Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Complaint to Ombudsman - Min Children and Youth Services - Regarding Secrecy of Operations

UPDATE 1: Our visit logs show that the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Societies (OACAS) has been informed of our complaint to the Ombudsman regarding the secret complaints survey sent to CAS's by the Ministry and visited our blog twice after the complaint was posted. The statistics also show that the OACAS visited our blog on June 12, 2009 when we originally reported the matter in a previous.

UPDATE 2: The Ombudsman's Office has contacted us to request our permission for their office to intervene. We have authorized the intervention and will report as updates become known to us.

Ottawa:
Tuesday June 16, 2009 - The following letter of complaint was filed with the Ombudsman of Ontario, Andre Marin today against the Ministry of Children and Youth Services


Subject: Complaint - Ministry of CYS - John Dunn‏

From: John Dunn (johndunn@afterfostercare.ca)

Sent: June 16, 2009 8:49:56 AM

To: Andre Marin (amarin@ombudsman.on.ca)

Cc: Horwath - QP, Andrea (ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca); Julia Munro (julia.munro@pc.ola.org); chris.shantz@ontario.ca (chris.shantz@ontario.ca); jeffO'Grady MinCYSGerrardFrenette (jeff.o'grady@ontario.ca); Gerard (MCYS) Frenette (gerard.frenette@ontario.ca); aziza_sindhu NEWS_CBC (aziza.sindhu@cbc.ca); CBC NEWS (cbcnewsottawa@cbc.ca); CFRB NEWSCFRB (cfrbcomments@cfrb.com); MargoKelly News-CBC (margo_kelly@cbc.ca); Metro News (letters@metronews.ca); news@cfrb.com; OttawaCitizen News (letters@thecitizen.canwest.com); PamelaPower NewsCBCPamelaPower (pamela_power@cbc.ca); Tracey NewsTongMetronewsOttawa (tracey.tong@metronews.ca); Social Justice News (sjnews@socialjustice.org)


Andre Marin,
Ontario Ombudsman,


Introduction
My name is John Dunn. I am the volunteer Executive Director of the Foster Care Council of Canada, (Council) a non-profit organization made up of people who have lived in foster care who advocate for improved quality and accountability in child-welfare services across Canada.

With regard to communications between our organization, myself, and the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, I was told by ministry staff Chris Shantz that the Minister, Deb Matthews previously assigned Chris Shantz to act as our communications contact.

Background
However, recently, the Council was contacted by an Ontario citizen who informed us that the citizen spoke with a ministry regional staff member who informed him of the fact that a survey was passed around from the ministry to various Children's Aid Societies in Ontario which had as its focus, complaints received by the various Societies as per section 68 of the Child and Family Services Act.

I contacted the Toronto Children's Aid Society and spoke to them to confirm the existence of this survey and to ask if I could receive a copy of the survey from them. The person I spoke with at the Toronto agency (I did not seek her name, but will remember to do so in the future) told me that they had received such a suvey from the ministry but that she would have to ask if she could let me have a copy of the survey in blank form. She contacted me back later to inform me that the ministry would not allow her to provide me with a copy of the survey in blank form.

The citizen who originally obtained information from a regional ministry staff attempted once more to learn more information from the regional staff, only to be told that all of his communications must now be in writing and they would not respond to him about this matter.

Issues

1. I am complaining about the fact that the ministry has told staff within the ministry, including Chris Shantz, not to speak to citizens about this apparently secret survey regarding complaints received by Children's Aid Societies in Ontario under section 68 of the CFSA. When I contacted Chris Shantz by phone to ask him about the survey, whether it existed, and what it was about, Chris's only response, was to say that he can not discuss it. When I asked him if he is being told not to talk about it, he repeated that he can not discuss it. I have talked to Chris on the phone in the past approximately 6 or 7 times, maybe more as a ministry contact, but this time to me, he sounded very uncomfortable in his response. He did not sound as natural and confident as he usually does when he speaks to me.

2. According to section 224 of the Child and Family Services Act, the Minister must review the Act every five years and she must notify the public when such a review has been initiated. See relevant provisions below:

Review of Act

224.(1)The Minister shall periodically conduct a review of this Act or those provisions of it specified by the Minister.

Beginning of review

(2)The Minister shall inform the public when a review under this section begins and what provisions of this Act are included in the review.

Written report

(3)The Minister shall prepare a written report respecting the review and shall make that report available to the public.

Period for review

(4)The first review shall be completed and the report made available to the public within five years after the day this section comes into force.

Same
(5)Each subsequent review shall be completed and the report made available to the public within five years after the day the report on the previous review has been made available to the public. 1999, c. 2, s. 34.


Therefore, and in accordance with sections 224 (1), (2) and (5) of the act I have been contacting the Ministry through Chris Shantz (and Jeff O'Grady when Chris's automated e-mail reply said to contact him) on a monthly basis to ask if the Minister has yet initiated a review of the act, decided what sections of the act are to be reviewed or conducted any consultations regarding the next review, which is due in 2010.

The response from Chris Shantz has been a consistent no in each query from the Council, until the matter of the complaints survey was raised. After that, when I asked again whether the ministry has initiated a review of the act or engaged in any consultations for the purpose of the review, and this time if the survey regarding complaints is in any way to be included as part of the review, Chris Shantz has refused to respond to my queries at all.

It is my blelief that the Minister intends to use the complaints survey and/or the responses to the survey from the Societies as part of the review, and that this is why Chris has been told not to communicate with me regarding this matter in any way, hence his lack of responses over the recent month.

If the Minister has initiated a review of the Child and Family Services Act and this highly secretive survey regarding complaints received by Societies is in any way connected to this review, as per section 224 (2) of the Act the Minister "SHALL inform the public when a review under this section begins and what provisions of this Act are included in the review" and this is not being done as per the statute.

