To the Expositor:
I write this letter as an individual in response to having had many concerned persons phone and express genuine thoughts of uncertainty and frustration on what appears to me as a topic that is constantly coming up beyond the normal and now, I am convinced, needs to be addressed.
This concern is in relation to the activity/relationship of the police and social services agencies such as the Children’s Aid Society accessing our schools and the children within. These students are placed in the care of our schools with the understanding of implied parental consent. Questions I receive are those such as ‘what is a parent/guardian’s rights and what are the rights/protections built in for parents/guardians and children themselves?’
Consider how many lives are ruined by ‘fishing trips’ and ‘social branding’ of innocent parents/grandparents and are borne out of acting and investigating on a ‘suspicion’ or ‘rumour mill.’ Many, many people have suffered marriage break-ups, a ‘no return’ to a happy marriage reconciliation when a non-credited agency is allowed to roam at will through their lives and homes.
First, it should be clearly understood that the Children’s Aid Society is not, nor has ever been, a government organization. Children’s Aid Societies across the province are private entities operating on their own, apart and at arm’s length from the government. These various agencies are paid\contracted by the government to execute and apply child protection services. It is my understanding that their workers must be registered by law with an Ontario college, such as are teachers, doctors, lawyers, nurses, and so on to ensure they are properly trained and monitored. I have yet, after asking in writing, to see evidence they are in fact registered with an accredited organization or college.
The government of the day has seen fit, despite the urgings of the Ontario Ombudsman, chosen not to require these agencies to be subject to the Ontario Ombudsman’s review of examination and accountability. Close examination and review of their ongoing activity (CAS) is most difficult to establish/investigate. The police is a separate matter, equally a concern to parents. Are the police accessing their children in a school? But there are laws that specifically direct and require the police to behave in a different manner when dealing with young people as described in the various federal and provincial regulations.
These regulations and guidelines are not limited to but include the Child Law Reform Act, The Criminal Code of Canada, the Young Criminal Justice Act, various provincial and federal acts and so on.
Statement-taking and interviewing young persons, more so in criminal and family matters, is a complete and different entity. It is one that deserves very careful consideration and attention to adhering to the rules our society has placed on them.
Persons/agencies entrusted with encountering our youth in such matters require special training and skills to interact with a young mind. As a general rule, there are no automatic rights entrusted to the police/CAS to interview young persons without parental\guardian permission. There are times when this can be done and is allowed and, yes, preferred but these constitute the exceptions.
Second, it should be clearly understood that both the social service agencies and the police, under certain specific and detailed circumstances, by law, may have unobstructed access to our children/youth. This process is in place and a legal requirement where they must report to and be accountable in such matters where they have exercised those extreme rights by setting aside ours and the child’s own rights. Used properly, this is a very valuable tool for the police/social agencies and one that is extremely necessary when exercised by these agencies/police.
Other than described above, neither the Child and Social Family Services agencies nor the police, have unrestricted access to our children, be they in school, at home or anywhere without ‘jumping a few hoops.’ Even more so, in a child’s home there is no provision for any agency to enter a private residence for the purposes of intervention in a family matter with the exception of very few and specific and detailed situations. Even then, the agency involved must return to a court of competent jurisdiction and document/report their invasion into the private lives of the children or their parents/guardians.
Be aware, should there be an existing court order or a life/threatening matter, unrestricted access is allowed, and rightfully so! If parents/guardians have a written agreement with a social service agency, there is no problem to cancel it as long as it did not arise out of a court agreed upon circumstance. I have necessary papers to cancel any agreement under those circumstances.
To my personal knowledge there is no school board in the province of Ontario that does not have policy involving access to our children in our schools written down step by step. To be clear, I fear that some contacts, in some circumstances, with the family unit, wherever it may be, is not according to the required legal process in Ontario.
In review to this point, I submit the following: First, neither the police nor the social services agencies (CAS) have any right to an open access to interview, intervene or access a young person, anywhere, subject to point; two, there are a few, very specific situations where they are allowed to do so, but are very few and very rare. These generally involve life-threatening incidents or incidents where evidence will not be available if emergency intervention is not done immediately, but once performed must be reported to a court of competent jurisdiction; third, access to your children by officials, be you a guardian or parent, may only be done with your express permission or order of a court. There are incidents where the intervention can be done, but only with a judicial order pre-intervention or, if not enough time for an agency to arrange for a court order and that intervention is required immediately, said agency must report immediately after an intervention to the court who issued the intervention.
In closing, I suggest the following when confronted by the police/social service agency or when you find out your child has been visited at a school without your permission.
First, if the police or CAS requires or requests to enter your home or to interview your child, ask them to write it down and quote the section of the legal statute they are acting under to allow them to do this and the nature of the complaint.
Second, if they (involved agency) refuse to write it down, ensure that the police are present in any event and ask them (police) to write down the fact that that you are required to allow the CAS access to your kids at school or otherwise.
Third, after making the request to the police or the CAS and they still insist they can do so, let them and do not obstruct them. Take pictures and help them if you can. When done, seek out a lawyer. Ask for a receipt if anything is taken from your home or school property.
Fourth, write your child’s school and advise them if you do not wish certain persons or the CAS or the police to have access to your children without proper legal process. If access to your child involves visitation rights called for in an agreement in a court, provide the school with a certified copy of that agreement to the school.
I can pretty much assure you that the police do not violate the trust placed in them and risk losing being welcomed and trusted by the schools.
My concern is that if access to the child is not carried out in accordance to our laws in force in Ontario, this will create a violation of the charter of rights claim by an accused and return the child to a possible abusive home. I hope that all those who would abuse children will be caught and dealt with to the extent that the law allows.