It’s not just Alberta’s foster care system failing our children, the Law Society of Ontario is too, and how many others across Canada?
Once-imprisoned lawyer (for child pornography) one step closer to getting his licence to practise law in Ontario, Two out of three lawyers on Law Society of Upper Canada tribunal decide he’s of ‘good character.’ Dissenting opinion finds Ronald Davidovic failed to prove he was rehabilitated.
Law Society of Ontario a Pedophile Ring? Racism, misogyny *and* enabling sexual abuse of children? Ottawa lawyer, John David Coon, in custody for sex crimes against four-year old daughter of one of his clients. Law Society documents reveal they gave Coon licence to practise law despite knowing of his prior criminal conviction for sexually assaulting another child.
‘A child without a childhood’: $11-million lawsuit says Alberta foster care system failed to stop horrific abuse by Omar Mosleh, August 26, 2019, Star Edmonton
Seated at the band office in his home of Enoch Cree Nation, Steven Morin shuts his eyes as he describes the sensory triggers for his childhood PTSD — the sight of showers or the smell of Head & Shoulders can bring him back to the moments when his foster mother’s boyfriend molested him.
But the most vivid memory from Morin’s childhood is the day he was taken from home at four years old.
He recalls the day with striking detail, despite his age at the time. He remembers the pattern of the wooden panels in the station wagon that took him from home, the bright orange sky stretching above him, the tears rolling down his mother’s cheeks as she hugged him goodbye.
“The whole sky was orange,” Morin recalls. “It was such a beautiful summer, for such a sh—y day.”
There are other memories still deeply ingrained in Morin’s psyche from his time as a ward of Alberta’s child intervention system — a system he says failed him and left him vulnerable to five years of violence, emotional abuse and sexual assault.
“I’d sit there praying that I wouldn’t get this harm done to me. But it never worked,” Morin says while shaking his head. “It was tons of pain, man. But there was nothing I could do, though. I was just a little kid. A child without a childhood.”
Morin has filed an $11-million lawsuit against Alberta’s Director of Child Services — the legal entity responsible for children in government care. In the statement of claim filed Thursday, Morin and his lawyer Robert P. Lee allege Alberta Child Intervention — a department within the Ministry of Child Services — failed in its duty to monitor the foster home Morin was living in and screen all occupants to ensure the children were safe.
Morin’s story is one of thousands that social workers, lawyers and child advocates hear on a regular basis, Lee said.
“I have been arguing for the last 20 years on behalf of my clients that when the courts put children into the care of Alberta (Child Intervention) that they are too frequently putting those children at severe risk,” Lee said.
Speaking generally about issues within the province’s child intervention system, the Alberta government said they are aware of the system’s failings and are committed to working with First Nations and Métis partners to improve outcomes for Indigenous children in government care.
Morin’s allegations have not been proven in court. A judge will hear the case on Sept. 10.
Morin was born to a single mother on Enoch Cree Nation, the third oldest of four siblings. His family has experienced five generations of government interference; his mother, grandmother, great grandmother and great-great grandmother were all involved in either the foster-care or residential-school systems.
His early childhood was turbulent; his biological mother had her own trauma from her time in the foster-care system. She became overwhelmed by child rearing when he was four and decided it was best if Morin lived under government care. He was taken and placed in a foster home in Edmonton, where he says he suffered extensive abuse.
Starting in or around 1998, Morin alleges, he was sexually abused by his foster mother’s boyfriend, John Edward Beaver, from age five to nine. He says he was also forced to engage in sexual acts with his siblings and that Beaver threatened to kill him if he told anyone.
Court documents show Beaver was facing three counts of sexual assault against a minor and two counts of possession of child pornography in 1999. All of the charges were withdrawn except one count of child pornography; Beaver pleaded guilty and was convicted. He served six months in jail.
Despite the conviction, court records show Beaver moved back into the home shortly after his release. The molestation continued, Morin said. He was seven years old.
