dumplings.

Hon. Mrs. Chambers: It's a multicultural pancake.

Mr. Miller: Multicultural pancakes, okay.

I'm very pleased to comment on Bill 210, the Child and Family Services
Statute Law Amendment Act. The minister, at the beginning of her speech,
said that they're putting children first, and certainly no one would argue
with that goal. How you do this and how you arrive at that goal might be
debated, but the goal certainly would not be.

I'm pleased that the government has pledged to work with First
Nations, with the aboriginal community. I note that John Beaucage, the
Anishinabek grand council chief, who is from Parry Sound-Muskoka, from the
Wasauksing First Nation, was one of the presenters at committee. I know
there were many aboriginal groups that made presentations, so I hope the
government continues to work with those First Nations in the implementation
of this bill.

I also note that our critic, Julia Munro, has worked tirelessly on
this file many days at committee. We'll be hearing from her shortly when she
has her hour-long presentation, the leadoff on third reading.

I was disappointed that the government did not respond or did not
listen to the Ontario Ombudsman, André Marin, who was quite critical of this
bill; he asked for oversight of the children's aid society. I note from my
own personal experience at the constituency level that it can be very
frustrating trying to assist constituents who are having problems with the
CAS, and it seemed like a reasonable request that the Ombudsman might play a
role in overseeing and dealing with problems with the children's aid
society.

Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I spoke on this bill in second
reading, and I'm pleased to join in the debate this afternoon just to focus
on some concerns that I don't think were appropriately dealt with during the
course of the public hearings.

Let me deal with First Nations first. If you look at the list of both
people who made actual presentations before the committee and groups and
organizations that provided written submissions, there were many, many
individual First Nation communities and also political organizations that
appeared or made written submissions because they were not adequately or
appropriately consulted about the development of this bill. That also
happened with respect to Bill 36, the LHIN legislation, and we heard very
clearly from First Nations during the course of that process as well.

I gather that some of the recommendations that came forward during the
course of the public hearings were adopted by the government. Others were
put forward by our critic, Ms. Horwath. But the fact remains that for a
government that claims they've got a new relationship with aboriginal
people, that new relationship sure has gotten off to a very rocky start. We
heard criticisms from political organizations and individual First Nations
on both this bill and Bill 36, and the government would be very wise, if
they are going to give any meaning at all to their statement about having a
new political relationship, to actually start to involve and consult and
have input from First Nations before introducing legislation.

Secondly, I'm very concerned that the government didn't accept the
amendment to have the Ombudsman have oversight with respect to children's
aid societies. I think that's a very appropriate role and responsibility for
the Ombudsman of Ontario to have and I regret that the government would not
accept that amendment as put forward by us.

I just want to say that I'm very concerned about financial resources.
I know they don't appear in the bill, but I can tell you that our own
children's aid society has enough of a time and dedication of human and
financial resources just dealing with protection issues. If we are going to
have adoptions work in the province of Ontario, there's going to have to be
a significant investment on the adoption side in many of these agencies,
because they just don't have the funds right now to make that happen. I'll
be interested to see what kind of funding is going to be provided.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr. Khalil Ramal (London-Fanshawe): Thank you for giving me this
opportunity to stand up and speak in support of Bill 210. I had a chance to
serve on the social policy committee and I listened to many people from
across the province of Ontario submit their presentations and talk about
this bill.

I want to congratulate the minister for bringing this beautiful and
incredible transformation of child care services in this province, because,
as you know, our children are our future. If we don't look after them at the
present time, we're not going to have a bright and strong future.

This bill will make adoption very flexible, to find a home for those
children who are looking for peace and tranquillity and finding a family
that can look after them and help them to grow and become stronger and
become the future of this province.

1610

I think this bill is very important, and makes it easier to include
the grandparents and family members to be a part of the adoption system in
this province.

I had the chance to have lunch today with a friend of mine who has
been trying for a long time to adopt her nephew. But due to the old bill,
the issue is very complicated. It's not easy. It's very complex. That's why
this bill will make all the adoption system easier, especially for a member
of the family to be taking charge of loved ones in their family.

Also, we listened to many aboriginal people from across the province,
and I met with them in my office. I think the ministry and the minister met
with them on a regular basis and also looked after their needs. Hopefully,
this bill will look after the needs of everyone in Ontario, whether
aboriginal or a person who lives in the north or the west or the east or
Toronto. This bill is very important, not just for one particular group but
for every child in this province. It's about time. I want to congratulate
the minister again for her hard work in bringing this bill forward.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate
the opportunity to participate. I concur with my friend from-what's the
riding, Norm?

Mr. Miller: Parry Sound-Muskoka.

Mr. Runciman: -Parry Sound-Muskoka, a very knowledgeable member who
participates in virtually every matter of business before the Legislature.
We compliment him on that.

Referencing some of the discussion that has occurred related to this
issue and the legislation itself, but the issue generally with respect to
adoption, I know that my colleague Mr. Jackson from Burlington, who has been
a strong advocate in terms of protection of children in this province, has
raised a number of issues surrounding the legislation, a number of issues
and questions surrounding the intent here. I know that he has raised the
issue of the legislation being essentially a cost-containment strategy and
not a child welfare outcomes issue.

I think there is an indication that when it comes to a vote the
Progressive Conservative opposition will be supporting the bill, but I think
we have a significant number of concerns that the critic will be putting on
the record, which hopefully the minister and her colleagues will pay heed to
and at some point perhaps consider changes. Our member Ms. Munro has talked
about a sunset review, which I'm not sure has been accepted by the
government. It's difficult to comprehend the rationale behind a refusal to
accept that kind of comprehensive review and indeed to see just what impact
this legislation is having.

The Acting Speaker: That concludes the time available for questions
and comments. I'll return to the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
You have two minutes to reply.

Hon. Mrs. Chambers: I'm pleased to comment on what has been said by my
four colleagues here in the House. I certainly appreciate and want to
emphasize the importance of their contributions.

On the matter of financial resources for children's aid societies, I
guess I'm not really all that good at marketing what we do. So I should say
at this point that while children's aid societies have basically experienced
something in the order of about a 200% increase over the last eight years,
we recognize that they do require more financial resources. To that extent,
we did commit an additional $34.7 million to them a few months ago, which
they appreciated. We recognize that even as we reform the system we need to
provide financial support to stabilize the system.

On the subject of the aboriginal community, there is no question that
we take the needs of our aboriginal families, aboriginal leaders, people on
the ground, off reserve and on reserve, very seriously. I think if you were
to ask them about my commitment, they would have to share with you very
positively my firm commitment to addressing their needs.

In terms of the Ombudsman, when Bill 210 came forward for second
reading, the Ombudsman did not have a role. The Ombudsman will have a role
with the proposed amendments that have come forward, and it's a very
important role.

I also want to recognize that the amendment that was brought forward
by Ms. Munro for a sunset was a very valid and thoughtful amendment, and
this bill will be-

The Acting Speaker: Thank you very much. Further debate.

Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): I'm pleased to be able to join the
third reading debate on Bill 210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law
Amendment Act. I think everyone agrees that protecting our children is the
number one priority for any government or party.

We read in the papers and see on television so many cases of children
abused or neglected. The children's aid societies and other child welfare
agencies need all the support, funding and powers necessary to protect
children. In a public survey, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies found that while 85% of the public would report child abuse, only
46% would report suspected child abuse. Ontarians need to know that they
have an ethical duty and, in many cases, a legal obligation to report
suspected child abuse. Child protection is not just a job for social workers
or police; it is a duty for everyone, every individual. We all know of
horrendous cases of abuse that have taken place in our province. Though I
know that no system of protection is foolproof, we must learn from the
mistakes made in individual cases to make sure it never happens again.

The standard refrain we hear when talking about child protection is
"the best interests of the child." We all know that this includes protecting
children from emotional, sexual or physical abuse. In 2000 we expanded the
legislation to include neglect. We must also ensure that, in any
legislation, we protect a child's need for stability and certainty. The
right of any child to a share of happiness and safety is paramount.

I want to take a moment to look at the aims that these reforms would
have. They fall into three key areas. The first one is permanency planning
for children, which simply means that the sooner a child can benefit from a
permanent, stable family life and relationship, obviously the better. The
second is the question of openness in adoption. The third is alternative
dispute resolution, which I'll refer to later.

The aim of these reforms is, again, to expand the range of permanent,
family-based care options for children in Ontario. It's also to enable more
children to move on to adoption, and to reduce the court delay and divert
cases where appropriate. One of the things we're all very much aware of is
the kind of lengthy time that is taken up with the court process, and,
obviously, looking at specific parts of this legislation designed to reduce
that court delay.

The proposed changes would mean that a child could maintain ties to
his or her family, community and culture and still be adopted or placed in a
permanent home. The new funding framework is intended to place a greater
emphasis on specific results for individual children and allow children's
aid societies more options when they respond to new cases, matching their
level of response to the need of the child. The legislation also proposes
more extensive use of mediation instead of courts in child protection
matters.

1620

Every one of these aims is one that I think everyone in this House
could and should support. The only questions we need to ask ourselves are,
does the bill meet the test of effectiveness, and will it fulfill the aims
that the government intends to meet?

I'd like to take a moment just to look back over the last 10 years,
certainly in the time that I've served in this House, to give some
background about the child welfare system. Between 1991 and 1996, six
inquests studied the deaths of 10 children. The inquests highlighted for the
government that improvements to the child protection system were desperately
needed. In 1997, the Ontario Child Mortality Task Force also made detailed
suggestions concerning the tools and resources available to front-line
workers, their training and the legislative base for child protection.

Following this, our government appointed an expert panel headed by
Judge Mary Jane Hatton. The panel told us there should be a better balance
in the legislation between the interests of families and children. The panel
recommended we make it clear that the paramount purpose of the act is to
promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.

The former PC government considered their input and their
recommendations very carefully and developed legislation to better protect
children. These amendments addressed those changes most urgently needed to
ensure the safety of children. Introduced in 1999, our significant changes
to the Child and Family Services Act were proclaimed on March 31, 2000. Our
changes made it clear that the paramount purpose of the Child and Family
Services Act was to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of
children. Our changes expanded the reasons for finding a child in need of
protection. For instance, the word "neglect" was specifically included and
the threshold for risk of physical and emotional harm to children was
lowered. This has encouraged earlier action to protect children at risk.

These changes also allowed evidence of a parent's past conduct towards
children to be used in child protection court proceedings. Our changes
clarified the duty of professionals and the public to report that a child is
or may be in need of protection, to encourage more reporting of suspected
abuse and neglect. Our changes made it easier for children's aid societies
to get the information they need to protect children. Our changes promoted
earlier and more decisive planning for children's futures so that permanent
arrangements for children could be achieved as soon as possible. They also
ensured that access by relatives or other individuals to children who have
been made crown wards is granted only if it is beneficial to the child. We
also provided for a mandatory review of the Child and Family Services Act at
least every five years.

Our government also committed the funds necessary to better protect
children. Changing the law is not enough; we must always ensure that the
funds and staff are available to protect children. Between 1995 and 2003, we
increased funding to children's aid societies to over $1 billion, an
increase of 185% since 1995. Between 1995 and 2003, we hired 1,800 more
child protection workers, almost a 69% increase. As of December 31, 2002,
approximately 7,700 children's aid society staff had been trained under the
Ontario child protection training program. I'm very proud of the changes and
improvements that our government made. We made a difference when it came to
protecting our children.

Our legal and funding changes received widespread support among child
welfare experts and the media. Mary McConville, executive director of the
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, said, about our legislative
changes, "These amendments represent a profound change in child protection
legislation, and they are strongly supported by every children's aid society
we represent."

Dr. James Cairns, deputy chief coroner, said, "With these changes,
Ontario will take a huge step forward in its fight against child abuse and
neglect."

A February 16, 2001, thumbs-up editorial in the London Free Press
lauded the PC government's reforms: "Queen's Park's overhaul of child
protection laws and its commitment of money to keep kids out of harm's way
is winning kudos in surprising areas, such as social services circles: The
greater emphasis on protecting children in risky arrangements has meant
rising caseloads for children's aid societies. The money is following
up-spending in this area has jumped by over 100% over the last five years."

Bob Penney, the executive director of the Kawartha-Haliburton
Children's Aid Society, said, in the Lindsay Daily Post on February 16,
2001, "The province made a commitment to the child welfare system, and I
have to give them credit in responding to it. The government's response to
child welfare has been incredible. This government has done more than any
other government."

This view of our PC government changes has been sustained over the
last five years. A report published by the Ontario Association of Children's
Aid Societies just this year strongly supported the 2000 changes:
"Amendments to the Child and Family Services Act in March 2000 represented a
significant contribution to the enhanced protection of children. The
legislative amendments, in combination with the implementation of the
Ontario risk assessment model, initiated changes that were broadly welcomed
by the child welfare sector. The new provisions lowered the threshold of
intervention in terms of neglect and sought to ensure earlier resolutions,
particularly for younger children."

I think it's important to do that bit of history, because certainly
there is some concern over the kinds of promises that this government has
made with regard to children's issues. The one that comes to mind is the
campaign promise of the Premier in offering full treatment for autistic
children, and of course this promise was broken. Dalton McGuinty promised
full autism treatment. He promised "the support and treatment they need.
That includes children over the age of six." In March of last year, the
promise was broken by the children's minister of the day. Now the courts
have ruled against the McGuinty government for violating the Education Act
by not providing autism treatment beyond age six. Ending the clawback of the
child tax credit was another McGuinty promise, and this was broken.

I point out these Liberal broken promises as a warning to members of
the House, to child welfare agencies and to children in need. They need to
know that the Liberals have not always lived up to the promises they've made
in this category, and under the McGuinty Liberals, children's aid societies
face combined deficits of about $70 million, with no plan by the government
to deal with this issue.

1630

I'd like to turn now to some of the key elements and provisions of
this bill, and in particular to offer some of the words of the presenters to
the committee, what they had to say about some of these issues. I'm going to
deal with the issue around places of safety, the issue around kinship and
community care, the alternative dispute resolution mechanism, native issues,
the appeal process, openness agreements and adoption itself.

First, then, a presentation that was provided to us by the Ontario
Association of Residences Treating Youth. This presentation, I think,
outlines very clearly the high standards that are needed to define a place
of safety for children or youth coming into care. I quote:

"Being on the front lines, our members understand that situations
often arise which require the immediate placement of a child in a `place of
safety.' We have always worked hand in hand with the local children's aid
societies to find safe homes for children in need of protection on an urgent
basis.

"The act, which will now explicitly contemplate using a relative,
extended family or `local community' on a more regular basis, brings with it
different challenges than using, for example, a foster home which has
already passed the reviews for being a safe place for the child to be."

Mr. Moore goes on: "This could now mean that for many children, they
will not necessarily be in the direct care of a CAS, but will be placed in
an alternative place of safety with a relative, neighbour etc.

"The proposed changes to the act mention the use of `prescribed
procedures' in determining a place of safety. In our view, a place of safety
must be determined with care and scrutiny.

"Our experience leads us to recommend that at a minimum, this should
be the same as the requirements for a foster home. However, based on our
conversations with the ministry, we understand the practical application of
this section of the act and accompanying regulations is to enable it to be
used quickly, in situations where immediate intervention is required, the
child is required to be removed from an unsafe situation, and to provide a
place of safety in the period prior to the first court hearing.

"It is critical to recognize that CASs already have access to numerous
existing and approved places of safety provided by existing licensed foster
care and group home beds. Foster care and group home agencies have always
and will continue to have short-term emergency placements that meet CAS
needs-we partner with them regularly to meet those emergency needs, and we
provide a high standard of care in safe environments.

"The government's policy goal of `kinship' care is leading down a road
for this type of care to be used on a much broader basis than in the past.
It may appear on the surface to be cheaper to follow this path, but the
reality is that many of the children taken into protection have problems
that need a higher level of care and treatment and require a more
sophisticated form of foster care or group treatment. The ultimate goal must
be giving these children and youth the best chance at being productive
members of our society.

"While using relatives or a `community' is a laudable goal, in many
cases the solution is much more complex than simply placing a child with a
relative for care. The expansion in the use of kinship care may be used for
a short period of time, or may become the longer-term home of the child. We
understand the proposed regulations will be used to develop a standard of
care for ensuring the child is going to a place of safety in the interim
period if, for example, the place of safety is one which has not been used
in the past.

"It is important for the committee to recognize the balance required
in weighing the child's safety and security against the perceived benefits
of kinship care. Therefore, a realistic assessment of the guardian's ability
to keep the child safe and meet their treatment needs is required along with
a realistic appraisal of the child's treatment needs, a plan to access
appropriate services and the resources available to do so."

Mr. Moore continues, "The committee and the ministry should also
consider a further definition of what and who `community' means. We ask that
the committee and the ministry ensure that this proposed change does not
become a measure of convenient, less regulated placements that save dollars
at the expense of the children in need of comprehensive care.

"In addition, ongoing children's aid society involvement and the
legislated requirement of the ministry to monitor compliance of these places
of safety is critical to protecting these children. The ministry must review
all children's aid society placements, especially for those children who do
not end up coming into care.

"All of us who participate in the child welfare system strive to
achieve the same goals: a fair and just balance between the provision of
high-quality care and treatment to the children and youth who need it and
the need to contain escalating costs. There are many paths we can follow to
arrive at our objectives, but we must ensure that none of these avenues
leads to an imbalance favouring cost reductions over the needs of children
and youth.

"The children's aid societies, as well as some other community
agencies, are responsible for determining where a child is placed. One
factor in doing this is the cost of the service the child needs. The budgets
that children's aid societies and other placing agencies have to manage can
constrain their decisions. While perhaps not a direct intention, this can
compromise what the child needs and receives in treatment. For example, the
child ends up being placed in a regular foster home when the professionals
who have evaluated the child recommend placement in a treatment foster care
program or for treatment in a residential group home. In this regard,
particularly in light of the proposed expansion of the definition of `places
of safety,' it is critical to have a system for monitoring outcomes and the
ability to review the appropriateness of where the child is being placed in
order to meet their treatment goals."

1640

I think this submission certainly sums up the position that we
recognize as being paramount, that while there are arguments we would agree
with in terms of children being in a home where there is a relationship, the
question, then, of whether it's the best home in terms of long-term or in
terms of treatment is obviously a very significant one.

Kinship and community care is, again, very evident in this bill and I
think a positive goal. We know that in many cases, if a father or a mother
is unable to care for a child, the fact that the child could then go to a
grandparent or an aunt or a cousin may certainly be best for the child. If
we have a parent who has a drug addiction, giving custody to a family member
may allow that child to experience the least possible upheaval. We must also
recognize that extended families already play a great part in raising a
child, and it only makes sense, where appropriate, that we turn to them
first in case of need.

Nevertheless, kinship care from a loving grandparent or relative can
provide a healthy and familiar environment for a child. Reliance on the
courts may also be reduced if we're looking at a system where the child is
going to be put within the family circle. I think we all recognize the role
of extended families, which play a part in the raising of every child, and
so it seems to me that it only makes sense that we turn to them first in the
case of need. But obviously the question of kinship care must be guarded
very carefully because many abusive and neglectful parents in fact come from
families in which these traits have been carried from one generation to
another.

What we need to hear about and be comforted by, then, are the kinds of
safeguards that would ensure that those kinds of processes will take place.
I think an important contribution in the consultation process includes the
words of Carolyn Buck of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto. She makes
reference to the experience that the Toronto children's aid has had on
kinship. She says:

"Our own kinship program, implemented in 2004, has taught us the
precious value of extended families and how supportive and engaged they can
become in the lives of their relative children and youth. We have placed
about 100 children who have been in our care through our kinship program and
believe they have enjoyed greater security, greater stability and
predictability than they may have experienced in a foster care system."

Kristina Reitmeier of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies told us an important fact in her submission:

"Currently, the only mechanisms available for placing a child with
extended family are, first, to make the child a CAS ward and the family or
community member a provisional foster home. This option has the attendant
intrusion by the worker and the lack of autonomy by the family, as there are
regulations for foster homes, and workers need to visit and to document
things frequently. A second option is to place the child with family under a
supervision order, but this can be for a maximum period of 12 months at a
time, requiring returning to court prior to expiry for a status review. The
third available option currently requires that the family members bring a
second, separate court application for custody against the parent under a
different statute."

I think you can see from this that there are some initiatives that
speak to the benefits of the way in which this bill moves this issue
forward, but obviously, as well, some considerations that the government
must consider.

The next part of the bill that I'd like to refer to is again one on
which a great deal of discussion has developed-much of the process of this
will be done in regulation-and that, of course, is the alternative dispute
resolution. I think it's probably-I don't know whether the minister would
agree-one of the signature pieces of this legislation. It certainly comes as
a response to the many, many people, certainly whom I have met and talked
to, who have experienced such frustration with the court process, and was
certainly identified by those in the field in terms of being a very costly
part of the whole children's aid services.

Alternative dispute resolution is used for areas as diverse as
disputes between the forest industry and resource-based tourism, for the
WSIB, and of course such issues as divorce. We all know that court time is
very expensive for all parties concerned, and so we have to be assured that
dispute resolution is in fact going to mean that it is more efficient and
certainly less time-consuming than going to court. If it's seen as a
precursor to going to court, then obviously it may not be quite as
successful as we would want.

To again go to the words of Carolyn Buck of the children's aid
society, "We are also very heartened to see that Bill 210, if passed, will
promote the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for problem
resolution. Our own agency has approached many situations, including client
complaint resolution, through employing such strategies. This is likely to
be less adversarial for all parties, and more likely to result in better
outcomes for children much sooner than we experience through litigation
processes that are often protracted for several years through the courts."

Patricia Fenton of the Adoption Council of Ontario echoed some of the
same sentiment when she said, "We also support the use of alternative
dispute resolution methods as proposed, as we see this provides an
opportunity to move the process out of an adversarial kind of arena and
helps to avoid the lengthy disputes that may hold the child back from moving
into a permanent family as quickly as possible. The proposed act
acknowledges that this method of resolution can be used at various times
throughout the child's life to vary openness orders as needs shift and
change."

1650

John Dunn of the Foster Care Council of Canada outlined his concerns
with dispute resolution in the way that follows:

"One thing I've learned about dispute resolution is that everything in
dispute resolution is to be confidential and cannot be used in court. I
don't know if that's the same with this proposed legislation or if this
child welfare mediation process will be a little different, if it could
somehow be customized, but as a former crown ward myself, one of the largest
issues I have is confidentiality-not the fact that there's not enough
confidentiality, but that there's too much. I've been trying for about five
years, personally, to obtain copies of my own records from the children's
aid society, the Catholic CAS in Toronto, and they've been refusing me from
the start. They won't give me dentists' names, doctors' names, any of my
medical records. So this is something that I think needs to be opened up."

Again, you can see from the variety of comments that have been made
that there is certainly a recognition by all of the presenters of the
potential that alternative dispute resolution has as a mechanism. The
important thing here is that much of what is surrounding this mechanism
will, of course, be done through regulations, so it's very important that
those considerations that have been outlined are addressed. It's certainly
possible that it will do what it's supposed to do: be more effective and be
more timely. That is one of the biggest issues, certainly, when we're
looking at this process, as we should, from the point of view of the child.

We heard a lot about native concerns. Certainly, the keys there
appeared to be summed up by two presentations. I will just quote Chief
Arnold Gardner of the Grand Council Treaty No. 3 Nation: "Bill 210 will have
significant impact on First Nation citizens and communities who are not part
of the native child welfare agency." The second is by Deputy Grand Chief
McCormick of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, who told the
committee, "There was only a short period of time in which the ministry
invited comments, from January 21 to 31.... That's not considered
consultation, as far as I know. We did have a Chiefs of Ontario resolution
in 2004, which was passed on to the minister, requesting a separate
consultation process." I would simply make reference to the minister's own
comments today when she made reference to the fact that, as a result of much
of the input in the committee process, there was, of course, more
consultation that was done at this point.

The next issue I would like to deal with is the question of the appeal
process. I don't think there's likely an MPP in the House who has not been
approached by constituents who have found themselves to be in a position
with a CAS of a complaint, some kind of frustration. I think it's partly
because of the fact that when we're dealing with children, obviously
emotions run high. The stakes are very high. These are children we're
talking about. So I think the question of an appeal process is extremely
important.

I'm very happy to see that in this bill as we are debating it today,
the government has restored an appeal process for complaints about the
children's aid services, and that extends outside the actual societies. It
is certainly an important principle of appeals that there should be in
almost all cases an avenue of appeal beyond the level of the allegedly
offending agency, and so I think it's very important that this be done.

John Dunn of the Foster Care Council of Canada and a former crown ward
of the Catholic Children's Aid Society had this to say: "The concerns I have
are that with the original, the people had an opportunity to have their
complaint heard by the independent board of directors of a children's aid
society. Actually, I'd like to back up and speak to the fact that it says
`which shall be approved by a director.'"

This was, of course, before the government introduced its amendments,
and as it is now, there is the Child and Family Services Review Board. But I
think his comments are important to recognize that there was frustration
with the complaints procedure. I think it's important that the government
has made this amendment. The amendments provide that the complaint review
procedures to be followed by the societies upon the receipt of a complaint
will be established by regulation, and if the complaint relates to certain
specified matters, the decision of the society, made in accordance with the
prescribed complaint review procedure, may be reviewed by the Child and
Family Services Review Board.

The new section 68.1 provides that for other specified matters, the
complaint may be made directly to the board or transferred to the board
before the completion of the society's complaint review procedure. The
amendments provide that a review by the board under section 68 or 68.1 be
conducted in accordance with the specified requirements. I am happy to have
this amendment. I had, in fact, prepared an amendment myself along the same
lines, that a board have the kind of jurisdiction, and obviously on the
basis of the government's amendment, I withdrew this.

The next area I would like to refer to in this bill that I think is,
again, new ground is the question of openness agreements. I think these are
going to be the source of a great deal of interest as the government puts
this bill, if passed, into process, because the minister herself has made it
very clear that this particular part of the legislation is seen as something
that will encourage adoption. When you look at the statistic that there are
9,000 children who are part of the children's aid society and only 900
adoptions, it's a very startling figure to be given, so we need to be sure
that the process by which any openness agreement can be done is one that in
fact is going to encourage adoptions.

We're all aware that there are avenues in this province and in this
country for people to choose alternative routes to adoption, so in one sense
there is sort of a competition for those adoptive homes. The last thing we
would want is to have it seen as a way that might impede, as opposed to
encourage and increase, the adoptions.

Once again going to our presenters, their comments and experience are
important as we look at the process.

Carolyn Buck of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto had this to say:
"Our experience in the adoption department is that many adoptive parents are
interested in being able to provide information about and sometimes contact
with their adopted children's birth parents when they see that it is
important for the child. Currently, the agency grapples with how to
facilitate such information-sharing or contact after adoption without
creating a legal problem for the parties. Legislation that creates a
structure for openness orders or agreements will make it easier to do what
is best for those children and adoptive families who want both a degree of
openness and some legal certainty."

1700

Patricia Fenton of the Adoption Council of Ontario had this to say
about the proposed changes. She supports Bill 210's proposed changes with
respect to openness in adoption: "Too many children in Ontario are prevented
from moving on to adoption because of the access orders. Openness agreements
or orders, when in the best interests of the child, contribute in a positive
way to healthy development. They give the child the security of an adoptive
family while at the same time respecting the importance of those established
relationships and connections. I've certainly learned about the importance
of that through my own daughter, who from as early an age as four had lots
and lots of questions and even concerns about what was happening with her
birth family. Particularly, she wanted to know about her birth mother."

Dr. Brenda Nutter of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies told the committee that her organization "is not under the
illusion that fully open adoption is possible for all children. We do
believe that, somewhere along a continuum of openness options, there will be
a place for many children to have some sort of contact with their birth
relatives, but not for all. That is why it is so significant that, under
this legislation, a crown wardship order must be obtained before an openness
order can be made. Openness has not been conceived as a bargaining tool to
entice parents into consenting to crown wardship. Openness cannot be
guaranteed. That said, we do heartily support the development of a practice
that allows the greatest amount of openness appropriate to the
circumstances, and we applaud the fact that the nature of the contact can be
defined through either an order or an agreement. In addition, we strongly
support the fact that, under the provisions of Bill 210, the failure to
implement openness provisions does not make an adoption order invalid."

Dr. Nutter goes on to say: "This legislation will require a
substantial commitment by the government to the education of the public and
of those in the field who will be charged with the implementation of Bill
210. It changes the face of public adoption. It is true that more children
will receive better service through permanency initiatives. In addition,
in-care costs will be reduced. But as this process moves ahead, it is
important that the needs of adoptive families be recognized and fully
supported as they manage the ever-changing needs of their older and
special-needs children. In the public sector, we believe that the expansion
of post-adoption services is a critical part of the infrastructure that will
allow the openness provisions of Bill 210 to be successfully implemented."

James Dubray of the Durham Children's Aid Society told the committee
about that children's aid society's experience with openness as follows: "In
the past year, we have been piloting open adoption. Our experiences
generally have not been positive. We have learned that in the making of and
having agreements in place for adoption placement, the natural family
sometimes have changed their minds with regard to the adoption placement and
have sought to have it overturned by using the provisions of the Children's
Law Reform Act. The Superior Court justice has agreed to hear the matter in
September and is currently deliberating and deferring her decision on which
act has primacy.

"If the justice rules that the application has merit and can proceed,
there is a good chance that the adoption placement can be overturned using
the provisions of the Children's Law Reform Act. Needless to say, other
counsel are watching this process very carefully, and if a door is opened to
allow provisions of the Child and Family Services Act to be assailed by
another piece of provincial legislation, we may find ourselves in a bit of a
legal quagmire with respect to child protection and adoption proceedings."

Dubray tells us that "there needs to be a strong signal in the
legislation that child protection and adoption matters are not subject to
review by the Children's Law Reform Act."

Looking at the spectrum of conversation and deputants we heard in the
committee, I think, sends a very strong signal to the government with regard
to those regulations and with regard to the sensitivities around embarking
on the openness order.

I want to take a few minutes to look at the question of issues around
adoption. A moment ago I mentioned 900 adoptions, 9,000 children in care and
the importance of looking at these mechanisms with the goal in mind of
increasing the number of children who will benefit from a permanency they
currently don't have.

Carolyn Buck of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto made reference
to the issues around adoption. She said, "Our agency in Toronto serves over
33,000 children a year. Given that our agency alone provides daily care for
about 1,000 crown wards, we are optimistic that Bill 210 will promote
permanency options which have been heretofore unavailable for the vast
majority of those children and youth. This has been in large measure due to
approximately 75% of crown wardship orders being accompanied by an access
order. Current adoption legislation prohibits crown wards with access orders
being placed for adoption. Simply put, this group of children and youth have
had the option for adoption eliminated from their future. Bill 210 will
create much greater opportunity for those children and youth and will move
us legally toward what most of society has already accepted through the
formation of blended or reconstituted families, shared parenting and joint
custody."

The important thing here in terms of the process is the attempt to
increase the rate of adoptions of crown wards. The government and many
agencies have said that allowing openness agreements will increase the rate
of adoptions. I want to make sure that openness agreements will not have the
opposite effect. If we look at the range of comments and advice that has
been provided, there's an opportunity to step very carefully and make sure
that children's aid societies and the government are able to ensure that
openness agreements in fact do not discourage adoption.

In committee, in clause by clause, I offered an amendment that would
have required the government and the societies to be accountable for
increasing the rate of adoption. My amendment would have required a
three-year review of the effectiveness of openness agreements and whether or
not the rates of adoption have increased. Unfortunately, the government
members chose to vote down my amendment. Obviously, I wish they had accepted
it, as it would have mandated this specific area of accountability for
increasing the adoption of crown wards. As we know, there is a process for a
five-year review, but when you're looking at stepping into what in many ways
are uncharted waters, I think it's important that the government look at
specifically how effective this process has been.

1710

Let me just conclude by saying that obviously protecting children and
giving them the certainty and the stability of permanency is the most
important priority, certainly for our caucus and, I know, for all members of
the House. Bill 210 contains a number of positive measures that, if they
work, will protect more children and help them get care and get into safer
situations.

Greater involvement for extended families through kinship care is
really a good step. Community involvement can be very helpful, but it
mustn't get in the way of giving kids permanency.

Alternative dispute resolution will be positive, but we must review it
constantly to ensure that cost savings do not outweigh child protection.

Openness agreements are projected to assist in increasing the rates of
adoption, but the government must ensure that the policy meets the
expectation and is not a legal quagmire, as I spoke about earlier.

Adoptive families need the security of knowing an adoption is
absolute. If they don't have this sense of security, they won't adopt.

I think that while, obviously, there are certain limitations and
certain things that we're not going to know about until the regulations come
out, the importance here is that we can never lose sight of the fact that it
is the needs of children that are paramount and that we must always be
looking at ways to develop that legal and physical framework that ensures
that our children are taken care of in the absolutely best way possible.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): It's my pleasure to make a few
comments on the debate, particularly the issues brought forward by the
member from York North. I have to say that a lot of what the member had to
say reminds me of an old term that we used to use at the municipal level of
government: WIP, which was a work in progress. I think that's pretty much
what can be used to describe the cautions and the concerns that were raised
by the member from York North.

I think it was appropriate that she made some of her initial remarks
around the history of this legislation and the history of the whole system
of child protection, but also made some really important comments around
resources for children's aid societies to be able to undertake some of the
new systems that are being put in place; the monitoring and checks and
balances as we move forward in the implementation of the changes that the
minister has brought forward in this bill; the paramount concern always of
the well-being of children in Ontario; and also particularly the way that
perhaps kinship care is one of the issues that we would all agree will help
in terms of making sure that those children are being cared for
appropriately, but also we may need to keep the checks and balances in
place. Also, alternative dispute resolution was raised.

I wanted to make a point about some of the concerns that were raised
by one of the presenters, OAITH, the Ontario Association of Interval and
Transition Houses. One of the things they want to see is domestic violence
screening to be incorporated in the process because of the power imbalances
and the manipulations that can occur in families where there is a history of
family violence.

Nonetheless, I think the caution around policy meeting expectation is
a good one, and I look forward to what the future brings in terms of changes
to the child welfare system.

Mrs. Linda Jeffrey (Brampton Centre): I am pleased to rise to talk
about Bill 210, our government's child protection legislation, which is
before us today for third reading. Bill 210 will make adoption more
flexible, create more legal options beyond adoption and make the process
consistent for adoptive parents by simplifying the application process.

