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OHRC releases report on its inquiry into the over-representation of Indigenous and Black children in Ontario’s child welfare system

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April 12, 2018

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Toronto – On April 12, 2018 the Ontario Human Rights Commission (OHRC) released Interrupted Childhoods: Over-representation of Indigenous and Black children in Ontario child welfare. The report outlines findings from its public interest inquiry into whether First Nations, Métis and Inuit (Indigenous) and Black children are over-represented at children’s aid societies (CASs), particularly in admissions into care.

Overall, the OHRC’s inquiry found that: 

  • Race-based data collection processes and practices are a patchwork across the sector
  • Indigenous and Black children and youth are over-represented in admissions into care at many agencies in Ontario.

“These findings are deeply concerning,” said OHRC Chief Commissioner Renu Mandhane. “For decades, families and communities have raised the alarm about Indigenous and Black children being over-represented in Ontario’s child welfare system. The long-term damage caused by separating children from their families is undeniable and was extensively documented by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. The government and CASs must take urgent action.”

The underlying social issues that result in the over-representation of Indigenous and Black children in care are multi-faceted and need a multi-pronged approach. The OHRC calls on the Ontario government to develop a provincial strategy, with measurable and timely commitments, to identify and address how families’ social and economic conditions are linked to racial disproportionality and disparity in the system.

The findings also raise serious concerns for CASs. The OHRC urges CASs whose data showed notable disproportionalities to take concrete steps to:

  • Acknowledge the disproportionalities and the potential impact they have on the trust and lived experiences of families and communities
  • Investigate whether their structures, policies, processes, decision-making practices and organizational cultures adversely affect Indigenous and Black families, and potentially violate Ontario’s Human Rights Code.

The OHRC is developing policy guidance to help individuals, community groups and organizations identify, address and prevent racial profiling in Ontario’s child welfare sector.


"Over-representation of Indigenous and Black children in Ontario's child welfare system is real, and it is unacceptable. The data that exists matches the voices of Indigenous and Black young people in and from care, who recognize the systemic racism in their own lives that facilitated their entry into care."

Irwin Elman, Ontario Child Advocate

“For years, Indigenous communities have been raising the issue of overrepresentation of Indigenous children in the child welfare system. Our experiences lead us to the conclusion that systemic bias does occur in the child welfare system and the OHRC’s recommendations address our serious concerns. The OHRC’s report is a welcome step in acknowledging the need for consistent race-based data collection, greater accountability from Children’s Aid Societies, and more transparency across the child welfare sector in how cases involving Indigenous children are handled.”

Sylvia Maracle, Executive Director, Ontario Federation of Indigenous Friendship Centres

“We welcome the OHRC report, which confirms the concerns that the African Canadian community has been raising about disproportionality and disparities in child welfare for decades. OACAS, through the One Vision One Voice project, is supporting agencies in their work towards better data collection and analysis so that we have a more fulsome and transparent reflection of over-representation across the province. The vision is that the Human Rights of African Canadian children and families in this province will be maintained and valued within child welfare.”

Kike Ojo, Program Manager, One Vision One Voice

“OACAS and Children’s Aid Societies welcome the OHRC’s report. We are working to address the issue of overrepresentation of African Canadian and Indigenous children and families in child welfare through major initiatives like the Reconciliation Commitments and the One Vision One Voice program. We are also working in partnership with the Ministry to improve our processes for collecting race-based data. We are committed to changing the way we work so that child welfare will be an equitable system for all families in Ontario.”

Mary Ballantyne, CEO, Ontario Association of Children’s Aid Societies (OACAS)

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Media contact:
Vanessa Tamburro
Senior Communications Advisor (Acting)
Ontario Human Rights Commission
416 314 4528 |