The Probation Officers Association of Ontario (POAO) has prepared this written submission which summarizes concerns regarding Bill 57, the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act.

Established in 1952, the Probation Officers Association of Ontario (POAO) is a voluntary non-profit organization representing the professional interests of the Probation Officers and Probation and Parole Officers across the Province of Ontario.  POAO is not a union.  POAO is an association of like-minded professionals who believe in the work they do and the role they play in the criminal justice community in Ontario. In part, POAO endeavors to speak with credibility on issues in criminal justice, provide representative perspectives on legislative issues to policy makers, foster understanding, and cooperation with others working in the criminal justice system and educate and involve the community in corrections. To foster an interdisciplinary approach to the role of Probation Officer through strengthening the role of Probation Officers on community teams. Help increase the opportunities for clients and their families through effective case management and incorporating a collaborative approach to the work we do.   POAO members have achieved professional status and continue to receive ongoing training and education.

This submission specifically speaks to POAO’s position regarding Schedule 28 (Ombudsman Act) and Schedule 34 (Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth ACT, 2007) of Bill 57, the Restoring Trust, Transparency and Accountability Act.

As a professional association our members, including Probation Officers have long identified themselves as advocates for children, youth and communities. POAO also recognizes the difference between advocacy for those we work with and “Advocacy” as an office with mandates, non-political appointment and clear missions and values. The work of the Advocate’s Office has been focused on research and includes the voice of those with lived experiences, those impacted the most by legislation, decisions of those in authority and in care.   The Provincial Advocate’s Office has assisted greatly with how Probation Officers respond to the needs of youth in the justice system. Needs have been amplified and the loss of the Advocate will impact the view point and perspective of those who inform our work.

POAO members, specifically Probation Officers, have been significantly and positively impacted by the Provincial Advocate’s Office in relation to our duties for children and youth in conflict with the law.   The efforts of the Provincial Advocate’s office have helped identify oversights within our Ministry in developing policies and best practices to promote better outcomes for youth. This is especially true with those youth who have been dually adjudicated.   That is, those young people who have been dealt with by both the Family Courts and the Youth Courts.   These youth, also known as “crossover kids,” represent some of the most vulnerable and marginalized youth in Ontario.   These “crossover” youth have been the subject of a recent and ongoing study done collaboratively by a research team composed of members from York University, the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, the Ministry of Children and Youth Services, to name but a few.

A similar study conducted in British Columbia in 2009, entitled “Kids, Crime, and Care - Health and Well-Being of Children in Care: Youth Justice Experiences and Outcomes,” reported that “by the time youth in care come in contact with the youth justice system, their chances for positive outcomes have diminished considerably [2009:p.5].   The report illustrated how once a youth in care becomes involved in the justice system, they are more likely to go to prison than they are to graduate high school [2009: p12].   Many of these youth have fallen through multiple cracks in various systems. The Advocate has provided a voice for these vulnerable children.

The newly created Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services has been focusing on integration. This is a large Ministry of which Youth Justice is a proud division.   Research, youth-centered and outcome based approaches are shared values of the Youth Justice Division and POAO. It is the opinion of POAO that the Provincial Advocate’s office has been an essential leader, helping to inform the work of the Division and Ministry. The research and material provided by the Provincial Advocate’s office, including but not limited to, “It’s a Matter of Time: Systemic Review of Secure Isolation in Ontario Youth Justice Facilities”, “It Depends on Who is Working: The Youth Reality at the Roy McMurtry Youth Centre”, “My Real Life Book: Report from the Youth Leaving Care Hearings,” and “Feathers of Hope: A First Nations Youth Action Plan” have been integrated into the Division’s mandates, policies and has been integral with influencing legislation to protect and support the most vulnerable in our province.   The Provincial Advocate’s office has identified oversights (related to use of secure isolation for example) and gaps in service that have informed our work and development of community resources.

The newly integrated Ministry is substantially large and integration continues. Without a clear and objective office such as the Provincial Advocate’s office, POAO is concerned that the needs of youth in care, custody and communities will lose the clear, consistent and highly responsive (often immediate) support, guidance and intervention that is offered by the Advocate’s Office.   POAO is committed to developing a partnership with the Provincial Ombudsman office should the duties of the Provincial Advocate Office be transferred as planned.   The void that the loss of the Provincial Advocate would require would be tremendous barrier to overcome.

POAO is also interested in understanding the Minister’s specific plans to provide advocacy and look forward to continued partnerships with this purpose in mind.   POAO is interested in learning more about how the investigations and projects related to shared interests, especially the uncompleted “Crossover Youth” project will move forward. Also POAO is very interested in learning how the new Bill will impact the governing pieces of legislation we are mandated to utilize, specifically the CYFSA and the YCJA.   Lastly, POAO would be significantly concerned in the delivery and implementation of measures to assure that the Ontario’s youth, some of the most vulnerable people in the Province of Ontario are made aware of the changes and will know the process to access the same type of response they deserve and have been provided.

Sincerely,

Karen Tinning

Youth Policy Portfolio, POAO

Christine Beintema

Vice President, POAO

Chris Podolinsky

President, POAO

Youth Policy

Thank you to the Provincial Board for recognizing the need for a dedicated Board position to the role of Youth Policy. From my previous experience with the Board, I recognize the importance of the Policy position, especially with representing the membership on important issues that impact our roles and professional capabilities.

Feedback on key issues related to our role in delivering on transformational targets within youth justice has been given. I trust that members will continue to forward their concerns to the Board directly, whether through myself, other Board members and Branch Chairs.

While I work to establish the role of the Youth Policy Director, I have already set key goals for this position and myself. Two have met prior to January 2016 including improving my knowledge base of PO Basic Training/Optional training stream components, especially related to community partners, and my knowledge of the role of Data Stewards. I look forward to improving communication between members and our Board regarding our professional roles in other key outcome strategies of MCYS, including but not limited to the Court Liaison role, our role at Connectivity Tables and our role on provincial strategy committees related to the Youth Action Plan.

I challenge each of you, and you all work with adolescents, with a “t” because adolescence, with a “c” is from age 12-25, to consider your own learning goals with respect to the Youth Action Plan. There is a wealth of information and another key goal of this position will be to assist members and the Board with sorting through the various reports and strategies to consider our response as a Professional Association.

I look forward to learning from each Branch and all members how our profession is celebrated, promoted, supported and integral to all “t” adolescents as we continue to work within justice sector for clients in the “c” – ADOLESENCE.

Thank you again to the membership for being in support of this position and I look forward to working with each and every one of you.

Karen Tinning

My work on the Board, especially in this position, has allowed me to learn about our profession in all parts of the province, starting here at “home”.  Three Probation Officers from the West Region have been specifically designated to assist with Moving on Mental Health.  An update on this work has been specifically prepared for POAO and is posted here.  Please read and pass along.  Other POAO members may know of creative energies and activities that POs in other regions are involved in.  Please consider sharing with me, for our website, to keep our professional accomplishments at the foreground in all of MCYS transformation.

– Karen Tinning