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On October 30, 2006 Linda Youngson and Thelma Gillespie went to Ottawa to make a presentation to the Senate Committee on Human Rights. Paid for by the federal government we might add.
This committee examines and reports back to the United Nations upon Canada’s international obligations in regards to the rights and freedoms of children. A document that Canada signed on to in 1991. Within that document are concerns for the rights and freedoms of children in the care of the state. This presentation was televised on the government channel CPAC.
You can view the transcript of this presentation on the senate website at http://www.parl.gc.ca/39/1/parlbus/commbus/senate/Com-e/huma-e/12cv-e.htm?Language=E&Parl=39&Ses=1&comm_id=77
Linda Youngson and Thelma Gilespie gave reply to a number of statements given to this same committee by George Savoury, Senior Director of Family and Children's Services, Government of Nova Scotia when senate committee representatives came to Halifax June 16th, 2005. You can view this original meeting at this address http://www.parl.gc.ca/39/1/parlbus/commbus/senate/Com-e/huma-e/12cv-e.htm?Language=E&Parl=39&Ses=1&comm_id=77 Ms Youngson and Ms Gillespie were there to make it very clear that the statements given by this government representative were “inaccurate and misleading” and that they had “a very different story to tell”.
This was not the first time that Ms Youngson was pointing out the failings of the government of Nova Scotia - In December of 2005, she and another fellow advocate, Marilyn Dey, successfully took the Minister of Community Services to force him to put together a committee to review the Children and Family Services Act and its implementation as mandated by law by Section 88 of that same Act. As it turned out, when this committee was in Halifax in June 2005, George Savoury deceived this senate committee into believing that this committee was indeed up and running, when, in fact, this committee, had not met since 1996.
Below is the presentation followed by the documents that were filed to the senate committee with this presentation. Seven senators were present at this presentation: Senator and Chair Raynell Andreychuk, and Senators Viviene Poy, Noel Kinsella, Nancy Ruth, Jim Munson (formerly CBC), Romeo Dallaire (our war hero from Ruwanda who wrote the Book Shake Hands with the Devil) and Sandra Lovelace-Nicolas (a hero for First Nations women- by making complaint to the United Nations so that Canada was shamed into giving women and their children back their rightful Indian staus)
Ms Youngson wants it known that the senate committee gave the presenters the respect of a quorum. Currently the people who are making presentations to the Minister's committee here in Nova Scotia that reviews the CFS Act are NOT being given this respect. The quorum for this committee is 8 but as few as 3 committee members are showing up for the presentations.
Presentation to Human Rights Senate Committee in Ottawa
Honorable Senators. My name is Linda Youngson and this is my colleague Thelma Gillespie. We are both from Nova Scotia. First of all, we would like to thank you for giving us this opportunity to bring our concerns to this committee. For a number of years we, along with others, have been working as advocates for families who are in conflict with the Nova Scotia Minister of Community Services over apprehensions of our precious children and grandchildren. In this work, we attempt to give families encouragement and direction as they wind their way through the system. We go to court appearances as court observers, and accompanying families to various meeting and appointments as support persons.
We also conduct ongoing research, pulling up reports, papers, and government documents that provide evidence of what we believe is systemic corruption that has surrounded the apprehension of children in Nova Scotia for generations. In addition, we have established three blog sites where we are in the process of posting our findings. We also maintain contact with individuals in the media, encouraging them to exert their responsibility of taking the government to task to encourage government accountability to the people.
In September of 2005, we stumbled across the hansard of this committee where Senators Mercer, Pearson, Oliver, and Andreychuk, come to Halifax on June 16, 2005, to gather information from various provincial government representatives.
We were disappointed that we, who have a very different story to tell, only heard about this meeting after the fact. We were not aware of the senators coming to Halifax before hand. In fact, when I visited my local MPs office, they were astounded to hear that their own Liberal senator was in town for this hearing and they expressed to me that they had not even heard of this meeting.
In the future, this committee needs to ensure that the process for public participation is secure. We, the people, not just government representatives, need to be heard. For the sake of our children, and for the sake of the families, that politicians claim to support, the voice and the evidence of the people needs to be guaranteed in committees such as these.
In general, the representatives of the Nova Scotia government are in the habit of pulling out sections of the Nova Scotia Children and Family Services Act, as it suits them, quoting the Act, and speaking of it as if they actually follow it. In his submissions to this committee and in answer to direct questions from this committee George Savoury, Senior Director of Family and Children's Services, Government of Nova Scotia made statements that were inaccurate and misleading.
Firstly, he made reference to Section 88 of the Act, whereby the Minister of Community Services is mandated to appoint an Advisory Committee to review the Children and Family Services Act and its implementation on an annual basis, as if this committee was an ongoing reality. However, the truth is that since the Act came into being, in 1990, this committee had only been formed twice, in 1993 and 1996.
In December of 2005, exactly six months after this senate committee meeting in Halifax, another advocate, Marilyn Dey, and I took the Minister to court to force him to follow this section of the Act. Though we won, to understand the mindset of this government, it is important to note that the legal argument the government brought to this case was that “The Crown only owed its duty to the Crown” and that individual citizens, like Ms Dey and I, did not have the right to bring the government to court to obey it’s own laws!
It is only when children are criminalized, sometimes by individuals within the very system that is suppose to be looking after their “best interests”, that they are allowed criminal lawyers. But the provincial government has stymied all attempts, that we are aware of, when children attempted to get lawyers for their cases against the Minister of Community Services. Knowing this, we were surprised when Senator Oliver, assuming this right was being allowed, suggested a lower age of 8 or 9 years of age.
Thirdly, Mr. Savoury praised the newsletter, The Voice, which is written by youth in the “care” of Halifax Children‘s Aid . However, this publication represents no voice at all, for the true voice of the children, that shone through in their original publication, titled Listen! The System: It Doesn’t Work For Us, has been suppressed and censored. We believe the current newsletter is no more than a glitzy, glossy propaganda tool for the Minister of Community Services.
Thank you honorable senators. My name is Thelma Gillespie and I will continue to itemize our concerns.
When Mr. Savory spoke before the senate committee in June of 2005, he also mentioned a recent presentation of grandparents before the legislature's Community Services Committee. While speaking on this he glibly mentioned that “most of these situations occur because of divorce proceeding” . Well, it so happens, besides my advocacy work on this subject, I am also a founding member of the Grandparenting Rights Association, the very group to which Mr. Savory was referring. As a member of this group, I want to make it very clear that our concerns stem not only from families torn asunder due to divorce but also families torn asunder due to the actions of the Minister of Community Services when children have been unjustly apprehended!
In conjunction with the rights of the grandparents, I would also like to make it clear, that contrary to Mr. Savoury’s comment that qoute: “The Children and Family Services Act requires that we always consider relatives as our first place placement for children as opposed to foster care or residential care“ unquote , this is not being done. In fact, relatives who come forth to request placement are often subjected to shoddily executed assessments which are then used against them.
Both Ms Youngson and I had the assessments in our cases reviewed by well respected PHD psychologists and both of these psychologists were appalled by the bias, unethical, and improperly done assessments. And though we both filed formal complaints to the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology, both our complaints were dismissed, with no right of appeal. In addition, we were both informed, in writing, not to bother asking any questions concerning our cases because no replies would be forthcoming.
Mention was also made by Mr. Savoury of the Ombudsman’s office. Well I do have a few things to say about this as well. Both Ms. Youngson and I had 3 lengthy meeting with this office. At the time, they were advertising their office on websites and with pamphlets as representing children in care, but through these meeting, and researching their financial statements, we discovered that they had not been doing so. We also discovered that they had no mandate and no desire to get jurisdiction over the children in foster care, where the youngest and most vulnerable children are placed.
We have no faith in the ombudsman’s office, for years, they sat on allocations of money that they were to spend overseeing the rights of these children in the care of the state, but they chose not to take jurisdiction. And since we brought their financial reports to their attention, they have since ceased to itemize a specific category for the children section in their financial statements.
Since these meetings with the Ombudsman’s Office, we have obtained government documentation that states that our children are currently being sent out of province to Alberta, and out of country to Utah. Since the Ombudsman’s office is not doing its job looking after our children’s rights in province, we have no reason to believe that they are looking after their rights when they are sent out of country.
Senators, we understand that you would like to take a good report back to the international committee concerning the rights and well being of our children in the care of the state, but you have an obligation to bring a balanced report that includes the voices of the families who have experienced the system first hand. We are not government representatives. We are families who love our children.
We are here to inform you that, in Nova Scotia, nothing in the system, concerning our children being apprehended by the state, is working and neither are any of the checks in balances, that are suppose to keep this system accountable, working either. We are currently lobbying for a general inquiry into Family Services/ Children Aid/ the government Agency in the province of Nova Scotia.
We have submitted a number of written documents (listed and hyperlinked below) to support and clarify the statements made in this presentation.
2. The Checks and Balances Not Working
3. Ombudsman's Office : More Gripes Please
4. Child Denied Right to Independent Lawyer
5 The Cry for Help that Went Unheard
6. They're Shipping our Children to UTAH!
Questions from the senators:
Senator Kinsella: What is the situation in Nova Scotia child protection unit? In the province of New Brunswick, there have been some bad experiences over the last 18 months. Indeed, some children were lost. What is the situation in Nova Scotia? Does that fall within the purview of your work?
Ms. Youngson: You are asking me a very broad, general question. The bottom line is that nothing is working as it should, and neither are any of the checks and balances that are supposed to be in place when families or parents are looking for recourse.
Senator Kinsella: The difficulty of coming to this branch of the Parliament of Canada is that we do not have jurisdiction over what goes on in the Province of Nova Scotia. I am curious to learn what you think this committee is able to do.
