Discredited drug testing leads to adoption reviews in Ottawa
Barbara MacKinnon is the head of the CAS of Ottawa
The Children’s Aid Society of Ottawa has halted five adoptions and is reviewing
dozens of historic cases in which a now discredited drug testing program helped
determine whether children should be taken from their birth families. Each case
will be looked at to see whether the test was an overriding factor in the
decision to remove the children.
In at least two cases on hold, the children are part of an “adoption probation”
system, but the adoptions are not final, said Ottawa CAS executive director
Barbara MacKinnon. She said the CAS has been having “difficult conversations”
with adoptive parents and birth families who are upset and anxious about the
“This is a real tragedy. It is extremely hard for people to go through the
process of having a child come into our care, there is a grief process that
occurs whether it is a willing process or one in which the legal system had to
become involved,” she said.
“It is really tragic for the families that may have had to relinquish their
children to the CAS and it is a tragedy for adoptive families that want to make
a family to have this complexity added on to their personal situations.”
The program, Motherisk, run out of a lab at Toronto’s Hospital for Sick
Children, was shut down last spring after it was determined its methodology for
conducting hair drug tests was inadequate and unreliable. The tests were
sometimes used as evidence in child apprehension cases, or to determine whether
children could be returned to their parents.
In December, former judge Susan Lang filed a damning report about Motherisk that
led to the creation of a provincial commission that will review cases from the
As a result, between 200 and 300 adoptions across the province — including those
in which children are already living with the family in the process of adopting
them — have been put on hold while the Motherisk cases are reviewed.
That includes five in Ottawa, said MacKinnon, although that number could change.
Many more past adoptions are being reviewed.
The CAS of Ottawa used Motherisk for a decade until it was shut down, she said.
Provincewide, about 14,000 Motherisk tests were performed. In Ottawa, just 82
tests were done over the decade, 56 of which were found to be positive, said
“Those 56 files are being reviewed to insure that the use of that test was not
inappropriate,” she said.
MacKinnon said Ottawa’s cases made up a small percentage of all the testing done
across the province, because the local CAS had a policy to use other methods
first to verify whether drug use was a problem, finding hair testing “invasive”.
Sometimes the test was used to determine whether a parent was “clean” and a
child who had been apprehended could go home.
She added that in cases in which children are apprehended by the CAS, there are
often multiple factors, including mental health issues, addiction and domestic
abuse. She said the CAS tries to work with families “on a voluntary basis.”
The priority for the CAS of Ottawa is to resolve the issue for families in which
adoptions are underway and not yet complete. She and others said it is unlikely
that the Motherisk test was a deciding factor in many, or any, cases, but the
uncertainty is stressful for families waiting to adopt as well as for birth
“It is a very sad thing. It is a time for adoptions to be celebrated not to have
these situations that are unknown.”
Julie Despaties, executive director of Adopt for Life, an association for
adoptive parents, said the situation is “very frightening” for the families it
“We are hearing from people who are heartbroken.”
Commentary by the Ottawa Mens Centre
Babara MacKinnon is the "head" of the second largest Criminal organization in
Ottawa after the Ottawa Police.
This is a cult like organization where fabrication of evidence is the norm.
The CAS of Ontario routinely get their lawyers appointed as judges where they
rubber stamp any outrageous
application and encourage fabrication of evidence by their former workmates.
Thats the culture of criminality in the CAS of Ottawa
Most recently CAS lawyer Tracy Engelking
was appointed a judge of the Ontario Superior Court where she used
to fabricate evidence and obstruct justice as a lawyer before other former CAS
lawyers like Jennifer Belishen and Timothy Minneva