Minister Chambers has worked very closely with the aboriginal
community to develop legislation that would allow more aboriginal children
and youth to stay in their communities. The minister followed through on a
commitment to address their concerns and has held many meetings with members
of our First Nations communities from across Ontario on Bill 210. In fact,
when I became the PA back in November, one of my first meetings was with a
group of chiefs, and I was impressed with how eloquent, how thoughtful and
how practical their solutions were to amending the bill. I think we have
included many of their suggestions. I think it's a much stronger bill.

We learned that aboriginal children are disproportionately represented
in our child protection system. This is a trend that clearly should not
continue. Under the current system, aboriginal children who come into the
care of a children's aid society are often placed in non-aboriginal foster
care placements. With an emphasis on customary care, we're going to work
with aboriginal leaders to build capacity so children can stay in their
communities and maintain important cultural and family ties as well as
incorporate First Nations traditions into their upbringing.

As well, we've broadened the definition of "extended family" to
include any members of a child's band or native community. This new
definition of community would encompass any person with an ethnic or
cultural tie with a child or parent or sibling of that child.

I'm very pleased to rise to talk about Bill 210. I think this is a
good bill. We've made some important changes, and I think it's going to be
much better for all the children in Ontario.

Mr. Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I'm certainly pleased
to join the debate and comment on the remarks made by the member from York
North. It's certainly an area that doesn't go by every day in terms of
dealing with the protection of children. This is a file that obviously was
handed off to the current minister from the previous one, who did a lot of
work on it.

I will say this from a legal perspective: When the member from
Hamilton East says that this is a work in progress, let's be honest. We're
dealing with life and the day to day, in terms of trying to bring in
measures, checks and balances, trying to bring in protection. Quite frankly,
when we say that it's a work in progress, it's something where all we can
try to do is the best we can, one step at a time. Things change, but the
solution to this is something that has to evolve as society changes. This
bill, even when it is brought forth, may be out of date by the time we're
dealing with the situations we have to deal with: the changes that are
necessary under the Criminal Code and the changes that are necessary under
the children's aid society.

I have, as an MPP over the last 10 and a half years, dealt with a
number of situations that are very troubling. The inadequacy of the
children's aid society, in terms of dealing with it from a practical point
of view-with no blame on their part, but from a resources point of view, in
terms of whether they can even deal with the situation-is troubling.
Certainly, the breakup of a family, the protection of a child, is something
that concerns all of us here in the Legislature. Our party, as the member
from Leeds-Grenville has indicated, is supportive, but certainly there's
more work that needs to be done.

Ms. Martel: I want to thank the member from York North for the
comments she made. She did talk about financial resources and the
implications with respect to this bill. I want to focus on this again. I'm
going to harp on this one more time because I've had some discussions with
our own children's aid society about their obligations and responsibilities
and the concern they have expressed to me about their ability to undertake
the additional responsibilities, as legitimate as they are, that come from
this bill with the budget they have in place. We had this discussion even
before this government introduced this legislation.

1720

I have a good working relationship with our children's aid society. We
meet on a regular basis to discuss concerns they have, and long before this
bill came forward, the executive director had expressed to me his concern
that overwhelmingly the financial and human resources of this children's aid
society in our community were focused on child protection. That was as a
result of legislation that had been passed by the previous Conservative
government, but he felt very strongly that that left quite a gap with
respect to their ability to undertake adoptions and that very few of their
staff were actually doing work around adoptions because so much of their
work, responsibility and reporting ended up ensuring that so much of their
human resources, in particular, were focused on trying to deal with
legislation that the Conservatives had brought in.

We all want this legislation to work, but we really need to get a
handle on what the fairly significant financial implications are. Is the
government going to be in a position and prepared to ensure that children's
aid societies have those resources to make sure that this bill can be dealt
with at the local level in the way the government and, I think, all of us
want it to be dealt with? Yes, I want to see more of those children who are
in care actually be adopted. The question is, are children's aid societies
going to have the financial resources to allow the staff to make that
happen?

The Acting Speaker: That concludes the time available for questions
and comments. I'll return to the member for York North. You have two minutes
to respond.

Mrs. Munro: I certainly want to thank the members for Hamilton East,
Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford, Brampton Centre and Nickel Belt. I think that the
notion of a work in progress is a really good one, because I did make
reference to the regulatory responsibilities that flow out of this piece of
legislation.

The member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford also talked about the importance
of the fact that child protection and societal changes are ongoing. So as we
look to provide-this is like a snapshot of a point in time-you have to be
ready for the fact that circumstances, the kinds of issues that come to the
fore, demand our attention. That's an ongoing issue change.

Along with that issue, the member for Nickel Belt raised the
importance of funding and the need for protection, the need for training and
even for the technology to be able to implement this bill. Those are all
things that, I think rightly, the member for Nickel Belt has identified as
issues around funding that are extremely important.

We certainly would look forward to this bill moving along and, as
people are working with it, it will be everyone's hope that it will meet its
goals.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Ms. Horwath: It's my pleasure to have an opportunity to talk to Bill
210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act. We've already
heard from previous speakers this afternoon that this is a bill that tries
to change the way the child protection system in Ontario operates currently.
Some people tuning in, not having perhaps had a chance to listen to any of
the previous discussion, will wonder, "Why the heck do we need to do this in
the first place? What's the issue?"

I know the minister did some of that in her opening remarks,
appropriately, but I wanted to reiterate, for those people who may have just
joined us, why it's important that we continuously look at the child
protection system and try to make sure we are doing the right thing by
children in Ontario.

According to some of the figures that the government provided in its
documentation in the preparation of this bill, Ontario has about 9,000 crown
wards. Those are children who are wards of the state, or crown wards. In
other jurisdictions they're called wards of the state; in our jurisdiction
they're called crown wards. These are children who have been taken into
protection or into care by government. In the case of Ontario, fewer than
10% of these children are successfully adopted each year. Only 900 children
were adopted in 2004, and 882 crown wards the year before that. Fewer than
10% of the total are adopted.

Why is that, people wonder, particularly when you juxtapose that
against stats from the Adoption Council of Ontario that say the number of
international adoptions has climbed to about 600 a year, while private
agencies in Ontario have placed a mere 170 children with families?

Currently, the rules that exist-prior to this bill being brought
forward-prevent children in the care of children's aid societies, whose
birth families have a court-ordered right to visit or contact them, from
being adopted. So there's a barrier in place as part of the system, as part
of the rules. If there's anything on record where the birth parents or
families have a right to contact in any way-and that could be anything as
minor as a Christmas card or a birthday card-this is the barrier that
prevents those children from being adopted. So the existing system
definitely has been in need of overhaul as it does in fact prevent about
three quarters of Ontario's estimated 9,000 crown wards from even being
considered for adoption. That's the kind of system that was being looked at
that needed the overhaul and that led to this legislation coming forward.

Studies have shown that crown wards also move from foster care and
group homes every 22 months on average and suffer many changes in social
workers. This causes destabilization for those children. There are also
other jurisdictions in Canada that I believe the government has looked to to
review openness in adoption, which again has been raised by other speakers
in this debate. These are some of the issues that Bill 210 was brought
forward to try to address.

I think it's important to note that, although today we're in third
reading of this bill, we didn't get here by an easy process. In fact, when
we look at what happened at the very beginning, after first reading and then
leading up to second reading of the bill, it became very clear that the
government was in a process of consultation that was leaving out a number of
key stakeholders. As we began to prepare for second reading and then for the
process of committee hearings, it became very clear to us that the
government had not done its homework in terms of assuring all stakeholders a
voice in the process.

When I say that, I specifically speak to the lack of consultation with
First Nations communities, with the governance of our aboriginal communities
across the province. I don't say that lightly, and I don't say that with any
malice except that I was shocked, because one of the things we do is try to
get hold of people who will be affected by various pieces of legislation
coming forward from the government and just touch base. "Do you know there's
this legislation coming down the pike? Do you know that it's likely getting
close to the public hearings stage? Have you been participating in the
discussion?" I can recall the second reading debate. The minister was quite
clear that she felt she had extensively consulted. Well, we found out that
in fact that hadn't been the case. As a result, we spent some time talking
to First Nations communities about how they felt about the process of
consultation up to that point, and there were a number of things. One of the
issues they raised broadly was the consultation process. The others were a
number of actual substantive pieces to the bill that they thought needed to
be changed to address some of their concerns.

1730

I was surprised that when the government was going to set up the
actual committee hearings for this bill, they were going to turn it over in
a matter of a week, set up two days for hearings without barely any notice
for communities, and expect people from far-reaching, remote communes to
come and speak to the bill. So I immediately, in the subcommittee meetings,
began to advocate for a bit of a slowdown and a way to ensure that we could
at least find out whether particularly First Nations communities were having
an opportunity to participate in the public hearings. Of course, we were
surprised that they weren't. In fact, if you look at the list of First
Nations communities that actually did eventually, in one way or another,
comment on this bill, it is extensive.

There are something like 134 First Nations in Ontario, and you will
see that a large number of them eventually did participate. But I can tell
you it wasn't because there was a keen interest initially in terms of the
government making sure that that voice was being heard and that those
government-to-government discussions were taking place between the
governance of First Nations and the government of Ontario; in fact, it
wasn't. But we were able to convince subcommittee members-government and
opposition-that they needed to take a step back and make sure that the
process was open and accessible to First Nations communities. Interestingly
enough, we ended up in a situation where my understanding is that First
Nations did eventually feel at least that they had some opportunity to voice
some of their concerns in the process.

I wanted to quote from a document that was submitted by Chief Shining
Turtle, Sturgeon clan, Whitefish River First Nation. A very similar passage
is continued in many of the initial flags that were raised, if you will, or
concerns that were brought forward by First Nations communities in regard to
the initial raising of Bill 210 in this Legislature. It says, "As the bill
affects First Nation rights and interests, the government of Ontario is
under a legal obligation to consult First Nations and attempt to accommodate
those rights and interests. This legal duty flows, in part, from section 35
of the Constitution Act, 1982. Further, section 2.2 of the 1965 welfare
agreement, to which Ontario is signatory, requires First Nation consent
before any significant alteration to a welfare program, including child
welfare. The effect of section 2.2 was confirmed by the courts in the
Mushkegowuk decision dealing with Ontario Works."

This letter was dated December 1, so it was prior to the hearings
being put in place but after they had learned that the government was not
intending initially to provide an opportunity for them to speak to the bill.
It's interesting, because initially the committee set two dates in the first
week of December-I think it was December 5 and 6-and we found out
afterwards, after the fact, that there was a major conference going on that
First Nations communities were involved with in the province, and even had
they wanted to make it, with a week's notice, down to Toronto to
participate, they weren't able to because many of them were otherwise
engaged in this other commitment. I think it's important to note that we did
successfully get the government to agree to two more days of committee
hearings, and they were very positive because, as I'm sure the minister
stated in her remarks and will continue to indicate as she moves into
implementation phases, a number of the amendments that First Nations
communities were looking for were accommodated in some way or another; not
in their fullness, because New Democrats brought a number of amendments to
try to reflect First Nations concerns, and some of them were implemented by
the government, but not all.

In terms of the committee's schedule again, this is from another First
Nation piece of correspondence. It's from M'Chigeeng First Nation and it
says: "The consultation problem with Bill 210 has been made worse by the
committee hearing schedule. Only two days of hearing have been scheduled
next week, for December 5 and 6. This does not give First Nations enough
time to prepare presentations. To make matters worse, most First Nation
leaders will be in Ottawa all of that week attending an important Assembly
of First Nations conference dealing with the implications of the recent
first ministers' meeting."

It goes on: "In the circumstances, we hereby urge the committee to
reschedule the hearings to December 12 and 13." As we know, in fact there
were two sets of committee hearings as a result of the large and extensive
outcry from First Nations about the lack of consultation and their lack of
ability to participate in a meaningful way in the development of the bill
and in the public hearings process.

Having said that, this is not to say that there had been no
consultation at all from those quarters. In fact, my understanding is that
to some extent, the institutions, if you will, the First Nations service
providers, were in some ways consulted by the government. Having said that,
there is a specific requirement-and I've read it already-that government
needs to talk to government when it comes to First Nations issues, and
that's what this government forgot to do. In fact, they forgot to do it
again with LHINs. I think my colleague from Nickel Belt has already raised
in questions and comments that in fact LHINs is another piece of legislation
where the government has done the wrong thing in terms of consultation with
First Nations. Interestingly enough, I think perhaps the Minister of Health
should consult with the Minister of Children and Youth Services, because it
seems to me that she has at least been able to repair some of the damage
that was initially done by having ongoing discussions and making commitments
to continuing the dialogue and the discussion with First Nations. I would
advise the Minister of Health to take a page out of that book, because it
seems to be one that's been received well in many ways by First Nations
communities.

One of the things, although raised, that I'm not sure has actually
been addressed in the bill, only because the scope of the bill doesn't allow
it to be addressed, was an issue that First Nations service providers were
raising back in August, and that was the designation process for premandated
agencies. Again, this is something that comes from Betty Kennedy, executive
director of the Association of Native and Child Family Services Agencies of
Ontario, and I thought it was important. I raised it l in second reading
debate and thought I should raise it again, because it's still an
outstanding issue and I think it's important to put it on the record. What
she says is, "We would like this process"-this is the process related to the
designation of premandated agencies-"to be clearly identified and would
welcome receipt of all criteria for each stage in the designation process as
well as the specified timelines in order to assist our member agencies more
effectively. A number of them have identified significant delays in moving
through this process and have requested our assistance in determining why
these delays are occurring."

I raise this in the context of some of the previous discussion around
resources that are going to be necessary to make this bill effective and to
make the transformation, if you will, of child protection more effective in
the province of Ontario, and in this case for First Nations communities. I
know this issue has been raised by the member for Timmins−James Bay. He has
raised a couple of times that there is frustration around the designation
process and that if you can't get the agencies designated, then you can't
get the services provided in some of the remote communities. That's
certainly one of the things that we need to look at in terms of moving the
agenda forward.

There are another couple of issues around some of the substantive
things that were raised by First Nations communities. A lot of their
concerns were around resourcing and how the systems currently are not
effective in the way that they're being implemented in First Nations
communities. Also, there is concern around the extent to which, because of
lack of resources and because of lack of support for the efforts that are
occurring in some more remote communities, there's a great deal of staff
turnover. There's a great deal of difficulty in keeping staff in the
agencies who are up to speed, skilled and can provide some continuity in
terms of the child protection system. Likewise, there were some issues
raised around the extent to which other types of professional resources can
be utilized appropriately in those communities. One of the examples that I
was given on a one-on-one basis after some of the hearings was the situation
where you couldn't get a lawyer to advocate on behalf of children or you
couldn't get a children's lawyer to participate in the process because they
were not prepared to attend in remote communities as was required. I don't
think the issue was so much any kind of change to the system that would make
it not necessary for there to be a children's lawyer, but rather that the
resources need to be put into the system to ensure that there is fair access
to the services that the rest of the children of Ontario can expect and
would want to see in this legislation. I thought it was important to put
those issues on the table, because until we start acknowledging that there's
a lot more work to do, we're certainly not going to be in a position to say
that we've taken the appropriate steps and we've listened well to the
concerns of First Nations communities.

1740

Last but not least, the First Nations did come up with a specific
resolution in regard to this bill. I'm just trying to find it in my notes,
because I thought it was important to read it into the record. What this
resolution does is basically say that notwithstanding some of the concerns
that they've had with the bill-I'm going to read it to you. It was a
resolution that was approved back about two weeks ago. It's "First Nation
Child Welfare-Resolution 06/17." It says:

"Whereas the inherent right to self-government includes jurisdiction
in relation to the protection of First Nations children;

"Whereas Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act,
abrogates the responsibilities of both the federal and provincial
governments;

"Whereas the chiefs in assembly, through AOCC resolutions 05/22 and
05/27, opposed and rejected Bill 210 in its entirety, and in particular, a
provision that would permit the Ontario government to arbitrarily redefine
First Nation customary care practices in the vital area of child welfare;

"Whereas AOCC resolution 05/22 mandated the creation of a Chiefs
Committee on Child Welfare to address and advance First Nations authority
and jurisdiction in child welfare;

"Whereas AOCC resolution 05/27 directed the development of a separate
consultation process to review and provide recommendations on the proposed
legislative amendments to the Child and Family Services Act;

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the chiefs in assembly, acknowledge
the progress made to date by the Chiefs Committee on Child Welfare, the
social services coordination unit and the Association of Native Child and
Family Services Agencies (mandated and premandated) regarding amendments to
Bill 210;

"Further be it resolved that we acknowledge the minimal amendments to
Bill 210 as an interim measure, while supporting a comprehensive review of
the CFSA in its entirety towards the development of a First Nation child
welfare law;

"Further be it resolved that we direct the Chiefs Committee on Child
Welfare to continue to advocate for our inherent right to care for and to
provide culturally appropriate protection services for our children and
families;

"Finally be it resolved that we, the chiefs in assembly, direct the
Chiefs Committee on Child Welfare to advocate for the designation of more
native child welfare agencies across the province."

That was moved by Chief Randall Phillips, Oneida Nation of the Thames,
and seconded by Barney Anderson, by proxy, Wabauskang First Nation.

This resolution indicates a number of things: first of all, the
extreme disappointment that the First Nations communities had with the
initial process of Bill 210; the acknowledgment that the government took
some time, the minister took some time, to try to incorporate some of their
concerns and to kind of backpedal a little bit and get some of those
concerns incorporated into the bill; but also the assertion that this is
just a beginning, the assertion that they're going to continue in their
struggle to ensure a First Nation child welfare law is put in place to take
care of their particular needs and, as well, the continued struggle they're
having.

I raised this issue already, but I'll raise it again because they've
indicated right in their resolution to advocate for the designation of more
native child welfare agencies across the province. Again, that goes to the
issue of whether or not the government is prepared to put the resources
necessary into making Bill 210 do what it needs to do to protect the
children of Ontario and to make sure that adoptions and placements in
customary care and in kinship care and all the other changes are effective
and successful.

There are many other issues raised by First Nations communities. If
people are interested in reviewing some of the committee transcripts from
those presentations, I would certainly advise you to do so, because they had
a lot to bring to the table. They had some really quite interesting and
appropriate discussions around how their communities, their families and
their care systems are different from ours, how the ways that they resolve
issues, problems, concerns and tensions are so unique and appropriate to
their own culture, and how important it is that the government acknowledge
those realities in the legislation.

It's important to note that we put together a couple of dozen
amendments in the process that would bring voice to or that would in some
way put on the table the concerns of First Nations communities around having
culturally appropriate processes built in, acknowledging that First Nations
communities have a very culturally different way of dealing with child
protection issues. They wanted those issues to be acknowledged in the
legislation, and we attempted to do that. No, not all of our resolutions
were adopted by the government and not all of our motions were approved, but
some of them were, and I feel positive about that. In fact, I believe the
government actually put some forward that were very similar to ours as well.
I think that's extremely important, and I'm proud of that. I think we should
all be proud that some of these changes were made. It's a small step to
improving the relationships that government has with First Nations overall.

I have to say, though, that there were pieces that weren't approved by
the government in terms of amendments that we put forward. One of the
biggies was the amendment around requiring the Ombudsman to have oversight
of children's aid societies. I wasn't sure whether I should start that off
now, considering the time, but I think I'm going to.

I put forward an amendment on having the Ombudsman have oversight of
children's aid societies. People will know that the Ombudsman was,
notwithstanding the minister's attempt to address the oversight issues or
address the concerns that people raised-individuals came to the committee
and spoke to the committee. They spoke in the public hearings about their
frustration with the lack of accountability in the children's aid societies
and in that system. A lot of their presentations were very powerful, and a
lot of their presentations were very painful. It was disappointing that the
minister didn't take hold of the opportunity to put in place a program
whereby a completely separate, completely unattached, completely unbiased
oversight body would be charged with the responsibility of overseeing
children's aid societies and of being there for the complaints process.

I wanted to read into the record a couple of issues that were raised
by the Ombudsman in a backgrounder that he put together in regard to Bill
210 specifically. It says, "The Ombudsman received 436 submissions and
complaints from January 1, 2005, to February 13, 2006, regarding the need
for greater oversight and accountability of children's aid societies." The
types of complaints range from concern about the care of children by the CAS
to concerns about dealings with the CAS, denial of access to grandchildren,
threat of removal of a child, sexual abuse by CAS staff, concerns about CAS
allegations, concerns about child abuse register administration, refusal to
disclose information, concerns about CAS removal of children and concerns
about access and custody.

What the Ombudsman said is, "Bill 210 provides an opportunity to
enhance the independent oversight of children's aid societies by extending
the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to complaints about children's aid societies.

"The Ombudsman investigative process provides a credible
accountability mechanism for the child protection system. Administrative
conduct of children's aid societies has the potential for seriously and
dramatically impacting the lives of Ontarians and it should be subject to
independent investigation and systemic review of administrative practices."

I don't think that's a lot to ask. I really don't think it's a lot to
ask for the children of our province and their families, quite frankly, in
the milieu of child protection, to have this independent oversight
mechanism. In fact, I think anything less is doing them an injustice.

1750

"The cost of implementing expanded jurisdiction of the Ombudsman in
this area would be minimal, given that the infrastructure and experience
already exists" within the office.

"Five other provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New
Brunswick and Nova Scotia) have Ombudsman oversight of child welfare issues
including child protection.

"In Alberta, the Ombudsman has jurisdiction to review the conduct of
government officials who administer the child protection system in that
province with the exception of First Nations child protection services."

Needless to say, the background material is extensive.

People may recall that when the Ombudsman found out that this bill was
coming forward-we actually called the Ombudsman's office to let them know
that we couldn't see any government amendment that would address Ombudsman
oversight and that the government decided to put a different accountability
system in place. We let the Ombudsman know. People will perhaps be aware
that, on February 14, the Ombudsman issued a press release and held a small
press conference. In this press release, he said: "The Ministry of Children
and Youth Services' proposed amendments to Bill 210 ... fall far short of
what is needed to ensure independent, third-party, investigative oversight
of children's aid societies...."

"`It's a stopgap measure, which does not go far enough,' said Mr.
Marin. `All it does is add another layer of bureaucracy to internal
processes.'"

Why is that? What the minister decided to do instead of simply-and
it's not a difficult thing to do. In fact, the NDP actually put the
amendment forward. It's not a complicated, complex amendment; it's a fairly
basic amendment. It's only a couple of lines long. I have it in front of me
here in our package of amendments. It says:

"16.1 Despite the definition of `governmental organization' in section
1 of the Ombudsman Act, every society is deemed to be a governmental
institution for the purposes of that act."

That's it; it's a one-liner. That would have resolved the issue of
independent oversight for children's aid societies. It would have been done
a lot in terms of the community input that we got in the hearings process.
In fact, do you know what? Letters continue to arrive. Even within the last
week, people were writing through the clerk of the committee, Anne Stokes,
and it was a result of the Ombudsman coming forward. People in Ontario were
saying, "We have real concerns about a lack of independent oversight of
children's aid societies."

What the minister decided to do instead-and I take this from some
notes that the minister kindly provided when we met with her prior to the
clause-by-clause session so that she could give us the opportunity to have a
heads-up about what was coming in the government changes and what were some
of the reasons behind them. What she's decided to do instead is provide for
a review process through a current body called the Child and Family Services
Review Board. In the process previously, there had to be a director's
review; there's no longer that requirement. Reviews now get done by, or
complaints get processed through, this other body, the Child and Family
Services Review Board. The minister indicates that the amendments would
include additional requirements that "where a society or licensee makes a
decision respecting an aboriginal child, the society must provide notice of
the decisions to the child's band or native community" etc. But it says,
"Where there is a request made for a hearing before the Child and Family
Services Review Board, the child's band or native community must first be
given notice of the hearing" etc.

On the one hand, the minister is acknowledging that there's a problem
with the process, acknowledging that any appeal mechanism or any oversight
mechanism must build in some real language around First Nations
communities-again, that's a good thing-but failing on the main grade, which
is to ensure that that review process is done by the Ombudsman of Ontario,
as is done in most jurisdictions across the nation. Many other provinces
have this kind of oversight, so there's really no excuse not to have it.

There was some concern raised around the fact that the Child and
Family Services Review Board is an organization that, at this point in time,
is minimally staffed, if you want to call it that. It has an opportunity for
a number of appointments; I think something like 30. There are only about 10
members on it. There's a lot of getting up to speed that needs to be done.
There's the building of a bureaucracy, but guess what? It's called the Child
and Family Services Review Board, so it's part of the very system we were
hoping we would be able to get an independent look at. Unfortunately, the
government decided not to agree with the Ombudsman's analysis and has gone
ahead and put this other mechanism in place.

We were pretty disappointed, and I guess that's a light way of putting
it, at the lack of acknowledgement by the government that the children and
the families of Ontario are worth it. They're worth the effort, they're
worth the small one-liner it would have taken to make the Ombudsman's office
have oversight of the system. If you were in any of those hearings, you
would have heard the real pain that some people brought to the table around
their frustration and the difficulties they had in having accountability of
children's aid societies.

People might recall that the coroner actually weighed in on the issue
as well. One of the things the coroner was clear about was that it wasn't
just a matter of having oversight or having an ability to review where there
has been a death of a child. I think there was a point where members of the
government were saying, "Well, the coroner agrees. The Ombudsman shouldn't
have oversight over child protection," but the coroner was very specific. He
said, "You will note I am making no comment about reviews of children's aid
societies where a death does not occur because it is not within our
mandate."

So although the coroner had something to say about having oversight
where there has been a death of a child in Ontario, he was very clear to
indicate that that does not let the government off the hook in terms of all
the other complaints that may arise with children's aid societies where
there was no death of a child. I think it's important to put that on the
record, because I recall that people were waving around the coroner's
comments and making it seem as if the coroner was in agreement with the
government about not needing oversight by the Ombudsman. In fact, it was a
very narrow review in terms of the coroner's comments and it had only to do
with the responsibility of the coroner's office, which we all know they have
where there's been the death of a child in the province.

I have a number of other issues that I need to raise, and I look
forward to doing so the next time this bill comes up for debate, because
I've only gotten through about half of my leadoff speech.

Just to reiterate, First Nations issues and consultation around First
Nations concerns was nil initially. The government made some attempts to
resolve that, and I got an opportunity to read in the resolution that First
Nations communities brought forward. I think it's extremely important that
we continue that relationship. The government needs to do a lot more, not
only in the context of child welfare but in a much broader context across
the province, particularly the one that was raised by the member for Nickel
Belt, which is the issue of LHINs.

The Ombudsman issue was the second thing I was able to discuss, and I
think it's an important one. Next time around, hopefully I'll be able to get
some concerns on the record around the government not taking into
consideration problems that children have when they age out of the system,
the lack of the government's preparedness to recognize extended care and
maintenance for children, not only as they age but also as they go into
different types of care, as well as the necessity for an independent child
advocate. I'll get to those next time.

The Acting Speaker: I wish to inform the House that, pursuant to
standing order 37, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to
have been made.

ADJOURNMENT DEBATE
ORDERS OF THE DAY

CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2006

LOI DE 2006 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE LES SERVICES
À L'ENFANCE ET À LA FAMILLE

Mrs. Chambers moved third reading of the following bill:

Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act and make
complementary amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 210, Loi modifiant la
Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille et apportant des
modifications complémentaires à d'autres lois.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Ted Arnott): I recognize the minister for her
leadoff remarks.

Hon. Mary Anne V. Chambers (Minister of Children and Youth Services):
I'm pleased to rise today to talk about Bill 210, the government's child
protection legislation, which is before this House for third reading. The
fundamental goal of this legislation is to build a child protection system
that is better for children, a system that puts the interests of the
children first in every instance, a system that is accountable to the
community it serves. The very thoughtful and well-considered amendments that
have been made as the bill has moved through first and second readings and
through committee hearings will provide stronger protection for children and
greater accountability to the children, their families and the broader
community.

I want to take a moment to thank my colleagues in this House and those
individuals who came to us through public hearings and committee meetings to
make improvements to this bill. Thirty-five amendments have been made to
Bill 210 since second reading, five of which came from the NDP. These
improvements have made this bill even stronger and will help to make
Ontario's child protection system much more accountable. If passed, these
changes will provide more hope, support and stability to vulnerable children
in Ontario. It will do this by making children's aid societies more
accountable to the children and families they serve and more accountable to
their communities through a stronger complaints and appeals process. It will
do this by helping more children who are crown wards find a loving, adoptive
family by making adoption more flexible for children and less complicated
for prospective parents. It will do this by providing more options so more
children who need protection, even those who are not adopted, can grow up in
a safe, caring, permanent home. And it will do this by helping to resolve
cases outside the courtroom more quickly, through collaborative solutions
such as mediation.

The children and youth who come into the care of children's aid
societies come from incredibly challenging circumstances. We need to know
that children in need of protection are indeed better off because a
children's aid society was there to help. It is our collective
responsibility, and it is a responsibility that this government believes is
of the utmost importance. That's why we're strengthening the system so that
our children's aid societies are more accountable to the children and
families they serve.

Currently, there is no province-wide standard as to how complaints
against children's aid societies are handled. We are proposing a consistent
process for the review of children's aid society decisions that would
include strict timelines. Timelines are crucial, because when we're looking
at who will care for a child or where that child will live, we must act with
careful consideration as well as speed and efficiency.

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Since this bill has been before the House, we have heard a number of
proposals for a new approach to handling complaints about children's aid
societies. We have taken all those proposals into consideration, and from
those proposals we're putting forward what we believe is a complaints system
that will be effective, unbiased, expeditious and binding. The complaints
processes that exist now do not sufficiently meet those criteria. We need a
process that responds to the urgent and sensitive nature of child
protection. We need a process that is timely and results in binding
decisions.

We are proposing the involvement of a neutral third party to help
resolve complaints, the Child and Family Services Review Board. If passed,
this option will give families, be they birth parents, adoptive parents or
other caregivers in the community, an unbiased, impartial place to turn to
if they feel their complaints are not being dealt with fairly. The Child and
Family Services Review Board is that place.

The Ombudsman will play a key role in this new process, because in
Ontario the Ombudsman has jurisdiction over the Child and Family Services
Review Board. This means that the oversight of the office of the Ombudsman
is one of the critical checks and balances that will, if this legislation is
passed, be in place.

Let me say also that we want children and families to benefit fully
from these more stringent accountability measures. Our proposal also
includes a plan to let families know how they can access the complaints
process if their concerns are not being met. This new, stronger complaints
process would be in addition to regulations we have in place to keep
children's aid societies accountable to the children and families they serve
and to the broader public.

The family courts, the auditor, the police and the coroner also have
important roles to play. In fact, my ministry has been working with the
coroner to further strengthen the child death review process and to hold
children's aid societies accountable for implementing recommendations that
result from these reviews.

I believe that with scrutiny comes strength, and I believe we're
building that strength into this bill. From families to children's aid
societies to the courts and community watchdogs, I know we share the same
goal: a child protection system that works exceedingly well for children.

It is a goal that we share with Ontario's aboriginal community. Since
this legislation was introduced, I have dedicated a lot of time to meeting
with and listening to representatives of Ontario's aboriginal community. My
ministry staff have also participated in those and several other meetings.
They also joined aboriginal community leaders as part of a four-day meeting
in Sault Ste. Marie. Together they produced tangible solutions to address
the aboriginal community's concerns with the original legislation.

I mention the aboriginal community specifically because aboriginal
children and youth are disproportionately represented in our child
protection system. I'm determined to do whatever I can to address the needs
of this community. I have had several meetings with aboriginal chiefs,
leaders and service providers. We have discussed on-reserve and off-reserve
challenges and solutions. I asked them to work with my ministry to make Bill
210 better for aboriginal children and youth. Twenty amendments have been
made to this bill as a result of these discussions.

Under the current system, aboriginal children who come into the care
of a children's aid society are often placed in non-aboriginal foster care.
This bill places a strong emphasis on placing children with extended family
and community. For aboriginal children, this may occur through customary
care, so that aboriginal children and youth can stay in their communities
and maintain important cultural and family ties.

This is a stronger bill because of the commitment and the diligent
work that our aboriginal partners have put into it. But while much progress
has been made, our discussions with the aboriginal community will not end
with the passage of Bill 210. We will continue to work together to address
the needs of their community.

The substantial amendments that have been made to this legislation
strengthen the bill. That has always represented an important step forward
for our child protection system. Bill 210 is about helping vulnerable
children grow up in homes that are safe and secure, homes that help these
children succeed in school, homes that give them the tools they need to
succeed in life.

There is no question that this is a challenging task. Currently,
Ontario's children's aid societies receive almost 160,000 calls each year
reporting child abuse and neglect. In many of these situations, child
protection staff can support parents so they're better able to care for
their children. However, there are still about 9,000 children in the
permanent care of Ontario's children's aid societies. These children are
known as crown wards. They live in foster homes or in group homes. On
average, they change homes every 22 months, and they change schools. They
need to make new friends in their new neighbourhoods, and a new foster
family or group home may mean new rules and new expectations. That kind of
instability can affect every aspect of a child's life.

Of the 9,000 children who are crown wards, we're seeing just over 900
adoptions a year, or about 10%. I think we can do better than that. I know
we must do better than that. We need to help more children find a permanent,
caring home by making adoption more flexible for individual children and
parents.

Our government's reforms would allow a child to maintain ties to his
or her birth family after being adopted. Right now, 75% of children in
permanent care cannot be adopted because their birth family has a
court-ordered right to contact them. When judges make an order that a child
become a ward of the crown, they may be hesitant to seal off all contact
with the family except in those cases where there is an issue of safety. So
the birth family might have the opportunity to visit the child, say, twice a
year. That often makes sense so that the child doesn't completely lose touch
with their birth family, but it should not automatically make the child
ineligible to become a member of a permanent family. These proposed changes
would mean that, where appropriate, a child could keep those important ties
to their family, community and culture and still be adopted or placed in a
permanent home.

We know that adoption will help a number of children find a secure,
stable family, but we also know it is not the answer for every child. The
proposed changes would give children's aid societies more flexibility to
meet the unique needs of each child. For some children, it would mean being
placed with extended family, people they already know and trust. Under the
current system, most children who are removed from their homes are placed in
foster care or in a group home. This would result in less disruption for a
child who has already been through too much.

The safety and well-being of all children who come in contact with the
child protection system continues to be our top priority. Let me be clear:
Before placing a child in any home, the process must always start with a
rigorous safety and risk assessment. The completion of an appropriate
assessment, including background checks on all adults who live in the home,
is a critical safeguard for all placements. Some believe that the ability of
a children's aid society to place a child with an extended family member
might make the society's job easier. This is not necessarily the case. In
fact, the need for stringent safeguards is just as important in such
circumstances. That is why children's aid societies must conduct a mandatory
background check and home assessment before placing a child, including
placement with extended family members.

We know that not all children have a family member who is an
appropriate caregiver. In such cases, there may be other adults willing and
able to provide a loving, stable home. It could be the child's long-time
foster parent or another important person in that child's life. If passed,
this bill will provide greater opportunity for these children to grow up in
a permanent, loving home.

The proposed changes I have mentioned are part of our government's
plan to help more children and youth in the care of children's aid societies
thrive in a safe, stable and supportive home.

We're also removing some of the barriers that often discourage people
from adopting children in Ontario. Parents who have tried to adopt a child
from a children's aid society will tell you that it's a cumbersome,
inconsistent process. We're improving the application process so there is a
standard, consistent application for both public and private adoptions. This
will make the process simpler for those parents who are looking to adopt a
child in Ontario, either through a children's aid society or through a
private adoption agency.

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We're working with the Adoption Council of Ontario and with our
children's aid societies to provide a province-wide, web-based system that
will bring together children who are available for adoption with families
who want to adopt.

To provide appropriate protection and supports for our children, there
will be post-adoption support so that families who adopt a child from a
children's aid society aren't left on their own if they are in need of
support.

We know that we can improve children's prospects for a productive,
healthy and overall successful adulthood by helping to provide them with a
loving, stable home in their childhood.

In order for these changes to be effective, we need to also make some
changes to the way our 53 children's aid societies work. We have introduced
a new funding model that places a greater emphasis on the specific results
we want to see for children, like more adoptions and the use of other forms
of dispute resolution. We want children's aid societies to better match
their level of response to the individual needs of the child. We want
children's aid societies to support and strengthen families as they face
challenges so that they can take better care of their kids themselves.

If passed, Bill 210 should result in the use of more collaborative
solutions to resolve child protection matters rather than resorting to
lengthy court proceedings. A number of provinces and states already look
beyond the courtroom to settle some child protection disputes. They use
mediation, family conferences and talking circles. Evaluations consistently
show positive results, including more timely resolutions, higher rates of
settlements, more satisfied families and better communication between the
parties involved. This is consistent with our goal of a system that works
better for children.

It is with that in mind that we are working with our children's aid
societies to develop a comprehensive information system. Many children's aid
societies regularly share information, but currently there is not a
consistent, uniform practice for sharing what can be critical information.
We are working closely with the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies and the Ministry of Finance to make that province-wide system a
reality.

To conclude, as I said earlier, the legislative changes we are
proposing are part of a broad reform of Ontario's child protection system.
The bill before the House today, together with the regulations that will
follow and the policy changes that have already been implemented, is
designed to make the child protection system work better for Ontario's
vulnerable children and youth.

If passed, Ontarians will see children's aid societies that are more
accountable to the children and families they serve, with a stronger, more
accessible and more responsive complaints process; more children who are
crown wards being adopted into loving families, with rules that make
adoption more flexible for children and less complicated for prospective
parents; more children growing up in safe, caring, permanent homes and
familiar supportive communities rather than moving from one place to
another, again and again; and more child protection cases being resolved
outside the courtroom through collaborative solutions such as mediation.

I ask my colleagues in this House to join me in supporting this bill
so that we can improve the lives of Ontario's most vulnerable children and
youth.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr. Norm Miller (Parry Sound-Muskoka): I'm pleased to respond to the
comments from the Minister of Children and Youth Services. I'd like to ask
the minister how her dumpling making went this morning, because I happened
to be watching Breakfast Television first thing morning-although it was
pancake day, so I'm not quite sure why you were making dumplings.

Hon. Mrs. Chambers: It's a multicultural pancake.

Mr. Miller: Multicultural pancakes, okay.

I'm very pleased to comment on Bill 210, the Child and Family Services
Statute Law Amendment Act. The minister, at the beginning of her speech,
said that they're putting children first, and certainly no one would argue
with that goal. How you do this and how you arrive at that goal might be
debated, but the goal certainly would not be.

I'm pleased that the government has pledged to work with First
Nations, with the aboriginal community. I note that John Beaucage, the
Anishinabek grand council chief, who is from Parry Sound-Muskoka, from the
Wasauksing First Nation, was one of the presenters at committee. I know
there were many aboriginal groups that made presentations, so I hope the
government continues to work with those First Nations in the implementation
of this bill.

I also note that our critic, Julia Munro, has worked tirelessly on
this file many days at committee. We'll be hearing from her shortly when she
has her hour-long presentation, the leadoff on third reading.

I was disappointed that the government did not respond or did not
listen to the Ontario Ombudsman, André Marin, who was quite critical of this
bill; he asked for oversight of the children's aid society. I note from my
own personal experience at the constituency level that it can be very
frustrating trying to assist constituents who are having problems with the
CAS, and it seemed like a reasonable request that the Ombudsman might play a
role in overseeing and dealing with problems with the children's aid
society.

Ms. Shelley Martel (Nickel Belt): I spoke on this bill in second
reading, and I'm pleased to join in the debate this afternoon just to focus
on some concerns that I don't think were appropriately dealt with during the
course of the public hearings.

Let me deal with First Nations first. If you look at the list of both
people who made actual presentations before the committee and groups and
organizations that provided written submissions, there were many, many
individual First Nation communities and also political organizations that
appeared or made written submissions because they were not adequately or
appropriately consulted about the development of this bill. That also
happened with respect to Bill 36, the LHIN legislation, and we heard very
clearly from First Nations during the course of that process as well.

I gather that some of the recommendations that came forward during the
course of the public hearings were adopted by the government. Others were
put forward by our critic, Ms. Horwath. But the fact remains that for a
government that claims they've got a new relationship with aboriginal
people, that new relationship sure has gotten off to a very rocky start. We
heard criticisms from political organizations and individual First Nations
on both this bill and Bill 36, and the government would be very wise, if
they are going to give any meaning at all to their statement about having a
new political relationship, to actually start to involve and consult and
have input from First Nations before introducing legislation.

Secondly, I'm very concerned that the government didn't accept the
amendment to have the Ombudsman have oversight with respect to children's
aid societies. I think that's a very appropriate role and responsibility for
the Ombudsman of Ontario to have and I regret that the government would not
accept that amendment as put forward by us.

I just want to say that I'm very concerned about financial resources.
I know they don't appear in the bill, but I can tell you that our own
children's aid society has enough of a time and dedication of human and
financial resources just dealing with protection issues. If we are going to
have adoptions work in the province of Ontario, there's going to have to be
a significant investment on the adoption side in many of these agencies,
because they just don't have the funds right now to make that happen. I'll
be interested to see what kind of funding is going to be provided.

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Questions and comments?

Mr. Khalil Ramal (London-Fanshawe): Thank you for giving me this
opportunity to stand up and speak in support of Bill 210. I had a chance to
serve on the social policy committee and I listened to many people from
across the province of Ontario submit their presentations and talk about
this bill.

I want to congratulate the minister for bringing this beautiful and
incredible transformation of child care services in this province, because,
as you know, our children are our future. If we don't look after them at the
present time, we're not going to have a bright and strong future.

This bill will make adoption very flexible, to find a home for those
children who are looking for peace and tranquillity and finding a family
that can look after them and help them to grow and become stronger and
become the future of this province.

1610

I think this bill is very important, and makes it easier to include
the grandparents and family members to be a part of the adoption system in
this province.

I had the chance to have lunch today with a friend of mine who has
been trying for a long time to adopt her nephew. But due to the old bill,
the issue is very complicated. It's not easy. It's very complex. That's why
this bill will make all the adoption system easier, especially for a member
of the family to be taking charge of loved ones in their family.

Also, we listened to many aboriginal people from across the province,
and I met with them in my office. I think the ministry and the minister met
with them on a regular basis and also looked after their needs. Hopefully,
this bill will look after the needs of everyone in Ontario, whether
aboriginal or a person who lives in the north or the west or the east or
Toronto. This bill is very important, not just for one particular group but
for every child in this province. It's about time. I want to congratulate
the minister again for her hard work in bringing this bill forward.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): Mr. Speaker, I appreciate
the opportunity to participate. I concur with my friend from-what's the
riding, Norm?

Mr. Miller: Parry Sound-Muskoka.

Mr. Runciman: -Parry Sound-Muskoka, a very knowledgeable member who
participates in virtually every matter of business before the Legislature.
We compliment him on that.

Referencing some of the discussion that has occurred related to this
issue and the legislation itself, but the issue generally with respect to
adoption, I know that my colleague Mr. Jackson from Burlington, who has been
a strong advocate in terms of protection of children in this province, has
raised a number of issues surrounding the legislation, a number of issues
and questions surrounding the intent here. I know that he has raised the
issue of the legislation being essentially a cost-containment strategy and
not a child welfare outcomes issue.

I think there is an indication that when it comes to a vote the
Progressive Conservative opposition will be supporting the bill, but I think
we have a significant number of concerns that the critic will be putting on
the record, which hopefully the minister and her colleagues will pay heed to
and at some point perhaps consider changes. Our member Ms. Munro has talked
about a sunset review, which I'm not sure has been accepted by the
government. It's difficult to comprehend the rationale behind a refusal to
accept that kind of comprehensive review and indeed to see just what impact
this legislation is having.

The Acting Speaker: That concludes the time available for questions
and comments. I'll return to the Minister of Children and Youth Services.
You have two minutes to reply.

Hon. Mrs. Chambers: I'm pleased to comment on what has been said by my
four colleagues here in the House. I certainly appreciate and want to
emphasize the importance of their contributions.

On the matter of financial resources for children's aid societies, I
guess I'm not really all that good at marketing what we do. So I should say
at this point that while children's aid societies have basically experienced
something in the order of about a 200% increase over the last eight years,
we recognize that they do require more financial resources. To that extent,
we did commit an additional $34.7 million to them a few months ago, which
they appreciated. We recognize that even as we reform the system we need to
provide financial support to stabilize the system.

On the subject of the aboriginal community, there is no question that
we take the needs of our aboriginal families, aboriginal leaders, people on
the ground, off reserve and on reserve, very seriously. I think if you were
to ask them about my commitment, they would have to share with you very
positively my firm commitment to addressing their needs.

In terms of the Ombudsman, when Bill 210 came forward for second
reading, the Ombudsman did not have a role. The Ombudsman will have a role
with the proposed amendments that have come forward, and it's a very
important role.

I also want to recognize that the amendment that was brought forward
by Ms. Munro for a sunset was a very valid and thoughtful amendment, and
this bill will be-

The Acting Speaker: Thank you very much. Further debate.

Mrs. Julia Munro (York North): I'm pleased to be able to join the
third reading debate on Bill 210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law
Amendment Act. I think everyone agrees that protecting our children is the
number one priority for any government or party.

We read in the papers and see on television so many cases of children
abused or neglected. The children's aid societies and other child welfare
agencies need all the support, funding and powers necessary to protect
children. In a public survey, the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies found that while 85% of the public would report child abuse, only
46% would report suspected child abuse. Ontarians need to know that they
have an ethical duty and, in many cases, a legal obligation to report
suspected child abuse. Child protection is not just a job for social workers
or police; it is a duty for everyone, every individual. We all know of
horrendous cases of abuse that have taken place in our province. Though I
know that no system of protection is foolproof, we must learn from the
mistakes made in individual cases to make sure it never happens again.

The standard refrain we hear when talking about child protection is
"the best interests of the child." We all know that this includes protecting
children from emotional, sexual or physical abuse. In 2000 we expanded the
legislation to include neglect. We must also ensure that, in any
legislation, we protect a child's need for stability and certainty. The
right of any child to a share of happiness and safety is paramount.

I want to take a moment to look at the aims that these reforms would
have. They fall into three key areas. The first one is permanency planning
for children, which simply means that the sooner a child can benefit from a
permanent, stable family life and relationship, obviously the better. The
second is the question of openness in adoption. The third is alternative
dispute resolution, which I'll refer to later.

The aim of these reforms is, again, to expand the range of permanent,
family-based care options for children in Ontario. It's also to enable more
children to move on to adoption, and to reduce the court delay and divert
cases where appropriate. One of the things we're all very much aware of is
the kind of lengthy time that is taken up with the court process, and,
obviously, looking at specific parts of this legislation designed to reduce
that court delay.

The proposed changes would mean that a child could maintain ties to
his or her family, community and culture and still be adopted or placed in a
permanent home. The new funding framework is intended to place a greater
emphasis on specific results for individual children and allow children's
aid societies more options when they respond to new cases, matching their
level of response to the need of the child. The legislation also proposes
more extensive use of mediation instead of courts in child protection
matters.

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Every one of these aims is one that I think everyone in this House
could and should support. The only questions we need to ask ourselves are,
does the bill meet the test of effectiveness, and will it fulfill the aims
that the government intends to meet?

I'd like to take a moment just to look back over the last 10 years,
certainly in the time that I've served in this House, to give some
background about the child welfare system. Between 1991 and 1996, six
inquests studied the deaths of 10 children. The inquests highlighted for the
government that improvements to the child protection system were desperately
needed. In 1997, the Ontario Child Mortality Task Force also made detailed
suggestions concerning the tools and resources available to front-line
workers, their training and the legislative base for child protection.

Following this, our government appointed an expert panel headed by
Judge Mary Jane Hatton. The panel told us there should be a better balance
in the legislation between the interests of families and children. The panel
recommended we make it clear that the paramount purpose of the act is to
promote the best interests, protection and well-being of children.

The former PC government considered their input and their
recommendations very carefully and developed legislation to better protect
children. These amendments addressed those changes most urgently needed to
ensure the safety of children. Introduced in 1999, our significant changes
to the Child and Family Services Act were proclaimed on March 31, 2000. Our
changes made it clear that the paramount purpose of the Child and Family
Services Act was to promote the best interests, protection and well-being of
children. Our changes expanded the reasons for finding a child in need of
protection. For instance, the word "neglect" was specifically included and
the threshold for risk of physical and emotional harm to children was
lowered. This has encouraged earlier action to protect children at risk.

These changes also allowed evidence of a parent's past conduct towards
children to be used in child protection court proceedings. Our changes
clarified the duty of professionals and the public to report that a child is
or may be in need of protection, to encourage more reporting of suspected
abuse and neglect. Our changes made it easier for children's aid societies
to get the information they need to protect children. Our changes promoted
earlier and more decisive planning for children's futures so that permanent
arrangements for children could be achieved as soon as possible. They also
ensured that access by relatives or other individuals to children who have
been made crown wards is granted only if it is beneficial to the child. We
also provided for a mandatory review of the Child and Family Services Act at
least every five years.

Our government also committed the funds necessary to better protect
children. Changing the law is not enough; we must always ensure that the
funds and staff are available to protect children. Between 1995 and 2003, we
increased funding to children's aid societies to over $1 billion, an
increase of 185% since 1995. Between 1995 and 2003, we hired 1,800 more
child protection workers, almost a 69% increase. As of December 31, 2002,
approximately 7,700 children's aid society staff had been trained under the
Ontario child protection training program. I'm very proud of the changes and
improvements that our government made. We made a difference when it came to
protecting our children.

Our legal and funding changes received widespread support among child
welfare experts and the media. Mary McConville, executive director of the
Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies, said, about our legislative
changes, "These amendments represent a profound change in child protection
legislation, and they are strongly supported by every children's aid society
we represent."

Dr. James Cairns, deputy chief coroner, said, "With these changes,
Ontario will take a huge step forward in its fight against child abuse and
neglect."

A February 16, 2001, thumbs-up editorial in the London Free Press
lauded the PC government's reforms: "Queen's Park's overhaul of child
protection laws and its commitment of money to keep kids out of harm's way
is winning kudos in surprising areas, such as social services circles: The
greater emphasis on protecting children in risky arrangements has meant
rising caseloads for children's aid societies. The money is following
up-spending in this area has jumped by over 100% over the last five years."

Bob Penney, the executive director of the Kawartha-Haliburton
Children's Aid Society, said, in the Lindsay Daily Post on February 16,
2001, "The province made a commitment to the child welfare system, and I
have to give them credit in responding to it. The government's response to
child welfare has been incredible. This government has done more than any
other government."

This view of our PC government changes has been sustained over the
last five years. A report published by the Ontario Association of Children's
Aid Societies just this year strongly supported the 2000 changes:
"Amendments to the Child and Family Services Act in March 2000 represented a
significant contribution to the enhanced protection of children. The
legislative amendments, in combination with the implementation of the
Ontario risk assessment model, initiated changes that were broadly welcomed
by the child welfare sector. The new provisions lowered the threshold of
intervention in terms of neglect and sought to ensure earlier resolutions,
particularly for younger children."

I think it's important to do that bit of history, because certainly
there is some concern over the kinds of promises that this government has
made with regard to children's issues. The one that comes to mind is the
campaign promise of the Premier in offering full treatment for autistic
children, and of course this promise was broken. Dalton McGuinty promised
full autism treatment. He promised "the support and treatment they need.
That includes children over the age of six." In March of last year, the
promise was broken by the children's minister of the day. Now the courts
have ruled against the McGuinty government for violating the Education Act
by not providing autism treatment beyond age six. Ending the clawback of the
child tax credit was another McGuinty promise, and this was broken.

I point out these Liberal broken promises as a warning to members of
the House, to child welfare agencies and to children in need. They need to
know that the Liberals have not always lived up to the promises they've made
in this category, and under the McGuinty Liberals, children's aid societies
face combined deficits of about $70 million, with no plan by the government
to deal with this issue.

1630

I'd like to turn now to some of the key elements and provisions of
this bill, and in particular to offer some of the words of the presenters to
the committee, what they had to say about some of these issues. I'm going to
deal with the issue around places of safety, the issue around kinship and
community care, the alternative dispute resolution mechanism, native issues,
the appeal process, openness agreements and adoption itself.

First, then, a presentation that was provided to us by the Ontario
Association of Residences Treating Youth. This presentation, I think,
outlines very clearly the high standards that are needed to define a place
of safety for children or youth coming into care. I quote:

"Being on the front lines, our members understand that situations
often arise which require the immediate placement of a child in a `place of
safety.' We have always worked hand in hand with the local children's aid
societies to find safe homes for children in need of protection on an urgent
basis.

"The act, which will now explicitly contemplate using a relative,
extended family or `local community' on a more regular basis, brings with it
different challenges than using, for example, a foster home which has
already passed the reviews for being a safe place for the child to be."

Mr. Moore goes on: "This could now mean that for many children, they
will not necessarily be in the direct care of a CAS, but will be placed in
an alternative place of safety with a relative, neighbour etc.

"The proposed changes to the act mention the use of `prescribed
procedures' in determining a place of safety. In our view, a place of safety
must be determined with care and scrutiny.

"Our experience leads us to recommend that at a minimum, this should
be the same as the requirements for a foster home. However, based on our
conversations with the ministry, we understand the practical application of
this section of the act and accompanying regulations is to enable it to be
used quickly, in situations where immediate intervention is required, the
child is required to be removed from an unsafe situation, and to provide a
place of safety in the period prior to the first court hearing.

"It is critical to recognize that CASs already have access to numerous
existing and approved places of safety provided by existing licensed foster
care and group home beds. Foster care and group home agencies have always
and will continue to have short-term emergency placements that meet CAS
needs-we partner with them regularly to meet those emergency needs, and we
provide a high standard of care in safe environments.

"The government's policy goal of `kinship' care is leading down a road
for this type of care to be used on a much broader basis than in the past.
It may appear on the surface to be cheaper to follow this path, but the
reality is that many of the children taken into protection have problems
that need a higher level of care and treatment and require a more
sophisticated form of foster care or group treatment. The ultimate goal must
be giving these children and youth the best chance at being productive
members of our society.

"While using relatives or a `community' is a laudable goal, in many
cases the solution is much more complex than simply placing a child with a
relative for care. The expansion in the use of kinship care may be used for
a short period of time, or may become the longer-term home of the child. We
understand the proposed regulations will be used to develop a standard of
care for ensuring the child is going to a place of safety in the interim
period if, for example, the place of safety is one which has not been used
in the past.

"It is important for the committee to recognize the balance required
in weighing the child's safety and security against the perceived benefits
of kinship care. Therefore, a realistic assessment of the guardian's ability
to keep the child safe and meet their treatment needs is required along with
a realistic appraisal of the child's treatment needs, a plan to access
appropriate services and the resources available to do so."

Mr. Moore continues, "The committee and the ministry should also
consider a further definition of what and who `community' means. We ask that
the committee and the ministry ensure that this proposed change does not
become a measure of convenient, less regulated placements that save dollars
at the expense of the children in need of comprehensive care.

"In addition, ongoing children's aid society involvement and the
legislated requirement of the ministry to monitor compliance of these places
of safety is critical to protecting these children. The ministry must review
all children's aid society placements, especially for those children who do
not end up coming into care.

"All of us who participate in the child welfare system strive to
achieve the same goals: a fair and just balance between the provision of
high-quality care and treatment to the children and youth who need it and
the need to contain escalating costs. There are many paths we can follow to
arrive at our objectives, but we must ensure that none of these avenues
leads to an imbalance favouring cost reductions over the needs of children
and youth.

"The children's aid societies, as well as some other community
agencies, are responsible for determining where a child is placed. One
factor in doing this is the cost of the service the child needs. The budgets
that children's aid societies and other placing agencies have to manage can
constrain their decisions. While perhaps not a direct intention, this can
compromise what the child needs and receives in treatment. For example, the
child ends up being placed in a regular foster home when the professionals
who have evaluated the child recommend placement in a treatment foster care
program or for treatment in a residential group home. In this regard,
particularly in light of the proposed expansion of the definition of `places
of safety,' it is critical to have a system for monitoring outcomes and the
ability to review the appropriateness of where the child is being placed in
order to meet their treatment goals."

1640

I think this submission certainly sums up the position that we
recognize as being paramount, that while there are arguments we would agree
with in terms of children being in a home where there is a relationship, the
question, then, of whether it's the best home in terms of long-term or in
terms of treatment is obviously a very significant one.

Kinship and community care is, again, very evident in this bill and I
think a positive goal. We know that in many cases, if a father or a mother
is unable to care for a child, the fact that the child could then go to a
grandparent or an aunt or a cousin may certainly be best for the child. If
we have a parent who has a drug addiction, giving custody to a family member
may allow that child to experience the least possible upheaval. We must also
recognize that extended families already play a great part in raising a
child, and it only makes sense, where appropriate, that we turn to them
first in case of need.

Nevertheless, kinship care from a loving grandparent or relative can
provide a healthy and familiar environment for a child. Reliance on the
courts may also be reduced if we're looking at a system where the child is
going to be put within the family circle. I think we all recognize the role
of extended families, which play a part in the raising of every child, and
so it seems to me that it only makes sense that we turn to them first in the
case of need. But obviously the question of kinship care must be guarded
very carefully because many abusive and neglectful parents in fact come from
families in which these traits have been carried from one generation to
another.

What we need to hear about and be comforted by, then, are the kinds of
safeguards that would ensure that those kinds of processes will take place.
I think an important contribution in the consultation process includes the
words of Carolyn Buck of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto. She makes
reference to the experience that the Toronto children's aid has had on
kinship. She says:

"Our own kinship program, implemented in 2004, has taught us the
precious value of extended families and how supportive and engaged they can
become in the lives of their relative children and youth. We have placed
about 100 children who have been in our care through our kinship program and
believe they have enjoyed greater security, greater stability and
predictability than they may have experienced in a foster care system."

Kristina Reitmeier of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies told us an important fact in her submission:

"Currently, the only mechanisms available for placing a child with
extended family are, first, to make the child a CAS ward and the family or
community member a provisional foster home. This option has the attendant
intrusion by the worker and the lack of autonomy by the family, as there are
regulations for foster homes, and workers need to visit and to document
things frequently. A second option is to place the child with family under a
supervision order, but this can be for a maximum period of 12 months at a
time, requiring returning to court prior to expiry for a status review. The
third available option currently requires that the family members bring a
second, separate court application for custody against the parent under a
different statute."

I think you can see from this that there are some initiatives that
speak to the benefits of the way in which this bill moves this issue
forward, but obviously, as well, some considerations that the government
must consider.

The next part of the bill that I'd like to refer to is again one on
which a great deal of discussion has developed-much of the process of this
will be done in regulation-and that, of course, is the alternative dispute
resolution. I think it's probably-I don't know whether the minister would
agree-one of the signature pieces of this legislation. It certainly comes as
a response to the many, many people, certainly whom I have met and talked
to, who have experienced such frustration with the court process, and was
certainly identified by those in the field in terms of being a very costly
part of the whole children's aid services.

Alternative dispute resolution is used for areas as diverse as
disputes between the forest industry and resource-based tourism, for the
WSIB, and of course such issues as divorce. We all know that court time is
very expensive for all parties concerned, and so we have to be assured that
dispute resolution is in fact going to mean that it is more efficient and
certainly less time-consuming than going to court. If it's seen as a
precursor to going to court, then obviously it may not be quite as
successful as we would want.

To again go to the words of Carolyn Buck of the children's aid
society, "We are also very heartened to see that Bill 210, if passed, will
promote the use of alternative dispute resolution mechanisms for problem
resolution. Our own agency has approached many situations, including client
complaint resolution, through employing such strategies. This is likely to
be less adversarial for all parties, and more likely to result in better
outcomes for children much sooner than we experience through litigation
processes that are often protracted for several years through the courts."

Patricia Fenton of the Adoption Council of Ontario echoed some of the
same sentiment when she said, "We also support the use of alternative
dispute resolution methods as proposed, as we see this provides an
opportunity to move the process out of an adversarial kind of arena and
helps to avoid the lengthy disputes that may hold the child back from moving
into a permanent family as quickly as possible. The proposed act
acknowledges that this method of resolution can be used at various times
throughout the child's life to vary openness orders as needs shift and
change."

1650

John Dunn of the Foster Care Council of Canada outlined his concerns
with dispute resolution in the way that follows:

"One thing I've learned about dispute resolution is that everything in
dispute resolution is to be confidential and cannot be used in court. I
don't know if that's the same with this proposed legislation or if this
child welfare mediation process will be a little different, if it could
somehow be customized, but as a former crown ward myself, one of the largest
issues I have is confidentiality-not the fact that there's not enough
confidentiality, but that there's too much. I've been trying for about five
years, personally, to obtain copies of my own records from the children's
aid society, the Catholic CAS in Toronto, and they've been refusing me from
the start. They won't give me dentists' names, doctors' names, any of my
medical records. So this is something that I think needs to be opened up."

Again, you can see from the variety of comments that have been made
that there is certainly a recognition by all of the presenters of the
potential that alternative dispute resolution has as a mechanism. The
important thing here is that much of what is surrounding this mechanism
will, of course, be done through regulations, so it's very important that
those considerations that have been outlined are addressed. It's certainly
possible that it will do what it's supposed to do: be more effective and be
more timely. That is one of the biggest issues, certainly, when we're
looking at this process, as we should, from the point of view of the child.

We heard a lot about native concerns. Certainly, the keys there
appeared to be summed up by two presentations. I will just quote Chief
Arnold Gardner of the Grand Council Treaty No. 3 Nation: "Bill 210 will have
significant impact on First Nation citizens and communities who are not part
of the native child welfare agency." The second is by Deputy Grand Chief
McCormick of the Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, who told the
committee, "There was only a short period of time in which the ministry
invited comments, from January 21 to 31.... That's not considered
consultation, as far as I know. We did have a Chiefs of Ontario resolution
in 2004, which was passed on to the minister, requesting a separate
consultation process." I would simply make reference to the minister's own
comments today when she made reference to the fact that, as a result of much
of the input in the committee process, there was, of course, more
consultation that was done at this point.

The next issue I would like to deal with is the question of the appeal
process. I don't think there's likely an MPP in the House who has not been
approached by constituents who have found themselves to be in a position
with a CAS of a complaint, some kind of frustration. I think it's partly
because of the fact that when we're dealing with children, obviously
emotions run high. The stakes are very high. These are children we're
talking about. So I think the question of an appeal process is extremely
important.

I'm very happy to see that in this bill as we are debating it today,
the government has restored an appeal process for complaints about the
children's aid services, and that extends outside the actual societies. It
is certainly an important principle of appeals that there should be in
almost all cases an avenue of appeal beyond the level of the allegedly
offending agency, and so I think it's very important that this be done.

John Dunn of the Foster Care Council of Canada and a former crown ward
of the Catholic Children's Aid Society had this to say: "The concerns I have
are that with the original, the people had an opportunity to have their
complaint heard by the independent board of directors of a children's aid
society. Actually, I'd like to back up and speak to the fact that it says
`which shall be approved by a director.'"

This was, of course, before the government introduced its amendments,
and as it is now, there is the Child and Family Services Review Board. But I
think his comments are important to recognize that there was frustration
with the complaints procedure. I think it's important that the government
has made this amendment. The amendments provide that the complaint review
procedures to be followed by the societies upon the receipt of a complaint
will be established by regulation, and if the complaint relates to certain
specified matters, the decision of the society, made in accordance with the
prescribed complaint review procedure, may be reviewed by the Child and
Family Services Review Board.

The new section 68.1 provides that for other specified matters, the
complaint may be made directly to the board or transferred to the board
before the completion of the society's complaint review procedure. The
amendments provide that a review by the board under section 68 or 68.1 be
conducted in accordance with the specified requirements. I am happy to have
this amendment. I had, in fact, prepared an amendment myself along the same
lines, that a board have the kind of jurisdiction, and obviously on the
basis of the government's amendment, I withdrew this.

The next area I would like to refer to in this bill that I think is,
again, new ground is the question of openness agreements. I think these are
going to be the source of a great deal of interest as the government puts
this bill, if passed, into process, because the minister herself has made it
very clear that this particular part of the legislation is seen as something
that will encourage adoption. When you look at the statistic that there are
9,000 children who are part of the children's aid society and only 900
adoptions, it's a very startling figure to be given, so we need to be sure
that the process by which any openness agreement can be done is one that in
fact is going to encourage adoptions.

We're all aware that there are avenues in this province and in this
country for people to choose alternative routes to adoption, so in one sense
there is sort of a competition for those adoptive homes. The last thing we
would want is to have it seen as a way that might impede, as opposed to
encourage and increase, the adoptions.

Once again going to our presenters, their comments and experience are
important as we look at the process.

Carolyn Buck of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto had this to say:
"Our experience in the adoption department is that many adoptive parents are
interested in being able to provide information about and sometimes contact
with their adopted children's birth parents when they see that it is
important for the child. Currently, the agency grapples with how to
facilitate such information-sharing or contact after adoption without
creating a legal problem for the parties. Legislation that creates a
structure for openness orders or agreements will make it easier to do what
is best for those children and adoptive families who want both a degree of
openness and some legal certainty."

1700

Patricia Fenton of the Adoption Council of Ontario had this to say
about the proposed changes. She supports Bill 210's proposed changes with
respect to openness in adoption: "Too many children in Ontario are prevented
from moving on to adoption because of the access orders. Openness agreements
or orders, when in the best interests of the child, contribute in a positive
way to healthy development. They give the child the security of an adoptive
family while at the same time respecting the importance of those established
relationships and connections. I've certainly learned about the importance
of that through my own daughter, who from as early an age as four had lots
and lots of questions and even concerns about what was happening with her
birth family. Particularly, she wanted to know about her birth mother."

Dr. Brenda Nutter of the Ontario Association of Children's Aid
Societies told the committee that her organization "is not under the
illusion that fully open adoption is possible for all children. We do
believe that, somewhere along a continuum of openness options, there will be
a place for many children to have some sort of contact with their birth
relatives, but not for all. That is why it is so significant that, under
this legislation, a crown wardship order must be obtained before an openness
order can be made. Openness has not been conceived as a bargaining tool to
entice parents into consenting to crown wardship. Openness cannot be
guaranteed. That said, we do heartily support the development of a practice
that allows the greatest amount of openness appropriate to the
circumstances, and we applaud the fact that the nature of the contact can be
defined through either an order or an agreement. In addition, we strongly
support the fact that, under the provisions of Bill 210, the failure to
implement openness provisions does not make an adoption order invalid."

Dr. Nutter goes on to say: "This legislation will require a
substantial commitment by the government to the education of the public and
of those in the field who will be charged with the implementation of Bill
210. It changes the face of public adoption. It is true that more children
will receive better service through permanency initiatives. In addition,
in-care costs will be reduced. But as this process moves ahead, it is
important that the needs of adoptive families be recognized and fully
supported as they manage the ever-changing needs of their older and
special-needs children. In the public sector, we believe that the expansion
of post-adoption services is a critical part of the infrastructure that will
allow the openness provisions of Bill 210 to be successfully implemented."

James Dubray of the Durham Children's Aid Society told the committee
about that children's aid society's experience with openness as follows: "In
the past year, we have been piloting open adoption. Our experiences
generally have not been positive. We have learned that in the making of and
having agreements in place for adoption placement, the natural family
sometimes have changed their minds with regard to the adoption placement and
have sought to have it overturned by using the provisions of the Children's
Law Reform Act. The Superior Court justice has agreed to hear the matter in
September and is currently deliberating and deferring her decision on which
act has primacy.

"If the justice rules that the application has merit and can proceed,
there is a good chance that the adoption placement can be overturned using
the provisions of the Children's Law Reform Act. Needless to say, other
counsel are watching this process very carefully, and if a door is opened to
allow provisions of the Child and Family Services Act to be assailed by
another piece of provincial legislation, we may find ourselves in a bit of a
legal quagmire with respect to child protection and adoption proceedings."

Dubray tells us that "there needs to be a strong signal in the
legislation that child protection and adoption matters are not subject to
review by the Children's Law Reform Act."

Looking at the spectrum of conversation and deputants we heard in the
committee, I think, sends a very strong signal to the government with regard
to those regulations and with regard to the sensitivities around embarking
on the openness order.

I want to take a few minutes to look at the question of issues around
adoption. A moment ago I mentioned 900 adoptions, 9,000 children in care and
the importance of looking at these mechanisms with the goal in mind of
increasing the number of children who will benefit from a permanency they
currently don't have.

Carolyn Buck of the Children's Aid Society of Toronto made reference
to the issues around adoption. She said, "Our agency in Toronto serves over
33,000 children a year. Given that our agency alone provides daily care for
about 1,000 crown wards, we are optimistic that Bill 210 will promote
permanency options which have been heretofore unavailable for the vast
majority of those children and youth. This has been in large measure due to
approximately 75% of crown wardship orders being accompanied by an access
order. Current adoption legislation prohibits crown wards with access orders
being placed for adoption. Simply put, this group of children and youth have
had the option for adoption eliminated from their future. Bill 210 will
create much greater opportunity for those children and youth and will move
us legally toward what most of society has already accepted through the
formation of blended or reconstituted families, shared parenting and joint
custody."

The important thing here in terms of the process is the attempt to
increase the rate of adoptions of crown wards. The government and many
agencies have said that allowing openness agreements will increase the rate
of adoptions. I want to make sure that openness agreements will not have the
opposite effect. If we look at the range of comments and advice that has
been provided, there's an opportunity to step very carefully and make sure
that children's aid societies and the government are able to ensure that
openness agreements in fact do not discourage adoption.

In committee, in clause by clause, I offered an amendment that would
have required the government and the societies to be accountable for
increasing the rate of adoption. My amendment would have required a
three-year review of the effectiveness of openness agreements and whether or
not the rates of adoption have increased. Unfortunately, the government
members chose to vote down my amendment. Obviously, I wish they had accepted
it, as it would have mandated this specific area of accountability for
increasing the adoption of crown wards. As we know, there is a process for a
five-year review, but when you're looking at stepping into what in many ways
are uncharted waters, I think it's important that the government look at
specifically how effective this process has been.

1710

Let me just conclude by saying that obviously protecting children and
giving them the certainty and the stability of permanency is the most
important priority, certainly for our caucus and, I know, for all members of
the House. Bill 210 contains a number of positive measures that, if they
work, will protect more children and help them get care and get into safer
situations.

Greater involvement for extended families through kinship care is
really a good step. Community involvement can be very helpful, but it
mustn't get in the way of giving kids permanency.

Alternative dispute resolution will be positive, but we must review it
constantly to ensure that cost savings do not outweigh child protection.

Openness agreements are projected to assist in increasing the rates of
adoption, but the government must ensure that the policy meets the
expectation and is not a legal quagmire, as I spoke about earlier.

Adoptive families need the security of knowing an adoption is
absolute. If they don't have this sense of security, they won't adopt.

I think that while, obviously, there are certain limitations and
certain things that we're not going to know about until the regulations come
out, the importance here is that we can never lose sight of the fact that it
is the needs of children that are paramount and that we must always be
looking at ways to develop that legal and physical framework that ensures
that our children are taken care of in the absolutely best way possible.

The Acting Speaker: Questions and comments?

Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): It's my pleasure to make a few
comments on the debate, particularly the issues brought forward by the
member from York North. I have to say that a lot of what the member had to
say reminds me of an old term that we used to use at the municipal level of
government: WIP, which was a work in progress. I think that's pretty much
what can be used to describe the cautions and the concerns that were raised
by the member from York North.

I think it was appropriate that she made some of her initial remarks
around the history of this legislation and the history of the whole system
of child protection, but also made some really important comments around
resources for children's aid societies to be able to undertake some of the
new systems that are being put in place; the monitoring and checks and
balances as we move forward in the implementation of the changes that the
minister has brought forward in this bill; the paramount concern always of
the well-being of children in Ontario; and also particularly the way that
perhaps kinship care is one of the issues that we would all agree will help
in terms of making sure that those children are being cared for
appropriately, but also we may need to keep the checks and balances in
place. Also, alternative dispute resolution was raised.

I wanted to make a point about some of the concerns that were raised
by one of the presenters, OAITH, the Ontario Association of Interval and
Transition Houses. One of the things they want to see is domestic violence
screening to be incorporated in the process because of the power imbalances
and the manipulations that can occur in families where there is a history of
family violence.

Nonetheless, I think the caution around policy meeting expectation is
a good one, and I look forward to what the future brings in terms of changes
to the child welfare system.

Mrs. Linda Jeffrey (Brampton Centre): I am pleased to rise to talk
about Bill 210, our government's child protection legislation, which is
before us today for third reading. Bill 210 will make adoption more
flexible, create more legal options beyond adoption and make the process
consistent for adoptive parents by simplifying the application process.

Minister Chambers has worked very closely with the aboriginal
community to develop legislation that would allow more aboriginal children
and youth to stay in their communities. The minister followed through on a
commitment to address their concerns and has held many meetings with members
of our First Nations communities from across Ontario on Bill 210. In fact,
when I became the PA back in November, one of my first meetings was with a
group of chiefs, and I was impressed with how eloquent, how thoughtful and
how practical their solutions were to amending the bill. I think we have
included many of their suggestions. I think it's a much stronger bill.

We learned that aboriginal children are disproportionately represented
in our child protection system. This is a trend that clearly should not
continue. Under the current system, aboriginal children who come into the
care of a children's aid society are often placed in non-aboriginal foster
care placements. With an emphasis on customary care, we're going to work
with aboriginal leaders to build capacity so children can stay in their
communities and maintain important cultural and family ties as well as
incorporate First Nations traditions into their upbringing.

As well, we've broadened the definition of "extended family" to
include any members of a child's band or native community. This new
definition of community would encompass any person with an ethnic or
cultural tie with a child or parent or sibling of that child.

I'm very pleased to rise to talk about Bill 210. I think this is a
good bill. We've made some important changes, and I think it's going to be
much better for all the children in Ontario.

Mr. Joseph N. Tascona (Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford): I'm certainly pleased
to join the debate and comment on the remarks made by the member from York
North. It's certainly an area that doesn't go by every day in terms of
dealing with the protection of children. This is a file that obviously was
handed off to the current minister from the previous one, who did a lot of
work on it.

I will say this from a legal perspective: When the member from
Hamilton East says that this is a work in progress, let's be honest. We're
dealing with life and the day to day, in terms of trying to bring in
measures, checks and balances, trying to bring in protection. Quite frankly,
when we say that it's a work in progress, it's something where all we can
try to do is the best we can, one step at a time. Things change, but the
solution to this is something that has to evolve as society changes. This
bill, even when it is brought forth, may be out of date by the time we're
dealing with the situations we have to deal with: the changes that are
necessary under the Criminal Code and the changes that are necessary under
the children's aid society.

I have, as an MPP over the last 10 and a half years, dealt with a
number of situations that are very troubling. The inadequacy of the
children's aid society, in terms of dealing with it from a practical point
of view-with no blame on their part, but from a resources point of view, in
terms of whether they can even deal with the situation-is troubling.
Certainly, the breakup of a family, the protection of a child, is something
that concerns all of us here in the Legislature. Our party, as the member
from Leeds-Grenville has indicated, is supportive, but certainly there's
more work that needs to be done.

Ms. Martel: I want to thank the member from York North for the
comments she made. She did talk about financial resources and the
implications with respect to this bill. I want to focus on this again. I'm
going to harp on this one more time because I've had some discussions with
our own children's aid society about their obligations and responsibilities
and the concern they have expressed to me about their ability to undertake
the additional responsibilities, as legitimate as they are, that come from
this bill with the budget they have in place. We had this discussion even
before this government introduced this legislation.

1720

I have a good working relationship with our children's aid society. We
meet on a regular basis to discuss concerns they have, and long before this
bill came forward, the executive director had expressed to me his concern
that overwhelmingly the financial and human resources of this children's aid
society in our community were focused on child protection. That was as a
result of legislation that had been passed by the previous Conservative
government, but he felt very strongly that that left quite a gap with
respect to their ability to undertake adoptions and that very few of their
staff were actually doing work around adoptions because so much of their
work, responsibility and reporting ended up ensuring that so much of their
human resources, in particular, were focused on trying to deal with
legislation that the Conservatives had brought in.

We all want this legislation to work, but we really need to get a
handle on what the fairly significant financial implications are. Is the
government going to be in a position and prepared to ensure that children's
aid societies have those resources to make sure that this bill can be dealt
with at the local level in the way the government and, I think, all of us
want it to be dealt with? Yes, I want to see more of those children who are
in care actually be adopted. The question is, are children's aid societies
going to have the financial resources to allow the staff to make that
happen?

The Acting Speaker: That concludes the time available for questions
and comments. I'll return to the member for York North. You have two minutes
to respond.

Mrs. Munro: I certainly want to thank the members for Hamilton East,
Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford, Brampton Centre and Nickel Belt. I think that the
notion of a work in progress is a really good one, because I did make
reference to the regulatory responsibilities that flow out of this piece of
legislation.

The member for Barrie-Simcoe-Bradford also talked about the importance
of the fact that child protection and societal changes are ongoing. So as we
look to provide-this is like a snapshot of a point in time-you have to be
ready for the fact that circumstances, the kinds of issues that come to the
fore, demand our attention. That's an ongoing issue change.

Along with that issue, the member for Nickel Belt raised the
importance of funding and the need for protection, the need for training and
even for the technology to be able to implement this bill. Those are all
things that, I think rightly, the member for Nickel Belt has identified as
issues around funding that are extremely important.

We certainly would look forward to this bill moving along and, as
people are working with it, it will be everyone's hope that it will meet its
goals.

The Acting Speaker: Further debate?

Ms. Horwath: It's my pleasure to have an opportunity to talk to Bill
210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act. We've already
heard from previous speakers this afternoon that this is a bill that tries
to change the way the child protection system in Ontario operates currently.
Some people tuning in, not having perhaps had a chance to listen to any of
the previous discussion, will wonder, "Why the heck do we need to do this in
the first place? What's the issue?"

I know the minister did some of that in her opening remarks,
appropriately, but I wanted to reiterate, for those people who may have just
joined us, why it's important that we continuously look at the child
protection system and try to make sure we are doing the right thing by
children in Ontario.

According to some of the figures that the government provided in its
documentation in the preparation of this bill, Ontario has about 9,000 crown
wards. Those are children who are wards of the state, or crown wards. In
other jurisdictions they're called wards of the state; in our jurisdiction
they're called crown wards. These are children who have been taken into
protection or into care by government. In the case of Ontario, fewer than
10% of these children are successfully adopted each year. Only 900 children
were adopted in 2004, and 882 crown wards the year before that. Fewer than
10% of the total are adopted.

Why is that, people wonder, particularly when you juxtapose that
against stats from the Adoption Council of Ontario that say the number of
international adoptions has climbed to about 600 a year, while private
agencies in Ontario have placed a mere 170 children with families?

Currently, the rules that exist-prior to this bill being brought
forward-prevent children in the care of children's aid societies, whose
birth families have a court-ordered right to visit or contact them, from
being adopted. So there's a barrier in place as part of the system, as part
of the rules. If there's anything on record where the birth parents or
families have a right to contact in any way-and that could be anything as
minor as a Christmas card or a birthday card-this is the barrier that
prevents those children from being adopted. So the existing system
definitely has been in need of overhaul as it does in fact prevent about
three quarters of Ontario's estimated 9,000 crown wards from even being
considered for adoption. That's the kind of system that was being looked at
that needed the overhaul and that led to this legislation coming forward.

Studies have shown that crown wards also move from foster care and
group homes every 22 months on average and suffer many changes in social
workers. This causes destabilization for those children. There are also
other jurisdictions in Canada that I believe the government has looked to to
review openness in adoption, which again has been raised by other speakers
in this debate. These are some of the issues that Bill 210 was brought
forward to try to address.

I think it's important to note that, although today we're in third
reading of this bill, we didn't get here by an easy process. In fact, when
we look at what happened at the very beginning, after first reading and then
leading up to second reading of the bill, it became very clear that the
government was in a process of consultation that was leaving out a number of
key stakeholders. As we began to prepare for second reading and then for the
process of committee hearings, it became very clear to us that the
government had not done its homework in terms of assuring all stakeholders a
voice in the process.

When I say that, I specifically speak to the lack of consultation with
First Nations communities, with the governance of our aboriginal communities
across the province. I don't say that lightly, and I don't say that with any
malice except that I was shocked, because one of the things we do is try to
get hold of people who will be affected by various pieces of legislation
coming forward from the government and just touch base. "Do you know there's
this legislation coming down the pike? Do you know that it's likely getting
close to the public hearings stage? Have you been participating in the
discussion?" I can recall the second reading debate. The minister was quite
clear that she felt she had extensively consulted. Well, we found out that
in fact that hadn't been the case. As a result, we spent some time talking
to First Nations communities about how they felt about the process of
consultation up to that point, and there were a number of things. One of the
issues they raised broadly was the consultation process. The others were a
number of actual substantive pieces to the bill that they thought needed to
be changed to address some of their concerns.

1730

I was surprised that when the government was going to set up the
actual committee hearings for this bill, they were going to turn it over in
a matter of a week, set up two days for hearings without barely any notice
for communities, and expect people from far-reaching, remote communes to
come and speak to the bill. So I immediately, in the subcommittee meetings,
began to advocate for a bit of a slowdown and a way to ensure that we could
at least find out whether particularly First Nations communities were having
an opportunity to participate in the public hearings. Of course, we were
surprised that they weren't. In fact, if you look at the list of First
Nations communities that actually did eventually, in one way or another,
comment on this bill, it is extensive.

There are something like 134 First Nations in Ontario, and you will
see that a large number of them eventually did participate. But I can tell
you it wasn't because there was a keen interest initially in terms of the
government making sure that that voice was being heard and that those
government-to-government discussions were taking place between the
governance of First Nations and the government of Ontario; in fact, it
wasn't. But we were able to convince subcommittee members-government and
opposition-that they needed to take a step back and make sure that the
process was open and accessible to First Nations communities. Interestingly
enough, we ended up in a situation where my understanding is that First
Nations did eventually feel at least that they had some opportunity to voice
some of their concerns in the process.

I wanted to quote from a document that was submitted by Chief Shining
Turtle, Sturgeon clan, Whitefish River First Nation. A very similar passage
is continued in many of the initial flags that were raised, if you will, or
concerns that were brought forward by First Nations communities in regard to
the initial raising of Bill 210 in this Legislature. It says, "As the bill
affects First Nation rights and interests, the government of Ontario is
under a legal obligation to consult First Nations and attempt to accommodate
those rights and interests. This legal duty flows, in part, from section 35
of the Constitution Act, 1982. Further, section 2.2 of the 1965 welfare
agreement, to which Ontario is signatory, requires First Nation consent
before any significant alteration to a welfare program, including child
welfare. The effect of section 2.2 was confirmed by the courts in the
Mushkegowuk decision dealing with Ontario Works."

This letter was dated December 1, so it was prior to the hearings
being put in place but after they had learned that the government was not
intending initially to provide an opportunity for them to speak to the bill.
It's interesting, because initially the committee set two dates in the first
week of December-I think it was December 5 and 6-and we found out
afterwards, after the fact, that there was a major conference going on that
First Nations communities were involved with in the province, and even had
they wanted to make it, with a week's notice, down to Toronto to
participate, they weren't able to because many of them were otherwise
engaged in this other commitment. I think it's important to note that we did
successfully get the government to agree to two more days of committee
hearings, and they were very positive because, as I'm sure the minister
stated in her remarks and will continue to indicate as she moves into
implementation phases, a number of the amendments that First Nations
communities were looking for were accommodated in some way or another; not
in their fullness, because New Democrats brought a number of amendments to
try to reflect First Nations concerns, and some of them were implemented by
the government, but not all.

In terms of the committee's schedule again, this is from another First
Nation piece of correspondence. It's from M'Chigeeng First Nation and it
says: "The consultation problem with Bill 210 has been made worse by the
committee hearing schedule. Only two days of hearing have been scheduled
next week, for December 5 and 6. This does not give First Nations enough
time to prepare presentations. To make matters worse, most First Nation
leaders will be in Ottawa all of that week attending an important Assembly
of First Nations conference dealing with the implications of the recent
first ministers' meeting."

It goes on: "In the circumstances, we hereby urge the committee to
reschedule the hearings to December 12 and 13." As we know, in fact there
were two sets of committee hearings as a result of the large and extensive
outcry from First Nations about the lack of consultation and their lack of
ability to participate in a meaningful way in the development of the bill
and in the public hearings process.

Having said that, this is not to say that there had been no
consultation at all from those quarters. In fact, my understanding is that
to some extent, the institutions, if you will, the First Nations service
providers, were in some ways consulted by the government. Having said that,
there is a specific requirement-and I've read it already-that government
needs to talk to government when it comes to First Nations issues, and
that's what this government forgot to do. In fact, they forgot to do it
again with LHINs. I think my colleague from Nickel Belt has already raised
in questions and comments that in fact LHINs is another piece of legislation
where the government has done the wrong thing in terms of consultation with
First Nations. Interestingly enough, I think perhaps the Minister of Health
should consult with the Minister of Children and Youth Services, because it
seems to me that she has at least been able to repair some of the damage
that was initially done by having ongoing discussions and making commitments
to continuing the dialogue and the discussion with First Nations. I would
advise the Minister of Health to take a page out of that book, because it
seems to be one that's been received well in many ways by First Nations
communities.

One of the things, although raised, that I'm not sure has actually
been addressed in the bill, only because the scope of the bill doesn't allow
it to be addressed, was an issue that First Nations service providers were
raising back in August, and that was the designation process for premandated
agencies. Again, this is something that comes from Betty Kennedy, executive
director of the Association of Native and Child Family Services Agencies of
Ontario, and I thought it was important. I raised it l in second reading
debate and thought I should raise it again, because it's still an
outstanding issue and I think it's important to put it on the record. What
she says is, "We would like this process"-this is the process related to the
designation of premandated agencies-"to be clearly identified and would
welcome receipt of all criteria for each stage in the designation process as
well as the specified timelines in order to assist our member agencies more
effectively. A number of them have identified significant delays in moving
through this process and have requested our assistance in determining why
these delays are occurring."

I raise this in the context of some of the previous discussion around
resources that are going to be necessary to make this bill effective and to
make the transformation, if you will, of child protection more effective in
the province of Ontario, and in this case for First Nations communities. I
know this issue has been raised by the member for Timmins−James Bay. He has
raised a couple of times that there is frustration around the designation
process and that if you can't get the agencies designated, then you can't
get the services provided in some of the remote communities. That's
certainly one of the things that we need to look at in terms of moving the
agenda forward.

There are another couple of issues around some of the substantive
things that were raised by First Nations communities. A lot of their
concerns were around resourcing and how the systems currently are not
effective in the way that they're being implemented in First Nations
communities. Also, there is concern around the extent to which, because of
lack of resources and because of lack of support for the efforts that are
occurring in some more remote communities, there's a great deal of staff
turnover. There's a great deal of difficulty in keeping staff in the
agencies who are up to speed, skilled and can provide some continuity in
terms of the child protection system. Likewise, there were some issues
raised around the extent to which other types of professional resources can
be utilized appropriately in those communities. One of the examples that I
was given on a one-on-one basis after some of the hearings was the situation
where you couldn't get a lawyer to advocate on behalf of children or you
couldn't get a children's lawyer to participate in the process because they
were not prepared to attend in remote communities as was required. I don't
think the issue was so much any kind of change to the system that would make
it not necessary for there to be a children's lawyer, but rather that the
resources need to be put into the system to ensure that there is fair access
to the services that the rest of the children of Ontario can expect and
would want to see in this legislation. I thought it was important to put
those issues on the table, because until we start acknowledging that there's
a lot more work to do, we're certainly not going to be in a position to say
that we've taken the appropriate steps and we've listened well to the
concerns of First Nations communities.

1740

Last but not least, the First Nations did come up with a specific
resolution in regard to this bill. I'm just trying to find it in my notes,
because I thought it was important to read it into the record. What this
resolution does is basically say that notwithstanding some of the concerns
that they've had with the bill-I'm going to read it to you. It was a
resolution that was approved back about two weeks ago. It's "First Nation
Child Welfare-Resolution 06/17." It says:

"Whereas the inherent right to self-government includes jurisdiction
in relation to the protection of First Nations children;

"Whereas Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act,
abrogates the responsibilities of both the federal and provincial
governments;

"Whereas the chiefs in assembly, through AOCC resolutions 05/22 and
05/27, opposed and rejected Bill 210 in its entirety, and in particular, a
provision that would permit the Ontario government to arbitrarily redefine
First Nation customary care practices in the vital area of child welfare;

"Whereas AOCC resolution 05/22 mandated the creation of a Chiefs
Committee on Child Welfare to address and advance First Nations authority
and jurisdiction in child welfare;

"Whereas AOCC resolution 05/27 directed the development of a separate
consultation process to review and provide recommendations on the proposed
legislative amendments to the Child and Family Services Act;

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the chiefs in assembly, acknowledge
the progress made to date by the Chiefs Committee on Child Welfare, the
social services coordination unit and the Association of Native Child and
Family Services Agencies (mandated and premandated) regarding amendments to
Bill 210;

"Further be it resolved that we acknowledge the minimal amendments to
Bill 210 as an interim measure, while supporting a comprehensive review of
the CFSA in its entirety towards the development of a First Nation child
welfare law;

"Further be it resolved that we direct the Chiefs Committee on Child
Welfare to continue to advocate for our inherent right to care for and to
provide culturally appropriate protection services for our children and
families;

"Finally be it resolved that we, the chiefs in assembly, direct the
Chiefs Committee on Child Welfare to advocate for the designation of more
native child welfare agencies across the province."

That was moved by Chief Randall Phillips, Oneida Nation of the Thames,
and seconded by Barney Anderson, by proxy, Wabauskang First Nation.

This resolution indicates a number of things: first of all, the
extreme disappointment that the First Nations communities had with the
initial process of Bill 210; the acknowledgment that the government took
some time, the minister took some time, to try to incorporate some of their
concerns and to kind of backpedal a little bit and get some of those
concerns incorporated into the bill; but also the assertion that this is
just a beginning, the assertion that they're going to continue in their
struggle to ensure a First Nation child welfare law is put in place to take
care of their particular needs and, as well, the continued struggle they're
having.

I raised this issue already, but I'll raise it again because they've
indicated right in their resolution to advocate for the designation of more
native child welfare agencies across the province. Again, that goes to the
issue of whether or not the government is prepared to put the resources
necessary into making Bill 210 do what it needs to do to protect the
children of Ontario and to make sure that adoptions and placements in
customary care and in kinship care and all the other changes are effective
and successful.

There are many other issues raised by First Nations communities. If
people are interested in reviewing some of the committee transcripts from
those presentations, I would certainly advise you to do so, because they had
a lot to bring to the table. They had some really quite interesting and
appropriate discussions around how their communities, their families and
their care systems are different from ours, how the ways that they resolve
issues, problems, concerns and tensions are so unique and appropriate to
their own culture, and how important it is that the government acknowledge
those realities in the legislation.

It's important to note that we put together a couple of dozen
amendments in the process that would bring voice to or that would in some
way put on the table the concerns of First Nations communities around having
culturally appropriate processes built in, acknowledging that First Nations
communities have a very culturally different way of dealing with child
protection issues. They wanted those issues to be acknowledged in the
legislation, and we attempted to do that. No, not all of our resolutions
were adopted by the government and not all of our motions were approved, but
some of them were, and I feel positive about that. In fact, I believe the
government actually put some forward that were very similar to ours as well.
I think that's extremely important, and I'm proud of that. I think we should
all be proud that some of these changes were made. It's a small step to
improving the relationships that government has with First Nations overall.

I have to say, though, that there were pieces that weren't approved by
the government in terms of amendments that we put forward. One of the
biggies was the amendment around requiring the Ombudsman to have oversight
of children's aid societies. I wasn't sure whether I should start that off
now, considering the time, but I think I'm going to.

I put forward an amendment on having the Ombudsman have oversight of
children's aid societies. People will know that the Ombudsman was,
notwithstanding the minister's attempt to address the oversight issues or
address the concerns that people raised-individuals came to the committee
and spoke to the committee. They spoke in the public hearings about their
frustration with the lack of accountability in the children's aid societies
and in that system. A lot of their presentations were very powerful, and a
lot of their presentations were very painful. It was disappointing that the
minister didn't take hold of the opportunity to put in place a program
whereby a completely separate, completely unattached, completely unbiased
oversight body would be charged with the responsibility of overseeing
children's aid societies and of being there for the complaints process.

I wanted to read into the record a couple of issues that were raised
by the Ombudsman in a backgrounder that he put together in regard to Bill
210 specifically. It says, "The Ombudsman received 436 submissions and
complaints from January 1, 2005, to February 13, 2006, regarding the need
for greater oversight and accountability of children's aid societies." The
types of complaints range from concern about the care of children by the CAS
to concerns about dealings with the CAS, denial of access to grandchildren,
threat of removal of a child, sexual abuse by CAS staff, concerns about CAS
allegations, concerns about child abuse register administration, refusal to
disclose information, concerns about CAS removal of children and concerns
about access and custody.

What the Ombudsman said is, "Bill 210 provides an opportunity to
enhance the independent oversight of children's aid societies by extending
the Ombudsman's jurisdiction to complaints about children's aid societies.

"The Ombudsman investigative process provides a credible
accountability mechanism for the child protection system. Administrative
conduct of children's aid societies has the potential for seriously and
dramatically impacting the lives of Ontarians and it should be subject to
independent investigation and systemic review of administrative practices."

I don't think that's a lot to ask. I really don't think it's a lot to
ask for the children of our province and their families, quite frankly, in
the milieu of child protection, to have this independent oversight
mechanism. In fact, I think anything less is doing them an injustice.

1750

"The cost of implementing expanded jurisdiction of the Ombudsman in
this area would be minimal, given that the infrastructure and experience
already exists" within the office.

"Five other provinces (Alberta, British Columbia, Manitoba, New
Brunswick and Nova Scotia) have Ombudsman oversight of child welfare issues
including child protection.

"In Alberta, the Ombudsman has jurisdiction to review the conduct of
government officials who administer the child protection system in that
province with the exception of First Nations child protection services."

Needless to say, the background material is extensive.

People may recall that when the Ombudsman found out that this bill was
coming forward-we actually called the Ombudsman's office to let them know
that we couldn't see any government amendment that would address Ombudsman
oversight and that the government decided to put a different accountability
system in place. We let the Ombudsman know. People will perhaps be aware
that, on February 14, the Ombudsman issued a press release and held a small
press conference. In this press release, he said: "The Ministry of Children
and Youth Services' proposed amendments to Bill 210 ... fall far short of
what is needed to ensure independent, third-party, investigative oversight
of children's aid societies...."

"`It's a stopgap measure, which does not go far enough,' said Mr.
Marin. `All it does is add another layer of bureaucracy to internal
processes.'"

Why is that? What the minister decided to do instead of simply-and
it's not a difficult thing to do. In fact, the NDP actually put the
amendment forward. It's not a complicated, complex amendment; it's a fairly
basic amendment. It's only a couple of lines long. I have it in front of me
here in our package of amendments. It says:

"16.1 Despite the definition of `governmental organization' in section
1 of the Ombudsman Act, every society is deemed to be a governmental
institution for the purposes of that act."

That's it; it's a one-liner. That would have resolved the issue of
independent oversight for children's aid societies. It would have been done
a lot in terms of the community input that we got in the hearings process.
In fact, do you know what? Letters continue to arrive. Even within the last
week, people were writing through the clerk of the committee, Anne Stokes,
and it was a result of the Ombudsman coming forward. People in Ontario were
saying, "We have real concerns about a lack of independent oversight of
children's aid societies."

What the minister decided to do instead-and I take this from some
notes that the minister kindly provided when we met with her prior to the
clause-by-clause session so that she could give us the opportunity to have a
heads-up about what was coming in the government changes and what were some
of the reasons behind them. What she's decided to do instead is provide for
a review process through a current body called the Child and Family Services
Review Board. In the process previously, there had to be a director's
review; there's no longer that requirement. Reviews now get done by, or
complaints get processed through, this other body, the Child and Family
Services Review Board. The minister indicates that the amendments would
include additional requirements that "where a society or licensee makes a
decision respecting an aboriginal child, the society must provide notice of
the decisions to the child's band or native community" etc. But it says,
"Where there is a request made for a hearing before the Child and Family
Services Review Board, the child's band or native community must first be
given notice of the hearing" etc.

On the one hand, the minister is acknowledging that there's a problem
with the process, acknowledging that any appeal mechanism or any oversight
mechanism must build in some real language around First Nations
communities-again, that's a good thing-but failing on the main grade, which
is to ensure that that review process is done by the Ombudsman of Ontario,
as is done in most jurisdictions across the nation. Many other provinces
have this kind of oversight, so there's really no excuse not to have it.

There was some concern raised around the fact that the Child and
Family Services Review Board is an organization that, at this point in time,
is minimally staffed, if you want to call it that. It has an opportunity for
a number of appointments; I think something like 30. There are only about 10
members on it. There's a lot of getting up to speed that needs to be done.
There's the building of a bureaucracy, but guess what? It's called the Child
and Family Services Review Board, so it's part of the very system we were
hoping we would be able to get an independent look at. Unfortunately, the
government decided not to agree with the Ombudsman's analysis and has gone
ahead and put this other mechanism in place.

We were pretty disappointed, and I guess that's a light way of putting
it, at the lack of acknowledgement by the government that the children and
the families of Ontario are worth it. They're worth the effort, they're
worth the small one-liner it would have taken to make the Ombudsman's office
have oversight of the system. If you were in any of those hearings, you
would have heard the real pain that some people brought to the table around
their frustration and the difficulties they had in having accountability of
children's aid societies.

People might recall that the coroner actually weighed in on the issue
as well. One of the things the coroner was clear about was that it wasn't
just a matter of having oversight or having an ability to review where there
has been a death of a child. I think there was a point where members of the
government were saying, "Well, the coroner agrees. The Ombudsman shouldn't
have oversight over child protection," but the coroner was very specific. He
said, "You will note I am making no comment about reviews of children's aid
societies where a death does not occur because it is not within our
mandate."

So although the coroner had something to say about having oversight
where there has been a death of a child in Ontario, he was very clear to
indicate that that does not let the government off the hook in terms of all
the other complaints that may arise with children's aid societies where
there was no death of a child. I think it's important to put that on the
record, because I recall that people were waving around the coroner's
comments and making it seem as if the coroner was in agreement with the
government about not needing oversight by the Ombudsman. In fact, it was a
very narrow review in terms of the coroner's comments and it had only to do
with the responsibility of the coroner's office, which we all know they have
where there's been the death of a child in the province.

I have a number of other issues that I need to raise, and I look
forward to doing so the next time this bill comes up for debate, because
I've only gotten through about half of my leadoff speech.

Just to reiterate, First Nations issues and consultation around First
Nations concerns was nil initially. The government made some attempts to
resolve that, and I got an opportunity to read in the resolution that First
Nations communities brought forward. I think it's extremely important that
we continue that relationship. The government needs to do a lot more, not
only in the context of child welfare but in a much broader context across
the province, particularly the one that was raised by the member for Nickel
Belt, which is the issue of LHINs.

The Ombudsman issue was the second thing I was able to discuss, and I
think it's an important one. Next time around, hopefully I'll be able to get
some concerns on the record around the government not taking into
consideration problems that children have when they age out of the system,
the lack of the government's preparedness to recognize extended care and
maintenance for children, not only as they age but also as they go into
different types of care, as well as the necessity for an independent child
advocate. I'll get to those next time.

The Acting Speaker: I wish to inform the House that, pursuant to
standing order 37, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to
have been made.

ADJOURNMENT DEBATE

Anonymous said...

CHILDREN AND YOUTH WHO COME INTO CARE FROM INCREDIBLY CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES????

all you need is a risk of harm, and so many false allegations, since when has a messy home, or one that is TO clean, been a reason to remove a child,
parents screaming, are not the ones who's children have come out of such homes, they are screaming because they find twisted and out right lies on the records.And love their children. What on earth ever gave anyone the right to so much power. Children have a right to be safe and not abuse, but NO one trust this system. And how long will the gags work.
The CAS has to much power, and it is being abused, and one director said, after the Minister saw the very high numbers of children, taken in that one area, and ask it to be slowed down, He is quoted as saying we have less business coming in the doors. Business, NO this is children and families, that don't welcome your business,
If this Minister cared, if this government not so blind, ask for true reasons why many children are in care. How can anyone explain, how a parent can keep one child but the cute baby must stay and is adopted. How can one foster family be fired for abuse in the same province and hired by another. Do we really think a parent should loss their children because they may have spank to hard on one occasion. Have be accused wrongly of child abuse, or neglect. Is it right to remove a child because mom is depressed, today the nurses in Ont, have said there are high numbers of nurses that are burning out and depressed, we better remove all the nurses children they are at RISK.
Most children in care are not there because of abuse, its the risk of. And the emotional abuse happened they day they were apprehended, The system does not work, please read and listen to the family court lawyers, the ones that no longer work for CAS. The tapes of social workers and in some case videos abusing parents, and children. This is a system that with out doubt is corrupt to the core, Madame minister why do you warn a CAS about a parents complaint caught on tape. The CAS is being used to reduce lawsuits for malpractice, and much more, its a cozy game that will not last. Is this why we need to remove the court process, have to many judges not been fooled, We have had two publicans where judges have said to CAS are you trying to make this mother a monster, and they are catching on. Better to get them out of the picture, Child abuse should be heard in the criminal courts, It is criminal and you must have a higher burden of proof, terminating parental rights with anything less, is a death sentence to a family. And a child that will live with the pain forever, no matter how fast you think you can sale them off. We cant find foster homes, do you really think there are thousands of people willing to adopted children over the age of 4, very few, good reason to legalize gay marriage, but what of that emotional harm was not it once a mental illness to be gay. The driving force behind the child protection movement is not scientific, everything is abuse, LIFE is RISK, they will be no less at RISK with anyone else, you can not predict human behaviour. This makes no sense. And its going to leave a very dark mark on the history of this province. .
What are MPPs doing handing over letters to the CAS when that is all a family has to turn to when being abused by the powers of the CAS, WE know this is not child protection. its big business.
I can hear the primal screams. and Alberta calling.

Mary McConville said...

I agree with the above poster.

The time to say something to government is now. Email Mary Ann
Chambers and your local MPP. Andrea Horvath said that the letters and emails keep coming in demanding the Ombudsman's oversight.

Scream now and save your children and grandchildren from this future folly. It is within your reach to do.

Anonymous said...

