Disclosure to a children’s aid society

If any person – including a teacher or principal – has reasonable grounds to suspect that a child under the age of 16 is in need of protection, they are required to immediately report the suspicion and the information on which it is based to a children’s aid society. This requirement, referred to as the “duty to report,” is contained in Ontario’s Child, Youth and Family Services Act (CYFSA).95

The CYFSA states that a child may be in need of protection if the child has suffered or there is a risk that the child is likely to suffer physical harm, sexual abuse or exploitation, or emotional harm, or has been subject to inadequate care or a pattern of neglect.96 A person does not need to be certain that a child is in need of protection – the duty to report is triggered if there are reasonable grounds to suspect the need for protection.97 Ontario’s children’s aid societies (societies) are required to investigate allegations or evidence that a child may be in need of protection.98

A person with a duty to report must make the report directly to the children’s aid society, and must not rely on another person to make the report on their behalf.

The duty to report applies despite the provisions of any other act including MFIPPA and the Education Act99 and applies even if the information is confidential or privileged. No legal action for reporting the information to a society can be taken against the person unless they act maliciously or without reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is in need of protection.100

A person with a duty to report must make the report directly to the society, and must not rely on another person to make the report on their behalf.101 For example, if a teacher suspects a child is being abused based on a conversation with that child, the teacher should contact the society directly, rather than rely on another teacher or the principal to do so on their behalf. The duty to report is also ongoing, meaning that even if the teacher has already made a report to the society about the child, the teacher must make another report if there is additional information to suspect the child is in need of protection.102

While the duty to report applies to any person, professionals who work with children, including teachers, early childhood educators and principals who believe a child may be in need of protection may be guilty of an offence if they neglect to report it. A director, officer or employee of a corporation who authorizes or permits the commission of the offence may also be guilty under the CYFSA.103

Outside of the duty to report, a person may also choose to report information to the society review team, which is a team each society establishes to recommend how a child can be protected.104 Despite the provisions of any other act, a person may disclose information to this team even if the information is confidential or privileged. No legal action for disclosing the information can be taken against the person unless they acted maliciously or without reasonable grounds to suspect that a child is in need of protection.105

 

A principal is contacted by a children’s aid society. The society is reviewing the case of a young student who may be suffering abuse. The society’s review team asks questions concerning the student’s attendance and well-being. Can the principal disclose information to the society, even though the principal is not certain of whether the student is in need of protection?

Yes. Under the CYFSA, the principal can disclose information to a society review team if the information is reasonably required for that team to conduct its review. The principal’s discretion to disclose applies despite the provisions of MFIPPA or any other act, and even if the information is confidential or privileged.

 


95. CYFSA,s. 125.  Note that a person may report to a society about a 16 or 17 year old whom they suspect is in need of protection, although there is not a duty under the law to do so. If a person chooses to make a report about a 16 or 17 year old whom they suspect is in need of protection, they may do so despite the information being confidential or privileged.
96. CYFSA, s. 74(2), also see CYFSA, s. 125(1)
97. CYFSAs. 125(1)
98. CYFSA, s. 35(1)(a)
99. CYFSA, s. 125(1)
100. CYFSA, s. 125(10)
101. CYFSA, s. 125(3)
102. CYFSA, s. 125(2)
103. CYFSA, s. s. 125(5-9). A person convicted of either offence is liable to a fine of up to $5,000.
104. CYFSA, s. 129(4)
105. CYFSA, s. 129(5-6)