Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Council's Deputation to Legislature on Bill 65 and Outcome

Read the presentation made to the Social Policy Committee of the Ontario Legislature about Bill 65, a Bill which creates a new non-profit Act which will govern Children's Aid Societies if passed at third reading.

Read the Council's submission here at the Legislature or see relevant and additional comments by expanding below


 After the Social Policy Committee heard from the public regarding Bill 65, they then met a final time to conduct what is called a "clause-by-clause" meeting.

At clause-by-clause meetings the members of the Committee will go through each and every section (clause) of the proposed Bill -- keeping in mind the submissions made by the public and their own political party's ideas or suggestions for amendment -- and they will vote on each section and it's proposed changes.

It is sad to note that once it came to the most important sections of Bill 65 (ss. 90 and 95) with regard to non-profit corporations  (specifically Children's Aid Societies) becoming transparent and accountable to the public through access to members lists, the entire committee was silent and voted in favour of a block vote which had them all vote in favour of sections 90 - 100 without even discussing it.

The Ministry of Children and Youth Services claims it does not get invovled in the internal affairs of CAS's because they are governed by a board of directors who are elected by members of the local community.

The problem is that the CAS's generally do not promote membership to the public, often block membership to those who are or have been clients receiving services, and those who advocate for changes, leaving only those who sit back and do nothing at meetings, who never attend meetings, and who are too scared to raise issues of concern at meetings. Basically Yay-sayers.

There is still third reading at the legislature, so if you feel Children's Aid Societies should be more transparent and accountable to the public, please contact your MPP today and let them know that you want them to vote against passing Bill 65 at third reading and that you want it made possible to have non-members request a list of members just like they can under section 307 of today's Corporations Act (Ontario).

Intersting points of note from PC's Julia Munro and Peter Kormos at the clause-by-clause

MPP - Ontario PC - Child Welfare Critic - Julia Munro

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Sorry, PC motion 31. Ms. Munro.

Mrs. Julia Munro: I move that section 83 of the bill be amended by adding the following subsections:

“Copies available to public

“(3) At the same time that the documents referred to in subsection (1) are given to members under subsection (2), the corporation shall make the documents available to the public and deposit a copy with the director.

“Same

“(4) The director shall maintain a publicly accessible repository of the documents deposited with the director under subsection (3).”

The purpose of this is simply to maintain that level of transparency and accountability that is the intent in this bill overall by making it available to the public, and certainly with modern technology this is something that can be done with great ease.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Any further comments on PC motion 31? Mr. Johnson and then Mr. Kormos.

Mr. Rick Johnson: We will not be supporting this because these amendments would require that the annual financial statements and any related audit or review engagement report of every non-profit corporation be filed with the director under the act and be made publicly available by the director. The purpose of financial statements under corporate law is to enable the members of the corporation to hold the directors accountable for their financial management of the corporation. These proposed amendments would impose significant administrative burden on non-profit corporations. If the financial statements are required for a regulatory purpose, other legislation, such as the Income Tax Act, will require that they be disclosed. On a voluntary basis, corporations can choose to make their financial statements available to non-members.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Mr. Kormos.

1000

Mr. Peter Kormos: Chair, with respect, but in response to the acting PA: horse feathers. It’s not a huge administrative burden; it’s a very simple process. Using the Internet, for instance, it has marginal cost, if any. It seems to me that when we’re talking about these types of corporations that rely upon either public funds by virtue of transfer payments—federal, provincial or municipal—or by donations from the public, it seems to me that there is a strong public interest in ensuring that the public has access to this type of financial data.

The New Democrats support Ms. Munro and the Conservatives in this proposition, and I’ll be asking for a recorded vote, please.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Unless there are further comments, we’ll proceed. Ms. Munro?

Mrs. Julia Munro: Yes, I would just want to underscore the idea that there isn’t a significant cost when we look at modern technology, and as Mr. Kormos has said, obviously it is public money or it’s donated money. I think that this would go a long way to making the public more confident about the way in which their charitable dollars are spent. Certainly, in some quarters, there’s some hesitancy. There have been experiences that people have had where they don’t feel their money was spent in the manner in which it was being promoted.

I think that while we’re looking at 50 years, as I believe the government has said, since much has been done on this file, bringing it into the 21st century in terms of accountability and transparency would be consistent with the goals of the legislation in general.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Any further comments on PC motion 31?

Mr. Peter Kormos: Yes, please, Chair.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Mr. Kormos.

Mr. Peter Kormos: I tell you, if the minister from Hamilton Mountain still had carriage of this bill, she’d be asking her caucus colleagues to be supporting Ms. Munro’s amendment. Sophia is a woman of common sense.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you. Any further comments?

Interjection: Recorded vote.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): We’ll proceed, then, to the vote.

Ayes

Kormos, Munro.

