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More Gripes Please?
I am so frustrated. . . . and so tired. I have just returned from a 2 ½ hour meeting with the Ombudsman’s Office of Nova Scotia. This meeting, the third of a series of meetings with this office since August of 2004, has manifested the roller coaster downturn that unfortunately we, who are trying to fight the system, have come to expect. As Thelma and I walked the hallway after the meeting we were already discussing other avenues to pursue. “We are resistant. Knock us down and we will pop right back up again” I defiantly declared as we headed for the elevator. Like those carnival games you see on TV. Pop the pegs down with a mallet and they pop right back up again!
It wasn’t that everything that was said at this meeting was negative, but at the beginning of the meeting the Ombudsman, Dwight Bishop, wasted valuable time expressing to us the wonderful “evidence” of the good works of the Foster Care system that had been revealed to him at one of their presentations . Yes a propaganda presentation! Some of the people in our group, I included, had already experienced such propaganda meetings.
“They are doing a splendid job. There is no need for us to get involved with them” the Ombudsman resounded. To me, this was mind-boggling! For a man whose job it was to hear complaints against municipal and provincial government offices and establishments, it was bizarre to hear him defend these people. (We discoveried that the Ombudsman, Dwight Bishop, was a retired RCMP office - a person who is rigorously trained to protect the government at all costs!) Such expressions devalued our horrendous experiences , and left us sincerely wondering if we had come to the right place.
Personally, except for the last few minutes of our 2 1/2 hour meeting, I was noticeably and purposely ignored by the Ombudsman. The ombudsman would not even look at me, steadfastly staring at Thelma, even when I attempted to interject. In fact, whenever I spoke, his gaze on Thelma intensified, and he interrupted me like I was totally invisible. At one point, I remember rolling my eyes and I mouthing to the assistant ombudsman, who had been so kind and attentive to us in the last meeting, “He’s totally ignoring me.” After the meeting, Thelma expressed to me that she believed he was “afraid” to speak to me. By this I gathered, that my reputation as a knowledgeable speaker had proceeded me and that he had no intention of verbally engaging with me.
Well now that I have let out a little steam, let me tell you how we got to this third visit.
Over time, a number of people I had connected with over our common concerns about this corrupt system had, now and then, brought up the subject of the ombudsman’s office. “The ombudsman’s office. They’re paid by the government! How are they going to help with our concerns against the government system” was the general reply. Years previous, Thelma had gone to this office, taking in all her documentation but they did nothing to assist her.
As for the alleged existence of a “Children’s” Ombudsman’s office, well that just seemed to be a fable-of-fantasy. There had always been whispers of such an office but no one seemed to know if it really existed. Even the people at Dalhousie Legal Aid didn’t seem to know. But, though rumors of the existence of a Children’s Ombudsman’s office would surface from time to time, none of us thought it worth our while to expend energy searching for this elusive holy grail sponsored by the very government that was victimizing us.
However, on July 15, 2004, a most amazing article appeared in the local newspaper. Ombudsman: More grips please the story banner read. Above the four-columned story two serious faces peered out of the paper, strangely unified by their somber gazes despite their physical differences. One was a tall distinguished white haired gentleman, perfectly groomed, with a well-trimmed mustache, white shirt and conservative, tidy, checked tie. The other was an unusually young looking woman, shorter, with dark wind-tossed hair, sporting an open collared shirt with a crew necked shirt beneath. To the right of these two, was a second woman, short haired, with glasses, a dark business jacket and a white blouse. Her eyes seemed to twinkle and her smile shone so that the contrast of her expression made me wondered how she had managed to get into a picture with these two grave grumblies .
Supposedly these three, the ombudsman, Dwight Bishop; the representative of the Children’s Section (the wind tossed lassie); and the woman overseeing the new division handling complaints from seniors (the sparkling smiler); were out on a whirlwind tour across Nova Scotia, attempting to drum up more business for the ombudsman’s office. At first glance, this sounded most excellent, but the details in the story revealed something different. These people were going to their regular pit stops, the youth detention centres and other institutions connected with the Justice Department, and instead of informing the general public about their existence and their services, they were meeting with municipal mayors and the people in municipal executive offices, they very people they are suppose to handle complaints against!
