Posts Tagged Ontario Politics

Autism Parents Say They’ve Been Duped In Open Letter To Coteau

(Autism Parents Say MCYS is still cutting therapy from kids 5 and up)

In an open letter to the Ontario Minister of Children and Youth Services, several parents of autistic kids say they’ve been duped by the province into thinking that funding was restored for intensive therapy for kids over 5.

Last year Ontario Premiere Kathleen Wynne decided to cut funding for intensive behavioral intervention therapy for kids over the age of 5, which sparked heated protests from parents, and support for parents concerns from both opposition parties, experts and the public.  After months of  tremendous public pressure, the Wynne Government “backtracked” and “restored” funding stated that all kids would get the therapy they need regardless of age.  Parents are now refuting that, and almost a year later, evidence is starting to emerge that only a some kids have received funding from the government with many over the age of 5 still being denied.

What’s also in question is the transparency around a committee set up by the Wynne government to look at implementation of the Government’s new autism program set to start in June of this year, leaving many questions parents have with respect to this new program and what is currently taking place with therapy for kids over 5 unanswered.

A full copy of the open letter can be found here, and displayed below:

Hello Mr. Coteau,

Surely you are aware that the autism (ASD) community has been closely following the progress the Ministry of Children and Youth Services (MCYS) has made in regards to the implementation of the new Ontario Autism Program (OAP), since you, Mr. Coteau, were named the Minister of Children and Youth Services this past June.

Your initial commitment to improving the roll out of the new OAP and including the ASD community in the process, feels like nothing more than an exaggerated attempt at manipulating parents into believing we have a reason to celebrate, a reason to be hopeful. Many children are simply being forgotten, the public is still left without crucial information, non-disclosure agreements remain in effect on both the Advisory and Expert Committees, and many families are feeling as though their child’s services are about to be taken away. We are not hopeful, we are terrified.

In June of 2016, you had committed to removing the 5 year age cap and ensuring that all children with autism, regardless of age, receive the clinically recommended, individualized services that they need, including those currently receiving services and those removed from the Intensive Behavioral Intervention (IBI) wait list. You did not announce this as a short-term offering, but a long-term solution. As we approach spring of 2017 and are just a few months away from the anticipated start of the new Ontario Autism Program, things clearly aren’t going as planned.

Some things have remained consistent, in contradiction with your commitments. Regional providers are still suggesting and moving forward with plans to reduce services for those over 5; many families were delayed in receiving or simply not told that they qualify for the one-time funding payments, others face great difficulty reconciling funds though spent appropriately; wait lists continue to grow as services are not being offered to families any faster than before; Children 3-5 years old receiving new diagnoses’ are not only continuing to age out of IBI eligibility, they do not qualify for any interim funding or continuous ABA; and parents continue to be left in the dark about how the new OAP will affect their children’s lives.

Though you assured parents that all children would receive individualized therapy at the level of intensity that they need, every contract, letter, and even the Ministry web page make it very clear – when the new OAP begins in June, as spots become available, children 5 and older can not continue their DSO/DFO IBI, those removed from the wait list can not continue their currently funded private therapy or continuous ABA treatment from their regional provider. The age cap for intensive therapy? It will very much still exist as IBI will remain in place for those under the age of 5. How can we rely on the notion that the new OAP will offer children the same intensive services, when it belongs to a separate stream that they do not qualify for?

With no insight into what the new OAP will offer, committee meeting updates lacking great detail and nobody answering questions, all we are left to know is that in a few short months, regardless of whether or not our children are currently receiving exactly what they need, it will all be replaced with something different, and it appears, something less. If children were going to receive exactly what they need, many of these children would not be ripped away from their current services, or continue to be denied access to services they have long awaited – due to their age.
You should understand that after the Government’s misinterpretation of the expert committee’s recommendations last year, there is very little trust left within the ASD community. Any apparent attempt to refuse the release of essential information is seen as an attempt to prevent parents from opposing it before it is implemented. What issues do you anticipate will arise if you inform parents in a direct, transparent manner on decisions regarding the development of the OAP?

