Archive for March, 2019

When Innocent Children are Victims of the very System Promoted as Protection – VM

March 18, 2019

I am reluctant to engage in this dialogue due to the fact that in a day and age where awareness is readily available to the public in mainstream media, some individuals choose to turn a blind eye to its tragic reality. Skimming comments, I see responses by naysayers accusing you of being angry and out-of-touch with accurate information. Frankly, everyone ought to be outraged and heart-broken over the toll of lost young lives!

The Public has a right to attend Fatality Inquiries for Children. I encourage people to do so as it becomes blatantly obvious that repeated scenarios involving negligence within the System are transpiring. Judges issue Reports with recommendations which mirror that of colleagues. However, implementation does not follow; nor consequences for not heeding recommendations; thus, little incentive for behaviours to change.

I’ll refrain from getting in-depth into the politics of why families may require services, other than to acknowledge targeting is widespread towards race, age, gender, disability, health, false allegations, and whether the parent themselves grew up under the Child Welfare System. (Regardless whether a child enters the System due to a horrendous or pristine family background, not a single one deserves to be harmed.)

The Alberta Association for Community Living provided statistics based on government records indicating 70% of children in the system have a disability. Instead of resources being distributed directly to families, custody is severed in favour of out-of-home placement.

I dispute the notion that most children who die in care are the result of “natural causes.” Example: A child in care with epilepsy suffered a heart-attack and succumbed. Background: In reality, the child was not presented to medical professionals for years while in care of the Department. The child was referred for investigation of epilepsy, yet the foster placement did not pursue medical attention. The child’s caseworker did not follow-up to ensure treatment had occurred; nor visit the child for periods over a year. And yet, that child’s death is labelled, “natural”. 

Suicides also are frequently excluded from statistical enumeration. Youth whose family have entrusted specialists to assist their vulnerable child with services see their loved one in treatment, yet floundering because monitoring of worsening depression and supports are sporadic or non-existent. When  families attempt to alert authorities to concerns, are flagged instead as, “difficult” or ignored altogether. Despite urgent pleas from family members advocating, a youth continued to be terrorized by peers in a group-home. She displayed graphic images about death on social-media before ending her life by hanging.

These are but 2 examples of a widespread phenomenon taking place across Canada.

“Between 1999 – 2013, 741 Alberta children died while in care or while receiving child welfare services.” Of the toll, 56 fatalities were publicly reported; the remaining 685 victims were not divulged until investigative journalists uncovered the truth:

Fatal Care: an investigation into the deaths of 741 children in Government care:


The Province of British Columbia cites 123 deaths of children in care 2008 – 2018.  At first glance, one might surmise BC’s Child Welfare System functions better than Alberta’s, but when you add an additional 375 children who died for reasons other than natural causes in that same period while “receiving services”, the result is more menacing.

Saskatchewan is less than transparent regarding the number of children in care who have died. The most recent information indicates more than 200 children in care have died between 2004-2013. It is important to note, that figures released by the Province are incomplete as they do not include Indigenous children living on a reserve.


The Province of Ontario issues death statistics in bulky annual reports from the Office of the Chief Coroner Paediatric Death Review and Deaths Under Five Committees. The most recent report published in December 2018 indicates 121 children listed as CAS cases died in 2016.  However, the figures do not represent the total number of deaths of children in care of the Children’s Aid Societies. There were 121 deaths referred to the Paediatric Death Review Committee, but the figures exclude the total amount of child fatalities.


There is a disturbing veil of secrecy in which Coroners and Leaders are stepping forward to reveal startling details: 

“Dr. Anny Sauvageau has raised concerns interference by provincial government representatives may affect the public’s trust in the integrity of the death-investigation system, specifically in relation to deaths of children in provincial care.”


“Grand Chief ‘horrified’ Alberta quietly allows organ harvesting from children who die in provincial care.”


This is but a glimpse into the Child Welfare System across Canada. *To be clear, I do not dispute a need for intervention nor belittle the efforts of System workers who genuinely care. However, uncovering and acknowledging the poor with the positive must also occur if we hope to offer our youth better outcomes. Minimizing the damage by evading reality to protect the System – as opposed to supporting children and families – is as dangerous and negligent as those who inflict harm through physical means.


Velvet Martin,

Founder of Samantha’s Law

More support needed for unpaid caregivers in Canada

March 7, 2019

More support needed for unpaid caregivers in Canada | CBC Radio

More support needed for unpaid caregivers in Canada


If paid, caregiving provided by family members and friends would add up to more than $24 billion

Dr. Brian Goldman · CBC News · Posted: Mar 04, 2019 12:49 PM ET | Last Updated: March 4

Stephane Alexis helps care for his brother Torence, left, who has cerebral palsy. More than one in four Canadians provides informal, unpaid caregiving to family members or friends, according to Statistics Canada. (Justin Tang/Canadian Press)


Statistics Canada says more than one in four Canadians puts in regular hours providing care for family members and friends with chronic illnesses or disabilities. All that unpaid labour comes with a high emotional cost, according to an  editorial published Monday in the Canadian Medical Association Journal (CMAJ).