All of us connected with this struggle were aghast! If it was more business they wanted, all they had to do was to start helping the children in care, and their families. The concerns in the metro area alone, we felt, would keep them more than busy. This office seemed more interested in advertising themselves to the government than informing the people who have been victimized. Basic question: how can people access assistance if they do not even know it is there to begin with?
I must admit, this chance article in the paper confounded and fired me up, so much so , that, for the first time, I decided to delve into the ombudsman office a bit more. As a result, I was went on a web search expedition, slowly unearthing all kinds of interesting information about this office. Of particular interest was a posting on the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman website declaring they did indeed give assistance to children in the care and custody of the province.
This posting read:
Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman Children’s SectionIf you are a child or youth in the care or custody of the Province of Nova Scotia or you have an interest in the programs and services provided to children and youth in provincial facilities . . .The Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman Children’s Section may be able to help you.
Printed from http://www.gov.ns.ca/ombu/Child_Ombud/default.asp
It seemed totally strange that I had been connecting with victimized families for five years now, and the existence of the Ombudsman’s Children’s Section had been nothing more than mist in the wind, yet here they were boldly declaring themselves as defenders of children in care on the internet. At this point, I decided to make an exploratory phone call to the Ombudsman’s Office, Children’s Section, to get clarification of their assistance for children in care.
As a result, I spoke with the wind tossed lassie, the young lady who worked in the Children’s Section. Not wanting the reputation I seemed to have made for myself within government circles to influence the answers, I star 67ed my phone and identified myself only as a Nova Scotia citizen who wanted to know a bit more about the office, what they did, and their jurisdiction. To begin with, I let her ramble on in general areas that did not particularly interest me before gently steering her to the information I was really interested in. Then, I casually asked the questions I wanted answered. In response, I was told that the ombudsman’s office Children’s Section was there to handle complaints from children who had been removed from their parents and had been placed in the care of the province, whether they had complaints about Children Services, a case worker, or a foster parent. I was also told they were also there to help the families of these children if they had any concerns or complaints about the system. I was careful to get her to repeat herself, and reflect back to her my understanding of what she had said so that there would not be any misunderstanding on my part. Then I sincerely but nonchalantly thanked her for the talk and ended the conversation.
But all that glitters is not gold! After this initial contact, I sourced out additional information that informed me that this office was not implementing their jurisdiction over the children in care! This included three significant documents. The first two were the last two financial statements of the Ombudsman’s office Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman, Annual Accountability Report for the Fiscal Year 2001/02 and Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman, Annual Accountability Report for the Fiscal Year 2002/03.
The first report declared: “the Office [Ombudsman’s Children’s Section] was under spent by $201,248.05 due to the delay in the implementation of the Children’s Ombudsman’s service to children in care of the government (Community Services, residential Child-Caring Facilities)”.
The second, report stated: “the Office of the Ombudsman was under spent [by $124,000] because jurisdiction issues have delayed the implementation of the Children’s Section service to children in care of the government.”
The third document, It’s Time to Break the Silence: Creating Meaningful Access to Rights and Advocacy Services for Young People in Care in Ontario, was as a scathing report against the Child Advocacy Office in Ontario (the equivalent to our Ombudsman’s Office, Children’s Section in Novas Scotia). This document, published by Defense for Children International - Canada 2003, an international organization formed in response to the United Nations adoption of the Convention on the Rights of the Child in 1989, includes specifics about the Nova Scotia Office of the Ombudsman, Children’s Section:
"The Children’s Section of the Nova Scotia Ombudsman was established through the ombudsman’s power of delegation under the Ombudsman’s Act in June 1999. The ombudsman delegated a Children’s Ombudsman and a group of field officers to staff the section. . . Although the Children’s Ombudsman’s service mandate also includes young people in child protection care and secure treatment, a multi-agency agreement to monitor and investigate services within child protection facilities has not yet been implemented. "
Shortly after, on August 11, 2004, Thelma and I and a third woman arranged a meeting with the Ombudsman’s Office Children’s Section. As we waited in the seating area, noting the bullet-proof glass and the security doors, we passed disparaging remarks amongst ourselves about this sad state of affairs. Surely they knew there were disgruntle people out there. Disgruntled enough to warrant the installation of bullet-proof glass. As I panned the waiting room, I noticed two other closed doorways, one in the adjacent wall, the other, opposite the main doorway into the office. I assumed, wrongly, that one might be a washroom for the public.
