'We have the people to do it': Ontario ombudsman pledges 'care' in taking over child welfare probes (CBC News)

May 9, 2019

9 May 2019

Paul Dube's office now has specialized unit to handle investigative functions of former child advocate

Matt Prokopchuk
CBC News
May 09, 2019

Ontario's ombudsman says he and his staff are dedicated to continuing the investigative functions of the province's former child and youth advocate and will follow up on the recommendations made in reports completed so far.

Paul Dubé's office now contains a specialized unit dedicated to child welfare investigations, which probes complaints made against Children's Aid Societies and other agencies, as well as foster and group homes.  The ombudsman said it is staffed by over two dozen investigators and officials from the former child advocate's office.

The ombudsman's office officially took over child welfare investigations from Irwin Elman and his staff on May 1. The child and youth advocate's position was axed by the Ford government in economic legislation introduced in the fall of 2018.


Ombudsman office has 'the skills, the expertise'

"It's obviously a large responsibility, I mean protecting and promoting the rights of vulnerable children and youth, I don't think I can think of a more noble cause," Dubé said. "It's a tremendous opportunity but, you know what, we have the people to do it."

"We have the skills, we have the expertise."

The ombudsman's office said it will continue and complete all probes started by the former child advocate as well as taking on new investigations. A spokesperson said 24 files were transferred over; Elman and his staff completed three other investigations before the office closed, work that Dubé called "tremendously important," and "the kind of work that's going to continue."

One of those reports detailed shocking conditions at three now-closed foster homes in Thunder Bay run by a Toronto-area company and made 10 recommendations to the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services. Dubé said he couldn't provide details about the ongoing investigations, citing privacy concerns.


'Just take care of the kids'

Dubé and his office cannot, however, assume the advocacy work that Elman and his staff did.

Even so, Dubé said, they will take care of the young people his office comes into contact with.

"When a child or youth calls the unit, they will be informed of their rights, they will be assisted in any way possible, they will be referred to appropriate agencies," he said. "They will be really handled with care."

During the transition, Dubé said he heard loud and clear how important this role is.

"What we heard consistently from everyone involved is 'just take care of the kids,'" he said.