Archive for category Accountability
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14th, 2017
TORONTO – The parents of several autistic kids will be rallying at Minister Children and Youth Services Michael Coteau’s constituency office on Friday, June 16th, 2017 at 1:00pm. Parents are concerned that transitional services over the past year to the new Ontario Autism Program have not been equally distributed, leaving many children suffering. Last week Coteau announced changes to the Ontario Autism Program, and that it will include a direct funding option (DFO). Last June, the DFO option was only given to a few families on wait lists, leaving many children suffering without appropriate service options over the past year. The announcement last week by Coteau did promise DFO to all families by the end of the year, however details on how that will be rolled out, and exactly when each family can expect that option remains unclear.
Jason Koblovsky, a parent of an autistic child has witnessed first-hand the suffering of his son as a result of the government not offering appropriate transitional services to a majority of families affected by Autism over the past year. “Quite simply, you cannot accommodate some with transitional support to the new Ontario Autism Program, and leave the rest of us hanging like this, which is what has happened over the past year.” Koblovsky said. “There is nothing available for my son who has been waiting, and who has had an extremely rough year with behavioral issues. All I have been offered as transitional support are group “workshops” in which due to my family situation I can’t even get to. My son needed the same access to ABA as those who have received DFO over the past year. The decision last June to provide “some” families with appropriate transitional support and not all represents a major lack of understanding on what our kids go through on a day to day basis without support, and a lack of understanding on how wrong that decision was, which continues to this day by this government. My patience has run out.”
Another parent Angelina Palmisano had to also watch her son suffer as a result of the lack of appropriate supports stated: “For over a year I heard promises from the government. My child has not had any early intervention. EVER! But the government has now decided to accommodate a small demographic of children and leave out a large portion of children out. The turmoil it has caused me watching my son struggle with behaviors that are severe, is unbelievable and the future scares me.”
Brenna Bloodworth who heads up the Alliance Against The Ontario Autism Program agrees: “Children still left waiting while Direct Funding continues for a minority. That’s not right.”
The rally to support children current suffering and in need of transitional support will get underway on Friday, June 16th, 2017 at 1:00pm. Address 1200 Lawrence Ave East, Toronto.
Minister of Children and Youth Services Micheal Coteau has been a champion of human rights especially in the black community and around racism, but when it comes to autistic kids it may be a different story. Coteau made an announcement yesterday that was very short on detail regarding the roll out of the direct funding option for many Ontario families. I sent an e-mail to Micheal Nicin who is Coteau’s chief of staff today for further followup and clarification on several key issues relating to the transition over the past year, and providing unequal level of services to children and families. E-mail is as follows:
Your ministry appears to be in violation of Section 1 of the Ontario Human Rights Code which states:
- Every person has a right to equal treatment with respect to services, goods and facilities, without discrimination because of race, ancestry, place of origin, colour, ethnic origin, citizenship, creed, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, gender expression, age, marital status, family status or disability R.S.O. 1990, c. H.19, s. 1; 1999, c. 6, s. 28 (1); 2001, c. 32, s. 27 (1); 2005, c. 5, s. 32 (1); 2012, c. 7,
There was a lack of detail in the Ministers response yesterday, that further confirms the government is not acting within the law.
Last June, the government immediately implemented a direct funding option for 2,500 families. I argue the government as a result has waived any legal argument under section 14 of the human rights code due to those services not being equally distributed to other families on the wait list at that time, nor any new adds on the wait list during this transition over the past year. The government also had a legal duty over the past year to accommodate those children on wait lists with equal access to services under the code as well, in which undue hardship would not apply since the Minister during his teleconference a few weeks ago stated to parents that there was money already in the system, and that “Money isn’t the problem.” I also argue that if there was any question regarding capacity going forward that those 2,500 families shouldn’t have been given priority treatment over the past year while others have suffered as a result of not providing them with equal treatment in services (documented), in order to be within full compliance of the law.