INCREDIBLY CHALLENGING CIRCUMSTANCES?

Same spin as usual - the only comments supportive of this legislation come from politicians and the child-welfare industry itself.

The native community, ordinary citizens and the Ombudsman (all whom the government wished to freeze out of this process) are uniform in their condemnation.

At least there's progress of sorts. A few years ago, you'd be hard-pressed to find a politician that did not praise CAS effusively. Now the fault lines are becoming obvious - even in the carefully crafted statements of Hansard. Increasingly, people are realizing the system is based on absurd assumptions that do not stand scrutiny. The societal effects are devastating.

Unfortunately, it's also clear the government has no interest in making reforms that are desperately needed. That would mean listening to those the system is supposed to serve (instead of hiding from them) and dealing with CAS abuse and corruption.

Anonymous said...

My God - what would this bill have looked like without the last minute amendments that were originally unthought of and unwanted? You'd think this would be a flaming red flag for the Minister to step out of her bubble and probe a little deeper - certainly, the dissenting voices did not share her view of CAS as a agency rescuing children from "incredibly challenging circumstances."

Obviously,the game plan was to freeze out anyone who sees through the Ontario child-welfare industry, including the provincial Ombudsman.
At least fewer and fewer people are being fooled by such nonsense.

Anonymous said...

To anyone writing the other thing they might want to complain about is who the Minister is researching this with, and who she is listening to. Patricia Fenton who is mentioned by Chambers is 1) an adopter and 2) a private practitioner meaning a baby broker. The revolvement around a private baby broker in this is disgusting. People who have been in the system have been ignored but social workers and baby brokers are being given the red carpet with this bill. It only confirms that the CAS will NOT BE IN CHILD PROTECTION, they will be in the business like Fenton of finding babies for desperate childless couples. Children like Jeffrey will just fade away. Why is the government in bed with a broker???

Anonymous said...

The government has no more interest in holding CAS accountable than CAS has in holding itself accountable. Consequently, the system will continue to abusing children at will. There is no question the provincial government is the biggest child abuser in the province. In fact, we might say it is a chronic child abuser given its long and sordid history of abuse.

Anonymous said...

The other maddening part of this debate is statement from James Dubray the head of Durham CAS where he says from a quote -
"Dubray tells us that" .... "there needs to be a strong signal in the
legislation that child protection and adoption matters are not subject to review by the Children's Law Reform Act.
Adoptive families need the security of knowing an adoption is
absolute. If they don't have this sense of security, they won't adopt."

This translates to the CAS kidnapping your child, and now removing the families appeal process in court?? What next? Will the government stack the Child and Family Review Board with private baby brokers? Why should adoption be absolute, why do adopters have TOTAL POWER over natural families, and why is the government attempting to do this. Their clients will be rich, influential, infertile couples that can get corrupt social workers from the CAS to kidnap babies for them - and now nothing can be done if the government continues.
Those who need protection will be secondary to the market for the infertiles that the brokers are doing after, which translates to more needless deaths. When the focus is on finding babies for childless couples it leaves actual protection in the total fog. This bill is a fraud, and a way to create more state kidnappings!!!

Mary McConville said...

Mr. Runciman's comments are that this legislation is not about the "best interests children" but about "the best interest of the government corporations" to save money.



Mr. Runciman: -Parry Sound-Muskoka, a very knowledgeable member who
participates in virtually every matter of business before the Legislature.
We compliment him on that.

Referencing some of the discussion that has occurred related to this
issue and the legislation itself, but the issue generally with respect to
adoption, I know that my colleague Mr. Jackson from Burlington, who has been
a strong advocate in terms of protection of children in this province, has
raised a number of issues surrounding the legislation, a number of issues
and questions surrounding the intent here. I know that he has raised the
issue of the legislation being essentially a cost-containment strategy and
not a child welfare outcomes issue.

I think there is an indication that when it comes to a vote the
Progressive Conservative opposition will be supporting the bill, but I think
we have a significant number of concerns that the critic will be putting on
the record, which hopefully the minister and her colleagues will pay heed to
and at some point perhaps consider changes. Our member Ms. Munro has talked
about a sunset review, which I'm not sure has been accepted by the
government. It's difficult to comprehend the rationale behind a refusal to
accept that kind of comprehensive review and indeed to see just what impact
this legislation is having.

Anonymous said...

Today's minutes of the Ontario Legislative Assembly

CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2006 /
LOI DE 2006 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE LES SERVICES
À L'ENFANCE ET À LA FAMILLE

Resuming the debate adjourned on February 28, 2006, on the motion for third reading of Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act and make complementary amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 210, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille et apportant des modifications complémentaires à d'autres lois.

The Deputy Speaker (Mr. Bruce Crozier): The member for Hamilton East has the floor.

Ms. Andrea Horwath (Hamilton East): I enjoyed the couple of minutes I had yesterday speaking about Bill 210, and I'm looking forward to continuing to raise some of the issues that New Democrats identified going through the process of clause-by-clause and the public hearings on Bill 210. I want to recap a little bit some of the issues I raised in yesterday's discussion because I think they're important and need to be reinforced in terms of what we saw as being the important pieces.

The very first was that, notwithstanding the need to have some reform of this child welfare system in Ontario, the government initially did not pay due attention to its obligations to engage First Nations in discussion from a governance perspective on the issues that are related to the care of their children and the way this legislation affects child welfare in First Nations.

I spoke a lot about that yesterday, so I'm not going to belabour the point, but I can tell you that initially the government began a process of very restricted timetables and opportunity for public input. We saw that as a dangerous and inappropriate thing to do and spent some time, both through subcommittee and through the calling around of First Nations -- some people may not realize that there are 134 First Nation communities in Ontario. There are a significant number of people this bill affects from the First Nations' perspective. We spent some time talking to some First Nations leaders, asking, "Do you know this bill is coming forward? Are you aware of the process? If you are concerned, or if you in any way want to have a voice, now is the time."

We were actually not surprised, because we had a suspicion the government didn't do its homework in terms of its obligations around First Nations consultation, that, lo and behold, we were assured that was the case when First Nation after First Nation came forward to say to the government, first of all, "This bill is the wrong thing to do. We can't support it in any way whatsoever," that it was not being brought forward in a way that was in the spirit of the federal and provincial requirements for dialogue, from a governance perspective, with First Nations leadership, and that, second, there were pieces of the bill that were absolutely offensive to First Nations communities in terms of their child welfare system.

I want to put two particular pieces on the record that I omitted yesterday because I needed to get on with other issues. One is that the government, in its first draft of the bill, actually decided, in a section that deals with the kinds of regulations that can be set by the Lieutenant Governor, and put in place a clause -- I suspect that they did so, although I don't know for sure because I wasn't on that side of the table, but certainly they put a clause in there that basically provided the opportunity for the Lieutenant Governor to simply create regulations for First Nations communities without any consultation with First Nations communities, amending the act by adding a clause allowing them to put together regulations governing "procedures, practices and standards for customary care." "Customary care" is the care of First Nations communities children.

First Nations were appalled that the government would be so ignorant of its responsibilities as to actually put this clause forward. It was through the hearings process that we were able to force the government into longer and more fulsome discussions with First Nations communities, and in fact that was withdrawn by the government. It was replaced by a resolution, a motion, that I brought forward at committee that changed that to say that the regulations would be those "governing consultations with bands and native communities under sections 213 and 213.1 and prescribing the procedures and practices to be followed by societies and agencies and the duties of societies and agencies during the consultations." So you can see the difference, and it's a very important one. I think that one change really reflects the difference between where the government started in terms of Bill 210 and where it ended up.

1620

Having said that, yesterday I did spend some time reading and presenting in the Legislature and getting on the record a resolution that came forward from the First Nations leadership. It's in the Hansard; I'm not going to read it again today because I don't have the time. Again, I feel awkward sort of putting this on the record on their behalf, because I think they've done an excellent job of doing that. Their presentations are in the Hansard, so if anybody is interested in finding out what the concerns of First Nations communities are, in their own voice, I really urge you to look up those Hansards of the four different days that public hearings took place, as well as some of the discussion that went on around the clause-by-clause debate of the bill.

I know other members of my caucus are going to have something to say about Bill 210, and I look forward to those remarks, but the other thing I wanted to say is that there is an overall concern that First Nations have around this government's and other governments' lack of acknowledgement, of the short shrift that they get pretty much in every piece of legislation and every institution that we have in Ontario. So in that vein, what I had done was put forward a motion that was, in fact, not in order because it addressed a part of the bill that was not up for discussion, really. One of the things that the government decided to do was to actually allow for that to be put on the table. It was an important piece, and I want to read that as well because, again, I'm just trying to illustrate the fact that had we not been there voicing these concerns and putting these issues on the table, I don't believe that Bill 210 would be anywhere near where it is now in terms of trying to address the concerns that came forward from First Nations communities.

This is an amendment to the bill that wasn't actually even open for discussion but, through unanimous consent of the parties at the table -- the Conservatives had their member there as well -- we amended part XII of the act by adding a totally new section that deals with the review of aboriginal issues. It says, "Every review of this act shall include a review of provisions imposing obligations on societies" -- that's children's aid societies -- "when providing services to a person who is an Indian or native person or in respect of children who are Indian or native persons, with a view to ensuring compliance by societies with those provisions."

So that says that every time we review this act -- and there is an obligation in the act that it gets reviewed every five years, but even if it's outside of the requirements of the act -- it's done so as to ensure that children's aid societies are seriously taking a look at the way in which, the extent to which, and the failure, in some cases, in which they are meeting the needs of First Nations individuals and children.

I thought it was really important to get those two items on the record, because without the New Democrats doing our work with First Nations and making sure that they were even aware that this bill was coming down the pike and ensuring that they had the opportunity to have something to say about it, lots of these changes, I don't think, would be before us this afternoon in terms of the revised bill.

I also spent some time yesterday talking about the request that everyone knows came forward from the Ombudsman. It was a very public request. It was a very thoughtful request that children's aid societies come under the purview of the Ombudsman's office for purposes of receiving complaints and doing investigations. I did speak about this yesterday, as I mentioned, but I think it's important to remind members of the community who might be watching that this is a simple situation that was requested by the Ombudsman. It's no different from what happens in many provinces across the country, that there is a completely unbiased, neutral third party that already has all of the training and all of the staffing and all of the structure, if you will, and all the authority and all the understanding of how to go about these things, to investigate complaints laid against children's aid societies.

One final piece to that is: Unfortunately, instead of undertaking the Ombudsman's request and approving the amendment that New Democrats put forward in that regard, the government decided to set up an internal system through the Child and Family Services Review Board, which would hear complaints or appeals of complaints that weren't addressed to the satisfaction of the complainant. The problem with that -- it was even indicated by the Ombudsman -- is that it's still not a totally neutral external body reviewing the information. The minister will say, "The Ombudsman can review those decisions," but the bottom line is, if you sat in those committee hearings, you would have seen and heard from people who had reached a level of frustration that was off the Richter scale in terms of their inability to get justice within the system. That's not a blame thing; that's simply noting that there is a big, big roadblock for people to get justice within that system.

What does that system do? It removes children from their families where there is a suspicion of abuse or evidence of abuse and sets them into other places of care. If families can't be sure and if children can't be sure that they can get a fair complaint review process internally, which is what they've indicated already, then it's up to us as legislators to do the right thing and make sure that that level of scrutiny is the very highest that we could possibly provide them with. It's too important for the children, it's too important for the families and it's too important for all of those people who came and gave heart-wrenching stories of frustration about how the system dealt with them. I'm quite disappointed that the minister didn't see to it to provide Ontario children and families with oversight by the Ombudsman's office, and very disappointed that that amendment did not get passed because the government members voted against it.

There are a couple of other issues that I think are important that need to be put on the record about Bill 210. One is the issue that was raised -- and people may recall this. It didn't get a lot of media attention, but there was an article that was published in the Toronto Star. It was about something called the aging-out process. I wanted to just read this again; I did this in the second reading debate on this bill. People say, "What does `aging out' mean?" Aging out is the time at which a child who has been under the protection of the children's aid society as a crown ward begins to reach the age at which the legislation requires that they no longer receive the support of the children's aid society, the foster home or wherever they happen to be placed.

I wanted to frame this, first of all, by telling you a little bit about some research that was prepared by a woman named Anne Tweddle. It's a discussion around modernizing income security programs overall. One of the pieces that she touches on is "Youth Leaving Care: How Do They Fare?" What she said is that "recent international research examining outcomes for youth after they `age out' of the child welfare system paints a disturbing picture. The findings show that, compared to their peers, youth aging out of care are more likely to" -- and then there are a number of bullets listed:

" -- leave school before completing their secondary education;

" -- become a parent at a young age;

" -- be dependent on social assistance;

" -- be unemployed or underemployed;

" -- be incarcerated/involved with the criminal justice system;

" -- experience homelessness;

" -- have mental health problems; and

" -- be at higher risk for substance abuse problems."

There are a number of other issues that are outlined in this report. But I have to say, as a parent -- and I'm sure anyone else who's either watching or here in the Legislature who's a parent will know that these are not the kinds of outcomes we want to see for our children, so why are they the kinds of outcomes that we're prepared to live with for children who become a part of our child welfare system? That's a question that I couldn't figure out: why we would allow our system to continue to put children at risk of these kinds of outcomes as they age out of the system.

1630

Just as another piece to that story, the story that was in the Toronto Star, written by Carol Goar back in October of last year, says that "no amount of semantic cushioning can soften what, in real life, is a brutal transition.

"At the age of 18, crown wards, whose only parent has been the state for most or all of their lives, suddenly have no parent." They're cut loose. "They're on their own."

The article goes on to describe a number of facts around what that means and what kind of income support is available and issues of that nature. But the reason I'm raising it is because I thought that was a significant piece that was missing from the legislation. I thought that this was the opportunity, in this review -- again, remember, this legislation is required to be reviewed every five years. Five years is too long to wait for five more years of children, of youth, who are aging out of our child welfare system. It's inconceivable that we would not address this issue at this point in time. Unfortunately, the government has chosen not to address that situation at this point in time.

I mentioned earlier that the minister did sit down with me, prior to having the bill called for third reading, to indicate where she thought some of my concerns were and how she thought she was going to deal with those from the broader system's perspective. At that time -- and I'll be quite blunt about it and quite fair about it -- she indicated that she was concerned about that issue as well because, the first time in debate, people may recall, I likened it to the fact that, even with our children, it's no longer the case where at 18 years old, they're out of the house and on their own. In fact, it's more likely that they are going to be 25 or 30 before they're out of the house and on their own. So why is it that we can expect this level of independence for children, especially youth who have been through some of the brutal experiences that put them in the child welfare system in the first place?

What she said is that they're going to do some things, working with agencies and communities to try to find ways to transition young people from the crown ward system into independent living. That's fine and laudable, but unless it is enshrined in the legislation, there is no guarantee that the children and youth of Ontario can expect, realistically, that not only this government but the next government and the next and the next are going to be committed to providing those resources and, in fact, are going to be obligated to provide those resources.

People can be assured that I certainly did put that on the record. I have many amendments that I have moved at committee -- unfortunately, all of them were turned down -- around extended care and maintenance, not only in terms of aging out but also in terms of various kinds of arrangements that are made for children in the new system that the government brought forward through Bill 210. I say that because it's not just a matter of the resources as children age out. That's certainly important. It's in the motions that I put forward, but they didn't get accepted.

The other piece is that the government's discussions around Bill 210 and the reasons for it talk about making more permanent placements, more permanent connections, more stable environments for children who become part of the child welfare system. From my perspective and the perspectives of other people who made presentations at the hearings, one of the things that is a barrier to the stability of a placement is resources. So some of the motions that I put forward were around extended care and maintenance agreements and the extent to which the financial and other -- financial, yes, but also programming and support -- agreements were required to be maintained as, for example, children move into a foster care situation or into the care of a grandparent, or into a situation where they're in the broader community because that's what's determined to be in the best interests of the child.

The bottom line is, unless the resources are going with those children that ensure that they're connected to some of the things that assist them in their ability to cope on a day-to-day basis -- whether they happen to be children with disabilities, whether it's an emotional and stress type of trauma that needs to be dealt with, whether there are educational supports that need to be put in place or that are in place, or whether it's simply in terms of financial supports, as these children are transitioned into these other forms of care, there really should be an obligation to support them so that those new, more permanent relationships that we're trying to get in the province of Ontario are backed up by some resources to help them grow and prosper into solid relationships and thereby give those young people and children a chance to have a bright future.

There was one other major piece that I thought was, let's say, an opportunity that Bill 210 brought forward. That was the opportunity for the government to use this discussion about child welfare to acknowledge and bring forward their commitment of about a year ago now, which was to make the office of the child advocate completely independent. I did actually put forward a motion as well in that regard. I have it with me here. It's not a completely difficult thing to do; in fact, the motion itself is barely a page long. It basically suggests that within 30 days of this bill coming into force, the Lieutenant Governor in Council shall, on the address of the Legislative Assembly, appoint a person to be the child advocate, to be responsible for the operation of the Office of Child and Family Services Advocacy, but that the child advocate is an officer of the assembly, which makes them independent. It also talks about the term of office, removal from office and the requirement to report to the Legislative Assembly.

The bottom line is that the previous minister made a commitment about the office of the child advocate last year, that it was extremely important that it be a separate, independent office of this Legislature. It hasn't happened yet. During the clause-by-clause discussion, there was some faint hope because government members did, in turning down this motion, indicate that there was something coming forward. So now we have another promise on record saying that legislation is coming forward to make the office of the child advocate independent. I certainly look forward to that legislation, because it's long overdue and it certainly will help in providing an opportunity for people to have an independent advocate, a voice or basically somebody who children and families can go to, and constantly move up the bar in the way that we as a province deal with children's issues.

There are a number of other smaller pieces to the bill, but I think I've outlined where we agreed with the government and where we disagreed in terms of missed opportunities, in our opinion. I know that my leader, Howard Hampton, has some things that he wants to put on the record in regard to Bill 210. I know that my colleague Peter Kormos, the member from Niagara Centre, also has issues that he was concerned about that are enshrined in this bill. They'll be speaking to it a little later.

One of those is the use of alternative dispute resolution. Interestingly enough, I had the opportunity to review one of the presenters, the Ontario Association of Interval and Transition Houses. I mentioned yesterday in my discussion a little bit about some of their concerns around the entire system and how at every phase there should be screening for domestic violence. One of the things they highlight in their report is the issue of alternative dispute resolution and the extent to which domestic violence is something that is often not appropriately taken into consideration.

Interjection.

Ms. Horwath: There you go. The member from Niagara Centre is talking about a particular study from London on mediation. I believe that is actually referenced in this report.

The issue is that abusers tend to be very manipulative -- that's the history of the relationship not only with the spouse but often with the children -- and to what extent that gets perpetuated through the ADR process and to what extent the type of ADR you're using may not be able to address the power imbalances and the historic manipulation that occurs in situations of woman abuse and family violence.

Having said that, I'm almost finished with my remarks. I'm just going to do one last quick list of some of the concerns we had with Bill 210. The first is the dismal consultation with First Nations and, as a result of the activity of New Democrats, the eventual opening up of the process to get some of those voices to the table but also some changes to the bill that have left First Nations in a position where initially they were saying, "This a terrible bill and we hate it," and now they're saying, in a more measured response, that they see it as a step in the right direction but want the government to commit to the establishment of a completely separate child welfare system for First Nations. So there's that.

1640

The independent oversight by the Ombudsman was not dealt with by the government. On the issue of aging out and increasing the age at which youth are able to maintain supports, we suggested that it should be at least the age of 25, to acknowledge that young people need those supports as they try to move on with their lives. The lack of extended care and maintenance agreements, and the lack of an independent child advocate being ingrained in the bill -- those are my remarks.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mrs. Liz Sandals (Guelph-Wellington): I'm delighted to be able to speak today on this bill to do with the rules around adoption in the province of Ontario. I am a great cheerleader for my local family and children's services in the Guelph area. One of the principles that they have always worked by is that the best placement for a child is an adoption placement, a permanent placement. The second preferred placement is stable foster care, and finally, a group home. They have always stuck to that principle, regardless of the funding model which the previous government imposed on them. They have always stuck to this model, and I support them and congratulate them on this. This bill will support them in their work, in their priority.

In fact, when you look at the adoption legislation as it is today, it's quite outdated. It's really based on the presumption that children who are put up for adoption are coming as infants into the city, put up largely by young women who have had babies out of wedlock. Of course, that is no longer true. Many of the children who come into the child welfare system today come from very difficult situations, from families which for one reason or another have not been able to take care of the child as well as one might hope. In those cases, unless it's been an abusive relationship, the birth family often maintains a right of contact.

Under the current legislation, if the birth family is allowed contact, then adoption is not allowed. This legislation fixes that. It allows an open adoption in which there may still be some contact with the birth family. It also makes it easier for relatives, including grandparents, to provide permanent homes for kids within their family, and it creates a number of other options which are very helpful to my children's aid.

Mr. John O'Toole (Durham): I'd like to compliment the member from Hamilton East, who has worked on this in committee to protect children and also our member from York North. I think, ultimately, the intention here is well-founded. If you look at the preamble of the bill, you see that the key areas of amendment are planning permanency for children, openness in adoption and an alternative dispute resolution process -- all very laudable objectives that I believe would benefit children.

There are some issues here with kinship care, trying to arrange adoptions closer to the kinship relationship. There's been input by First Nations, who weren't quite satisfied with that resolve.

I think we all want this to work in the best interests of children, to be placed in conditions of safety -- safety first -- and to have a process to make sure that happens. But I think there have been a couple of noteworthy inquests in the last year or so of a child having been placed in kinship care where in fact the child was treated poorly and died. That's a case that was just before the courts.

Sometimes in our ridings we get concerns from grandparents and other issues on these children's aid interventions to protect children, the need to demonstrate this, and the really nasty intrusion into families. In many cases, it's absolutely justified, but I find it difficult to get to the children's aid societies sometimes. I know it's a priority area.

What I want to pay close attention to in my remarks later on this afternoon is that the Ombudsman has expressed similar concerns. I don't think it has been addressed in the bill -- I think it was skated around -- that they should provide a mechanism to resolve some of these concerns of the Ombudsman. That is what's missing here. We've got to err on the side of the safety of children first.

Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): I, on behalf of the NDP caucus, want to thank Andrea Horwath for her diligence in working with Bill 210. She has, during the course of second reading, through committee and now at the point of third reading, worked incredibly hard representing the interests of native communities, aboriginal communities, expressing their concerns around the bill and moving amendments that start -- start -- to address those concerns. She has, in a remarkable way, addressed and advocated for amendments that would provide for independent oversight by the Ombudsman here in the province of Ontario, an incredibly important proposition.

Don't forget: children's aid societies, as we may call them colloquially, are private organizations with their own boards, yet they possess more power than the Ministry of Revenue, than police forces, than the immigration department. I know folks who work in children's aid societies and people who manage them, and they run from very, very good and very competent to incredibly overworked, understaffed and under-resourced. When that happens, people get put at risk -- I'm talking about organizations that are understaffed and under-resourced.

I personally and fundamentally have some problems about the lack of public accountability. The children's aid society, in my view, is an anachronism. It predates this century; it predates, at least philosophically, the last century.

But that isn't the focus of the bill. I'm going to have the opportunity, along with Howard Hampton, the leader of the NDP, to speak to this bill later this afternoon. Both of us will be expressing some concerns about the legislation and the failure of the government to get it right when it could have gotten it right.

Ms. Caroline Di Cocco (Sarnia-Lambton): I am pleased to stand to respond to some of the comments in regard to Bill 210, which is now before the House. I just want to remind us here in the Legislature that this bill is now stronger. It's stronger because we have gone through committee hearings, and we have adapted and taken on a number of amendments to strengthen some features, which include accountability for children's aid societies.

It's important that we remember that part of the process of good legislation is that one goes to committee, listens to the advice that is provided by those stakeholders and other members of this Legislature, and adapts that to the bill and amends it.

I just want to make a comment about the fact that the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act, 2006, makes it easier for children in need of protection to find a permanent home. It makes adoption more flexible by allowing more children to be adopted while still maintaining ties to their birth family and community. Again, it makes it easier for relatives, including grandparents, to provide a permanent home for those children and youth who need one.

As a grandparent, I certainly understand the role that grandparents have when it comes to their grandchildren. To be able to have that opportunity to embrace the responsibility, should the circumstances be such, is great for the children and for those who are providing the care. I'm really pleased to say that this bill is certainly going to make a better place for children in need.

The Deputy Speaker: The member for Hamilton East has two minutes to respond.

Ms. Horwath: I want to thank the members from Guelph --

Mrs. Sandals: Guelph-Wellington.

Ms. Horwath: Guelph-Wellington, Durham, Niagara Centre and Sarnia-Lambton for their comments. It's important that people note that what the government members say in their remarks is about all of the things that most people would agree are positive aspects of the bill, positive goals, laudable goals of Bill 210 around ensuring that children who are in need of protection by the state or by the province, by the crown -- the crown wards -- are able to more successfully be adopted. Certainly, everybody would agree that that's an important goal. Also, the options around what happens to those children through the process of determining where they get placed and where they end up, if you want to put it that way, are certainly positive moves.

1650

I guess what I need to reiterate, though, is that this government had some opportunities to do some other really positive and important things with this bill. I don't take too much issue with what they've already done in some ways -- although, having said that, there are still issues around First Nations communities that I think they've not done well with -- but there are issues around Ombudsman oversight, there are issues around extended care and maintenance, there are issues around the independence of the child advocate, and there are issues still remaining around resourcing, not only of children's aid societies, but of the designation of agencies within First Nations to be able to provide these kinds of services.

So there are a number of pieces that the government needs to think about in terms of moving forward, and it's unfortunate that Bill 210 didn't deal with some of these really quite important pieces. Had they done so, this bill would be absolutely the panacea for children of Ontario. Unfortunately, it's second-best.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mrs. Linda Jeffrey (Brampton Centre): I'm pleased to rise to talk about Bill 210, our government's child protection legislation, which is before us again for third reading.

Following second reading debate, Bill 210 received extensive public hearings from delegations from across the province. I wanted to take a few moments to reiterate some of the comments and suggestions from the various agencies we heard from.

Tikinagan Child and Family Services is one of the oldest and largest aboriginal children's aid societies in Ontario. They provide comprehensive child protection services to a large geographic area north of the 50th parallel, which includes 30 remote First Nations and several small towns and villages. They have pioneered a process of alternative dispute resolution, Talking Together. It's an innovative form of dispute resolution practised as an alternative to the family court system and is based on traditional circles held in the communities.

During clause-by-clause, we adopted an NDP motion in section 5 of the bill on the issue of alternative dispute resolution. The motion states that where a society is considering ADR to resolve a dispute, the society must consult with a native child's band to determine if ADR, established by the band or under regulation, would help resolve the dispute. As well, we would require the CAS -- the children's aid society -- to give notice of ADR, which would enable the First Nations representatives to provide culturally appropriate support and input into the process of dispute resolution.

From the time of the announcement of the formation of the child welfare secretariat, the Children's Aid Society of Toronto has been enthusiastically supportive of the new directions being contemplated by our government. The agency in Toronto serves over 33,000 children a year and provides daily care for about 1,000 crown wards. During public hearings, CAS Toronto was optimistic that Bill 210 would promote permanency options which have been unavailable until now for the vast majority of children and youth.

Carolyn Buck, the interim executive director for CAS Toronto, said, "This bill demonstrates that you have heard many issues identified by professionals in this field, as well as those identified by our clients who have received service."

The Adoption Council of Ontario supported this bill. As an umbrella organization with the adoption community, they advocate for adopted persons and all people connected with adoption. Their mandate focuses on four areas: adoption information, adoption education, support and advocacy. Their mission is to provide support to individuals, families, groups and organizations in Ontario that are concerned with adoption. ACO believes that this legislation will lift the existing barriers for children and clear the way for permanency planning that can allow for more flexibility and greater options. They welcome efforts to address the confusing and cumbersome system of adoption in Ontario.

Legal Aid Ontario is also supportive of the direction of this bill and cited that it's a signal of a major shift in thinking in the child protection field. Legal Aid was particularly supportive of the increased flexibility in how children's aid societies can use their funding with the goal of keeping children in their own homes. Of particular interest to Legal Aid Ontario is the introduction of alternative dispute resolution processes in the area of child protection.

In section 10 of the bill we put forward an amendment which would permit parties to an assessment to agree upon an assessor within a time frame specified by the court. We heard from aboriginal leaders who expressed concern about the cultural competence of court-ordered assessments and the lack of input regarding who should be deemed appropriate to perform an assessment of an aboriginal child and/or their family.

Family Service Ontario is a provincial umbrella organization representing approximately 50 family service agencies in the province, of which the Catholic Family Services of Peel-Dufferin is one. FSO touted 210 as an excellent bill, because it really tries to balance the two priorities that a children's aid society has: first, to protect children, and second, to enhance the wellness of children by supporting their parents. Bill 210 will allow children who come into the care of children's aid societies to have the same opportunities of children who have been placed through a private adoption system.

This is a stronger, improved bill that better protects the interests of children and youth who are in need of protection. I would urge all my colleagues in this House to support Bill 210. Our children cannot wait any longer. Vote to support and protect our children. They deserve no less. Please support the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act, Bill 210. We need your support.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr. Kormos: I listened briefly to the comments made by the member, not because I didn't listen to all of the comments but because her brevity was in and of itself outstanding.

This is serious stuff. I'm going to have a chance to speak to this a little bit later in the afternoon. I'm going to repeat one more time: Real reform around family and children's services has to take into consideration the fact that the family and children's services agencies, that structure, is an anachronism, that it predates government interest and involvement and participation in this social work approach, this caring and protection of children.

We know, based on the experiences in our offices, how publicly unaccountable child and family services are, FACS are, children's aid societies. We know how difficult it is, from time to time, to get them to respond to concerns. That's why I find it amazing that the government would block Ms. Horwath and her proposal around amendments that would create Ombudsman office oversight. Banks do it: insurance companies do it. Any government agency is subject to the supervision of the Ombudsman. And if family and children's services, FACS, isn't going to be subject to the Ombudsman and its oversight, then maybe it's time that FACS was simply dismantled and turned into a public agency that has accountability through the minister responsible here in the Legislative Assembly. That's not to speak ill of any of those hard-working professionals who work in children's aid across Ontario. It would be to their benefit as well.

Mr. Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): The real test for this new legislation is one simple question: Does it make it better for the children of Ontario? Given my years as a foster parent, my privilege to be an adoptive parent, my years on the children's aid board, my involvement, my answer is that it makes it resoundingly better.

It is difficult for us, I think, to imagine being a child of four or five years old and removed from birth parents, sometimes under very difficult circumstances, and then placed in a foster home. I am privileged to know so many good foster homes, yet from the child's viewpoint, being taken from the birth parents is to be sentenced to a foster home, no matter how high-quality it is. What children want is stability and permanence in their life. They do not want to move. They do not want to know that tomorrow is uncertain and there could be a change. For a four- or five-year-old, or even an 11- or 12-year-old, the uncertainty is totally disruptive in their life.

This bill provides for some permanency planning that I think is truly creative and will truly work.

1700

Traditionally, becoming a crown ward -- and for those who are not aware, when becoming a crown ward, the courts l say that your birth parents are no longer able or willing to serve as your parents, and our government becomes responsible for them. To become a crown ward with access, meaning that there can be contact between the birth parents and the child, has traditionally meant that that child is unadoptable; that child will spend their life in limbo. This bill provides for some creativity that will allow them to be adopted, even if they have access on their order, into families; it will allow for some guardianship; and it will allow for some permanency, so that the child can get up each morning and, even more, go to bed at night knowing what will happen tomorrow and what will happen 10 years from tomorrow. I think the bill is marvellous.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments?

Mr. Gerry Martiniuk (Cambridge): There's a fight over here as to who wishes to go first.

I'm pleased to spend two minutes on Bill 210, the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act, 2005, for this really is an important bill. I know that all of us would like, if at all possible, to help children receive a permanent home. The difficulty has been that in the past, because of the act, children were not available, or not attractive, because of constraints or access by former parents. We all join in hoping that this particular bill, which I will be supporting, in fact will expedite and make available for adoption those children who were not available in the past. This is important, because we're talking about children in their vulnerable years, the time of their formation, and without the permanency of an adoptive and loving atmosphere, these children could go astray. We, of course, are ultimately responsible for them.

Mr. Khalil Ramal (London-Fanshawe): Thank you for giving me the chance again to speak in support of Bill 210. I had the chance to listen to my colleague from Brampton Centre when she was talking about the bill, about the importance of passing this bill. Also, I was listening to many different members who were talking about many different elements.

I think this bill is very important for the people of Ontario, for the children of Ontario, to make adoption in general more flexible and allow people to adopt many different children who are looking for parents to look after them and nurture them for the future.

So many elements have been brought up, especially about aboriginal people. To my knowledge, the minister met with aboriginal people many different times, and she spoke with them. Not many people know that they have a different customary care system, which means differences from spot to spot. The minister acknowledged those differences and talked to them on many different occasions to address their issue and deal with it in a professional and legal manner.

Also, for the people who are looking to adopt kids, this bill will allow grandparents and family with a kinship -- it's very important -- to keep the kids inside the family, if possible, before they send them out to different people to try to look after them. I think this bill gives flexibility to many people in this province. It gives flexibility to the grandparents and to a family member to adopt a loved one in their own families. If this bill is passed, it's going to make a huge difference for many kids in this province.

I was also listening to the member from Hastings, who was talking about it from first-hand experience. This person has experience being a foster parent for a long time, and I have listened to him on different occasions talk about the importance of this bill. He gave me great information. That's why I'm going to support the bill.

The Deputy Speaker: Member for Brampton Centre, you have two minutes to respond.

Mrs. Jeffrey: I'd like to thank my colleagues from Niagara Centre, Prince Edward-Hastings, Cambridge and London-Fanshawe.

In the remaining time I have, I wanted to talk a little bit about the Ombudsman of Ontario, André Marin. He lauded the improvements to our child care practices being taken in the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act. He talked about things like increasing the flexibility of dispositions to meet the needs of each child, making the system friendlier for adopting parents and the attempts to reduce the expense and acrimony of litigation by encouraging mediation.

