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In 2017, Ontario lawmakers updated the province’s child welfare laws to include “gender identity” and “gender expression” as factors child protection workers should consider when determining the best interest of a child and whether they should be placed in foster care.
Child protection workers cannot remove children from their families solely on the basis of a parent refusing to accept their child’s gender identity or expression. Only when there is proof of abuse or neglect can child protection workers intervene.
The Canadian government is not involved in this process.
When lawmakers in Ontario, Canada updated the province’s child welfare laws in 2017, some social media users and news sites misconstrued the effects of the legislation. Some of those claims are now resurfacing online.
On April 24, an Instagram post shared a screenshot of an October 2017 article headlined: "Canada’s new law allows government to take children away if parents don’t accept kids’ ‘gender identity.’"
This post was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)
The 2017 Child, Youth and Family Services Act sought to strengthen and modernize the province’s child welfare services.
Among the key changes:
Eligibility for child protective services raised from 16 years old to 18;
Services had to be more inclusive and culturally relevant for young people, including Indigenous and Black children and youth;
Greater focus on early intervention to prevent children and parents from reaching crisis situations at home; and
Improved accountability and oversight for child and youth service providers.
The law also expanded the list of factors to be considered by child protection workers when determining the best interest of a child and whether they should be placed in foster care. The terms "gender identity" and "gender expression" were added and given the same protections as race, ethnicity, citizenship, creed, disability, sex and sexual orientation, among other factors. This change aligned the child welfare laws with Ontario’s human rights code.
The Instagram post grossly exaggerated what this change would mean for children and parents in Ontario.
Ontario’s Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services told PolitiFact that "child protection workers cannot remove children from their families solely on the basis of a parent refusing to accept a child’s gender identity or expression."
The ministry oversees the child welfare system, but child protection services are provided exclusively by children’s aid societies, which are nongovernmental, independent legal entities. Each children's aid society is governed by a board of directors that is elected by the local community it serves.
Children’s aid societies are required to assess and verify all reports of child abuse and neglect, according to the ministry. During an investigation, an aid society must determine whether there are reasonable and probable grounds that the child is in need of protection. These grounds include physical harm, sexual abuse, emotional harm and neglect.
If an aid society receives a report that a child is in need of protection because their parent did not accept the child’s gender identity or expression, then the society would open an investigation to determine if the parent’s conduct amounts to abuse or neglect. If a judge determines that’s the case, the aid society would intervene.
"The government can’t take a child away from a parent," Michael Coteau, who introduced this law in 2017 when serving as Ontario’s Minister of Children and Youth Services, told PolitiFact.
It is children’s aid societies that can take a child away from their parents — if a judge determines the child has been abused, said Coteau, who now serves as a member of Canada’s Parliament.
The 2017 article cited in the Instagram post has since been taken down. An archived version of the article shows it quoted information from an article published by the now-defunct, conservative news site Heat Street.
An Instagram post claimed, "Canada’s new law allows government to take children away if parents don’t accept kids’ ‘gender identity.’"
Child protection services are provided by independent children’s aid societies, not the Canadian government. Children’s aid societies only intervene when there is proof of abuse or neglect. They cannot remove children from their families solely based on the parents refusing to accept their child’s gender identity or expression.
We rate this claim False.
Instagram post, April 23, 2022
Facebook post, Oct. 10, 2017
NoStraightNews.com, "Canada’s New Law Allows Government to Take Children Away if Parents Don’t Accept Kids’ ‘Gender Identity,’" archived Sept. 11, 2018
Heat Street, "Canada’s New Law Allows Government to Take Children Away if Parents Don’t Accept Kids’ ‘Gender Identity,’" archived June 5, 2017
BuzzFeed, "No, Canada Will Not Take Your Child Away If You Disagree With Their Gender Identity," June 12, 2017
BuzzFeed, "Heat Street is Folding," June 29, 2017
Legislative Assembly of Ontario, "Bill 89, Supporting Children, Youth and Families Act, 2017," accessed April 28, 2022
Government of Ontario, "Ontario Passes Legislation to Strengthen Child Welfare and Improve Outcomes for Youth," June 1, 2017
Email interview, Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services, April 29, 2022
Phone interview, Michael Coteau, member of the House of Commons of Canada and former Minister of Children and Youth Services for Ontario, April 29, 2022
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