We can not take a chance on our children’s best interests and sit back until June in hopes of a favorable outcome with the ever-growing list of red flags and uncertainties. It is time that the Ministry explain itself, and provide detailed information in regards to the services & intensity options that children over 5 will receive in the Ontario Autism Program. Will you be keeping your promises, Mr. Coteau? Or are you balancing the budget on our backs once again?

Sincerely,
Brenna Bloodworth, Tanya Corey, John McArthur, Angelina Palmisano, Jenn Masonovich, Dennis Madge, Anne Jovanovic, Steve Cannon, Candice Shaver, Kate Dudley Logue, Ashley Sturgess, I Yu, Jenny Sturgeon, Jacques Sturgeon, Robert Shalka, Elena Gudyrenko, Jordyn Lee, Venette Gerden Purcell, Rhonda Allaby-Glass, Etienne Glass, Jason Koblovsky, Nicole Roy, Amy Hackett, Julie Ding, Hubert Wong, Angela Wong, Jenn Lalonde, Ross MacLean, Nisha Kapadia, Robert Orbegoso, Martina Pietracupa, Trish Dennis, Jennifer Stehlik, Omar D’Angelo, Pat McKenna, Julie-Anne Duncan, Stephen Chartrand, Marimuthu Ramakrishnan, Bobbie Arbuckle, Mike Arbuckle, Anne Mason, Rebecca Haight, Gwenny Seymour, Sara Haight, Lily Mondesir, Roberson Mondesir, Veronica Savage, Olen Boynton, Anne Burgess, Jillian Tweedy, Lesley Adams, Lina Khouri, Shannon Charlebois, Sarah Jones

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Ontario To Axe CCAC In $50 Billion Health Care Overhaul

(Nothing to see here: Federal Health Minister mum on Ontario Closure of Community Care Access Centres)

The horror stories continue for the people of Ontario, with the federal government still very much on the sidelines.   Ontario Health Minister Eric Hoskins announced today that the government will be closing all Community Care Access Centres (CCAC) in favor of cost cutting measures, and moving the home care services to Local Health Integration Networks (LHIN).  These measures come on the heels of Ontario doctors filing a charter challenge on the cuts to the funding to their services, and reports that Ontario’s hospitals are now running over capacity.  Ontario hasn’t seen such regressive policies since the Uncommon Sense Revolution of former Primer Mike Harris in the mid-90’s which saw many Ontario patients die unnecessarily while waiting for care as a result of cuts to essential health care services.

In recent months, money has been cut from educational services, autism therapies, special needs kids, and now a critical part of home care for the province will be lost.  Money saved from these essential services is going to pay for green energy, free tuition, and keeping teachers unions at bay.  With an aging population, shouldn’t more money be spent on health care?  With a growing number of kids being diagnosed as special needs, shouldn’t more money be allocated to ensure they get their therapy?  Where are the priorities of this Ontario Government?  Free tuition, and filling union pocket books, seems to be a heavy price to pay with the cuts to essential services to help fund those priorities.

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Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne on Autism, Teachers Unions, and More

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(Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne Still Talking Down To Parents Not At Parents)

 

Yesterday Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne appeared as a co-host on CFRB 1010’s drive time talk show, where she discussed a wide range of topics including the autism protests, ABA and IBI therapy and the fact that she has been listening to parents.  The autism conversation starts at 13:58 min mark on the below embedded podcast:

 

The first thing I want to say in response to this is that Wynne’s only concession through the #autismdoesntendat5 seems to be direct funding.  Wynne is still talking down to the people of this province not to them.  She has not been listening at all to parents, and her own expert panel on IBI therapy.  In fact we are now going on month 3 of these protests with another scheduled for June 6th at Queens park.  Consistently throughout the past 3 months in question period at Queens Park Liberal MPPs, Ministers, and herself have openly mocked parents concerns.  Police have been called on parents by MPPs and half assed apologies offered as a result.  The Ontario Liberals are showing signs of regressive policy, not progressive policy.

