By Irwin Elman
Toronto – Today, the Progressive Conservative government announced that they will be repealing the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007 and will be closing our office. This means that the largest province in Canada has now become one of the only provinces without an independent child advocate.
I wanted you to learn of my perspective firsthand. Firstly, I find it shocking that I learned through the media this morning of this government’s plan to repeal the legislation that governs the work of the Ontario Child Advocate. I received no official notice or briefing.
Our Office is independent of government and has had a very specific legislative mandate to advocate and investigate on behalf of the most vulnerable and marginalized children and youth in the Province, including those who are:
- receiving child welfare services
- in youth justice settings
- First Nations, Inuit and Métis children and youth
- living with disabilities
- receiving mental health services
- attending Ontario’s Provincial and Demonstration Schools
The law that this government intends to repeal clearly states that children and youth have the legislated right to contact our independent Office privately, and to receive assistance from our Office if they have concerns about the care that they are receiving from the government. Our independence from government has been critical, and the detailed systemic reviews and investigations that we have conducted have repeatedly shone a light on systemic gaps and failures in the system that have put vulnerable children and youth at significant risk.
Due to their age and dependency status, it is impossible for children and youth to champion their own interests, especially when they are in the care of the state or receiving 24/7 services from the government. When children and youth do not have the ongoing protection of their parents, additional safeguards are absolutely essential. Our Office has ensured that these children are not “out of sight, out of mind.” Our Office has made sure that they are seen, that their voices are heard, that their fundamental rights are respected, and that their opinions are taken into account in decisions big and small that are made about their lives.
Instead, the government has proposed that the Ministry monitor itself and advocate for the thousands of children in its care. This is dangerous.
This government must pause, consult and reconsider its plan.
About the Ontario Child Advocate
The Ontario Child Advocate (“Advocate’s Office”) works to ensure young people know their rights, their opinions are taken into account in matters that concern them and their voices are heard.
Reporting directly to the Legislative Assembly of Ontario, the Advocate’s Office provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children and youth with disabilities and Indigenous children and youth. Advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child, Youth and Family Services Act, 2017, and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). The Advocate’s Office derives authority from the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007.
The Office can also conduct individual and systemic investigations about matters concerning a child or a group of children under the care of a children’s aid society (CAS) or a residential licensee where the CAS is the placing agency and make recommendations to improve services.
The Office is guided by the principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. Please visit us at www.ontariochildadvocate.on.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth