- The Bulletin, September 2012, pg. 6
Commffest, the global community film festival that makes its home in the Performing Arts Lodge (PAL) and the area immediately around the St. Lawrence Market, entered its seventh year of existence.
The documentary film festival tries to make a difference at community level by exploring social and cultural issues—and given that its founder Sandie de Freitas is a soft-spoken, breath-taking ball of energy, it is much more than a film festival.
It also incorporates panels after every film, a parallel conference on community activism through film, filmmaking workshops, a youth education program, and the Making A Difference Award (MADA) program. Entries are juried from around the world via Internet.
“I used to work for a film distribution company in the ‘90s,” de Freitas says. “My job was to screen films to understand what they were about so we could market them to broadcasters and educational agencies.
“And I came across all these fascinating independent films that no one ever heard of. They weren’t mainstream and they were never going to be mainstream. So I said to myself, there’s got to be a way to get these out to the public.”
The Sept. 21 opening evening took place on Market St. The films presented that evening were themed around the War of 1812, one of them produced by St. Lawrence-area Ontario Federation of Indian Friendship Centres (OFIFC). According to de Freitas, the panel discussions are a vital element that gives Commffest momentum. “The panel discussions become very lively and animated and people take away a sense of awareness so it becomes a classroom for everyone.” Much of the material moves into emotionally raw territory, and courts controversy by nature.
De Freitas is expecting the discussion around one of this year’s films to be considerably more acerbic than usual: Toronto filmmaker Esther Buckareff has entered Powerful As God—The Children’s Aid Societies of Ontario, screened Sept. 23. The Commffest website notes: “The film navigates truth by coordinating 26 witnesses into conversation with each other. (It) incorporates diverse experiences from people whose lives were tragically affected by the agency’s actions with professionals who have worked directly with the Children’s Aid, such as doctors, social workers and lawyers.”
The film has already been the subject of a complaint from the Children’s Aid Society to Ryerson University earlier this year, a complaint which, according to the director’s website www.blakout.ca, was not accommodated by Ryerson. Buckareff is a recent Masters’ graduate in documentary filmmaking from Ryerson. She describes the eight-or-nine-month process of research as emotionally very difficult: “It wiped me out.”
“I fostered a couple of children at one point in my life and I realized that there was something terribly wrong with the system,” Buckareff says. She was unable to obtain interviews with any officials in the CAS and its associated agencies.
Commffest is planning to invite Ontario minister of children and youth services Dr. Eric Hoskins and Ontario Ombudsman Andre Marin.
This year’s Commffest took place from Sept. 21 to Sept. 25. Screenings were held at PAL, the Rainbow Cinema in Market Square, and in a closed-off section of Market St.
For information visit www.commffest.com. Tickets are $10 per screening.
Barbara Kay: The problem with Children’s Aid Societies
February 27, 2013
Next week, I will review a 2011 documentary film on this subject, made by a former foster parent. Powerful as God is a movie that Ontario family-service agencies would prefer you don’t see, but robust attempts to shut it down have failed.
Powerful as God can be found at blakout.ca. Featured in the film is a proposal for an alternative system of child protection that I find both sensible and viable. It is proposed by Canadians whose tragic history has rendered them all too familiar with the iniquities associated with what they regard as state-sanctioned child “kidnapping.”
Read full article: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/02/27/barbara-kay-the-problem-with-childrens-aid-societies/ (Accessed March 22, 2013)
Barbara Kay: Seeking an alternative to Children’s Aid Societies
March 6, 2013
More important from a policy perspective are the words of professional insiders: of, for example, Alfred “Alf” Mamo, a family lawyer in London, Ont., who has represented both CAS and the Office of the Children’s Lawyer. Mamo says that CAS injustice “can happen to anyone,” and that the millions used on CAS litigation could be better spent actually helping people.
There is also Michael Clarke, a family lawyer in Hamilton, Ont., who has done extensive research on child welfare issues; Clarke says there is an “imbalance of power” between CAS and clients, whose social workers are “holding all the cards.”
