Media Statement by Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth on the Motherisk lab

TORONTO, Dec. 17, 2015 /CNW/ - Today, Justice Susan Lang released her independent review of The Hospital for Sick Children's hair testing program for drugs and alcohol at its Motherisk Drug Testing Laboratory (MDTL).

Between 2005 and 2015, MDTL tested more than 16,000 individuals for drug and alcohol abuse at the request of Ontario child protection agencies with 54 percent testing positive. One would be hard-pressed to find a more important, life-changing decision made in the life of a child in Ontario than the one made by our courts to remove children from their homes and families for their own protection. As a society, we want to – perhaps need to – believe that our trusted institutions and systems get that decision right.

In her report, Justice Lang concluded that the MDTL's hair testing methodology was "inadequate and unreliable for use in child protection and criminal proceedings." She highlights that the lab failed to meet internationally-recognized forensic standards, there was poor oversight by The Hospital for Sick Children into its methods and practices, and a lack of written operating procedures in carrying out the drug tests.

In my mind, this is yet another devastating blow to our province's child welfare system. It is this system which includes a number of sectors – not just our Children's Aid Societies -- that we must examine publicly and honestly through some sort of inquiry process. Any further review process must involve young people so we can hear their lived experiences. There will be time to work towards change, and if ever it was clear, that process must begin imminently.

The findings from this review will no doubt raise many difficult, emotional questions for children in and from care who will question if any flawed, hair testing evidence from Motherisk affected the course of their lives. This information may destabilize children and youth who already live a fragile existence. My heart is with them today.

A few weeks ago, I wrote a letter to the Premier's Office, and the Ministers of the Attorney General and Children and Youth Services calling on them to put the necessary supports in place to prepare all children in and from care for Justice Lang's report. Caregivers of children in care and social workers must be trained to discuss this report with children and to listen to these young people about their personal journey. The time for children to be -- as they said in My REAL Lifebook of being "left out of their own lives" -- must come to an end.

For today, we, as a province, must first turn to those children and those who were in care at some point in their lives who may have been potentially affected by Justice Lang's findings and say to them, "We are with you. Tell us what you need and we will offer our support." 

Irwin Elman

Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

About the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

The Office of the Provincial Advocate reports directly to the Legislature and provides an independent voice for children and youth, including children with special needs and First Nations children. The advocates receive and respond to concerns from children, youth and families who are seeking or receiving services under the Child and Family Services Act and the Education Act (Provincial and Demonstration Schools).

The Office is guided by the principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and has a strong commitment to youth involvement. For more information, visit: For updates, read the Advocate's Blog and follow us on and Facebook.

SOURCE Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth

For further information: Media Contact: Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth: Akihiko Tse, Media and Communications Coordinator, (416)-325-5994


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