Eventually a young, tall, soft spoken, well mannered African-Canadian gentleman came from the office, introduced himself and then ushered us through the opposite doorway into a windowless conference room. “A black hole with foul air”, Thelma would tell me later. “The black hole of Calcutta” I would clarify. But we didn’t even have time to sit down because, seeing that there weren’t enough chairs and not wanting to take the time to drag them in from behind the secured area, this man opened up the other mystery door, with turned out to be the “back door” to the office. So, we were ultimately ushered into “the inner sanctum” , we called it, a larger conference room with windows running along the length of one wall.
The wind-tossed lassie, the representative for the Children’s Section was waiting for us, introduced herself, as we settled around the large conference table. I hauled out my 2 large binders, from my briefcase, and, as the meeting began, both of the ombudsman reps took out their tidy little notebooks and, with heads bent, began meticulously notating every word. I recall feeling a bit ignored with their heads bent so, but not wanting to be outdone, and thinking it important to equalize the perception of power, that seemed to emanate from this diligent scribbling, I whipped out my notebook and began seriously making my own notations.The first question I asked was what exactly were they doing about looking after the concerns and complaints of children who were taken in to care by Children’s Services. In reply, the woman began rambling about the office making visits to youth in detention centres. I interrupted her and repeated the question. She now proceeded to ramble off in a different direction, once again avoiding my specific inquiry. Again, I stopped her, repeated the same question, only to have her, again, ramble off onto the pathway of avoidance.
For the third time, I stopped her, again reiterating the question.
This time, there was a pause. I guess she finally realized that I was not going to let her avoid my question. She looked at me and now, matter-of-factly, told me that the jurisdiction over the children in care had not yet been implemented. Of course I had already known this, but I hadn’t expected them to blurt this out so early in the meeting, especially since this woman had already told me different when I had spoken with her on the phone just weeks earlier. But keep in mind, this woman did not know that I had been that unnamed “citizen of Nova Scotia” asking questions. I also sensed that she was using this matter-of fact tone to try to steer me away from this subject. But, of course, we honed in on the subject, and as we began to tell them our concerns, interjecting a number of questions, it was apparent that these two people were not comfortable. As a result it was quickly communicated to us that they wanted to arrange a meeting for us with the assistant ombudsman. We were obliging to this, but Thelma stated that she wanted us to see the head honcho, Mr. Ombudsman, Dwight Bishop, himself. No, we were told, that would not be possible, access to the ombudsman, had to “follow proper procedure” and we would have to meet with the assistant ombudsman first.
Not wanting to forewarn them, until we met with the assistant ombudsman, that we were aware of the monies given to them specifically to implement jurisdiction over the children in care that was not spent since 2001, we started by inquiring in a general way about the Children’s Section, how did the Children’s Section came about and what they were doing. The information we were being given did not jive with the information I had already gleaned from this office’s own published materials and left me wondering what they actually knew about the history of their own office.
In the course of our meeting, we held nothing back, informing these scribes of our many concerns: our problems with Children’s Aid/Services, the corrupt assessments people were forced into, the conflict of interest that existed between many of the assessors and CA/CS, the unfruitful complaints to the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners, and we also managed to touch on some of the concerns we had with the judicial system.
I informed them that I was aware of the present complaint system implemented by Children’s Services from their own manual, Department of Community Service Family and Children‘s Services Division: Manual of Standards, Policies, and Procedures for Children in Care and Custody, Section 1.4 and 1.4.1, effective August 1, 2004. This manual stated that it was the responsibility of the social worker in Children’s Services to inform the children of their right to complain, and that if the child was over 16 years old that the workers were to instruct the child to make a complaint to the police. I informed them that they, of all people, should know that such a process was completely unacceptable, that this was the very reason there was an ombudsman’s office. One could not expect the very people who might be complained against to educate children on the complaint system. Did they really expect a social worker was going to instruct a child to call the police against them?