Readers should also pay attention to Wynne’s comments at the 17:57 mark as well on teachers unions. Apparently these unions have been calling their members during provincial elections and asking them to vote Liberal.  I have a feeling that issues with these unions and school boards mis-spending money, isn’t over yet.  I think we’re going to hear a lot more on that in the weeks and months ahead.  I’ll be covering any breaking news regarding this on mindbendingpolitics, and also on my twitter feed.  In the mean time, you can read more on the issues regarding school boards and teachers unions and my comments on the current crisis here.

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Ontario’s Education System in Crisis: Proactive Change Needed in Youth and Education Services

As a parent with a non-verbal autistic kid, one of my worst nightmares is to have to deal with a teacher that isn’t qualified to ensure the care of my child. We’ve been pretty lucky. The teachers and staff taking care of my son in the school system are extremely caring, professional and have been a huge support for my family. The vast majority of the education system is like this, however there seems to be a growing concern in Ontario’s school system when issues with bad apples arise, and with developing meaningful policy at the provincial level to insert accountability in order to deal with these bad apples. Ontario faces quite a few bad apples.

Last month CBC’s marketplace did a special on problem teachers. CBC has found that in Ontario, teachers who have been found of misconduct continue to teach for years until the College of Teachers gets involved in dealing with stripping those teachers of their license to teach. In one case, an Ontario teacher was found to have been sending suggestive sexual messages to the kids in his class. It took 4 years for the complaints to reach the College of Teachers which allowed this teacher to continue his behavior thus increasing the amount of victims of it, and later he moved to a different country to skirt accountability, where he is still teaching. What’s worse is that teachers found of misconduct are often “recycled” to different schools until matters can be heard years later at the College of Teachers allowing for more abuse to continue and increasing the number of victims of abuse.

 

For me as a parent, let alone one with a non-verbal ASD kid, this is unacceptable. If a teacher is found abusing kids with special needs, they are continued to be allowed to teach. The strength of the education lobby is of great concern in this province. Too often than not, parents voices are drowned out by powerful unions and school boards during committee and policy processes. When complaints arise from parents in the system, this lobby more often than not, dismisses any concerns from parents, often bullying them with threatening behavior to protect their own interests rather than those of kids.

Remember that parent that vented out on facebook? The facebook post went viral about her special needs child being ordered to do over 80 crunched in one day. Mindbendingpolitics as learned the York Region District School Board did their investigation into the matter. They completely exonerated the teacher of any wrong doing, and blamed the child for lying due to issues at home. The parents called in the Children’s Aid Society to investigate which found the teacher was guilty of misconduct but no child protection issues in which they could legally intervene. With the current situation this teacher will be allowed to teach other special education students for years to come. The York board in this current case is also refusing to provide transportation to this special needs child to her new school further adding stress to this family as a result of coming forward with their concerns.

Granted that not all teachers are bad, but the few that are, are being protected by their unions and boards and recycled to different schools. Parents concerns are often set by the way-side and bullied into silence. This is creating an epidemic of child abuse in our school system in Ontario as a result, and should not be tolerated by our law makers.

Youth advocates for years have been fighting to make the system better and more accountable only to find unions and school boards hijacking policy too further protect their own interests over that of even basic human rights. Politicians for the most part gladly oblige due to political donations. An example of this I followed was through the introduction of two pieces of legislation in 2012. Bill 13, and Bill 14 which had to do with creating a safe environment for our kids. After heavy lobbying by youth advocates, the Ontario PC’s adopted a bill with a lot of recommendations to define issues such as bullying, and accountability of schools and government to ensure our kids remain safe bill 13. The Liberals supported by the NDP introduced their own legislation Bill 14. As a youth advocate it was nice to see non-partisan support for keeping our kids safe, but a close inspection of both bills revealed a lot of union influence with a lot of anger from parents. This spilled onto the committee floor with parents testifying regarding their concerns. Particularly from Owen Sound parent Joe Grieco who testified in 2012:

Having carefully looked over both bills, we have grave concerns that, although there appears to be a desire to reduce the impact of bullying in Ontario, the proposed additions and amendments to the Education Act are not comprehensive enough and will not lead to the necessary outcome: safer schools, safer students and improved learning success for all Ontario students.