Can you please explain to me what is being done to ensure that the Minister and his staff are properly following the law, and exactly what the details are with respect to the roll out of the direct funding option so that all families currently on wait list currently have that option in a reasonable time frame. I require specific details at this time.
I will keep everyone informed of any responses.
Micheal Coteau the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services as been somewhat like a Sasquatch to many in the autism community. There have been reported sightings, but often those reports come with fuzzy details, and then he seems to vanish into the wilderness of Queen’s Park. Almost a year has passed since Coteau took the reins on developing the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP), and he hasn’t met with a broad swath of parents, nor has adequately addressed concerns.
Last Thursday I participated in what I hope to be many teleconference town halls put together by Coteau and his staff. There were 12 of us parents on the line. Over the past year I have been strongly advocating for such an approach with ministry staff. I’m glad that they are attempting to properly communicate with parents.
During last Thursday’s teleconference, I got the impression that there doesn’t seem to be an adequate understanding by Coteau on the problems within the system and the amount of advocacy needed from parents to ensure service delivery for their kids. Most of the discussions in the teleconference revolved around the direct funding option, implementation of direct funding, appeals process, and accountability within the service providers. Out of privacy for the others that were a part of this call, I will be only touching up on these issues since it directly relates to public policy and those discussions were generalized.
What direct funding will do is provide families who are on the centralized ABA wait list the option to opt out of waiting for services and provide them with funds to purchase their own. Coteau stated that there will be no cap in funding and it would be geared towards the level of support a child needs.
When asked when direct funding would be made available for kids, Coteau stated by the end of the year. I did bring up that there are currently 2,500 families who are receiving direct funding payments, but the vast majority of parents are still waiting. I stated that it seems rather unfair for the vast majority of families to wait until the end of the year, when last year the Ministry immediately gave 2,500 families that funding. Coteau stated that it is his hope to have the direct funding out as soon as possible, and they were looking at moving it up a few months. I then stated that there is no reason for this funding not to be available to parents in June. Coteau stated that he wasn’t sure the capacity is there yet to handle the direct funding option so early.
The centralized ABA wait list is seemingly how people will be able to access direct funding during the transition. So if you are not on that wait list, get on it. If you are on the wait list, the Minister stated that the regional service providers must provide you with information on where you are on that list when requested. Several parents brought up that the regional service providers are actively refusing to provide that information. Coteau stated he would be following up with the regional providers on this and asked those that couldn’t get that information to connect with Ministry staff who would source that out.
Currently the ABA services offered are useless to many families and are 1 – 2 hour/week blocks. When the new OAP is rolled out, ABA services will increase to a maxim of 20 hours per week. For the current 1 – 2 hour/week blocks, there was some discussion on how this would work if your family is currently on the ABA wait list. Once the direct funding is rolled out, you have to wait until your child’s name comes up for an ABA spot before you will be able to access direct funding in the new OAP, which runs counter to the intimidate direct funding the ministry provided 2,500 families last year.
From my take of this discussion, if you are currently on the wait list for the useless current 1 – 2 hour/week ABA blocks, and your child’s name comes up before the direct funding roll out, you have to go through the block of useless ABA. If that useless ABA is done before direct funding is rolled out, it is my understanding that you will be put on another wait list for another block of ABA. Once that next spot becomes available is when your child will be able to access direct funding.
The way things look right now is that direct funding won’t be an option for many families until after the next election due to wait lists, “capacity problems”, and politics. Direct funding should be an option to all in June in my opinion.
This is a big one. If a family disagrees with a professional decision made regarding how many hours of service a child is entitled to; will there be an appeals process to appeal a reduction of service or service withdrawal in the new OAP? Considering the amount of problems I am aware of through social media and how regional service providers have in the past treated families, to my utter surprise Coteau stated that he was on the fence regarding an appeals process in the new OAP.
