TORONTO – LEGAL – Waddell Phillips PC announces that a proposed class action lawsuit has been launched against the Government of Ontario and all of the provincial children’s aid societies in respect of the now-discredited practice of issuing “birth alerts”.
The Final Report of the National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls described birth alerts as “racist”, “discriminatory”, and “a gross violation of the rights of the child, the mother, and the community”. The CEO of the Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies has stated: “We know that in most cases, birth alerts cause harm”.
On July 14, 2020, Ontario’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services issued a policy directive to the CASs requiring that the practice of issuing birth alerts be stopped by October 15, 2020. There have been reports, however, that the practice is still continuing in some areas of the province.
Birth alerts (also known as “hospital alerts”) were issued by CASs and required healthcare providers to notify the CAS whenever the subject pregnant person attended for prenatal care or delivery, so that the CAS could become involved immediately upon the birth of the infant, if not before. Birth alerts often directed privacy breaches, such as requiring the healthcare provider to deliver additional medical information or records to the CAS, or even directed the healthcare provider to conduct medically unnecessary testing on the subject pregnant person. In some cases, the birth parent would be prevented from leaving the hospital with their newborn.
The claim asserts that the CASs exceeded their child protection mandate by issuing birth alerts against pregnant persons. Further, the claim alleges that the speculative child protection concerns motivating the use of birth alerts are grounded in discriminatory assumptions regarding which individuals are likely to be neglectful, abusive or incapable parents – particularly Indigenous, racialized, and/or disabled birth parents, who are disproportionately the subjects of birth alerts.
The proposed class action alleges that, by issuing birth alerts, the CASs breached pregnant persons’ fundamental constitutional rights, including their right to liberty and security of the person, and the right to equality, as well as their quasi-constitutional right to privacy. It also alleges that the government was negligent in failing to put a stop to the use of birth alerts for decades, all of which caused substantial harm to Ontario families.
A copy of the Statement of Claim can be found on Waddell Phillips PC’s website.
The National Inquiry into Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women crisis line is available to persons needing support: 1-844-413-6649.
Waddell Phillips PC are counsel to the Plaintiffs. For more information, contact us at:
WADDELL PHILLIPS PC
Attn Tina Q. Yang
36 Toronto Street, Suite 1120
Toronto, ON M5C 2C5