Tuesday, July 21, 2009

MINUTES Toronto Meeting July 19, 2009 , 1 to 3 PM

Goal: To organize parents, develop an action plan and form a steering committee and subcommittees moving forward.

In attendance:

- Families impacted by Imagine Adoption bankruptcy (Ethiopia, Ghana, Ecuador. Panama)

- Minister of Children and Youth Services (Staffers , Kevin Spafford & Paris Meilleur)

- ACO executive director: Pat Convery

- Media, CP, CTV, CBC, Toronto Star

Chair: Christine Starr

Sign in and Minutes (digital recording) and timer: Ingrid Phaneuf

Distribution of agenda and action plan as well as name tags (will avoid identification in meeting): Ingrid

Crowd/parking control: Edward Barth


1 PM meeting begins

1) Housekeeping – Ingrid opening address

- Ingrid introduces herself welcomes and points out bathrooms,

- Discussing media:

o Ingrid advises that media is present and directs people to read “How to talk to the media” sheet available at the entrance. Mentions that media seems to be sympathetic with our cause but to be aware that there is no such thing as “off the record”. If one is not comfortable in speaking with media one does not have to.

o Cannot control media but we can put our best face forward.

o We want the government to work to fix this and we are willing to help. We are organizing across the country.

- We hold the government somewhat accountable but we are aware that they are just following laws but we would like them to fix it and we would like to work with them to resolve this issue to everyone’s satisfaction.

- Time is of the essence. Some families will age out before this is resolved.

- This is an international issue as the bankruptcy opens the door to the adoptee countries to lose confidence and pull the plug on Canada altogether. Also because many families have files, including original documents overseas.

- Media is interested in personal stories. Please keep up pressure on ministry without getting into blame game or name calling, revenge etc.

- Ingrid then introduces the media present:

o CBC Radio & TV, CTV National, CP, Toronto Star,

- Cameron McIntosh from CBC National News introduces himself and tells everyone that they (CBC) are here because it is a compelling story and assures us that they respect our proceedings and procedure that we have laid out. Asks that they will be able to take some establishing shots. Approved. Will like to interview people afterwards if they wish. Will take establishing shots then shut off cameras when meeting starts.

- For the media shots: Ingrid rallies the group with first introducing herself and her story in brief - why we are all here: To come up with and agree on an action plan going forward.

o Rally cry of “YES WE CAN”

o People from all over Ontario as well as B.C. at this meeting which is one of many taking place across the country (London, Ottawa).

o “We will turn this around”

- Establishing shots from media complete and cameras and recorders off.


Legal Proceedings:

- If we continue to contact BDO on a regular basis, they will not be able to focus on the tasks at hand…let them do their job>

Group applause in support of comment to defer legal proceeding to later date and not for this to be the focus of our efforts at the moment

BDO / Ministry Communications:

- If we continue to contact BDO on a regular basis, they will not be able to focus on the tasks at hand…let them do their job. They are accountants

- Comment from floor ; Establishing that the Ministry is really the first point of contact and should be – not BDO. Three members of THE INTERNATIONAL ADOPTION UNIT are our best point of contact for status updates thus far. Names will be posted.

- Comment from floor ; Be careful of the answers one gets from ministry. Answers may vary. Take what is said with a grain of salt.

- Comment from floor (ACO); It is rumoured BDO mentioned on website that they have hired and international adoption lawyer who specializes in international law.

Member Representation / Signing up for a committee:

- Families/Individuals encouraged to sign up for a committee. Must organize in cells. SHARE THE LOAD. Committee sheets can be filled after meeting.

- As we currently sit, a group of 400+ families will not be able to lobby and obtain the attention that we need. We need to size down our groups representing each area that has come together. For example, 4 people from London and Area, 4 people from Toronto and Area, 4 people from Northern Ontario, etc. Of course, we would not limit this group to include only Ontario Families as the success of this will need all of the families so we will need to encourage each and every area to follow the lead. Once all names are gathered, we then need to coordinate the groups and start working off a very similar agenda. This will bring the group to a very manageable size which should assist us to in gaining access to the Ministry of Youth Services, BDO, and all other agencies that we are looking to talk with.

- Comment from floor; Stressing importance of working very closely with the government and ministers.

- Comment from floor; We must act swiftly as the Ethiopian government may not be so patient and ultimately ‘pull the plug’. Time is of the essence cannot be stressed enough

- Comment from floor; We need to have immediate access to the ministry and BDO and need to have our own people in on those meetings to make sure we have the information we need.

- Comment from floor; We must keep constant and consistent pressure on the ministry and government and hold them accountable and to move swiftly forward with a plan that will see not only the families with matches come home with their child but also to facilitate the successful matching of those who as of yet have not had a match no matter where one is in their adoption process. ‘By regulating the ministry told us they were protecting and it looks like they weren’t

- Amina offers to produce a 4 minute YOUTUBE video

- Anyone with talents other than those listed on the Committee sign up sheets are encouraged to put them forward. Everyone has some talent or skill that can help in this process whether it’s a youtube video or banding people together to sign petitions.

