October 24, 2018

Statement to the legislature by
the Honourable Lisa MacLeod

Minister of Children, Community and Social Services

Duty to Report Child Abuse
Child Abuse Prevention Month

Mr. Speaker, October is Child Abuse Prevention Month in Ontario and I firmly believe we must take this opportunity to shed light on the abuse of Ontario’s most vulnerable children and youth.

Every child should feel safe, loved and protected.

As the Minister responsible for children and youth, I’m proud to have been asked to take this role on. There is no greater honour than to advocate on behalf of young people and families in this province.

We are wearing purple, and purple ribbons as a reminder that everybody in the community plays a role in supporting children and that protection of those children is vital.

We know we cannot and should not do this work alone and it is for this reason that I stand here today –– to reach out to you, members of the House and Ontarians, professionals who work with children, neighbours, friends, family, and colleagues.

Child abuse is probably one of the most rotten things – one of the most sinister things – that happens in our province, or anywhere in Canada.

My ministry is the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services with responsibilities for women’s issues, poverty reduction and citizenship and Immigration. I’m often called the Minister of many things.

But the reality is, that sometimes in my ministry, all we see are tears. Really tragic things happening to Ontario’s most vulnerable people and we are on the frontlines of that, just as we are the heart of the people’s government.

I remind my staff, when someone calls or emails us, we are often their last resort.

One of the things that I have seen over the course of the last four months being the Minister of Children, Community and Social Services, is that child abuse takes many forms.

I have visited women’s shelters, I have seen lives torn apart from violence against women, and it should come as no surprise that women who are fleeing domestic violence often have children that they take with them, who have severe mental health challenges.

One of the dirty little secrets in the province and in this country is something called sex trafficking. And most people being sex trafficked in this province are girls under the age of 18. And that’s child abuse.

When I talk to all facets of society, our law enforcement, our religious community, our private and not for profit sectors, I see the difference they make in building a strong social safety net in their community.

To protect against child abuse.

To fight sex trafficking.

To uphold the duty to report these heinous acts.

I grew up in a small town called New Glasgow, Nova Scotia and I learned at a young age that government cannot and government should not do it all.

We in this house need to be supportive of initiatives like this, but what is more important are the voices outside of it.

Voices that speak as one.

So when a packed room of 600 people in Cornwall – like the one I stood in front of last week - stand up and say no to child abuse, then we need the 13 million other people in the province to follow their lead. We need the other 13 million people to stand up with them to help us eradicate this despicable practice.

But not only during Child Abuse Prevention Month, that’s really important. Because we all hear these stories. We may even know someone over the course of our life who has been affected, but it’s how we respond that matters.

It’s how we take action, that matters. For us to prevent child abuse, sure, it takes money - as everything does. But more important than money, it takes time. It takes all of us to speak up.

When you see something, report it.

These are the facts. Abuse can be physical, emotional or sexual.

Signs of physical abuse can include bruising or cuts that are unexplained or suspicious. Examples of abusive behaviour include punching, slapping, beating, shaking, burning, biting, or throwing a child.

Using belts, sticks or other objects to punish a child can cause serious harm and is abuse.

I received a report from the coroner of Ontario last month.

We lost 12 young people in the provinces care between 2014 and 2017. Most of those children, that died in our care died by suicide. And those that were girls were either sex trafficked, or they were sexually abused in their own home.

We need to be the eyes and ears of those children. That’s our job as responsible adults.

And that’s not government, that’s not police, that’s not church. and that’s not companies.

That’s individuals.

The best way to protect children, is to do just that.

Because it’s law.

You can find contact information for your local society by calling 411, where applicable.

Children’s aid societies are available to receive your call 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.

You can also visit the Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services website at Ontario.ca/StopChildAbuse for more information.

If we are to build a compassionate society, it can’t be just a government responsibility. That must come from the people.

So if I have one ask, it’s to take this message with you:

This is an uncomfortable topic.

But we need to have that conversation, we need to break down barriers and we need to speak together. Because the only way we are goig to be able to do this is with strong, supportive, unified voices.

And I am confident the people, are up to the task.

Thank you.

The Honourable Lisa MacLeod
Minister of Children, Community and Social Services