Everyone's duty

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Question

I'm hesitant to contradict a criminal law attorney on a matter of law and, much as I respect Alan Young, I disagree with his statement that "Legally, the only people who have obligations to report suspected abuse are people in the healthcare professions or people who have contact with children, like teachers" ("Fantasy or felon-to-be," Love Bites, April 2).

My understanding is that under the Ontario Child and Family Services Act (CFSA), everyone has a duty to report suspected abuse, and that certain professionals, because of their contact with children have a special obligation to do so. From CFSA's section 72 [as paraphrased at www.caselgin.on.ca/html/duty.html]:"Everyone, not just professionals, who has reasonable grounds to suspect a child is or may be in need of protection, has a duty to report directly to a children's aid society." It goes on to list various forms of abuse and neglect. (See it here: www.oacas.org/childwelfare/duty.htm.) I was surprised by Alan Young's statement. I think it's clear the obligation rests on anyone and everyone ("a person"), and then the Act goes on to single out the class of professionals, just to be doubly clear. "

— DAVID

Answer

"Section 72 does impose a broad obligation on everyone and not just professionals," Young says, "so your reader is right."

Marcelo Gomez-Wiuckstern, the communications officer from the Ontario Association of Children's Aid Society, says this particular amendment was made in 2000. The Act, which is known as The Duty to Report, was extended to include the general public, though the general public is not subject to the same $1,000 fine that professionals working with children are for not reporting suspected abuse.

Despite the fact that several of its mandates are disconcertingly open to interpretation, just as it states that "a person" has a responsibility to report suspected abuse, the Act also clearly states there must be "a child" on the receiving end of that abuse. With nothing but an off-putting fantasy to work with, the letter writer in question has no solid evidence to report, making the original points (recognize that one of the goals of recreational fantasy is to indulge in transgressions consensually but don't see clients who fuck with your head) still germane. Thanks for pointing that out, David. Can of worms officially opened.