Dear Prabmeet Singh Sarkaria,
My name is Adrienne Eastwood; I am a psychologist in Brampton, and a resident of your riding. I am writing to express my disbelief and discontent with the Progressive Conservative’s decision to repeal the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007 and close the Office of Child Advocate (“Advocate’s Office”). As you know, the Advocate’s Office ensures that young people in the care of the government are aware of their rights, and that their voices are heard and considered when decisions are made about their lives. The Advocate’s Office serves the children in child welfare services, youth in the justice system, Indigenous youth, as well as youth with disabilities and mental illness. In the 2016-2017 fiscal year, there were 12 794 children and youth in the care of children aid societies across the province, which reflects only a fraction of the people served by the Advocate’s Office. The closing of the Advocate’s Office leaves these children and youth without an independent body to protect them. It also means that Ontario becomes the only Canadian province without an independent child advocate.
It is appalling that this decision comes less than two months after an investigation by the Ontario Office of the Chief Coroner regarding the suicides of 12 youth in the care of child protective services. This investigation, and countless other examples, confirm the importance of an independent body that oversees and investigates the treatment of children in the child welfare system, and that reviews government policies and practices that impact society’s most vulnerable children and youth. Simply rolling the program into the Ombudsman’s office is not sufficient to ensure that some of the most vulnerable individuals in our society have a voice. The government cannot and should not monitor itself.
Given that the PC government claims to be “working for the people”, I would like to urge you and your fellow MPPs to consult and reconsider this short-sighted and faulty plan. I believe strongly that the provincial government needs to take a lead in putting forth policy initiatives that support children and youth’s rights to individual rights advocacy, systemic advocacy, and independent investigations. In doing this, the government is strongly encouraged to follow principles of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.
Adrienne Eastwood, Ph.D., C. Psych., BCBA