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(ON) OCAY: Publication 2018 Annual Report

by ahnationtalk on March 28, 2019194 Views

I can remember the moment very clearly: just more than 10 years ago, I was in the boardroom of the office of the Speaker of the Legislative Assembly. In front of me was my immediate family. The Speaker and the Clerk of the Legislature were beside me. My heart was pounding and, I admit, I was sweating. After I took the oath and signed the document, I officially became Ontario’s first independent Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.

My sister was crying. The Speaker asked her, “What are you crying about? It’s an honour!” Everyone laughed. But of course, that was exactly why she was in tears. And I felt it too. I realized I was being given both a great privilege and a great responsibility. As I stood there, all I could think about were the children and youth who were now counting on me to be a “partner” who would ensure their voices were heard. I knew then, as I know now, the critical role our Office could play in their lives—and I was determined not to let them down.

Ten years on, our Office has become what it is today. Moment by moment—thanks to the passion and determination of our dedicated staff and thousands of courageous, strong young people from all corners of Ontario—we created an Office that is recognized nationally and internationally as a model for child advocacy.

In its 10 years, the Office has developed four intertwined functions that are tied to the legislation that guides us: individual rights advocacy, systemic advocacy, community development advocacy and investigations. These four areas come together to form child advocacy. To use a metaphor, we strive to journey with the children and youth within our mandate. We travel with them, but allow them to guide us. At times, they will ask us to travel in front and speak

for them. At other times, they will ask us to travel beside them and advocate with them. At times, they will ask us to support them as they advocate for themselves. But always, in every function, we are with them.

I am sad to say that this is my last annual report. As I prepare to leave the Office, my mind is on the young people of this province, just as it was when I stood in the Speaker’s boardroom 10 years ago. My eyes are teary once more. It’s not that the children and youth in our mandate are special or extraordinary. They are human beings, after all, just like you and me. But they are people who live in extraordinary circumstances. Somehow in their lives, they find the strength to overcome the challenges they face.

It is really remarkable. What’s more, when given support and the chance to be heard, they find their voices. They speak for themselves and for other children who may find themselves in similar situations. We can learn so much from them, and we must.

It has been the privilege of a lifetime to walk with the children of this province. I am indebted to them. From my heart, I thank each and every one of them for that privilege. And I thank the Province of Ontario for the opportunity to have served them.

 

Irwin Elman

Provincial Advocate for

Children and Youth

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