Conclusion
Could your office please look into this matter for me as I believe the ministry and the minister are not complying with section 224 of the Child and Family Services Act and they are not treating me in a fair and reasonable manner regarding my communications with the ministry by not responding to me, nor are they treating their own staff in a reasonable manner by forcing them to remain silent about initiatives being conducted by the ministry using tax-payers money.


PS: The previous communications are enclosed below in this complaint.

Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
613-220-1039
johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
http://www.afterfostercare.ca




From: johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
To: jeff.o'grady@ontario.ca; chris.shantz@ontario.ca; gerard.frenette@ontario.ca
CC: amarin@ombudsman.on.ca; ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca; julia.munro@pc.ola.org
Subject: RE: 5-year Review
Date: Fri, 12 Jun 2009 10:04:01 -0400

Chris Shantz or Jeff O'Grady
Ministry of Children and Youth Services


Can either of you please respond to my emails of May 19 & 28, and June 11 2009 where I asked for a response to the question of whether the Ministry has made any decisions as to what will be reviewed in the 2010 review of the Child and Family Services Act in accordance with section 224 of the Act, or if any consultations have been conducted or if there are any plans to consult with anyone and when those consultations are planned to take place?

Otherwise I will be forced to contact Andre Marin's Office in order to file a complaint regarding your lack of response and unfair treatment of an Ontario citizen.


Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca




From: johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
To: jeff.o'grady@ontario.ca; chris.shantz@ontario.ca; gerard.frenette@ontario.ca
CC: amarin@ombudsman.on.ca; ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca; julia.munro@pc.ola.org
Subject: RE: 5-year Review
Date: Thu, 11 Jun 2009 08:30:06 -0400

Chris Shantz or Jeff O'Grady

Can you please respond to my emails of May 19 & 28 2009 where I asked the questions enclosed?



Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca




From: johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
To: jeff.o'grady@ontario.ca; chris.shantz@ontario.ca; gerard.frenette@ontario.ca
Subject: RE: 5-year Review
Date: Thu, 28 May 2009 07:59:51 -0400

Chris Shantz or Jeff O'Grady

Can you please respond to my email of May 19, 2009 where I asked the questions enclosed?



Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca




From: johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
To: jeff.o'grady@ontario.ca
Subject: FW: 5-year Review
Date: Tue, 19 May 2009 22:07:37 -0400

Jeff O'Grady

Please read the enclosed e-mail and respond as soon as you can as I have been redirected to you by Chris Shantz's vacation response.


From: johndunn@afterfostercare.ca
To: chris.shantz@ontario.ca
CC: ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca; julia.munro@pc.ola.org; irwin.elman@provincialadvocate.on.ca; john.meston@provincialadvocate.on.ca; gerard.frenette@ontario.ca; jeff.o'grady@ontario.ca; margo_kelly@cbc.ca; vivian.song@tor.sunpub.com; afterfostercare-exec@yahoogroups.com; afterfostercare@yahoogroups.com
Subject: RE: 5-year Review
Date: Tue, 19 May 2009 22:04:36 -0400

Chris Shantz
Special Assistant to the Minister of Children and Youth Services

May 2009 Request
As you are aware, I am e-mailing you on a monthly basis to check up on whether the Minister or Ministry of Children and Youth Services has taken any actions or made any decisions in relation to the mandatory five-year review of the Child and Family Services Act which is to take place by 2010 so that the public are informed as soon as possible of the Minister's review as required by the statute.

Related Ontario Government Search
I would also like to make you aware of the fact that our website tracker has shown that someone from the Ontario Government has recently (Tuesday May 19, 2009 at 4:28pm) done a search on the Internet for the following terms "www.google.ca/search?hl=en&q=section 224 in the Child and Family Services act&meta=&aq=f&oq= " (see attached image) which resulted in them visiting a post of the same material as posted to our News Blog ( here )indicating that someone within the Ontario Government has initiated some form or research into the five year review of the Act.


Please see the attached file for the image of the Government Search


Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca




From: afterfostercare@hotmail.com
To: chris.shantz@ontario.ca
CC: ahorwath-qp@ndp.on.ca; julia.munro@pc.ola.org; irwin.elman@provincialadvocate.on.ca; john.meston@provincialadvocate.on.ca; gerard.frenette@ontario.ca; jeff.o'grady@ontario.ca; margo_kelly@cbc.ca; vivian.song@tor.sunpub.com
Subject: 5-year Review
Date: Fri, 24 Apr 2009 10:13:05 -0400

Chris Shantz

I heard a frustration in your voice when you asked me what it is I want from you, and I am sorry you feel frustrated by a member of the public asking a question about public legislation, however I am merely asking you if any consultations or decisions have been made in relation to the five year review of the Act so that I can notify the public as soon as possible so that they can have their input submitted to the Ministry in as timely a fashion as possible.

As you are aware, the previous review of the Act under the Hon. Minister Bountrogianni, after a year of consultations with organizational stakeholders only made a public announcement of the first five year review of the Act 30 days before the deadline for making submissions.

As regular citizens, we need more time than this to organize ourselves and support each other in making recommendations for the review of the Act, therefore we need to know what parts of the Act are going to be reviewed as soon as possible and whether any consultations have taken place or will be taking place so that we can get involved.

Again, I am sorry that you are frustrated with me asking such questions of you. I do not call you every day, I intend to call once a month or maybe twice a month to get the status of this matter. In addition, you told me when we first spoke that you were assigned to speak or liase with me in relation to the Minister as I understood it.

You can read the updated blog on this matter by clicking here



Sincerely
John Dunn
Executive Director
The Foster Care Council of Canada
http://www.afterfostercare.ca

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