Treaty #3 Grand Chief Ogichidaa Francis Kavanaugh issued a statement Friday expressing shock and deep concern over the closure of the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.
The announcement was made during the provincial government’s fall economic statement released Thursday and, in turn, the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act, 2007 now is being repealed.
Instead, the duties of the Ontario Child Advocate office now are being transferred to the Ombudsman Office.
Grand Chief Kavanaugh fears the closure of the office will leave the province’s most vulnerable without a voice.
Local MPP Greg Rickford said children still will have strong representation but it will be delivered in a different way.
“Nothing is being compromised here,” he told the Times in a conference call Monday afternoon.
“None of these offices are being dismantled,” Rickford stressed. “They are moving into the Office of the Ombudsman and auditor general.
“They have had, and will continue to have, independent oversight from the government.”
Critics argue that independent offices that aren’t rights based and without a single focus have proven to be less successful in enabling children and youth to achieve positive outcomes.
Irwin Elman, the province’s first independent child and youth advocate, released a statement shortly after the announcement saying he learned of the government’s plans to close the office and cut his job through the media.
In the statement, he asked Premier Doug Ford to reconsider his government’s plan and stressed the dangers of this action if it proceeds.
But Rickford said the same level of service will be offered, and that the offices providing the child advocate services will be modernized, serve residence in all areas of the province, and be easier to access.
“The transfer of the roles and responsibilities is designed to find not just the most efficient way to offer the highest level of services but also the most effective,” he explained.