Our government shares the Ombudsman's concern for the best interests of children within the child protection system. We agree with the Ombudsman that the clients of a children's aid society need to have an opportunity to bring concerns to a neutral third party. Children's aid societies must be accountable to the children and the families they serve. That's why we proposed the use of the Child and Family Services Review Board to replace the current director's reviews. Decisions under the CFSRB would be timely, neutral, binding and part of a province-wide complaints process based on best practices. The Ombudsman has authority over the CFSRB, making sure that the decisions made about our children and families are wise ones and are taken with care.

We need to have a system that meets the needs of the child, where the rules fit the child instead of the child fitting the rules. I believe Bill 210, which is before the House now, is a much better bill than when it first arrived. It's stronger through the amendments the NDP and the government proposed. It's a stronger bill that will protect and provide accountability for all children in care. This is the right thing to do. We need to support this legislation. Our children cannot wait any longer. The clock is ticking. We need to protect children, and this is the bill that will do that.

The Deputy Speaker: Further debate?

Mr. O'Toole: It's a distinct pleasure to have a few moments to reflect on a very important bill that was first introduced in June 2005 and has had public hearings. For the most part, I believe, we've listened to the member from Hamilton East, and I'd like to commend the work done in the committee by the member from York North, Julia Munro, our critic in this area. It is a very specialized area, and I would quite dismiss any of the insights I have. I attended on a couple of occasions to get some insight into it. I have familiarized myself with the bill. I've listened to some of the debate.

If you go through the explanatory notes of the legislation, you can see that there's quite a bit to it in terms of some of the areas of legislation it affects. What always triggers me to familiarize myself with a bill and what its implications are is to consult with my constituents and ask, "Have you heard of this bill?" whether it's Bill 206 or Bill 36; I've heard lots on those. Bill 210 is a more specialized bill, so I have put the word out, and I've listened to the wise advice from the member from York North.

It says, "The bill amends the Child and Family Services Act to permit courts to make custody orders for children in need of protection and openness orders for crown wards who are the subject of a plan for adoption. The bill makes additional amendments to the act and complementary amendments to the Children's Law Reform Act, the Education Act and the Vital Statistics Act."

Those don't sound that far off base, I suppose, but the general impression I got is that it's a well-intended bill. That's the impression I got listening to the minister speak in the House on it. The current minister, Minister Chambers, of course, would say that was the intent.

I looked at the notes Ms. Munro provided for us, and they say that the three key intentions of the bill are to provide permanency planning for children, openness in adoption and an alternative dispute resolution process. The government says its reforms will expand the range of permanent family-based core options for children in Ontario, enabling more children to move on to adoption. This would reduce court times and divert cases from the inappropriateness, in many occasions, of court. Those are well-intended, so I wouldn't fault that.

In our caucus discussions on this bill, I even questioned what was at risk, what were the things that we should be bringing to the debate to make sure we were addressing the issues of families and the stability of a child's current and future choices, and that someone is there watching out for their needs.

1710

The bill broadens the definition of "place of safety," allowing children removed from a home by the children's aid society to be placed -- this is important -- with family or community members instead of taken into care or kinship care. That's very important. The case that comes to mind is the Jeffrey Baldwin case, which was before the courts. The children's aid, for some reason or another, had assigned the young boy, Jeffrey Baldwin, to a kinship relationship. The family's situation had failed the child, I guess, and the child was taken and placed with, I believe, his grandparents.

I started to become a bit suspicious, just following the court proceedings, not any other decisions. As the reports were in the media, I noticed that one of the grandparents apparently had a prior charge or conviction, I think, on child abuse, or at least there was some suggestion that there was some abuse. I thought, even though it's a grandparent, how appropriate is it to assign a vulnerable child to someone who has had a prior conviction of any sort, for that matter?

I've heard many of those cases being raised as well in aboriginal children's issues that Ms. Horwath spoke about. I think there has to be a process to make sure that any potential risk to the child can be avoided absolutely. That is the government's role at the end of the day. No one would disagree with the expeditious movement of adoption in today's world, where many well-intended young couples, middle-aged couples and couples of all sorts are going to other countries to adopt children when we have children right here at home who want the stability and the care, the love and attention that a family setting can bring to their lives. It can be transformative.

So I want to be on the record as completely supportive, when all the safeguards are in place. That's the condition that is raised by the Ombudsman. The Ombudsman says here that they have no particular role in investigating and oversight of children's aid societies. At this point, I guess my comments are somewhat controversial; I think the member from Hamilton East as well was making the point that there should be completely impartial, independent oversight when necessary, as the Ombudsman does in other areas. I say for the record that I would be personally supportive of that, because at the end of the day the fragility and the emotional situation you're in in a children's aid intervention -- there must have been justification for that investigation being assigned to someone.

We've seen, in the inquest into the Jeffrey Baldwin case, that mistakes are made -- not intentionally, I'm sure. If somebody doesn't disclose, how does the caseworker or case manager know these things? But if you looked at it, there was no one, and the Ombudsman is saying it didn't seem to him that the CAS, whichever branch of the CAS it was, had an independent process to be self-critical. What better role for the Ombudsman to come in, whether it's a government agency or a public institution, where the Ombudsman has complete autonomy within the law to have an independent review? I don't see why they didn't do it. There are vested stakeholders within any organization who may not want to deal with the answer or the inquiry in a completely open fashion. I think the Ombudsman -- I had a casual look through the Ombudsman's report today -- is doing a lot of great work in areas of property assessment and other things. Some might say he is doing too much work, but that's a whole debate for another time.

My concern here is about the children, and we do want that precaution.

I'm just going to put on the record here -- this is from the Ombudsman's office, so it's not something from John Tory, our leader. We've discussed this in caucus. It's from the Ombudsman's office. It's dated February 14 and it says the following:

"The Ministry of Children and Youth Services' proposed amendments to Bill 210" -- which we're discussing -- "the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act, fall far short of what is needed to ensure independent, third party, investigative oversight of children's aid societies, according to Ontario's Ombudsman, André Marin.

"In a letter sent to the minister on Monday, the Ombudsman wrote: `The ministry's proposal falls far short of what the citizens of Ontario, in particular, children in need of protection, deserve.'" That's the end of the quote. That's pretty strong language, but his intentions and his general thrust cannot be faulted here.

"Mr. Marin, who has called on the Legislature to extend Ombudsman oversight to children's aid societies, expressed concern and disappointment at the proposal which includes additional internal complaints mechanisms and expanding the mandate of the Child and Family Services Review Board."

I quote again here: "`It's a stop-gap measure, which does not go far enough,' said Mr. Marin. `All it does is add another layer of bureaucracy to internal processes.'"

This sounds like a typical Liberal solution -- I hate to be critical -- have an inquiry and more bureaucracy; sort of like the LHINs, actually. I don't want to inflame this, because there are ministers here, but I don't see why they wouldn't take this precaution and agree with Ms. Horwath, the member from Hamilton East. I think it's a well-intended amendment.

This is where the politics are sometimes dysfunctional here. Ms. Horwath or Ms. Munro, in a very well-intended, non-partisan way, moved an amendment that does nothing to embellish our position on it. It strengthens the legislation. Premier McGuinty said he's going to "choose change" and "democratic renewal" -- all these soft, fuzzy words. He doesn't listen.

This is starting to enrage me, because I sat here on Bill 206, and he wouldn't listen. They time-allocated. On Bill 36, the LHINs, they time-allocated. They ram this stuff through.

Mr. Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey): It's shocking.

Mr. O'Toole: It's shocking. Really, what's upsetting me -- Speaker, you may have to slow me down here. Now they've time-allocated the Integrity Commissioner's report. That's when we're trying to get to the root cause of how many cellphones Mr. Takhar had, who was using them where, did he report all of the phones, part of the phones, none of the phones, to Chalmers, not to Chalmers -- do you understand?

What has it got to do with this? I would say that the Ombudsman, or the Integrity Commissioner in the case of Mr. Takhar, had it right.

Mr. Kormos: It could be a health issue.

Mr. O'Toole: Exactly.

In the very limited time left, I want to make sure that -- it's frustrating. I've got to go back to Bill 210 for a moment, but this has struck me. Here again, Ms. Horwath moved an amendment, in my understanding, supporting what the Ombudsman said in the report that I've read here. It says that it completely fails. It does not go far enough to protect children, he said. It's about protecting children. It's not partisan.

What's this democratic renewal debate all about? Working together. Our leader, John Tory, is always advocating to extend the olive branch, to just go that extra step to try and reach consensus. He tried that on Bill 206. You'll probably recall that. He tried to say, "Let's have some more hearings with Sid Ryan. Let's try to find some common ground here." It was the same thing with Bill 210. We just tried to get this perfect. In fact, we tried to get it right. We had nothing to gain on that, except that the people of Ontario do have it to gain, and in this case, the children of Ontario have it to gain.

Mr. Parsons has done a lot of great work in this particular area. I want to put that on the record. I respect him for that. I would say that the member from Prince Edward-Hastings is well-known for the work he's done. He's received awards and recognition for his role in working with the CAS and with children, and I commend him for that. I'm surprised that he wouldn't stand up and insist, "Let's take every single precaution, listen to the Ombudsman, and have that final check and balance so that this Jeffrey Baldwin situation can't occur again."

You know yourself; you're closer to it than I am. There are those remote occasions where these little errors happen, and they shouldn't be. The Ombudsman's willing to embrace this, the protection of children, by having an independent review of the CAS. These are well-intended boards, for the most part; 99% is a pretty good mark. But that 1% just isn't acceptable, and the Ombudsman says that; I say that; Andrea Horwath says that; I believe Julia Munro says that, and yet they wouldn't agree with that small, non-partisan amendment. I wonder why.

It gets me back to saying right now that, given this reluctance to engage in the full meaning of democratic renewal, and to time-allocate the sensitive issues on Bill 206, Bill 36 -- even the Integrity Commissioner's report has been time-allocated -- it's shutting down the very meaning of democracy. I'd say that in the last couple of weeks, about 75% of their legislative initiatives have been time-allocated -- this hasty session.

With that in mind, for the most part, I accept and support Bill 210, under the good advice of our member from York North, Julia Munro, and the hard work she's done, but I am now going to move adjournment of the debate in protest of the decision to time-allocate the Takhar decision. So I now move adjournment of the debate.

The Deputy Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour will say "aye."

All those opposed will say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1722 to 1752.

The Deputy Speaker: Members, please take your seats.

Mr. O'Toole has moved adjournment of the debate.

All those in favour, please stand. Take your seats.

All those opposed, please stand.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 6; the nays are 47.

The Deputy Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Mr. O'Toole, you have the floor.

Mr. O'Toole: I'm somewhat shocked and humbled by the recent defeat. It's not something I'd like to get used to. I think the point I was trying to make was a valuable point. The point was that the debate that we're all anxious to participate in has been terminated. If you look at the number of time allocation motions -- that's why I got to the point of frustration and moved that adjournment of the debate.

I think it's important to refocus here on what we were in the midst of debating, Bill 210, which is the Child and Family Services Statute Law Amendment Act. I was lauding or applauding the work done by the member from York North, our critic Julia Munro. She brought to my attention some very startling facts that I think are worthy of further comment.

The CASs serve about 9,000 children in permanent care and in foster homes, who must completely sever all ties to his or her birth family before being eligible for adoption -- that's quite surprising -- and 70% of children in permanent care can't be adopted because their birth family has a court-ordered right to contact them. So it's a very technical piece of legislation.

Then you look at the plight of the children's aid societies themselves. If you look at the children's aid societies, they're currently running a cumulative deficit of $70 million. Their boards are cash-flow to keep their employees' salaries in place for child protection in our province. The bill does not address this problem at all. That's been a growing and pressing problem of children's aid.

If they wanted to do the right thing, they would have listened to the recommendations of the Ombudsman. I've cited his remarks made on February 14: "`It's a stopgap measure, which does not go far enough,' said Mr. Marin. `All it does is add another layer of bureaucracy to internal processes.'"

I think those are the points we're making. The member from Hamilton East, from the NDP, in committee made a very valid amendment, which was declined by the government. The government has always pleaded the case of, "Choose change; choose democratic renewal; we're different; we'll listen," but here we've got a bill, Bill 210, where everybody agreed that the Ombudsman should have some role to protect children. We also have the situation where we've got a couple of bills before us -- Bill 206 has been time-allocated; Bill 36 has been time-allocated; time-allocating the Integrity Commissioner's report.

I'm just trying to find a point of balance, not just in this debate but in the actual proceedings in this Legislature. On behalf of John Tory, I think we've tried to respectfully make that argument. I think I've passed comments with respect to the member from Prince Edward-Hastings on the great work he's done. The very positive initiative of Bill 210 was to provide permanency for planning for children, openness in adoption and an alternative dispute resolution process. We support that; those are laudable objectives which we support. We'd like to work with you, and yet at the same time you're resistant to a very friendly amendment.

I don't know. I really don't believe it's the minister. I really believe, quite honestly, it's that they're afraid to allow the Ombudsman to have this independent, professional oversight of a kind of inside baseball game. That's my impression, and that would be something I'd have to be briefed on. That's why we need to have more debate on this. That's what it comes down to: It was in committee, it was brought up, it was voted down, and now I'm left pondering why it was turned down.

It's something we'll certainly have to look up in Hansard, and make sure the 9,000 children in the protection services of the children's aid have that final assurance that their safety always takes precedence. That's really why I'm speaking on this bill in the remaining one second I have left. We would like to support that. With that being said, I appreciate those listening to my remarks.

The Deputy Speaker: Questions and comments? The member for Prince Edward-Hastings.

Interjection.

The Deputy Speaker: I gave him the opportunity, and it is 6 o'clock. This House is adjourned until 6:45 of the clock.

The House adjourned at 1759.

Evening meeting reported in volume B.














































































































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Copyright © 2006
Hansard Reporting and Interpretation Services
Office of the Legislative Assembly of Ontario
Toronto, Ontario, Canada.
email: hansard@ontla.ola.org

Anonymous said...

This is serious stuff. I'm going to have a chance to speak to this a
little bit later in the afternoon. I'm going to repeat one more time: Real
reform around family and children's services has to take into consideration
the fact that the family and children's services agencies, that structure,
is an anachronism, that it predates government interest and involvement and
participation in this social work approach, this caring and protection of
children?

We know, based on the experiences in our offices, how publicly
unaccountable child and family services are, FACS are, children's aid
societies. We know how difficult it is, from time to time, to get them to
respond to concerns. That's why I find it amazing that the government would
block Ms. Horwath and her proposal around amendments that would create
Ombudsman office oversight. Banks do it: insurance companies do it. Any
government agency is subject to the supervision of the Ombudsman. And if
family and children's services, FACS, isn't going to be subject to the
Ombudsman and its oversight, then maybe it's time that FACS was simply
dismantled and turned into a public agency that has accountability through
the minister responsible here in the Legislative Assembly. That's not to
speak ill of any of those hard-working professionals who work in children's
aid across Ontario. It would be to their benefit as well.

Mr Kormos
Right On.

Anonymous said...

The courts have caught on. Mr Tool head, the judges are getting old and retiring, they are no longer putting up with the lies in family court and have said so to many many social workers and psychologist, they are not always giving in anymore, the CAS caught on during the Baldwin Trail that the courts are angry with them for not handing over records of there own!!!!!! its not good, so mediation is about give your baby to us, and you will co parent, Then it will mean once a year you may get a picture of the baby, but you wont see him or her, and a young mom may think great I can finish school and still see my baby, sign this and OH SHIT where's my baby, when can I see my baby, you will get a card or picture maybe in a year. Now what?? and in courts, it takes a much longer time to try and play young mommy is bad, and so on, in many cases she is not al all. or just needs a bit of support. This will make it real easy to dup young women. But they don't stay young forever, and the stories of all the kidnapped children will be told again and again. and no court record, how handy is that, and they made money and psychology makes money helping the distressed natural mom, and later the baby thinking he or she was not worthy of the natural parents love. Prozac anyone

Yup this Bill a real gem a blessing. NO ONE is fooled, read the spin, there is still NO OVER SIGHT
and the child will be long gone before you get to the process,
The face of society they are trying to legislate
, and there will be revolt, carnage in fact, if this system is allowed to continue to play its dirty tricks, Chambers is CAS. High rate of failed adoptions, and the once mentally ill gays will be singing about all the babies they can dress in Gucci. I am not homophobic, its why they are also legalizing gay marriage, so the health Minister can adopted a baby, soon as his wedding is over, before Harper tries to over turn it. Sorry about the flowers George. If the are going to bring up Jeffery wish they would get it right. and Matthew and the others. they died in care. CAS is scary as hell. They are corrupt to the core but now at least we can all see why.
One should have to at least finish high school to run for a seat. kinship, family, what grade did you drop out of. Ms Munro is a drunk, because no one could say the things she says over wise, no one is that stupid. WHERE is the OVERSIGHT. ITS NOT WHERE YOU ARE TRYING TO FOOL THE MPPS IT IS. THE PUBLIC IS DEMANDING IT. YET WE ARE BEING TOLD TO SHOVE IT. THE CAS HAS NO RIGHT TO THE ABUSE OF POWER, IT HAS NO RIGHT TO SPEAK WITH A CHILD WITH OUTPARENTAL CONSENT, YET THEY DO THIS AND MUCH MORE DAILY, THEY LIE IN COURT, THE HARM CHILDREN , AND DON'T CARE, WE CARE. WHY ARE THERE SO MANY DEATHS WHY ARE SO MANY DOCTORS NOT CALLING CAS, THEY KNOW THEY DO MORE HARM THEN GOOD, WHY DOES THE CCAS STILL HAVE A CONVICTED MURDER AS A FOSTER PARENT.
PLACE OF SAFETY IS AS FAR AWAY FROM THIS COUNTRY AS POSSIBLE, YOU ALL KNOW ABOUT THE HARD WORKING WELL EDUCATED MOTHERS THAT HAVE TAKEN CHILDREN OUT OF THE COUNTRY, BUT WORK RIGHT HERE IN ONT, BECAUSE OF CAS TORTURE. ANY ONE SITTING IN THE PLAY HOUSE OF LAWS KNOWS WHO ONE SUCH WOMEN IS, THIS IS WHAT THIS SYSTEM DOES. AND THEY DO WORSE.
WHY, WHAT'S THE FEAR OF OMBUDSMAN'S OVERSIGHT, THE PLACE HE CAN REVIEW IS THE PAPER SHREDDING SPIN HALL OF FAME. THE BUTTER BOX BABYS, IT SHOULD BE RE NAMED

Anonymous said...

This is serious stuff. I'm going to have a chance to speak to this a
little bit later in the afternoon. I'm going to repeat one more time: Real
reform around family and children's services has to take into consideration
the fact that the family and children's services agencies, that structure,
is an anachronism, that it predates government interest and involvement and
participation in this social work approach, this caring and protection of
children?

We know, based on the experiences in our offices, how publicly
unaccountable child and family services are, FACS are, children's aid
societies. We know how difficult it is, from time to time, to get them to
respond to concerns. That's why I find it amazing that the government would
block Ms. Horwath and her proposal around amendments that would create
Ombudsman office oversight. Banks do it: insurance companies do it. Any
government agency is subject to the supervision of the Ombudsman. And if
family and children's services, FACS, isn't going to be subject to the
Ombudsman and its oversight, then maybe it's time that FACS was simply
dismantled and turned into a public agency that has accountability through
the minister responsible here in the Legislative Assembly. That's not to
speak ill of any of those hard-working professionals who work in children's
aid across Ontario. It would be to their benefit as well.

Mr Kormos
Right On.

Anonymous said...

my comments are somewhat controversial; I think the member from
Hamilton East as well was making the point that there should be completely
impartial, independent oversight when necessary, as the Ombudsman does in
other areas. I say for the record that I would be personally supportive of
that, because at the end of the day the fragility and the emotional
situation you're in in a children's aid intervention -- there must have been
justification for that investigation being assigned to someone

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services' proposed amendments to
Bill 210" -- which we're discussing -- "the Child and Family Services
Statute Law Amendment Act, fall far short of what is needed to ensure
independent, third party, investigative oversight of children's aid
societies, according to Ontario's Ombudsman, André Marin.

"Mr. Marin, who has called on the Legislature to extend Ombudsman
oversight to children's aid societies, expressed concern and disappointment
at the proposal which includes additional internal complaints mechanisms and
expanding the mandate of the Child and Family Services Review Board."

This sounds like a typical Liberal solution -- I hate to be
critical -- have an inquiry and more bureaucracy; sort of like the LHINs,
actually. I don't want to inflame this, because there are ministers here,
but I don't see why they wouldn't take this precaution and agree with Ms.
Horwath, the member from Hamilton East. I think it's a well-intended
amendment.
This is where the politics are sometimes dysfunctional here. Ms. lol SOMETIMES
Horwath or Ms. Munro, in a very well-intended, non-partisan way, moved an
amendment that does nothing to embellish our position on it. It strengthens
the legislation. Premier McGuinty said he's going to "choose change" and
"democratic renewal" -- all these soft, fuzzy words. He doesn't listen.

This is starting to enrage me, because I sat here on Bill 206, and he
wouldn't listen. They time-allocated. On Bill 36, the LHINs, they
time-allocated. They ram this stuff through.

Mr. Jim Wilson (Simcoe-Grey): It's shocking.

Mr. O'Toole: It's shocking. Really, what's upsetting me -- Speaker,
you may have to slow me down here. Now they've time-allocated the Integrity
Commissioner's report. That's when we're trying to get to the root cause of
how many cellphones Mr. Takhar had, who was using them where, did he report
all of the phones, part of the phones, none of the phones, to Chalmers, not
to Chalmers -- do you understand?

What has it got to do with this? I would say that the Ombudsman, or
the Integrity Commissioner in the case of Mr. Takhar, had it right.

Mr. Kormos: It could be a health issue.

Mr. O'Toole: Exactly.

In the very limited time left, I want to make sure that -- it's
frustrating. I've got to go back to Bill 210 for a moment, but this has
struck me. Here again, Ms. Horwath moved an amendment, in my understanding,
supporting what the Ombudsman said in the report that I've read here. It
says that it completely fails. It does not go far enough to protect
children, he said. It's about protecting children. It's not partisan.

What's this democratic renewal debate all about? Working together. Our
leader, John Tory, is always advocating to extend the olive branch, to just
go that extra step to try and reach consensus. He tried that on Bill 206.
You'll probably recall that. He tried to say, "Let's have some more hearings
with Sid Ryan. Let's try to find some common ground here." It was the same
thing with Bill 210. We just tried to get this perfect. In fact, we tried to
get it right. We had nothing to gain on that, except that the people of
Ontario do have it to gain, and in this case, the children of Ontario have
it to gain.

Mr. Parsons has done a lot of great work in this particular area. I
want to put that on the record. I respect him for that. I would say that the
member from Prince Edward-Hastings is well-known for the work he's done.
He's received awards and recognition for his role in working with the CAS
and with children, and I commend him for that. I'm surprised that he
wouldn't stand up and insist, "Let's take every single precaution, listen to
the Ombudsman, and have that final check and balance so that this Jeffrey
Baldwin situation can't occur again."

You know yourself; you're closer to it than I am. There are those
remote occasions where these little errors happen, and they shouldn't be.
The Ombudsman's willing to embrace this, the protection of children, by
having an independent review of the CAS. These are well-intended boards, for
the most part; 99% is a pretty good mark. But that 1% just isn't acceptable,
and the Ombudsman says that; I say that; Andrea Horwath says that; I believe
Julia Munro says that, and yet they wouldn't agree with that small,
non-partisan amendment. I wonder why.

It gets me back to saying right now that, given this reluctance to
engage in the full meaning of democratic renewal, and to time-allocate the
sensitive issues on Bill 206, Bill 36 -- even the Integrity Commissioner's
report has been time-allocated -- it's shutting down the very meaning of
democracy. I'd say that in the last couple of weeks, about 75% of their
legislative initiatives have been time-allocated -- this hasty session.

hASTY IS WHAT ITS ALL ABOUT SHOCKING

Anonymous said...

You know yourself; you're closer to it than I am. There are those
remote occasions where these little errors happen, and they shouldn't be.
The Ombudsman's willing to embrace this, the protection of children, by
having an independent review of the CAS. These are well-intended boards, for
the most part; 99% is a pretty good mark. But that 1% just isn't acceptable,
and the Ombudsman says that; I say that; Andrea Horwath says that; I believe
Julia Munro says that, and yet they wouldn't agree with that small,
non-partisan amendment. I wonder why.

children dying in care are NOT LITTLE ERRORS, JEFFERY'S DEATH WAS NOT A LITTLE ERROR, TAKING SO MANY CHILDREN IN TO SO CALLED CARE IS NOT LITTLE ERRORS, FALSE ALLEGATIONS FOREVER HARMING A FAMILY IS NOT LITTLE ERRORS.
and Munro does not want over sight they cant have it, they are really going to go at this with greed and make big bucks when will people understand CAS does not want over sight it never has, it does what it wants and we pay for it, and its BIG business, not child protection,

Anonymous said...

VMr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): My question is for the Premier and deals with the government's decision to call Bill 206 this afternoon. Premier, you have not, in our view and in the view of many Ontarians, taken the time to fix what many believe is flawed legislation. In opposition, you talked about a new way of doing business in this place. The leader of the Progressive Conservative Party, John Tory, has suggested to you on a number of occasions that you go that extra mile, sit down with Mr. Tory, Mr. Hampton and others who are impacted by this legislation to try to find a middle ground, try to find a resolution. Instead, you're going down a road that could cause significant disruption to the province and hurt families throughout Ontario.

Premier, why are you taking the province down what we would describe -- and I think many would share this view -- as an irresponsible road?
BRAVO BRAVO thank you Runciman.
Wait till the media rins the tapes on the CAS social workers abusing mothers, swearing at them , threatening to take children, for nothing at all, the recordings of social workers,

Anonymous said...

CHILD AND FAMILY SERVICES
STATUTE LAW AMENDMENT ACT, 2006 /
LOI DE 2006 MODIFIANT DES LOIS
EN CE QUI CONCERNE LES SERVICES
À L'ENFANCE ET À LA FAMILLE

Resuming the debate adjourned on March 1, 2006, on the motion for third reading of Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act and make complementary amendments to other Acts / Projet de loi 210, Loi modifiant la Loi sur les services à l'enfance et à la famille et apportant des modifications complémentaires à d'autres lois.

The Acting Speaker (Mr. Joseph N. Tascona): Further debate?

Mr. Howard Hampton (Kenora-Rainy River): I want to put a few comments on the record this afternoon.

We saw earlier the government contend that this bill is perfect and that it should be just whistled through the House without any further debate. I am here to tell the government in no uncertain terms, your bill is not perfect. It has been an insult to First Nations across this province in its process. It was an insult to First Nations across this province in terms of your refusal to recognize the legitimate interests, the legitimate concerns, of aboriginal people with respect to their children.

This government's attempt today to whistle this legislation through the House without any further debate shows further contempt by the McGuinty government for the aboriginal people of Ontario and for the seriousness with which aboriginal people came to this Legislature to tell the McGuinty government over and over again that you are not respecting aboriginal legal rights, you are not respecting aboriginal treaty rights, you are not respecting aboriginal constitutional rights -- further contempt shown by the McGuinty government today.

I want to be absolutely clear about what transpired over the last year. A year ago, with much fanfare, with much self-congratulation, the McGuinty government said, "The McGuinty government announces a new approach to aboriginal relationships to build stronger aboriginal communities." My, the press releases flew everywhere, and there were photo ops. The McGuinty government couldn't say enough about how they were going to consult with First Nations, how they were going to work with First Nations, how the McGuinty government really cared about aboriginal people, how the McGuinty government was going to pay attention to the issues raised by aboriginal people. That was a year ago, with much fanfare, much self-congratulation, many photo ops.

1610

Then the McGuinty government introduced Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act, and do you know what? The McGuinty government hadn't even talked to aboriginal people, hadn't even talked to the chiefs, hadn't even talked to the leadership of aboriginal organizations in the province. That in itself was bad enough, but when you read some of the things the McGuinty government was proposing in Bill 210 -- extremely prejudicial to aboriginal families, extremely prejudicial to aboriginal children and extremely destructive of what aboriginal people have been able to do over the last 30 years in terms of actually getting something positive done, in terms of the care and the welfare of aboriginal children -- it would have given itself the unilateral authority to in effect either terminate customary care or unilaterally make very radical changes to customary care. What is customary care? Customary care is a kind of child protection, child welfare, that has been designed by aboriginal people with their social and cultural realities in mind. Yet the McGuinty government, after promising to consult and work with aboriginal families, aboriginal leadership, would have given itself the unilateral power to literally say, "Customary care is gone," or "The McGuinty government says that customary care shall mean thus and so, here and now." The arrogance of the McGuinty government, and the contempt the McGuinty government showed for aboriginal people, and which they tried again here today, earlier this afternoon, to whistle this legislation through without giving anyone the opportunity to speak again, and how contemptuous this legislation has been in respect of aboriginal people; how contemptuous the McGuinty government has been in respect of aboriginal people. I want to put that on the record. I want to be very clear about the contempt this government has shown for aboriginal people in the way it originally proceeded and in the way it tried to proceed here this afternoon.

After the McGuinty government introduced the legislation and after again, with much self-congratulation, photo ops and the flourish of trumpets, pronouncing that it was going to do wonderful things -- perhaps for some, but not for aboriginal people -- the leadership of aboriginal communities came here to Queen's Park to raise their issues.

Once again, to talk about process, just before Christmas the McGuinty government tried to limit public hearings so that aboriginal communities, aboriginal leadership, would not be able to address this legislation. They tried literally to shut down debate, tried to shut down the committee process so that once again aboriginal people would be shut out. It was only through the protest of aboriginal organizations and, frankly, through the protest of New Democrats here at Queen's Park that aboriginal communities and the aboriginal leadership even got a hearing, even got to attend the public hearings and make their case, but when they finally got that -- and I want to read the list, because this reflects the anger, the frustration and the concern of aboriginal communities across the province:

The Anishinaabe Abinoojii Family Services came, Aroland First Nation, Association of Iroquois and Allied Indians, the Anishinaabeg of Naongashiing, the Anishinabek Nation, the Association of Native Child and Family Services Agencies of Ontario, the Aundeck-Omni-Kaning First Nation, Beausoleil First Nation, Chiefs Committee on Child Welfare, Chippewas of Georgina Island, Curve Lake First Nation, Chippewas of Nawas First Nation, Chiefs of Ontario, Children in Limbo Taskforce of the Sparrow Lake Alliance, Chippewas of Nawash, Chiefs of Ontario, Council of Three Fires, Delaware Nation Council, Dokis First Nation, Eabametoong First Nation, Six Nations of the Grand River Child and Family Services, Garden River First Nation, Hiawatha First Nation, Iskatewizaagegan No. 39 Independent First Nation, Kina Gbezhgomi Child and Family Services, London District Chiefs Council, Lac Des Mille Lacs First Nation, Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte, M'Chigeeng First Nation, Michipicoten First Nation, Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation, Mnjikaning First Nation, Nishnawbe Aski Nation, Nog-da-win-da-min Child and Family Services, Naotamegwanning First Nation, Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres, Oneida Nation of the Thames, Red Rock Band, Scugog First Nation, Sandpoint First Nation, Six Nations of the Grand River, Tikinagan Child and Family Services, Temagami First Nation, Wahgogshig First Nation, Wahnapitae First Nation, Webequie First Nation, Weech-it-te-win Family Services, Whitefish Lake First Nation, Wabigoon Lake First Nation, Whitefish River First Nation, Wikwemikong Unceded Indian Reserve, Zhiibaahaasing First Nation.

All of these aboriginal organizations came forward to condemn the McGuinty government for not living up to their own promise, to work with First Nations, to respect aboriginal treaty and aboriginal rights, to respect aboriginal constitutional rights. They condemn this government for failing to live up to the recent Supreme Court of Canada decisions which establish that provincial governments must consult.

So we're here today not because the McGuinty government came up with great legislation. We're here today because First Nations came here like I've never seen them come here before, to tell the McGuinty government how outrageous their behaviour was, how contemptuous their behaviour was. So the McGuinty government was forced to listen.

The McGuinty government would once again have us believe that everything is wonderful now. Well, I want to read a recent resolution on First Nation child welfare. This is a resolution recently passed by the Association of Chiefs of Ontario:

"Whereas the inherent right to self-government includes jurisdiction in relation to the protection of First Nations children;

"Whereas Bill 210, An Act to amend the Child and Family Services Act, abrogates the responsibilities of both the federal and provincial governments;

"Whereas the chiefs in assembly, through AOCC resolutions 05/22 and 05/27, opposed and rejected Bill 210 in its entirety and, in particular, a provision that would permit the Ontario government to arbitrarily redefine First Nation customary care practices in the vital area of child welfare;

"Whereas AOCC resolution 05/22 mandated the creation of a Chiefs Committee on Child Welfare to address and advance First Nations authority and jurisdiction in child welfare;

"Whereas AOCC resolution 05/27 directed the development of a separate consultation process to review and provide recommendations on the proposed legislative amendments to the Child and Family Services Act;

"Therefore be it resolved that we, the chiefs in assembly, acknowledge the progress made to date by the Chiefs Committee on Child Welfare, the social services coordination unit and the Association of Native Child and Family Service Agencies...;

"Further be it resolved that we acknowledge the minimal amendments to Bill 210 as an interim measure...."

What the chiefs are saying is, while the McGuinty Liberals want to force this legislation through this afternoon, while the McGuinty Liberals want to pretend that everything has been fixed, the chiefs are saying that no, it hasn't been fixed. All the McGuinty government has done is put in minimal amendments.

1620

I'm here today to say this: The whole process around this bill was disgraceful. The whole process by the McGuinty government around this bill was disgraceful in terms of aboriginal people, and the only thing that has been done so far is to put forward minimal changes. The onus is on the McGuinty government now to actually live up to the promises you made in terms of working with aboriginal people and respecting the rights of aboriginal people instead of showing the contempt that you showed earlier and that you showed again here today in your attempt to whistle this bill through the House without further debate.

My colleague the member for Niagara, I believe, has some comments that he would like to make, and I think there is an agreement that he and I are sharing the time.

Mr. Peter Kormos (Niagara Centre): It's pretty outrageous that the minister would stand in this House today and somehow suggest that anybody's been delaying anything around here when it's been the intransigence of the Minister of Transportation, Harinder Takhar, that has delayed the passage of a whole lot of bills: Bill 14, Bill 53, Bill 56, just for starters. If there are people out there, if there are folks out there concerned about legislation that didn't weave its way through the legislative process, call the Premier and call Mr. Takhar and find out why his personal interests were put ahead of the public interest, his interest in covering his butt when he got caught with his hands in the cookie jar. He let those interests override broader public interest.