Coteau brought up an argument against an appeals process stated that he was worried that parents would constantly use the appeals process to advocate against service reduction. If this is the main concern, Coteau is very much tone deaf to the problems the system faces right now. I brought up twice that every patient in Ontario has the right to a second opinion, while he was defending this view. It is a legal right and cannot be taken away. The appeals issue is being punted back to the implementation committee for further review and recommendations.
I find Coteau’s argument against an appeals process to be quite telling. If he’s worried about parents using the appeals process en masse due to service reductions, than one has to wonder if the new OAP will actually properly support the kids that need it. The argument against, seems to suggest Coteau is worried about backlash regarding service reductions.
There was some talk about getting regulation in place for those providing services through the direct service option with regional providers. There didn’t seem to be a lot of will to do so. Coteau stated that everyone’s take on the regional service providers seems to be different. Some really like the service they are getting, and others don’t. This runs counter to public statements made by Coteau not even a few months ago stating that things need to change with the regional providers because he was getting a lot of complaints from parents. This also seems counter to a lot of the discussions I have been monitoring through social media about how badly families seem to be treated by regional service providers across the province.
Off side of the three main points of direct funding, appeals, and accountability within the new OAP, I did bring up the issue of wait times, and wait lists. I know firsthand how much damage it’s caused my son, my wife, and myself and we’re still waiting for proper ABA supports. Coteau went on a bizarre rant about how everyone has to wait for services on a number of fronts, and used shootings in the black communities in Toronto to justify the lack of services and wait times for those services, yet in the same breath stated regarding autism services in Ontario that the money is there, and the system just needs to be more accountable, and transparent. I’m not sure how that’s going to be accomplished without regulation, and an appeals process.
Coteau went on to say that he wants to make parents happy and proud of the new OAP, and that this government is committed to helping youth and children, and he will be doing more of these teleconference town halls after the OAP announcement in a few weeks, trying to focus on parents he has not heard from.
Coteau has had a year to consult parents, and only now when it’s starting to become election season that seems to be starting to happen. I think going forward it’s going to be a certainty, that many families will fall through the cracks, and we’re going to see the legal side of this very soon appear in Ontario courts and tribunals. Many serious problems will arise as a result of poor planning. There just simply isn’t a level of understanding I feel that is needed to fix the most pressing concerns with the autism community properly. Coteau seems rather tone deaf to major concerns facing the autism community. Most of that is a result of the lack of consultation, and misrepresentation of the autism community on whole rather than ensuring a direct line for parents with the minister over the past year.
The caveat in all of this is that they are now committed to broadly consulting parents, but I think it’s way too late to contain a lot of the carnage that this new OAP is likely to incur. I hope I’m wrong, and I hope that all those that have worked so hard over the past year in different committees don’t see their work flushed down the toilet due to poor planning, and execution by a tired and desperate government trying to do everything it can to cling on to power, and score a win with Ontario voters. We’ve seen that before with the government’s take of expert panels on autism services last year.
In contrast, it took me 10 months to get a direct line into this provincial minister, when it took me 10 seconds to get often direct responses from federal ministers in the past through social media on questions or concerns regarding policy on a variety of topics. Almost all federal politicians of all stripes have been a lot more forthcoming, open and approachable than Coteau has been towards concerned autism parents, and the community as a whole over the past year. One would figure that a Minister of Children and Youth Services would have been a lot more accessible to parents, especially when it relates to some of our most vulnerable in society.
As for our situation at home, none of what was talked about during this teleconference does anything for my son who has been waiting 7 years for a proper level of ABA support due to disappearing paperwork and records at Kinark. Nor was there any commitment from the government to ensure that never happens again to another family through regulation. We’re still going to be waiting when we need that support now. My son is dramatically, and unnecessarily suffering as a result of that support not being made available while 2,500 families received immediate direct funding last year to get that support, and no solid time line as to when we can expect in home proper ABA support from this government. All this teleconference did for me, is solidify who not to vote for in the next election, and I have a strong feeling unless some major developments happen between now and the announcement of the new OAP, I won’t be alone.