Ms. Youngson: My understanding is that there is a children's section concerning human rights about which you have to report to the UN; is that correct? My understanding is that this concerns children in the care of the state. I do not know of any children who are in the care of the state under the federal government; provincial governments have that responsibility. The bottom line is that you met with all the government representatives when your committee came to Nova Scotia. You heard what they had to say. We do not agree with anything that the provincial representative said concerning the children's state. We are concerned with the Children and Family Services Act.
One of the main reasons Marilyn Dey and I took the Minister of Community Services to court over section 88 is because it is just the tip of the iceberg. We have been court observers for years and we know the act. Both Marilyn Dey and I applied to be part of the committee and of course, we were blocked even though we had the qualifications. Recently, they posted an advertisement in the paper calling for the public to make submissions to the committee. What can I tell you except everyone like us had something critical to say about the government? We were originally given communications saying call such-and-such a number and we will schedule in a time. When these people phoned, they were given new qualifications to meet with the committee. One of the new qualifications was that if they wanted to talk to this committee, they had to find the part in the act to which it applies. Number one, normal citizens of Canada do not know the act. The job of the committee is to put two and two together. And there may very well be things that the act does not cover. There may be things missing in the act. Maybe we should make some new amendments.
When I talked to the person who was scheduling I was told, ``Linda, you have made such wonderful submissions. You have pointed to all the specific points of the act that concern you. You do not need to come to the committee.'' I said, ``Oh yes, I do, and oh yes, I will.'' At this moment, we still have not been advised of our scheduled meetings. I will believe it when I see it.
Senator Kinsella: Is this a review on the Nova Scotia Children and Family Services Act?
Ms. Youngson: It is the reason why Marilyn Dey and I took the minister to court. It states, ``The minister shall, on an annual basis, put together a committee to review the Children and Family Services Act and its implementation.'' There are supposed to be two parents on the committee. I say that it should include grandparents, too. It says, ``Parents who have had their children in care or have had their children in fear of care.'' What I can tell you is that the people who were appointed were all the inside boys and girls. As I said, both Marilyn Dey and I have a lot of knowledge of the act and experience as to how this act is implemented. We applied because of our experience in advocacy work, but we were denied. People who did not even know the act existed said, ``They gave us this piece of paper. I think it is the act. They told us to read it.'' Those people were appointed to the committee.
Senator Kinsella: To find a link between this particular piece of legislation under the jurisdiction of the Nova Scotia legislature and our committee one might look to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. This committee is seized with that convention. The periodic reports submitted by Canada are prepared with input from all jurisdictions, which obviously includes the Government of Nova Scotia. The Department of Canadian Heritage has been putting together the Canadian report with all the components from the various jurisdictions. When that report is tabled at the United Nations, the committee that reviews it is anxious to hear from non-governmental organizations. When you look at the Canadian report, look at section such-and-such that deals with Nova Scotia.
The Chairman: I thank you for that comment. Our task is to look at the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. When we went to Nova Scotia it was to contact as many people as possible who understood the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child and who wished to speak to that issue. Consequently, our list included some academics, some NGOs, and probably more of the provincial people who have been part of the process. Part of our task is to educate people about the convention and the ways and means that they can make input to it. You have quite properly put it forward in that context. I thank you for that.
Senator Kinsella: Ms. Gillespie and Ms. Youngson bring forward the fact that real life issues are falling through the cracks in terms of the convention. We are indebted to you for that. . . .
Ms. Youngson: As far as assessments are concerned, I have covered the concerns we have in the documentation I filed with this committee. We have no confidence in assessments at all. We see that mental health care providers in Nova Scotia are eager to maintain the lucrative contracts they signed with the government. We had a well-known and respected Ph.D. psychologist conduct a public speaking session for us, and she spoke very candidly about her concerns with respect to the children's aid services government agency responsible for these children. Ms. Gillespie attended that presentation as well. The psychologist stated that as much as there is a problem across the province, there is a specific concern in the Halifax-Dartmouth area. We do not have any problem understanding why there is a great concentration of mental health care workers in the Halifax-Dartmouth area who need to be fed and who need to pay their bills.
Two different Ph.D. psychologists reviewed two assessments completed in different cases and they were appalled. There was nothing good, ethical, right or correct about those two assessments. Let me provide an example, and I will try to explain it such that it is as understandable as possible.
In one of these cases, a test was administered and our psychologist stated that they did not have the right to administer that test. Before administering that particular test, one must be administered a level 1 test. If the level 1 test indicates there is a problem, then and only then does one have the right to administer a level 2 test. A level 2 test has no "NORMAL" in it at all. It does not matter to whom the test is given; the person will end up with a negative psychological label. If you do not give the level 1 test that clarifies or verifies that you have the right to administer the level 2 test, what are you doing? That is a deliberate attempt to put a negative psychological label on a person.
The Chairman: Senator Dallaire, we are 10 minutes behind and we have the next panel waiting. As usual, we are short of time.
I want to thank our witnesses, Ms. Youngson and Ms. Gillespie, for attending. You have made your point that the systems are in place, but they need to be implemented appropriately, if Canadian citizens are to profit from that law. That is certainly on the record, and we thank you for your appearance here today.
We have also given you a suggestion that with respect to child protection issues, there is a report that goes to the United Nations and it can give you a further avenue for expressing your concerns where provincial authorities are in question.
Documents filed with the Senate Committee:
1.Concerns and Recommendations
By Linda Youngson B.A., B.Ed., M.Ed.
Though we have serious concerns about the system that oversees the children who are taken into the “care” of the state, we also have extreme problems with the checks and balances that are suppose to be in place when families begin to understand that the system is not working the way it should and they are attempting to redress the injustices while their cases are before the court, or to get redress once their cases are out of court. The apparent checks and balances which we have identified as not working the way they should include:
- The family lawyers representing the family, the non-existence of independent lawyers for the children
- The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society through which one is suppose to be able to make complaint against the lawyers,
- The Ombudsman’s Office-Children’s Section,
The assessments of the children and family members, and the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology,
- The Minister of Community Services’ Advisory Committee, and
Family and Children’s Lawyers
( See also attached document: One Ongoing Futile Attempt to Obtain an Independent Lawyer for a Child Over 12 Years Old as Mandated by the Nova Scotia Children And Family Services Act )
Family lawyers are doing nothing concrete to fight for their clients or to battle the corrupt system that has engulfed the families. Neither are they dealing honestly with their clients. Indeed, it is not uncommon, when families raise specific concerns with their lawyers, that they receive promises that these issues will be raised in court. However, come court time, these promises are often ignored and it is not unusual for families to find out later that an agreement was struck between the government’s lawyers and the family’s lawyers, behind the family’s backs, without their knowledge or approval.
In addition, family lawyers are doing nothing to protect their clients from the shoddy assessments used against the family. They do nothing to prepare their clients for these assessments, nor are they following up with the clients to insure that they were properly conducted. Though there are many legitimate legal arguments lawyer’s can raise against specific tests, the interviews in these assessment, the way they are conducted, given, written, and interpreted, the family lawyers in Nova Scotia are doing nothing.
Instead, the family lawyers are passively allowing the government to lead the case, leaving the families no legitimate representation or defense. Worse still, it can be stated that most of these lawyers, by either their actions or inactions, are actually working against their own clients. In all our years of advocacy work, we have never found one family court lawyer that we would recommend to a family. It makes no difference if these are legal aid lawyers (whom we see as NOT being independent from the provincial government system and therefore in conflict of interest) or well-paid family lawyers hired by the families. We see that they are all equally shirking their duty to properly represent the families.
The families that seem to have the most success are those who, for whatever reason, have hired non-family court lawyers. This pervasive problem with family lawyers here in Nova Scotia, has lead us to only one conclusion: there is collusion and corruption between the family lawyers who are suppose to be protecting the rights of the family and the government of Nova Scotia that apprehends these children.
The inept representation of these lawyers leads to three possible outcomes, with many families sliding through all these outcomes in stages:
- The families passively allow themselves to be continually victimized by their own lawyers, naively believing that, despite the lawyer’s apparent inability to fight the case, that the Supreme Court Family Division justice or Family Court judge will see the all too apparent ineptness and justice will be done in court despite all this;
- They begin the endless succession of hiring and firing one lawyer after the other, as they slowly begin to realize that this is a systemic problem, not limited to one incompetent lawyer and/or;
- Out of frustration, they finally decide to self-represent, with the thought that at least they know they will not, knowingly, work against themselves.
The Children and Family Services Act states that children 12 years or older are suppose to have the ability to have their own independent lawyers in the court case concerning the Minister’s attempt to take them into custody. But as advocates we have never found a single child who was able to do so. Instead we have found families and children who have been told all sorts of lies, one after the other, in an attempt to waylay them and block this right. When one lie didn’t work, another would be thrown in its place.
These are just some of the problems and examples of desperation we have seen concerning this subject:
- Most children in “care” do not know that they have the right to have their own lawyer- No one is informing them of this right
- The governments lawyer’s argue against the children having their own lawyer based on the sole argument that 12 years old is too young (this is contrary to the act itself),
When parents request independent legal counsel for their children, they may be informed by the Agency and their own lawyers that the Minister’s lawyer is looking out for their best interests
- Parents have been told they cannot assist their child in any way to find their own lawyer,
Parents have been wrongly informed that the guardian ad litem’s lawyer is the child’s lawyer.
- Legal Aid certificates are denied non-legal aid lawyers to represent these children
The Legal aid office and lawyers have ignored communications from children looking for legal aid
- One parent approached a number of non-legal aid lawyers only to be told that there is no mechanism that they are aware of by which they can represent these children
- One child was so desperate to have her voice heard, she wrote a letter to the court concerning her wishes and had her mother file it in court for her. This was only done because the mother personally filed this herself. When the mother’s lawyer found out about this action, he strenuously attempted to retrieve it- He was unsuccessful and, in the end, this letter turned the case around for this mother and daughter.