What’s even worse is that after bill 14 became law and new money flowed into the system to keep our kids safe, the Ministry of Education in 2014 felt it necessary to divert $1.6 million allocated to safe schools and autism services to protect school boards across the province from a lawsuit. All the work to keep our kids safe and previous efforts by autism advocates was pretty much to help fund the Ministry of Educations slush account for school boards and unions.

Fast forward to 2016 – youth advocates are again engaged over the debate of autism and safe schools funding. I’ve approached York Region District School Board a month ago to find what programs are in place to ensure student safety, and requested a breakdown of the boards budget to show money flowing to each school and what programs that money is being spent on. I was told this would be provided to me. Now the board is stating that information isn’t available to the general public due to “confidentiality” reasons.

As recently as February, the York Region District School Board was called out by the Ontario Human Rights Commissioner for not collecting important data too target social programs in schools. I have to question even the existence of safe schools programs in York Region as a result. The board has been unable to provide any information detailing these programs, when this information and break down presumably should be publicly available via the boards website as it relates to the boards budget.

The province has recently stripped needed support to autism services in Ontario. This as prompted concerns from the province’s youth advocate Irwin Elman on what impact this will have on the school system, stating:

One also has to question how the school system will fit into this plan. How is the role of the school and the classroom integrated into plans for service to the school-aged children? Parents of children with “special needs” know that the gap between the promise of the school system and the child’s lived experience at school is a chasm. The Ministry of Education also appears absent from this important discussion.

Enter the teacher unions and school boards. The NDP has been leading the fight with autism services in Queens Park. Members of the NDP are showing a tremendous amount of passion (even members of the party being ejected from question period) to bring forth concerns to Wynne’s autism policy. The biggest financial donor of the NDP is the Ontario Secondary Schools Federation, who has donated more than $249,350 to the party over the past 3 years. I have to question whether this passion for parents concerns is legitimate, or an attempt to politically position their top financial donors at the front of the line with the applause of parents when discussions inevitably turn to the education system. I have concerns over not just current funds but any future funds allocated to autism services in the education system as a result, and whether they will actually reach kids, while parents groups applaud the efforts of these unions and boards.

The Ontario Autism Coalition has been a great support for parents in this political battle; however this organization has been actively seeking the support of teachers unions and boards. When questioning Bruce McIntoish (one of the lead advocates for the coalition) on policy, McIntosh suggested that Policy Program Memorandums (PPMs) be modified to ensure ABA services in the education system.

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PPM’s are essentially non-binding statements and as independent youth advocate and founder of the York Region Anti-bullying coalition Karen Sebben stated in an interview with mindbendingpolitics:

The language used in PPM’s are vague and open ended. It creates the illusion that the Ministry of Education is pro-active.

Sebben continued:

The language used is for the sole purpose of continuing to allow administrative discretionary measures, lack of transparency and continued autonomy.

What’s even more horrifying is the fact that these unions appear to have infiltrated a parent led movement, which now is restating support for the very cause of the issues present in the education system. That is that we have to protect union members in order to protect our kids, when it is precisely that situation that is creating an in balance and lack of accountability.

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We need accountability injected into this system as a result of the amount of protection union members and boards currently enjoy. The lack of accountability is creating an environment where money isn’t reaching our kids to ensure their education is a safe one, to ensure human rights and dignity of our most venerable are being protected, to ensure that kids with special needs get the proper education by qualified staff and thugs are fired rather than recycled.

It’s not just one political party to blame for this. It’s all of them. There may be a need now as a result to have the Ombudsman or Auditor General reappear on these files to inject that accountability, since advocates and parents voices are continually being drowned out regarding the problems our school system and youth face and a lack of concrete systemic solutions being presented due to heavy lobbying efforts by these unions and school boards.

Parents seeking meaningful change should focus their support on independent youth advocates rather than union lead parent movements. When you make a deal with the devil, you always set yourself up for failure, and I think the current problems the education system faces is representative of too many bad deals made with groups who have no intention in being held accountable for anything, and will do whatever they need too, to ensure that continues. Balance needs to be restored, and a massive injection of accountability ordered to ensure our youth have the right to proper, safe and enjoyable learning experiences, and the services they need.

