The suspension of individual rights: Childrens Aid

by | November 11, 2011

We all learned in school the basic legal precept that we are innocent until proven guilty. How then can someone be guilty until proven innocent in a democracy? Governments are elected by the people so what kind of electorate would vote in a government which would suspend such a basic individual right?

The answer to this question lies at the heart of the deficiencies of our current democratic systems. Governments do not represent the people who elect them; they represent special interests whose agenda are often at odds with the interests of the electorate. In this posting we will consider a specific case in point: Children’s Aid.

In most Western countries there is an entity called Children’s Aid which is meant to be an advocate of children’s rights, especially for children too young to fend for themselves. Few people would disagree that children need to be protected and that the protection of children is wholly consistent with a democratic mandate. But how many people really agree that an innocuous organization should be given powers that suspend the normal legal rights of law abiding citizens.

In many jurisdictions (we consider the Canadian province of Ontario in our example), Children’s Aid can receive an anonymous complaint that a child is being abused. Without any evidence, they can remove the child from its home and then investigate the parents. The parents have no recourse until the investigation is complete, no matter whether there is any real evidence or not.

One example we are aware of involves a child who was hit during a hockey game. At school a teacher saw the bruises and reported a potential beating to Children’s Aid. Children’s Aid removed the child from its home on the basis that there might be a problem. They then investigated this parents and, only when satisfied that there was no wrongdoing, returned the child.

This is a monstrous use of extra-judicial powers. This does not represent democracy and makes a mockery of due process. We are all concerned with the plight of abused children, but to remove a child from its home without a judicial order is not reasonable and gives the state undue powers over good people. Canada and other countries like it should be ashamed of this “big brother” approach no matter their good intentions.

Democracies must ensure through their constitutions that individual rights are protected. That means protecting not just the rights of a child but the rights of the parents as well. Democracies today create ridiculous agencies like Children’s Aid because politicians are not professionals and so simply listen to very vocal special interests groups. It’s time to let the majority take control of the government the way democracy was meant to work.

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