A Worker’s Resistance to the Capitalist Government or State and Its Representatives, Part Seven: Complaint Against the Winnipeg Child and Family Services with the Manitoba Ombudsman

Introduction

As I indicated in my last post, my substantial complaint to the Manitoba Institute of Registered Social Workers (MIRSW) against a social worker was dismissed without really considering the nature of the complaint. Of course, Francesca, my daughter, was still being physically abused by her mother I pursued the issue by filing a complaint against the Winnipeg Child and Family Services (WCFS) with the Manitoba Ombudsman.

Of course, Francesca’s mother in the meantime continued to use a belt, a wooden stick and physically abuse Francesca in various other ways (as I outlined in my previous posts in this series. I continued to complain to Winnipeg Child and Family Services about this physical abuse.

As I indicated in an earlier post, the physical abuse included (but was not limited) to the following: Since the civil trial in April 1999, my daughter complained of the following  (as of February 18, 2000): 1. Her mother was using a wooden stick on her buttocks; 2. Her mother used a belt to spank her on the same area; 3. Her mother grabbed Francesca and forced her into the apartment building; 4. Her mother had grabbed Francesca’s throat in the elevator and warned her not to tell me that her mother had hit her; 5. Her mother shoved Francesca to the floor on two separate occasions; 6. Her mother hit Francesca on the head with a book; 7. Her mother pulled Francesca’s hair; 8. Her mother scratched Francesca with a comb.

Oppressive Letter from Dan Berg, Assistant Program Manager, Winnipeg Child and Family Services

In the meantime, I received a letter from Dan Berg, assistant program manager, Intake and Early Intervention Program, of Winnipeg Child and Family Services. It was dated January 22, 2004.

Here is the content of the letter:

My name is Dan Berg. I am an Assistant Program Manager with the Branch of Winnipeg Child and Family Services based out of 835 Portage Avenue, phone number is 944-6750.

I recently reviewed the referral letter sent by yourself on January 5, 2004, regarding Francesca your daughter receiving a bruise on her leg resultant of her mother Veronica Harris allegedly hitting her with a remote control on her leg.

As a standard practice in our Abuse Unit we review the entire file on each family, their background history with our Branch to inform our current decision to investigate a matter or not,. I personally took on this responsibility given the extensive history of involvement our Branch has had with your family 

Frankly, as an Assistant Program Manager with over twenty years in the child welfare field, I am very concerned about the number of referrals you have made to our office regarding your ex-wife. 

We as a branch have consistently interfered in your wife’s affairs resultant of these referrals to our Agency by yourself. Investigations continue to be unfounded and your daughter has been subjected to numerous interviews and medically examined a very intrusive measure on more than one occasion.

We as a Branch, will not be investigating your most recent disclosure regarding your daughter and your ex-wife.

I will instruct our Crisis Response Unit to screen all calls from yourself from this date forward particularly if they reference your wife and and the quality of care of your daughter Francesca Harris is receiving. As a Branch responsible for child welfare matters in the city, we will respond to legitimate calls.

If in the future our Branch staff follow up on a referral call from yourself and we determine that the call is unfounded and malicious in nature, we will be consulting our legal counsel and the police to consider legal action. 

You should give some serious consideration to exploring Family Conciliation Counseling so your daughter does not have to continue to be caught in the middle of your differences. Children of separated and divorced parents can learn to cope quite well if the parents put their child’s needs first. 

I trust future referrals to our Agency will be seriously screened by yourself to their validity in the future. I am available for you to contact me directly at 944-6750.

Sincerely,

Dan Berg
Assistant Program Manager
Intake and Early Intervention Program

Patrick Harrison
Program Manager
Intake and Early Intervention Program

cc. Diva Faria, CRU Supervisor
     Diana Verrier, CRU Supervisor

I have included the letter as written–including its grammatical and punctuation errors.

Evasive and Oppressive Letter from Manitoba Ombudsman

Among other communications from Manitoba Ombudsman, I received the following, dated May 12, 2005. I will not quote all of it since the main points are the following: 

Our office has investigated the concerns you raised and have concluded that the position taken by WCFS as outlined in their letters of January 13, 2003 and January 22, 2004 is not clearly wrong or unreasonable. Accordingly there is no recommendation that can be made on your behalf.