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Ontario Set To Terminate Needed Therapy for a Vast Swath of Autistic Kids

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(Parents Upset At Recent Changes To Autism Services In Ontario)

The Ontario government recently announced changes it is going to make to the services autistic kids receive in the province.  The Ontario government is looking at terminating intensive behavioral intervention therapy (IBI) for kids 5 and over, and pump more money into the controversial applied behavior analysis (ABA) program in its place.  Those currently on the wait list for IBI will receive a total of $8,000 to cover a few months of IBI therapy as compensation.

IBI therapy is one on one therapy with specialists for the kids, meanwhile ABA sets to train the parents to become their child’s specialist and the parent is then responsible for applied therapy.  The Ontario Government is committing $333 million to transition IBI to ABA.  This transition could end up having a profound impact on parents who are working full-time on top of many other stresses they have to deal with. This change in policy puts applied therapy directly on the parents’ backs, which could create another crisis as a result of the time off of work to commit to ABA in which most parents in the know feel hasn’t produced satisfactory results compared to IBI.

Autism Ontario in its press release seemed very supportive of the new changes. Marg Spoelstra, Executive Director, Autism Ontario stated:

Families today can give credit to the parents who have been continually advocating on behalf of the thousands of people with autism and their families for many years about the importance of investment into timely, early, evidence based intervention, even at a time when they and their children were or would not be eligible for the intervention services announced today.

One quick look at the comments section on the Autism Ontario facebook page suggests something completely different with respect to parents concerns on this policy.  One parent stated:

The transition period might feel devastating. How about every phone call. Every meltdown. Every injury to not only our children by themselves, but to other family members. Every therapy strategy implemented, while waiting. Every tear. Every day, from wake, to sleep … If we’re lucky, while waiting for the already promised hope of IBI. The faith that one day … It’s all been a devastating disappointment.

Other comments include criticizing Autism Ontario for their support of this policy:

Beyond disappointed in Autism Ontario in being part of a process that offers up to 2,000 sacrificial lambs in order to support this ‘new’ program. Why is it ok to abandon these kids before they were given a chance? Why wasn’t a plan made for these kids & why couldn’t the plan have given them the same chance that kids before them got & kids after them will get (at an earlier age) ABA services are NOT as effective & in fact are very hard to access for single parents or 2 working parents.

One comment that has stuck with me being a parent with an autistic son, and political blogger:

Two words. Human Rights. This a step backwards, now we have an age five cut off, once upon a time Ontario agreed and removed the age six cut off for IBI. Huge gains can be made by children over five, especially children who are non-speaking. Developmental gains are slower for children with a developmental disability, too bad they are being written off for a chance at appropriate early intervention. Being dumped into a waitlist for ABA services that are inadequate and do little to provide the extent of intervention that children need. All of this to be delivered by bloated transfer payment agencies, instead of direct funding to families to purchase services at a much lower cost.(it’s been proven in multiple reports) I hope that parents will find the strength to come forward to speak out about what is really going on here.

Upset parents have already stated a petition to get the Ontario government to reconsider this policy approach.  I’ve reached out to Autism Ontario to get them to clarify their support for this new policy the government has put forth.

More to come soon. Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog for more details as they become available.  You can subscribe by e-mail through the subscribe section on the upper right hand section of this blog.  You can also add me to twitter.  I’m @jkobopoli.

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Parent’s Plea To Stop The Bullying In Her Child’s School Goes Viral

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(York Region District School Board Still Plagued With Accountability and Bullying Issues Seven Years After High Profile Rally)

 

Back in 2009, over 400 students walked out of their classrooms denouncing staff at Keswick High School’s decision to wrongfully suspend an Asian student who was the subject of bullying.  This incident in 2009 took the York Region District School Board [YRDSB] off guard and continues to be a black eye on the board regarding how not just Board Trustee Nancy Elgie handled the case, but how the bigotry and blind eye towards victims of abuse ran rampant in York Region Schools.  It wasn’t until media was involved and a public outcry, that Trustee Elgie (who’s profession is a clinical psychologist) and higher ranks at YRDSB actively got involved to correct the situation.  The Keswick High protests brought forth change in YRDSB policy, however not the attitude of the board to listen to students and parents.