The Nova Scotia Barristers’ Society
Bringing complaints before the Barristers’ Society is an option that few choose for a number of different reason. If families have fired a lawyer and still have their case before the court, they already have their hands full. Also, bringing complaint against one lawyer, while attempting to hire another makes it almost impossible to hire another, and working with another lawyer while making complaint can make the current lawyer very uncomfortable and has even led to verbal abuse against clients by their current lawyers.
If the case has finished and they have been lucky enough to get their child back, they are afraid to rock the boat because their experiences have taught them how powerful and unjust the system is, and they are well aware that, in retaliation, the system could easily re-victimize their families or the families of relatives or friends. And if they have lost their battle for their children, they are almost always emotionally and financially spend. And if they have not been lucky enough to hook up with fellow victims or genuine advocacy workers, they are unjustly shamed into silence.
And last but not least, many people do not file complaints because they have no confidence in the Society to do the right thing and see it as a waste of time and an additional drain on their emotions.
Let me quickly cite 2 complaints made to the Barristers’ Society. In one case, the former lawyer was hauled into court by the justice who was presiding over the ongoing case and was raked over the coals concerning 3 points. When complaint was made against the lawyer to the Barristers‘ Society, though a large number of evidentiary documents were listed in the original complaint, the Society only looked at 5, and then, very quickly, closed the case, citing 3 “cautions” against the lawyer. Though the lawyer was quietly removed from the legal firm she was working for, and she worked for a time in her mother’s real estate business, she later resurfaced working for the provincial Justice Department under a different name. (She is not the first person who has publicly gotten into trouble and eventually showed up working for the Justice Department.)
The other complaint concerned conflict of interest. After the case was finished, the Third Party, the maternal grandmother in the proceedings, stumbled upon official documentary evidence concerning her own lawyer, and one of the lawyer’s working for the provincial government agency in the case. Both of these lawyers had been involved in a private adoption that the mother had arranged 3 years earlier.
In this case, the mother had NOT bonded with the child, in part precipitated by the grief she felt over giving her first child up for adoption. It is important to note here that the adoption of this first child did NOT involve the Agency and was a private adoption.
Though both the maternal grandmother and the mother had originally requested services for this mother‘s “baby blues, these were never given. Instead, the mother was taken advantage of with the government Agency workers convincing the mother to give up her second child for adoption. This left the father and the maternal grandmother fighting against the Minister of Community Services, with the government taking every opportunity to create a rift between the mother and the rest of the family.
The documents found by the maternal grandmother showed that the original lawyer hired by the maternal grandmother had been her daughter’s lawyer for the previous private adoption and the government’s lawyer had been the lawyer representing the adopting parents. Put this together with the fact that the mother had made statements that she wanted the people who had adopted her first child, to adopt her second.
So, not one BUT two lawyers concerning this case with the Minister were in conflict of interest. The maternal grandmother’s argument was that neither lawyer had identified this conflict, and if she had known this conflict, she never would have hired the her lawyer in the first place, and she also would have challenged the right of the government’s lawyer to be in the case.
Incredulously, the Barristers’ Society declared that they saw no conflict of interest and the complaint was dismissed!
Ombudsman’s Office-Children’s Section
(See attached documents: More Grips Please and The Cry for Help that Went Unheard)
For years the Ombudsman’s Office was declaring that they were overseeing the rights of the children who were in the “care” of the state, on websites and text material, when this was indeed a fallacy.
Understand, we see this office as a conflict of interest - NOT independent. It is a provincial office, overseen by a retired RCMP official, Dwight Bishop, who was rigorously trained to protect the government.
In 2004, when a newspaper article about this office appeared in the paper, we decided to investigate further. Originally, just identifying myself as a citizen of Nova Scotia, I phoned the Ombudsman’s office and spoke with the head of the Children’s Section. In this conversation, this representative informed me that this office was there to protect the rights of the children who had been apprehended by the Children’s Aid Society, Family and Children’s Services and the government Agency, and that they were there to take any complaints the children might have against the system, their workers, or the foster parents.
Meanwhile our research of financial documents of the Ombudsman’s office posted on the website showed that this office had “NOT taken jurisdiction over the children in care”. After sourcing this information, we arranged to meet with the head of the Children’s Section,.
We were surprised that, now, in person we were being told that they indeed had NOT been representing the children who had been apprehended. Their excuse being that because they did not have jurisdiction over the children in the privately run Children’s Aid Society and Family and Children’s Services, they had NOT taken jurisdiction over the children they could, the children taken by the provincial government Agency.
This made NO sense - They chose to NOT take jurisdiction over the children they could because they did not have jurisdiction over them all! At this meeting, we were told that they planned on taking jurisdiction over all these children in the near future.
At a second meeting, since the Ombudsman office had made such a clear distinction between the privately run establishments and the government Agency, we though it might me important to ask specifically about the children in foster care. In response to our inquiries, we were informed that the Ombudsman’s Office did not have jurisdiction over the children in foster care, believing there was no need to do so.
But stop and think about this- the children are originally taken into care, through court action, by Children’s Aid/Services and the government Agency BUT then most of them, especially the youngest and the most vulnerable, are then put into foster care! This revelation meant that almost all the children taken into care by the state would NOT be represented by the Ombudsman’s Office- Children‘s Section.
When we explained the need for having this jurisdiction, with specific examples of abuse that we were aware of in the foster homes, the 2 women we were speaking to ended the meeting with the assurance that they now agreed that they did need to get jurisdiction over the children in foster care.
Imagine our surprise when we arrived for a third meeting to be told now, in no uncertain terms, that the Ombudsman’s Office saw no need to obtain jurisdiction over the children in foster care. Dwight Bishop, the ombudsman, himself, was in attendance at this meeting, completely dominating and controlling everyone. The other two women from the previous meetings sat at the table in total silent. And every time we attempted to speak, we were interrupted and spoken over.
We have since sourced government documents verifying that many of the children apprehended by the Minister are being sent out of province as well as out of country - One such place is Cinnamon Hills in UTAH in the United States. We also have documentation showing that the California government was so concerned about this facility in Utah that, at one point, they abruptly pulled funding for this this facility and immediately recalled all their children.
We are very concerned about the well-being and the whereabouts of these children - Once they have taken children into permanent care and shipped them out of country, who is watching out for these children? What, we ask, is the Ombudsman’s Office doing to protect their rights? What avenues of complaint do these children have to complain against the out-of-province and out-of-country facilities that they find themselves in?
We have no confidence in this Ombudsman’s Office to oversee the right and complaints of the children who have been apprehended by this province. It is not independent. This office has shown no desire to defend and represent these children . For years, they had been funded to do exactly this, yet they chose Not to take jurisdiction over any of these children.
We need a truly independent organization that really care about these children to take jurisdiction over these children who have been apprehended by the government.
Assessments and Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology
We have no confidence in assessments conducted either to justify apprehending a child in the first place or keeping a child in the system, whether these are assessment of the child or the family members. There is too many people making too much money with the assessments as well as the various mental health “services” proceeding and/or following these assessments. There is also concern that it also behooves the system, paid caregivers, foster parents and group home operators, as well as adopting parents, to have the children classified as “special needs” because then more funding is made available to them. And it is very important to note that there is a very tight connection between the government department responsible for apprehending these children and the mental health department. We are concerned that they encourage and financially feed off of each other.
Families have limited options fighting these assessments. As mentioned above, the lawyers of the families do nothing to fight the assessments, in fact, knowing the all too often dire outcomes of these assessments, they actually speed their clients on to submit to these assessments with the false expectation that “the sooner you submit to these assessments, the sooner you will get your child back”.
On the rare occasion when something is attempted to fight the assessments, it has only happened because the family is self-representing or they have put extreme pressure on their lawyer to do so. However, these actions by lawyers are limited and the families find themselves constantly battling their lawyers to do their job.
In one case, where the assessment against the mother was the main argument for taking the child away from her mother, her lawyer, who had a reputation of being “bulldog” in court, only submitted a half page letter by a psychologist in her defense!
In another case, the grandmother accused the assessors of deliberate misrepresentation of statements made by her and other supportive witness in the interview section of the assessment. An order to have the original handwritten interview notes presented in court within 10 days, was originally stalled with excuses of not having a working photocopier. This was eventually followed by a fraudulently produced handwritten document. Two to 3 months later, the assessors finally confessed to withholding the requested documents, but then, in a signed letter, they also confessed to shredding the all important documents - the proof that the grandmother would have had that the assessors had deliberately and fraudulently misrepresented her and her supportive witnesses!
The PHD psychologist who spoke strongly against all aspects of this assessments, including the wrong use of tests and an inappropriate testing process, as well as blatant bias, testified to the important fact that such original interview documents are to be retained with the file so that when psychologists, like her, or other officials are called to review the assessments they can go back to the original documentation on which the assessment is based.
In another case, knowing the deliberate misrepresentation of interview notes, a mother requested that tapes be made of the interviews. She valiantly fought for this right, but was adamantly refused. Later a well known and well respected local PHD psychologist, Carol Pye, in a public speaking appearance we arranged, candidly shared with us her grave concerns with assessments done for Children’s Aid/Services and the government Agency. In this presentation she spoke about the right and the importance of having interviews taped, to protect not only the person being interviewed but also the interviewer. We fear that the system in Nova Scotia is so corrupt, that they have no concern for protecting themselves for they are more then aware that the system is stacked against the families - not them. So, in the end, the right to tape interviews are denied because the evidence of these tapes could assist the families and be detrimental to the assessment services.