In the January 13, 2003 letter, Rhonda Warren, assistant program manager to the Winnipeg Child and Family Services, stated the following:

Whether we agree or not regarding the issue of corporal punishment, it is not illegal for a parent to use such practice and in absence of injury Child and Family Services does not have the authority to demand change. It appears from your lengthy correspondence that you and … [the] mother have very different childrearing practices.

This implies that Francesca’s mother was using corporal punishment. However, just a year later, Dan Berg implied that I was making false allegations of physical abuse–like the social worker who wrote the court-ordered assessment. Why is that? The letter from Manitoba Ombudsman does not explain how it drew the conclusion “that the position taken by WCFS as outlined in their letters of January 13, 2003 and January 22, 2004 is not clearly wrong or unreasonable.”

How is it reasonable to claim that Dan Berg’s refusal to further investigate my complaints of physical abuse by the mother and his threat of consulting legal counsel and contacting the police was reasonable when Rhonda Warren, who held the same position as Dan Berg the year before, implied use of corporal punishment by Francesca’s mother for at least six years?  

By the way, the claim by Rhonda Warren, assistant program manager to the Winnipeg Child and Family Servicesthat  that “it is not illegal for a parent to use such practice and in absence of injury Child and Family Services does not have the authority to demand change” is hypocritical. I was living in a bachelor’s suite, with a separate bed for myself and for Francesca but in the same room, obviously (I could not afford at the time a one-bedroom apartment)–after I had been falsely accused of sexually abusing by both the mother and Winnipeg Child and Family Services. Francesca would sleep with me despite having her own bed, and I did not think anything about it. The mother apparently complained to WCFS, and the WCFS contacted me, implying that if I did not stop sleeping with Francesca, they would take Francesca away from me. I had to force Francesca to sleep in her own bed–and that included spanking her–for the first time. Both of us were crying. The WCFS abused both Francesca and me–despite a child sleeping with a parent not being “illegal.” 

The conclusion that I drew from this is that the legal provisions for the protection of children were being used to justify conclusions that were already formed beforehand. The “rule of law” so much by the social-democratic left and liberals is a farce–just as was the court-ordered assessment (see my critiques of the “Marxist” Herman Rosenfeld, who claimed that what was needed was somehow a “transformation” of the police rather than their abolition in the series of posts on the reform or abolition of the police (for example, Reform or Abolition of the Police, Part One). 

In a follow up letter, dated January 9, 2006, Manitoba Ombudsman indicated the following: 

As you are aware, the Ombudsman is an independent Officer of the Legislature whose duty is to investigate administrative acts, decisions or omissions of a departments and agencies of the provincial and municipal governments. 

The Winnipeg Child and Family Service did not consider that Francesca needed protection and that the threat to consult legal counsel and phone the police was reasonable. Both judgements were “reasonable” according to the Manitoba Ombudsman. 

Of course, what is reasonable is very dependent on the point of view of those who interpret the law–and a citizen’s interpretation is irrelevant unless they have the money to pursue the issue in court. 

The Winnipeg and Child and Family Services is supposed to protect children from physical abuse. On page 2 of the January 9, 2006 letter from Ombudsman Manitoba, they quote the following from “the law”:

Child in need of protection

17 (1) For purposes of this Act, a child is in need of protection where the life, health or emotional well- being of the child is endangered by the act or omission of a person.

Illustrations of child in need

(17 (2) Without restricting the generality of subsection (1), a child is in need of protection where the child …

(b) is in the care, custody, control or charge of a person …

    (ii) whose conduct endangers or endanger the life, health or emotional well-being of the child

(c) is abused or in danger of being abused …

(e) is likely to suffer harm or injury due to the behaviour, condition, domestic environment or associations of the child or a person having care, custody, control or charge of the child; 

(f) is subjected to aggression or sexual harassment that endangers the life, health or emotional well-being of the child.

Protection of the informant

18.1 (1) No action lies against a person for providing information in good faith and in compliance with section 18. 

What happens when the definition of child abuse differs between a citizen and the capitalist state or government–or an official of the capitalist state or government? Since I considered all my complaints to the WCFS to be instances of child abuse, and the WCFS did not, the default is–with the government. I would have had to appeal, probably, up to the Supreme Court (if I could)–and I did not have either the knowledge nor the money to do so. 

The same could be said of any appeal of the Manitoba Ombudsman decision.