Fast forward to 2016.  Seven years after the Keswick High boondoggle, there have been several reports that a school just blocks away is displaying again intolerance around bullying to the point where even the staff seem to be taking an active role in it.  Keswick parent Robin Legault took to facebook in horror, and desperation after feeling nothing was being done to correct her concerns by school staff and the YRDSB.  Legault stated in her facebook post, that she had complained to the school several times regarding the bullying, and staff gave her the cold shoulder:

My fiancé and I have repeatedly complained to the school about these issues in hopes the school staff would rectify this, but it seemed they would just ignore the problem and tell us they were “looking into it”.

Legault goes on to say that as a result of the relentless bullying her daughter tried to take her own life, not once but twice.  Legault was horrified to find out recently that school staff seem to be taking an active role in the abuse of her child.  Legault stated:

On Wednesday March 9th 2016, I was expecting my daughter to have had a really good day at school. I never had any phone calls or anything and was hopeful she had a rare, but peaceful day. Quite the opposite. When she arrived home, she told me that her special education teacher had prevented her to leave the classroom at all costs and also asked another teacher to “make sure she didn’t leave”. Her special education teacher was sending her down to the office and as my daughter asked why she was being sent, the special education teacher demanded her to do ten crunches in front of the class. Every time my daughter opened her mouth to ask what was going on, another ten crunches was added to make a total of eighty crunches that my daughter was forced to do before she left. She was escorted down to the office and remained there for the day. She was not allowed to read, do her schoolwork, or even draw while she was there. When my daughter was finally allowed to return to her special education class, my daughter was terrified to speak, as she didn’t want more crunches. In addition, her teacher told her that something must be wrong with her head and using anxiety and depression is just an excuse.

The facebook post quickly shared by thousands on facebook produced comments from across the country of support and similar issues with other school boards and staff.  Legault, is planning on a rally in front of Jersey Public School Monday March 21st, 2016 at 7:30am to denounce bullying problems at this school with the support of several other concerned parents. She is asking those that plan on attending to wear pink.

Legault has since approached Trustee Elgie, and the superintendent of the school only to be met with threats of a lawsuit from YRDSB, and dismissal of her complaints on staff.  According to YRDSB spokesperson Licinio Miguelo, upon a complaint from a parent on the conduct of school staff the board is supposed to initiate an investigation on the incident at the school.  There has been no indication or documentation provided to Legault that any investigation is ongoing regarding her complaint, just threats of a lawsuit against Legault’s family by the board, nor did Miguelo provide any indication of an ongoing investigation into Legault’s concerns.

Under safe schools legislation YRDSB is supposed to implement anti-bullying programs board-wide.  Miguelo wouldn’t comment on whether in Legault‘s case proper policy was followed citing privacy concerns, and did not have any specific information regarding what anti-bullying programs were in place at Jersey Public School at the time of the interview.  I was told the board would provide that at a later date. In 2010 the Ontario Auditor General found a total of $30 million $50 million in tax payers money earmarked for anti-bullying programs unaccounted for by all school boards across the province.

I spoke with Legault’s Trustee Nancy Elgie today on the record.  When questioning Elgie on the threatening behavior of the board, Elgie acknowledged that the board provided “legal advise” to Legault, and essentially called into question Legault’s story on facebook as being not truthful.  Elgie provided nothing to counter Legault’s claims, nor did she elaborate. Upon questioning regarding the bullying problems at Jersey Public School which is well known in the community, Elgie stated that she hasn’t heard of any systemic bullying issues from parents at this school, meanwhile there is documentation that shows Elgie was e-mailed by the superintendent showing systemic issues being investigated by the board on Legault’s daughters bullies in 2014. Legault stated that Elgie refused to get in contact with her in 2014, along with the superintendent that was copied on the e-mail thread.

When questioning Elgie if she would be willing to meet with concerned parents regarding the bullying issues at this school, Elgie agreed however offered that she would only be there to listen to concerns, and would not offer up any solutions to the systemic bullying issues at Jersey Public School.  Elgie did state however that she will be attending the rally on March 21st.

