The Ontario Government has announced its intention to repeal the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act and to close the Provincial Advocate’s office.
Plan to Close the Advocacy Office Puts Vulnerable kids at Risk
November 21, 2018
Dear Members and Friends,
The plan of the Ontario Government to repeal the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act and to close the Office of the Provincial Advocate has been widely condemned. It has been particularly devastating for our most vulnerable young people who depend on the Advocacy Office as a place where they are heard and supported.
Judy Finlay, from Ryerson University, has prepared information which is, linked below, on how to contact the Premier and all political parties. This is a critical issue for children and it is important to make your views known. We would welcome a copy of your letter if you are willing to share it.
On Thurs. November 29, a Press Conference will be held at 10:00 a.m. in the Media Studio, 1st Floor Queen’s Park Legislative Building Toronto, ON M7A 1A2
The Press Conference will be followed by a Rally outside the Legislative Building at 11:30 a.m. We need to have a strong show of support so please attend these events if you possibly can. Our children are depending on you.
We will also gather on our website a number of statements, letters and media reports to provide you with additional information.
I know that you have busy lives but please take the time to speak out on this issue that is so critical for our children and youth.
Agnes Samler, On behalf of the Board of Directors of DCI-Canada
Your support in promptly addressing this devastating news is contributing to a social action strategy that recognizes the power in numbers as a catalyst for change. Click on the link to help generate your letter: Discontinuation of the Office of the Provincial Child and Youth Advocate
Submission on Bill 57: Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act
Submission on Bill 57 to the Standing Committee on Finance and Economic Affairs
Below are a number of statements, letters and print media reports on the topic.
- Statement from Irwin Elman on the repeal of the provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act
- Globe & Mail Opinion by Suzan Fraser: Axing Ontario’s child advocate puts our most vulnerable kids at even greater risk
- Letter to family, friends and colleagues, by Tara Collins
- Star Article by Laurie Monsebraaten
- Star Opinion Marv Bernstein and Brigitte Granofsky
- Letter to the Editor of the Star
- Ottawa Citizen Opinion by Chris Selley: Child advocate is a cruel target for Tory cuts
- Letter from Judge James Felstiner
- Letter from Ontario Council of the Canadian Federation of University Women
- Letter for child advocate, Shannon Stanley
- Letter to Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, Agnes Samler
Statement from Irwin Elman on the repeal of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007
November 15th, 2018, Toronto (Ontario) – 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 and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools). 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 Advocate’s Office derives authority from the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007.
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. For more information, please visit us at www.ontariochildadvocate.on.ca. For updates, follow us on Twitter and Facebook.
Axing Ontario’s child advocate puts our most vulnerable kids at even greater risk
Suzan Fraser is a Toronto-based lawyer who advocates for children’s rights
The Ontario government came out swinging at the province’s most vulnerable in its fall economic statement. In it, Finance Minister Vic Fedeli announced the end of Ontario’s child advocate, a development that will put children at risk. It is the worst kind of politics – cuts for the sake of cuts with no regard for children – sacrificing them on the altar of financial efficiency.
Ontario had the first child advocacy office in Canada, created in 1978, the International Year of the Child. It received its first legislated mandate in 1984, under section 102 of the then-Child and Family Services Act, a change introduced under the Bill Davis government.
Now there are legislated child advocate offices across Canada whose staff are specially trained to speak and work with young people subjected to our service systems (child welfare, provincial and demonstration schools, youth justice). The children that the advocacy offices serve are often out of view of the public, and they need help to advocate for their rights – rights that often ensure their safety and humanity.
Children and youth living in residential care are particularly vulnerable to abuse and mistreatment because they are isolated from their natural advocates such as parents and other relatives, and because the facilities in which they live are often isolated from the community. Depending on the type of residential care facility, some children and youth are made more vulnerable because they are stigmatized (for example, young offenders in custody and young people in mental health facilities) or because of disability (young people who are blind or deaf, or who are developmentally disabled).