To speak to Bill 210, look, Mr. Hampton has put it very clearly. The bill has been tinkered with, but only marginally so, and there are a whole lot of gaping holes left in this legislation -- a whole lot. I find it offensive, and so should folks out there, that somehow the minister would want a bill to be passed without thorough consideration. I'm the last speaker for the New Democrats on this matter, so I'm going to be here for the balance of the day participating in 10 minutes of questions and comments on other speakers.

You heard me before when I applauded the incredibly diligent work of Sheila Volchert from down in Pelham. Ms. Volchert is one of those grandparents raising grandchildren here in the province of Ontario, and Ms. Volchert and others like her have been lobbying successive governments for a number of changes. One of them has been the open adoption regime which is proposed in this bill. Let's not kid ourselves. The open adoption proposal, at the end of the day, is designed to get natural parents to collaborate in the adoption of grandchildren by their grandparents when those natural parents have demonstrated an inability to adequately care for their children. The real issue isn't open adoption. The real issue is the need for clear legislation, critical legislation that directs courts, family courts, family judges in this province to pull parental rights when a parent has put a child in danger over a period of time, when a parent, as a result of drunkenness or drug addiction or other misconduct, inability, misbehaviour -- because you know darned well what happens, Speaker, and other folks here have had the experience too. Kids get put into foster care with good foster homes and then the parent comes back and says, "I'm ready now to take care of my kid again." The kids get pulled out of the foster homes. The parent screws up again, falls off the wagon, gets back on the booze, gets back on the crack cocaine, gets back on to the streets. Children's aid moves and puts the kids in another foster home, with good foster parents, foster parents who develop a bond with those children -- or with grandparents, and grandparents have been frustrated for far too long in getting fast-tracked in terms of having custody of their grandchildren, when those are loving, caring grandparents, the natural family of that child, who should be the first choice as custodial parents.

So while we support open adoption, let's call it what it is and see it for what it is. It's a mere surrogate for the implementation of effective legislation that will give judges the authority, the power, to pull parental rights promptly when you've got a drug-addicted or alcoholic or abusive parent who is going to cause that kid to ping-pong back and forth.

I also told you that I have serious concerns about the manner in which the government incorporates mediation into disputes around child protection. You've heard me say before, and I'm going to say it again, that it was Professor Fiss -- and I quote him -- who talks about alternative dispute resolution in the context of certain types of litigation. He says, "It should be treated instead as a highly problematic technique for streamlining dockets." My fear is that the mediation proposed in this legislation has as its primary goal the relief of pressure on our family courts that have dockets as long as your arm and family court judges and court staff who are working 10-, 11-, 12-hour days and being forced to make decisions in a sausage-factory manner.

I don't know whether or not this bill is going to finish debate today. But I find it offensive for there to be some sort of arrogant proposition by government members that somehow a bill shouldn't get debate because that particular minister wants it passed then, there and now. There is a process here. I expect government members to stand up with their analysis of this bill and explain why they think it's ready for passage. I similarly expect other opposition members, because it's their job, to stand up with their analysis of this bill and explain why they continue to have concerns about it. You don't get a whole lot of kicks at the can around here. This is not going to be readdressed real soon.

We appreciate that Andrea Horwath worked as hard as anybody could, with great skill and professionalism, in the committee hearings and presented a number of amendments, one of them being oversight by the Ombudsman. Why would the government vote down oversight by the Ombudsman? What are they afraid of? That is so fundamental.

I say, should there be any mention of this bill not having been called earlier, let the government House leader explain why he didn't call it, and let Mr. Takhar explain why his stubbornness, his selfishness, his pure self-interest prevented not only this bill but a number of pieces of legislation from having the debate they deserved during the course of this three-week session.

The Acting Speaker: It's time for questions and comments.

Mr. Ernie Parsons (Prince Edward-Hastings): This is a bill that provides for permanency planning for children in the care of children's aid societies, provides for accountability and recognizes the unique needs of our First Nations children. But this is a bill not for this government, not for this party; this is a bill for the children of Ontario. The children of Ontario we're talking about are, by and large, in foster homes, and they're in good foster homes. But for a number of reasons they're not going to remain there for their life, or their foster parents and foster families have to quit fostering. I want to tell you about the effect on these children of living in limbo in a foster home.

They have already been physically removed from their birth parents, and rightfully so. But now they face the trauma every day of, when a car comes in, is that car coming to get them and move them? They have difficulty sleeping. They have difficulty doing well in school because they're in limbo. If you left here, not knowing where you are going to live tonight, you would understand that.

For each move they leave their school, they leave their friends and they lose friendships they've built. They're already traumatized while they try to make new friends. What you may not have thought of is that they lose the pets they've established a bond with in the foster home. They view the foster parents' relatives as their relatives, and suddenly that's all taken away. That is a feeling of rejection for them. Even if they've done nothing wrong, they feel rejected when they have to move again.

What foster children in this province need is a sense of permanence, a sense of being part of a family, of having some worth. This bill provides for that to happen, whether it be faster through adoptive parents, kinship or friends or perhaps even permanency in the foster home.

I beg and plead to the opposition: Do not play games. This is a bill that would profoundly improve the quality of life for our children

1630

Mr. Ted Arnott (Waterloo-Wellington): The opposition parties are not playing games in this Legislature when they do their job, which is to debate legislation and come forward with ideas that may have been brought to our attention. This afternoon, we're debating an important issue. I don't think anyone would doubt the sincerity of the Minister of Children and Youth Services in bringing forward Bill 210. For my part, as a member of the Legislature who was able to participate for a few days during the public hearings and the clause-by-clause discussion of the bill, I would say that it's one I support in principle and I'm hopeful it will pass into law.

It was unfortunate that the government used two of their staged questions during question period this afternoon to ask questions of the Minister of Children and Youth Services in an attempt to suggest it's the opposition's fault that this bill may not pass today. Let's face it, the government House leader can call a bill that's before the House at any time. To heap scorn and blame on the opposition when the Legislature is sitting for three weeks and this winter session is coming to a close -- we're getting to a point where we're getting down to brass tacks. There's still an opportunity if the House leaders want to meet to discuss the issues that apparently have created this impasse, but certainly the opposition parties have good reason to express concern about the way the Integrity Commissioner's report was handled and the way the government seems to be attempting to sweep under the carpet the condemnation of this Minister of Transportation that was represented in the Integrity Commissioner's report and to hope that it will go away.

But it's not going to go away and it can't go away. The opposition parties have an absolute responsibility to continue to raise this issue. We've no choice, because this is the first time in the history of the province that the Integrity Commissioner has written a report such as he did, condemning a minister, and the Premier of the day is refusing to admit that his minister has been condemned by the Integrity Commissioner. He is refusing to act upon it in the appropriate way, which is to ask the minister to step aside and appoint a new Minister of Transportation so that the integrity of this place is upheld.

Mr. Rosario Marchese (Trinity-Spadina): I think the member from Prince Edward-Hastings should be a bit careful with his remarks. The remarks around the issue of playing games are hurtful, if not dismissive, of the comments that people have made here. You've heard --

Interjection.

Mr. Marchese: Perhaps you didn't mean it; I'm not quite sure. Or other members maybe don't mean it; I'm not quite sure.

But you've heard the member from Kenora-Rainy River speak passionately about the issue of aboriginal people. He's not playing games when he says aboriginal people were not informed and were not aware that this bill was before this Legislature and was about to go to hearings. They didn't know that hearings were going on and they didn't know that their lives, as it relates to the care of their children, were on the line. That's not playing games. That speaks to the issue the member from Kenora-Rainy River says is a key and important part of aboriginal people.

We thought you believed in those matters. We felt you believed that aboriginal people ought to be consulted, that you should not be abrogating your responsibility as it relates to aboriginal treaty rights, that even if the civil servants forgot, you would, as politicians, make certain they would be actively engaged and consulted before the bill was drafted so as to make sure their issues were taken care of, and not have my friend from Hamilton East have to bring forth amendments to make sure their rights were restored as it relates to children of aboriginal families. We had to bring amendments. The government should have taken the care to have the appropriate language that addresses their issues. How can you say we're playing games with the issue? That's only one issue, as it relates to process and as it relates to aboriginal families and their children -- one issue amongst many.

Mrs. Linda Jeffrey (Brampton Centre): I really feel compelled to say something today. I sat through many meetings with aboriginal leaders prior to the hearings, and if you listen to the members from the NDP, you'd believe they were the only ones who put forward amendments that would respect what the aboriginal leaders told us. I don't find that to be an accurate portrayal. We worked really hard with the NDP to put amendments in that were very similar. We allowed the NDP amendments to go forward. We have absolutely listened to the aboriginal leaders. We've tried to make this the best bill.

I feel absolutely confident that this is the type of legislation that aboriginal leaders and chiefs would want us to do. They asked for these specific amendments. We absolutely delivered. We're here with a good bill, one that is going to protect children for the foreseeable future. The last bill had unintended consequences. It had legislation in it that hurt children. We listened to what we heard at those hearings. We had young people come towards us. We had grandparents come forward and ask us to make changes that would affect their lives in the future. We listened to them. There are amendments here, and we struck out whole sections of the bill in order to meet what aboriginal leaders and chiefs told us would make a difference to their children. So if you hear today that we didn't listen, that is not the case; we absolutely did listen, and we put in legislation that we heard was necessary to respect the aboriginal community.

This is a good piece of legislation. Nothing could be further from the truth than that we didn't listen. We spent considerable days. In fact, we doubled the time that we could hear witnesses before our committee in order to accommodate what the aboriginal leaders said were tight time constraints. We listened. We heard them. There is nothing more important than our children. We have to make a decision. This affects people's families and lives. This government has brought forward a good piece of legislation. We should vote on it.

The Acting Speaker: It's time for a response. The Chair recognizes the leader of the third party.

Mr. Hampton: I want to comment and respond especially to the member for Prince Edward-Hastings, who suggests that if an opposition member dares bring up the fact that this legislation was grossly unfair and contemptuous of First Nations, somehow an opposition member is playing politics. There's only one organization that played politics with this bill today. The McGuinty government tried to play politics with it.

I want to respond, of course, to the member from Brampton Centre. I remember saying to the Premier, "Look, you've got major problems with this bill. It is contemptuous of First Nations. It is prejudicial to First Nations. Will you, instead of trying to force it through, withdraw it, hold it back, allow for a consultation with First Nations?" Do you know what the response of Premier McGuinty was? "No. This bill is perfect."

The only reason this bill was amended was because First Nations had to come here to Queen's Park and tell you holier-than-thou members of the McGuinty government that you were not observing their constitutional rights, their treaty rights, their aboriginal rights, nor were you living up to the promises you made to aboriginal people. They had to come here en masse and tell you that because you were so holier-than-thou, you weren't going to listen.

So I say again that the only people who have played politics with this legislation are members of the McGuinty government, members of the McGuinty government who were so arrogant that they wouldn't listen to First Nations -- who were so arrogant that even when they came here, you tried to shilly-shally around and avoid their legitimate issues. And still today you're playing politics with it, and you suggest that when somebody raises legitimate First Nations issues, they're playing politics. You are just as disgraceful today, sir.

1640

The Acting Speaker: Further debate? The Chair recognizes the member from Leeds-Grenville.

Mr. Robert W. Runciman (Leeds-Grenville): I appreciate the opportunity to participate.

Mr. Hampton: Disgusting; worse than disgusting: arrogance from the beginning and continuing today.

The Acting Speaker: Will the leader of the third party allow the member from Leeds-Grenville to debate this bill?

The Chair recognizes the member from Leeds-Grenville.

Mr. Runciman: I understand and share the anger of the leader of the third party with respect to what we saw in this House today. The House leader for the third party, Mr. Kormos, is here as well. I'm the House leader for the official opposition. What we saw today was, I think, a disgraceful show with respect to this bill, Bill 210.

Our party is supportive of the legislation. Over the past several weeks we have offered, as a party, encouragement to the government to call the bill, that we were prepared to support it, to see it passed. Instead, they did not do that. They left it until the end, when they knew our frustration and dissatisfaction with respect to the way they've dealt with the Takhar matter was boiling over. And then we see a disgraceful performance in this House today, misusing government backbench questions, and then the minister herself: a terribly embarrassing and shameful performance on her part, trying to blame the opposition for the fact that this bill has been delayed.

The reality is that there was a list of objectives that the government had when we first sat down as House leaders. We tried to work in a co-operative fashion; we're talking about three people who are veterans of this place, who don't like to play games. We have to do our job as members of the opposition in a responsible way, to make sure that the concerns of the public and organizations and groups are heard and expressed and, in some cases, conveyed through amendments etc. That's the role that we, Her Majesty's loyal opposition, have to play. But we're not here to be obstructionist; we're here to do the good job that we were elected to do as opposition members. I think that's the way both the House leader for the third party and myself have approached this, and I believe that the House leader for the government has approached it in that manner.

They came with a list. We felt that much of that list could be accomplished in this brief three-week sitting, and that's the way we approached it. But if you take a look at what has happened, at what has caused the situation we're in today, where we cannot proceed with third reading of Bill 210 in terms of finalization, we wouldn't have been in this box if Mr. Takhar had done the right thing when the Integrity Commissioner tabled his report in this Legislature and had stepped down. An unprecedented rebuke of a cabinet minister -- in the history of this province, unprecedented -- but he had the gall not only to stay in that job but to stay here today and vote on his own report. He had the unmitigated gall to stay in here, smile through all of this, with no appreciation or recognition of the history behind this, the fact that he's the first minister ever to be reprimanded by the Integrity Commissioner for egregious and careless conduct.

The other party who's responsible here is Premier McGuinty. If he had respected the standards that he set for cabinet integrity when he was sitting over here as the Leader of the Opposition, Mr. Takhar would not be in that job. We would not have been engaged in this debate. We could have worked productively to accomplish what was realistically accomplishable. But that didn't happen. Mr. Takhar didn't do the right thing. The Premier ignored his own standards, and has really, virtually -- there are no standards anymore, as far as we're concerned, with respect to the ability to stay in cabinet.

That outlines why we are so frustrated, why we are so upset, and why Bill 210 is not proceeding. It's not the responsibility of the government or the opposition; it's the responsibility of Mr. Takhar, it's the responsibility of the government and it's the responsibility of all those people who played these shameless, shameless games with all of us here today.

On that note, I move adjournment of the debate.

The Acting Speaker: The member from Leeds-Grenville has moved adjournment of the debate. Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour of the motion, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. There will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1645 to 1715.

The Acting Speaker: All those in favour, please rise.

All those opposed, please rise.

The Clerk of the Assembly (Mr. Claude L. DesRosiers): The ayes are 5; the nays are 38.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

To continue the debate, the Chair recognizes the member from Leeds-Grenville.

Mr. Runciman: I appreciate the opportunity once again to participate in the debate around Bill 210, legislation which the Progressive Conservative Party is supportive of, and we've indicated that on a number of occasions now.

There were concerns surrounding the legislation, and certainly you've heard some today from the leader of the third party, but the member for York North, Ms. Munro, who's our critic in this portfolio, has also expressed a number of reservations about the long-term implications of the legislation and whether indeed it will accomplish what it is purported to be drafted to accomplish. I think those concerns are very valid, very legitimate. The member for York North has, through the committee process, suggested that there should be a sunset clause incorporated into the legislation so that at the end of a five-year period, the impacts could be measured to see whether indeed it was accomplishing the goals that it set out to achieve or that the government set out to achieve, or whether it was creating serious problems. I know some of our members in the Progressive Conservative caucus have had some concerns as well about the implications, and what they believe are very serious implications.

In this caucus, the Progressive Conservative caucus, we're supportive of seeing this legislation receive third reading in this three-week sitting of the House. In fact, we indicated very early on, at the start of this process, this three-week sitting, that we were quite prepared to see the bill passed. For a variety of reasons, that hasn't happened. The government chose, for whatever reasons, not to pursue it on the basis of our advice, and we now find ourselves in a situation where, because of their failure to deal in an appropriate way with the Integrity Commissioner's recommendations related to Minister Takhar, we cannot allow this bill to pass at this point in time.

It's regrettable, but what is even more regrettable are the tactics that have been adopted by the members of the government with respect to this issue to try and blackmail us. I think that's an appropriate description of the approach they've taken today: efforts to intimidate us and suggest that we are somehow delaying this. In fact, the reality is that we could have dealt with a whole range of legislation, let alone Bill 210, if Minister Takhar had done the appropriate thing and stepped down in the wake of that report, an unprecedented report, an unprecedented condemnation in the history of this province of a minister of the crown by the Integrity Commissioner. But instead, he chose to sit tight, put his head down and go through this process --

Mr. Bob Delaney (Mississauga West): On a point of order, Mr. Speaker: Pursuant to standing order 23(b), the topic under discussion is Bill 210 and not the Integrity Commissioner's report.

The Acting Speaker: That's noted, and I would tell the member from Leeds-Grenville that we are discussing Bill 210.

Mr. Runciman: Mr. Speaker, I felt I was referencing Bill 210, explaining why the bill is not going to get third reading before we break.

The responsibility lies with the government. That's what we are talking about, Bill 210 and why it's not proceeding this evening past third reading, not because we don't agree with the legislation; we do. We support the legislation.

The reality is that Minister Takhar's lack of response to the Integrity Commissioner's report and the Premier's failure to meet the ethical standards he set as the Leader of the Opposition -- in terms of standards for staying in cabinet, he has lowered the bar to the floor to allow this individual to remain in cabinet. That's why we are here this evening. That's why we are not in a position to proceed with Bill 210. As regrettable as that may be, the total responsibility for that lies at the feet of the Liberal government of Ontario.

Mr. Speaker, I move --

Mr. Delaney: Point of order.

The Acting Speaker: I recognize the member for Mississauga West.

Mr. Delaney: Mr. Speaker, the same point of order: Pursuant to standing order 23(b), the member for Leeds-Grenville is again addressing a matter already dealt with by the House, and not Bill 210, which is the topic under discussion.

The Acting Speaker: The Chair recognizes the member for Leeds-Grenville.

Mr. Runciman: I move adjournment of the House, Mr. Speaker.

The Acting Speaker: Is it the pleasure of the House that the motion carry?

All those in favour, please say "aye."

All those opposed, please say "nay."

In my opinion, the nays have it.

Call in the members. This will be a 30-minute bell.

The division bells rang from 1723 to 1753.

The Acting Speaker: All those in favour, please rise.

All those opposed, please rise.

The Clerk of the Assembly: The ayes are 3; the nays are 34.

The Acting Speaker: I declare the motion lost.

Further debate?

Mr. Arnott: I am pleased to have the opportunity to participate in this important debate on Bill 210 for a few moments. I realize that in about three minutes the House will adjourn and this special winter sitting of the Ontario Legislature will conclude. I'm disappointed that, unfortunately, there was an unwillingness on the part of the government to accept the points that were being made in a united way by the opposition parties on the issue of the Integrity Commissioner and his report to the Legislature -- the government's absolute unwillingness to accept the recommendation that was made by the Integrity Commissioner, the censure of the Minister of Transportation that was included in that report and the government's unwillingness to respond in the appropriate way, which would have been, of course, to seek the resignation of the Minister of Transportation. So we are talking today about the lack of ethical standards that the government is demonstrating. As a result of that, unfortunately, Bill 210 is not going to be brought to a vote this afternoon.

Of course, it was very disappointing this afternoon during question period when a couple of the government members, who had an opportunity to bring forward important issues on behalf of their constituents, instead chose to try to cast aspersions on the opposition and to heap scorn and blame on the opposition parties when in fact every member of this Legislature knows full well that it's the responsibility of the government House leader to call legislation for debate. Certainly, the government House leader over the last three weeks has had ample opportunity to call this. It's our understanding from the report we've received from our House leader that he indicated some time ago that we were willing to pass this legislation, but unfortunately, the bill was not called for third reading debate until recently and was left till the very end.

It's most unfortunate that this bill, which I think most of the members of this House, if not all of us, in the end will support, is not going to pass. It's most unfortunate that the House leaders, when given a couple of opportunities over the course of the afternoon, were unable to come to an agreement. It's most unfortunate that the government is unwilling to --

The Acting Speaker: Thank you. Pursuant to standing order 37, the question that this House do now adjourn is deemed to have been made.

Anonymous said...

why are they fighting so hard not to have over sight, why trying to pass the bill in such haste THEY are not your Children Sandra you should never be allowed near children your display on Thursday is evident your not stable. Ms Chambers SHAME on you. who is holding the children hostage.? your helping more families be torn apart,may you answer to your god for that. SHAME you display and rage makes us wonder, what it is your all trying to hide.
The CAS needs to be scrapped, and you should listen to the truth. The recordings, the videos look at the transcripts, and then and only then comment on the wonders of this bill and the CAS. I agree the need families they need their own families unless everything one can possibly do to help the situation is considered. Until then go be Minister of the SPCA. and get a muzzle. Sandra you ex was a wise man not to have children with you. scary mama. Your actions alone would have a child removed from you, that kind of out burst is not normal. get some benzos, both of you and seek some help your embarrassing the people of Ontario. And is a child was watching the legislator that day, it would have been a real SHAME. Stop trying to sneak it past, no one is holding your child hostage, let the public be heard, they want the over sight your refusing to give, not the ploy of the inner party, next it will be Mr Rivers who should be the one to over see the CAS, we are not fooled. and Mr Mc Guilty pun intended ,SHAME you have not listened once again to the people and parents or children of the province. The only day care spaces needed are ones for your members

Anonymous said...

I personally and fundamentally have some problems about the lack of public accountability. The children's aid society, in my view, is an anachronism. It predates this century; it predates, at least philosophically, the last century.
well said

Anonymous said...

Our form of government is pitiful. The constituents saw it on TV. They were not impressed. They thought Chambers and Pupatello had wigged out.

The NDP need to be commended for their valiant battle to bring accountability to the C210.

Chambers and Pupatello need to listen to their constituents. They constituents are powerful and vocal and they do understand the issues. Their wrath will come down on them like an avalanche of mud.

The McGuinty government is presently doing very unpopular things with the LIHNs and the OMERS pension issue. Many public sectors are angry. One cannot alienate all the constituents and still get re-elected.

Many front line social workers are not adverse to reform. Witness their turnover rate. Even a pay differential of $15,000 does not keep them there. They want honest work. They are bullied into silence and complicity. They are forced to write the phoney legal affidavits. They suffer the legal consequences. Do you know that in legal depositions they have to give their evidence alone and suffer through cross exam without the benefit of the corporate lawyer? Only the higher ups get this benefit.

Sandra almost never answers her constituents' calls. Her arrogance is appalling for an elected official. Can she get re-elected? I doubt it. I have the sense of the community. I think she should start to lobby for a Senate appointment. Even her own community turns its face and rolls its eyes at the mere mention of her name. She is truly alone.

Mary Ann brags that she comes from the criminal justice arena. Her son is a jail guard.
Her philosphy is "Lets build more juvenile detention centres." This philosphy is flawed and will come back to haunt her.

These are our children's lives that these two women playing with. The voters will not ever forget this.

Who will have the courage to stand up to the social welfare corporate industry?

Who will stand up to the archaic Deputy Ministry structure that actually runs this government?

Who will send Bruce Rivers out to preach to the international community his firebrand view of child welfare..... his heinous crimes to be inflicted now on innocent Third World children? The Third World already smells the stench of Mr. Rivers.

Someday there will be a Nuremburg for these individuals. I will make sure of it.

Jeffrey's Law said...

who posted last? At 9:00?? Your words are phenomenal! Thank you!!

Amanda Reed

Anonymous said...

I took Thursdays a tape of the on goings of our legislation assembly on Thursday to my high schools students,( journalism class,)a package and history, of Child Welfare, and the Bills that have been passed. I have voiced my concerns on this Bill, to my own MPP.
It reminds me of Power Corrupts Absolute power corrupts Absolutely. My students expressed concerns about what the government is legislating,with out public input. Oversight, and most concerned about how this may effect the face of society, Grade 12 students, can see this Bill for what it truly is. One wonders why so many politicians cannot. This is the voice of the future, and future,tax payers and parents, they express fear and anger over Bill 210. With OUT over sight, if this Bill is passed,the potential for it being abused by a the CAS is concerning. Most feel as I do, they do more harm now then good.

I feel they are already abusing the power they have been given. Is this what the public is asking for. It is not. I have a friend that had a difficult time with the CAS for no apparent reason, when they requested the concerns CAS had to be put in writing, they were unable even though an attorney to receive this information. With no explanation.
It turned out a nebourgh angry about the barking dog, used CAS instead of City By laws.
This family went though hell, for over a year, a great deal of up stress,
shattered nerves, missed time at work, and bills they could and should not have had to pay, not only legal cost,
the child was removed, and although returned a month later, was in need of counselling. Not ordered by the court, but the child's nightmares from the apprehension and move into foster care.
The end result was this child was not at Risk of child maltreatment.
A judge actually asked the CAS to apologize to the family I was there. It never happened. The only cause for the child being removed, leaving the entire family and extended family confused and distressed, trying to find someone with a reasonable reason in the agency for the apprehension in the first place was impossible. They were new to this Country, they have since moved back to the UK. The day they left,
Ontario lost a registered nurse, working in community health care, and a hard working roofer. Both were needed in this community. They also took the child and the dog, and the grandparents that had a small business in town.
I personally witness this travesty, and not one person came forward with concerns about the child needing protection but the CAS. The lawyer
was expensive, the cost to all of use unnecessary
not even the lawyer could explain what had happened or why. The only thing that ended up in court was the family was NOW under stress, no domestic violence, no drug or alcohol abuse, the child was taken into care because of a complaint that was meant to
hurt. And no one was held accountable.
I feel it is are obligation as citizens of this Province to ask that laws passed reflect what the public is requesting. The public is asking for over sight and for CAS to not be allowed to abuse the power they have already been granted. We would all like to know children are not being placed in danger, that children will not be abused in care, and finding permanent homes in a cost effective strategy, it will benefit the adoption lawyers, and infertile couples,but we also are fully cognizant that many children will be removed from family's and perhaps adopted, with out justified reason.
Bill 210 if passed
must in the very least,, with so much at stake, ask for ombudsman's oversight. I have ask my students to write.

Anonymous said...

Teacher,

Your story is so typical of the arrogance with which CAS operates. The refusal of these incompetent bastards to even apologize for the damage they inflict is revolting. I hope our politicians are reading and those who are just gaining insight into CAS take note - no one's children are ever safe. Also, thank you for bringing this to the attention of your students. Even better if you can help spread the word to other educators. As one reader said, CAS and the laws and system that support it have to be scrapped. That will only happen when everyone sees this system for what it is. Kudos for taking such a positive and effective step. It's something we all need to emulate.

Anonymous said...

My child wanted to do his term essay in social science class on the child protection system.
The teacher refused to let him choose that topic. She knew that he will raise very thorny issues. I am very outspoken about Bill C210.

Kudos to the teacher who was not afraid to discuss the issues with his class.

There is an environment of fear and retribution in schools and hospitals.
One will get the boot for asking too many questions and demanding too many precise answers.

In the pediatric world, they will label you Munchausen by Proxy to silence you.

In the adult world, they will refuse to service you. They might call the CAS on you if they know that you have young children.

In the schools systems, they will call the CAS on you yo avoid dealing with you at the IEP table. If they want a "special needs" child out of their school, they call the CAS. The CAS then becomes part of the IEP conference. Try to advocate for you child now with the CAS staring you down. Parents of "special needs" children face this evil scenario every day.

It is intimidation at all levels of society.

Anonymous said...

Everyone needs today to take a little time to email their MPP and Andrea Horwath regarding the Ombudsman's oversight issue.

Even those who are not victims today need to step up to the plate and be heard. They or their children may be victims tomorrow. It is a community responsibility to protect the vulnerable. The community gives them the mandate to protect children. The community has the moral and legal obligation to set limits on the abuse of power.

Copy your letters to Robert McQuaid at Dufferin Voca. His email is: rtmq@stn.net

Anonymous said...

Adoption Bonuses: The Money Behind the Madness
DSS and affiliates rewarded for breaking up families
By Nev Moore
Massachusetts News

Child "protection" is one of the biggest businesses in the country. We spend $12 billion a year on it.

The money goes to tens of thousands of a) state employees, b) collateral professionals, such as lawyers, court personnel, court investigators, evaluators and guardians, judges, and c) DSS contracted vendors such as counselors, therapists, more "evaluators", junk psychologists, residential facilities, foster parents, adoptive parents, MSPCC, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, YMCA, etc. This newspaper is not big enough to list all of the people in this state who have a job, draw a paycheck, or make their profits off the kids in DSS custody.

In this article I explain the financial infrastructure that provides the motivation for DSS to take people’s children – and not give them back.

In 1974 Walter Mondale promoted the Child Abuse and Prevention Act which began feeding massive amounts of federal funding to states to set up programs to combat child abuse and neglect. From that came Child "Protective" Services, as we know it today. After the bill passed, Mondale himself expressed concerns that it could be misused. He worried that it could lead states to create a "business" in dealing with children.

Then in 1997 President Clinton passed the "Adoption and Safe Families Act." The public relations campaign promoted it as a way to help abused and neglected children who languished in foster care for years, often being shuffled among dozens of foster homes, never having a real home and family. In a press release from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dated November 24, 1999, it refers to "President Clinton’s initiative to double by 2002 the number of children in foster care who are adopted or otherwise permanently placed."

It all sounded so heartwarming. We, the American public, are so easily led. We love to buy stereotypes; we just eat them up, no questions asked. But, my mother, bless her heart, taught me from the time I was young to "consider the source." In the stereotype that we’ve been sold about kids in foster care, we picture a forlorn, hollow-eyed child, thin and pale, looking up at us beseechingly through a dirt streaked face. Unconsciously, we pull up old pictures from Life magazine of children in Appalachia in the 1930s. We think of orphans and children abandoned by parents who look like Manson family members. We play a nostalgic movie in our heads of the little fellow shyly walking across an emerald green, manicured lawn to meet Ward and June Cleaver, his new adoptive parents, who lead him into their lovely suburban home. We imagine the little tyke’s eyes growing as big as saucers as the Cleavers show him his very own room, full of toys and sports gear. And we just feel so gosh darn good about ourselves.

Now it’s time to wake up to the reality of the adoption business.

Very few children who are being used to supply the adoption market are hollow-eyed tykes from Appalachia. Very few are crack babies from the projects. [Oh… you thought those were the children they were saving? Think again]. When you are marketing a product you have to provide a desirable product that sells. In the adoption business that would be nice kids with reasonably good genetics who clean up good. An interesting point is that the Cape Cod & Islands office leads the state in terms of processing kids into the system and having them adopted out. More than the inner city areas, the projects, Mission Hill, Brockton, Lynn, etc. Interesting…

With the implementation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, President Clinton tried to make himself look like a humanitarian who is responsible for saving the abused and neglected children. The drive of this initiative is to offer cash "bonuses" to states for every child they have adopted out of foster care, with the goal of doubling their adoptions by 2002, and sustaining that for each subsequent year. They actually call them "adoption incentive bonuses," to promote the adoption of children.

Where to Find the Children

A whole new industry was put into motion. A sweet marketing scheme that even Bill Gates could envy. Now, if you have a basket of apples, and people start giving you $100 per apple, what are you going to do? Make sure that you have an unlimited supply of apples, right?

The United States Department of Health & Human Services administers Child Protective Services. To accompany the ASF Act, the President requested, by executive memorandum, an initiative entitled Adoption 2002, to be implemented and managed by Health & Human Services. The initiative not only gives the cash adoption bonuses to the states, it also provides cash adoption subsidies to adoptive parents until the children turn eighteen.

Everybody makes money. If anyone really believes that these people are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, then I’ve got some bad news for you. The fact that this program is run by HHS, ordered from the very top, explains why the citizens who are victims of DSS get no response from their legislators. It explains why no one in the Administration cares about the abuse and fatalities of children in the "care" of DSS, and no one wants to hear about the broken arms, verbal abuse, or rapes. They are just business casualties. It explains why the legislators I’ve talked to for the past three years look at me with pity. Because I’m preaching to the already damned.

The legislators have forgotten who funds their paychecks and who they need to account to, as has the Governor. Because it isn’t the President. It’s us.

How DSS Is Helped

The way that the adoption bonuses work is that each state is given a baseline number of expected adoptions based on population.

For every child that DSS can get adopted, there is a bonus of $4,000 to $6,000.

But that is just the starting figure in a complex mathematical formula in which each bonus is multiplied by the percentage that the state has managed to exceed its baseline adoption number. The states must maintain this increase in each successive year. [Like compound interest.] The bill reads: "$4,000 to $6,000 will be multiplied by the amount (if any) by which the number of foster child adoptions in the State exceeds the base number of foster child adoptions for the State for the fiscal year." In the "technical assistance" section of the bill it states that, "the Secretary [of HHS] may, directly or through grants or contracts, provide technical assistance to assist states and local communities to reach their targets for increased numbers of adoptions for children in foster care." The technical assistance is to support "the goal of encouraging more adoptions out of the foster care system; the development of best practice guidelines for expediting the termination of parental rights; the development of special units and expertise in moving children toward adoption as a permanent goal; models to encourage the fast tracking of children who have not attained 1 year of age into pre-adoptive placements; and the development of programs that place children into pre-adoptive placements without waiting for termination of parental rights."

In the November press release from HHS it continues, " HHS awarded the first ever adoption bonuses to States for increases in the adoption of children from the public foster care system." Some of the other incentives offered are "innovative grants" to reduce barriers to adoption [i.e., parents], more State support for adoptive families, making adoption affordable for families by providing cash subsides and tax credits.

A report from a private think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis, reads: "The way the federal government reimburses States rewards a growth in the size of the program instead of the effective care of children." Another incentive being promoted is the use of the Internet to make adoption easier. Clinton directed HHS to develop an Internet site to "link children in foster care with adoptive families." So we will be able to window shop for children on a government web site. If you don’t find anything you like there, you can surf on over to the "Adopt Shoppe."

