Is the boy better off?

Forget dueling interviews, competing psychologists, contradictory studies, even the difference between physically assaulted and “placed in a position of control.”

Ask yourself one question: is the 15-year-old Cole Harbour boy at the centre of the controversy over his care better off now than when community services shipped him off to Ontario 13 months ago?


A quick recap: the boy, who suffers from an psychiatrist’s brew of disorders, had been raised by his grandparents since he was a toddler. By November 2008, his acting out—running away, stealing cars, doing drugs, selling his body—was so out of control his grandparents agreed to put him in the care of community services.

Instead of treating him here, the province decided he needed secure, long-term facilities it couldn’t provide. Last June, it shipped him off to Ontario’s Bayfield centre.

Is he better off?

According to his grandmother, he’s on heavy doses of drugs, some self-administered (she says Bayfield wants to add lithium to his medical cocktail); he rarely attends classes; and he has been what the reports call “restrained” on at least 10 occasions. Once, he ended up at the hospital; more recently, he claims he was beaten for asking to go to the washroom.

To complicate matters, Bayfield has done its best to cut the boy off from his grandparents, refusing some face-to-face visits, limiting phone calls to two, monitored 15-minute conversations a week and even, at one point, imposing a total contact blackout because the grandmother was “negative” on the phone. How? In one report I saw, the monitor complained she “asked about his medication again, and was more assertive that he she did not believe he should just be taking medication whenever he wanted.”

Last week, Vicki Wood, Nova Scotia’s director of child welfare, claimed “we make every effort to maintain the ties” between child and family. Really?

Wood also said: “There’s a forum for the family to bring forward their concerns. That would be the court, not a press conference.”

The problem is Nova Scotia’s family court seems like an extension of community services. And father-knows-better community services isn’t willing to consider alternatives to out-of-province institutional treatment.

The boy is not better off.


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