Ontario’s Children’s Aid Societies do a remarkable job of protecting some of the most vulnerable members of our society. The Commissioner is delighted with the excellent relationships he has with these organizations (as illustrated by his September 2013 visit to the Children’s Aid Society of the Districts of Sudbury and Manitoulin) and the efforts made to improve French-language services there (for example, meetings of various Francophone child service experts).
While the Commissioner has never had, and continues not to have, any intention of deprecating the vital contribution made by Children’s Aid Societies, the latter are front-line providers of social services for children. It is only natural for a Commissioner who cares about the well-being of disadvantaged Francophone populations to pay special attention to them.
He is periodically reminded of the importance of remaining vigilant by complaints such as that of a Francophone mother living in a shelter who in the summer of 2013 had made a request in French for assistance for her and her young daughter and in the winter of 2014 had still only received assistance from social workers able to manage just a few words of French.
Thus, we are still a long way from full integration of active offer in the delivery of children’s aid services across the province, as advocated by the Commissioner in his 2009–2010 annual report.14 Moreover, some reports received in the last few years point to fundamental issues in the delivery of high-quality French-language services in the children’s aid sector: the constant (and tiresome) message about having to “do more with less”, the greater burden imposed on bilingual social workers (translating documents, preparing reports in both languages, searching for French-language resources for clients, more travel, etc.), and the children’s aid sector’s heavy dependence on volunteers (who obviously cannot be compelled to meet language skill requirements), to name only a few.
Clearly, the Commissioner will have to keep the children’s aid sector in his sights for the coming years, with the aim of helping all parties involved to improve their service in the greater interest of children.
14 Office of the French Language Services Commissioner, Open for solutions, Annual Report 2009–2010, Toronto, 2010