This vulnerability is exacerbated by the difficulty children and youth in care experience when attempting to report or complain about inappropriate treatment. Many children and youth report concerns of reprisals and a climate of fear and intimidation in residential care facilities. Also, children and youth report that they are deterred in reporting or complaining about abuse and mistreatment because of a perception that complaint and reporting mechanisms – and the people responsible for them – are part of the same institutions and systems that permitted the abuse or mistreatment in the first place.
In 2003, a ground-breaking report, It’s Time to Break the Silence by Matthew Geigen-Miller for Defence for Children – International Canada, launched a movement to make the child advocate independent and directly responsible to the Legislature as a whole. The report detailed concerns from the inquest into the death of Stephanie Jobin, who died when group-home staff held her down with a bean-bag chair. The jury heard that at the time, the actions by the then-government prevented the child advocate from putting up posters in group homes, telling children of their rights, and how to contact the child advocate. This in turn became the subject of debate in the Ontario Legislature.
In 2007, the inquest into the custodial death of a young First Nations man from Sachigo Lake recommended a new independent advocate have an office in Northern Ontario. When the Liberal government finally introduced the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007, Lisa MacLeod, the then-opposition critic for Children and Youth Services and presently our Children’s Minister, criticized the government of the day for not going far and fast enough.
In her remarks in 2007, Ms. MacLeod gave credit where credit was due. She called Premier Davis a visionary and said he was “ahead of his time” when he saw “a government body which would bring together expertise in the areas of child welfare, children’s mental health, developmental disability, youth justice, education, health, family treatment and children rights in order to best serve Ontario’s children.” Ms. MacLeod went further: “Because of Bill Davis’s vision and leadership, Ontario’s child advocate became a model for governments across this country, and our chief advocates, Les Horne and Judy Finlay, have set the standard worldwide for effective advocacy on behalf of children everywhere.”
So this recent announcement is an about-face for Minister MacLeod and the Ontario government.
Since being granted independence, the child advocate’s powers expanded, with all party support. The child advocate now has powers of investigation. More importantly, the child advocate has built an impressive advocacy office, trusted by children and youth and the people working in the sector.
Now this government wants to tear it down, buried in a budget bill. The government doesn’t even have the courage to put the issue before the legislature in a standalone bill.
We can’t let it. As young people once told me, with the assistance of an advocate: “It’s time we were taken into account. We want a world fit for children, because a world fit for children is a world fit for everyone.”
By: SUZAN FRASER
CONTRIBUTED TO THE GLOBE AND MAIL
PUBLISHED NOVEMBER 16, 2018 UPDATED NOVEMBER 16, 2018
Dear family, friends and colleagues
Please forgive this general email but in the interests of time, I am writing to you collectively for your help. Last week the government of Ontario announced its intention to close the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. This office plays an incredibly important role in the lives of young people and those who care for them in this province. It ensures that young people, and especially those living in the care of public institutions such as child welfare and youth justice, have a voice in decisions that affect their lives. It has an impressive track record in ensuring that the voices of young people are heard in order to inform such policies such as extending further supports to young people aging out of care, tuition waivers for former crown wards to attend post-secondary institutions, and holding residential service providers accountable for inadequate or poor quality care. It has also done so much to highlight the voices of young people with disabilities, Black Youth and Indigenous young people. Young people across the province need this office to remain.
I know that you all have busy lives and some of you are not involved in work related to young people but you can help as diverse advocacy from across the province is desperately needed. Not only do I know young people who have benefitted tremendously from this Office’s work, I know that professionals across the country regularly highlight to me this Office’s leadership role in supporting young people. Would you please write emails to key contacts in Queen’s Park to urge a reversal of this decision as soon as you can? Every email will help.
