Ontario Ministry of Health reverses course on guardianship requirement for disabled woman
The proposed reversal of a requirement that guardianship must be obtained by a child’s parents, even though they cannot be located, is good news for a woman with cerebral palsy and mental illness who has previously faced a battle to find a responsible adult to care for her.
The Ontario Human Rights Commission says the change, which the ministry made to the provincial “guardianship regulations,” is significant progress – although it doesn’t provide details and does not explicitly refer to the individual case under consideration.
Currently the regulation states: “In exceptional circumstances the Ministry of Children and Youth Services may grant guardianship in the name of a child even though the child’s parent(s) are not known. The decision is made on an individual basis.”
“The Ontario Human Rights Commission is pleased that the Ministry of Children and Youth Services has agreed to revise regulations to remove the requirement that guardianship must be obtained by the child’s parents,” said Andrea Gibson, the human rights monitor for the commission’s LGBT and disability and aboriginal equality section.
“This is a significant step,” Ms. Gibson continued, “and we are hopeful that this change will prevent similar situations from occurring in the future.”
Shelagh O’Leary, a lawyer with the Advocacy Centre for Tenants & Soldiers, who has represented numerous disabled people in guardianship disputes, told Compass on August 22 that her client, who is also a woman, and whose partner has a disability that prevents them from caring for her, finds the revised provision particularly noteworthy.
“The problem here,” Ms. O’Leary said, “is that they’ve said, ‘We think it will be a lot better for you and for the children if we can continue to require the mother as the primary or the only legal guardian,’ but the woman is not really the mother.
“The issue here is that she’s disabled and she’s unable to provide for herself,” she said. “What I think makes this problematic is that the definition of ‘child’ includes persons who are aged over 18 years, so you’d have to bring the mother and father into the equation. It’s a whole legal minefield that’