Doug Ford’s provincial government repealed the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth Act 2007 and scrapped the role of the Ontario Child Advocate (OCA), making Ontario the largest province without a child advocate. The OCA is an independent advocacy organization serving children and youth who are involved with children’s services sector, including Children’s Aid Society. Del Graff, president of the Canadian Council of Child and Youth Advocate, says that getting rid of the OCA is unacceptable and that the work they do, “Is critical to ensuring the rights of young people are upheld by government systems who serve them.”
This includes First Nations children and youth, who are overrepresented in the child welfare system. Lance Copegog, Deputy Youth Chief of Beausoleil First Nation, says the advocate makes sure, “That children in care have a champion… The Office of the Ontario Child Advocate has ensured that First Nations youth have equitable access to services and resources in Ontario.” Given that First Nations children and youth are overrepresented in the child welfare system and have less access to services in the province, the role of the OCA cannot be understated. Copegog argues that eliminating the OCA will ultimately put the lives of First Nations children and youth at risk. I am proud of our youth who are using their voices to call out injustices and advocate for their rights. As adult allies, we must listen to what our youth are telling us – it is important that we support them and amplify their voices.