Thanks to my colleague Judy Finlay, I have attached some information to use for sending out emails re: the amalgamation of the Child Advocate’s Office with the Ombudsman. Please circulate broadly to individuals and organizations that you communicate with as soon as you can. You can also highlight this issue on social media and urge media outlets to pursue this story.
Thank you so much for your kind consideration. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to let me know.
Axing of provincial child advocate role called dangerous, deplorable
Ontario’s child advocate says it is “dangerous” for the Ford government to suggest the children’s ministry should monitor itself and advocate for the province’s most vulnerable kids.
“The government must pause, consult and reconsider its plan,” said Irwin Elman, the province’s first independent child and youth advocate whose office is enshrined in 2007 legislation.
Finance Minister Vic Fedeli announced the government’s plan to axe the legislation as part of Thursday’s fall economic update. He said the measure would save costs and cut red tape.
Fedeli said the child advocate’s duties will be merged with the provincial ombudsman’s office. But the advocate’s office takes a proactive approach whereas the ombudsman’s office is primarily complaints-driven, and it is unclear who will play the advocacy role under the changes. Before the 2007 legislation, the child advocate was employed by the children’s ministry.
Under the 2007 law, the advocate’s office is mandated to advocate and investigate on behalf of children and youth involved with children’s aid, the mental health system, youth justice, disability services and provincial schools for people who are deaf, blind or live with severe disabilities. The office is also responsible for Indigenous and Métis kids.
During Question Period Thursday, NDP children’s critic Monique Taylor slammed the government for cutting a role that provides vital oversight.
“The child advocate calls out governments when their policies harm innocent children,” Taylor said. “The fact that the Ford government wants to do away with their voice says something terrifying about the plans for this province for our most vulnerable children.”
The move means Ontario is one of the only provinces in the country without an independent child advocate.
“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,” Elman said in a statement.
Over the years, Elman, whose second four-year term is up Nov. 25 with no legislative right to renewal, has drawn attention to the scores of nameless, children and youth who die in the care of children’s aid societies every year.
By LAURIE MONSEBRAATEN Social Justice Reporter
Thu., Nov. 15, 2018
Eliminating the Ontario Child Advocate’s Office a mistake
Waking up to the news Thursday morning that the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007 would be repealed, and that the Ontario Child Advocate’s Office would be closed, and its duties transferred to the Ombudsman’s Office, was like waking up to a whole new reality, one where young people’s voices are silenced and rights curtailed.
Hopefully, this recent announcement is a correctable misunderstanding and the government still means to honour the child-centred practice stipulated in the new Child, Youth and Family Services Act. That act guarantees children and youth in care, or in receipt of child welfare services, a voice and a “right to express their own views freely and safely … and to be informed, in language suitable to their understanding, of the existence and role of [the Child Advocate’s Office] and of how [that Office] may be contacted.”
It appears to be the government’s plan to expand the duties of the Ombudsman’s Office to include child-related investigations and other yet to be prescribed functions. However, transferring services from one independent office to another is not like shuffling a deck of cards. We are concerned that children and youth will turn out to be the big losers in this bureaucratic transaction.
For one thing, research and experience have taught us that independent offices that don’t have a singular focus on vulnerable children and are not rights-based are less likely to be successful in enabling children and youth to achieve positive life outcomes. When the interests of children and adults are intermingled in independent Offices, the interests of children are usually diluted, and monies earmarked for children’s services often end up being redirected to address weaknesses in adult services.
The new Child, Youth, Family Services Act states that its “aim” is ‘to be “consistent with and build upon the principles expressed in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child,” but the closure of the Ontario Child Advocate’s Office would constitute a serious erosion of Ontario’s obligations under that international treaty, which Canada ratified in 1991.
There is no clear indication in the proposed amendments to the Ombudsman Act that the totality of the noninvestigation functions currently housed within the Advocate’s Office, which promote and protect the human rights of children and youth, will be transferred to the Ombudsman’s Office.
