Ontario child advocate stands by report on 90 deaths
The Canadian Press
Published Thursday, March 12, 2009 12:40PM EDT
TORONTO - Despite criticism from child-welfare agencies, Ontario's chief child advocate on Thursday stood by his annual report that cited the deaths of 90 children who had some contact with the state.
Irwin Elman rejected complaints from the province's Children's Aid societies that his report was factually incorrect and misleading, saying the children were connected to the child-welfare system "in a very broad way" and were not just those in foster care.
"They're still young children and young people within my mandate," Elman said in an interview.
"I felt an obligation to focus attention them ... not to cast blame at all."
Elman told a committee looking into changes to the Coroner's Act that he wanted to highlight a serious problem, and emphasized that everyone involved must work together to protect vulnerable children.
He also told the committee the government had promised him late Wednesday to bring in legislation to give him better access to information he needs to do his job.
"I can't tell you how pleased I am," he said.
Elman said after he took on the role of chief advocate last summer, he was "surprised" to discover he was unable to get even basic information about the children who had died.
Members of the committee, including those from the opposition, praised Elman, who said he was pressing for more money for his office.
The office currently operates on a budget of $3.9 million with a staff of 20 in addition to Elman.
"It's a big job," he said. "It's a lot of pressure."