We also informed them of our concerns about the accountability of the numbers of children in care. I explained the usage of snapshot data, data for a single predetermined day, as the only accountability for the numbers of children in care. Giving the numbers for children in various categories for a single day, I explained, could not possibly account for the numbers of children who go through the system in the course of the year.
I suggested that when they did begin implementing their jurisdiction over the children in care, that Children Services needed to inform them of all the children who were in care, and that the ombudsman’s office needed to make sure that they visited every child and informed them of their right to complain through the ombudsman’s office, and that they should also visited every family and also inform them of their right to complain through the ombudsman’s office. As new children are brought into the system, I continued, the ombudsman’s office needs to get out and educate each new child and family. This way, I also pointed out, someone, besides Children’s Aid/Services would have the actual numbers for the children going through the system in the course of a year.
At this point, the diligent scribbler raised their heads from their notebooks informing us that they felt this was a very good suggestion, as they nodded their heads to each other.I then educated these scribes on the absence of an annual review of the Children and Family Services Act as proscribed by law under Section 88, subsection 1and 2, clarifying that only 3 “annual” reviews had been done since 1990, the last in 1999.
When a child is taken into care, we explained, not only are the parents, who the legal action has been taken against, automatically sent into assessments, but so is any other family member who dares raise their hand to seek custody of the child. We also informed them that two well-known and well-respected PHD psychologists had already strongly spoken out, in court, against the way these assessments were being prepared. We told them how one of these psychologists, in a recent public information meeting, had candidly expressed her concerns about what was going on with these assessments, done for Children’s Aid/ Children’s Services, all across Nova Scotia, but that their was a “particular problem in the Metro area”, so much so that, now, she rarely took cases dealing with CA/CS in the Metro area, despite the her office location in Halifax.
We informed told them that the right to have the assessment interviews taped were continually and adamantly denied - a right, we were told at the information meeting, that was meant to protect both parties. We informed them that in some cases, original notes taken during these interviews had been shredded (with signed letters admitting to this!)- such notes, we had been informed, were suppose to stay with the file and were suppose to be available to any person reviewing the assessments. We also told them that many of the persons doing these assessments were doing so under lucrative contracts with Children’s Aid/Services and that an important assessment establishment had already admitted, under oath, that most of their work came from Children’s Aid/Services - this situation, we had been informed, was not ethically appropriate. We also explained to them that according to the professional reviews of assessments, tests utilized in these assessments were wrongly given and incorrectly used to guarantee a negative outcome.
As a result of these serious transgressions, many people were complaining about being misrepresented and misquoted in the body of the written assessments, some reporting 100% inaccuracy! We informed them that formal complaints had been lodged to the Nova Board of Examiners in Psychology, that the investigative process was done in total secrecy, that basic information about the complaint process was denied the complainants, despite repeated requests for this information, and that suddenly, after 1 year of the complaints being before the board, the complaints were dismissed. Then, when letters requesting an appeal were filed with the board, the registrar of the board quickly sent out letters to the complainants stating that “there was no right to appeal” and, to add insult to injury, she was “not prepared to discuss this investigation” with the complainants.
We then touched upon some of our concerns with the judicial system, including the justices, the lawyers, and the court administration. Preparing to leave I told them that I would be willing to e-mail them the concerns that I had compiled about the assessments and the Children and Family Services Act. Agreeing to this, they informed us that they would contact us about a second appointment with the assistant ombudsman as soon as it could be set up.
After we were escorted through the security doors and while we were walking down the hallway to the elevator, the three of us, me, Thelma, and the other woman expressed to each other the thought that we felt we could be hopeful about the Ombudsman’s Office but that we were still realistic enough because of our past experiences to know that the door might very well suddenly slam shut in our faces. We have learned the art of keeping the balance of being forever hopeful, so that we will not give up seeking the help that we need, but at the same time realizing that this will probably turn into another dead end, so that when it does happen we are not devastated. We keep saying to ourselves, “There must be someone out there with the ability and knowledge to help us who will do the right thing” We want to change the system for the families that are being victimized now and in the future. For some of us, me included, it is too late to make a difference in my individual case, but we struggle on to make a difference for others.
