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February 21, 2017

Ombudsman in need of an Ombudsman

Reuel S. Amdur

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Ontario Ombudsman Paul Dubé issued a hard-hitting report on his organization's investigation of short-comings of the Ministry of Community and Social Services in its handling of the situations of the mentally deficient. He found "a baffling lack of flexibility from officials at the top." Well, the ancient Romans had a word for it. "De te fabula narrantur." That's your story. Let me explain.

Cecil was sexually abused as a child.  When asked about school, he replied that he did not do well and was always in special classes.  Recently he applied for benefits from the Criminal Injuries Compensation Board (CICB) for what had happened to him.  “It ruined my life,” he said.  The CICB refused to hear his case because he was himself guilty of such behavior and, as the CICB observed, not all abused persons become abusers.  The next step was to go to the Ombudsman.

The submission to the Ombudsman included references to the literature on sexual abuse by victims of abuse, especially those of low intelligence who as children had also suffered physical abuse.  (Cecil’s father, he said, used to hit him in the face and on the head.)

While the CICB is correct in saying that abuse victims do not necessarily become abusers, that is only part of the story.  When the case was outlined to Dr. Irvin Waller, a criminologist of world renown, he commented, “It’s kind of obvious.  Child abuse, physical or sexual, is well established as a risk factor for persistent offending in teenage and adult years.” 

In his Smarter Crime Control (Lantham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2014), he says, “. . . childhood maltreatment approximately doubles the likelihood that an individual will engage in crime; the outcomes are even more exacerbated in cases of sexual abuse.”  (Emphasis in original.)     

The World Health Organization’s 2014 Global Report on Violence Prevention states as follows: “Maltreatment can cause changes in the brain that increase the risk of behavioural, physical and mental health problems in adulthood.  Being a victim of child maltreatment can increase the risk that a person will become a victim and/or perpetrator of other forms of violence in adolescence and adulthood.” 

A similar finding was made by R. Karl Hanson and Andrew Harris, in their report Dynamic Predictors of Sexual Recidivism (1998) for the Department of the Solicitor General.  The factors cited in the report are childhood environments and low intelligence.

Our submission to the Ombudsman also noted the Freudian understanding of sexual interference during the latency phase of development.  It would be, from that perspective, mental illness, substance abuse, or anti-social or character disorder of one sort or another.  While, as the CICB argued, not all such childhood victims repeat the behavior, that is a matter of their innate ego strengths. 

The Ombudsman’s office chose not to consider this argumentation, restricting itself to finding that the CICB acted within its jurisdiction in refusing to hear the case.  Similarly, the Ombudsman refused.

According to the Ombudsman’s Act, the Ombudsman may speak to a decision that “was unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, or improperly discriminatory, or was in accordance with a rule of law or as provision of any Act or a practice that is or may be unreasonable, unjust, oppressive, or improperly discriminatory.” 

The Ombudsman did not even entertain the concerns presented.  It handled the matter in a dismissive and bureaucratic fashion.  Indeed, Mr. Dubé, “De te fabula narrantur.”

It appears that they had been coopted and neutered.   

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