Read full article: http://fullcomment.nationalpost.com/2013/03/06/barbara-kay-seeking-an-alternative-to-childrens-aid-societies/ (Accessed March 22, 2013)
Powerful As God, The Children’s Aid Societies of Ontario
December 23, 2013
Sun News Network, 3am, 7pm, 11pm
Broadcast of documentary
Children’s Aid Society oversight
March 21, 2013
Primetime, Sun News Network
Christina Blizzard exposes the many problems of the Children’s Aid Society.
View video: http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/children%E2%80%99s-aid-society-oversight/2243470878001 (Accessed March 22, 2013)
Child protection priority
March 21, 2013
Primetime with Charles Adler, Sun News Network
Charles Adler is demanding more accountability from the Children’s Aid Society.
View video: http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/child-protection-priority/2243578764001 (Accessed March 22, 2013)
Is the Children’s Aid Society too powerful?
December 26, 2012
The Arena with Michael Coren, Sun News Network
Family lawyer Michael P. Clark joins Michael Coren to take a critical look at the Children’s Aid Society
View video: http://www.sunnewsnetwork.ca/video/is-the-children’s-aid-society-too-powerful%3F/2056644156001 (Accessed March 22, 2013)
Powerful As God
October 9, 2012
Primetime with Michael Coren, Sun News Network
Family lawyer, Michael Clarke explains why the Children’s Aid Societies have too much power, and often to more harm than good.
View video: http://bcove.me/kng5saum (Accessed March 22, 2013)
NewsTalk 1010 with Jerry Auger
March 7, 2013
Listen to clip or visit http://www.newstalk1010.com/Hosts/JerryAgar.aspx for audio pod
Letters to the Editor
Toronto Star, March 20, 2013
Correcting CAS funding flaws
From your reports and other sources, like Esther Buckareff’s documentary “Powerful as God,” it is clear that the province’s funding formula for all Children’s Aid Societies in Ontario is flawed.
In your second article of this series, you suggest that the “model is set to change this year.” Is the new model now set in stone or could there be public hearings on such a critical issue?
From the perspective of someone who was adopted through CAS in the best of circumstances, I still believe that the damage done to a child in removing him or her from parents is so deep that it should be done, in all circumstances, only as a very last resort and only after a series of checks and balances, unless it is a matter of life and death.
The funding formula could be changed to encourage child protection workers to support families that are struggling to keep their children, rather than remove the children in order to receive funding.
K. Janet Ritch, Toronto
Link: http://www.thestar.com/opinion/letters_to_the_editors/2013/03/20/correcting_cas_funding_flaws.html (Accessed March 22,2013)
Ontario Children’s Aid Society Shows the Error of Greater CPS Power
October 17, 2011
Fathers and Families
We don’t need to imagine what this enormous expansion of CPS’s power to break up families might look like. We need only watch the linked-to video and see what’s happening in the Province of Ontario and its Children’s Aid Society.
The video is an hour and fifteen minutes long. It consists almost entirely of bits of interviews with various people. It’s an impressionistic approach and includes no pro-CAS voices. So the video isn’t a scientific inquiry into the behavior of Ontario CAS. It’s a litany of the experiences of the people interviewed.
But the variety of interviewees gives the piece definite heft. It’s not just a series of horror stories by parents who claim CAS violated their rights, although there are some of those. The people interviewed are also lawyers who’ve opposed CAS and those who’ve represented CAS in court. There are doctors and mental health professionals, many of whom used to work for CAS. There are social workers formerly with CAS and, most tellingly, there are adults who, as children, were taken from their parents and placed in foster care.
Like any good work of Impressionism, each individual part of the whole is insignificant, almost meaningless, but step back and the whole picture comes into focus. Unlike many works of Impressionism however, there’s nothing beautiful about the picture of CAS drawn by this video.
View article: http://www.fathersandfamilies.org/2011/10/17/ontario-childrens-aid-society-shows-the-error-of-greater-cps-power/ (Accessed March 22,2013)