The Sham Revealed (More Grips continued)
It would be 2 months before we got in to see the assistant ombudsman. First we were told that they needed more time to scrutinize the documents I had e-mailed them. Then it became a problem of finding a date when we could meet. Meanwhile Thelma kept requesting to see the head ombudsman, but the same reply was continually given: we needed to “follow protocol”, we needed to meet with the assistant ombudsman first, before we could see the ombudsman. Thelma was annoyed by this but I didn’t see that we were being given much choice in the matter. “Let’s jump through the hops”, I suggested. If we don’t see the ombudsman after following their “protocol”, then we will complain.
So, in October Thelma and I toddled off to meet the assistant ombudsman. The third woman who had accompanied us to the first meeting was out of town and though we had arranged for another woman to take her place, she, unfortunately, ended up making a scheduling error so that Thelma and I had to make the meeting ourselves.
This time, they showed us into the inner sanctum immediately. The young wind-tossed lassie from the Children’s Division was there, as was the assistant ombudsman, but the polite and gentle spoken man from our last visit was nowhere to be seen. In his stead was that sparkling smiler I had seen months previous shining from the newspaper picture, the person assigned to look after complaints from seniors. The rapport in this meeting was much better, stemming, I believed, from the eye contact made possible from only one woman, the smiler, taking the notes this time. Thelma and I both felt we were treated with respect during this meeting, and we also sensed that the interest expressed was genuine.
Much of the information given at the first meeting had to be reiterated for the assistant ombudsman. Concerning the complaints submitted to the Nova Scotia Board of Examiners in Psychology (NSBEP), we were informed that the ombudsman’s office could not interject if there was an established complaint process, but if the complaint process had been followed through and dissatisfaction still remained, then, they could intervene. Thelma and I assured them that this was indeed our situation, but in response, we were told that they would first have to determine if they had jurisdiction over the NSBEP. I was perplexed about any hesitation over jurisdiction. The NSBEP is an organization that was formed in response to a provincial act, The Psychologist Act . In addition, 2 of the board members are lay person who are appointed by the provincial government. To me, it seemed cut and dry, but obviously, to them, it was not.
Referring to my copies of the financial statements of the ombudsman’s office, I informed them that I was aware of the unspent budget money apportioned to the Ombudsman’s office by the legislature. I stated that was I was also aware that, according to the financial statements, this money had not been spent because they had not yet implemented their jurisdiction over the children in care.
In response, we were told that they had not implemented jurisdiction over the children in care because, having jurisdiction only in provincial and municipal matters, they did not have jurisdiction over the Children Aid Societies, which are private organizations.What we understood these people to be telling us was that because they did not have jurisdiction over all the children in care they opted to protect none of the children in care. The logic of doing nothing for the children they did have jurisdiction over, the children under the care of Children Services, totally escaped me, especially when they had the money from the legislature to do so! However, at this time, though it was right under my nose, an important deduction was still eluding me.
In the meantime, endeavoring to forge a positive relationship this office, I bit my tongue about this seemingly illogical lack of action. Then the assistant ombudsman, showing me an added insert to a booklet version of the Ombudsman Act went on to explain that they had recently gotten the amendments required to extend their jurisdiction over the Children’s Aid Societies, though, according to her, this had taken years to push through. I expected that to be true.Having had this jurisdictional glitch explained, I now thought to ask about their jurisdiction over the children in foster care.
In response, we were told that the Ombudsman’s Office felt no need to secure jurisdiction of these children. This response disturbed me greatly because in my original telephone conversation with the representative of the Children’s Section, I had been assured that their jurisdiction did indeed include complaints children might have against their foster parents.
“Oh no, no I told them, the children in foster care NEED your protection.” From here I proceeded to convey to them the concerns that I had experienced about cigarette burns on my grandson as well as the mysterious red marks around his knees. I also related to these women that disturbing things had come to light about what was going on “below the 49th parallel” (in the U.S.) as well as what was going on in Central and South America, and that we should not be so naive to think that similar things were not also going on in Canada. I referred them to recent finding of children in the US foster system being used for sex and pornography, and that the bodies of missing children in Central and South America had for some time now been surfacing in ditches and garbage dumps badly mutilated after their organs had been harvested. I also referred them to the Florida case it was found that a young girl had been missing from the system for 2 years, with the case worker filing false reports of visitation while the foster parents continuing to receive money for the child’s care. The exposure of this case had set off a state wide review of all children in care with the conclusion that over 500 children were missing from the system. Where were our missing children?