By definition, an Ombudsman is a neutral and impartial independent officer and is not a proactive and partisan child advocate who supports and amplifies the voices of children and young people. As Irwin Elman, Ontario’s child advocate stated in a recent interview, “An ombudsman frankly, tries to make sure that government does what it says it’s going to do. It doesn’t stand with the young person … An Ombudsman’s job is to try and listen to both sides and be impartial. A child advocate’s job is to stand with children. In Ontario, there will no longer be somebody.”
The children, who may be harmed by this unnecessary office closure, are those most in need of strong advocacy supports. They could be in a foster home, in a group home, or other arrangement for their care or in a young offenders’ facility. They are society’s children. They are our children. Most staff in those facilities would be kind and understanding, but there has been enough evidence of abuse, neglect and deaths in various kinds of placements to make the services and investigative powers of the Child Advocate’s Office indispensable.
Cost is an issue for any government and any member of society respects the endeavour to spend as wisely as possible. Having said that, there may be other ways of saving money — such as shared rental premises, or shared reception and consultative services, or even a reduction in the budget temporarily, but certainly not the repeal of legislation that gives life to the Child Advocate’s Office and hope to so many children and youth across this province. It is surely a sound long-term societal investment to maintain an office that has been instrumental in contributing to the health and well-being of our youngest citizens. In order to safeguard Ontario’s children and youth from physical and emotional harm, and to ensure that their voices are heard, and their rights respected, the Children in Limbo Task Force respectfully encourages the provincial government to reconsider its position and abandon its plan to repeal the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007.
By MARV BERNSTEIN Opinion Toronto Star
Mon., Nov. 19, 2018
Letter to the Editor Toronto Star
Once again children, our most vulnerable citizens, suffer another loss as the Ontario Government announced the repeal of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act as part of its financial update.
The current Advocate, Irwin Elman, has shone a light on some of the most brutal abuses facing children and made it impossible to continue the myth that bad things happen to kids but not in our Province.
We often do not realize the extent of the pain except when we are faced with an inquest of a child gradually beaten to death while no one in her school or community noticed her small bruised body; or when we start to count the number of indigenous youth who choose suicide over a life without hope.
The Office of the Advocate has heard and amplified the voices of children who are most at risk and has worked to make changes in our systems to provide an environment where children are protected and their rights respected. Today’s decision means those children will again suffer in silence.
When Canada ratified the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child we promised to act in the best interests of our children. Today’s decision represents a promise broken.
Agnes Samler, President
Defence for Children International-Canada
Former Child Advocate in Ontario
Ottawa Citizen Opinion by Chris Selley: Child advocate is a cruel target for Tory cuts
Amidst the flurry of announcements accompanying Thursday’s Ontario fiscal update, by far the most surprising and least explicable was the elimination of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, which advocates (hence the name) for children in care, wards of the youth justice system, First Nations children and other vulnerable groups.
Irwin Elman, the province’s child advocate since 2007, has helped bring to light some of the most universally abhorred abuses of children in Ontario’s recent history — perhaps most notably the beating, torture and starvation of seven-year-old Katelynn Sampson, who could have been saved if caseworkers had simply asked to see and speak with her. That led to new legislation requiring children be put at the centre of all decisions made on their behalf.
The Progressive Conservatives haven’t traditionally been hostile to the advocate’s office — quite the contrary. “My party … is proud to have been the first to introduce the child advocate in Ontario, who was Les Horne, under the premiership of Bill Davis in 1984,” Lisa MacLeod told the legislature in 2007, speaking to a bill establishing the advocate as an independent officer of the legislature. (They had previously reported to the ministry.)
That bill passed unanimously. So did a 2015 bill strengthening the advocate’s mandate.
MacLeod’s enthusiasm did not wane when she took on the child services portfolio under Premier Doug Ford. “I’ve loved working with you for the past 10 years,” she tweeted at Elman in September. “I am excited to now be Minister so we can bring in some long-awaited changes!”