In yet another case, a mother knowing the abuse of these assessments, and fearing that the government was determined to have her child taken away at any cost because she had been publicly outspoken against the system, refused to submit to an assessment. This was consequently used against her. Though the mother was not found to have neglected or abused any child, her young child, who was still breastfeeding, was taken into permanent care.
When there are concerns about the assessments, the avenue of defense are limited. One option is to hire an independent psychologist to review the assessment. However, in order to do this one must first hire a psychologist with equal or superior credentials. Then one needs to find a psychologist who is willing to honestly speak up against his/her own colleagues. This is not an easy task . As, Rilda Van Feglan, the registrar of the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners, informed us, “this is a small province and the family of psychologists are small and everyone knows each other“
And last but not least, you need the funds to pay for this review and then pay for the psychologist’s appearance in court. Many of the people who are victimized are well selected: poor, single, and oftentimes separated from supportive family etc. Few can afford this defense.
But, and this is very important to note, even if a family does get this review of the assessment done, this expert testimony of a PHD psychologists speaking against the system is summarily dismissed. One such witness was even rudely dealt with by the justice, for daring to speak against the government’s psychologists.
The last resort is a complaint to the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology. However, to have even a hope in this process, one must first have had the assessment reviewed by a PHD psychologist. Only 2 women that we are aware of have made this complaint.
One woman approached this board a few years previous looking for redress. However, her right to file a formal complaint was never explained to her. At one point, Rilda Van Feglan, the registrar of Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology and Dr Wine a psychologist, together, wrote a letter to officials in Community Services and the Family Court requesting a new investigation. In this letter they chronologically citing the major events in this woman’s case including the names of a number of professionals who shared the concerns this woman was bringing forward. These names included a medical doctor, a psychiatrist, officials from Family and Children Services and the Agency of Community Services, and a well known and respected PHD psychologist from Ontario who testified in court for this family.
This woman had the assessments in her case reviewed by Dr Marlies Suderman a psychologist who was then the Director of Violence Prevention Services In London Ontario. This psychologist cites concerns of bias, inappropriate interview techniques, disregard for the voices of the children involved in the interviews, inappropriate interpretations of statements made by interviewees and test results.
The two women who filed individual formal complaints to the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology did so, at the same time, supporting each other. Over the course of a year these women asked the board a number of questions including clarification of the complaint process and the names of the people on the investigation teams - All innocuous but valid questions. But they were continually frustrated by a persistent avoidance to their questions. When a year had passed they were both suddenly sent written letters informing them that their complaints had been dismissed and were bluntly informed not to bother asking the board any questions concerning their cases because no answers would be given!
When they both filed letters to appeal the decisions, they were summarily informed that they had no right to appeal- BUT if the decision had gone the other way, the psychologists involved would have had the right to appeal.!
The next step would have been taking the psychologists to court to make them accountable through the court system BUT these women have NO confidence in the court system and have no intention of throwing good money after bad
So where we ask is the justice and redress?
The Minister of Community Services’ Advisory Committee
[See Section 88 from the attached document entitled Concern with Nova Scotia’s Children and Family Services Act (1990)]
According to Section 88 of Nova Scotia’s Children and Family Services Act (1990), the Minister of Community Services is suppose to appoint a committee on an annual basis to review the Act ands it implementation. Two of these members are suppose to be parents who have had their children in care or fear of having them placed in care.
When it was originally brought to the attention of the government, that this had only been done twice, in 1993 and 1996, the government then scandalously, and fraudulently claimed that they had also appointed this committee and done this work in 1999. Later, the government fraudulently claimed this committee also had been appointed in 2001. We have sourced the documents concerning these claims and we know the government’s claims are untrue.
After writing the Minister of Community Services twice concerning this negligence and receiving promises from the Minister that were not fulfilled, Marilyn Dey , and I, Linda Youngson took the Minister to court to force him to obey the act and appoint the committee.
It is important to note that when this went to trial, the government’s legal argument was that “the Crown only owed its duty to the Crown”, and that individual citizens like Ms Dey and I did not have the right to bring the government to court to make it obey its own laws. This is evidence of the arrogant mindset of this government. And this supports what we have been saying all along about the government and this Act - there is very little of the Act that they actually follow. This government believes that it is a law onto itself and that they are answerable to no one - not even to the people of this province.
Then there was some flurry in our province when the committee members were appointed -basically it seemed that only inside members and the friends of the government need apply. And though one of the qualifications to be a member of this committee was to have knowledge of the Act, we are aware that some of the “in crowd” didn’t even know the Act to see it when given copies to read.
Both Ms Dey and I applied for this committee, and, knowing this government, we were not surprised to find ourselves locked out. We have since reapplied for the following year.
The government then buried an advertisement in the newspaper inviting the public to make submissions or meet the committee to make presentations. The final dates for submissions and requests was October 20th, 2006. Though most of us had made our requests to meet the committee well in advance of this date, we were informed to phone in to get a specific date to meet the committee. Then, imagine our surprise, when, just days before this deadline, as we were phoning in to get our appointments, Lynn Cheek, the committee member placed in charge of scheduling, came up with a number of last minute qualifications to meet with the committee or make submissions.
People were told that they had to link anything that they wanted to bring before the committee with specific sections in the Act and when people who did not have computer connections asked for copies of the Act they were refused and those who did have computers were given such poor instructions that even one applicant, a writer and journalist gave up trying to find it.
Others were told outright by Lynn Cheek that it was her determination that their concerns did not line up with any section in the Act - First of all, we are well aware that Ms Cheek is not familiar with the Act herself and she is NOT qualified to make that determination arbitrarily. In addition, it is possible that important concerns dealing with Children’s Aid/Services, the Agency, the children in care, the court process, etc are not presently covered by sections of the Act. In this case, the committee needs to be mindful of possible amendments that may be needed.
I, myself, was informed by Ms Cheek that because my submission was so thorough including specific references to the various sections of the Act that I did not need to meet with the committee! So it seemed that whether one complied with the last minute requirements or not, Ms Cheek was determined to keep our voices out of the committee.
And last but not least: though the original advertisements for the public participation gave only a fax number and e-mail address, Ms Cheek, only days before the deadline, was suddenly stating that any new request now had to be made through the mail “with a stamp“! !
However, kudos to the media for doing their part in setting this government straight. After we spoke with the media, the media immediately contacted Ms Cheek on her direct phone line. Within hours her tone had changed and we now understand that we will be given times to meet with the committee - But only after the committee decide on new dates to fit us all in. From this, I gather, they had planned on successfully keeping us out.
(See the attached article - The Cry for Help that Went Unheard)
We are tired of knocking on the doors of politicians who pretend concern and then do nothing. One politician who recently retired from provincial politics candidly informed one of our advocates that even though we raise valid concerns, we would not get anywhere because our issues were not “vote getters” .
Shame on our politicians when they ignore legitimate cries for assistance. There have been many. In 2001 the youth under the “care” of the Halifax Children’s Aid put together a Newsletter entitled The System: It Doesn’t Work For Us. In this newsletter, through graphic drawings, collages, and articles the cry for help is clear.
It is apparent that these youth were encouraged to have a voice, but though all the politicians of the day were given copies of this newsletter, not a single one responded to the cry that so blatantly screamed from its pages. Like the people who looked upon the naked Emperor who paraded around in his “new clothes“ invisible to everyone, these politicians chose not to rock the political boat by acknowledging what was actually within the pages of this newsletter.
We implore this senate committee not to ignore our concerns as you write your report for the United Nations. We understand that you would like to bring “tidings of great joy” to the international community in regards to Children’s Rights in Canada. But you must bring the whole truth of the situation of our children to the international community. We are not government or government representatives. We wield no great power and carry no swaying influence unless you count the hearts and tears of families who love their children, families that still cling to the belief that someday the injustices in this country will be righted for the sake of our children. You have a responsibility to bring forth our voice, the voice of individuals citizens, and families of Canada who have a very different story to tell.
3. More Gripes Please?
I am so frustrated. . . . and so tired. I have just returned from a 2 ½ hour meeting with the Ombudsman’s Office of Nova Scotia. This meeting, the third of a series of meetings with this office since August of 2004, has manifested the roller coaster downturn that unfortunately we, who are trying to fight the system, have come to expect. As Thelma and I walked the hallway after the meeting we were already discussing other avenues to pursue. “We are resistant. Knock us down and we will pop right back up again” I defiantly declared as we headed for the elevator. Like those carnival games you see on TV. Pop the pegs down with a mallet and they pop right back up again!
It wasn’t that everything that was said at this meeting was negative, but at the beginning of the meeting the Ombudsman, Dwight Bishop, wasted valuable time expressing to us the wonderful “evidence” of the good works of the Foster Care system that had been revealed to him at one of their presentations . Yes a propaganda presentation! Some of the people in our group, I included, had already experienced such propaganda meetings.
“They are doing a splendid job. There is no need for us to get involved with them” the Ombudsman resounded. To me, this was mind-boggling! For a man whose job it was to hear complaints against municipal and provincial government offices and establishments, it was bizarre to hear him defend these people. (We discoveried that the Ombudsman, Dwight Bishop, was a retired RCMP office - a person who is rigorously trained to protect the government at all costs!) Such expressions devalued our horrendous experiences , and left us sincerely wondering if we had come to the right place.
Personally, except for the last few minutes of our 2 1/2 hour meeting, I was noticeably and purposely ignored by the Ombudsman. The ombudsman would not even look at me, steadfastly staring at Thelma, even when I attempted to interject. In fact, whenever I spoke, his gaze on Thelma intensified, and he interrupted me like I was totally invisible. At one point, I remember rolling my eyes and I mouthing to the assistant ombudsman, who had been so kind and attentive to us in the last meeting, “He’s totally ignoring me.” After the meeting, Thelma expressed to me that she believed he was “afraid” to speak to me. By this I gathered, that my reputation as a knowledgeable speaker had proceeded me and that he had no intention of verbally engaging with me.