The York Region District School Board [YRDSB] has set its “community consultation” on how to fill the vacant seat in Georgina for March 23rd, 2017. This is remarkably right after March break, when most parents are getting caught up on other things, and very little notification is being given out, so I’m not sure if this consultative process will be an accurate representation of Georgina as a result.
What the YRDSB is NOT telling parents and citizens is that any costs associated with t a by-election will not cost the tax payers extra money. The board has a “contingency fund” it can rely on already factored into its current budget to pay for any by-election. There would be no extra costs to the tax payers or the province. Something board Chair Loralea Carruthers confirmed to Mind Bending Politics today in a phone call, and something that hasn’t been properly communicated to the public, by Carruthers and the YRDSB.
There are three options the YRDSB wants the people of Georgina to consider:
- Appoint runner up trustee from the last election Cynthia Cardova (Cynthia was the only candidate that ran against Nancy Elgie who resigned earlier last month).
- A Consultative appointment which will mean the board would appoint from a select number of candidates
Those that do show up should recognize that it is very difficult to remove an incumbent from a position. So if the board appoints someone, we’re pretty much stuck with that person. I for one prefer a by-election. I think the people of Georgina need to vet each candidate themselves, rather than having the board do it, and having a good selection of candidates running in a by-election will foster not only interest in the problems we have in our local schools, but also have our voice properly heard and represented at the board, than from some board appointee. A lot of interest has been generated for this position locally as a result of Nancy Elgie’s resignation. Choice is a good thing.
Interested residents are asked to go to Sutton High or Keswick High on March 23rd, 2017 between 7:oopm – 8:30pm to let the board know your choice.
YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers (right) Still Dealing with Massive Public Confidence Issues
This past week there was much indecision at the York Region District School Board [YRDSB] on how to fill former Trustee Nancy Elgie’s seat, punting the ball in an unprecedented move to the people of Georgina. Trustee Elgie stepped down last month after being caught making a racial slur to a black parent in a meeting regarding systemic racism at the board. The YRDSB has two options under law. One is to appoint a trustee; another is to hold a by-election. Both options are being put to the people of Georgina in a “community consultation” process.
A report tabled on March 7th to the YRDSB listed the costs for a trustee by-election at a staggering $300,000. That may be an exaggeration Mind Bending Politics has learned. In an e-mail to Mind Bending Politics, Georgina spokesperson John Espinosa stated that the estimate for the $300,000 that was provided to the YRDSB was a “very rough” estimate, and noted that the basis for the high costs was the 2014 municipal election in which was a full election of town council, school trustee, mayor, and not a trustee by-election. The breakdown of the by-election estimate provided to the YRDSB is displayed here.
YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers has been largely stating in media (page 7), that the approximate $300,000 is a lot of money to spend, and potential candidates for trustees would also be on the hook for thousands of dollars due to campaigning. Questions have arisen over whether the YRDSB is actively trying to deter the people of Georgina, and potential candidates away from the electoral process due to high costs. In an e-mail to Mind Bending Politics, Carruthers replied:
I’m just speaking the truth – no agenda here.
It is unclear when the YRDSB plans on holding its consultations with the people of Georgina, or what form this consultation will actually take. Several witnesses to last Tuesday’s meeting including some in media got the impression that these consultations will be in a town hall in person format, something Carruthers denied in her response to Mind Bending Politics when asked about the town hall style approach.
Carruthers stated to local media that the people of Georgina would have to fill a room in order to ensure that there is enough interest to justify the expense of a by-election:
With the board currently under investigation by the province as a result of a major loss of public confidence, can it be a realistic goal that the public will actually show up for a meeting like this in droves? Realistically if people have lost confidence in the board itself, how can they not expect a low turnout for a meeting like this? An election is much different since campaigning and a good selection of candidates generates interest, something that is currently happening in Georgina’s Ward 1 by-election.