MacLeod was unavailable for an interview on Friday, but it seems safe to say these weren’t the changes she was looking for.
The agency spent $10.6 million in 2017. But finance minister Vic Fedeli wouldn’t even confirm the move will save taxpayers any money. The advocate’s responsibilities aren’t being eliminated, after all; they’re being transferred, in theory, to the provincial ombudsman.
That might fit the Tories’ “efficiencies” narrative, but an advocate isn’t the same thing as an ombudsman. “It outrages me that we’ve removed somebody who (people) can call who will stand beside them,” says Elman — “not an ombudsman, who’s going to look at both sides and decide whether the policy was adhered to properly, but somebody is going to stand beside that parent and be with them, or beside that child in the group home and say, ‘We’ve got you.’”
The advocate does all kinds of outreach work, encouraging kids to empower themselves and others to speak up for their rights. Children in care are entitled to call an advocate immediately, and they are required to be told that. The advocate’s office fielded 2,146 calls last year for case consultation and dispute resolution; in the latter case nearly half were in the child welfare system.
If the Tories had some problem with the advocate’s office, or with Elman, now would have been the perfect time to shake things up. Elman’s second and last term is up before the end of the month. “I’m not arguing for my job,” Elman insists. “I was hoping somebody else would come in and take the office from where we left it.”
“I can assure everyone in this legislature that the fiercest child advocate in this province will be me,” MacLeod said during Question Period Thursday. But no matter how pure her intentions, a politician is still a politician — as rather nicely illustrated by the position she now finds herself defending.
There is certainly no shortage of problems to address. The advocate’s first “serious occurrences report,” which compiled data from mandatory reporting, found 19 children in or recently in state care had died in just the first three months of 2014. Of the two suicides, one was on a wait list for mental health care.
During that period there were 334 serious injuries, 123 of them self-inflicted, including 48 instances of cutting. There were 944 young people reported missing, of which 258 had not been found at the end of the reporting period. There were 206 reported mental health crises.
If the child suicide rate in Northern Ontario were transplanted to the big cities, people would lose their minds. There are some 8,000 young people whose lives may have been impacted by the shoddy drug testing at Sick Kids Hospital’s disgraced Motherisk lab; the government stole at least 56 kids from their mothers based on garbage evidence. It’s not even planning to contact everyone affected.
Kids kept in solitary confinement for outrageous periods; kids in care sleeping on floors with jackets for blankets in bed bug-infested homes; kids shuttled through literally dozens of different facilities; kids dying. The overrepresentation of Indigenous and Black children in care and in the youth justice system defies any defensible explanation. This is all just a random Google search away. Somehow it never blooms into the government-threatening scandal it ought to be.
Until it does, so long as kids who have done nothing wrong continue to suffer inhumane treatment in one of the wealthiest places in the world, taking away their one phone call just seems cruel.
Updated: November 19, 2018
Letter from Judge James Felstiner
I read of the government’s decision last week and was just appalled.
In my early retirement I had a few contacts with the work of the Advocate, but that is many years ago. Thus I now have very little knowledge of the many specific activities of the Advocates.
But the principle of providing an independent voice and center and advocate for so many truly needy Ontario youths was and is an enlightened idea
To destroy it is just stupid, mean and destructive.
If you think appropriate please use my words.
In sadness and fear: Jim
The Honourable Mr. Justice James P Felstiner (ret)
Letter from Ontario Council of the Canadian Federation of University Women
Re: Closure of the Ontario Child Advocate Office, and the repeal of The Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007
Reassignment of Provincial Advocate Staff to the Office of the Ombudsman
I am writing today on behalf of the 5,000 members of the Ontario Council of Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW Ontario Council). We understand and appreciate the financial responsibility of reducing the $14.5 billion dollar deficit and the government’s commitment to the people of Ontario to bring us into a balanced fiscal state.
We appreciate the announcement to hold round tables to thoroughly explore the approaches to the child protection system.