What saddens me from following this story, is that we just had a national discussion on bullying, to the point where the Federal Government in 2014 tried to address the issue through federal legislation.  The Ontario Government passed safe schools legislation years ago, that seems to be rather voluntary regarding the boards implementation of it.  The country, it’s people, and elected representatives are all on the same page regarding bullying, so why aren’t educators and trustees?

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Ontario Ombudsman: A Watch Dog That Isn’t Watching PT.1

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(Ontario’s Watch Dog Caught Not Watching)

 

The Ontario Ombudsman’s office recently got new powers to investigate school boards, municipalities and universities.  The early months of these new expanded powers has seen this office more run like a customer service wing of government rather than one with investigative powers to resolve issues. In fact, the Ontario Ombudsman hasn’t launched any investigations at all on the complaints they are receiving as a result of those expanded powers.

I’ve been a strong advocate in the past and a strong voice within the victims rights community with respect to expanding the Ontario Ombudsman’s office powers to investigate school boards.  Even starting a facebook group to push for new legislation in 2010 and featured in local media. Advocates I’ve worked with before in the victims rights community are reporting that the Ombudsman’s office is refusing to investigate issues at the school board level, often disposing of complaints without a full resolution, or investigation.  There have been no investigations on the complaints received against school boards since her expanded powers came into effect in September 2015.

I’ve recently got a call from the Ombudsman on a complaint I was sure the office would investigate.  It’s well within this offices jurisdiction to investigate.  As a result of my own family situation in having a wife and child who are autistic, I’ve had to put a lot of my life on hold to take care of my family.  It’s a full time job, on top of the problems we’ve encountered in the housing system, and also having to fight tooth and nail for services my son needs.  We live in social housing.

My family and I have been through hell over the past two years while I started my own probe into the public housing sector to see what problems within the law are creating an environment ripe for abuse and fear.  Many who qualify for housing and are on waiting lists may not be getting a fair shake as a result of the lack of accountability and legal enforcement primarily as a result of lobbyists efforts on legislation, and inaction of government to deal with a crisis situation.  Money allocated at all levels of government may not be making it’s way to where it’s needed most to improve the system, nor improve living conditions for those who are living in social housing.  This is especially important now to come forward with all of this due to the influx of refugees, and commitments from all levels of government to hand out more money for affordable housing.  The last thing we all want is for these people to move from one dictatorship to another.

A lot of our most vulnerable in our society are being taken advantage of and squashed like little ants, in large part due to a huge troll of a lobby group called the Canadian Co-Operative Housing Federation of Canada  (CHFC).   There’s a lot of money I’m suspecting in the system that is unaccounted for, primarily as a result of our politicians not taking co-operative members with any serious credibility.   Someone needs to investigate the amount of abuse in the system, in order to better improve financial accountability, and ensure that civil rights of low income individuals who require affordable housing are being actively respected. The Ombudsman’s office is refusing to investigate, and told me to follow up with my MPP.  So here is my letter to MPP Julia Munro:

Ms. Munro,

 

I contacted your office last week regarding my Ombudsman complaint against York Region being punted back to your office as a result of a change in the law that is required to ensure financial accountability within the co-operative housing sector.

There are now two issues attached to this.  The first is the utter refusal of the Ombudsmans office to investigate the system that is in place for not just financial accountability issues but what I would suspect to be a huge number of civil rights issues due to the way the Co-operative Corporations Act is enforced.  I was a huge advocate to get the Ombudsman involved in investigating complaints regarding the MUSH sector.  I’m hearing from anti-bullying advocates and also through my experience that the Ombudsmans office is currently disposing of complaints that are well within its jurisdiction and mandate to investigate.  I was told by this office that since I think there needs to be a change in law they would not investigate my complaint told me to get a hold of you all the while claiming to the public that the office looks for accountability issues and works with Government to make proper changes to legislation to improve the system (which is the basis for my complaint into the Ombudsman in the first place):

https://twitter.com/Ont_Ombudsman/status/693117936748331008

Myself and quite a few that advocated for the Ombudsman’s oversight of the MUSH sector will be coming forward publicly on our concerns regarding the conduct of this office since they have been granted expanded powers. That’s the first issue.

