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OPSEU members demand that the Provincial Child’s Advocate Office be reinstated

Warren (Smokey) Thomas, OPSEU President
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OPSEU President Warren (Smokey) Thomas issued the following statement today to mark National Child Day, November 20.

Dear friends:

The new Ford government is turning its back on children and youth in this province with its decision to abolish the office of the Provincial Child Advocate and should immediately reverse course.

Twenty-eight years ago, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The Convention is a “promise to children that we would do everything in our power to protect and promote their rights to survive and thrive, to learn and grow, to make their voices heard and to reach their full potential.”

On November 20, OPSEU recognizes the child protection workers and children’s mental health and children’s treatment workers who have made tremendous efforts to improve the lives of Ontario children under increasingly difficult circumstances.  

This month’s announcement to eliminate Ontario’s first child and youth advocate means vulnerable children and youth will no longer have a voice. Metis and Indigenous youth, children and youth who are in the care of the CAS, or are involved with the youth justice system, or live with a developmental disability, or receive mental health services, will no longer have an independent advocate to turn to when the system doesn’t work for them. Children will continue to fall behind because life just became more difficult for low-income parents in Ford’s Ontario.  Structural child poverty remains persistently high, with one in six children and youth under 18 living in poverty.

Since coming to power, the Ford government has selectively attacked working people through a series of regressive and destructive changes. The government has:

  • cut $22.7 million to low income child care subsidies slated for 2019;
  • withdrawn a three per cent increase and instead applied a 1.5 per cent increase to OW and ODSP;
  • capped the minimum wage at $14 instead $15 per hour;
  • withheld a 33 per cent increase for rape-crisis centres and may scrap it altogether;
  • cut $335 million for mental health services;
  • repealed changes to the Labour Relations Act that made it easier for workers in certain sectors to join a union, canceled two paid sick days and 10 personal emergency leave days, eliminated pay-equity for part-time and casual workers; and
  • canceled a universal approach to drug benefit coverage for children and youth under 25.

These government actions undermine the very fabric of our society, attacking core values of altruism, collective responsibility, universality, and compassion. Without these, how can we begin to ensure the well-being of all children and youth?

It’s no secret that we are wealthier than ever, but we have also become a more unequal society. The government has steadily cut back on government revenues while private wealth and corporate profits have soared. Ontario does not have a spending problem. We have a revenue problem. There simply is no excuse for not investing in the success of all children and youth through stable, quality, public social services. 

The workers who are dedicated to improving the lives of all children in Ontario are putting this government on notice today – a different Ontario is possible. We are committed to working with our partners and in our communities to build a society where all children have the chance to thrive and to dream.  I would like to thank every worker who helps Ontario children for your professionalism, your compassion and your dedication.

In solidarity,

Warren (Smokey) Thomas
President, Ontario Public Service Employees Union