In relation to the WCFS’s threat to take legal action and to phone the police, how could the Manitoba Ombudsman, in its letter dated May 12, 2005 conclude that “the position taken by WCFS as outlined in their letter of January 22, 2004 is not clearly wrong or unreasonable?”

So, despite section 18.1 (1) providing protection for those who provide “information in good faith,” the threat of Dan Berg and the WCFS to consult its legal counsel and to phone the police was “not clearly wrong or unreasonable.” 

Like the Manitoba Registered Social Workers Institute’s rejection of my complaint against the social worker who wrote the court-ordered assessment, the farcical nature of the whole process of filing a complaint against unfair treatment was becoming ever clearer. 

It is true that In the letter by Ombudsman Manitoba dated January 9, 2006, they did indicate that I could still make complaints to the WCFS if I had concerns about the way her mother treated Francesca. In the same letter, however, they wrote the following:

WCFS is now aware that the tone and choice of wording of the letter in question gave you the impression [note how Ombudsman Office makes the matter look like a mere question of interpretation–gave you the impression”–as if others would not have interpreted the letter from Dan Berg, assistant program manager of the WCFS as a threat] that they felt your complaints were not legitimate and that you would be subjected to police involvement. We have confirmed that WCFS will respond to you as specified in The Child and Family Services Act. 

I responded, verbally I believe, to Ombudsman Manitoba that it was not the “tone and wording of the letter in question” was not the issue–but the real threat of phoning the police. That real threat will be the topic of future posts. 

Further Physical and Emotional Abuse of Francesca Subsequent to Dan Berg’s Letter and the Lack of Action of the Winnipeg Child and Family Services

Subsequent to Dan Berg’s letter in January 2004, in June, 2004, Francesca indicated to me the following: Francesca’s mother hits Francesca in the nose, causing it to bleed as well as the mother throwing a wooden stick near Francesca’s face.

On July 5, 2004, I took Francesca to the Children’s Advocate office, where Francesca was interviewed. The person who interviewed her, Janet Minwald, then talked to me. She indicated that there had been a disclosure this time about physical abuse. Apparently, it took the WCFS several months before it interviewed Francesca (ironically, only the WCFS had the authority to inquire into allegations of child abuse–not the Children’s Advocate). 

However, the last time that I complained to the WCFS was after the June 2004 incident. Francesca had told me that her mother had kicked her in the back. I took Francesca to the WCFS, and the response was: “There was no mark” so they could do nothing. From that time onward, I saw no further point in filing complaints to the WCFS. The institution was oppressive and, in fact, contributed to the physical abuse of Francesca–and all this with the blessing of Ombudsman Manitoba and indeed, indirectly, the Minister of Family Services and Housing and the head of the provincial government, Gary Doer.

The Responsibility of the New Democratic Party for Francesca’s Continued Physical and Emotional Abuse

I had sent a letter to the Minister of Family Services and Housing on May 1, 2005 since I had not yet received a response from Ombudsman Manitoba. I received this response: 

Mqy 18, 2005

Dear Mr. Harris: 

Thank you for your letter to Premier Gary Doer dated May 1, 2005, regarding the report you have been expecting from the Office of the Ombudsman. As the Coordinator of Issues Management for the Child Protection Branch, your letter has been referred to me for response. 

I understand from your letter you were anticipating that a report from the Office of the Ombudsman into your complaint against Winnipeg Child and Family Services was to be ready by February 18, 2005. I further understand that to date, this report has not been received. As the concerns that you are experiencing are related to the Office of the Ombudsman, by copy of this letter, I am referring this matter to the Office of the Ombudsman and request that they respond to you directly.

Thank you again for bringing this matter to our attention. I truest that the Office of the Ombudsman will be able to respond to your concerns. 

Sincerely,

Shelley Sorin, Coordinator Issues Management

cc: Premier Gary Doer
     Honourable Christine Melnick, Ministry of Family Services and Housing
     Ms. Irene Hamilton, Ombudsman

Gary Doer was the New Democratic Party (NDP) premier (head of government) of Manitoba at the time. The NDP is a social-democratic political party in Canada.

