When lawmakers in Ontario, Canada updated provincial child protection laws in 2017, some social media users and news sites misinterpreted the effects of the legislation. Some of these claims are now resurfacing online.
On April 24, an Instagram Publish shared a screenshot of an October 2017 article titled, “New Canadian law allows government to take children away if parents don’t accept children’s ‘gender identity.’ »
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The Child, Youth and Family Services Act of 2017 aimed to strengthen and modernize child welfare services in the province.
Among the main changes:
Eligibility for child protection services increased from 16 to 18;
Services needed to be more inclusive and culturally relevant to youth, including Indigenous and Black children and youth;
Place greater emphasis on early intervention to prevent children and parents from reaching crisis situations at home; and
Improved accountability and oversight of child and youth service providers.
The law too extended List of factors for child protection workers to consider when determining a child’s best interests and whether to place them in foster care. The terms “gender identity” and “gender expression” have been added and enjoy the same protections as race, ethnicity, citizenship, creed, disability, gender and sexual orientation, among other factors . This change brought child protection laws in line with those of Ontario human rights code.
The Instagram post grossly exaggerated what this change would mean for children and parents in Ontario.
The Ontario Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services told PolitiFact that “child protection officers cannot remove children from their families solely on the basis of a parent refusing to accepting a child’s gender identity or expression”.
The ministry oversees the child protection system, but child protection services are provided exclusively by Children’s Aid Societies, which are independent, non-governmental legal entities. Each children’s aid society is governed by a board of directors elected by the local community it serves.
Children’s aid societies are required to assess and verify all reports of child abuse and neglect, according to the ministry. During an investigation, an Aid Society must determine if there are reasonable and probable grounds that the child is in need of protection. These grounds include physical harm, sexual abuse, emotional harm and neglect.
If an aid society receives a report that a child is in need of protection because their parent has not accepted the child’s gender identity or expression, the society will initiate an investigation to determine if the parent’s conduct amounts to abuse or neglect. If a judge determines that is the case, the aid society would step in.
“The government cannot take a child away from a parent,” Michael Coteau, who introduced the law in 2017 when he was Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services, told PolitiFact.
Children’s aid societies can take a child away from their parents – if a judge determines the child has been abused, said Coteau, who now sits in Canada’s Parliament.
The 2017 article cited in the Instagram post has since been taken down. A archived version of the article shows that he quotes information from a article published by the now defunct conservative news site Heat Street.
An Instagram post claimed: “New Canadian law allows government to take children away if parents don’t accept children’s ‘gender identity’.”
Child protection services are provided by independent children’s aid societies, not by the Canadian government. Children’s aid societies only intervene when there is evidence of abuse or neglect. They cannot remove children from their families solely on the basis of the parents’ refusal to accept their child’s gender identity or expression.
We rate this claim as false.