Children and Youth Advocate Explains Concerns
TORONTO – A few days ago met with Committee at Legislature looking at Bill 8 and changes to my Act,” states Irwin Elman, Ontario’s Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. “I told the Committee about the vulnerable children who are in my mandate – children connected to the childrens mental health system, youth in custody and in conflict with the law, children in our Provincial schools for the Deaf and Blind, children with special needs”
I asked the Committee to match the courage of the children who reach out for help to our Office and speak up,” continued Elman. “For 6 years I have asked the Government to provide me with access to information and investigatory powers”.
I have asked for instance: Why is it good for Ontario’s most vulnerable children for their Advocate to not be able to know when one of them dies or how they died? I have never had an answer”.
I welcome new investigatory powers into the child welfare system and made a number of technical recommendations to close loopholes that might exist.
I have three major recommendations; a change to my Act that would allow for access to information I order to undertake my duties, investigatory powers across my mandate in order for no child to receive less advocacy from my Office than another, protection for those who contact the Ministry or my Office to report something wrong in a service or residence for children in my mandate”.
Elan states, “In meeting after meeting – with MInistry staff, with the Deputy Minister, with the Minister, with the Minister’s staff, with the Premier, with the Premier’s staff I have asked and asked”.
In meetings leading to these Hearings I was told changes could come at Committee. After my presentation to the Legislative Committee I was asked to attend a meeting with Ministry Staff and a representative of the Minister to discuss their resp[onse to my recommendations. I was hopeful”.
While a number of my technical recommendations were accepted all of my major recommendations would not be considered.
As always, I asked why. I was told that the document process might be a burden on the transforming childrens mental health system. I was told that a number of agencies are just “mom and pop shops” I was flabergasted. I did aks “how would my receiving documents that already exist or should exists be a burden? There was no answer.
I was told that the Minister would rather spend money on service than ” a robust system of oversight”. I asked “how would sending me information cost any money? No answer!
I asked “How is your decision what is best for vulnerable children and youth?” No answer.
I asked the Government to stand with the most vulnerable children and youth and instead at this point they have chosen to stand with the service systems and bureaucracy.
There is still an opportunity for the Committee to come together around vulnerable children My understanding is that both Opposition parties will bring forward all of our recommendations to the Committee. The Government can reconsider and do what I believe they know is right for children in the Province.
Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth