Rosario Marchese (an Ontario MPP) asked the Minister of Children and Youth Services about the need for Ombdusman oversight of Children's Aid Societies and as per usual, the Minister responded by stating that the Child and Family Services Review Board (CFSRB.ca) is an independant body which deals with complaints by CAS clients, all the while, Minister Broten had the knowledge that the Board has had its hands tied with regard to child welfare cases which have any court involvement what so ever, in that the court ordered, several months ago, that the Board has no jurisdiction over CAS cases if they have any court involvement what so ever. (see decision here) This is a bad decision, that the CFSRB has even taken to court to appeal and is now awaiting the outcome of the appeal.
The Minister does not mention this to the public, instead stating that complaints are being dealt with. This is not true. As an example of complaints not being dealt with, a client of a CAS in Ottawa has attempted to complain tothe Ottawa CAS about various issues such as illegal search and seizure of her personal possessions from her purse (cell phone) and other behavioural issues, only to be told by the Board in a letter that they can not deal with her case because she has already appeared before a court in connection with her child protection case.
Then, to make matters worse, the Society, knowing the Board has no jurisdiction due to this bad court decision, alegedly refuses to form an Internal Complaint Review Panel as per section 68 of the CFSA and the associated Regulations, leaving the official complaint procedure null and void.
In the bad court decision, the judge says the following:
"The Society submits, as a general principle, that any matter that could be raised before the Court in a child protection proceeding must be regarded as “before the Court” for the purposes of section 68.1(8)(a) of the Act."
" The Society’s position is that once the child protection proceedings commenced in respect of the respondent’s children with their apprehension by the Society, all matters pertaining to the Society’s treatment of the respondent and her children were before the Court for purposes of section 68.1(8)(a) and, therefore, were beyond the jurisdiction of the Board. The Society takes the position that the Legislature intended section 68.1 to apply only to child protection cases that proceed without court involvement."
The court responds in part as follows:
"Once child protection proceedings are before a court, the protection of procedural fairness that is afforded interested parties under the Act takes the form of procedural fairness in the court hearings."The Court also continues to say:
It is irrelevant that any particular issue was not put before the Court. In this case, the fact that the issues complained of were not actually put before the Court was a decision of the respondent. That does not mean that she was deprived of natural justice. It means only that the Court was the forum for addressing her concerns regarding procedural fairness in the context of a substantive court hearing and that she chose not to avail herself of that opportunity.
The Court says that the Board's view is that:
"unless the Board has the power to review the use of court delegated discretion by a child welfare agency, there will be no body vested with that authority and no oversight over issues relating to communication to, and treatment of, parents when decisions are made."
"We disagree with this conclusion. Ultimately, the Court is the final arbiter in respect of these issues and is available to the respondent if she is dissatisfied with the action or inaction of the Society. All such matters are therefore before the court for the reasons described above."
"We do not believe that the Legislature intended that the jurisdiction of the Board was to be decided by a decision of an interested party to make his or her representations known to a child welfare agency rather than to a court. The Act, as well as the common law, provides that all substantive issues, including the exercise of any statutory or other authority granted to a child welfare agency, are ultimately matters for the court. There is no reason why the jurisdictional issue of the Board’s authority should not be similarly determined."
All Ontario MPP's need to be aware of this important issue, and anyone who has recieved a letter from the CFSRB stating that their matter can not be dealt with by the Board because of a bad court decision, should mail or fax their letters to MPP Rosario Marchese's Office or e-mail scans of the letter. Your personal information you should ask to keep private if you wish, or tell him in your correspondence that he can identify you since he has protection from Parliamentary Privilege.
Contact his office today with a copy of your letter.
MPP Rosario Marchese
Rosario Marchese Trinity--Spadina
Queen's Park Room 116, Main Legislative Building, Queen's Park
Toronto, Ontario M7A 1A5
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