Well now that I have let out a little steam, let me tell you how we got to this third visit.
Over time, a number of people I had connected with over our common concerns about this corrupt system had, now and then, brought up the subject of the ombudsman’s office. “The ombudsman’s office. They’re paid by the government! How are they going to help with our concerns against the government system” was the general reply. Years previous, Thelma had gone to this office, taking in all her documentation but they did nothing to assist her.
As for the alleged existence of a “Children’s” Ombudsman’s office, well that just seemed to be a fable-of-fantasy. There had always been whispers of such an office but no one seemed to know if it really existed. Even the people at Dalhousie Legal Aid didn’t seem to know. But, though rumors of the existence of a Children’s Ombudsman’s office would surface from time to time, none of us thought it worth our while to expend energy searching for this elusive holy grail sponsored by the very government that was victimizing us.
However, on July 15, 2004, a most amazing article appeared in the local newspaper. Ombudsman: More grips please the story banner read. Above the four-columned story two serious faces peered out of the paper, strangely unified by their somber gazes despite their physical differences. One was a tall distinguished white haired gentleman, perfectly groomed, with a well-trimmed mustache, white shirt and conservative, tidy, checked tie. The other was an unusually young looking woman, shorter, with dark wind-tossed hair, sporting an open collared shirt with a crew necked shirt beneath. To the right of these two, was a second woman, short haired, with glasses, a dark business jacket and a white blouse. Her eyes seemed to twinkle and her smile shone so that the contrast of her expression made me wondered how she had managed to get into a picture with these two grave grumblies .
Supposedly these three, the ombudsman, Dwight Bishop; the representative of the Children’s Section (the wind tossed lassie); and the woman overseeing the new division handling complaints from seniors (the sparkling smiler); were out on a whirlwind tour across Nova Scotia, attempting to drum up more business for the ombudsman’s office. At first glance, this sounded most excellent, but the details in the story revealed something different. These people were going to their regular pit stops, the youth detention centres and other institutions connected with the Justice Department, and instead of informing the general public about their existence and their services, they were meeting with municipal mayors and the people in municipal executive offices, they very people they are suppose to handle complaints against!
All of us connected with this struggle were aghast! If it was more business they wanted, all they had to do was to start helping the children in care, and their families. The concerns in the metro area alone, we felt, would keep them more than busy. This office seemed more interested in advertising themselves to the government than informing the people who have been victimized. Basic question: how can people access assistance if they do not even know it is there to begin with?
I must admit, this chance article in the paper confounded and fired me up, so much so , that, for the first time, I decided to delve into the ombudsman office a bit more. As a result, I was went on a web search expedition, slowly unearthing all kinds of interesting information about this office. Of particular interest was a posting on the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman website declaring they did indeed give assistance to children in the care and custody of the province.
This posting read:
Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman Children’s Section
If you are a child or youth in the care or custody of the Province of Nova Scotia or you have an interest in the programs and services provided to children and youth in provincial facilities . . .
The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman Children’s Section may be able to help you.
Printed from http://www.gov.ns.ca/ombu/Child_Ombud/default.asp
It seemed totally strange that I had been connecting with victimized families for five years now, and the existence of the Ombudsman’s Children’s Section had been nothing more than mist in the wind, yet here they were boldly declaring themselves as defenders of children in care on the internet. At this point, I decided to make an exploratory phone call to the Ombudsman’s Office, Children’s Section, to get clarification of their assistance for children in care.
As a result, I spoke with the wind tossed lassie, the young lady who worked in the Children’s Section. Not wanting the reputation I seemed to have made for myself within government circles to influence the answers, I star 67ed my phone and identified myself only as a Nova Scotia citizen who wanted to know a bit more about the office, what they did, and their jurisdiction. To begin with, I let her ramble on in general areas that did not particularly interest me before gently steering her to the information I was really interested in. Then, I casually asked the questions I wanted answered. In response, I was told that the ombudsman’s office Children’s Section was there to handle complaints from children who had been removed from their parents and had been placed in the care of the province, whether they had complaints about Children Services, a case worker, or a foster parent. I was also told they were also there to help the families of these children if they had any concerns or complaints about the system. I was careful to get her to repeat herself, and reflect back to her my understanding of what she had said so that there would not be any misunderstanding on my part. Then I sincerely but nonchalantly thanked her for the talk and ended the conversation.
But all that glitters is not gold! After this initial contact, I sourced out additional information that informed me that this office was not implementing their jurisdiction over the children in care! This included three significant documents. The first two were the last two financial statements of the Ombudsman’s office Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman, Annual Accountability Report for the Fiscal Year 2001/02 and Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman, Annual Accountability Report for the Fiscal Year 2002/03.
The first report declared: “the Office [Ombudsman’s Children’s Section] was under spent by $201,248.05 due to the delay in the implementation of the Children’s Ombudsman’s service to children in care of the government (Community Services, residential Child-Caring Facilities)”.
The second, report stated: “the Office of the Ombudsman was under spent [by $124,000] because jurisdiction issues have delayed the implementation of the Children’s Section service to children in care of the government.”
The third document, It’s Time to Break the Silence: Creating Meaningful Access to Rights and Advocacy Services for Young People in Care in Ontario, was as a scathing report against the Child Advocacy Office in Ontario (the equivalent to our Ombudsman’s Office, Children’s Section in Novas Scotia). This document, published by Defense for Children International - Canada 2003, an international organization formed in response to the United Nations adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, includes specifics about the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman, Children’s Section:
"The Children’s Section of the Nova Scotia Ombudsman was established through the ombudsman’s power of delegation under the Ombudsman’s Act in June 1999. The ombudsman delegated a Children’s Ombudsman and a group of field officers to staff the section. . . Although the Children’s Ombudsman’s service mandate also includes young people in child protection care and secure treatment, a multi-agency agreement to monitor and investigate services within child protection facilities has not yet been implemented. "
Shortly after, on August 11, 2004, Thelma and I and a third woman arranged a meeting with the Ombudsman’s Office Children’s Section. As we waited in the seating area, noting the bullet-proof glass and the security doors, we passed disparaging remarks amongst ourselves about this sad state of affairs. Surely they knew there were disgruntle people out there. Disgruntled enough to warrant the installation of bullet-proof glass. As I panned the waiting room, I noticed two other closed doorways, one in the adjacent wall, the other, opposite the main doorway into the office. I assumed, wrongly, that one might be a washroom for the public.
Eventually a young, tall, soft spoken, well mannered African-Canadian gentleman came from the office, introduced himself and then ushered us through the opposite doorway into a windowless conference room. “A black hole with foul air”, Thelma would tell me later. “The black hole of Calcutta” I would clarify. But we didn’t even have time to sit down because, seeing that there weren’t enough chairs and not wanting to take the time to drag them in from behind the secured area, this man opened up the other mystery door, with turned out to be the “back door” to the office. So, we were ultimately ushered into “the inner sanctum” , we called it, a larger conference room with windows running along the length of one wall.
The wind-tossed lassie, the representative for the Children’s Section was waiting for us, introduced herself, as we settled around the large conference table. I hauled out my 2 large binders, from my briefcase, and, as the meeting began, both of the ombudsman reps took out their tidy little notebooks and, with heads bent, began meticulously notating every word. I recall feeling a bit ignored with their heads bent so, but not wanting to be outdone, and thinking it important to equalize the perception of power, that seemed to emanate from this diligent scribbling, I whipped out my notebook and began seriously making my own notations.
The first question I asked was what exactly were they doing about looking after the concerns and complaints of children who were taken in to care by Children’s Services. In reply, the woman began rambling about the office making visits to youth in detention centres. I interrupted her and repeated the question. She now proceeded to ramble off in a different direction, once again avoiding my specific inquiry. Again, I stopped her, repeated the same question, only to have her, again, ramble off onto the pathway of avoidance.
For the third time, I stopped her, again reiterating the question.
This time, there was a pause. I guess she finally realized that I was not going to let her avoid my question. She looked at me and now, matter-of-factly, told me that the jurisdiction over the children in care had not yet been implemented. Of course I had already known this, but I hadn’t expected them to blurt this out so early in the meeting, especially since this woman had already told me different when I had spoken with her on the phone just weeks earlier. But keep in mind, this woman did not know that I had been that unnamed “citizen of Nova Scotia” asking questions. I also sensed that she was using this matter-of fact tone to try to steer me away from this subject. But, of course, we honed in on the subject, and as we began to tell them our concerns, interjecting a number of questions, it was apparent that these two people were not comfortable. As a result it was quickly communicated to us that they wanted to arrange a meeting for us with the assistant ombudsman. We were obliging to this, but Thelma stated that she wanted us to see the head honcho, Mr. Ombudsman, Dwight Bishop, himself. No, we were told, that would not be possible, access to the ombudsman, had to “follow proper procedure” and we would have to meet with the assistant ombudsman first.
Not wanting to forewarn them, until we met with the assistant ombudsman, that we were aware of the monies given to them specifically to implement jurisdiction over the children in care that was not spent since 2001, we started by inquiring in a general way about the Children’s Section, how did the Children’s Section came about and what they were doing. The information we were being given did not jive with the information I had already gleaned from this office’s own published materials and left me wondering what they actually knew about the history of their own office.
In the course of our meeting, we held nothing back, informing these scribes of our many concerns: our problems with Children’s Aid/Services, the corrupt assessments people were forced into, the conflict of interest that existed between many of the assessors and CA/CS, the unfruitful complaints to the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners, and we also managed to touch on some of the concerns we had with the judicial system.