The editorial, by Dr. Nathan Stall, an attending physician at Sinai Health System in Toronto and an associate editor of CMAJ, says more must be done to support the millions of Canadians who provide informal or unpaid care to loved ones and friends. The majority of people needing care are seniors. 

It calls on the federal and provincial governments to provide more financial support to informal caregivers. It also says the health-care system needs to do a better job teaching them how to provide care, given that “despite little to no training, they are expected to provide medical and nursing care in the home, navigate complicated health and long-term care systems, and serve as substitute decision makers.”

Crucial for health system, many caregivers are struggling financially and emotionally, report says

And, the editorial says, emotional support and respite care are essential ways to help informal caregivers take better care of themselves — because they often put their own health concerns aside while looking after their loved ones.  

The amount of work performed by informal caregivers is astonishing. On average, they devote 19 hours a week to caregiving duties, the CMAJ editorial says, with one in 10 informal caregivers putting in more than 30 hours a week. 

That work is allowing many seniors to stay in their homes. Informal caregivers provide an estimated 75 per cent of services to seniors at their place of residence and a 2012 report by the Health Council of Canada said that 93 per cent of seniors live at home. 

Although family members and friends provide informal caregiving for a variety of chronic illnesses and disabilities, the majority of care needs are aging-related, according to a CMAJ editorial published Monday. (Ed Hunter/CBC)

If more and better home care was available, this is work that would be done by personal support workers (PSWs) at a hard dollar cost. If society paid PSWs to do that work, it would cost between $24 billion and $31 billion per year. 

All of that work has a huge impact on informal caregivers. There’s the economic impact: many caregivers reduce their hours at their paid jobs, miss work, or leave the workforce so they can care for their loved ones. I’ve personally met informal caregivers who have passed up new jobs and promotions to look after ailing parents.

Then there’s the impact on the physical and mental health of informal caregivers. The work they’re doing is stressful. If they also have jobs outside the home, they’re working upwards of 60 to 70 hours a week between their paid employment and unpaid caregiving.  

 A report by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that 26 per cent of informal caregivers are in distress. If the loved one has dementia, the figure rises to 45 per cent. Informal caregivers are at increased risk of depression. They’re often in conflict with extended family members and stop going out with friends.

Almost half of caregivers of loved ones with dementia experience distress, report says

WHITE COAT BLACK ARTHow to reach the person inside the dementia

Often, they don’t eat well or exercise properly. They may go months without a good night’s sleep. They neglect their health. They put off seeing the doctor even if they are experiencing serious symptoms like intestinal bleeding and chest pain. And, they are more likely to die prematurely.

I’ve seen this situation up close. My late mother was diagnosed with dementia at the age of 70. For the next 15 years, my late father was her full-time, live-in caregiver. In the beginning, he organized my mother’s life and made sure she kept up her exercises. Eventually, he became her personal attendant. He did all of that while ignoring his own heart disease until it was inoperable.

Older Canadians don’t have a monopoly on these challenges. Last season on White Coat, Black Art, our town hall episode Crisis of care featured the stories of  many parents who put jobs on hold to care at home for fragile children with extraordinary needs. The current system is failing Canadians of all ages and all walks of life.

What needs to be done? Boosting home care would help, but by itself isn’t sufficient. It’s inevitable that some care must be provided by informal caregivers. Hospitals like Sinai Health System in Toronto — where I work in the ER — assess and train informal caregivers to do the job better. They teach them to solve problems on the fly. The hospital also provides psychotherapy for caregivers in distress and respite care so they can take a break.

Studies show these programs relieve caregiver stress and help them feel more competent as caregivers.

The CMAJ editorial says the provinces should follow the example set by Manitoba and Quebec and provide informal caregivers with refundable tax credits. They could also follow Nova Scotia’s lead and provide low-income caregivers with a monthly benefit.

Above all, informal caregivers should be respected and thanked for the tireless work they do. They are a national treasure and deserve to be treated as such.


Dr. Brian Goldman

Dr. Brian Goldman is a veteran ER physician and an award-winning medical reporter. As host of CBC Radio’s White Coat, Black Art, he uses his proven knack for making sense of medical bafflegab to show listeners what really goes on at hospitals and clinics. He is the author of The Night Shift and The Power of Kindness: Why Empathy is Essential in Everyday Life.