What was interesting about this was that not a word of dissention came from the lips of these women as I related these “worse case possibilities” about what might be happening to our children. In fact they were nodding their heads as I spieled on. From this reaction, I deduced that they were also aware of these cases and situations. If there was any surprise on their part, I think they were surprised that someone outside of their circle was also knowledgeable of this information and was spitting it back to them. As we concluded this meeting, both Thelma and I understood that the Ombudsman’s office did agree that they now needed to work towards an amendment to acquire jurisdiction over the children in foster care. In ending, I implored them to work towards this a quickly as possible, that the children could not afford waiting for this jurisdiction to take years to implement, as did the implementation of the jurisdiction over the children in the Children’s Aid Societies.
As Thelma and I walked out of that office that day, we were hopeful that these women we had spoken to were sincere in their intentions to help our children, the children in care in Nova Scotia, but from all of our past experienced, we also knew that the other shoe could suddenly drop. We reminded ourselves of this and the need to keep that balance between hope, to enable us to keep going forward, and preparing ourselves for the worse, so that we would not be utterly discouraged and give up “the fight”.
Within 6 weeks Thelma and I were back in the Ombudsman’s Office. We had finally made the “big time” - we were going to able to meet with the head honcho, Mr. Ombudsman, himself. Thelma had made a number of phone calls to set this appointment up. When the secretary finally phoned back to verify an appointment date, Thelma reminded the secretary that I would be accompanying her. To this the secretary informed Thelma that this appointment was for her alone.
When Thelma informed me of this, I was greatly distressed. Was this the divide and conquer routine? I informed Thelma that even if this was a meeting set up to discuss only her concerns, she had a right to have a support person, and besides this she would want to have a witness present if anything inappropriate transpired. I also concluded that this might also be a mistake on the part of the secretary. She might not know any better.
As a result, we decided to just go to the meeting together as we had always done. I have learned a lot about dealing with people over the last 5 years. One is fawning ignorance, and just pushing forward despite the obstacles. I take no pride in learning these tactics, but one needs to fight fire with fire, especially when the other side keeps erecting barriers and slamming doors shut. For me, it is not the fight that invigorates me. I come from an extremely shy childhood and youth. I was that child who literally hid behind her mother’s skirt, peeking out at the world when I dared. I rarely looked at or watched people. As a youth, I was the one with that down-turned Princess Di gaze.
As at the first meeting, the dark windowless conference room was originally opened for us. But once again, it was quickly determined that we would be escorted into the “inner sanctum”. No one made mention of my presence, so together Thelma and I sauntered through the “back door”. As usual, I took my place at the end of the long table and proceeded to lay out my 3 extremely thick binders, one with information pertaining specifically to the Ombudsman’s Office, one concerning, Children’s Aid/ Children’s Services, and the last concerning the psychologists/ psychology in Nova Scotia. The ombudsman, and two of the women who had seen us at the last meeting, the assistant ombudsman and the representative of the Children’s Section were present at this meeting.
It should be noted, the ombudsman is an ex-RCMP officer. A friend of mine, whose father was RCMP, was troubled by this. She stated that no RCMP officer should be appointed to such an office, that the RCMP are trained to follow orders unquestionably from the government and that this was not the sort of person you would want in this position. In response to this concern, I am determined to do a thorough web search of this man as soon as I am able to find the time.
As soon as this man entered, he strapped his eyes upon Thelma. He acknowledged Thelma but he did not acknowledge me. Whenever I spoke, his eyes drilled even more intensely on Thelma, interrupting my sentence with some sort of remark to Thelma. At first, I thought he was just being rude and I wondered at his audacity. “Excuse me, I am here . . . .” I began to say at one point. “He’s totally ignoring me” I mouthed to the assistant ombudsman at another. But as the hours progressed (the meeting lasted 2 ½ hours), I realized this was a deliberate maneuver on his part, never swerving from his tactic, consistent and persistent. He was following his training, training that, according to my friend, included espionage interrogation.