- Comment from floor; Magda got a call from the Leader of the Opposition saying ‘you are being heard. What you are doing is amazing. I am on board. I will get my people onto it on Monday when I walk in the door.’ Foreign affairs, Citizenship and Immigration is listening to us!

Media coverage:

- Ingrid developing a Media Master List.

o If a reporter contacts you make sure to first get their contact information and send it to Ingrid

- Need to focus on our particular situation and make sure we make media see and hear our stories. An anonymous donor is said to have provided for the children in the transition homes and their prospective parents, which we all know was the first priority but now is our chance to have the media focus on our plight.

Updates (files):

Families / Individuals With Referrals - none present

Families / Individuals Without Referrals

- Files approved by Ministry: 16

- Files at Ministry: 6

- Files not at Ministry: 2

- Discussion ensues regarding different fee structures according to country of adoption (Ethiopia, Ecuador and Ghana, Panama). As well as approval process according to country.

- Pat Convery answers questions on how ACO is proceeding. Has had no communications as of yet from the Ministry.

- How do we know our files are in Ethiopia???

o Have one’s MP contact The Head of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs from the Adoptee country to help locate files.

o As a group tell the our ministry that this is one of our action points.

Introduction of Minister of Children and Youth Services (Deb Matthews Staffers):

- Kevin Spafford & Paris Meilleur

Chair – Christine Starr takes floor and Introduces “Imagine Adoption Proposed Action Plan

- Shares personal story and how she has come up with an Action Plan to see our adoptions through.

- Action plan will provide framework that will allow us to move forward and provide structure to help us act quickly, effectively and efficiently.

- Chair proceeds to read point by point the “Imagine Adoption Proposed Action Plan.”

- When on point 4 of proposed action plan, Chair introduces James Boyle who proceeds to address the viability of the points considered. Considered a road map. James is on 2 boards on helping charitable organizations achieve charitable status. Various concerns. Will try and distill all 9 points into 4 buckets. So many levels involved in this process.

- Ellen Kalis introduces herself. Has worked with the government of Ontario. PR and Government relations. 13 months waiting for referral.

o This proposed action plan is a framework that needs to achieve the following:

i. Get the families already matched home. Government is working on that.

ii. Need to get the entity of Imagine Adoption out of Bankruptcy.

iii. Ensure we maintain the relationships with Ethiopia that Imagine has already established. Their government and Orphanages will not wait for us. We need to move fast

iv. Make sure that all the files get completed.

- James returns to point out the skills needed and the mountain we would need to climb but that we do have a framework.

- Question from Floor: Does ministry see this as a viable option or are we spinning our wheels? A. (Stafford) ‘Everything is on the table’. ‘Have not heard any indication that it is not’. Insolvency lawyer likes the plan.

- Point is made that if nothing from the Bankruptcy comes out in tact then there is nothing left for the Ministry to work with.

- Question from Floor: Why the discrepancy between numbers of Children Bridge and Imagine. We do not know the demographics. More questions than answers.

IMAGINE ADOPTION-PROPOSED SPECIFIC ACTION PLAN as a viable working plan of action going forward – voted YAH to go forward.

Forming / Appointing Committees:

- Committee to Liaise with Trustees

- Committee to Liaise with the Government

- Committee in Charge of Internal Communications

- Committee in Charge if External Communications

- Committee in Charge of Finance

Steering Committees:

- Those interested to speak to Christine, Ellen or James.

Unanswered Questions:

- Kevin Spafford & Paris Meilleur (from the office of Deb Matthews) addresses group with statement before Q & A.

o First priority is to get the children in the transition homes to Canada. Progress is being made. Minister (fed) Jason Kenny expediting visas.

o Safety of staff at transition homes.

o Lawyer sent to transition homes to make sure the children are being cared for.

o Working with BDO Dunwoody to know what all the options are and will work with steering committee.

o Court process must be aloud to take place. Ministry has no standing in terms of the court proceedings. No standing with Bankruptcy court.

o Ministry has a licensing role only – includes annual licensing with scrutiny of capacity of agency but no audit of finances. This is being looked at with an eye to possibly changing licensing procedure in future.

o Ministry is setting up a website to give updates and communications will be improved with more frequent updates with a direct phone line as well: (416) 326-6510 (8:30-5:30)

o Inter-Country Adoption Act. Ontario has it’s own. Yearly licensing review. Licensee must prove that there is enough staff, a board of directors, etc. In terms of the ministry – if they are found unable or deficient than a license can be revoked.

o Ministry is reviewing the number of clients handled by IA.

o BDO is trying to see if there is a viable continuation of an agency in some form. Working as well as with Ethiopian government.

o Options - Trustee is looking into how to operate the agency as currently formed and if possible to work with another agency.

o Canadian Government and Foreign Affairs in contact with Ethiopia

o There is contact regarding files and they are safe.

Meeting adjourns at 3 pm media and families are invited to remain afterwards

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