Annual Review Of Children and Family Services Act (CFSA):
Section 88 (1) (2)
“The Minister shall
establish an advisory committee
whose function is to review annually the provisions of this Act and the services relating thereto and to report annually to the Minister concerning the operation of the Act and whether the principles and purpose of the Act are being achieved
“The advisory committee shall be appointed by the Minister, after consultation with the relevant groups and individuals, and shall include
(a) 2 persons whose children have been, are OR may be in need of protective services
(b) a representative from an agency;
(c) a representative of the Minister;
(d) a legal aid lawyer
(e) 2 persons drawn from the cultural, racial or linguistic minority communities
(f) such other persons, not exceeding 3, as the Minister may determine.Comments:
To date, there are only 2 “annual” reports of the CFSA stemming from such advisory committees:- Report: Ministers Advisory Committee on Children and Family Services Act, December 1993; - Report: Ministers Advisory Committee on Children and Family Services Act, March 1996,
This means only 2 “annual” reports have been done since the latest Children and Family Services Act was enacted in 1990!!!
The government claimed there was an additional committee in 1999. Indeed they did publish an Interim Report: Ministers Advisory Committee on Children and Family Services Act and Adoption Act, 1999
. However, the title of this document is a misnomer because there was absolutely no mention of the Children and Family Services Act in this report!
Section 88 (1) specifically specifies what the advisory committee is suppose to do “review annually the provisions of this Act and the services relating thereto and to report annually to the Minister concerning the operation of the Act and whether the principles and purpose of the Act are being achieved.” If a committee does not do this specific work, then, in no way can the government claim that this is the committee specified in Section 88 of this Act
Recently, at the end of 2005, the government added a second fictional committee to their list, now claiming another committee in 2001. The only “evidence” of this committee is a 2 page document entitled Increasing Open Adoption in Nova Scotia: Report of the Advisory Committee to the Minister regarding Bill 17, dated Sept 10,2001
. In addition, there is a letter from Paula Altenburg
clarifying that the work of this committee was to report back on adoption disclosure legislation only
. Lastly there is a 1 page letter from Peter Christie thanking “the Advisory Committee for the Report regarding Bill 17 and the Adoption Information Act “. Again, it must be reiterated, this does not meet the criteria as stated in Section 88(1) of this Act concerning the work this specific committee is suppose to do.
It is of grave concern that this government is encouraged in their continual and persistent deceit by a media that is willing to continually publish the claims of the government unquestioned and un-researched
. And it is extremely frustrating when the media refuses to take note of any research university educated advocates have done
It has been made very clear to us, by both lawyers and justices, that the word “shall” is a very important legal term
which means that the Minister is legally obliged to form this advisory committee
. Since May 11, 2004, I, Linda Youngson, wrote David Morse, twice, making him aware of the moral and legal necessity to form this committee.Twice the Minister replied in letter
In the first letter dated June 28, 2004
, the Minister, David Morse, states, “ I am pleased to inform you that the Department of Community Services is currently making plans to review the membership of the Minister’s Advisory Committee. Given the expressed interest, I would be pleased to inform you at the appropriate point in time when membership selection is being considered.”
In the second letter dated September 21, 2004
, the Minister states, “ Once again I am pleased to acknowledge your continued expressed interest in the membership of the Minister’s Advisory Committee. Although I deeply regret the delay, membership selection is still not currently being considered for this committee.’When this “delay” continued, and after being denied an appointment with the Minister, Marilyn Dey and I filed a court action in June 2005, against the Minister to force him to put together a Section 88 committee as mandated by law. The government fought us on this action, arguing that “the Crown only owed its duty to the Crown” and that it owed no duty (to obey the law) to individuals citizens like Marilyn Dey and I !
In the end, we did force the Minister to appoint this committee
(see 2 newspaper articles at the bottom of this article concerning this court action)Both Marilyn Dey and I applied to be on this committee - And, not unsurprisingly, we were both overlooked
. We have since reapplied to be on the 2007 committee
To date, we have no evidence that this committee is, indeed, doing the specific work they are mandated to do in section 88(1).
And, at the bottom of this posting, I will attach an article written by Steven Kimber, of the Daily News
clarifying the sham the appointments to this committee turned out to be.
In addition, I will write a future posting for this blog spot explaining all the extraordinary events that took place concerning this court action
Because a person who has not yet had their child in care cannot speak to the issues and concerns the way a person who has had their children in care can, it is recommended that at least 2 persons who have had their children in care, or presently have their children in care should be on the committee
Retain at least 1 spot for a person whose children may be in need of care.
One spot should be for a legal aid service that is at arms length from the government . This would mean that Nova Scotia Legal Aid and Dalhousie Legal Aid would NOT fit the criteria.
At least 4 spots for racial, or linguistic communities should be on the board. At least one of these spots needs to be for First Nations peoples other than a Mi’kmaq person. There are many people in Nova Scotia from diverse Aboriginal Nations and cultures. Because certain individuals from the Mi’kmaq community have continually and aggressively placed themselves on this and other committees and boards throughout Nova Scotia, representation from other Aboriginal Nations has traditionally been nil or extremely sparse, and, as a result, First Nations People outside the Mi’kmaq Nations have often felt excluded.
Comments and Recommendations by the Minister‘s Advisory Committee on Children and Family Services Act - 1996 :
This committee is suppose to be formed on an annual basis. 1996 was the last year this committee reported back on this act as mandated in Section 88 (1)
“The Advisory Committee recommends that the Act be amended to require the Advisory Committee to report bi-annually, instead of on an annual basis. The reason for this is that it is difficult for appointees to the Committee to become familiar with their mandate, request input, review responses, and prepare a report to the Minister within one year. Therefore, it is further recommended that members to the Advisory Committee be appointed for a two-year term.”