The second issue is how the law legislation is enforced under the Co-operative Corporations Act.  In order for the co-operative or members of the co-operative to enforce bi-laws or breach of bi-laws passed by the members, it requires an expensive trip to the Ontario Superior Court of Justice (SCJ).  In 2013, the Ontario Legislature introduced Bill 14 Non-profit Housing Co-operatives Statute Law Amendment Act, 2013, which essentially allows for the co-operative to enforce evictions by way of the Landlord Tenants Board (LTB) under certain circumstances.  This amendment does NOT allow members of the co-operative to approach the LTB to get their concerns regarding mismanagement and harassment of boards, and staff to be addressed.  Members must still file at the SCJ.  An excellent article on the passing of Bill 14 Non-profit Housing Co-operatives Statute Law Amendment Act and the concerns regarding that act is here:

http://rabble.ca/news/2014/01/evictions-all-what-effects-will-bill-14-have-on-co-op-residents

Essentially since the conception of the Co-operative Corporations Act in 1990, there has been only one co-operative member that made it to present her case before the SCJ.  The rest have been fought out of court on legal technicalities.  Something that the Canadian Co-Operative Housing Federation of Canada (CHFC) acknowledged in 2013 during testimony before the standing committee on Bill 14 Non-profit Housing Co-operatives Statute Law Amendment Act.  It’s also worthy of note that only a few co-operative members were able to provide testimony in the 2013 committee and time allocated for these members to speak in committee was dramatically cut compared to those who represent the co-operative sector, most likely due to the lobby efforts of CHFC.

Every lawyer that I’ve approached on my specific situation here has told me to basically shut up and not to speak out as a result of legislation being highly lopsided towards co-operative administrators and boards.  My worry is as a result of the lack of enforcement of the Co-operative Corporations Act and lack of enforcement of member passed bi-laws as a result, some boards and admins (as the case in my situation) feel that they are above the law, threaten and harass members from coming forward or exercising the democratic spirit of the act and co-operative living (several co-operative members came forward with similar concerns in committee on Bill 14 in 2013).  If there’s no accountability under the act, I suspect the system is ripe for abuse of public funds, and also civil liberties that need to be properly looked at.  In fact, Durham Region Police posted one specific example of how things can get out of control due to the lack of enforcement, and members afraid of speaking out that amounted to fraud, in which Durham Regional Housing refused to provide proper legal assistance to ensure that money lost was recovered:

http://www.drps.ca/internet_explorer/public_safety/safety_tips/index.asp?Action=3&Topic_ID=63&Category_ID=12&AbsPage=1

What co-operative members need is the LTB to handle complaints by members with respect to bi-law enforcement on boards and co-operative staff.  Having low income members shoulder full costs of enforcement of the act is representative of how lopsided the law has become and the utter decimation of our rights as co-operative members under law.  The co-op has money to enforce their rights under law, but us members have no money, and no affordable legal assistance to bring that enforcement to bear.  CHFC has been handling a lot of these complaints outside of court, however CHFC is quite obviously NOT the appropriate place to bring concerns regarding boards and admins, since they are the primary lobby group for the co-operative housing sector, and their primary focus is to protect co-operative boards and staff, not members as cited in my Ombudsman’s complaint.

I hope you guys can help.  I’m tiring real fast on being pointed in every which direction, because no one wants to deal with this, and I’m getting real sick of this.  My family has been through enough.

The issues here, fall directly within the Ombudsmans jurisdiction and new powers to investigate.  A huge amount of evidence was provided to this office, including e-mail chains from the Region of York, and York Regional Council, actively refusing to look at financial accountability issues that are present in the system.

The second part of this post will deal specifically with the Ombudsman quickly disposing of complaints made against school boards in the province.  If you have filed a complaint into the Ombudsman since their expanded powers.  I would like to hear from you.  Please e-mail me your stories at jkobopoli at rogers dot com.

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