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York CAS to undergo ministry probe

Following allegations of “racism, bullying and harassment” Ontario’s ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has ordered a third-party review of York Region Children’s Aid Society.

“Our government has no tolerance for racism, discrimination, bullying, and harassment of any kind,” said Jill Dunlop, associate minister of Children’s and Women’s Issues, in a release. “The allegations are troubling … and we do not take this matter lightly.”

The directive, which will come into effect on Friday, orders the CAS, which is responsible for children in care in all of York Region, to co-operate in a review which will include an “assessment of workplace culture, including leadership, alleged bullying of harassment and staff, and the diversity and inclusivity of the workplace environment, assessment of human resources policies and procedures, and accommodation policies.”

The CAS will also be required to provide the ministry with a work plan to implement the One Vision One Voice protocols, which were developed through extensive community consultation in 2015 to help child welfare agencies provide more culturally sensitive services to African Canadian children in care.

Minister Dunlop said the ministry will take further action once the final report of the operational review is made public.

In a statement to local media, York Region Children’s Aid Society board chairperson Tahir Shafiq said it respects the Ontario government’s decision to conduct an operational review and will fully support and assist the government in its efforts.

“We care deeply about our employees and understand the importance of ensuring we have a diverse, inclusive, safe, and healthy workplace,” Shafiq said. “We are committed to diversity, equity, and inclusion in our work.”

Shafiq said that together with staff, the agency works with parents, caregivers, volunteers, and other community organizations to build safer and stronger communities.

“We take our mandate and responsibility seriously, to protect children, youth, and support families in York Region,” said Shafiq. It’s not clear what led to the decision to probe the CAS but in June the agencies CEO Nancy French posted an open letter that hinted at possible race-based issues.

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