I’ve asked whether or not the costs of the trustee by-election to the Town of Georgina should be shouldered directly by trustees and staff (rather than taken from kids in the system) as a by-election would be seen as trying to regain public confidence in the board. Carruthers replied:
I’m really not sure what this means.
When asked if appointing a trustee would be largely seen as sending the wrong message to the public regarding public representation, and public confidence at the YRDSB. Carruthers replied:
I think we answered that [on Tuesday] by going to the public to ask them what they would like.
On the outside allowing members of the public to decide whether or not to appoint a trustee or go to a by-election looks to be a good idea. On the other hand what seems to be transpiring is a lot of misdirection and misinformation to protect the board from criticisms over a decision to go to the polls, or to appoint. If the YRDSB goes to the polls, then they are likely to get heat for spending any money on an election as a result of how current trustees have mis-spent tax payers money. On the other hand if they appoint than it’s viewed as a detriment to the electoral process, and the democratic nature of the board. What better way to avoid more controversy, than to punt the ball to someone else, in this case the people of Georgina. That doesn’t really sound like leadership, it sounds rather representative of the protectionist nature of the YRDSB – a nature that has currently landed the board and all its trustees under a provincial investigation.
What’s even more troubling is that I sent Carruthers several e-mails to get her response on questions relating to the $300,000, and the by-election for this blog. When none was offered I took to twitter, in which Carruthers told me she had not received any of my e-mails and asked that I delete any tweets suggesting she didn’t respond:
It seems to be clear to me there is no credible public representation at the YRDSB. Trustees have pretty much decided not to decide on how to handle the most basic of functions of democracy on the board leaving the decision to others to save the institution from more criticism – or worse – they are intentionally misleading the public on costs and manipulating a process to ensure a desired outcome of an appointment.
One thing is for certain though, the YRDSB seems to be in a lot worse situation that I had previously thought with its leadership. Can the board be justified whatever the outcome of this “consultation” is to appoint while in a crisis of leadership and public confidence? Would anyone appointed be legitimate to their constituency under these circumstances? If an election is held, where will the money come from, and how much will it cost?
I have requested an accurate quote from the Town of Georgina regarding the actual costs associated with a trustee by-election, and I’ve asked Carruthers to provide me with an explanation as to why board staff have seemingly left out the fact the $300,000 quote was a very rough estimate, and essentially that the costs reflected in the $300,000 are the costs of the full municipal election in 2014. I will post a follow up blog once I receive that information.
(York School Board Trustee Nancy Elgie Tenders Her Resignation via Youtube)
Yesterday York Region District School Board [YRDSB] Trustee Nancy Elgie told her constituents via a Youtube video that she would be stepping down as a Trustee, months after uttering a racial slur by “mistake”. In the almost 10 minute heavily edited statement on youtube, Elgie stated that the whole situation is a misunderstanding, and she didn’t mean to say those hurtful words to a parent in York Region. Elgie went on to say that there is no “sanction” under employment laws for trustees under which she was investigated and she felt was wrong (Elgie under the employment investigation was ordered to take “equality training” as a sanction). She also stated she didn’t resign immediately because she wanted this to be a teachable moment for the kids and the community. I fully agree with this being a teachable moment for the community in Georgina, and also within York Region.
Over the past several months there has been a lot of questions as to why the York trustees chose to investigate this matter as one that suits “employment law” rather than the appropriate trustee code of conduct. By treating this incident under employment law, the board and its trustees effectively shielded Elgie from accountability measures that were put into place nearly 14 years ago by the Province of Ontario to deal with trustee conduct (who are publicly elected officials). Trustees are NOT employed by the board. They are employed by the tax payers of this province and the YRDSB had no authority to make this matter one of employment law.
