Calls for race-based stats, Black CAS

Renu Mandhane By Gerald V. Paul
Renu Mandhane
By Gerald V. Paul

As Renu Mandhane, chief commissioner of the Ontario Human Rights Commission, is calling on the provincial government to collect race-based stats for Black kids in care, members of the community are reiterating calls for a Black children’s aid society.
Mandhane said systemic and persistent discrimination in the CAS system results in a disproportionate number of Black and aboriginal children being taken from their families and placed into care.
“The alarming numbers of Black children in foster and group home care mean the African Canadian community needs its own children’s aid society,” said Anthony Morgan, African Canadian Legal Clinic (ACLC) policy and research lawyer.
Morgan noted there are already children’s aid societies serving Ontario’s Jewish, Catholic and aboriginal families.
The ACLC and other community members contend that overrepresentation of Black children is due to cultural misunderstanding and stress and neglect created by poverty. They also believe systemic racism exists in the child protection system and among some police and schools. The ACLC advocates on behalf of 590,000 Ontario residents.
Ryerson University social work professor Akua Benjamin agrees. “The establishment of an agency directed, developed and owned by the Black community will have a real impact on these numbers. The guts of this lies in the question about anti-Black racism,” referring to what she described as the core of the problem.
Benjamin said urgent action is needed because Black families are being torn apart and too many Black youths in care end up in the criminal justice system.
Everton Gordon, executive director of the Jamaican Canadian Association, believes police go into Black homes with the same bias that results in Black youth being racially profiled on the street through carding.
“These institutions have problems with Black people to begin with,” Gordon said, referring to police and schools. “The minute it’s a Black family it sets off alarm bells.”
A report has shown that while eight percent of people under 18 in Toronto are Black, 42% of children in the care of the Children’s Aid Society of Toronto in 2013 were Black or have one Black parent. Data also showed that many Black children in care are of Jamaican heritage.
Mandhane said the rights commission will send letters to all Ontario children’s aid societies seeking data on the racial background of children in their care. The commission will also consult community groups.