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September 8, 2016

DirectioNS

"DIRECTIONS Council for Vocational Services Society is a not for profit organization representing 28 member agencies throughout Nova Scotia. The Council's mandate is to assist and support member organizations in the delivery of services that promote the abilities and inclusion of persons with disabilities in the every day activities of their community."

When I did the math last year, taxpayers funded $28,404,968 at 27 agencies in the province. The Department of Community Services accounted for $23.7 million of that.


My purpose is not to alarm, but to be realistic.  There are dozens of examples of vulnerable people being taken advantage of by those who are meant to be taking care of them.  The Nova Scotia Home for Coloured Children, the Shubenacadie Indian Residential School, the Shelburne School for Boys, the Truro School for Girls, sexual abuse in Antigonish diocese by Roman Catholic clergy-- and those are just the local examples.


In sheltered workshops, 83% of participants are intellectually challenged and particularly vulnerable. Most are adults who may not have had instruction in appropriate behaviour, either amongst themselves or with authority figures.


Vulnerable people are magnets to predators. Sex offenders continuously find ways to insinuate  themselves with victims. Bullies, thieves - all look for the easy prey.
It would be nice if nothing untoward ever happened in sheltered workshops. Wishful thinking aside, shouldn't there be a written policy and some effort to protect participants? Without written rules, someone is sure to be hurt.

But it's the law you say.  Isn't that enough?  Well, it was the same law for the priests, the residential school and the Home for Colored Children.   The temptation is to sweep incidents under the rug.

A quick check of the Directions Council website shows a lack of uniform policy about this issue.


The Department of Community Services, which funds members of the Directions Council, had this to say:

Individual centres would have their own policies around harassment and their own mechanisms for dealing with participant complaints. We do not have a provincial policy.

An officer of DirectioNS emailed me:
To my knowledge each agency has there own policies on this and the Directions Council has suggested standards.  
If I was a parent, employee, director, or donor, I'd want clarity and direction. As a taxpayer, I want the Department of Community Services to impose a minimum set of policies and procedures. Everyone involved needs reassurance that participants are safe and boundaries are understood and enforced. This needs to include:

  • Definitions
  • Mandantory education
  • Dispute Resolution
  • Involving Law Enforcement
  • Background Checks
  • Clear chain of authority
  • Consequences

L'Arche has an
excellent example of a straightforward, comprehensive and thoughtful approach to the problem. Supporters and operators of workshops would be irresponsible not to insist upon such a policy.  




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