I informed them that I was aware of the present complaint system implemented by Children’s Services from their own manual, Department of Community Service Family and Children‘s Services Division: Manual of Standards, Policies, and Procedures for Children in Care and Custody, Section 1.4 and 1.4.1, effective August 1, 2004. This manual stated that it was the responsibility of the social worker in Children’s Services to inform the children of their right to complain, and that if the child was over 16 years old that the workers were to instruct the child to make a complaint to the police. I informed them that they, of all people, should know that such a process was completely unacceptable, that this was the very reason there was an ombudsman’s office. One could not expect the very people who might be complained against to educate children on the complaint system. Did they really expect a social worker was going to instruct a child to call the police against them?
We also informed them of our concerns about the accountability of the numbers of children in care. I explained the usage of snapshot data, data for a single predetermined day, as the only accountability for the numbers of children in care. Giving the numbers for children in various categories for a single day, I explained, could not possibly account for the numbers of children who go through the system in the course of the year.
I suggested that when they did begin implementing their jurisdiction over the children in care, that Children Services needed to inform them of all the children who were in care, and that the ombudsman’s office needed to make sure that they visited every child and informed them of their right to complain through the ombudsman’s office, and that they should also visited every family and also inform them of their right to complain through the ombudsman’s office. As new children are brought into the system, I continued, the ombudsman’s office needs to get out and educate each new child and family. This way, I also pointed out, someone, besides Children’s Aid/Services would have the actual numbers for the children going through the system in the course of a year.
At this point, the diligent scribbler raised their heads from their notebooks informing us that they felt this was a very good suggestion, as they nodded their heads to each other.
I then educated these scribes on the absence of an annual review of the Children and Family Services Act as proscribed by law under Section 88, subsection 1and 2, clarifying that only 3 “annual” reviews had been done since 1990, the last in 1999.
When a child is taken into care, we explained, not only are the parents, who the legal action has been taken against, automatically sent into assessments, but so is any other family member who dares raise their hand to seek custody of the child. We also informed them that two well-known and well-respected PHD psychologists had already strongly spoken out, in court, against the way these assessments were being prepared. We told them how one of these psychologists, in a recent public information meeting, had candidly expressed her concerns about what was going on with these assessments, done for Children’s Aid/ Children’s Services, all across Nova Scotia, but that their was a “particular problem in the Metro area”, so much so that, now, she rarely took cases dealing with CA/CS in the Metro area, despite the her office location in Halifax.
We informed told them that the right to have the assessment interviews taped were continually and adamantly denied - a right, we were told at the information meeting, that was meant to protect both parties. We informed them that in some cases, original notes taken during these interviews had been shredded (with signed letters admitting to this!)- such notes, we had been informed, were suppose to stay with the file and were suppose to be available to any person reviewing the assessments. We also told them that many of the persons doing these assessments were doing so under lucrative contracts with Children’s Aid/Services and that an important assessment establishment had already admitted, under oath, that most of their work came from Children’s Aid/Services - this situation, we had been informed, was not ethically appropriate. We also explained to them that according to the professional reviews of assessments, tests utilized in these assessments were wrongly given and incorrectly used to guarantee a negative outcome.
As a result of these serious transgressions, many people were complaining about being misrepresented and misquoted in the body of the written assessments, some reporting 100% inaccuracy! We informed them that formal complaints had been lodged to the Nova Board of Examiners in Psychology, that the investigative process was done in total secrecy, that basic information about the complaint process was denied the complainants, despite repeated requests for this information, and that suddenly, after 1 year of the complaints being before the board, the complaints were dismissed. Then, when letters requesting an appeal were filed with the board, the registrar of the board quickly sent out letters to the complainants stating that “there was no right to appeal” and, to add insult to injury, she was “not prepared to discuss this investigation” with the complainants.
We then touched upon some of our concerns with the judicial system, including the justices, the lawyers, and the court administration. Preparing to leave I told them that I would be willing to e-mail them the concerns that I had compiled about the assessments and the Children and Family Services Act. Agreeing to this, they informed us that they would contact us about a second appointment with the assistant ombudsman as soon as it could be set up.
After we were escorted through the security doors and while we were walking down the hallway to the elevator, the three of us, me, Thelma, and the other woman expressed to each other the thought that we felt we could be hopeful about the Ombudsman’s Office but that we were still realistic enough because of our past experiences to know that the door might very well suddenly slam shut in our faces. We have learned the art of keeping the balance of being forever hopeful, so that we will not give up seeking the help that we need, but at the same time realizing that this will probably turn into another dead end, so that when it does happen we are not devastated. We keep saying to ourselves, “There must be someone out there with the ability and knowledge to help us who will do the right thing” We want to change the system for the families that are being victimized now and in the future. For some of us, me included, it is too late to make a difference in my individual case, but we struggle on to make a difference for others.
The Sham Revealed (More Grips continued)
It would be 2 months before we got in to see the assistant ombudsman. First we were told that they needed more time to scrutinize the documents I had e-mailed them. Then it became a problem of finding a date when we could meet. Meanwhile Thelma kept requesting to see the head ombudsman, but the same reply was continually given: we needed to “follow protocol”, we needed to meet with the assistant ombudsman first, before we could see the ombudsman. Thelma was annoyed by this but I didn’t see that we were being given much choice in the matter. “Let’s jump through the hops”, I suggested. If we don’t see the ombudsman after following their “protocol”, then we will complain.
So, in October Thelma and I toddled off to meet the assistant ombudsman. The third woman who had accompanied us to the first meeting was out of town and though we had arranged for another woman to take her place, she, unfortunately, ended up making a scheduling error so that Thelma and I had to make the meeting ourselves.
This time, they showed us into the inner sanctum immediately. The young wind-tossed lassie from the Children’s Division was there, as was the assistant ombudsman, but the polite and gentle spoken man from our last visit was nowhere to be seen. In his stead was that sparkling smiler I had seen months previous shining from the newspaper picture, the person assigned to look after complaints from seniors. The rapport in this meeting was much better, stemming, I believed, from the eye contact made possible from only one woman, the smiler, taking the notes this time. Thelma and I both felt we were treated with respect during this meeting, and we also sensed that the interest expressed was genuine.
Much of the information given at the first meeting had to be reiterated for the assistant ombudsman. Concerning the complaints submitted to the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology (NSBEP), we were informed that the ombudsman’s office could not interject if there was an established complaint process, but if the complaint process had been followed through and dissatisfaction still remained, then, they could intervene. Thelma and I assured them that this was indeed our situation, but in response, we were told that they would first have to determine if they had jurisdiction over the NSBEP. I was perplexed about any hesitation over jurisdiction. The NSBEP is an organization that was formed in response to a provincial act, The Psychologist Act . In addition, 2 of the board members are lay person who are appointed by the provincial government. To me, it seemed cut and dry, but obviously, to them, it was not.
Referring to my copies of the financial statements of the ombudsman’s office, I informed them that I was aware of the unspent budget money apportioned to the Ombudsman’s office by the legislature. I stated that was I was also aware that, according to the financial statements, this money had not been spent because they had not yet implemented their jurisdiction over the children in care. In response, we were told that they had not implemented jurisdiction over the children in care because, having jurisdiction only in provincial and municipal matters, they did not have jurisdiction over the Children Aid Societies, which are private organizations.
What we understood these people to be telling us was that because they did not have jurisdiction over all the children in care they opted to protect none of the children in care. The logic of doing nothing for the children they did have jurisdiction over, the children under the care of Children Services, totally escaped me, especially when they had the money from the legislature to do so! However, at this time, though it was right under my nose, an important deduction was still eluding me.
In the meantime, endeavoring to forge a positive relationship this office, I bit my tongue about this seemingly illogical lack of action. Then the assistant ombudsman, showing me an added insert to a booklet version of the Ombudsman Act went on to explain that they had recently gotten the amendments required to extend their jurisdiction over the Children’s Aid Societies, though, according to her, this had taken years to push through. I expected that to be true.
Having had this jurisdictional glitch explained, I now thought to ask about their jurisdiction over the children in foster care. In response, we were told that the Ombudsman’s Office felt no need to secure jurisdiction of these children. This response disturbed me greatly because in my original telephone conversation with the representative of the Children’s Section, I had been assured that their jurisdiction did indeed include complaints children might have against their foster parents.
“Oh no, no I told them, the children in foster care NEED your protection.” From here I proceeded to convey to them the concerns that I had experienced about cigarette burns on my grandson as well as the mysterious red marks around his knees. I also related to these women that disturbing things had come to light about what was going on “below the 49th parallel” (in the U.S.) as well as what was going on in Central and South America, and that we should not be so naive to think that similar things were not also going on in Canada. I referred them to recent finding of children in the US foster system being used for sex and pornography, and that the bodies of missing children in Central and South America had for some time now been surfacing in ditches and garbage dumps badly mutilated after their organs had been harvested. I also referred them to the Florida case it was found that a young girl had been missing from the system for 2 years, with the case worker filing false reports of visitation while the foster parents continuing to receive money for the child’s care. The exposure of this case had set off a state wide review of all children in care with the conclusion that over 500 children were missing from the system. Where were our missing children?
What was interesting about this was that not a word of dissention came from the lips of these women as I related these “worse case possibilities” about what might be happening to our children. In fact they were nodding their heads as I spieled on. From this reaction, I deduced that they were also aware of these cases and situations. If there was any surprise on their part, I think they were surprised that someone outside of their circle was also knowledgeable of this information and was spitting it back to them. As we concluded this meeting, both Thelma and I understood that the Ombudsman’s office did agree that they now needed to work towards an amendment to acquire jurisdiction over the children in foster care. In ending, I implored them to work towards this a quickly as possible, that the children could not afford waiting for this jurisdiction to take years to implement, as did the implementation of the jurisdiction over the children in the Children’s Aid Societies.