YRDSB Chair Loralea Carruthers (who is a defeated Liberal candidate in York-Simcoe and long time YRDSB trustee) posted up a statement after a tremendous amount of public pressure was put on the board to follow through with a code of conduct review on Elgie. Carruthers stated:
The Education Act does provide Trustees with the ability to initiate a Code of Conduct complaint when a colleague commits a breach. The Trustee Code of Conduct process is complex, has limitations, must be conducted in private and its outcome is not always able to be made public. We are unable, under the rules that govern us, to even let the public know if we are proceeding with a Code of Conduct complaint. The process typically takes months, is expensive and, should a breach be confirmed, Trustees are limited in terms of what sanctions can be applied.
If the YRDSB followed through with a code of conduct complaint after Elgie was sanctioned under employment law, the board would have needed to take Elgie to court to argue the board erred in law and sanctions needed to be under the trustee code of conduct. This would have cost the tax payers and the board massive amounts of money had Elgie fought the board legally on this.
Under the trustee code of conduct, not much can be done to sanction a trustee other than short term suspensions. Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne was recently questioned on the lack of “teeth” in the trustee code of conduct, too which her reply was basically – we put that in over 13 years ago, and its better than nothing. Last year the Ontario Auditor General found the Wynne Liberals gave a $22 million blank cheque to the school unions, and just this month gave teachers across the province a 4% raise.
The huge problem not just the YRDSB is having – but boards across the province – is protectionist behavior. Protect their own, rather than be held accountable for their mistakes, which continues to this day even when the YRDSB is under investigation. This should be of great concern to the tax payers of Ontario.
York trustees on February 13th, 2017, one by one urged Elgie to resign, effectively throwing her under the bus to protect the “institution” and once again tried to sweep the misconduct of other trustees who fought to wrongfully protect Elgie from a code of conduct review under the rug. Wynne has stated in a presser earlier last week that the province has sent in investigators to the YRDSB to uncover why the YRDSB did not follow through with a code of conduct complaint, and to determine if other trustees are in violation of that code of conduct as a result. Wynne also stated that the investigators she has sent into the YRDSB may make recommendations to the province in order to tighten up and properly sanction trustees around their code of conduct laws.
Now that Elgie has stepped down, the residents of Georgina need to ask themselves; is this cover-up of misconduct by Elgie at the YRDSB an isolated incident? Over the later part of the week, the Toronto Star was in contact with Elgie, and her family for several days. Several of her constituents came forward to the Star regarding Elgie’s conduct as a trustee. The Toronto Star over these several days questioned the family and Elgie herself on several situations where she was seen to be dismissive and non-responsive to concerns of the community. In one instance the Toronto Star brought up:
“Desiree Makuto, whose son was videotaped being beaten and racially taunted by classmates in a high-profile incident at Sutton District High School in 2014, said she called and emailed Elgie for support, to no avail.
“She never did respond — she was surprisingly silent on the issue,” said Makuto. “… She had an obligation, a role to play.”
Elgie’s son Stewart dismissed the concerns of the community stating to the Star:
“these allegations are a disappointing attempt to re-write history and smear the record of a trustee who has earned consistent praise from her colleagues and constituents over the years.”
There was growing pressure for Elgie to step down over the past few months, and her resignation seems to have come following serious questions from the community she serves on her conduct, and leaves serious questions about the conduct of other trustees and the board in its wake. If we are truly looking to reform the YRDSB, than we must take a good close look at the protectionist behavior these institutions are well known for, and why it’s been allowed to continue in law for so many years while the province has known about the problems of conduct, and developed legislation with nothing meaningful in play to stop it.
As a resident of Georgina in which Elgie has served and parent myself, one can only hope that the members of my community will elect someone who understands that the role of a trustee is to hold the board to account, knows the problems in our local schools, and can properly and effectively advocate for ALL in their constituency. A board meeting will be held on February 21st, 2017 to discuss whether the board will appoint a replacement or rightfully allow the community of Georgina to go to the polls.