I watched as this man controlled the room. The other two women sat there and said nothing as he continued this bizarre behavior towards us, not even flinching when he contradicted things they had told us in the last meeting. Even when I challenged the wind tossed lassie by telling her that I had been the person who had phoned enquiring over the jurisdiction of the Children’s Section, she didn’t even flinch, sitting there completely silent. It was a surreal situation. I recall, at one point, saying that I wished I have taped this meeting (not that they would have let us). And as I watched this man continue his manipulation, I couldn’t help but think, “You are ignoring me at your peril”. When I came home, I immediately began writing the chapters concerning the Ombudsman’s Office.
For my 10 or 15 minutes of fame, at the end of the meeting, I held nothing back. Between me and Thelma we quickly gave the large overview of all the departments connected with this corruption. The ombudsman replied with the comment that what we needed was an inquiry, to which we replied, “How do we go about getting an inquiry?”. What was important here was that the Ombudsman shot back without any time for thought or consideration in a blase tone, “I don’t know”. - I’m sorry, but don’t tell me that an ex-RCMP officer doesn’t know anything about inquiries.
As the meeting wound down, I was so proud of Thelma, she stood her ground with this man despite his penetrating glare and near the end she quoted Martin Luther King:"Our lives begin to end, the day we become silent about the things that matter."
She also quoted Anne-Sophie Dumetz, of Ottawa from a clipping in MacLean’s magazine, Dec 8, 2003 in reference to the use of children in the sex trade in Asia and North America.“If we participate in the silence, then we participate in the crime”.
Afterwards Thelma told me she felt like a fool quoting these statements. But I assured her that I was proud of her. She had spoken truth. Because she had spoken truth on corrupt ears it had not been received but I assured her “I heard you and God heard you. You spoke truth and I am very proud of you” And then I added, “When they do the movie version of this story, this will be the scene they’ll show on television.”
As soon as I got home, while everything was still fresh, I began to write the chapters concerning the Ombudsman’s Office. I also wanted to write a letter to the editor concerning this office, but such letters need to be precise and poignant. Where was my focus? Then, as I wrote, suddenly the pieces fell into place. It had been right in front of my face all the time but I just hadn’t seen it. Now it all made sense, and the realization of what was before me shocked and disappointed me. Now I knew this Ombudsman’s Office was a farce and a shame.
At the beginning of the last chapter, I related how the ombudsman was telling us how impressed he was by the foster homes through the presentation they had put on.
The foster homes! That was the key! That was the key!
You recall, I could not understand why the office had not taken over the jurisdiction of the children who had been taken into care through the provincially run Children Services. (Dartmouth is Children Services, Halifax is Children Aid Society). Then the office stalled implementation of their jurisdiction for years claiming that they wanted to get jurisdiction over the Societies before implementing their protective powers over the children.
But, here is the rub, what I didn’t see until now: having jurisdiction over children taken into care by Children Service Agencies and Children’s Aid Societies is meaningless without jurisdiction over the children in foster care, because when the children are taken into care by either the agencies or the societies, except for a few older children in group homes, they are all placed in foster care!
This distinction of foster care and Children’s Services and Children’s Aid was legally emphasized in a recent court ruling that came down from the province of British Columbia that stated that the Children’s Aid/ Children’s Services were not responsible when children were abused in foster care. To top this off, when Rollie Thompson, the family law expert at Dalhousie had spoken for us at a public meeting, he had commented on this very ruling, stating that this court ruling was applicable not only in British Columbia but it was also applicable across Canada.
So you see, the children are taken away from their families and than the provincial agencies or the private societies place them in foster homes where they wash their hands of all legal responsibility. If the Ombudsman’s Office gets jurisdiction of the Agencies and the societies but does not have jurisdiction over the children in foster care, then they have nothing! Nothing! Nothing!
It is the determination to protect the children of this province, children who have no voice and no protection that spurns me on. There is horrendous devastation going on and no one seems to care. There is a lot of collusion, a lot of corruption, and, I suspect, a lot of important butts to protect. When I try to explain the way I feel to my friends, I tell them that I am no hero. I am driven from within to do this . I have no chose. “I cannot not do this” I express. I tell them if I felt I had a choice maybe then I could accept this heroic label some like to throw on me. But I truly feel I do not have a choice. I must do what I can for those who do not have a voice of their own