I go to the family legal advice clinic at the court for some legal advice. They tell me to get legal-aid and get a lawyer. Worst advice ever.
I remember the lawyers. I remember my lawyer’s remarks about how he could work with one of the agency’s lawyer, but couldn’t stand the other. Same lawyer also told me he knew the worker who swore an affidavit against me. He said she was good. I remember same lawyer not filing my responding materials before the first court appearance. I remember same lawyer being mad at me for filing it myself the following week. He told me,
“If there is nothing on file when you go to court and you have a lawyer, that’s not your problem. That’s the lawyer’s problem.”
We move through the complaint process, a process even more convoluted and compartmental than anything I had experienced in Family Court. During thorough research, I learn many structural reasons that experiences with a child protection agency can go so wrong and actually hurt children. I record a two-hour interview with the agency’s Director of Service. I respond to this interview with another complaint letter, citing the video and where to find it. I voice my concerns to the agency, their Board of Directors, the CYS Minister at the time, the Premier, and both MPP’s that represent the jurisdiction of the agency, as well as several media outlets and lawyers. One MPP writes me back, but not my MPP so the help he can offer is limited. The child protection agency has other ideas of how they are going to handle my complaint and what I was complaining about.
I look to find my name on the docket. It says courtroom one, first appearance. I go to courtroom one. It’s a lot of nervous hellos mixed with gaze avoidance, something I’ve gotten use to since being hauled through Family Court the previous year. I know a lot of these people, accused and otherwise. It is a lot of the same faces. Same lawyers. Even duty counsel I recognize from the family law legal clinic. He was the one who gave me the worst advice ever. He is also married to the head lawyer of the child protection agency that had brought me to Family Court last year. The matter is stayed for two weeks.