By Lindsey Kuglin, WHT Reporter
A group protesting the Children’s Aid Society in Walkerton on June 12 wants more accountability for the organization.
Protest leader Zane Sherwood, works for Voices of Children and Canada Court Watch, and accuses the CAS of abusing its authority, and harming the province’s children.
“We’re asking the public to be aware of the things that go on behind closed doors,” Sherwood said.
He and the four other protesters with him are supporting a call for ombudsman oversight for all of Ontario’s CASes.
“We’re the only province that doesn’t have ombudsman oversight on these organizations,” Sherwood said.
The protest was one of dozens across the province on June 12 outside CAS sites.
They were held in conjunction of (NDP) Hamilton Mountain MPP and Children and Youth Services critic Taylor Monique’s introduction of private member’s Bill 110 that’s calling for ombudsman oversight for CAS branches, as well as hospitals, school boards, universities, municipalities, and long-term care facilities.
Huron-Bruce MPP Lisa Thompson voted in favour of the Bill, telling The WHT that regardless of which party introduces the Bill, the Progressive Conservative Party would support it. “We are supporting all accountability and transparency for CAS,” she said in a telephone interview Monday. “That’s one of the cornerstones of our beliefs,” she added.
The Bill will receive second reading in October.
The Walkerton protest was peaceful, but Bruce Grey Child and Family services executive director Phyllis Lovell took precautions and had families access services at the Walkerton Legion for the day.
“This is adult business. We don’t want to put children in a position of having to deal with it. There’s the potential for people to get upset and louder than normal. This just takes kids out of that,” she told the WHT.
Lovell also addressed the concerns of the protesters.
“It’s their right to protest, and I respectfully hear what they’re asking for, but I don’t think it will serve the purpose they think it will,” Lovell said.
Though the ombudsman can’t investigate Children’s Aid Societies, Lovell said they are held to account by several entities.
Lovell explained that they are given a “great deal” of authority by the province in dealing with family situations, “because children may not be safe in their home”, but the organization still has to report monthly to a board of directors, and they’re “carefully scrutinized,” Lovell said. Regular reports are also made to the Ontario Ministry of Child and Youth Services.
On individual cases, the societies must go to court and a judge makes the decision whether or not to return children to their parents or give the care to CAS.
In a brief cordial discussion with Sherwood after the protest, Lovell said she’d be willing to meet with him in the near future to discuss what changes he would like to see with the organization.
– With files from John McPhee