As Thelma and I walked out of that office that day, we were hopeful that these women we had spoken to were sincere in their intentions to help our children, the children in care in Nova Scotia, but from all of our past experienced, we also knew that the other shoe could suddenly drop. We reminded ourselves of this and the need to keep that balance between hope, to enable us to keep going forward, and preparing ourselves for the worse, so that we would not be utterly discouraged and give up “the fight”.
Within 6 weeks Thelma and I were back in the Ombudsman’s Office. We had finally made the “big time” - we were going to able to meet with the head honcho, Mr. Ombudsman, himself. Thelma had made a number of phone calls to set this appointment up. When the secretary finally phoned back to verify an appointment date, Thelma reminded the secretary that I would be accompanying her. To this the secretary informed Thelma that this appointment was for her alone.
When Thelma informed me of this, I was greatly distressed. Was this the divide and conquer routine? I informed Thelma that even if this was a meeting set up to discuss only her concerns, she had a right to have a support person, and besides this she would want to have a witness present if anything inappropriate transpired. I also concluded that this might also be a mistake on the part of the secretary. She might not know any better.
As a result, we decided to just go to the meeting together as we had always done. I have learned a lot about dealing with people over the last 5 years. One is fawning ignorance, and just pushing forward despite the obstacles. I take no pride in learning these tactics, but one needs to fight fire with fire, especially when the other side keeps erecting barriers and slamming doors shut. For me, it is not the fight that invigorates me. I come from an extremely shy childhood and youth. I was that child who literally hid behind her mother’s skirt, peeking out at the world when I dared. I rarely looked at or watched people. As a youth, I was the one with that down-turned Princess Di gaze.
As at the first meeting, the dark windowless conference room was originally opened for us. But once again, it was quickly determined that we would be escorted into the “inner sanctum”. No one made mention of my presence, so together Thelma and I sauntered through the “back door”. As usual, I took my place at the end of the long table and proceeded to lay out my 3 extremely thick binders, one with information pertaining specifically to the Ombudsman’s Office, one concerning, Children’s Aid/ Children’s Services, and the last concerning the psychologists/ psychology in Nova Scotia. The ombudsman, and two of the women who had seen us at the last meeting, the assistant ombudsman and the representative of the Children’s Section were present at this meeting.
It should be noted, the ombudsman is an ex-RCMP officer. A friend of mine, whose father was RCMP, was troubled by this. She stated that no RCMP officer should be appointed to such an office, that the RCMP are trained to follow orders unquestionably from the government and that this was not the sort of person you would want in this position. In response to this concern, I am determined to do a thorough web search of this man as soon as I am able to find the time.
As soon as this man entered, he strapped his eyes upon Thelma. He acknowledged Thelma but he did not acknowledge me. Whenever I spoke, his eyes drilled even more intensely on Thelma, interrupting my sentence with some sort of remark to Thelma. At first, I thought he was just being rude and I wondered at his audacity. “Excuse me, I am here . . . .” I began to say at one point. “He’s totally ignoring me” I mouthed to the assistant ombudsman at another. But as the hours progressed (the meeting lasted 2 ½ hours), I realized this was a deliberate maneuver on his part, never swerving from his tactic, consistent and persistent. He was following his training, training that, according to my friend, included espionage interrogation.
I watched as this man controlled the room. The other two women sat there and said nothing as he continued this bizarre behavior towards us, not even flinching when he contradicted things they had told us in the last meeting. Even when I challenged the wind tossed lassie by telling her that I had been the person who had phoned enquiring over the jurisdiction of the Children’s Section, she didn’t even flinch, sitting there completely silent. It was a surreal situation. I recall, at one point, saying that I wished I have taped this meeting (not that they would have let us). And as I watched this man continue his manipulation, I couldn’t help but think, “You are ignoring me at your peril”. When I came home, I immediately began writing the chapters concerning the Ombudsman’s Office.
For my 10 or 15 minutes of fame, at the end of the meeting, I held nothing back. Between me and Thelma we quickly gave the large overview of all the departments connected with this corruption. The ombudsman replied with the comment that what we needed was an inquiry, to which we replied, “How do we go about getting an inquiry?”. What was important here was that the Ombudsman shot back without any time for thought or consideration in a blase tone, “I don’t know”. - I’m sorry, but don’t tell me that an ex-RCMP officer doesn’t know anything about inquiries.
As the meeting wound down, I was so proud of Thelma, she stood her ground with this man despite his penetrating glare and near the end she quoted Martin Luther King:
"Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about the things that matter."
She also quoted Anne-Sophie Dumetz, of Ottawa from a clipping in MacLean’s magazine, Dec 8, 2003 in reference to the use of children in the sex trade in Asia and North America.
“If we participate in the silence, then we participate in the crime”.
Afterwards Thelma told me she felt like a fool quoting these statements. But I assured her that I was proud of her. She had spoken truth. Because she had spoken truth on corrupt ears it had not been received but I assured her “I heard you and God heard you. You spoke truth and I am very proud of you” And then I added, “When they do the movie version of this story, this will be the scene they’ll show on television.”
As soon as I got home, while everything was still fresh, I began to write the chapters concerning the Ombudsman’s Office. I also wanted to write a letter to the editor concerning this office, but such letters need to be precise and poignant. Where was my focus? Then, as I wrote, suddenly the pieces fell into place. It had been right in front of my face all the time but I just hadn’t seen it. Now it all made sense, and the realization of what was before me shocked and disappointed me. Now I knew this Ombudsman’s Office was a farce and a shame.
At the beginning of the last chapter, I related how the ombudsman was telling us how impressed he was by the foster homes through the presentation they had put on.
The foster homes! That was the key! That was the key!
You recall, I could not understand why the office had not taken over the jurisdiction of the children who had been taken into care through the provincially run Children Services. (Dartmouth is Children Services, Halifax is Children Aid Society). Then the office stalled implementation of their jurisdiction for years claiming that they wanted to get jurisdiction over the Societies before implementing their protective powers over the children. But, here is the rub, what I didn’t see until now: having jurisdiction over children taken into care by Children Service Agencies and Children’s Aid Societies is meaningless without jurisdiction over the children in foster care, because when the children are taken into care by either the agencies or the societies, except for a few older children in group homes, they are all placed in foster care! This distinction of foster care and Children’s Services and Children’s Aid was legally emphasized in a recent court ruling that came down from the province of British Columbia that stated that the Children’s Aid/ Children’s Services were not responsible when children were abused in foster care. To top this off, when Rollie Thompson, the family law expert at Dalhousie had spoken for us at a public meeting, he had commented on this very ruling, stating that this court ruling was applicable not only in British Columbia but it was also applicable across Canada.
So you see, the children are taken away from their families and than the provincial agencies or the private societies place them in foster homes where they wash their hands of all legal responsibility. If the Ombudsman’s Office gets jurisdiction of the Agencies and the societies but does not have jurisdiction over the children in foster care, then they have nothing! Nothing! Nothing!
It is the determination to protect the children of this province, children who have no voice and no protection that spurns me on. There is horrendous devastation going on and no one seems to care. There is a lot of collusion, a lot of corruption, and, I suspect, a lot of important butts to protect. When I try to explain the way I feel to my friends, I tell them that I am no hero. I am driven from within to do this . I have no chose. “I cannot not do this” I express. I tell them if I felt I had a choice maybe then I could accept this heroic label some like to throw on me. But I truly feel I do not have a choice. I must do what I can for those who do not have a voice of their own
One Ongoing Futile Attempt to Obtain an Independent Lawyer for a Child Over 12 Years Old as Mandated by the Nova Scotia Children And Family Services Act
My name is Linda Youngson. In June 2005, with another fellow advocate, Marilyn Dey, we filed a mandamus application in the court of Nova Scotia against the Nova Scotia Minister of Community Services, David Morse, to force him to obey Section 88 of the Children and Family Services Act 1990 whereby the Minister was to appoint a committee to review the Act and its implementation on an annual basis. Two of these committee members were to be parents who had had their children apprehended by the Minister, or in fear of having their children apprehended. Since the implementation of this Act, in 1990, there had only been 2 such committees doing the job specified: in 1993 and 1996.
In December of 2005, our application went to trial with the provincial government’s main argument being that “the Crown only owed its duty to the Crown” and that individual citizens like Marilyn Dey and I did not have the right to bring this action to Court to force the government to obey its own laws!
I am part of an association of people who have had their family members apprehended by this notorious system. Though I am active in many aspects of advocacy work concerning our many serious concerns, including speaking to, encouraging and directing currently victimized families, and appearing as a witness to the court proceedings, as well as accompanying individuals as a support person, my forte is research and writing. My academic credentials include B.A. (highest aggregate), B.Ed., and M.Ed.( Psychology with a focus on Human Relations with a 4.00 GPA).
From our years of advocacy work and research, we have come to know that there is serious systemic corruption that runs through a number of provincial government departments. These departments include the Department of Community Services, The Health Department, the Justice Department, the Education Department, and the Finance Department.
The following is just one example, amongst many. Though there are many grave issues that are apparent in this case, the persistent concern that has followed this family is their inability to get independent legal representation for the child who was apprehended by this province at the tender age of seven and has been in the system for 9 years now.
Section 37 of the Children and Family Services Act states that a child who is 12 years of age or more shall receive notice of a proceeding and, upon request by the child at any stage of the proceeding, the court may order that the child be made a party to the proceeding and be represented by counsel, where the court determines that such status and representation is desirable to protect the child’s interest.”
