33,000 Families with Special Need Children Receive Notice of Class Action
-Appeal Date September 12-13, 2006.
TORONTO/HUNTSVILLE . (September 7, 2006)
In what may be one of the largest campaigns of its kind in the history of Ontario, over 33,000 families with special needs children have been sent notices regarding the class action lawsuit Larcade v. Ontario.
The lawsuit, brought by Anne Larcade and her son Alexandre in 2001, alleges that the Ontario Government was negligent and failed to meet its legal obligation to provide services for severely disabled children that ought to have been provided through Special Needs Agreements. As a result of the Ontario Government's negligence, families were forced to personally fund services for their children and, in some cases, relinquish custody of their children to the government in order to obtain life-saving services. The claim seeks damages of $500 million for the Class.
The purpose of the Court ordered notification campaign is to identify as many people as possible that may be entitled to participate in the class action and to inform them of their legal rights regarding the class action. While class members are automatically included in the class action unless they specifically opt-out, the notice provides an overview of the lawsuit and contact information should the class members wish to contact class counsel.
Representative Plaintiff Anne Larcade is pleased that families with special needs children have received the notices. "This is a key step in this lawsuit. Most families do not know anything about their rights or that Special Needs Agreements ever existed," said Larcade. "I hope this notification campaign begins to fix that. The government needs to stop studying this problem and act immediately. The families need Special Needs Agreements restored before more disabled children fall into crisis."
On May 26, 2005, the Ontario Ombudsman released a report addressing the issue of parents being forced to relinquish the custody of their special needs children in order to obtain necessary care. The report, entitled Between a Rock and a Hard Place", urged the Province to remove the moratorium on funding for Special Needs Agreements and to return the custody of special needs children to their parents.
Since June 2005, the government has taken steps to return the custody of special needs children to their parents. However, the government has not removed the moratorium and continues to refuse to enter into any new Special Needs Agreements. A copy of the Ombudsman's report may be obtained at www.reko.ca.
The Ombudsman's report estimated that there were approximately 300 families who were affected by the decision to eliminate Special Needs Agreements. This is in contrast to the almost 33,000 families identified by the Ontario government.
Anne Larcade is pleased with the notification campaign, but believes that rather than spending resources fighting this class action, this money would be better spent providing services to children.
"We are talking about families in crisis, whose children require 24-hour care. Their circumstances were so difficult that they were willing to give up custody of their children just to obtain services. The money exists in the system. If the government can pay for these children after custody is taken away, certainly it can fund their care within the family or within a group home setting. These children are some of the most vulnerable members of our society. Spending government money to fight this case will not solve the problem or make it go away" Said Larcade.
Certification & Appeal
In May 2005, the Ontario Divisional Court released its unanimous decision certifying Larcade v. Ontario as a class proceeding.
The Ontario government has been granted leave to appeal the Divisional Court's decision to the Ontario Court of Appeal. The government's appeal will be heard by the Court of Appeal for Ontario on September 12 and 13, 2006.
For more information contact:
Anne Larcade 705-787-7595 or firstname.lastname@example.org
More information on this class action can be viewed on the web site at: www.reko.ca.
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