Originally published on November 29, 2018, updated November 14, 2019, by B.R Meston

On Nov. 15, Ontario Premier Doug Ford launched an attack on children and youth. The government “for the People” sent a very clear message—that dollars and cents should be put before giving young people a voice in Canada’s largest province. The resounding message is clear: Ontario’s Progressive Conservative government does not care about children and youth.

As a former foster kid, I experienced the benefit of the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth. This office plays a vital role in ensuring that children who are otherwise voiceless are given a voice.

The Office advocates for and amplifies the voices of child and youth welfare in Ontario, including youth with disabilities, youth in the welfare system, LGBTQ+ youth, Indigenous youth, and youth who have experienced conflict with the law.

I remain deeply concerned that, by integrating the Provincial Advocate with the Ombudsman, children will get lost in the bureaucratic shuffle and will ultimately pay the highest price. I do not expect the Premier to understand the value of a child’s voice, as it is clear he does not care about the opinions of others, much less the innocent voice of a child.

It is extremely distressing to know that instead of moving forward in a progressive direction, the government would rather set fire to the great work being done by this independent office.

One must question what the priorities and values of this new government are, when, within a few short months of being in power, it launched an attack on the leaders of tomorrow. I have made it my life’s mission to speak up for the injustices I see happening around me. I want to make sure that no other adult or child experiences the horrors I have within our broken government systems.

By making this move, Premier Ford is going from bad to worse. Instead of fixing the cracks that already exist in the web of our social fabric, he is creating even bigger gaps in services and in the systems that every Ontarian relies on.

I do not understand how Ford believes his decision to axe an office that helps children and youth will help him at the ballot box. Is the problem that he simply cannot comprehend what it is like for a child with a disability or a child in the foster care system not to have a voice? Or, is he so blinded by his newfound power that he does not care?

Every time a child enters the foster care system, their life changes forever. Their whole world is turned upside down and they are left to question everything they once knew. Having gone through it, I can tell you with the utmost confidence I will never be the same. I always will remember the 27 months I spent in care. I cannot stress enough how much Ontario needs an independent child advocate.

Children’s Aid Societies have an enormous amount of power—some would even call them sophisticated litigants. It is my experience these societies do not like anything or anyone that challenges the power of their decisions. To them, the less accountability they have, the better. I am certain the closure of this important office came as welcome news to the 47 Children’s Aid Societies across Ontario.

Is this really the legacy the Ford government wants to be remembered for? Finding so-called “efficiencies” on the backs of the most vulnerable? Please tell me this Premier does not believe that balancing a budget is more important than protecting the rights of youth, and ensuring their deaths and injuries are prevented and those responsible are held to account.

We can, and we must, demand better. It is time to stand, fight, and lend our voices to those who are otherwise voiceless. We must send a clear message to this government that they have gone too far. This decision needs to be reversed. Until then, I will continue to protest this horrendous act of violence. We all have a duty to use our voice for those who are voiceless.