Morin said he felt alone, helpless and lived in constant fear of being abused. He didn’t tell anyone of the molestation because he didn’t have anyone he trusted.
“I really had no one so I couldn’t tell no one. I felt like I was a Ken doll; they can do whatever they want to me … If I say something, I know it won’t make a difference. Because the government is who my parents are now. And there’s nothing I can do, because if I say something they’ll just put me in another home and it’ll happen again.”
At age nine, Morin was placed in a group home after cornering a babysitter in the home with scissors. Lee says this was a desperate cry for help.
Beaver was charged with 13 counts of sexual assault against a minor in 2007, including three charges naming Morin. He died before he could go to trial.
Lee says the fact that a convicted sex offender was allowed to live with minors while in a position of trust illustrates how poorly co-ordinated Alberta’s child intervention system was at that time. He says Child Intervention was negligent in investigating Beaver and considering the risk he posed to children.
In a bail hearing after Beaver was charged with numerous counts of sexual assault against a minor, a lawyer said Morin’s foster mother would leave Beaver as the sole adult responsible for the children on a regular basis.
“It is incomprehensible how a person criminally charged with child-sexual-abuse allegations and with a conviction of possessing child pornography could be allowed anywhere near foster children,” he said.
… He says he struggled to access counselling and therapy as a teenager. He ended up with numerous addictions, which he has overcome. Today he still grapples with emotional, psychological and physical scars from his childhood and is seeing a therapist for a childhood PTSD diagnosis.
“You don’t move on,” Morin says. “You just move forward.”
… In Morin’s statement of claim, Lee says child intervention and Morin’s foster mother ought to have known a convicted sex offender was living with children, but the root of the issue is that Alberta’s child welfare system is chronically underfunded and under-resourced.
“One of the things that I think is fundamentally broken and one of the things I want to sue (Child Intervention) for is that they are understaffed,” Lee said.
“So you might get some really good workers who really want to try and make a difference, but what they find out is they’re not allowed to make a difference because one, the government really doesn’t want to help, they won’t put the resources where it belongs, and secondly, they don’t have enough hours in a day and in a week to do their job properly. Because there’s not enough workers.”
Just over a year ago, the NDP provincial government released an action plan to overhaul the system and take “decisive steps” to improve safety, increase accountability and strengthen supports for children and youth. The government also committed to “transform” its approach in working with Indigenous families and youth.
The action plan, called A Stronger, Safer Tomorrow, includes 39 actions to be implemented by 2022, alongside 16 immediate actions by April 2019. The immediate actions included increased cultural learning opportunities to address racism within Children’s Services, supporting self-determination and early intervention to prevent children from being taken into care and allowing families, communities and youth to play a bigger role in determining what care is needed.
The UCP government says those immediate actions have been completed and they are still committed to the overall plan. … She said the government has allocated $8.3 million from the province’s supplementary supply to continue the work that is underway.
… The system is inherently discriminatory, Choate said, because it diminishes the importance of Indigenous understanding of family parenting and culture, fails to acknowledge the impact of intergenerational trauma and assesses the parenting capability of mothers and fathers from a Eurocentric standpoint.
… “This us Canada’s problem. There is no Canadian who is not a part of this issue. As a Canadian, can you look an Indigenous child in the eyes and say, ‘You’re not worth as much as a white child?’ As a nation, we’ve been doing it. To hundreds of thousands of children in this country, that’s what we’ve been doing.”
Today, Morin is still on his healing journey and working to challenge inadequacies in the child welfare system. He is the founder of Breaking the Chains, an organization to help survivors of abuse and intergenerational trauma, and the Indigenous Children’s Mentoring Society, which is modelled on Big Brothers Big Sisters.
“There’s a lot of children in our communities that are plagued by intergenerational trauma. For me, as an Indigenous person, I can help,” Morin says.
“I always had this feeling that I was meant to do something better … I really want to try and get other people to start speaking about things. And to start healing.”