Child-welfare trailblazer Manny Batshaw dies at 101

Manuel Batshaw, the trailblazing social worker who helped revolutionize Quebec’s child protection services, has died at the age of 101.

Batshaw's report into abuse at youth homes led to Quebec's Youth Protection Act

Manny Batshaw, pictured at age 86, dedicated his life to child welfare. (CBC archives)

Manuel Batshaw, the trailblazing social worker who helped revolutionize Quebec's child protection services, has died at the age of 101.

An activist for child welfare, Batshaw, known better as Manny, led a committee in the 70s that looked into abuse at youth homes in Quebec. His work and the recommendations in his report led to the Youth Protection Act in 1979 and the eventual creation of the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres in 1992.

Batshaw was born in Montreal to Russian immigrants in 1915. The youngest of four children, he graduated from McGill in 1937 and served in the Canadian Armed Forces, reaching the rank of army captain.

As an officer, he was responsible for social services within the army in Quebec during the Second World War.

He went on to lead the Federation CJA (formerly Federation AJCS), a group of Jewish organizations in Montreal. It was during his leadership, from 1968 to 1980, that the Batshaw Committee was created to look into allegation of abuse at youth homes.

His work led to several policy changes, including giving preference to foster homes over institutions when possible, and the creation of more humane environments with community involvement.

During the Vietnam War, he also led a group of volunteers to raise funds and find foster homes for Vietnamese boat people who landed in Canada.

Manny Batshaw in the 70s, when he led a committee that investigated mistreatment of youths at group homes. (CBC archives)

"Manny valued children and youths and believed in them. He acted as their voice, even in the face of adversity. This man had the courage and strength to ensure children's needs were met, rights were respected and that child welfare work included both parents and families,'' Assunta Gallo, director of youth protection for the Batshaw Centres of the CIUSSS de l'Ouest-de-l'Île-de-Montréal, said in a statement.

In 1992, four child protection organizations – Ville Marie Social Services Centre, Shawbridge Youth Centres, Youth Horizons and Mount St. Patrick Youth Centre – merged to become the Batshaw Youth and Family Centres, named in his honour.

The new centre was likewise given the mandate to serve Montreal's Jewish community.

"He was a leader who exhibited a rare grace and elegance and whose commitment to the Jewish community and to Jewish values was sustained, creative and inspiring," said Rabbi Reuben J. Poupko of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

Batshaw was inducted into the National Order of Quebec in 1995. He then received an honorary doctorate from McGill in 1998, and received the Order of Canada in 2003.