Nays

Johnson, Leal, McNeely, Naqvi, Ramal.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): PC motion 31 defeated.



The vote I mentioned where they all just passed over the relevant sections 90 and 95.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Sections 91 to 109 inclusive: I’m going to entertain block consideration unless there are any issues anyone has with that. If not, we’ll proceed. Shall sections 91 to 109 carry? Carried. 


The Council's presentation

FOSTER CARE COUNCIL OF CANADA

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Is Mr. Frampton present? If not, we have on teleconference Mr. Dunn of Foster Care Council of Canada. Are you there, Mr. Dunn?

Mr. Peter Kormos: Maybe he’s French-speaking.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): At least someone is, Peter.

Thank you, Mr. Dunn, for Foster Care Council of Canada. You have 10 minutes in which to make your presentation. Committee is on standby. Please begin.

Mr. John Dunn: Okay, hello. I just want to make sure audio is good. Does everything sound good? I can’t hear anybody, so I hope I can be heard well.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Yes, we’re fine. Go ahead, Mr. Dunn.

Mr. John Dunn: Okay, great.

The reason I’m calling is as the executive director of the Foster Care Council of Canada. We advocate for transparency and accountability in child welfare. Specifically, there are two parts of the act I want to speak to. This will be pretty brief.

The part that I’m going to speak to is the section with regard to members. Currently, the Corporations Act that’s in existence today—it’s sections 306 and 307—allows members under 306 and non-members under 307 to request the list of existing members for advocating for policy changes, bylaw changes, things like that. You request a list of the members and then you write a letter to the members asking them to requisition the board for a meeting to discuss the issue or policy that you want to be changed. Under section 295, that’s where the process gets done.

1430

Under the new bill, Bill 65, it proposes to remove external input, so now it will be members only who can request a list of members. In many non-profit circumstances that might be okay and completely fine, because who else should have concerns? In the case of children’s aid societies, they are non-profit corporations that are mandated into people’s lives, so you have people who have their lives seriously affected by them and have no choice other than, at many times, to advocate for changes to policies through membership requests for a list of members. This will remove that ability for them, because the corporation of the CAS often does not allow people who are involved with CAS to become members. This is a common thing I’m hearing across the province.

With the lack of Ombudsman oversight of children’s aid societies, with the Child and Family Services Review Board, which is a complaint body that actually has no power, because it’s exempted from the powers and procedures act that most tribunals have—as you know and as many people are aware, the tribunal only has administrative power; it doesn’t deal with a lot of the issues that are seriously affecting lives. So I’m hoping that there is an additional section similar to 307(1), (2), (3), (4), (5) and (6) of the Corporations Act that exists today that could be added for non-members to request lists.

Charges have been brought against Sudbury children’s aid before. I’m currently involved in charges against the Ottawa CAS, prosecuting for failing to furnish a list of their members. So there are issues that need to be addressed by non-members, because if they exclude people who are advocating for changes simply because of that fact, then it’s yet another level of accountability that’s not available.

That’s my presentation for today, and I’m open to any questions.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you very much. Are you finished with your presentation, Mr. Dunn?

Mr. John Dunn: Oh, just subsequent to that—sorry, yes, but I have one last thing. Part of the act, I believe, talks about the different types of non-profits, and I think that maybe you could create another type—for example, children’s aid—where citizens’ lives are forcefully affected by a certain type of non-profit. Subsequent to this, maybe we could talk about it at another time or through questions.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Dunn. We’ll now move to the Liberal side. Mr. Johnson.

Mr. Rick Johnson: I just want to thank you for your presentation. You’ve raised some interesting situations and points. Thank you.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thanks, Mr. Johnson. The PC side: Mr. Arnott or Ms. Munro, as you wish?

Mr. Ted Arnott: Thank you very much for your presentation. It’s sincerely appreciated.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Arnott. Mr. Kormos.

Mr. Peter Kormos: Thank you, Mr. Dunn. There is some hope, because you’ll recall the government’s enthusiastic reappointment of Ombudsman AndrĂ© Marin. Mr. Marin, as Ombudsman, has strongly advocated for Ombudsman oversight of children’s aid societies. The government’s dragged its heels on that one, but if Mr. Marin keeps up the pressure, I suspect that Mr. McGuinty would be pleased to accept his recommendations in that regard.

Children’s aid societies are, in my view, a bit of an anachronism. I’m an advocate of the abolition of children’s aid societies, of putting that service under direct government control. That’s where it belongs and that’s where there’s political and individual accountability and responsibility. So keep up with your advocacy, please.

Mr. John Dunn: Thank you.

The Chair (Mr. Shafiq Qaadri): Thank you, Mr. Kormos, and thank you, Mr. Dunn, for your deputation on behalf of the Foster Care Council of Canada.

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