Section 41 (4) of the Children and Family Services Act states that “Where a parent or guardian consents to a disposition order being made pursuant to Section 42 that would remove the child from the parent or guardian’s care and custody, the court shall:
(a) ask whether the agency has offered the parent or guardian services that would enable the child to remain with the parent or guardian
(b) ask whether the parent or guardian has been consulted and, where the child is 12 years of age or more, whether the child has consulted independent legal counsel in connection with the consent; and
(c) “satisfy itself that the parent or guardian understands and, where the child is 12 years of age or older, that the child understands the nature and consequences of the consent and consents to the order being sought and every consent is voluntary.”
Despite this law, the mother has been struggling to get a lawyer for her, now, 16 year old daughter for 4 years. I and another advocate, Marilyn Dey, sat as witnesses in the courtroom 4 years ago, when the daughter was 12 years old, as this mother requested a lawyer for her daughter. Despite the law declaring a 12 year old to be mature enough to be a party to the proceedings, the Children’s Aid lawyer argued that he did not believe a child of this age should have her own lawyer because he felt that access to certain documentation would be upsetting to a child of this age.
It is important to note that this was a general observation linked to the lawyer’s personal understanding of the abilities of a twelve years old. The lawyer did not make any specific observations about the abilities of this particular child. On this statement alone - the justice disallowed the child her right to have her own lawyer.
We were appalled! Since when should the personal opinion of a lawyer come before the law! The law had declared 12 year olds to be capable - what gave the lawyer, and the justice, the justification to flippantly wave away this legal right?
It should be noted here that when senators representing the Federal Senate Committee came to Halifax in June of 2005, they raised the issue that they believed that 8 year olds were capable of having their own lawyers and were inquiring why the age had been set at 12.
While this mother struggled through the courts attempting to rescue her daughter from this system, she was denied access to her daughter. However, approximately 4 years ago, when her daughter was twelve, the Halifax Children’s Aid Society allowed the daughter to write letters to her mother. Upon receiving these letters, the mother immediately replied, but it was not until 2 years later, when the mother finally saw her child, that she discovered that none of these letters were given to her daughter.
This poor child had finally been allowed to write her mother, but because she was never allowed to receive any of her mother’s letter’s, she was left wondering why her mother had not answered. One could only imagine the rejection this child was made to feel through this ordeal. The Halifax Children’s Aid Society cannot possibly defend this action as being in “the best interest of the child”? Indeed, to do such a thing is mental cruelty!
When the daughter, was 14 years old she located and contacted her mother. When they met, the daughter stated that she wanted her own lawyer and it has been a roller coaster ride ever since.
First, this mother and daughter were directed to provincial legal aid. It is important to note that there is grave concerns with legal aid because both legal aid and Halifax Children’s Aid is overseen by the provincial government - Many see trying to get a legal aid lawyer to battled Children’s Aid/Service or the provincial government Agency as nothing more than a conflict of interest!
When the mother attempted to make arrangements to see a legal aid lawyer, she was then informed by the provincial legal aid officials that she could not assist her daughter in finding a lawyer, that the child would have to do this herself. Finding a lawyer can be an daunting experience for adults. To expect a 12 year old child to do so by herself is not realistic.
Then, after being told that the child had to look for her own lawyer, the story suddenly changed - the mother was then informed that the child already had a lawyer, that the guardian ad litem’s lawyer was the child’s lawyer. This is totally incorrect information. The guardian ad litem’s lawyer is there to protect the legal interests of the guardian ad litem NOT the child.
And let me also clarify, the guardian ad litem , a person appointed to represent the child’s wishes in court in their absence, is not the child’s lawyer either. This person is NOT independent from the system, and works very closely with Children’s Aid/Service or the provincial government Agency. From our advocacy work, we are aware of blatant disregard for the children’s requests through their guardian ad litems and that there are no checks and balances in place for the children to determine if their concerns or requests have indeed been brought forward. All to often, the children naively believe the guardian ad litems have done their jobs.
Children and parents are told they are not allowed to discuss court concerns during their visitations but in our advocacy work we have determined that when parents have discussed these issues with their older children, that it is not unusual that the parents realize that issues the children believed were being brought before the court were NOT!
Back to the family in question - Finally, the child did contact legal aid on her own and she was informed by the secretary that a particular lawyer had been assigned to her and she was given a card with the lawyer’s name on it. The child made many frustrating phone calls attempting to set up a meeting with this lawyer, but her calls were never returned. Eventually, this lawyer contacted the mother’s lawyer stating she had never received any communication from this child!
After this, the daughter, on her own accord, at the age of 14, left the group home in which she was residing and went to live with her mother. The Children’s Aid Society responded by serving the mother a “Protective Intervention Order” demanding her appearance in court July 5, 2005. Though the police had been contacted, the mother understood that they do not see grounds to intervene.
During this time, the Halifax Children’s Aid was refusing to allow this child to have her personal items including her prescription medication. Please note that Children’s Aid/Services and the government Agency will use such an action against a parent if they are attempting to justify taking a child away from their family.
When the mother and daughter visited the daughter’s doctor, the same doctor who was seeing this child while she was at the group home, the doctor made a direct call to the group home, in front of the mother and daughter requesting her medicine - The doctor was shocked to be told that the medication would not be forth coming .
Frustrated, the mother finally approached an independent lawyer to represent her daughter. This lawyer had already heard a number of disturbing things about the system and he indicated that he was keen on representing this child. But this possibility was shut down when the legal aid office refused to issue a certificate of service for this lawyer.
Over the next two years, the daughter spent time at the group home and with her mother. These were not visitations that were sanctioned by the system but it was apparent that both mother and daughter were determined to have a relationship. Unfortunately, no services were offered to assist with this reunification, services that were desperately needed for a mother who had last been a mother to a seven year old and a daughter who had long ago forgotten how to respond to a mother.
It is important to note that up until the child found her mother, there had been no unusual problems with her in the group home. When the child returned from meeting her mother she reported being deliberately provoked by the staff. This goading resulted in angry outbursts by the child. The first incident was throwing milk in the face of one of the house workers.
As advocates, we have no problem believing this intentional goading by individuals in the system because we have witnessed this ourselves, even during court appearances! In one case, totally unprovoked, a self-representing woman was tackled by the security guard after she had gathered her notes and was walking down the aisle towards the door. There were at least 5 court witnesses that day- one a World War 2 Vet who shouted out to the justice to do something. Instead, the justice just stood there, silently watching the spectacle for a few seconds before she turned on her heels and retired to her chamber.
In response, I quickly followed the guard and this poor woman as they rolled through the doors into a small outer chamber. When I got there, the woman was pinned half on the floor and half on the wall. Then I calmly repeated to the guard 3 times - “I am a witness- I am a witness- I am a witness” In response the woman simply stated twice “She is a witness- She is a witness”. And then, the guard backed off, without a word, and let the woman go home.
One night, a fellow advocate was shocked to get a phone call from this child. This 14 year old had been hauled off to the police station in handcuffs for the aforesaid incident, throwing a glass of milk at the worker! We were appalled . What were they trying to do to this child? Scare her into compliance? She was in tears.
Again, I ask, where is “the best interest” of this child being served? Is criminalizing this child for such action in this child’s best interest?
Over the next 2 years, this group home managed to rack up over 30 charges against this child, including missing curfew, smoking cigarette, damaging the carpet etc, as well as punching a worker in the face.
A few times this child left the group home, spending nights on the street and at times phoning one of our advocates, begging for a place to stay. Unfortunately, this was an act that was deemed too risky because this advocate had a child of her own that she had only recently gotten out of the clutches of this system. We have been informed that one absence from the group home resulted when the child had phoned to inform the staff that she was going to be a bit late making curfew and she was told that the police would be waiting to haul her off when she came in! Under these circumstances, could you blame the child for not going back?
We are aware that this child was eventually sent to “ the province’s secure treatment facility in Truro” that professes to assist troubled children. However, children in the system have reported that being sent to Truro is often used by workers to threaten them.
Now, we are deeply upset to find out that there is talk of sending this child out of province or even out of country. There is also grave concern that this child is now being deemed to be functioning at a grade four level, (she is in grade 10) and that she has all kinds of psychological problems. We do not agree with this assessment. The advocate who has been working with this child over 4 years has always described this child as being bright, well mannered (please, thank-you, your welcome), with a good head on her shoulders. When meeting with this advocate over the Christmas holidays, she was touched when this young lady brought small gifts for her and her daughter, a coffee mug and a small teddy bear.
Understand, the criminal charges against this child starting racking up only after the group home staff started goading this child after she located her mother, and all of these action are specific to the group home and group home workers.
We are also well aware that it is not beyond this system to produce fraudulent assessments. We have had assessment done by this system reviewed by well known and respected PHD psychologists. In court, they have testified vehemently against these assessments with nothing good to say about them at all! Here in Halifax, we arranged to have a PHD psychologist speak publicly on this issue. In this meeting, she candidly confessed there were a grave problem with assessments done for Children’s Aid/Services and the government Agency here in Nova Scotia .
Besides using this assessment to justify sending this child to out-of- province facilities, we have no doubt that Halifax Children’s Aid will now bring this forward to justify not allowing this, now, 16 year old child to have her own lawyer. If you review the history this child has had trying to get her own lawyer, it is not difficult to ascertain that this is the basis of this negative assessment against this child - Not to mention that this would then classify her as special needs giving the system, and the group home, more money for this child.
How ironic that this child had to be criminalized before she was allowed to have her own lawyer - a criminal lawyer- yet she has been persistently denied a family court lawyer for her dealings with Halifax Children‘s Aid!
Please understand, that we have not been able to find one child in the system who has been able to find an independent lawyer. One of our advocates, when her family was being victimized, approached a number of regular, non-legal aid lawyers to represent her child and was informed repeatedly that they did not even know a mechanism by which they could represent a child “in care”.
5 The Cry for Help that Went Unheard
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6. They're Sending Our Children to Utah
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