The Hamilton Children’s Aid Society will go dark Friday, leaving homes unvisited and appointments unattended as the agency struggles to deal with provincial budget cuts.

All but a handful of emergency after-hours workers have a mandatory unpaid day off tomorrow, throwing off long-awaited medical appointments and court dates weeks in the making, said David Michor, a CUPE representative of about 250 Hamilton CAS workers.

It’s the first of five shutdown days planned between now and the fiscal year end in March, Michor said. The shutdown is in response to a provincial budget cut of $4.7 million over four years.

Stop the Shutdown – Fund Child Welfare

When: Friday, Oct. 11, 8:30 to 9:30 a.m.

Where: 26 Arrowsmith Rd., Hamilton

What: A rally to protest cuts to the Children's Aid Society

“This is really, really problematic to shut the door for five days,” Michor said.

“A lot of these children requiring medical visits like going to the dentist, and a whole bunch of appointments are cancelled because they can’t go without a CAS worker.”

CUPE members will protest the shutdown at 8:30 Friday morning. The rally, called “Stop the Shutdown – Fund Child Welfare” will include:

  • Fred Hahn, CUPE Ontario president
  • Donna Baines, McMaster University professor
  • Laura Cattari, Hamilton poverty activist
  • Aubrey Gonsalves, child protection worker

The union’s issue is less with the CAS and more with the province, Michor said. The CAS is “in a very difficult spot.”

“Hamilton CAS has told us the biggest problem is if they don’t shut down, they have to lay off more people,” he said of the agency, which has already cut 70 positions.

“We encourage them and other agencies across the province to band together and write the province.”

As far as Michor is aware, this is the first shutdown in the province. It pains staff to take a day off, he said.

“We’re talking about a group of people who don’t take lunch, who will take files home with them, who will make dinner for their kids and continue to work,” he said.

The Hamilton Catholic CAS has eliminated 10 positions because of the cuts so far, said David Shea, director of communications. It does not plan any shutdown days.

Hamilton has a child poverty rate of 20.9 per cent, one of the highest in the country, CUPE says. More than 6,000 children use food banks monthly

Hamilton's Children's Aid Society could not be reached for comment.