If you prefer to actually be able to kick tires instead of just looking at pictures you could attend one of DSS’s quaint "Adoption Fairs," where live children are put on display and you can walk around and browse. Like a flea market to sell kids. If one of them begs you to take him home you can always say, "Sorry. Just looking." The incentives for government child snatching are so good that I’m surprised we don’t have government agents breaking down people’s doors and just shooting the parents in the heads and grabbing the kids. But then, if you need more apples you don’t chop down your apple trees.

Benefits for Foster Parents

That covers the goodies the State gets. Now let’s have a look at how the Cleavers make out financially after the adoption is finalized.

After the adoption is finalized, the State and federal subsidies continue. The adoptive parents may collect cash subsidies until the child is 18. If the child stays in school, subsidies continue to the age of 22. There are State funded subsidies as well as federal funds through the Title IV-E section of the Social Security Act. The daily rate for State funds is the same as the foster care payments, which range from $410-$486 per month per child. Unless the child can be designated "special needs," which of course, they all can.

According to the NAATRIN State Subsidy profile from DSS, "special needs" may be defined as: "Physical disability, mental disability, emotional disturbance; a significant emotional tie with the foster parents where the child has resided with the foster parents for one or more years and separation would adversely affect the child’s development if not adopted by them." [But their significant emotional ties with their parents, since birth, never enter the equation.]

Additional "special needs" designations are: a child twelve years of age or older; racial or ethnic factors; child having siblings or half-siblings. In their report on the State of the Children, Boston’s Institute for Children says: "In part because the States can garner extra federal funds for special needs children the designation has been broadened so far as to become meaningless." "Special needs" children may also get an additional Social Security check.

The adoptive parents also receive Medicaid for the child, a clothing allowance and reimbursement for adoption costs such as adoption fees, court and attorney fees, cost of adoption home study, and "reasonable costs of food and lodging for the child and adoptive parents when necessary to complete the adoption process." Under Title XX of the Social Security Act adoptive parents are also entitled to post adoption services "that may be helpful in keeping the family intact," including "daycare, specialized daycare, respite care, in-house support services such as housekeeping, and personal care, counseling, and other child welfare services". [Wow! Everything short of being knighted by the Queen!]

The subsidy profile actually states that it does not include money to remodel the home to accommodate the child. But, as subsidies can be negotiated, remodeling could possibly be accomplished under the "innovative incentives to remove barriers to adoption" section. The subsidy regulations read that "adoption assistance is based solely on the needs of the child without regard to the income of the family." What an interesting government policy when compared to the welfare program that the same child’s mother may have been on before losing her children, and in which she may not own anything, must prove that she has no money in the bank; no boats, real estate, stocks or bonds; and cannot even own a car that is safe to drive worth over $1000. This is all so she can collect $539 per month for herself and two children. The foster parent who gets her children gets $820 plus. We spit on the mother on welfare as a parasite who is bleeding the taxpayers, yet we hold the foster and adoptive parents [who are bleeding ten times as much from the taxpayers] up as saints. The adoptive and foster parents aren’t subjected to psychological evaluations, ink blot tests, MMPI’s, drug & alcohol evaluations, or urine screens as the parents are.

Adoption subsidies may be negotiated on a case by case basis. [Anyone ever tried to "negotiate" with the Welfare Department?] There are many e-mail lists and books published to teach adoptive parents how to negotiate to maximize their subsidies. As one pro writes on an e-mail list: "We receive a subsidy for our kids of $1,900 per month plus another $500 from the State of Florida. We are trying to adopt three more teens and we will get subsidies for them, too. It sure helps out with the bills."

I can’t help but wonder why we don’t give this same level of support to the children’s parents in the first place? According to Cornell University, about 68% of all child protective cases "do not involve child maltreatment." The largest percentage of CPS/DSS cases are for "deprivation of necessities" due to poverty. So, if the natural parents were given the incredible incentives and services listed above that are provided to the adoptive parents, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the causes for removing children in the first place would be eliminated? How many less children would enter foster care in the first place? The child protective budget would be reduced from $12 billion to around $4 billion. Granted, tens of thousands of social workers, administrators, lawyers, juvenile court personnel, therapists, and foster parents would be out of business, but we would have safe, healthy, intact families, which are the foundation of any society.

That’s just a fantasy, of course. The reality is that maybe we will see Kathleen Crowley’s children on the government home-shopping-for-children web site and some one out there can buy them.

May is national adoption month. To support "Adoption 2002," the U.S. Postal Service is issuing special adoption stamps. Let us hope they don’t feature pictures of kids who are for sale. I urge everyone to boycott these stamps and register complaints with the post office.

I know that I’m feeling pretty smug and superior about being part of such a socially advanced and compassionate society. How about you?

Anonymous said...

Adoption Bonuses: The Money Behind the Madness
DSS and affiliates rewarded for breaking up families
By Nev Moore
Massachusetts News

Child "protection" is one of the biggest businesses in the country. We spend $12 billion a year on it.

The money goes to tens of thousands of a) state employees, b) collateral professionals, such as lawyers, court personnel, court investigators, evaluators and guardians, judges, and c) DSS contracted vendors such as counselors, therapists, more "evaluators", junk psychologists, residential facilities, foster parents, adoptive parents, MSPCC, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, YMCA, etc. This newspaper is not big enough to list all of the people in this state who have a job, draw a paycheck, or make their profits off the kids in DSS custody.

In this article I explain the financial infrastructure that provides the motivation for DSS to take people’s children – and not give them back.

In 1974 Walter Mondale promoted the Child Abuse and Prevention Act which began feeding massive amounts of federal funding to states to set up programs to combat child abuse and neglect. From that came Child "Protective" Services, as we know it today. After the bill passed, Mondale himself expressed concerns that it could be misused. He worried that it could lead states to create a "business" in dealing with children.

Then in 1997 President Clinton passed the "Adoption and Safe Families Act." The public relations campaign promoted it as a way to help abused and neglected children who languished in foster care for years, often being shuffled among dozens of foster homes, never having a real home and family. In a press release from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dated November 24, 1999, it refers to "President Clinton’s initiative to double by 2002 the number of children in foster care who are adopted or otherwise permanently placed."

It all sounded so heartwarming. We, the American public, are so easily led. We love to buy stereotypes; we just eat them up, no questions asked. But, my mother, bless her heart, taught me from the time I was young to "consider the source." In the stereotype that we’ve been sold about kids in foster care, we picture a forlorn, hollow-eyed child, thin and pale, looking up at us beseechingly through a dirt streaked face. Unconsciously, we pull up old pictures from Life magazine of children in Appalachia in the 1930s. We think of orphans and children abandoned by parents who look like Manson family members. We play a nostalgic movie in our heads of the little fellow shyly walking across an emerald green, manicured lawn to meet Ward and June Cleaver, his new adoptive parents, who lead him into their lovely suburban home. We imagine the little tyke’s eyes growing as big as saucers as the Cleavers show him his very own room, full of toys and sports gear. And we just feel so gosh darn good about ourselves.

Now it’s time to wake up to the reality of the adoption business.

Very few children who are being used to supply the adoption market are hollow-eyed tykes from Appalachia. Very few are crack babies from the projects. [Oh… you thought those were the children they were saving? Think again]. When you are marketing a product you have to provide a desirable product that sells. In the adoption business that would be nice kids with reasonably good genetics who clean up good. An interesting point is that the Cape Cod & Islands office leads the state in terms of processing kids into the system and having them adopted out. More than the inner city areas, the projects, Mission Hill, Brockton, Lynn, etc. Interesting…

With the implementation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, President Clinton tried to make himself look like a humanitarian who is responsible for saving the abused and neglected children. The drive of this initiative is to offer cash "bonuses" to states for every child they have adopted out of foster care, with the goal of doubling their adoptions by 2002, and sustaining that for each subsequent year. They actually call them "adoption incentive bonuses," to promote the adoption of children.

Where to Find the Children

A whole new industry was put into motion. A sweet marketing scheme that even Bill Gates could envy. Now, if you have a basket of apples, and people start giving you $100 per apple, what are you going to do? Make sure that you have an unlimited supply of apples, right?

The United States Department of Health & Human Services administers Child Protective Services. To accompany the ASF Act, the President requested, by executive memorandum, an initiative entitled Adoption 2002, to be implemented and managed by Health & Human Services. The initiative not only gives the cash adoption bonuses to the states, it also provides cash adoption subsidies to adoptive parents until the children turn eighteen.

Everybody makes money. If anyone really believes that these people are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, then I’ve got some bad news for you. The fact that this program is run by HHS, ordered from the very top, explains why the citizens who are victims of DSS get no response from their legislators. It explains why no one in the Administration cares about the abuse and fatalities of children in the "care" of DSS, and no one wants to hear about the broken arms, verbal abuse, or rapes. They are just business casualties. It explains why the legislators I’ve talked to for the past three years look at me with pity. Because I’m preaching to the already damned.

The legislators have forgotten who funds their paychecks and who they need to account to, as has the Governor. Because it isn’t the President. It’s us.

How DSS Is Helped

The way that the adoption bonuses work is that each state is given a baseline number of expected adoptions based on population.

For every child that DSS can get adopted, there is a bonus of $4,000 to $6,000.

But that is just the starting figure in a complex mathematical formula in which each bonus is multiplied by the percentage that the state has managed to exceed its baseline adoption number. The states must maintain this increase in each successive year. [Like compound interest.] The bill reads: "$4,000 to $6,000 will be multiplied by the amount (if any) by which the number of foster child adoptions in the State exceeds the base number of foster child adoptions for the State for the fiscal year." In the "technical assistance" section of the bill it states that, "the Secretary [of HHS] may, directly or through grants or contracts, provide technical assistance to assist states and local communities to reach their targets for increased numbers of adoptions for children in foster care." The technical assistance is to support "the goal of encouraging more adoptions out of the foster care system; the development of best practice guidelines for expediting the termination of parental rights; the development of special units and expertise in moving children toward adoption as a permanent goal; models to encourage the fast tracking of children who have not attained 1 year of age into pre-adoptive placements; and the development of programs that place children into pre-adoptive placements without waiting for termination of parental rights."

In the November press release from HHS it continues, " HHS awarded the first ever adoption bonuses to States for increases in the adoption of children from the public foster care system." Some of the other incentives offered are "innovative grants" to reduce barriers to adoption [i.e., parents], more State support for adoptive families, making adoption affordable for families by providing cash subsides and tax credits.

A report from a private think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis, reads: "The way the federal government reimburses States rewards a growth in the size of the program instead of the effective care of children." Another incentive being promoted is the use of the Internet to make adoption easier. Clinton directed HHS to develop an Internet site to "link children in foster care with adoptive families." So we will be able to window shop for children on a government web site. If you don’t find anything you like there, you can surf on over to the "Adopt Shoppe."

If you prefer to actually be able to kick tires instead of just looking at pictures you could attend one of DSS’s quaint "Adoption Fairs," where live children are put on display and you can walk around and browse. Like a flea market to sell kids. If one of them begs you to take him home you can always say, "Sorry. Just looking." The incentives for government child snatching are so good that I’m surprised we don’t have government agents breaking down people’s doors and just shooting the parents in the heads and grabbing the kids. But then, if you need more apples you don’t chop down your apple trees.

Benefits for Foster Parents

That covers the goodies the State gets. Now let’s have a look at how the Cleavers make out financially after the adoption is finalized.

After the adoption is finalized, the State and federal subsidies continue. The adoptive parents may collect cash subsidies until the child is 18. If the child stays in school, subsidies continue to the age of 22. There are State funded subsidies as well as federal funds through the Title IV-E section of the Social Security Act. The daily rate for State funds is the same as the foster care payments, which range from $410-$486 per month per child. Unless the child can be designated "special needs," which of course, they all can.

According to the NAATRIN State Subsidy profile from DSS, "special needs" may be defined as: "Physical disability, mental disability, emotional disturbance; a significant emotional tie with the foster parents where the child has resided with the foster parents for one or more years and separation would adversely affect the child’s development if not adopted by them." [But their significant emotional ties with their parents, since birth, never enter the equation.]

Additional "special needs" designations are: a child twelve years of age or older; racial or ethnic factors; child having siblings or half-siblings. In their report on the State of the Children, Boston’s Institute for Children says: "In part because the States can garner extra federal funds for special needs children the designation has been broadened so far as to become meaningless." "Special needs" children may also get an additional Social Security check.

The adoptive parents also receive Medicaid for the child, a clothing allowance and reimbursement for adoption costs such as adoption fees, court and attorney fees, cost of adoption home study, and "reasonable costs of food and lodging for the child and adoptive parents when necessary to complete the adoption process." Under Title XX of the Social Security Act adoptive parents are also entitled to post adoption services "that may be helpful in keeping the family intact," including "daycare, specialized daycare, respite care, in-house support services such as housekeeping, and personal care, counseling, and other child welfare services". [Wow! Everything short of being knighted by the Queen!]

The subsidy profile actually states that it does not include money to remodel the home to accommodate the child. But, as subsidies can be negotiated, remodeling could possibly be accomplished under the "innovative incentives to remove barriers to adoption" section. The subsidy regulations read that "adoption assistance is based solely on the needs of the child without regard to the income of the family." What an interesting government policy when compared to the welfare program that the same child’s mother may have been on before losing her children, and in which she may not own anything, must prove that she has no money in the bank; no boats, real estate, stocks or bonds; and cannot even own a car that is safe to drive worth over $1000. This is all so she can collect $539 per month for herself and two children. The foster parent who gets her children gets $820 plus. We spit on the mother on welfare as a parasite who is bleeding the taxpayers, yet we hold the foster and adoptive parents [who are bleeding ten times as much from the taxpayers] up as saints. The adoptive and foster parents aren’t subjected to psychological evaluations, ink blot tests, MMPI’s, drug & alcohol evaluations, or urine screens as the parents are.

Adoption subsidies may be negotiated on a case by case basis. [Anyone ever tried to "negotiate" with the Welfare Department?] There are many e-mail lists and books published to teach adoptive parents how to negotiate to maximize their subsidies. As one pro writes on an e-mail list: "We receive a subsidy for our kids of $1,900 per month plus another $500 from the State of Florida. We are trying to adopt three more teens and we will get subsidies for them, too. It sure helps out with the bills."

I can’t help but wonder why we don’t give this same level of support to the children’s parents in the first place? According to Cornell University, about 68% of all child protective cases "do not involve child maltreatment." The largest percentage of CPS/DSS cases are for "deprivation of necessities" due to poverty. So, if the natural parents were given the incredible incentives and services listed above that are provided to the adoptive parents, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the causes for removing children in the first place would be eliminated? How many less children would enter foster care in the first place? The child protective budget would be reduced from $12 billion to around $4 billion. Granted, tens of thousands of social workers, administrators, lawyers, juvenile court personnel, therapists, and foster parents would be out of business, but we would have safe, healthy, intact families, which are the foundation of any society.

That’s just a fantasy, of course. The reality is that maybe we will see Kathleen Crowley’s children on the government home-shopping-for-children web site and some one out there can buy them.

May is national adoption month. To support "Adoption 2002," the U.S. Postal Service is issuing special adoption stamps. Let us hope they don’t feature pictures of kids who are for sale. I urge everyone to boycott these stamps and register complaints with the post office.

I know that I’m feeling pretty smug and superior about being part of such a socially advanced and compassionate society. How about you?

Anonymous said...

Adoption Bonuses: The Money Behind the Madness
DSS and affiliates rewarded for breaking up families
By Nev Moore
Massachusetts News
Child "protection" is one of the biggest businesses in the country. We spend $12 billion a year on it.
The money goes to tens of thousands of a) state employees, b) collateral professionals, such as lawyers, court personnel, court investigators, evaluators and guardians, judges, and c) DSS contracted vendors such as counselors, therapists, more "evaluators", junk psychologists, residential facilities, foster parents, adoptive parents, MSPCC, Big Brothers/Big Sisters, YMCA, etc. This newspaper is not big enough to list all of the people in this state who have a job, draw a paycheck, or make their profits off the kids in DSS custody.
In this article I explain the financial infrastructure that provides the motivation for DSS to take people’s children – and not give them back.
In 1974 Walter Mondale promoted the Child Abuse and Prevention Act which began feeding massive amounts of federal funding to states to set up programs to combat child abuse and neglect. From that came Child "Protective" Services, as we know it today. After the bill passed, Mondale himself expressed concerns that it could be misused. He worried that it could lead states to create a "business" in dealing with children.
Then in 1997 President Clinton passed the "Adoption and Safe Families Act." The public relations campaign promoted it as a way to help abused and neglected children who languished in foster care for years, often being shuffled among dozens of foster homes, never having a real home and family. In a press release from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services dated November 24, 1999, it refers to "President Clinton’s initiative to double by 2002 the number of children in foster care who are adopted or otherwise permanently placed."
It all sounded so heartwarming. We, the American public, are so easily led. We love to buy stereotypes; we just eat them up, no questions asked. But, my mother, bless her heart, taught me from the time I was young to "consider the source." In the stereotype that we’ve been sold about kids in foster care, we picture a forlorn, hollow-eyed child, thin and pale, looking up at us beseechingly through a dirt streaked face. Unconsciously, we pull up old pictures from Life magazine of children in Appalachia in the 1930s. We think of orphans and children abandoned by parents who look like Manson family members. We play a nostalgic movie in our heads of the little fellow shyly walking across an emerald green, manicured lawn to meet Ward and June Cleaver, his new adoptive parents, who lead him into their lovely suburban home. We imagine the little tyke’s eyes growing as big as saucers as the Cleavers show him his very own room, full of toys and sports gear. And we just feel so gosh darn good about ourselves.
Now it’s time to wake up to the reality of the adoption business.
Very few children who are being used to supply the adoption market are hollow-eyed tykes from Appalachia. Very few are crack babies from the projects. [Oh… you thought those were the children they were saving? Think again]. When you are marketing a product you have to provide a desirable product that sells. In the adoption business that would be nice kids with reasonably good genetics who clean up good. An interesting point is that the Cape Cod & Islands office leads the state in terms of processing kids into the system and having them adopted out. More than the inner city areas, the projects, Mission Hill, Brockton, Lynn, etc. Interesting…
With the implementation of the Adoption and Safe Families Act, President Clinton tried to make himself look like a humanitarian who is responsible for saving the abused and neglected children. The drive of this initiative is to offer cash "bonuses" to states for every child they have adopted out of foster care, with the goal of doubling their adoptions by 2002, and sustaining that for each subsequent year. They actually call them "adoption incentive bonuses," to promote the adoption of children.
Where to Find the Children
A whole new industry was put into motion. A sweet marketing scheme that even Bill Gates could envy. Now, if you have a basket of apples, and people start giving you $100 per apple, what are you going to do? Make sure that you have an unlimited supply of apples, right?
The United States Department of Health & Human Services administers Child Protective Services. To accompany the ASF Act, the President requested, by executive memorandum, an initiative entitled Adoption 2002, to be implemented and managed by Health & Human Services. The initiative not only gives the cash adoption bonuses to the states, it also provides cash adoption subsidies to adoptive parents until the children turn eighteen.
Everybody makes money. If anyone really believes that these people are doing this out of the goodness of their hearts, then I’ve got some bad news for you. The fact that this program is run by HHS, ordered from the very top, explains why the citizens who are victims of DSS get no response from their legislators. It explains why no one in the Administration cares about the abuse and fatalities of children in the "care" of DSS, and no one wants to hear about the broken arms, verbal abuse, or rapes. They are just business casualties. It explains why the legislators I’ve talked to for the past three years look at me with pity. Because I’m preaching to the already damned.
The legislators have forgotten who funds their paychecks and who they need to account to, as has the Governor. Because it isn’t the President. It’s us.
How DSS Is Helped
The way that the adoption bonuses work is that each state is given a baseline number of expected adoptions based on population.
For every child that DSS can get adopted, there is a bonus of $4,000 to $6,000.
But that is just the starting figure in a complex mathematical formula in which each bonus is multiplied by the percentage that the state has managed to exceed its baseline adoption number. The states must maintain this increase in each successive year. [Like compound interest.] The bill reads: "$4,000 to $6,000 will be multiplied by the amount (if any) by which the number of foster child adoptions in the State exceeds the base number of foster child adoptions for the State for the fiscal year." In the "technical assistance" section of the bill it states that, "the Secretary [of HHS] may, directly or through grants or contracts, provide technical assistance to assist states and local communities to reach their targets for increased numbers of adoptions for children in foster care." The technical assistance is to support "the goal of encouraging more adoptions out of the foster care system; the development of best practice guidelines for expediting the termination of parental rights; the development of special units and expertise in moving children toward adoption as a permanent goal; models to encourage the fast tracking of children who have not attained 1 year of age into pre-adoptive placements; and the development of programs that place children into pre-adoptive placements without waiting for termination of parental rights."
In the November press release from HHS it continues, " HHS awarded the first ever adoption bonuses to States for increases in the adoption of children from the public foster care system." Some of the other incentives offered are "innovative grants" to reduce barriers to adoption [i.e., parents], more State support for adoptive families, making adoption affordable for families by providing cash subsides and tax credits.
A report from a private think tank, the National Center for Policy Analysis, reads: "The way the federal government reimburses States rewards a growth in the size of the program instead of the effective care of children." Another incentive being promoted is the use of the Internet to make adoption easier. Clinton directed HHS to develop an Internet site to "link children in foster care with adoptive families." So we will be able to window shop for children on a government web site. If you don’t find anything you like there, you can surf on over to the "Adopt Shoppe."
If you prefer to actually be able to kick tires instead of just looking at pictures you could attend one of DSS’s quaint "Adoption Fairs," where live children are put on display and you can walk around and browse. Like a flea market to sell kids. If one of them begs you to take him home you can always say, "Sorry. Just looking." The incentives for government child snatching are so good that I’m surprised we don’t have government agents breaking down people’s doors and just shooting the parents in the heads and grabbing the kids. But then, if you need more apples you don’t chop down your apple trees.
Benefits for Foster Parents
That covers the goodies the State gets. Now let’s have a look at how the Cleavers make out financially after the adoption is finalized.
After the adoption is finalized, the State and federal subsidies continue. The adoptive parents may collect cash subsidies until the child is 18. If the child stays in school, subsidies continue to the age of 22. There are State funded subsidies as well as federal funds through the Title IV-E section of the Social Security Act. The daily rate for State funds is the same as the foster care payments, which range from $410-$486 per month per child. Unless the child can be designated "special needs," which of course, they all can.
According to the NAATRIN State Subsidy profile from DSS, "special needs" may be defined as: "Physical disability, mental disability, emotional disturbance; a significant emotional tie with the foster parents where the child has resided with the foster parents for one or more years and separation would adversely affect the child’s development if not adopted by them." [But their significant emotional ties with their parents, since birth, never enter the equation.]
Additional "special needs" designations are: a child twelve years of age or older; racial or ethnic factors; child having siblings or half-siblings. In their report on the State of the Children, Boston’s Institute for Children says: "In part because the States can garner extra federal funds for special needs children the designation has been broadened so far as to become meaningless." "Special needs" children may also get an additional Social Security check.
The adoptive parents also receive Medicaid for the child, a clothing allowance and reimbursement for adoption costs such as adoption fees, court and attorney fees, cost of adoption home study, and "reasonable costs of food and lodging for the child and adoptive parents when necessary to complete the adoption process." Under Title XX of the Social Security Act adoptive parents are also entitled to post adoption services "that may be helpful in keeping the family intact," including "daycare, specialized daycare, respite care, in-house support services such as housekeeping, and personal care, counseling, and other child welfare services". [Wow! Everything short of being knighted by the Queen!]
The subsidy profile actually states that it does not include money to remodel the home to accommodate the child. But, as subsidies can be negotiated, remodeling could possibly be accomplished under the "innovative incentives to remove barriers to adoption" section. The subsidy regulations read that "adoption assistance is based solely on the needs of the child without regard to the income of the family." What an interesting government policy when compared to the welfare program that the same child’s mother may have been on before losing her children, and in which she may not own anything, must prove that she has no money in the bank; no boats, real estate, stocks or bonds; and cannot even own a car that is safe to drive worth over $1000. This is all so she can collect $539 per month for herself and two children. The foster parent who gets her children gets $820 plus. We spit on the mother on welfare as a parasite who is bleeding the taxpayers, yet we hold the foster and adoptive parents [who are bleeding ten times as much from the taxpayers] up as saints. The adoptive and foster parents aren’t subjected to psychological evaluations, ink blot tests, MMPI’s, drug & alcohol evaluations, or urine screens as the parents are.
Adoption subsidies may be negotiated on a case by case basis. [Anyone ever tried to "negotiate" with the Welfare Department?] There are many e-mail lists and books published to teach adoptive parents how to negotiate to maximize their subsidies. As one pro writes on an e-mail list: "We receive a subsidy for our kids of $1,900 per month plus another $500 from the State of Florida. We are trying to adopt three more teens and we will get subsidies for them, too. It sure helps out with the bills."
I can’t help but wonder why we don’t give this same level of support to the children’s parents in the first place? According to Cornell University, about 68% of all child protective cases "do not involve child maltreatment." The largest percentage of CPS/DSS cases are for "deprivation of necessities" due to poverty. So, if the natural parents were given the incredible incentives and services listed above that are provided to the adoptive parents, wouldn’t it stand to reason that the causes for removing children in the first place would be eliminated? How many less children would enter foster care in the first place? The child protective budget would be reduced from $12 billion to around $4 billion. Granted, tens of thousands of social workers, administrators, lawyers, juvenile court personnel, therapists, and foster parents would be out of business, but we would have safe, healthy, intact families, which are the foundation of any society.
That’s just a fantasy, of course. The reality is that maybe we will see Kathleen Crowley’s children on the government home-shopping-for-children web site and some one out there can buy them.
May is national adoption month. To support "Adoption 2002," the U.S. Postal Service is issuing special adoption stamps. Let us hope they don’t feature pictures of kids who are for sale. I urge everyone to boycott these stamps and register complaints with the post office.
I know that I’m feeling pretty smug and superior about being part of such a socially advanced and compassionate society. How about you?
Welcome to Ontario, have home births, stay away from any government sponsored DAY CARE MR Harper has done us all a favour, Home school, and don't go to doctors or hospitals, in Ontario, if your single, if your not making enough money to afford at least fifty thousand in legal bills,
Never trust a social worker. they are not your friends, they are hired guns to find fault with your family, and everything is RISK, please read Barbara Coloroso latest book, it has been changed in the USA.Smart women and sees right though this so called Child protection crap.
I understand why ex social workers have home births home school, and use naturopaths. It makes so much sense now why Erika was allowed to keep her older child , but had to leave the little baby behind, and placed for adoption. Why cases like Matthew Reid happen all to often, and so little press coverage of the missing foster children the ones used in medical studies, ( yes right here in Ont.) why foster children are abused and not heard. Minister Chambers SHAME. SHAME ON YOU. how will you answer for this. Sandra start looking for a job. What fools acted like for all to see. Your rage and rants, about your CHILDREN??? Sandra you do not have any, and after your display, thank god.
Get rid of the CAS and let the parents, teachers, ministers, the community and private sector, find a better way. There is one, your just all to myopic to see it.
Jeffery Baldwin did not have to die, and now you will use Gestapo like tactics on all grandparents we are not fooled, did you allow and know what was happening in that house, to ask for more money and an opening to bring in the worst most damaging piece of legislation in the name of child protection, to control the population. feed the machine. Please be reasonable and stop the abuse of power in the name of children. Have they not suffered enough, from the environmental mess no one knows how to turn back, from the crap we call education today.
the lack of decent housing for many,
the vaccines, and lack of support for families living in poverty. SANDRA you have done nothing to help the children living in poverty, you just taken many into care. Stop. the abuse by the protectors.

Anonymous said...

To the "triple poster"

You need only hit the "log in and publish" button ONCE. Because your postings are so long it takes a few minutes.

Anonymous said...

This was three people posting the same thing, I know we are in contact,
sorry . Amanda could you start a new page there is a meeting as you know There will also be press this week,
and parents and crown wards telling there stories. Even a few social workers, who are also against this bill.

Anonymous said...

To: The National Child Abuse Defense & Resource Center


When someone bears false witness, regardless of the situation, we are all damaged. The person making the claim, the person being accused and all parties associated with it.

When any person claims that a parent has allegedly abused and/or neglected a child, there is a monumental responsibility attached to such a claim. The credibility of the claimant, the character of the parent(s), the child's faith, the reputation of the local Child Protection Agency and their investigators, and the integrity of everyone involved.

When someone makes a report of suspected abuse and/or neglect, a social worker must be careful to properly investigate the matter, in order to preserve the integrity of all parties involved. Most social workers have a heavy caseload, preventing them from making any kind of extensive investigation. As a result, most workers will jump the gun, act upon matters of suspicion, exercising their authority, on the premise of, "Just in case". The monumental problem with, "Just in case", is that it impugns and violates everyone, helter skelter; families are destroyed, parents become oppressed, authorities become fascists, and everyone else paranoid and wary.

In criminal law, police, authorities will tell you, they cannot violate civil and legal rights, based solely upon potential. While this may cause problems for these authorities, it ultimately protects us all. There is a heavy burden of proof, chain of evidence and due process involved, for good reason; to preserve the rights and freedom of the accused and the integrity of the Judicial process. Without these kinds of rigorous standards, our society would loose faith in the entire judicial process and our society would crumble into chaos.

However, in Family Court, there seems to be far too much emphasis on, "Just in Case". Judges all too often make decisions based upon, "potential" rather than, "commission", of an offence. This places the entire structure of our system into disrepute.

Application of Family Court standards, in Criminal law, would lead to catastrophic results. We would keep criminals in prison forever. We would arrest people because they committed a crime, based upon psychological evaluations. Imagine what this would do to our prison populations, penal reform and due process of law.

Imagine if the application of all law was based solely upon, "the best interest", of the people, rather than upon civil rights, freedom of the public and the standards of due process. "The best interest", as determined and decided by someone in authority is a slippery slope that violates the basic fundamentals of social order and leads to chaos.

History has taught us the potential risks, involved in this kind of ideology. From Salem Witch Trials to the McCarthy Hearings, we've witnessed thousands of people, who's reputations were ruined and who's very lives were sacrificed, in order to preserve, what...? If one's very life, liberty and civil rights are forsaken, what is it that we are preserving, and for whom...?

A made for television movie most exemplifies violation of rights, freedom, security of person, and the kinds of rampant paranoia and anxiety that prompts this kind of uncivilized behaviour.
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Made for TV Movie

Movie Title : Strip Search
Movie Genre: Drama
Premise : Fictional
Plot outline : This movie begs the question, "What if authorities were permitted, in certain situations, to ignore the rights and freedoms of the people. Two main subplots involve an American woman detained in China and an Arab man detained in New York City. (both in the aftermath of 9/11 and the paranoia that ensued)
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We at, THE COMMITTEE, (People-4-People) are devoted to the ideology of preserving the rights, freedoms and security of person, for adults, children and families, alike. To be a parent is not a premise to give up one's rights and freedoms; nor is being a child. Children may be too young to know the true value of their rights and freedoms, but that is why it is imperative that lawyers for children should act upon both their client's wishes, as well as their client's best interest, like any devoted lawyer would, in any other judicial forum.

Further, Family Law, like every other Law of the land should be subject to the, "two prong", test:

1) Is there a sufficient preponderance of evidence to substantiate the application of the law?
2) Does the evidence conclude the guilt of the accused, beyond reasonable doubt?

Such a test is the only true measurement, that preserves the rights and freedom of the accused, victim and all those involved.

As human beings, we all have the potential to do something good or bad. Some people have a greater potential for this, than others. That does not mean they should be subjected to oppression, merely because of greater potential.

Inverse application would grant gold medals to athletes, based solely upon their potential to win, and not their active participation, to substantiate such an award. Such an inverse application could be lent to students, granting them credentials such as PHD, solely upon their potential to learn and not what they have learned. In each of these cases, one can clearly see how the application of, "potential", does not serve the standards of an ordered society, but leads to insane concepts and delusional barbarianism.

Therefore, "Just in Case", "Potential", and "In the Best Interest", has no place in the legal process of our society, nor should it be a platform for the administration of any kind of justice.

Anonymous said...

This is from Chambers in Hansard
We're working with the Adoption Council of Ontario and with our children's aid societies to provide a province-wide, web-based system that will bring together children who are available for adoption with families who want to adopt.

Once again the ACO is run by a baby broker. The government is totally in bed with this group and it is disgusting. The plan seems to be to market children via a website like pieces of meat for desperate infertile couples. It is totally offensive to see children "brokered" in this manner. The ACO ONLY REPRESENTS adopters, baby brokers and CAS workers. They are in the business of baby selling, and that has nothing to do with protecting children!

Anonymous said...

I cannot belive anyone is so blind not to see right though this one, this has failed in so many of the US states, yet hey lets give it a go in Ontario, with no over sight, no one has dared to tread that far yet. CAS builds cases, not to always protect children, to harm the family and child.
Removing children period is very tramatic, the risk to them in care is real, and familys falsy accused dont just bouns back to all is fine, they are broke, frightened, dont trust, and learn that there is no place to go and plead your true case. Perhaps not always but much to often. Why do letters asking for help sent to governemnt officals end up in your CAS file. Have the convinced the governemnt that this popaganda is truth, is it a great way to keep the ecomeny rolling along? The experts are for the most part wacked, keep coming up with more and more reason to use abuse and neglegt, and twist them to mean anything they want, as one posted said her adopted child abused in foster care, and it was known she was being abused, by even the pychologist and social worker, there coments tough love??? and foster mom just needs help. If that had been a parent the child would have been saved and should have been. But there are to few good foster homes, not that all are bad. But its known.
Cost effective adoption may cut the welfare roles, and child tax benifits, foster care and legal cost for CAS. But how do you explain this to a child that will one day understand, as many do today, that there natural parents wanted and loved them, but the governemnt said NO. and used the CAS to do the dirty work.
I saw the shock on a CAS lawyers face today, when I said I understood what this Bill was about, and many others do as well. And the CAS games and need to puff up reports make up cases to explain invovement for so long in some cases. How its used aginst parents that may know to much.
May sue a hospital, or CAS. its perfect. BUT THEY ARE STEALING CHILDREN AND ARE GOING TO STEAL BABYS, FROM THE POOR, FROM THE YOUNG, FROM THE GIRL NEXT DOOR.
OPEN ADOPTION MEANS NO MORE THEN A PHOTO ONCE A YEAR IF THAT. THIS IS NOT A GREAT PLACE TO LIVE. its behind the wall and worse,

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