More General Political Considerations Concerning Government Oppression and the Social-democratic Left

The social-democratic left often call for the expansion of public services–without ever inquiring into how oppressive those services can be for citizens, immigrants and migrants. The social-democratic left’s solution of the expansion of public services for those who have often experienced government oppression, evasion and subterfuge is not a solution at all but a problem. (For various posts that outline this idealization of public services or seek an expansion of public services as a solution to the problems faced by workers, citizens, immigrants and migrants, see for example Basic Income, Public Ownership and the Radical Left in the Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic: A Critique, The Poverty of Academic Leftism, Part Seven: The Idealization of the Nation State or the National Government and Nationalization in the Wake of the Coronavirus Pandemic, Part Two and The Expansion of Public Services Versus a Basic Income, Part Two: How the Social-democratic Left Ignore the Oppressive Nature of Public Services: Part Two: Oppressive Welfare Services). 

This is one of the reasons why the right has increased in strength–because the left idealizes public services and fails to acknowledge and to take into account oppressive experiences of regular people when such people deal with the government. Many people perceive the policies of expanded public services as an expansion of oppressive powers of government–with reason. 

Indeed, the social-democratic or social-reformist left simply ignore the tentacles of the oppressive capitalist state that have spread throughout civil society or the so-called non-state and non-market sector. Indeed, Marc Mulholland (2016), in “Revolution and the Whip of Reaction: Technicians of Power and the Dialectic of
Radicalisation,” Journal of Historical Sociology, has rightly criticized such ignorance. Pages 2-3: 

Social science analyses of historical revolutions often concentrate upon the destruction of the central executive government, what we might call the regime, without paying sufficient attention to the
machinery and personnel of governance extending throughout the state territory. Laws, rules and regulations comprise the technical machinery of power, but this machine requires skilled operators sufficiently familiar with the technique of practical governance. These skilled operators are the vital intermediary between the executive directors of power on the one hand, and the instruments of power – soldiers, bailiffs, police, office-administrators, propagandists, etc. – on the other. We may call these intermediary strata the technicians of power. The technicians of power do not design or construct the machinery of political and social administration, but they maintain it and they know how it works and how they like to see it working. Technicians of power are not randomly selected. They are drawn from particular social classes and have their own political predilections and the power to act on them. …

A regime might be decapitated, but its servants throughout the land cannot be so easily removed. Revolution cannot scatter its opponents at one blow. This is perfectly understandable once we appreciate that the structures of established governance run deep through society, and resist easy transformation.

Ignoring the extent to which the capitalist state is extended through various agencies formally outside the state or government underestimates greatly the difficulty of overcoming the power of capitalist class both before taking power and after taking power. For example, as I indicated in an earlier post (see Exposing the Intolerance and Censorship of Social Democracy, Part One: The Working Class, Housing and the Police), the movement to defund the police here in Toronto (and undoubtedly elsewhere) will unlikely be successful for various reasons. One of the reasons is its neglecting the various oppressive powers and structures linked to the police that support the police function in various ways. Their moral critique of the police lacks an engagement in inquiry into those forces linked to the police that support the police in various ways; their target for defunding is one-sided and limited and therefore will unlikely be successful. 

Conclusion

My experiences with the WCFS, from the initial false allegation of sexually abusing Francesca in 1996, to the last time I complained to the WCFS about Francesca’s mother kicking her in the back, were mostly oppressive. Furthermore, the WCFS Ombudsman Manitoba and the government did nothing to protect Francesca.  

In my next post, I will fast forward to 2007-2008, when Francesca skipped school so much that she was obliged to repeat grade eight in 2008. By that time, not even her mother could control her. Nor could I. Francesca had been violent towards me since 1999, when her mother refused to let me see Francesca or let  Francesca to see me for almost three months. 

In 2008, I obtained a position as a permanent teacher in September 2008, in Ashern, Manitoba, a very small town about 160 kilometers north of Winnipeg. Francesca’s mother agreed to have Francesca live with me since her mother could no longer control her. I decided to home school Francesca while living in Ashern and teaching there. I enrolled Francesca in distance education courses in June 2008, and I gave her the courses. She then left with her cousin, Laura, for Kelowna, a city in the province of British Columbia. I expected Francesca at least to work a bit on the distance education courses during the summer of 2008. She never did. That was the beginning of our problems. 

What happened subsequently will be the subject of other posts. In the next post in this series, though, I will expose my own limitations–as father of Francesca. The left needs to learn to criticize itself. 

 

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