Councillor proposes registry for immigrant children

Toronto Coun. Michael Thompson wants city staff to prepare a report that will examine ways government agencies can protect immigrant children from abuse.

Toronto Coun. Michael Thompson wants city staff to prepare a report that will examine ways government agencies can better protect immigrant children from abuse.

His motion, which he plans to present at Wednesday's council meeting, calls for better co-ordination between various government agencies.

Among his ideas is a registry to help prevent children new to Canada from falling through the cracks and to create an "early warning system" to help immigrant children suffering from abuse.

He describes his plan as "a system to help us monitor how the children or child is developing," he said. "If there is a problem, we can detect it and decide on the options for how to help the families and how to help the young children."

His motion comes after a number of high-profile deaths of Toronto children who were new to Canada. They include the case of Randal Dooley, a seven-year-old boy who died of a brain injury after long-standing abuse by his parents who were convicted of second-degree murder in 2002.

Last month, police charged the parents of Melonie Biddersingh with first-degree murder. The 17-year-old's charred remains were found in 1994 before advances in DNA technology allowed police to move ahead with charges. The family had immigrated to Toronto from Jamaica.

Karen Kennedy is with BOOST, an organization that provides help to children who've been exposed to abuse.

In an interview on CBC Radio's Metro Morning on Wednesday, she expressed doubts about whether a registry is the best approach.

"I’m not sure how a registry can protect [children]. First of all you have to be able to identify all of these children … sometimes these people don’t even know that they’re here and they’re not going to school.

"I think the money is better invested in prevention and education, and making sure that people know that there is help available."   

She also said many children come from countries where government agencies are feared, leaving them reluctant to seek help.

"They don’t realize that physical abuse is something that they don’t have to endure."