Court orders creation of child protection committee
Chronicle Herald, HALIFAX, NOVA SCOTIA Thursday December 15, 2005
The Community Services Department has until the end of December to fill the last vacancy on a committee that advises the minister on child protection.
New Democrat MLA Graham Steele issued a news release Wednesday that said the Nova Scotia Supreme Court in a ruling Tuesday ordered Community Services Minister David Morse to appoint an independent advisory committee to review how the Children and Family Services Act is working in Nova Scotia.
The committee is supposed to be appointed every year, but that hasn’t happened in the past few years.
The case was brought forward by Marilyn Dey and Linda Youngson and Mr. Steele, a lawyer, was representing them pro bono.
"We are pleased to get the court order, because an independent review of the child-protection system is long overdue," Ms. Dey said in a news release.
"But it is very unfortunate that we had to go to court to get the minister to obey the law.
"The decision was given by Justice Hilroy Nathanson, who also ordered Mr. Morse to pay court costs to Ms. Dey and Ms. Youngson.
George Savoury, the department’s senior director for family and children’s services, said the department will do its best to get the committee "up and running" by the end of the year and that a date for its first meeting is set for early in February.
He said there is a suitable candidate to fill the final spot on the committee.
The legislature’s standing committee on human resources approves or rejects appointments to government agencies, boards and commissions. It doesn’t have another meeting scheduled until Jan. 31.
Minister ordered to bring back committee
By Brian FlinnThe Daily News, Thursday December 15, 2005
The Nova Scotia Supreme Court has ordered Community Services Minister David Morse to reactivate a long-dormant committee to review how the Children and Family Services Act is working.
Two metro women who fought to revive the committee said it's a victory for parents whose children are taken by the department. Linda Youngson and Marilyn Dey first asked the government to revive the committee last year.
"There has been no accountability," Dey said. "There is no place for parents to go.
"Children and Family Services took Dey's daughter away from her. She got her back, but has been working since then to change the system.
By law, the committee is supposed to be formed each year. It has not met since 2001.
Justice Hilroy Nathanson gave Morse until the end of December to find members.
Committee? Committee? Check. Justice? Maybe no
By Stephen KimberThe Daily News Sunday, December 18, 2005
Graham Steele was frustrated. One of his constituents, a woman named Marilyn Dey, had come to him almost two years before, to ask for his help with a child custody case. But she'd buried the NDP MLA under the weight of so many documents and so much information - not just about her own case, but the cases of others she knew who were experiencing similar problems with the province's child welfare services - Steele was overwhelmed.
To complicate matters, she'd not only drawn connections among all those cases, but also tied them together with the intricate strands of any number of conspiracy theories to explain the why of the what.
Steele had tried to tell her he wasn't an investigator or a policeman, that neither he nor his colleagues had the resources or the authority to do the kind of investigations she wanted.
Which was why he was relieved earlier this year when Dey mentioned in passing that she'd discovered that an independent committee the government was supposed to appoint each year - to review how the child welfare act was working - had not been operational for at least three years.
"Now that," he said, "I can help you with."
Trading in his MLA's podium for his lawyer's briefs, Steele filed an application with the courts to force the minister of community services, David Morse, to appoint the review committee.
Last week, Nova Scotia Supreme Court Justice Hilroy Nathanson wasted little time in dismissing the government's dissembling justifications for inaction and ordered the minister to do it by the end of this month.
The fact is that the government - perhaps recognizing the ridiculousness of its own arguments - had already finally, belatedly, reluctantly begun naming people to serve on the 10-person committee."
When we filed the court papers June 27," Steel says, "they had appointed zero members." By the time court convened at 11 a.m. on Dec. 13, nine of the 10 members of the review committee were in place, the last two named just two hours before the hearing.
While Steele says he personally knows some of those appointed to the committee "and they'll be fine," he noted that the appointment process itself "left a great deal to be desired."
By law, the committee's membership is supposed to include one representative each of the minister and a child welfare agency, a legal aid lawyer, two members from the province's "cultural, racial or linguistic minority communities" and - most importantly - "two persons whose children have been, are or may be in need of protective services."
The government pointedly dismissed applications from Dey and another woman, Linda Youngson, the second complainant in Steele's application, who wanted to serve as parent representatives.
And it ignored other individuals who'd volunteered to serve after reading about Steele's court application.
At the same time, the government courted others to come forward, even doing the paperwork for a least one nominee.
The two names they initially put forward as minority representatives, in fact, turned out to be employees of the Children's Aid Society, the agency whose actions are most likely to be criticized. Talk about stacking the deck!
But the key appointees remain those two parent representatives. "The aim of the people who set this up," says Steele, was that those on the "receiving end of the system" be strongly represented on the committee.
So who has Morse named?
The man chosen to fill one of those two positions is Timothy Van Zoost, who ran provincially for the Conservatives a few elections ago. His qualification is that one of his children was in care before he adopted her. While that technically fits the criteria, it sure as hell doesn't give Van Zoost experience with having his child taken away from him, or with trying to get her back.
There is still one vacancy for a parent representative on the committee, one last chance for David Morse to get it right. Based on his track record, don't hold your breath.
Even after it is finally in place, however, it's worth asking what the committee can actually do. Can it look into the dozens of complaints from people like Dey about how
Can it go back to the spring of 2004 and finally conduct a real review of the controversial CAS seizure of Larry Finck's and Carline VandenElsen's infant daughter?
Steele says it can."It's supposed to be an independent committee," he explains. "The question is whether it will be willing to ask the tough questions.
" He pauses. "The fact is there is no other forum for these discussions. The committee is the only hope for those people who want answers to their questions."All of us should be watching to see what happens.