However, the closure of the Ontario Child Advocate Office may not bode well for our Ontario marginalized and vulnerable children and youth unless there are assurances that the same processes currently in place are transferred along with the staff to the Office of the Ombudsman.
Understandings of the current situation:
- The functions of the Child Advocate Office include:
- Individual rights advocacy,
- Systemic advocacy, and
- Community development –
for the following segments: child welfare, First Nations, provincial and demonstration schools, youth justice and youth in holding cells, children’s mental health, and children with special needs.
- The specialized staff are trained experts able to listen to, work with, and speak for vulnerable children and youth.
- Ontario was the leader in the creation of these offices thanks to former Premier Bill Davis. We are gratified and proud to see that most of the other provinces, as well as other countries, have followed our lead.
The proposed legislation:
Under Bill 57, Child Advocate Office will be closed effective May 1, 2019. Staff and investigations will be transferred to the Office of the Ombudsman.
- Retain the Ontario Child Advocate Office as is.
- If not:
- Retain all functions, including the independent systemic advocacy, all within a specialized separate unit within the Office of the Ombudsman, with its own website and current telephone number. It is critical for our vulnerable youth to have ready access to person-to-person contact.
- Move the Ontario Child Advocate Office intact and seamless, so that all areas of expertise and current contacts remain in place and can be located easily, especially by distraught children and youth.
- Do not replace the work of the Ontario Child Advocate Office with the roundtables. These should act as a complement to it.
One of the mandates of CFUW Ontario Council is to give voice to our members and their communities. Because of this, we understand the need for vulnerable children and youth to have their own voice be heard, and to have easy access to those who can support this voice, especially in times of critical need. Those voices do include both the individual desperation and the collective call for change.
It is for this reason that we request that you reconsider the closing of the Child Advocate Office. It is well known and documented that this agency’s work is paramount in securing the future of our vulnerable children and marginalized youth.
Ontario Council of the Canadian Federation of University Women (CFUW Ontario Council):
We are a voluntary, self-funded, non-profit organization with 51 clubs across the province, which is affiliated with the national CFUW, with over 100 clubs in all provinces of Canada that has consultative status with the United Nations.
Our mandate is to promote education and life-long learning, to encourage the participation of members in their communities, and to enhance the status of women and girls. Our main concerns include high quality public education, universal health care, a clean safe environment, the economic security of women as well as the prevention of violence against women.
President, CFUW Ontario Council
November 29, 2018
Dear Prime Minister and Minister for Youth
As the Canadian Government’s Minister for Youth I am asking that you contact Premier Ford and urge him to reconsider the plan to repeal the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act for Ontario.
Advocacy in Ontario was born out of the pain of children. There were children who endured every type of abuse, including death, in a system that was established to provide for their care. The first Advocates were employees of the Ontario Government but it became increasingly difficult to write the critical reports necessary for change, as an employee of the same government system. This conflict was recognized and addressed in 2007 when the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act was passed. The Act identified the Provincial Advocate as an independent officer directly responsible to the Ontario Legislature and it set out clear authority to carry out a strong advocacy role on behalf of children. This Act became recognized as a model for other provinces and territories as they began to develop similar legislation.
In its plan to repeal this Act, the current Ontario government has suggested that cost saving is the primary rationale. Since the plan is to transfer all current staff to the Office of the Ombudsman and as staff are the major cost in the budget, this reason does not make sense.
It is proposed that the functions of the Provincial Advocate could be carried out by the Office of the Ombudsman. The purpose and mandate of the Ombudsman’s Office is very different from the role outlined in the current Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act. Our children deserve more than to be relegated as an afterthought in legislation which has a completely different purpose.
One of the key principles underlying the Provincial Advocate Act is the U N Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention was signed and ratified by the Canadian Government. It represents the promises we have made to our children.
I am asking that you as Prime Minister and as Minister for Youth to uphold this Convention and do everything in your power to keep the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act in place. Our children deserve your protection.