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Ontario Hansard - 13-September2012

Mrs. Jane McKenna: Thank you to the member from Windsor West for bringing this legislation forward in the spirit of and in tribute to the Youth Leaving Care hearings that took place here at Queen's Park in November.

As opposition critic for children and youth services, I would also like to express my deepest gratitude to the youth in care whose voices, vision and energy are contained in the report from those hearings and who have enriched this conversation over much of the last year. That process is ongoing and has yet to reach a conclusion, but it is a valuable conversation and an important one, and I'm encouraged that we find ourselves continuing the dialogue today to move forward.

As I remarked earlier this year when the report was first delivered, these young people are inspiring and possess uncommon strength and ambition. I am honoured to rise in this Legislature today to speak to Bill 90, the Children and Youth in Care Day Act, which names May 14 of each year in recognition of the experience and contributions of Ontario's roughly 8,300 children and youth in care.

The report that inspired this legislation was drawn from first-hand front-line experience, and it doesn't always paint a comforting portrait of the state of children and youth care in Ontario today. Immediately apparent are the barriers in a system that can be impersonal and at some times dehumanizing. These young people move around so often they're unable to undergo the emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual growth that most young Ontarians take for granted.

It is, of course, important to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements of all Ontario's children and youth, but especially those who face extraordinary challenges. When crown wards transition out of care, they don't do as well as other young adults. They're less likely to finish high school, pursue post-secondary education or even earn a living wage. They're most likely to spiral into poverty, homelessness, mental health issues and situations in the justice system.

During November's Youth Leaving Care hearings, we heard youth tell the province's policy-makers that they felt invisible, isolated and anonymous. This day offers us all a chance to address those failings and have conversations that can change the lives of some of the most vulnerable Ontarians. I am pleased to support Bill 90.

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